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3rd anniversary of the electrocution death of SSG Ryan Maseth

3 years ago today, 24 year old  entered the shower in his Special Forces living quarters at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad, Iraq and he died. He was electrocuted do to an improperly installed water pump on the roof of his building.

The Army initially reported that Ryan, a decorated Green Beret foolishly took an electrical appliance into the shower and that was the reason for his death.

The Criminal Investigations Command (CID) closed Ryan’s investigation on June 11, 2008 proclaiming Ryan’s manner of death was “accidental”. His mother, refused to accept this as the cause of death for her son. Read the remainder of this entry »

Mystery surrounds death of SSG David P. Senft in Afghanistan (updated 12/03/2010)

See Funeral and Memorial information below. (updated December 3, 2010)

HERE is an updated article and an interview with David H. Senft (father) about his unanswered questions regarding is sons death.

Staff Sgt. David P. Senft of Grass Valley, Calif. Senft died Monday, Nov. 15, 2010 after being injured at Kandahar Airfield. AP Photo/U.S. Army

A Grass Valley (CA) man died Nov. 15 in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

Staff Sgt. David P. Senft died Nov. 15 of a non-combat related injury at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He is the first Nevada County casualty in Afghanistan.

Senft, 27, was a UH- 60 Helicopter repairman assigned to Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Senft graduated from Sierra Mountain High School in Grass Valley in 2001.

He joined the Army in March 2002 and arrived at Fort Campbell in May 2008.

“Staff Sergeant David Senft was a courageous soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of his death and will be forever grateful for his selfless service. On behalf of all Californians, we extend our sympathies to David’s family and loved ones during this difficult time,” wrote Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In honor of Staff Sgt. Senft, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

His awards and decorations include: Air Medal; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon; Northern Alliance Treaty Organizational Medal; Combat Action Badge; Basic Aviation Badge; Parachute Badge; National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and Army Service Ribbon.

Senft is survived by his wife, Private Alyssa S. Senft of Fort Lewis, Wash.; son Landon N. Ryan of Sardinia, Ohio; mother, Lee A. Snyder of Riverbank, Calif.; and father David H. Senft of Grass Valley, Calif. (click HERE for original article)

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SSG David P. Senft is the son of David H. Senft an outstanding electrician and a proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 595. David H. Senft also served his country and supported our troops by taking his electrical skills to Afghanistan as an employee of Dyncorp International at the very same US Airfield his son was killed, Kandahar (KAF). His was committed to ensure electrical installations were done safely and to code so that no more soldiers or civilians would die or be injured from electrical shock.

Here’s a shout out to everyone at Kandahar Airfield. If you have any information surrounding the “non-combat” related death of SSG David P. Senft please contact me so I can get it to his father.

My personal heartfelt condolences to David H. Senft and the other surviving family members and friends of SSG Senft. A special prayer for his Unit still in Afghanistan. I do hope the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) will perform a thorough and complete investigation into the tragic death of SSG Senft.

Updated and Corrected: December 3, 2010 Funeral and Memorial Information

Services for SSG David P. Senft will be at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at Murphy Funeral Home 4510 Wilson Boulevard Arlington, VA 22203. (703) 920-4800

Burial and graveside services for SSG David P. Senft will be at 10:00 am on Thursday, December 16, 2010 at Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia. You will be directed to the services at the cemetery entrance. (Note: Vehicles will be searched before entering the cemetery. )

This is the ‘Official Notification of Services’ from the CAC

I welcome all friends of David to attend if you can.

A local memorial service for SSG David P. Senft will be held in the Tracy CA area and is being planned now. I will post the date, time and place as soon as it is determined. All will be welcome at the local memorial as well. Thank you for all the kind words and cards to the Senft, Norvell and Carson families. ~ David H. Senft

As soon as I get information on the specifics of the local Memorial I will post it.

Ms Sparky

Army Major pleads guilty and gets 17.5 years

Major Gets 17½ Years in Iraq Contract Case
By JOEL MILLMAN
December 4, 2009

(AP) Maj. John Cockerham, shown outside San Antonio federal court in 2007, led a ring of Iraq War officers who collected bribes in exchange for contracts.

Maj. John Cockerham, shown outside San Antonio federal court in 2007, led a ring of Iraq War officers who collected bribes in exchange for contracts.

(Wall Street Journal) A former Army major was sentenced to a 17½-year prison term on corruption charges in Wednesday in San Antonio, signaling the beginning of the end of a far-reaching Iraq War corruption probe.

As part of the probe, a growing cadre of career soldiers has confessed to siphoning millions of dollars from defense contracts in Iraq and Kuwait. The investigation into their spree already has led to the indictments of five U.S. military officers, with another dozen expected to follow.

