Mike’s Story

Mike’s Story

I enlisted at the naive age of 17 and completed basic training when I was still in high school. Our military had just defeated Iraq the year prior in Desert Storm, so we were blessed with a lot of good leaders before the Reduction in Force began later in the mid-90s. Later in 1999, I became a commissioned officer in the Regular Army and I deployed to the Middle East, months after 9/11. After coming home for three months, I deployed again, this time to Iraq in 2003. My career was looking very promising – a “Mustang Officer” who had served in combat, qualified in two combat arms branches, and now served as a Military Intelligence Officer and Counterintelligence Special Agent and Antiterrorism Officer. I had always dreamed of having a long military career, and after spending seven years as an Enlisted Soldier, I loved taking care of troops and their families. I really didn’t want to go beyond the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, so that I could serve as a Battalion Commander, then retire and become a high school ROTC instructor to give back to the program that enabled me to help make my dreams come true.

Well, those dreams came to an end in November 2005 when a Senior Officer (Lieutenant Colonel) sexually harassed and then sexually assaulted me. At first, I thought this couldn’t be happening. I thought, I’m a professional and have served my country in combat. At that time, I was 30 years old and had been in the Army for almost 14 years so this shouldn’t be happening to me. Well, it not only happened once, but it happened again in December and I then said this has to stop. The Lieutenant Colonel thought I was going to file a report, but I didn’t intend on doing anything as long as it stopped because part of our unit was deployed and I didn’t want to do anything to disrupt the unit. The Lieutenant Colonel continued to create problems for me, and when the new Colonel arrived, the Lieutenant Colonel informed the Colonel that I was a troublemaker. After enduring months of harassment, sexual assaults, threats and coercion to allow sexual assaults to happen, I felt the only way to escape was to just simply leave the Army and so I submitted my paperwork to resign my commission. While my resignation was accepted by the Army, and while I was within two months of leaving the Army – the new Colonel, believing the Lieutenant Colonel’s story about me being a troublemaker, asked me to explain my issue with the Lieutenant Colonel. I thought the Colonel was actually interested in the truth. However, after I explained what had happened months earlier, the new Colonel (Brigade Commander) threatened me physically and told me that I had better not do anything to “wreck his command”.

In an effort to discredit me, both the Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel conspired against me and tried to influence the civilian Information Technology (IT) manager and S-6 (Signal Officer) to delete e-mails they had sent me, which were damaging to their careers. Both the IT manager and S-6 refused to take part in this activity. So, the Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel suspended my local access at the unit level, which affected my security clearance, and caused major problems with my status as an Intelligence Officer / CI Special Agent. Their effort was to also cause harm to my future civilian career, as I was being considered for employment with the FBI and DHS. Finally, within weeks before I was due to get out of the Army, the new Colonel serving as the Brigade Commander, threatened me again and this time he also physically assaulted me because I refused to report to (spend time with) the Lieutenant Colonel – as the Lieutenant Colonel had directed and requested multiple times.

I went on to report this information to the base Inspector General. During this time, within hours, the Colonel (Brigade Commander) realized he might get in trouble, so he lied and stated that I threatened him in order to cover himself against any official actions that might be taken by the Military Police, Army CID or the Commanding General of the base. As a Brigade Commander, the Colonel abused his authority and initiated a mental health referral on me, which then caused me to be unnecessarily screened by the base mental health team. This screening lasted for hours, and at first since the team has nothing else to go but the Brigade Commander’s statement, I was treated like a suspect and handled as if I was a potential threat to myself or others. Once I explained to the doctor what was going on, present evidence and provided witnesses to the events about the e-mails and references who could support that I was of stable mind and a good officer (my Soldiers and fellow Officers backed up my statements) – the doctor said, “You’re the most stable person I have ever met given the circumstances and situations you are having to endure”.

Nevertheless, I left the Army with an honorable discharge in 2006, but not before the Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel gave me my one and only bad Officer Evaluation Report. I didn’t care though because I felt relieved to finally be leaving and getting away from them and the anguish I had endured for almost a year.

