Army Clears 2 Reservists Discharged on Abuse Allegations
Two Army reservists discharged last year over allegations they mistreated Iraqi prisoners have been cleared by an Army review board and can rejoin the military, their attorney said Friday.
The Army Discharge Review Board this week reversed the former soldiers’ discharges and the findings of misconduct, said Gary Myers, an attorney who represented Scott McKenzie, Lisa Girman and a third former soldier who was cleared in the same manner in January.
“It’s been our long-standing practice that we do not comment on nonjudicial and administrative type actions,” said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman, when asked to confirm the attorney’s account.
“When I got the call, first thing I did was I thanked God,” said McKenzie, 40, a deacon at the Clearfield Presbyterian Church and a state prison guard. “I figured that if God leads you to it, God will lead you through it.”
Girman, 37, a state trooper who lives near Wilkes-Barre, said, “It’s not really about winning, it’s about setting things right.”
McKenzie and Girman were among four Army reservists with the Pennsylvania-based 320th Military Police Battalion who were charged with punching and kicking several Iraqis, breaking one man’s nose, while escorting a busload of prisoners to a processing center near Umm Qasr in May 2003.
All four had denied the abuse charges and said they used only necessary force to subdue unruly prisoners.
“We were made scapegoats and nothing we were going to say would have changed it,” McKenzie said Friday.
McKenzie and Girman had initially faced more than a decade in prison if found guilty, but they agreed to an Article 15 review, which allows punishments without judicial proceedings or public record. That paved the way for the Army to discharge them for misconduct, but it also allowed the two to challenge their dismissal before a review board.
McKenzie and Girman say they feel no ill will toward the Army.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a soldier. I’ve always enjoyed serving my country. I take great pride with that,” said McKenzie, who also served in Bosnia.
Girman said she had just been to a military recruiter’s office a day earlier “looking for a new home, a new unit.”
Another ex-soldier, Timothy Canjar, 23, was cleared in January, Myers said. A message left for Canjar’s parents was not immediately returned Friday.
Shawna Edmondson, 25, the fourth soldier charged, agreed to an “other-than-honorable” discharge in exchange for dismissal of criminal charges. She did not return a message left with her mother.