U.S. District Judge W. Royal Furgeson’s order that former Maj. John Cockerham pay $9.6 million in restitution — money federal investigators say he collected from steering contracts to favored suppliers — speaks to the breadth of the conspiracy, which allegedly lasted for years as officers rotated in and out of the war zone. Mr. Cockerham, the ringleader, and his co-conspirators allegedly installed replacement officers to work as bag men in their absence. They expected the bag men to collect as much as $5.4 million in kickbacks from contracts worth over $110 million, according to court documents.

So far, three former Army majors and one lieutenant colonel have pleaded guilty to money-laundering, bribery and other charges. Another major is awaiting trial, while sentencing of former Maj. Christopher Murray is slated to occur in Georgia in two weeks.

Two others have entered not-guilty pleas. A Justice Department spokeswoman says former Sgt. Terry Hall and Maj. Eddie Pressley are due to go on trial in April.

Investigators in Washington say that as sentences are meted out, defendants are sharing information on other alleged co-conspirators. New indictments are expected “within weeks,” according to one official monitoring the case.

Unlike the allegations of violence that dogged security contractor Blackwater USA, the case of the Cockerham crew spools out more like Sidney Lumet’s films about corruption in big-city police departments. Bribes and kickbacks allegedly involved relatively routine contracts to provide drinking water, laundry and latrine services to military bases, awarded by a small group of officers who seemed to be barely supervised by senior officers.

Almost every suspect comes from the same background: African-Americans who rose from childhood poverty to successful military careers.

In 2005, the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division heard about improper ties between Gloria Davis, a 45-year-old major, and Kuwait-based Lee Dynamics International, a contractor run by a retired African-American soldier named George Lee. LDI allegedly provided gifts to Maj. Davis, and put her son on its payroll. LDI also sent regular cash payments to bank accounts opened for Maj. Davis in Asia.

Maj. Davis had come a long way from Portageville, Mo., where she bore a daughter at age 16. A single mother, she thrived during an 18-year military career, completing a master’s degree and serving on bases world-wide.

On December 11, 2006, CID agents met Maj. Davis at Camp Victory in Baghdad’s Green Zone to ask about $225,000 found in her offshore accounts. Sometime after midnight, the CID investigators escorted Maj. Davis to her quarters, agreeing to resume debriefing next morning. Before dawn, she used her own sidearm to commit suicide.

Within days, CID agents were searching the quarters of her colleague, Maj. Cockerham. Eventually, they seized enough evidence to start building a case against officers at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

Since then, reams of court documents from overlapping cases reveal a pattern of corruption. Army contracting officers, almost all of them African Americans, reached out to African-American businessmen, seeking bribes in exchange for contracting deals.

By the time investigators were closing in, the Cockerham scheme allegedly had spread to new players, minority contractors launched by retired African-American soldiers who already had been vetted by the Pentagon. Maj. Cockerham allegedly hoped to harvest future bribes from them. (click HERE for original article)

Department of Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2009
WWW.JUSTICE.GOV

Army Officer, Wife, and Relatives Sentenced in Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme Related to DOD Contracts in Support of Iraq War

WASHINGTON—A former U.S. Army contracting officer, his wife, his sister, and his niece were sentenced today for their participation in a bribery and money laundering scheme related to bribes paid for contracts awarded in support of the Iraq war, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division Christine A. Varney. All four defendants were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division by Judge Royal Furgeson.

The individuals were sentenced as follows:

  • John L. Cockerham, 43, a major in the U.S. Army, was sentenced to 210 months in prison. He also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release following the prison term and to pay $9.6 million in restitution.
  • Melissa Cockerham, 43, Cockerham’s wife, was sentenced to 41 months in prison. She also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release following the prison term and to pay $1.4 million in restitution.
  • Carolyn Blake, 46, John Cockerham’s sister, was sentenced to 70 months in prison. She also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release following the prison term and to pay $3.1 million in restitution.
  • Nyree Pettaway, 36, John Cockerham’s niece, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison. She also was ordered to serve two years of supervised release and to pay $5 million in restitution.

John Cockerham pleaded guilty in February 2008 to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering for his participation in a complex bribery scheme while working as an Army contracting officer in Kuwait in 2004 and 2005. Cockerham was responsible for awarding contracts for services to be delivered to troops in Iraq, including bottled water. Cockerham admitted that in return for awarding contracts, he received more than $9 million in bribe proceeds. Once Cockerham agreed to take money in exchange for awarding contracts, he directed the contractors to pay his wife and sister, among others, in order to conceal the receipt of bribe payments.

