Private Chen Had Trouble Adjusting To Military Life

I no more than hit publish on the previous post and a find some interesting comments around the web about the death of Private Danny Chen. Now keep in mind I have not verified any of these sources yet.   Speculate at your own risk.

The following comments can be seen at the Washington Post article.  Rather than take a million screen shots and paste them, I’m just copying the text.  As near as I can tell the person commenting is a Soldier.  His story seems to mesh with mine in that the Soldier was young, couldn’t handle the stress, and just wasn’t a good fit for the military.

12/21/2011 9:30 PM CST

I happen to know one of the accused, and I can tell you this is the purest BS. This unit was in firefights every single day, and this kid could not hack it. If he was harassed it was because he stayed behind in the barracks while his teammates went out to get shot at.In April of this year, this 45-man platoon replaced a Canadian company of 160 troops, which was reported by an embedded Canadian reporter. Why does the US replace a badly-stressed Canadian unit with one of ours that’s one-quarter the strength? You tell me. Then one kid cracks under the strain, and now we put these guys up on a show-trial. You folks have no idea what a charade we’re putting on in KAF.

12/21/2011 9:33 PM CST
O k. But, don’t you think these guys could have handled this a little better ? They could have had him transferred or something. We will see how these facts unfold. If this guy refused his orders, then he should have been set up for Court Martial, not this.
12/21/2011 9:35 PM CST
i_go_pogo, these allegations you mention about errors in troop deployment need to be investigated also.
12/21/2011 9:36 PM CST
This guy didn’t refuse orders. His officers judged him a liability to the team and left him behind. And getting him transferred out? Like I said, you have no idea. Why did they transfer a guy just out of basic who was incapable of being a soldier into the hottest spot in Afghanistan? It’s just how the military bureaucracy works.
12/21/2011 9:38 PM CST
O K. I Understand. I am aware of how ridiculous the military bureaucracy can be. Maybe a good airing of this may help us do better in the future, I hope.
7:25 AM CST
All those charged ARE nco’s -with the exception of one lieutenant. Just teaching a slow-learning boy how to be a man.
8:37 AM CST
Where does i_go_pogo get his news? From the perps who are being charged?
It seems odd a soldier can just decide to stay in the barracks while the rest go out to get shot at. At any rate this is a wise course of action, if he had a choice why subject one’s self to danger unnecessarily?? Your friend sounds like a thug, so do you.
8:55 AM CST

When everyone has guns, and the only people you can run to for help to are part of the problem… poor kid.I know about putting on the pressure to get someone to crack, because if your fellow soldiers do it, just think how much more the enemy would. But when they DO start to crack, that’s how you know to ship them back home to some position they can’t get either you or themselves killed at, or if case may be, discharged.

Don’t keep sitting on them to see if…See More they’re actually cracking or not. They’re done- they couldn’t take it. They did their time and at the very least tried to serve. Send them home, or you’re no better than the enemy. Everyone involved with this shameful incident should get an OTH.

My heart and prayers go out to you, Mr. and Mrs. Chen. Thank you for your son’s service.

8:58 AM CST

From reading other news reports, it sounds like he stayed behind the wire and took a nice hot shower and forgot to turn off the burner. When the rest of the troop came back from patrol, they found the fuel was gone and they would get cold showers.I have experienced a few incompetent soldiers who were more dangerous to their team than to the enemy. You’d be nuts not to leave a guy like that behind.

“Your friend sounds like a thug, so do you.” Do you hav…See Moree any idea what a reprehensible comment that is? You are sitting fat and happy in your dirty underwear in front of your computer, calling guys who are trying their best to protect your stupid self “thugs”. Thanks a lot, pal.

9:01 AM CST
Meanwhile, the Army has made it a priority to recruit more Asian-American soldiers, and the two investigations are being driven by calls from “Asian-American activists”. I’m sure that to some extent, the military is managing the information emerging from this incident for their own political purposes.
9:02 AM CST

@i_go_pogoLol seriously? That’s one of those things I can laugh at because I’m sitting in front of my computer (my underwear is clean though), but would be less than pleased to find upon my return. One may as well start throwing rocks at a hornet’s nest, safely behind one’s glass fence.

What was done to send him back? That’s what I’m confused by.

