Fort Bragg Commanders Say Army Hazing Tradition That Seriously Injured Battle Creek Sgt Was Not Criminal; Senior NCO Avoids Court-Martial

Hazing Incident Leaves Soldier With 6 Staples in Head

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WWMT TV (CBS), Aug. 30, 2012

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A disturbing case of military hazing was caught on video, and the soldier’s father is furious about what happened to his son.

The video of Sergeant Phillip Roach’s “rite of passage” as the Army calls it, is hard to watch.

What happens afterward, however, might be worse.

The video shows Sergeant Roach being struck in the chest with an instrument that appears to be a wooden mallet, and after a brief period, he fell backwards striking his head, opening a cut which required six staples to close.

After Sgt. Roach hit the ground, his father says he started seizing.

“I was told that nobody came to his rescue right away,” Ken Roach said. “His fiance was there, and she knelt down next to him to comfort him, and nobody really responded until his commander came in.”

Ken Roach is an 8-year Army veteran himself, and no stranger to hazing.

Ken Roach, father of Sgt. Phillip Roach, says 82nd Airborne commanders at Fort Bragg have swept his son’s hazing-assault under the carpet. He contacted President Obama and DoD seeking criminal charges for the soldier (Sgt First Class Carpenter) accused of seriously injuring his son during a traditional Army hazing ceremony when his son was promoted to sergeant. (Wood TV)

He even felt it necessary to call President Obama, and the Department of the Army sent back a letter, which acknowledged the ‘unauthorized ceremony,’ calling it a “clear incident of hazing that caused in jury to a great soldier.”

Read related post on traditional hazing rituals in the U.S. military

The letter also says that First Sergeant Carpenter, who strikes Roach in the video, has been reprimanded, but Ken says it’s not enough.

We reached out to the Department of Defense, the Public Affairs office for the Secretary of the Army and the White House with regards to this story.

When we hear anything from them, we’ll let you know.

Following is a statement from Sen. Carl Levin:

“I am very concerned about this hazing incident, and I am asking the Army to urgently review it. Preventing and responding to incidents of hazing is a leadership issue that requires action at senior levels of the Army. Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which I chair, adopted a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that requires the service secretaries, in consultation with the service chiefs, to report to the committee on hazing in their services.”

This story comes out days after a soldier from an Alaska-based Army unit was sentenced Monday to about three months in prison and demoted to private for his role in the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen, who authorities say killed himself because he was hazed over his Chinese ancestry.

I-Team: Was A Crime Committed In Military Hazing?

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) The I-Team is digging deeper into the alleged Fort Bragg military hazing incident, regarding whether or not a crime was actually committed.

Two recent high profile military hazing cases prompted Congress to hold hearings earlier this year to see what the Pentagon was doing to prevent hazing from happening.

At that hearing in March, all of the leaders of the branches of the military said all the right things.

Just a few weeks after this hearing, the incident with Sgt. Phillip Roach happened.

Roach’s family says this should result in severe consequences, not just what the military is calling a minor offense.

Friday, the I-Team discussed the case with a local prosecutor as to whether a crime was committed, because the soldier knew he was going to be hit.

The prosecutor said, “consent has to be freely and willingly given. When you have outside forces that are pushing you to the point where you acquiesce and are not necessarily willing to do it, that’s where you are crossing the line.”

Which appears to mean that even if someone technically consents to getting hit in this case, as Sgt. Roach did, the person striking somebody is still responsible.

Despite the video, the Army doesn’t appear to be leveling serious military charges against the soldier who did it.

Leaders React to News of Fort Bragg Hazing

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – New developments have already begun to emerge regarding a hazing story we broke Thursday night.

The incident is now getting national attention.

A local soldier was injured after being struck in the chest by a mallet.

A day later, everyone is reacting, from the man’s father, to Michigan’s congressional delegation to the military’s top brass.

Ken Roach sent Newschannel 3 a video of his son at a promotion ceremony, as Battle Creek native and Army Sergeant Phillip Roach is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Roach gets hit in the chest by a large wooden mallet, and wobbles for a second before falling to the ground and hitting his head.

He then has seizures and is rushed to the hospital.

His father, an 8-year veteran who knows about hazing believes the incident went too far.

“You sign your kids up to go to the military, you know that their life is in danger, but you don’t expect to get a phone call that says he had seizures because someone hit him with a wooden mallet,” Roach said.

The Army sent back a letter to Ken Roach, acknowledging the unauthorized ceremony and calling it a clear incident of hazing that caused injury to a great soldier.

Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, “I am very concerned about this hazing incident and I am asking the Army to urgently review it.

“Preventing and responding to incidents of hazing is a leadership issue that requires action at senior levels of the Army,” Sen. Levin continued.

Senator Debbie Stabenow weighed in on the issue as well, saying “this video is very disturbing; hazing is a very serious issue.

“The Army must thoroughly investigate this incident, hold those responsible accountable, and address the problem to ensure it does not happen again,” Sen. Stabenow said.

Lawmakers Weigh-in on Army Hazing Case

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – After Newschannel 3’s exclusive look Thursday night at a Battle Creek soldier’s disturbing military rite of passage, we’re getting calls from lawmakers and military leaders alike.

Back in April, a fellow soldier recorded Phillip Roach’s unauthorized promotion ceremony at Fort Bragg, just weeks after hazing related suicides at Fort Bragg led to Congressional hearings.

On Capitol Hill, military leaders promised to crack down on the practice.

The video stops short of showing seizures Roach’s father says his son experienced as a result of the blow.

His father came to Newschannel 3, concerned about the hazing and how the military responded to it.

Ken Roach said that as of Friday night, his son is being ordered to complete tasks not common to the rank of Sergeant, as a result of coming forward about the incident.

