Local Charleston Air Force officer charged in Afghanistan.
Two U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonels are facing an Article 32 investigation this week after being charged with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer. The Air Force Reserve officers involved are Lt. Col. Christopher R. Hall and Lt. Col. Gary W. Brown. The charges were filed as a result of reports related to a roadside run in with a Blackwater employee in Afghanistan back in the fall of 2006. The facts of the case are disputed and the two officers are facing charges that could result in a court-martial. A court-martial could lead to their discharge from the Air Force and possibly confinement. The news of this story out of Afghanistan has been overshadowed this week by the suicide bombing during Vice President Cheney’s visit to Afghanistan. Ironically this week’s suicide bombing is a perfect example of what can put military members and contractors into the frame of mind that can lead to a roadside stand off like this one. The charges filed against Hall and Brown are based on reports that say the incident began when the SUV driven by Lt. Col. Brown rammed an SUV driven by a Blackwater employee near the gate of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Hall’s wife Mary Kathryn Hall and Lt. Col.Brown’s wife Stacey Brown have been very outspoken about this case. There has been little media attention given so far, but the wives are working to get the word out about their husband’s case. Mary Katheryn Hall was quoted by the Air Force Time this week as she told her husband’s point side of the story:
A dark blue SUV with darkened windows attempted to rapidly pass them on the right and squeeze in between the Air Force SUV and a taxi. But there wasn’t enough room, and the dark SUV’s left rear quarter panel struck the Air Force vehicle, both wives said.
The blue SUV then dropped to the rear, sped up and rammed the Air Force vehicle, the wives said.
The officers, concerned the dark SUV was a vehicle bomb or other attack, took evasive action, stomping on the accelerator and weaving through traffic to get away. They were concerned that firing on the other vehicle which was authorized under the rules of engagement for such an attack could trigger any explosive that may have been onboard, Hall said. Source: Air Force Times
In another news reported:
Brown’s civilian attorney, Charles Gittins of Virginia, said that the accusations are backward and that the Blackwater worker rammed the officers’ truck, then got out of his SUV and began acting strangely. In a war zone, the two officers had no choice but to pull their weapons, Gittins said. Source: The News & Observer
The Air Force Times coverage of this story yesterday went on to describe a similar incident that led to the deaths of two American soldiers just weeks before this incident with Brown and Hall.
On Sept. 8, two soldiers from the Army Reserve’s 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard and Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul, were killed by a vehicle-borne IED along the same stretch of road.
On a personal note, Lt. Col. Brown is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer from right here in Summerville, SC. He took a military leave from his job as an airline pilot a few years ago to serve his country as a C-17 pilot. He was deployed to Afghanistan in June of last year. Gary’s wife Stacey is a friend our family and my former co-worker. Gary and Stacey have been very supportive of our family since our son Caden was born even while they faced complications associated with Stacey’s pregnancy that led to the birth of twins.
I sent the following email to Lt. Col. Brown after I learned of his deployment to Afghanistan.
You are a man of steel. I had a chance to take a civil service job recently where I would have had to spend a good amount of time in Afghanistan and Iraq. I tried to imagine what it might be like. I am sure that a man’s imagination can come close to realizing the sacrifice that you are making for your family and our country. Thank God we have you and the hundreds of thousands of others who are willing to make the sacrifice to defend our country. Stay strong and know that you and your family are in our prayers. Please do not hesitate to call on us if we can assist you and your family in any way.
Lt. Col. Brown’s wife Stacey sent me an email this week saying, “I think right now what we need most is to pray for a positive outcome…” She has stood up a web site called www.wrongedbyblackwater.com to report on this story as it develops.
Please keep these men and their families in your prayers.