Thursday, February 22, 2018

Injured warrior, family man identified in Afghan killings

WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials Friday evening identified the soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan villagers as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a trained sniper who had served three tours in Iraq.

Bales, a 38-year-old married father of two who enlisted 11 years ago, arrived late Friday at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to await possible criminal charges, a U.S. official said.

A complex portrait emerged from public records and Internet postings Friday. It shows a father eager to know the gender of his unborn child, a soldier disappointed about being passed over for a promotion and a civilian who had brushes with the law and underwent anger management.

• • •

Bales lived for several years with his wife and children, ages 3 and 4, in Lake Tapps, Wash., about a half-hour drive east of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma. He was based there for several years. The family has been moved onto the base for their protection since the massacre, officials have said.

Bales and his family lived in a two-story beige house with a cedar-shake roof and a small porch out front.

Kassie Holland, who lives next door, said she would often see Bales playing with his two kids and the family together at the modern, split-level home.

"He always had a good attitude about being in the service. When I heard him talk, he said, it seemed like, yeah, that's my job. That's what I do."

Over the course of the decade, Bales was deployed three times to Iraq, including for 15 months between June 2006 and September 2007, during the height of the war and at the beginning of the surge.

His battalion was involved in a major battle in the city of Najaf while trying to recover a downed Apache helicopter.

An Army news release described the battle as ''apocalyptic'': 250 enemy fighters were killed; 81 were wounded; Bales' unit suffered no casualties.

"I've never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day," Bales was quoted as saying. "For the simple fact that we discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us.

"I think that's the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm's way like that."

In 2010, a Humvee carrying Bales flipped over, possibly because of a roadside bomb, said his attorney, John Henry Browne. Bales injured his head. Browne said the sergeant also lost part of a foot, also apparently from an explosive device.

• • •

Bob Bales could be impatient, his wife, Karilyn, has said.

He was on military duty when his first child, a daughter, was born in December 2006, according to his wife's blog.

He was apparently eager to know the baby's gender before birth, and teased his wife about withholding phone calls from abroad unless she told him.

"Patience is not one of his virtues, especially when it comes to surprises. He simply cannot wait for the surprise to come," Karilyn wrote on her blog in May 2006.

In March 2011, Karilyn Bales wrote that her husband didn't get a promotion to the rank of sergeant 1st class.

"It is very disappointed (sic) after all of the work Bob has done and all the sacrifices he has made for his love of his country, family and friends. I am sad and disappointed too, but I am also relieved, we can finally move on to the next phase of our lives."

The family was getting ready to move in the summer of 2011 and hoped that the Army would allow them some say over where they went. The couple was hoping to be stationed in Germany, Italy, Hawaii or Kentucky to "be near Bob's family," she wrote.

Records in Pierce County, Wash., show that the couple listed their home for sale four days ago, on March 12.

• • •

On March 10, the day before the shootings, Browne said that according to Bales' family, the soldier saw his friend's leg blown off.

On March 11, U.S. officials say, a soldier wearing a NATO forces uniform moved through the nearby villages of Alkozai and Balandi, barging into homes and opening fire, then burning some of the bodies. Nine of those killed were children.

A surveillance video shows that the soldier later approached the south gate of the base with an Afghan shawl covering the weapon in his hands, according to an Afghan official who was shown the footage by his U.S. counterparts.

In the video, the man walks up to the base, lays down the weapon and raises his arms in surrender.

Information from the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and the Associated Press was used in this report.

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