Even though I didn’t owe anymore time to the military, I volunteered to continue serving in the Army Reserve because I wanted to make myself available to serve our country and train the younger troops, should there be a need to return to combat again. During my time in the Army Reserve, I continued to accomplish great things and I became certified as a Crisis (Hostage) Negotiator by the FBI, just days following the incident at Fort Hood involving Major Nidal Hassan. I also served full-time as a Counterintelligence Officer and Agent with the U.S. Government, and I completed other courses and earned certifications like the National Security Investigator’s Course, HUMINT Reports Officer Course, Joint Counterintelligence Officer Course, Antiterrorism Intelligence Officer Course, Criminal Intelligence Analyst Course and Counterterrorism Analyst Course. I also earned the Top Gun Award, and I was responsible for training and helping over 100 Soldiers qualify with their assigned weapon, all of whom had previously failed to qualify on the range just days prior. During those six years I served as a non-obligated volunteer in the Army Reserve, I received good OERs and I always put in more time than just the regular one weekend a month, even while trying to manage a full-time federal career and now while being married and also having a new baby in 2011. During this time in 2012, I was also rated as a disabled combat veteran at 80% for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) along with other injuries as a result of my military service and other injuries sustained during my time Iraq, but I continued to try to persevere in order to serve as a leader and as a Captain training and preparing young troops for combat. Nevertheless, in late 2010, the higher headquarters command I served in informed me that because the Army was downsizing and because I had a bad OER from my past (during my time on active duty – related to the sexual assault and physical assault I endured), I would be involuntarily separated from the Army Reserve. My new Colonel, new Lieutenant Colonel and Major in the Army Reserve that I served with all wrote and spoke favorably on my behalf in an effort to try to convince leaders in the Army Reserve that I was a good Soldier, Officer and Combat Veteran and that I should be allowed to continue to serve in the Army Reserve since I had not done anything wrong. However, the Brigadier General and his Deputy already made up their minds to remove me from the Army Reserve. So, in April 2012, I was involuntarily separated, just two weeks shy of my 20-year anniversary in the military.

I felt so cheated because I never went public with my story. I had continued serving the Army, helping the Army achieve great things, all the while I had suffered from sexual harassment, sexual assault, and physical threats of assault and eventually physical battery. Additionally, I continued serving even while being rated 80% disabled with traumatic brain injury. It was like my service, especially my service in Combat, meant nothing to the Army or to leaders in the Army and Army Reserve. I even had a letter from the Secretary of the Army stating that I could remain in the service, but the Brigadier General chose to ignore the message from the Secretary of the Army. Even with my good Officer Evaluation Reports and all the specialized training and certifications I accomplished in an effort to support National Security – Homeland Security and Homeland Defense missions, the Brigadier General and the Colonel of the Board of Review still chose to involuntarily separate me. So on April 26, 2012, my military career came to an abrupt end.

I have since challenged the involuntary separation from the Army Reserves – but all my challenges have been unsuccessful, and I tried to explain that I received two prior Honorable discharges from the Army National Guard in 1999 and Regular Army in 2006, but after four attempts, the Army Review Boards Agency has yet to correct this injustice. I will never give up and I will continue writing appeals until the day I die. I simply want the Army Reserve to issue me either a Medical Discharge / Retirement and/or an Honorable Discharge (even though I have been informed the Army Reserve has no formal discharge paperwork like a DD-214 – so I was basically advised that since there is no DD-214 from the Army Reserve and since I have an Honorable Discharge from the active “Regular Army” on my DD-214, that I should simply drop the case).

What makes this case special is that I am a male (Junior Officer) and the person who committed the sexual harassment / sexual assault against me was female (Senior Officer – Lieutenant Colonel). The person who conspired with her to cover up these actions was a male (Senior Officer – Colonel). As a result of this, my wife and I have decided that our son will never serve in the Army!

I had been responsible for re-enlisting and helping recruit approximately 25 soldiers during my time in the Army and Army Reserve. Since then, I have stopped persuading young people from joining the Army and I now help guide young people towards the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve – if they desire to serve our country in uniform. I hope that one day there will be measures in place to better protect the victims and whistleblowers in cases such as these – and that the Army and Army Reserve will do a better job in screening people to serve as leaders – while also doing a better job at realizing that an anomaly in a Soldier’s background may be the result of toxic leadership, or abuse and sexual harassment / sexual assault, which should not be used to harm the Soldier’s career in the future. At this point, it seems as if the Army and Army Reserve provides a safe-haven for toxic leaders who commit felony crimes, which if those same crimes were committed as a civilian and were reported through the civilian law enforcement and judicial system, those toxic and abusive leaders would be immediately arrested, tried in court and likely issued a lengthy prison sentence.

For anyone facing a similar situation – please don’t let the situation continue to endure and report the incident immediately to the Military Police or Army CID for investigation. Do NOT try to resolve the issue within the chain of command / unit because history, with many similar cases in almost every branch of service, has shown that commanders usually serve to protect the senior ranking person (often the abuser) in such situations. Furthermore, continue to tell others about the situation (outside the chain of command) and seek help from services off base (if in the U.S.) in order to get local authorities involved since some toxic leaders may try to harm you while off base as well. Lastly, seek the support of friends and family – and if you’re a religious person like me – continue to believe that God will eventually pull you from such a bad situation. One day this experience may allow you to help others – as you can share with them that you never thought you would be in such a situation either. Learn to be Victorious and not become a Victim!

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