Photos shock MP unit's families

support remains

May 04, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

The rumors started in January, two months after the 372nd Military Police Company was put in charge of Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The unit, a source of pride for the Western Maryland city of Cumberland, had been showered with love demonstrated in rallies on the downtown pedestrian mall and in the posting of reservists' photographs at Wal-Mart and inside a local courthouse.

Family members, who feared an erosion of support for the company, kept mum - even after the news started trickling in from their loved ones overseas.

"I had gotten a telephone call from my son stating that there was something going down," said Aleta Fogle of Cresaptown. Her son, Spc. Robert Weaver, assured her he wasn't involved, she said.


As weeks went by, the talk grew shocking. But the families said nothing until last week, when CBS broadcast evidence of prisoner abuse on "60 Minutes II."

The photographs showed members of the 372nd grinning, clowning and giving thumbs-up signs beside naked, hooded prisoners. Some were stacked in heaps. Others were in sexual positions. One picture showed a prisoner apparently attached to wires, standing atop a box; viewers were told he had been led to believe he would get an electrical shock if he stepped off.

"We're a tight community. Probably everybody in this area knows somebody who's from the 372nd or their family," said Becky McClarran-Mizak, mother of Spc. Daniel Mizak.

Six members of the unit have been criminally charged and face possible courts-martial. Seven other soldiers - all officers and noncommissioned officers - have been reprimanded.

The photos sickened even the most positive-minded family members.

"I was appalled by the pictures," said McClarran-Mizak.

She said her 21-year-old son had worked as a prisoner escort, but not a guard, before suffering a concussion and eye injury in a roadside bombing in November. Home now and on inactive status, he is not among those charged. He was unavailable Monday for an interview.

Families of some of those charged say their loved ones were following orders and have been treated unfairly by the Army. Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II "never did do anything to hurt anyone," said his wife, Martha, of Buckingham, Va.

Daniel Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., said his son, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, 24, who faces a possible court-martial, wasn't prepared for prison-guard duty. "Jeremy is not a trained MP. He is a trained wheeled-vehicle mechanic," he said.

Also among those criminally charged was Spc. Sabrina D. Harman. Her mother, Robin M. Harman of Lorton, Va., said her daughter was in the process of having an Article 32 hearing in the case. That's the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury probe. Calls by The Associated Press to her civilian attorney, Frank Spinner, on Sunday and Monday were not returned.

Capt. Donald J. Reese of New Stanton, Pa., faced administrative charges, according to his wife, Sue. She didn't know if he was among the officers whom the Army formally reprimanded Monday.

Spc. Rodney Bird, 24, of Oakland, Md., worked at the prison but is not charged. His wife, Jennifer, 23, said the actions of a few have disgraced the unit.

"I think it's awful that they're over there supposed to be doing their jobs and they're treating those people like that. I think it's very bad," she said.

But McClarran-Mizak said the 372nd deserves the community's continued support.

"War is ugly and, as my son said, you didn't hear the name-calling that the female soldiers got from the Iraqi prisoners. We don't see that side of it.

"Do I think anybody should be humiliated? No, I don't. I wish it would have never happened," she said.

"But there were 164 soldiers sent over there and there were not 164 soldiers involved in that incident."

The Herald-Mail Articles