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Old 11-06-2003, 04:40 AM   #1
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Soldier Accused as Coward Says He Is Guilty Only of Panic Attack

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Soldier Accused as Coward Says He Is Guilty Only of Panic Attack
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

Published: November 6, 2003

FORT CARSON, Colo., Nov. 5 Not since the Vietnam War has the Army punished a soldier for being too scared to do his duty.

But on Friday, Sgt. Georg Andreas Pogany will appear in front of military court here to face charges he was a coward.

The Army says he is guilty of "cowardly conduct as a result of fear" and not performing his duties as an interrogator for a squad of Green Berets in Samarra, Iraq.

But Sergeant Pogany says he did not run from the enemy or disobey orders. The only thing he is guilty of, he says, is asking for help for a panic attack.

On his second night in Iraq, one month ago, Sergeant Pogany, 32, saw an Iraqi cut in half by a machine gun. The sight disturbed him so much, he said, he threw up and shook for hours. His head pounded and his chest hurt.

"I couldn't function," Sergeant Pogany said in an interview on Tuesday in his lawyer's office in Colorado Springs, not far from Fort Carson. "I had this overwhelming sense of my own mortality. I kept looking at that body thinking that could be me two seconds from now."

When he informed his superior that he was having a panic attack and needed to see someone, Sergeant Pogany said he was given two sleeping pills and told to go away. A few days later, Sergeant Pogany was put on a plane and sent home.

Now he faces a possible court-martial. If convicted, the punishment could range from a dock in pay to death.

Cowardice cases are very rare. According to the Department of Defense, in 1968 Pvt. Michael Gross was found guilty of running away from his company in Vietnam and sentenced to two years in prison. His case is the last cowardice conviction on the books.

Military officials have declined to discuss the details of Sergeant Pogany's case. But Maj. Robert Gowan, spokesman for Special Forces Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., disagreed that a soldier would be stigmatized simply for asking for help, even among battle-hardened Green Berets.

"Special Forces soldiers are mature professionals, and they know that if someone is under stress and asking for help it is important to give it to them," Major Gowan said.

Military officials also emphasized that being scared is not enough to be charged with cowardice. To level such a charge, Army prosecutors must have evidence that a soldier is frightened and misbehaves because of that fear.

On the official charge sheet dated Oct. 14, prosecutors say that Sergeant Pogany refused to perform his duties, which at the time were going out on missions with Green Berets and interrogating any Iraqi suspects they captured.

The Manual for Courts-Martial defines cowardice as "misbehavior motivated by fear."

But the manual goes on to say that fear is "a natural feeling of apprehension when going into battle."

The Military Judges' Benchbook defines cowardly conduct as "the refusal or abandonment of a performance of duty" before or in the presence of the enemy "as a result of fear."

Eugene R. Fidell, president of the nonprofit National Institute of Military Justice, said the way the law is written makes these cases difficult to prosecute. "Fear is an essential element of a cowardice charge,and judges know that fear is an extremely human reaction," he said. "We have come a long way from when we shot people for this."

Bartlett J. Carroll Jr., a retired Army colonel who prosecuted cowardice cases in Vietnam, said, "It was usually only the most severe cases we went after, like when guys repeatedly refused to get on the helicopters, even after a cool-down period."

Mr. Carroll said the occupation in Iraq, with its steady death toll, could foment a new generation of cowardice charges.

"The first Iraq war was 100 hours, and there wasn't enough time to be scared," Mr. Carroll said. "But now the guys in Iraq have enough time to dwell on their mortality."

That is exactly what Sergeant Pogany has been doing as he awaits his hearing.

The Marlboro Lights still tremble in his fingers. The body still bleeds in his dreams.

Sergeant Pogany remembers that it was midnight on Sept. 29 when he was standing in the doorway of an American military compound in Samarra, north of Baghdad. A group of American soldiers dragged the corpse of an Iraqi man right past him, he said.

The soldiers said the Iraqi had fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a convoy. The convoy fired back. The results were gruesome.

"From his waistline to his head, everything was missing," Sergeant Pogany said.

Sergeant Pogany said he has seen the bodies of people killed in car accidents and that he is not squeamish.

"But nothing could have prepared me for that," he said.

He also said some of the other soldiers were laughing.

