The PJ Tatler

Flashback: US Army unit involved in Afghan murders suffered an extreme deployment

This in no way mitigates the alleged crimes, nor is it an excuse for them. But it is worth noting, as the coverage of the incidents is likely to grow louder.

The 3,800-member brigade had trained for more than a year under the assumption that it would go to Iraq. In February 2009, however, it received orders to go to Afghanistan instead. With only a few months to prepare, the brigade – named for the Army’s eight-wheeled Stryker combat vehicles – arrived in July 2009 and was thrust into the war’s toughest fighting in southern Afghanistan.

It also paid a steep price: 35 of its soldiers were killed in combat, six others died from accidents and other causes in Afghanistan, and 239 were wounded during its year-long deployment.

That stress may have manifested itself stateside, last August:

On Aug. 27, a soldier from the 5th Stryker Brigade who had gone AWOL shortly after his return from Afghanistan surfaced in Salt Lake City. There, he marched into the Grand America – a high-rise hotel and local landmark – dressed in battle gear and carrying an AR-15 rifle, two handguns and almost 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

The soldier, Spc. Brandon S. Barrett, 28, died in a shootout with Salt Lake City police. One officer was shot in the leg, but no bystanders were hurt. Police said they were fortunate to have averted a massacre. …

Army officials acknowledged that Barrett was flagged by their screening process upon his return from Afghanistan. They said he was referred for counseling after he was arrested for driving under the influence at Lewis-McChord on June 28 and also because he had told counselors that he was having “relationship concerns,” Turner said.