On Jan. 2, 2004, Command Sgt. Maj. James Stacy “Rock” Adams, the senior enlisted leader of the scandal-scarred 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion, was found dead in his apartment in Wiesbaden, Germany.
He was only 43 years of age, and he had been the battalion CSM since September 2003.
Friends of mine, who saw CSM Adams only two weeks before his death, described him at the time as happy, well, full of life, and glad to moving into a new apartment.
The 302nd is one of the intelligence battalions under the command of the 205th MI Brigade, commanded by Col. Thomas M. Pappas. Pappas and his brigade now find themselves at ground zero, embroiled in the Abu Ghraib prison investigation.
Those who knew Adams recognized him as a quintessential senior non-commissioned officer and military leader. He did not get the nickname, “Rock”, without earning it. He was a specimen of excellent physical conditioning in which he took great pride and instilled in all soldiers under him.
He demanded excellence from his fellow non-commissioned officer leaders. One of his favorite sayings was, “With proper NCO leadership, a private can do no wrong.” And he believed that.
“Rock” Adams, with his well-built 5’ 9” frame, his completely bald head and his little round lens glasses, was a benchmark of efficiency when we met in Heidelberg, Germany in 1999. He was the V Corps, G-2 Sergeant Major at the time. “Rock” Adams was the type of Army leader I like. He truly led from the front and he never expected more from a soldier than he expected from himself.
This capable leader entered the Army at the age of twenty in 1981. He enlisted to become an intelligence analyst. “Rock” excelled as the Honor Graduate of his advanced individual training course at the Army Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. “Rock” continued to maintain his high personal standard by also becoming the Honor Graduate of his Primary Leadership and Development Course. As well, he was the Distinguished Honor Graduate of his Basic NCO leadership course, also at Fort Huachuca.
He accepted and excelled in assignments that few intelligence analysts aspire to. To his credit, he served in numerous intelligence NCO positions in ground combat and maneuver units, to include the armored cavalry. “Rock” Adams took those arduous jobs and excelled, maturing into an outstanding senior military intelligence leader.
Last September, Adams assumed the duties and the responsibilities as the Command Sergeant Major of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion. This was a couple of months before some of the worst abuses are alleged to have occurred at Abu Ghraib prison.
As the senior enlisted leader in the 302nd MI Battalion, all the enlisted soldiers in the battalion fell under his control and his leadership. This, as we come to know now, included soldiers from the battalion who were performing intelligence duties at Abu Ghraib during the fall of 2003.
Suddenly, just after New Year’s Day, 2004, CSM Adams fell quiet. The official casualty report did not include the cause of his death. I lost a friend and a former colleague. Many questions remain unanswered in my mind, in particular whether knowledge of the ongoing Army investigation into his unit may have contributed in any way to his passing.
But it is not time to forget Adams just yet. This past week, one of his junior NCOs displayed both mettle and courage as “Rock” would have wanted him to. Sgt. Samuel Provance, who was at Abu Ghraib prison, spoke out. Provance has revealed what he saw and heard at Abu Ghraib, first to ABC news (see “Definitely a Cover-Up,” ABCNews.com, May 18, 2004), and then to other reporters (see “Sergeant Says Intelligence Directed Abuse,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2004).
Provance has alleged that a massive cover-up exists in an effort to conceal the truth in the Abu Ghraib prison investigation. Stating, “There's definitely a cover-up,” young Sergeant Provance has likely sealed his fate and certainly ruined his career as a soldier. He has also asserted that all the stops are being pulled out to protect the senior leadership in Iraq (see “U.S. Soldier Alleges Cover-Up in Prison Abuse,” Agence-France Presse, May 18, 2004)
In press releases this past week, Provance spilled the beans, even though he had been cautioned by the senior Military Intelligence investigator, Maj. Gen. George Fay, not to do so (see “Army ‘Covering Up Serial Prisoner Abuse’ Says U.S. Soldier,” The Scotsman, May 19, 2004). Fay is the senior military intelligence general who has been assigned by the Pentagon to investigate the role of military intelligence in the abuse allegations.
While interviewing Provance, Fay actually threatened the young sergeant if he spoke out. Fay asserted to Provance that he could punish him for not speaking out earlier about the abuses at the prison earlier. It looks like this courageous sergeant has called Fay’s bluff.
Essentially, Fay is investigating his friends and professional colleagues, including senior Iraqi commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Sanchez’ top MI subordinate, Maj. Gen. General Barbara Fast, 205th MI Brigade commander Col. Thomas M. Pappas, and certainly others at the top. The results of his high-level investigation, punctuated by his threats to Sgt. Provance and probably others, should make very interesting reading. A major general threatening a sergeant is a censurable offense not far removed from a physical threat. In the real world of major general to sergeant relationships, this was indeed a threat!
This is the kind of rot we have dressed in snappy uniforms and attached stars to. Now the question remains, how many others fall squarely into the mold?
There is much we may never know. At this time, there has not been a connection made between the cause of Adams’ death and events surrounding Abu Ghraib prison. But this does not pass many tests in my eye when it comes to trust, integrity, and the blind assumption that all is well inside the U.S. Army.
J. David Galland
J. David Galland is Deputy Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.