[Vision2020] Soldier Called Back to Iraq as Infant Struggles for Life

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Wed Dec 26 20:11:34 PST 2007

Paul, Paul, Paul -

First. Having retired from the Army with 20 years of service I can say from
experience that the Army has granted compassionate reassignments, let alone
extended leave, with less qualification than that shown by Sergeant

Second.  Should Sergeant Williams' leave be extended by a week I seriously
doubt that there are any lives at stake.  Since Sergeant Williams is a buck
sergeant (E5) in an infantry line unit, I will assume that he is probably an
infantry squad leader.  Should Sergeant Williams suddenly disappear off the
face of the earth, there is somebody trained, willing, and able to assume
Sergeant Williams' duties.

Third.  Sergeant Williams' reason for applying for extended leave was
verified by the American Red Cross to the commander of the rear detachment
at Fort Lewis.  The Detachment Commander, realizing the situation is
extremely short-fuse and having no response from the command chain in Iraq,
assumed the initiative.  Perhaps this commander did lack the authority he
exercised, but the actions he did take will prove out to be correct and

As far as "he will be able to ask for extended leave once he gets back in
country" is concerned, that is extremely doubtful.  It is my opinion that,
should Sergeant Williams be returned to Iraq on Friday, his command and
support chains will potentially establish real-time communications between
Sergeant Williams' platoon CP and the hospital in Indiana, and if (Heaven
forbid) Sergeant Williams' child should pass away, Sergeant Williams will be
flown back to the states in time for the child's funeral.  THAT, Mr.
Rumelhart, is simply unacceptable.  

Lastly.  This situation is not new to the Army.  To label it a typical Army
SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fu**ed UP) and write it off as such is
tantamount to a denial of responsibility.

It is my strong opinion that Sergeant Williams realized that his child may
possibly expire within a couple days of his return to duty.  As such he
applied to the only command available to him on such short notice, the rear
detachment commander.  Sergeant Williams also had his emergency verified by
the Red Cross.  The Detachment Commander attempted several times to contact
Sergeant Williams' company and/or battalion commander in Iraq.  Negative
contact.  This put the rear detachment commander in a very peculiar
situation.  Does he go "by the book" and order Sergeant Williams back to
Iraq, realizing that Sergeant Williams may never see his child alive again.
Or does he take a humane approach and, books BE DAMNED, allow Sergeant
Williams to spend a few more precious days with his child.

One question I have, and I feel MUST be answered is:  Why wasn't Sergeant
Williams' company or battalion commander (or their respective
representatives, pronounced "Executive Officer" or "First Sergeant" or
"Battalion Command Sergeant Major" available to make such a decision when
the Detachment Commander placed those several calls?

Yes.  Maybe it is a SNAFU.  But the repercussions of this SNAFU are far more
impacting on Sergeant Williams and his family than a missed mail call.

Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil
and steady dedication of a lifetime." 

--Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Rumelhart [mailto:godshatter at yahoo.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2007 7:26 PM
To: Tom Hansen
Cc: Moscow Vision 2020
Subject: Re: [Vision2020] Soldier Called Back to Iraq as Infant Struggles
for Life

I am conflicted by this story.  I see the stress that is being put on 
him and his family.  I can also see the legal point that he was told he 
was granted extended leave by someone not permitted to grant such leave, 
and thus it is invalid from the point of view of his chain of command in 
Iraq.  For one thing, we don't know what that soldiers job is in Iraq, 
or what he might be doing if he returned.  It's possible that if he does 
not return in time that the lives of US servicemen or Iraqi civilians 
might be put at undue risk.  How can we know?

If it really is just a screwup with someone making the wrong decision 
based on the fact that the baby was discharged from the nursery, then 
maybe it will be worked out in time, or maybe he will be able to ask for 
extended leave once he gets back in country and be shipped out again.  I 
wouldn't place all the blame on that one phone call, though - it sounds 
like the Red Cross screwed up by asking the rear detachment for the 
leave authorization in the first place instead of asking it of the right 
people in Iraq, and the officer posted at the rear detachment screwed up 
by granting it as well.

This kind of crap happens in the country's largest bureaucracy.  It 
sucks for the soldier and it sucks for the soldier's family.  I don't 
think it's indicative of some new kind of anti-family policy on the part 
of the Army, it was just a series of unfortunate events.  What we used 
to call a Charlie Foxtrot (cluster f***), back when I was in the Navy.


