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Court-martial recommended for eighth Fort Wainwright soldier in Chen case

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Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012 11:56 pm | Updated: 1:46 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A U.S. military investigator in Afghanistan on Saturday recommended a Fort Wainwright sergeant face a court-martial for his involvement in the October death of Pvt. Danny Chen, who reportedly killed himself after repeated abuse by several of his fellow soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas is the last of eight Fort Wainwright soldiers to be recommended for court-martial in the case.

The investigator determined Dugas should be tried on four charges of dereliction of duty, according to a news release from the regional command headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Charges of making a false official statement and of violating a lawful general regulation were dropped.

Dugas, 35, of Port Arthur, Texas, and the seven other soldiers are suspected of subjecting Chen, 19, to weeks of racial slurs — he was of Chinese descent — and physical abuse and humiliation. Chen’s family has said military investigators have told them Chen was forced to do excessive sit-ups, pushups, runs and sprints carrying sandbags.

The soldiers face a multitude of charges, including negligent homicide, assault, maltreatment, reckless endangerment and other violations of military code. Not all of the soldiers face the same slate of charges.

All eight soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, which deployed to Afghanistan in March 2011.

The other soldiers are Staff Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel, 26, of Aberdeen, South Dakota; Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst, 26, of Brooklyn, Iowa; Sgt. Adam Holcomb, 29, of Youngstown, Ohio; Spc. Thomas Curtis, 25, of Hendersonville, Tenn.; Sgt. Travis Carden, 24, of Fowler, Ind.; Spc. Ryan Offutt, 32, of Greenville, Pa.; and 1st Lt. Daniel Schwartz, 25, of Maryland.

The recommendations for courts-martial follow hearings in Afghanistan. The Article 32 hearings, which occurred over several weeks, are similar to civilian pre-trial hearings or grand jury proceedings at which it is determined whether sufficient evidence exists to believe a crime was committed.

The decision on whether the soldiers will face court-martial rests with their brigade commander and the commander of the U.S.-led coalition’s southern region.

Chen, of New York, killed himself Oct. 3

at a remote base in southern Afghanistan after being in the country for just two months.

The roughly 4,000-member Stryker brigade is due to return to Fairbanks during a period of several weeks beginning next month.

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