KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – An entire unit of soldiers with B Co, 1-65 Infantry Regiment, stationed in Southern Afghanistan, has been relieved Thursday following allegations of hazing that led to the suicide of Army Private DeMarius Jackson at an unnamed Combat Outpost (COP) in Zharay Province.
Five officers, 36 non-commissioned officers, and 61 lower enlisted soldiers have been removed from the remote base while they await the results of the final investigation into the death.
Private DeMarius Jackson, who was reprimanded for falling asleep on guard duty twice, posting mission times to his Facebook account, and a negligent discharge of his personal weapon that resulted in his squad leader being shot in the foot, killed himself by overdosing on methamphetamines during a guard shift.
Although the soldier had previously tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, his death is being billed as a suicide as a result of hazing. The allegation was made after Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), part of a visiting Congressional delegation, witnessed several senior NCOs savagely abusing the young private.
Chu spoke to the Duffel Blog about what she saw that day:
“A group of very large, scary looking non-commissioned officers were yelling at Jackson, who was doing his best to maintain his dignity by crossing his arms in front of him and refusing to look his tormentors in the eye,” said Chu. “I then watched them force the young man to carry sandbags with a line of other soldiers towards a tent, where they just stacked them up higher and higher around the outside. I couldn’t understand why you would make walls around a perfectly good tent. It was so pointless that we all knew it was obviously punishment related.”
She shook her head as if trying to forget a horrible memory.
“The punishments didn’t stop either. Later that evening we saw Jackson being forced through a series of humiliating physical activities with a small group of other soldiers, all wearing some type of reflective strap clearly meant to humiliate and set the men apart from their comrades during the abuse. All of the soldiers in the group were overweight, and the kind of activities they were being forced to do were clearly hazing, since people in that kind of shape have no business running or doing exercise of any kind.”
Since all the soldiers, NCO’s, and officers at the tiny outpost were witness to the event, the Army wasted no time in pressing charges against every single member of the company. The outpost has since been turned over to the Afghan National Army (ANA), who has reported that despite the lack of U.S. forces there, is still secure with the help of soldiers from the local Taliban unit, who have manned many of the guard towers.
Further investigation has revealed that the deceased private was 1/18th African-American, leading investigators to declare the killing racially motivated. Although there were 24 minority soldiers stationed on the outpost with Jackson, the Army is still determined to push for the maximum sentence allowable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), in order to prevent future losses of such exceptionally high quality soldiers.