May 29, 2004

Is there more of this lurking out there?

Posted at May 29, 2004 08:54 PM in Society .

How much of this are we going to eventually hear about? Gang-rape in Cuba or something? How many of our soldiers are out of control with people that they think deserve it?

I have friends in the military but I still have to wonder what the hell is going on.

Former Soldier Disputes Army Denials That He Was Beaten During Training Exercises In Cuba

A Georgetown resident and former Kentucky National Guardsman is angry that the military is denying his claims that he suffered brain injury while being severely beaten by U.S. soldiers during a training exercise at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in January 2003.

In a story with international implications first broken by LEX 18's Leigh Searcy on Monday, Sean Baker says that while serving as a member of the 438th Military Police company in Guantanamo Bay during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was ordered to pose as the enemy for a training exercise. Baker said he received a severe brain injury because of the subsequent beating he received.

Baker claims that he was ordered to put on one of the orange jump suits worn by the detainees. "At first I was reluctant, but he said 'you'll be fine...put this on.' And I did," said Baker.

"I was on duty as an MP in an internal camp (at Guantanamo Bay) where the detainees were housed," said Baker.

Baker says an officer in charge issued the order because he wanted the training to be as real as possible. Baker says what took place next happened at the hands of four U.S. soldiers - soldiers he believes didn't know he was one of them - has changed his life forever.

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down," said Baker. "Then he - the same individual - reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breath. When I couldn't breath, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.'"

But, Baker says, the beating didn't stop. "That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me," he said. "Somehow I got enough air, I muttered out, 'I'm a U.S. soldier, I'm a U.S. soldier.'"

Baker says it wasn't until one of the soldiers noticed what Baker was wearing did the exercise stop. "He saw that I had BDU's and boots on."

Nearly 15 months after that day, and countless medical treatments at Walter Reed Hospital, Baker is now medically retired from the military, but still suffers.

On Wednesday, the U.S.military, while acknowledging an injury to Baker took place during the exercise, is disputing some of Baker's claims, saying he left for "unrelated reasons." Baker said he already feels betrayed about what happened to him, and tells LEX 18's Searcy that he's not at all surprised by the Army's response to his "going public" with his story.

"As a soldier, you almost expect that. Denial," said Baker.

Speaking from his Scott County home Wednesday morning, Baker once again reiterated his claims, and is angry that the Army won't admit what happened.

"How can they say I was released from there for other reasons?" said Baker. "If there are other reasons, please bring forth the evidence. I"d like to see it."

Baker says he has nothing to hide, and he plans to request the military's information. Due to privacy laws, an Army spokeswoman says she can't release any of Baker's medical history. She will only say he was not discharged for disciplinary reasons.

Baker said, "I wish they would bring forth something to substantiate their claims that I was released for 'unrelated reasons' because the documents I have from the Medical Evaluation Board clearly state the traumatic brain injury was due to me role playing as a detainee, an uncooperative detainee."

Baker's certificate of discharge from active duty shows the 37-year-old had a character of service that was "honorable" It shows he retired due to temporary disability - the brain injury Baker claims is the direct result of posing as a prisoner and being beaten at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

"The seizure disorder was the prominent injury that stopped me from being a soldier," said Baker, who takes several medications to control the seizures but still suffers them frequently. "It all stems from the training incident. The seizures are the result of the brain injury.

"All I wanted to be is a soldier. And when they denied me of that and sent me home...I want to hold them accountable."

Baker was a member of the Kentucky National Guard from 1989 to 1997. During that time, he served in the Gulf War. In the late 90's, he got out of the Guard, but re-enlisted after September 11th.

"I feel like I've been betrayed by my own troops because I would never have done to any detainee what had been transpired in my life what happened to me," said Baker. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else, what I'm living with daily."


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