by John Stanton
The US Army’s 101st Airborne has concluded its investigation into allegations by Dr. Marilyn Dudley Flores concerning sexual harassment and a death threat at Bagram, Air Base, Afghanistan. Dr. Flores recently received a letter from Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey dated 30 March 2009 detailing the results of the 101st Airborne’s investigation (101AI).
“The Department of Defense directed rigorous investigation of the allegations. The investigation established you were employed as a member of the Human Terrain Analysis Team (HTAT), you and the other female members of the HTAT were subjected to a hostile work environment (which AR 600-20 defines as a type of sexual harassment). Dr. Milan Sturgis and 1 Lt Jose Perez were the primary creators of the hostile work environment. Dr. Milan Sturgis’ behavior clearly justifies the HTS’s decision to remove him as the team leader of the Combined/Joint Task Force (CJTF)-101 HTAT. Additionally, the DOD recommended that HTS relieve Mr. Lynch as Deputy Team Leader of the CJTF-101 HTAT. Lastly, they [101st] recommended to the Commanding General that adverse action be taken against 1 Lt. Perez to address his misconduct.”
The 101AI-Woolsey letter notes, however, that the 101st investigation found no evidence of multiple conspiracies, particularly those involving bribes by Dr. Sturgis. The 101st found no evidence that 1 Lt Perez “attempted to maneuver female members of the HTAT into especially dangerous situations…”
The 101AI-Woolsey letter also notes concern by CJTF-101 about HTAT performance. “Concerning the removal of both Dr. Sturgis and you from Bagram Airfield, CJTF-101 leadership did not request the removal of either. CJTF leadership raised concerns with HTS about personality conflicts, dysfunctional atmosphere, lack of performance and unprofessional behavior of HTAT personnel. CJTF Leadership and concerned congressional staffers also raised concerns that your [Dr. Flores] life might be in danger. CJTF did not dictate a solution for these issues. HTS and the pertinent employers/subcontractors acted of their own volition.”
The 101AI-Woolsey’s letter also notes that Dr. Flores was not combative or especially difficult to work with and, although “officers familiar with HTAT” questioned Dr. Flores physical conditioning for outside the wire activities but that she did, in fact, properly fit and wear her Personal Protective Equipment.
The investigation found that Dr. Flores systematically exaggerated her civilian and military experiences, connections to “famous people” and overdramatized events that took place while she was stationed at Bagram. This, according to the investigation, diminished her credibility as a military advisor.
Fix Management, Recruitment and Training
The 101AI-Woolsey letter has hit on troubles that have plagued HTS from the start. According to the 101AI-Woolsey letter, DOD has recommended that HTS management improve physical fitness requirements ensuring that academics have the ability to move quickly outside the wire. DOD suggests that “HTS should also establish or improve procedures for a rigorous review of applicant credentials and claims of pertinent experience prior to hiring team members.
In this case [Bagram], poor and unverified credentials and exaggerations of pertinent experience on the part of team members contributed to a toxic environment where HTAT, rather than being an enabler, actually became a distraction to the CJTF-101 mission. Lastly, the DOD will recommend that HTS clarify the Chain of Command within its teams and clarify its relationship between its teams and supported unit. They [HTS] should implement or improve Prevention of Sexual Harassment training and establish a means of enforcing professional conduct in an environment by people of diverse backgrounds from multiple civilian employers”
Meanwhile, according to sources, HTS is undergoing change. In late March 2009, program manager Steve Fondacaro held a conference call with the main staff at HQ Building #48 in Kansas and advised them he would be moving operations from building #48 to Oyster Point, Virginia. “He advised folks they could move (at own expense) or find other work.”
Another source had this comment about the toxic environment at the HQ Building #48. “[HTS is a] wonderful concept and a real opportunity to save American and other’s lives…The issues are NOT about Steve Fondacaro or Montgomery McFate Though Steve is the face of HTS he is only the primary salesman of the program, and a good one. He is now out-gunned in the program. The danger and problems for HTS are at HQ Bldg. 48 in Kansas with Deputy Program Manager Steve Rotkoff and Mark French in Operations [OPS]. Training is just as bad, in fact, it is pathetic and virtually non-existent under Jeff Bowden.
Bowden has created a 5-6 month training program that should be no more than 8 weeks. However, since Rotkoff and French control OPS or deployments they are responsible for putting people in positions O-CONUS to get killed as they lack virtually any training…the civilians are so vulnerable that it is scary. Look into [Rotkoff, French] qualifications to be in the positions they hold with HTS. They have NONE. Fondacaro is viewed as an enemy by them…’
And this is the program that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believe should be used as part of a civilian surge in Afghanistan? Leaving HTS to operate in its current form is disaster. Adopting the 101st Airborne’s recommendations will help improve the effort, but radical change in HTS is necessary.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security matters. Reach him by email .