Melissa Cockerham pleaded guilty in February 2008 to money laundering for accepting $1.4 million on John Cockerham’s behalf, and admitted that she stored the money in safe deposit boxes at banks in Kuwait and Dubai. Carolyn Blake pleaded guilty in March 2009 to money laundering for accepting more than $3 million on John Cockerham’s behalf, and admitted that she stored the money in safe deposit boxes at banks in Kuwait. Blake also admitted that she intended to keep 10 percent of the money that she collected. Both Melissa Cockerham and Carolyn Blake also admitted that they obstructed justice by impeding and obstructing the investigation.

Nyree Pettaway pleaded guilty in July 2009 to conspiring with John Cockerham, Carolyn Blake and others, to obstruct the investigation of money laundering related to Cockerham’s receipt of bribes. Pettaway admitted that Cockerham solicited her help in creating cover stories for the millions of dollars he received and in returning $3 million in cash to co-conspirators for safekeeping. Pettaway also admitted that she traveled to Kuwait in January 2007, received the cash from Blake, and gave it to others to hold for Cockerham. To date, the United States has recovered more than $3 million in bribe proceeds.

“John Cockerham and his family members went to great lengths to receive, hide and move millions of dollars in illegal bribes during the course of their corrupt scheme. Now, after three years of dedicated investigation and prosecution, they have been held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. “We must ensure that service members receive crucial supplies, free of the taint of corruption, as they carry out their missions. Rest assured that the Department will prosecute those individuals who choose to manipulate U.S. Armed Forces supply contracts for personal gain.”

“It is very rewarding to see these people sentenced after such a complex and exhausting investigation by our special agents and our law enforcement partners,” said Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, the commander of U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID). “Cockerham and his co-conspirators broke the sacred trust and confidence we, the U.S. Army, place in our officers. What gives me comfort in these types of investigations is the knowledge that there are literally tens of thousands of U.S. military officers serving our country with distinction and honor and doing the right thing every single day. Cockerham is an exception and for that he will be held accountable.”

“This continuing investigation shows that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, its law enforcement partners and prosecutors will not stand idly by while the contracting process is circumvented by those trying to make an easy dollar,” said Sharon Woods, Director, Defense Criminal Investigative Service. “As a team, we will continue to methodically investigate these allegations, work to insure confidence in the system, and protect the war fighter.”

“Public corruption is always unacceptable but especially so when members of the Armed Forces are involved,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). “The vast majority of public officials and military personnel are honest and committed to serving the public interest. For more than three years, SIGIR and our law enforcement partners investigated this complex crime, proving that our commitment to identify, pursue and prosecute such criminals remains unwavering.”

These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Richard B. Evans of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, as well as former Public Integrity Section Trial Attorney Ann C. Brickley, and Trial Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Emily W. Allen of the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section. Assistance was also provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. The cases are being investigated by the Army CID, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FBI, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and SIGIR.

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force, created in October 2006 by the Department of Justice, was designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs.

09-1297

Click HERE for original Press Release

Why Do I Care?

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Larraine McGee kneels next to her son SSG Christopher Everett’s grave.

On a recent trip to Texas I visited a dear friend of mine, Larraine McGee. I met Larraine in Washington DC in July 2008 when we testified before the same Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on “Contractor Misconduct and the Electrocution Deaths of American Soldiers in Iraq”. Larraine’s son Chris was electrocuted and died at Camp Taqqadum (TQ) on September 7, 2005 while pressure washing his Humvee. Larraine has since filed a wrongful death suit against KBR and Arkel International. Since the Hearing Larraine and I have stayed in touch and I have committed to help her in anyway I can.  (click HERE for Larraine’s Testimony and HERE for all the testimonies of this and other Senate DPC Hearings)

In true Larraine style we were greeted with a genuine smile and a great big hug. She is a gracious host and treated my grandson to some fishing, he caught his first fish ever and showed us the tourists sites of Huntsville. The most important site she wanted us to see was her son Chris’ grave. It was a not so subtle reminder of who we are fighting for. Chris is dead because of complacency, inattention to detail, poor management and poor oversight. If all electrical installations and maintenance had been done correctly Chris would not have died and Larraine would not have to visit him in the Cemetery.

I get a lot of criticism for nit picking KBR and other contractors for the little things that don’t seem to make much difference in the big scheme of things. It’s the little things that lead to the big things. If you don’t deal with the little things they can become big things very quickly. It was a relatively little thing (sloppy work) that evidently led to Chris’ death. The little things matter in a very big way. Just ask Larraine.

Why do I care? There’s one big reason…….this future Marine (year 2021)

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This is my grandson and he is already bound and determined to be a Marine. He was not too keen on following us into the Cemetery but then again he was not too keen on being left in the car either. He has heard me talk about Chris and other soldiers who have died in the war. But seeing the headstone seem to make it very real for him.

