Posted on: Monday, February 25, 2008
Sergeant routinely abused Iraqis, say soldiers at hearings
By William Cole
Back in October, Schofield Barracks soldiers described Spc. Christopher Shore as a peaceful guy, a very funny guy, a good guy, very friendly, an outstanding soldier who didn’t have a propensity for violence.
At his sentencing Wednesday for aggravated assault in the shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi detainee, he wiped away tears in a courtroom at Wheeler Army Airfield.
“I know it’s real easy if you’ve never been in this situation to Monday quarterback and say what the law says,” he said. “You don’t know until you’re there.”
In Iraq, things went terribly wrong for the scouts platoon of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, the unit to which Shore belonged.
Testimony at both a preliminary hearing in October and Shore’s court-martial last week pointed to routine abuse of Iraqis by a bullying and out-of-control platoon leader, culminating with the shooting in the village of al Saheed outside Kirkuk last June.
Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales, 35, that platoon leader, is accused of shooting the unarmed Iraqi multiple times, and then ordering Shore to “finish” him.
Instead of carrying out the order, Shore said he fired two shots next to the detainee’s head in the dirt “to defuse the situation.”
Shore said Corrales had tried to get the Iraqi to take an AK-47 rifle after the raid, and then ordered the man to run.
Confused, the Iraqi, wearing a white tunic, said, “No mister, no mister, not me,” Shore said.
Another soldier testified that as the Iraqi backed up, he saw Corrales raise his rifle, and as the soldier turned away – not wanting to see what came next – he heard a succession of shots.
The Iraqi man was shot five times.
Shortly afterward, knowing what had happened was wrong and with the story spreading fast, several soldiers went to higher command.
Shore, 26, of Winder, Ga., was sentenced to 120 days’ confinement, received a reprimand and was reduced in rank, officials said.
He had gone to court-martial on a charge of third-degree murder – roughly equivalent to a civilian manslaughter charge – but was convicted of aggravated assault.
Corrales, of San Antonio, faces court-martial on April 22. He is charged with premeditated murder, wrongfully soliciting another soldier to shoot the Iraqi, and wrongfully impeding the investigation by having an AK-47 rifle planted near the victim. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
Soldiers described a litany of abuse by Corrales against Iraqis, and the fear they felt themselves.
Shore said Corrales once stuck the barrel of his M-4 rifle down an Iraqi’s throat until he gagged.
On another occasion, Corrales took out his knife, pulled out an Iraqi man’s tongue, and threatened to cut it off, Shore said.
Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Bulham said he saw Corrales abuse Iraqis, and punch and kick them.
Spc. Trinity Ison said he remembered a car out after curfew. Corrales pulled up, opened the car’s door and he “just started hitting the guy in the car,” Ison said.
Some soldiers testified they regularly lived in fear that the 5-foot-6 Corrales, who was explosive at times and calm at others, would fire them from the prestigious scouts platoon.
After the Iraqi was shot, the fear grew. One soldier slept with a knife at the ready.
Staff Sgt. Ronald Shipp said “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid – afraid of somebody going off the deep end.”
Soldiers said Corrales had a close relationship with the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Michael Browder. Michael Waddington, Shore’s attorney, said Corrales was known as Browder’s “wrecking ball.”
Shore said he initially didn’t think anything would come of the shooting, and it would be swept under the rug.
Browder, the battalion commander, was relieved of command. He’s now deputy commander of a basic training brigade at Fort Benning, Ga., officials said.
The Corrales family, on a MySpace page, said Trey Corrales has fought for his country in Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
As a result of the charges, the Corrales family said, it is faced with mortgaging “all that we have worked so hard for throughout our life, in order to pay for an attorney to defend him; to defend him from the very organization that he has proudly served for, for over 14 years.”
Army report says there’s no plans to put Strykers aboard Superferry
Suspicion continues, mostly in the blogosphere, over supposed connections between the Hawaii Superferry and the Army’s Stryker brigade, which is in Iraq.
In an environmental impact statement recommending that the Stryker brigade be permanently stationed in Hawai’i, the Army addressed the question of how the 19-ton armored vehicles would be moved to the Big Island for training.
The Army said its primary method of transporting the Strykers is by logistics support vessels operated by the Army.
If those aren’t available, the Army said, it would use private contract vessels. Typically, those are barges, and the service said it is required to get bids from multiple vendors.
“The Army does not know if the Superferry would ever bid on such a contract or if it could even be configured to carry military equipment with the chains and bracing needed to transport Stryker vehicles,” the service said. “No contract currently exists or is being formulated between the Army and the Superferry for transporting the (Stryker brigade).”
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.