Over 50 Louisiana Army National Guard Soldiers Convicted in Iraq
Associated Press, August 5, 2005, 11:39 AM
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – At least 55 soldiers serving in Iraq with the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Brigade have been tried and convicted of criminal charges, many of them drug-related.
The brigade’s commanding officer, John Basilica, delivered the news to reporters via teleconference from Baghdad Thursday at the brigade’s Lafayette headquarters. Basilica says he doesn’t consider the number especially high, because it’s a small percentage of the 4,000 soldiers with the brigade.
He says the convictions came in a period beginning in May 2004, when the brigade was called up and sent to Fort Hood, Texas, for training. He says the criminal behavior has had no effect on readiness, but added that drug and alcohol use was especially disturbing because it could impair a soldier’s behavior and endanger others.
An Army spokesman in Iraq didn’t immediately have figures available from other National Guard brigades, making it unclear how the 256th’s convictions compare to other brigades.
Soldiers are barred from possession of alcohol or any illegal drug in Iraq. But Basilica says some soldiers probably buy the contraband from civilian contractors, who aren’t subject to the same oversight as soldiers. Others received drugs in the mail from the United States.