Sergeant Pogany is not a Green Beret. But he had just deployed to Iraq with a team of Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group from Fort Carson.

Sergeant Pogany said he never told his superiors that he wouldn't go on missions. Rather, he said that he was not fit to work and needed help.

"I wanted to speak to someone who could tell me what was going on," he said.

A few days later, after he was confined to his room and put on a suicide watch, he was taken to a bigger base where he met with a psychologist who evaluated him and wrote, "the soldier reported signs and symptoms consistent with those of a normal combat stress reaction."

Sergeant Pogany said the psychologist recommended he rest a few days and then get back to work.

Instead, Sergeant Pogany said he was told by a senior officer that he was a coward and he was going home and his fate was sealed. On Friday, he will appear at a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for a court martial.

Once a rising military intelligence agent, Sergeant Pogany, a college graduate and five-year serviceman, is now left at Fort Carson loading pallets and sweeping parking lots. His gun has been taken. So too, he said, has a chunk of his pride.

"Coward is a pretty big stigma to carry around," he said.
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Old 11-06-2003, 06:28 AM   #2
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I bet some peope would just love to make an example out of him, seeing that it doesn't look like it's going to get any better in Iraq.
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Old 11-06-2003, 11:56 AM   #3
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I'm really speachless, i feel bad for the guy.. really.

it makes me so annoyed that we have to punish someone for seeing and dealing with events that would harm anyone phsicologically...

I mean seeing an Iraqi's butchered body, and soldiers laughing.. it makes me sick just thinking of it...
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Old 11-06-2003, 02:27 PM   #4
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I am sure there is a sense of helplessness among US troops. If attacks are planned and weapons stored behind the walls of Mosques, troops realize that they may never be able to get to their attackers.
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Old 11-07-2003, 07:18 AM   #5
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Ah yes...America's pathetic response to mental illness is right on cue. "Pop some pills and go away."

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Old 11-07-2003, 10:34 AM   #6
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From CNN

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FORT CARSON, Colorado (CNN) -- The U.S. Army Thursday dismissed a cowardice charge against a National Guardsman shaken by the sight of an Iraqi soldier's corpse, which had been cut in half by machine gun fire.
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Old 11-07-2003, 10:42 AM   #7
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Well I don't believe he should be charged with anything, but I'm glad they reduced the charge.
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Old 11-07-2003, 11:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
Ah yes...America's pathetic response to mental illness is right on cue. "Pop some pills and go away."
Exactly

And I'd say the person w/ real "problems" is someone who DOESN'T have the kind of reaction that soldier did

I wouldn't judge the entire military as as whole by this one incident, but I'm certainly not denying that there are these kinds of problems in the culture of the US military.
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Old 11-07-2003, 11:46 AM   #9
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UPDATE

Army Dismisses Soldier Cowardice Charge

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FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) - The Army dismissed a cowardice charge and filed a lesser count against an Army interrogator who sought counseling after he saw the body of an Iraqi man cut in half by American fire.

Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany was charged with dereliction of duty, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon by Fort Carson officials. A military court hearing set Friday for Pogany was canceled.
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Old 11-07-2003, 12:18 PM   #10
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


And I'd say the person w/ real "problems" is someone who DOESN'T have the kind of reaction that soldier did

Exactly. I'm glad the charges were dismissed and it's disgraceful that charges were brought to begin with.
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Old 11-07-2003, 12:31 PM   #11
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We have a few military people here, can someone explain the new charges. Why exactly is he being charged for anything?
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Old 12-30-2003, 03:48 PM   #12
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http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/12/30/spr....ap/index.html
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Old 12-30-2003, 11:43 PM   #13
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[Q]FORT CARSON, Colorado (AP) -- The Army dropped a charge of dereliction of duty against a Special Forces interrogator who was accused of cowardice, but the soldier's military career is still in limbo.

Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany, 32, was awaiting word from prosecutors on whether the case was over or if he still faced a court-martial, his lawyer said Monday.

Pogany, an Army interrogator assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group, was charged with cowardice on October 14 after suffering what he described as a panic attack from seeing a mangled body of an Iraqi man who had been cut in half by American gunfire in Iraq.