I refuse to sit back and “hope” that in the year 2021 some DoD Contractor doesn’t screw up and kill my grandson. I refuse to sit back and “hope” that the DoD finally has their house in order and cares about my grandson as much as I do. I just refuse to sit back and ‘hope” for change.

KBR is always spouting  “KBR’s commitment to employee safety and the safety of those the company serves is unwavering”. If KBR and the DoD want to know what true “unwavering commitment” is they just need to ask Larraine McGee or any another mother who is fighting for the truth about the death of their child.

Ms Sparky

How two vets took on KBR

Iraq Veterans Against the War member Bryan Hannah tells the story of how he and another vet made some county commissioners in Texas think twice before inking a road-building contract with a trio of fast-talking KBR executives.

How two vets took on KBR

March 30, 2009

TWO MEN and a woman in a suit with shiny brass buttons walked into the Hays County Courthouse in central Texas on March 24. They were there to sign a contract between Hays County and KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton and one of the corporations that has been a major war profiteer in Iraq.

The three executives sat patiently through the daily business of veterans’ affairs, needs of the local police department, burn bans and drawing lines for a subdivision until it was their turn to discuss the $617,000 county contract that would make KBR a road builder in our community.

What they didn’t count on were two unsatisfied customers and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War–Gregory Foster and myself.

Greg and I brought to the attention of the county commissioners the company’s history of scandals, including bribery, the negligent homicide of 11 soldiers and five Marines, rape and gang rape cover-ups, tax evasion and more.

Greg read the top results for a Google search that contained a multitude of shady business dealings and crimes to demonstrate that the commissioners had not done adequate research. He then read a letter from Spec. Jude Prather, a Hays County resident and infantryman in Iraq.

Jude’s letter outlined his concerns about KBR being a daily fixture in his community, stating that his convoy escort team’s opinions of KBR were “too colorful to be read in court.” Greg recalled a saying of his father: “Son, your dollar votes. If you don’t like how a company does business, don’t do business with them.”

I brought to the commissioners’ attention the siphoning by KBR of tens of billions of dollars out of our treasury in exchange for the delivery of substandard service and even unacceptable “disservices” to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Some soldiers suffered illnesses from contaminated drinking water, others were exposed to carcinogens such as sodium dichromate, and some died as a result of faulty electrical wiring and air-conditioning units placed so close to showers that water splashed on them.

“Hays County has a laudable record of supporting its service members and veterans,” I said. “I do not think we could in good conscience accept that reputation and hire a company responsible for killing U.S. soldiers and Marines, then attempting to cover it up and deny compensation to the families.”

I also attested to how KBR fattened its bottom line by shipping empty trucks around Iraq–while putting soldiers and civilians lives on the line to escort them.

A KBR executive stepped up and boldly (as well as untruthfully) said that all of these allegations were totally untrue and that KBR was not for or against the war. But the judge presiding over the hearing interrupted her to ask if it was true that a KBR employee had been convicted of bribery, and she was compelled to say that a KBR executive is indeed in federal prison for bribing Nigerian officials for $60 million in contracts.

She then tried to discredit me, Greg and our supporters by noting our antiwar attire, but she was forced to show respect for our service in the military and acknowledge our direct experiences with KBR.

In the same breath that she denied KBR profiting from the Iraq war, she also said that KBR wasn’t the only corporation to profit from the war effort. She added that the employees who committed the crimes were just “a few bad apples.”

I had no choice but to apologize. “I didn’t mean to pick on your poor, innocent, multibillion-dollar corporation,” I said, adding that if any of the other war profiteers tried to do business in Hays County, I would speak against them as well.

Her claim that actions of KBR employees don’t reflect company policy in any way was simply absurd.

After our testimony, the commissioners and the judge moved to postpone a final decision until March 31 in order to conduct more research, and there was a lot of talk about why other companies hadn’t been considered. Of the four commissioners and one judge responsible for the decision on the contract, only one made a comment in defense of KBR. “The Brown family seems very nice,” said the official.

It seems likely that we succeeded in blocking KBR from getting this contract. Let this serve as a lesson that people have power, and we should not make the mistake of dis-empowering ourselves by believing we are powerless. Get out and be heard! (Click HERE to read original article)

Hopefully this is just the first of a long line of potential clients that will voice their opinions against KBR’s fraud, waste, abuse, homicide and exposing our troops to chemical exposures, electrical shock and contaminated water and food, just to name a few. Tomorrow will tell. Hays Country Texas Commissioners are supposed to make their decision known at Commissioners Court March 31, 2009.

Ms Sparky