9:04 AM CST
Have you ever found yourself in a live fire situation with the man behind you lying on top of his weapon crying, with the weapon pointed at you?
9:11 AM CST
Thank God no. That’s why I can certainly understand the whole situation from the rest of the rest of the platoon’s eyes… right up until this kid is sent into a country where he indeed might be placed in a live fire situation. Without knowing more details, I can’t say any more, but if he showed any signs of cracking before being shipped out, WHY WASN’T ANYTHING DONE???
9:37 AM CST
Read my lips: ten years of constant deployment of an undersized, under-funded, all-volunteer army in fights that people who knew better knew from the start were unwinnable. These guys are stretched beyond the breaking point. As I said above, this 45-man unit replaced 160 Canadians, and the mission didn’t change. Not that the mission ever made any sense: win the hearts and minds of a bunch of folks who don’t want you in their country by shooting at them.
9:42 AM CST
BTW, the unit deployed from Ft Wainwright to Afghanistan in April. This guy finished basic in April, and went to Wainwright to wait around until August, when he was sent over to replace guys who got blown up. It’s pretty clear from other news reports that he didn’t do well in basic, and was completely unprepared to be in a war zone. But they sent him anyway, to replace guys who had been beloved by their teammates. And they wonder why he didn’t get a lot of warm fuzzies from the other guys?

After finding the above, I stumbled across this article from the NYTimes posted a day later that seems to validate the above comments.  It also points out that one of the accused Soldiers has a violent past, and Chen was having trouble being a Soldier.

One suspect, Specialist Ryan J. Offutt, 32, of Greenville, Pa., was sentenced to jail in 2002 after pleading guilty to charges of simple assault and indecent assault after attacking a woman in his house in 2001, according to court records and a 2002 account in a local newspaper.

In the Chen case, Specialist Offutt was charged with multiple counts, including involuntary manslaughter, assault consummated by battery, negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

The authorities have revealed little about the circumstances surrounding the death, which remains under investigation. But Private Chen’s parents insisted that their son displayed no suicidal or depressive tendencies. They said Army officials had told them that in the hours before his death, Private Chen was harassed by fellow soldiers, who dragged him out of bed, pelted him with rocks and made him do painful exercises when he failed to turn off a water heater after showering.

According to the family, the soldiers used ethnic slurs against Private Chen, which are also prohibited by Army rules.

So apparently Chen accidentally used up all their fuel for heating water while they were out on patrol, and they were none too happy about it when they got back.  Does that mean he deserved a good smoking (physical punishment like pushups, situps, etc)?  Probably.  Does that mean he deserved to have rocks thrown at him and racial slurs used?  Absolutely not.   According to the above comments and the Times he was having trouble meeting the basic requirements of an Infantry Soldier so they left him behind on missions (something I saw happen in Iraq to problem Soldiers).

Private Chen’s parents, Su Zhen Chen and Yan Tao Chen, Chinese immigrants who live in the East Village, said they did not know if their son had done anything else that the other soldiers might have taken as a provocation. But in October, military officials gave the Chens a photocopy of a page from Private Chen’s personal journal that included a list, apparently in his handwriting, describing procedural failures: “Didn’t clear weapon,” “Didn’t hydrate,” and “No attention to detail (little things).”

The “procedural failure” that immediately jumped out at me was “didn’t clear weapon.”   In military speak that means Chen forgot to unload his weapon before entering a base and/or building.  That means he was not only a danger to himself, but the other Soldiers around him.  Not only that, but he failed to do one of the first and most basic things they teach you in Boot at Ft. Benning: drink water.  Every year Soldiers needlessly die from both dehydration and negligent discharges (NDs)  from weapons that were not cleared.  These are basic tasks required of every Soldier regardless of MOS. But for an Infantry Soldier the inability to do these most simple tasks is especially bad.  “Attention to detail” can mean any number of things in the Army from not cleaning ones weapon properly to forgetting a radio battery on a mission to forgetting to turn off the water heater.

Based on all this  information it would appear that they were justified in leaving him behind on missions.  Does that mean they were justified in throwing rocks at him and using racial slurs during his punishment?  Absolutely not.  Was Private Danny Chen unfairly targeted simply because he was Chinese?  It does not appear so.  Was the treatment of him by the other Soldiers simply for racial reasons? Again, not likely. It would appear as though he received unwanted attention due to his inability to perform basic tasks required of any Soldier, but especially an Infantry Soldier.   He simply wasn’t cut out for the military.

Please don’t confuse what I’m saying about this whole ordeal.  I am not saying any wrong doing on the part of the other Soldiers was justified, especially any violence and/or racism that may have occurred.  What I am saying is that there is much more to this story than we are hearing.  Race does not appear to be the reason he received so much grief from the other Soldiers.  So before the media paints this as a race conflict lets get the facts right.

Again, my heart goes out to the family of Private Danny Chen.  No Soldier should ever make the choice that he did.




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