After he asked for counseling, Pogany's commanders sent him back to Fort Carson to face a court-martial on a cowardice charge, which can be punishable by death. The Army later replaced it with the lesser dereliction-of-duty charge, which could have put Pogany behind bars for six months.

The Army dropped that charge December 18 and offered Pogany a hearing on nonjudicial punishment, called an Article 15, for dereliction of duty. Instead, Pogany requested a court-martial, which is much like a civilian trial in which a judge or jury decides the suspect's fate.

The Army is reviewing its options, officials said. The Army could refile charges or let the matter die, said Richard Bridges, a public affairs officer at Fort Carson.

Pogany's lawyer, Richard Travis, said the accused has fewer legal rights in an Article 15 hearing than in a court-martial, and Pogany feared his fate in such a hearing would have been decided by the same officer who brought the dereliction charge against him.

An Article 15 conviction could have resulted in military confinement, docked pay and rank, and a less than honorable discharge, Travis said.

Pogany is a five-year veteran who had a stellar service record until this fall.

Two Army psychologists say Pogany has no psychological disorders but that he showed symptoms consistent with normal combat stress reactions. Pogany has said his panic attack may have been caused by an anti-malaria drug he and other Fort Carson soldiers took in September before leaving for Iraq. [/Q]

OK...here is my take on it......

He is a National Guardsman attached to a unit of Green Beret's. He is most likely not with many members of his unit surrounding him because national guard and reserve units are usually combat support units. He was trained as an interrigator so he is probably with one or two other people from his unit, and not many others.

The Regular Army personal, ie MANLY Green Beret's look at this man, this reservist, this part timer, who has five years in and a rank of E-6? That is incredible? I am VERY puzzled as to how you attain a rank of E-6 in five years of service....when most Regular army do not reach that level in that time period. Sorry, but my Drill instructor had 8 years in and was E-5.

So reading between the lines.....you have a National Guardsman, sent into Iraq after the fighting was done. These guys have been in country for a while, this E-6 part time soldier who somehow outranks them with very little time in the service, sees something and freaks out. They dislike him as it is , so they make an issue of it and send him home, for a courtmartial hearing for cowardice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My gut.....

This guy did not want to be there. The Green Berets did not want him there. This was handled poorly.

Many times there are problems with the integration of the Reserve/Guard Units and the Regular Army Units. To me this is a prime example of a guy, who may have been very unprepared for what he saw, verses a groop of trained soldiers who had dealt with a lot more for a whole lot longer amount of time. They took it to be him whining. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. One thing, I do not buy is that they did not have Chaplins and other Councilors there for him to meet with. That just does not seem right to me and I am betting they would meet with him before they throw him on a plane to send him home.

As for the continued dropping of the charges......

He may have made a mistake with the Article 15. It almost sounds like this was the common ground area in which they wanted to meet with him so that he could negotiate. Article 15 would not discharge him necessarily. It would be a fine of $160 or so and a possible reduction in rank, which again, I do not know how a guy becomes a Staff SGT in the National Guard in five years. That is a promotion a year. Think about it. Two days a month = 24 days a year + two weeks = 38 days a year times 5 years = 190 days. Have you ever been promoted five times in 190 days. This would also mean he was sent to two SGT's academies....in that time period.

In a little more than a year and a half he reached five promotions? Rediculous....I was in for 8 years and I was just about to get my E-6.

He is now putting himself on trial.....and if they sent him home.....I am betting he received some form of counciling from Chaplins while in Iraq. If the Psychologists here in the States found nothing wrong with him, then he may very well be out of the service.
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Old 12-31-2003, 12:10 PM   #14
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well i don't think we want soldiers laughing at dead iraqis, but we also don't want a member of the group having a panic attack at the admitedly disturbing sights of war, because that could put the entire unit in danger. but i agree with dread... the whole thing was handled poorly.
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Old 12-31-2003, 12:19 PM   #15
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Not to play devil's advocate....but....

Was the writer of the article there witnessing the soldier's laughing?

Anyone in this forum had bullets fired at them, or felt the relief of it stopping?

I am not saying that laughing is a "normal" reaction to the situation for you or I, however, stressful situations bring out different emotional reactions in people.

I do not know for certain what they were laughing at, and for sure, I cannot rely on the the articles here to decide what was going on here.
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