While U.S. legislators are calling for decisive action, the Army says it’s done everything it plans to do.

I am very concerned about this hazing incident, and I am asking the Army to urgently review it. Preventing and responding to incidents of hazing is a leadership issue that requires action at senior levels of the Army. Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which I chair, adopted a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that requires the service secretaries, in consultation with the service chiefs, to report to the committee on hazing in their services — Senator Carl Levin, Chairman Senate Armed Services Committee

A Lieutenant Colonel from Fort Bragg said that, “corrective action was promptly taken,” and that the soldier was “punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The Army says the Sergeant wielding the mallet in the video “received a significant punishment, that will always be in his record,” but Roach strongly disagrees.

“Just the Article 15 and a $1,000 fine, and the letter of reprimand,” Roach said. “Yeah, it will stay in his record, but it will probably get put behind somewhere and after a year he’ll be promoted.”

Phillip suffered bruising on his chest, staples in his head from the fall, and we learned from doctors that the blow may have caused a condition called commotio cortis, which can be fatal up to 65 percent of the time.

“If it had been an E5 or below, they would have been reduced down to E1 or even put in the stockade,” Ken Roach said.

The Army says Sgt. First Class Carpenter gets to keep his E-7 status, but “he’s been transferred to another base and is no longer directly responsible for soldiers.”

Ken Roach told Newschannel 3 he received two phone calls tonight–one from Brigadier General Charles Flynn, the Deputy Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne, and Col. Patrick J. Hynes, the Brigade Commander.

Roach says both men apologized and expressed regret for what his son experienced.

Col. Hynes promised to call in Sgt. Roach’s entire command chain first thing in the morning, to make sure Phillip isn’t being treated any differently as a result of reporting the incident, Roach said.

Hynes also gave his word he would make sure no one–not Sgt. Roach, nor any other soldier–gets singled out.

12 Responses

  1. I bet this that this has been going on for some time in this particular unit. You can’t tell me that this is the first time that mallet was swung at someone’s chest. This probably started out with pounding the rank into the promotees chest with a fist. Over time, this idiotic promotion/initiation ritual became more elaborate and more severe. Thank God this was exposed before someone got killed. Where was the chain of command in the past? Now that this is out in the media they will be all over it and be practically falling over themselves to put an end to such sophomoric behavior.

    Oh yes, and I agree, SFC Carpenter needs to be charged with assault, courtmartialed, convicted, demoted, and imprisoned. According to something I read Carpenter was the “acting First Sergeant”. How many times did the actual First Sergeant participate in this kind of behavior. How many times did the officer who was the company commander witness these stupid little ceremonies? Maybe they need to join Carpenter at Ft. Leavenworth. The Army needs to dig into this, but they won’t (unless someone like a senator makes them), because this makes the Army look very bad.

    The Army Chief of Staff needs to write a personal letter to Ken Roach and thank him for doing more to end this inappropriate hazing than all of the officers and senior NCOs in the 82d Airborne have done.

    Hats off to CNN for publicizing this incident and to this Web site for following up on it!

  2. This is soooooo much bs. Sounds like the good Ol’ boy system has come to the rescue again. This Sr NCO put himself out there and should be fed to the wolves. If he was black, he’d be done

    • Craig, you are apparently just another perpetual victim who never misses a chance to play the race card. To say that a black NCO would have been more severly punished is total speculation on your part.

      But……we digress….it will be interesting to see what develops after this is plastered all over the front of next week’s Army Times.

  3. This is complete bullshit! That SFC should be court martialed and receive confinement. All “leaders” within that brigade who knew about this, or should have known about it, should be punished. The battalion and brigade commanders and CSMs should all be relieved. Roach earned his sergeants stripes. He didn’t need to be hit in the chest with a f****** mallet to be allowed to wear them.

    • I completely agree, I am an active duty service member with 23 years under my belt. I am in shock that more action was not taken. I strongly feel the Commanding officer who did not take action should be relieved.

  4. Why does the military stand by and do nothing to stop this barbaric practice and give the perpetrators a slap on the wrist? Hazing needs to be cracked down on in schools, miliary, everywhere. I have seen vids of military hazing that are far more brutal than this. They are the worst. Sickening neanderthals.

    • THis Soldier got more than a “slap on the wrist”. I am in no way saying that this action was acceptable.. its not! The Soldier in question will never see another promotion (unlike what the father states). He is done in the Army. An Article 15, loss of pay, extra duty, letter of reprimand, relief for cause evaluation. He will never lead Soldiers again. To add, the person filming the event was the SGT Roach’s wife. Yes, this kind of stuff happens and it must be stopped! Know all the facts before passing judgement!

  5. Only weaker due to the military allowing the idiots from the “old Army” to remain in.

    • The “old Army” is long gone. This is the “new Army”. It is just starting to look like the “old Army”. Young fresh faced officers who can’t control their combat vet NCOS, or REMF non-combat vet NCOs who think they have to do stuff like this to prove they are tough guys.

  6. just goes to show the pussification of our army. We are becoming weaker because people are weak. Americans are going to be bowing down to China very soon.

    • You don’t report these things, he will be kicked out. His dad must have been some weak MOS too.

    • First, Kevin McMains–I linked from your post over to your Facebook profile. I see references to the Transportation Corps. Oh ya, Transportation Corps….you’re bad….

      Second, this type of shenanigans has appeared periodically over the years in the 82d Airborne Divison. Goes back to the old “prop blast” days when soldiers were hazed upon joining the division (hopefully that crap isn’t going on anymore). I guess life in the 82d today isn’t tough enough to prove one is a man so NCOs have to go around hitting people in the chest with mallets.

      Third, we need to keep this kind of behavior out of the the US Army. Let them do this type of stuff in the Russian army or in the French Foreign Legion.

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