Defense Officials Investigate Wife Slayings at Fort Bragg
By Lawrence Morahan
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
July 26, 2002
(CNSNews.com) - Defense officials are investigating a series of homicides involving the wives of Special Forces soldiers to determine whether wartime deployments were a factor in the violence, defense officials said Friday.
In the past six weeks, four soldiers based at Fort Bragg, N.C., killed their wives, investigators said. In three of the cases, the men were special operations soldiers who had been deployed to Afghanistan.
Officials said they were conducting a thorough investigation of all of the cases to determine what happened and if possible, to prevent similar incidents in the future.
"Until investigations are complete, there's no way to know exactly what the motivation was behind these homicides," said Maria Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Fort Bragg Public Affairs Office.
"Several thousand soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan and redeployed without serious incidents such as these occurring," she said.
On June 11, a soldier with the 3rd Special Forces Group who had just returned from Afghanistan shot his wife, then himself, police in Fayetteville, N.C., told reporters.
On July 19, police charged a sergeant with the 69th Civil Affairs Battalion, who had returned from Afghanistan about a month previously, in the strangling death of his wife.
On the same day, a sergeant with the elite anti-terrorism Delta Force shot dead his wife before killing himself, officials said. All of the men were assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
In the fourth case, police charged a Fort Bragg-based Army sergeant with the first-degree murder of his wife, whose body was found in their burned out home on July 9.
The military community is "saddened and shocked" by the deaths, Taylor said.
"Our primary concern is to provide whatever help is needed for the families involved and to look closely in each case, all of which are under investigation, and determine if anything could have been done differently," she said.
Officials cautioned, however, against drawing conclusions from similarities in the cases. A Special Forces group at Fort Campbell, Ky., for example, has spent a longer period of time in Afghanistan and has not had these kinds of problems, they said.
"And the individuals, although they had the Special Forces qualifications, were assigned to different units at Fort Bragg, so there're a lot of differences between each of these individual cases, and linking it all together I think is a reach at this point," said Army Lt. Col. James Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman.
The high-stress atmosphere of a wartime military, especially in the special operations community where two-year tours are the norm, can lead to increases in domestic violence, military analysts said.
"The stress factor for a wife is often as high as that of a husband," said Robert Maginnis, vice president of the Family Research Council and a former Army colonel.
Even when a Special Forces soldier is stationed at home, he has to deploy frequently on field exercises, Maginnis said. In many cases, he cannot tell his wife where he will be training or how long he'll be away.
While the Army tries hard to create a climate that enhances family life, a "vicious cycle" of training and overseas deployments coupled with concerns about shortages of personnel means commanders don't have time to concern themselves with family issues until they become an emergency, Maginnis said.
Programs and resources to help soldiers and family members deal with the stress of military life at Fort Bragg include chaplain services, counseling services, family advocacy programs that include classes like stress management, new parenting and anger management, Taylor said.
Family readiness groups provide information and help for families and soldiers prior to deployments, during deployments and on return of the soldier after deployments, she said.
"While these programs are voluntary, Fort Bragg works hard, not only at domestic violence prevention, but at detection and intervention as well," she said.