Tom Hansen wrote:
> >From the December 24, 2007 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at
> http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/344830_soldier25.html
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> 'AWOL' over sick baby
> Soldier called back to Iraq as infant struggles for life
> By Mike Barber
> An inspiring quote in a key Army manual for commanders of rear detachments
> says soldiers have "two supreme loyalties," to country and family.
> But "even the bonds of patriotism, discipline and comradeship are loosened
> when the family itself is threatened."
> Sgt. Chris Williams, 24, a Fort Lewis 4th Stryker Brigade soldier home
> his second deployment to Iraq, never wanted to test the idea's validity
> he came home to Indiana on leave for the birth of his first-born in early
> December.
> As he spends Christmas with his newborn son, who is battling for his life
> critical care while his wife remains stressed out from a difficult
> the battle-tested soldier has been told his extended leave is canceled and
> to hurry back to Iraq or be declared AWOL, the soldier's family said
> "My kid and his wife don't need this right now," the soldier's father,
> Williams, said.
> If ever there was a hardship, this is one, he said.
> "This is a career soldier -- or was -- who has been hit with IEDs and been
> there for the Army. Before all this, he could have come home from Iraq for
> knee surgery but didn't feel right leaving Iraq and all the guys there.
> now with his son in critical care, this is the response he gets from the
> military?" Williams said.
> Chris Williams serves with the 4,000-member 4th Stryker Brigade, which
> Fort Lewis in April for a 15-month tour of duty. He returned home for his
> 15-day leave on Dec. 4 but requested an extension when his son's condition
> suddenly worsened hours after the baby's difficult birth Dec. 18.
> Catherine Caruso, a Fort Lewis spokeswoman, said Williams appealed for
> emergency leave through the American Red Cross to the 4th Stryker
> rear detachment. The rear detachment allowed Williams' leave to be
> after he was unable to get a response from Williams' chain of command in
> Iraq, she confirmed.
> The rear detachment commander, however, is not in Williams' chain of
> command, which is in Iraq, she noted. The rear detachment commander at
> Lewis "has no authority to grant leave but is in a position of some trust
> and took it upon himself to say (Williams) needed to stay home," Caruso
> said.
> The decision was based upon information from the American Red Cross, which
> handles military requests for emergency leave, she said. 
> Chris Williams was at Munster Community Hospital in Indiana Monday and
> not be reached for comment. 
> His family says he followed orders to return and booked the first flight
> could find, slated to leave Friday. 
> But they and he can't understand the sudden reversal that has added so
> distress to their lives. 
> On Sunday, Williams' son's condition was downgraded to critical at almost
> the same time Williams received the message to return to Iraq, the
> father said.
> "The baby's condition worsened 12 hours after he was born," Doug Williams
> said. "Sunday morning he stopped breathing twice and had to be
> He was sent back to neonatal intensive care, and has undergone spinal
> Williams' family, which includes numerous military retirees "disgusted" by
> the turn of events, are outraged, Doug Williams said, while Illinois
> officials are demanding answers from the Army on their behalf.
> Over the weekend, Doug Williams said, an adjutant general said flatly that
> Sgt. Williams' extended leave had never been granted. 
> Yet, he notes, "I have copies of voice mails from a sergeant and captain
> Fort Lewis rear detachment who told him that because we were running out
> time and they had not heard from (commanders in) Iraq, they were extending
> his leave to Jan. 3." 
> There's also the voice mail from his son's commander in Iraq, a captain,
> that Williams has retained.
> "He told Chris to ignore the previous messages from the rear detachment
> the extension was revoked, that it was not deemed of any immediate
> and that he had to be on the first plane back to Iraq or he would be
> Doug Williams said.
> On Monday, Williams said he learned from an Army officer that an executive
> officer in Iraq had made the initial decision to rescind leave. 
> "He didn't ask for the Red Cross to check, like he should have. He called
> the hospital from Iraq, asked for the nursery and was told the baby was
> discharged from the nursery. Of course he was discharged from the nursery.
> He was sent to neonatal intensive care," Williams' father said, fuming.
> Williams said the Army should put more faith in his son's integrity.
> "I'll tell you the kind of man Chris is. He joined the Army for six years
> instead of the usual four after 9/11," Doug Williams said. 
> When his son returned to Iraq with Fort Lewis' 4th Stryker Brigade last
> spring, Williams said, he had scheduled other soldiers to take their
> around Christmastime instead of him. When Chris Williams learned his wife
> was pregnant, however, his commanders suggested he take leave for the
> December delivery instead.
> Williams said his son has been in two Stryker vehicles damaged by
> roadway bombs.
> He suffered a severe concussion in the first explosion but was back on
> patrol two days later when the second hit. 
> "I was never in the military," the soldier's father said, "but in my
> opinion, these are the types of men and women the military wants to keep,
> not to chase off."
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> Seeya round town, Moscow.
> Tom Hansen
> Moscow, Idaho
> "Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the
> and steady dedication of a lifetime." 
> --Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.
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