The head of the military's task force on preventing sexual abuse has some explaining to do. Army Major General Gary Patton, the head of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, is facing charges from three whistleblowers that he personally tried to derail an investigation into ghastly conditions at Dawood National Military Hospital in Afghanistan.
You may remember that back in 2011, The Wall Street Journal exposed rampant abuse and maltreatment of patients at Dawood, including grisly pictures of patients suffering from open wounds. A congressional investigation in 2012 focused on claims that Patton--then the deputy commander of the NATO force training Afghan security forces--and others tried to cover up the abuse. Horace Boothroyd III diaried about the hearings here. A report by the Pentagon's inspector general found that Patton was involved in the cover-up. But the three whistleblowers say that Patton's role was far from passive.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Navy Lt. Commander Jeremy Young told NBC News that Patton cut off him off and upbraided him when he tried to brief investigators from the Defense Department’s inspector general’s office about the maltreatment of patients -- including one whose bones had been misaligned through a botched surgery.This appears to substantiate the IG's finding that Patton violated the Military Whistleblower Protection Act when he forwarded an email from the NATO force commander, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, saying that no reports to the IG about Dawood conditions were to be made without either Caldwell or Patton clearing them first. Caldwell retired earlier this year rather than face sanctions that would have effectively ended his career. Secretary of the Army John McHugh is still weighing discipline for Patton.
“Gen. Patton gets me cornered in the hallway, he puts his finger in my chest and he says, ‘You need to stay in your f------ lane, lieutenant,” Young said, describing what took place during a February 2011 tour of the hospital by a team from the Inspector General’s Office. “If you don’t know about bones, you don’t talk about bones.”
Young, a nurse anesthetist, said he replied: “But sir, I’m the only one who knows about bones.” Patton then repeated himself, Young said. “You are to stay in your f------ lane.” Patton’s statements led him to cancel the briefing because, Young said, “It was very clear there would be repercussions.”
Two other service members at the hospital that day corroborated portions of Young’s account. One of them, Army Col. Mark Fassl told NBC News that he was standing outside a crowded hospital room that day listening while Young was briefing the inspector general’s team, showing them the badly misaligned bones of a suffering Afghan soldier.
“General Patton was beside himself,” said Fassl. “He comes out and said, ‘We need to stop him talking to the inspector general. Lt. Young cannot talk about this.” Fassl, who was then the command inspector general for the NATO training mission, is now the director of the U.S. Army Joint Support Team at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurburt Field, Fla.
In addition to Fassl, another service member supported portions of Young’s version of events: Dianne Capri, an Army nurse also assigned to the hospital, said she was immediately informed that the visiting team from the inspector general’s office would not be continuing their tour of the hospital because of the confrontation between Patton and Young.
“Nobody was more knowledgeable about that hospital” than Young, said Capri. “He wanted to take the touring party to see a couple of patients and that was quashed. … Word of what happened spread like wildfire. They (commanding officers) didn’t want them to see people starving to death or lying in their own excrement.”
When Kirsten Gillibrand found out about this, she demanded that Patton be relieved of his current post immediately. Her concerns were echoed by the Project on Government Oversight, which sent a letter to Chuck Hagel calling Patton unfit to lead SAPRO. Sounds like the sooner Patton is cashiered, the better.