“Leave No Soldier Behind”: The Unsolved Mystery of the Soldier Who Died in the Watchtower | Vanity Fair (January 8, 2019)

Matthew Brown Army.png

Matthew Warren Brown, U.S. Army (via Vanity Fair Facebook)

Is the Army botching its investigations into noncombatant deaths?

I. The Gun Tower

“On the morning of May 11, 2008, a U.S. Army private second class named Matthew Warren Brown died of a single gunshot wound to the head while manning a watchtower at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. Brown was 20 years old. He was a skinny, all-American kid, a bit aimless but affable and unassuming. He was a good guy. You could see it in his face. At his funeral back home in Pennsylvania, some 200 people showed up. In the aftermath of Brown’s death, army investigators created files about the circumstances. The bullet that killed him was fired from his own weapon, an M4 carbine. He was working the six A.M. shift, alone in the watchtower by the fortified main gate to the base. The tower was known as the Gun Tower. It was made of concrete, and looked medieval when viewed from the outside. It was three stories tall. On the second and third floors it had openings covered with two-piece Plexiglas windows, some of which had broken off and been left lying in shards on the floors.” Read more from Vanity Fair here.

Related Links:
Pvt Matthew Warren Brown | Find A Grave
DoD Identifies Army Casualty: Pvt. Matthew W. Brown
Army Pvt. Matthew W. Brown | Honor the Fallen
Fort Bragg Soldier dies in Afghanistan
Soldier from Fort Bragg dies in Afghanistan
Fort Bragg soldier dies from injuries in Afghanistan
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Soldier from Zelienople killed in Afghanistan
Zelienople soldier who died in Afghanistan buried today
“Leave No Soldier Behind”: The Unsolved Mystery of the Soldier Who Died in the Watchtower | Vanity Fair
Family of soldier found dead in Afghanistan in 2008 says he did not commit suicide as claimed
Family of soldier who was found dead in Afghanistan watchtower in 2008 says he did not commit suicide, as the military claims, and had told them he feared he would be killed over his role in a drug ring that was being run on-base by a ‘thug’ sergeant
Army Pvt. Matthew Brown Died As a Result of a Non-Combat Related Incident in Afghanistan; Death Ruled Suicide But Family Alleges Murder in Vanity Fair Publication (May 11, 2008)

Fort Hood Army MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn Led Police on High Speed Car Chase After Welfare Check Initiated; Died by Suicide During the Incident (October 12, 2017)

Master Sergeant Alva Joe Gwinn

MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn, U.S. Army

Fort Hood Army Master Sergeant Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn, 39, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on October 12, 2017 near the Williamson-Bell County line in Texas. Although the exact set of circumstances that led to MSG Gwinn taking his own life are unknown, the media reported that MSG Gwinn took his own life during an exchange of gunfire after leading the Killeen Police Department (KPD) on a high speed car chase. Prior to the incident, a concerned family member contacted the Fort Hood chain of command to report that Joe was experiencing a mental health breakdown and may be suicidal. The command contacted the military police who then asked the Killeen Police Department to do a ‘welfare check’ on MSG Gwinn. According to the KPD, MSG Gwinn was located in his car but took off when approached; they said MSG Gwinn then led police on a high speed car chase. According to reports, Alva fled on foot after pulling over, there was an exchange of gunfire with the KPD, and MSG Gwinn ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An officer involved shooting investigation was launched because gunfire was exchanged. Joe left behind two sons from a previous marriage and a wife and family who loved him very much. He is missed dearly.

On March 21, 2018, the media reported that a “Bell County Grand Jury reviewed the completed investigation done by the Texas Rangers and decided no indictment should be returned to the deputy in connection with the events leading to the death of a Fort Hood soldier.” MSG Gwinn’s home of record was listed as Richwood, West Virginia. MSG Gwinn served in the Army National Guard from 1996-1999 and then enlisted in the active-duty Army in September 1999 as a combat engineer. At the time of his death, MSG Gwinn was assigned to the 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood since April 2012. MSG Gwinn served in the military for over twenty years and was eligible for retirement. When the media reported on the death of MSG Gwinn, they also mentioned a sexual assault accusation lodged against him in June 2016. They reported MSG Gwinn was scheduled to go to court in November 2017 as if they were implying there was a connection between the suicide and the court date scheduled the following month. One media source reported MSG Gwinn was a highly decorated combat veteran who was known for being a perfectionist and respected by his peers. MSG Gwinn deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan a total of five times while he served with the U.S. Army.

Editor’s Note: The circumstances that led to MSG Gwinn’s suicide inspired us to include him in a Fort Hood status of forces presentation we prepared for congressional representatives in Washington D.C. We believe things could have been handled better and we hope authorities learn from this experience in an effort to prevent it from happening again. We also found it in poor taste that the media mired MSG Gwinn’s reputation at the time of his death with an accusation of which he had not been found guilty of.

Areas of Concern:

  • On October 12, 2017, family informed the chain of command that MSG Gwinn was experiencing a mental health breakdown & may be suicidal; at the request of the chain of command, the military police asked the Killeen Police Department to do a ‘welfare check’ on MSG Gwinn; according to the KPD, they located MSG Gwinn in his car but he took off when approached and then led them on a high speed car chase that ended with an exchange of gunfire and MSG Gwinn taking his own life
  • How can we prevent a ‘welfare check’ from turning into an officer involved shooting, suicide by cop or suicide? Why was the high speed car chase necessary?
  • According to media reports, in June 2016, MSG Gwinn was arrested, indicted and charged by civilian authorities with “aggravated sexual assault” of a 12-year-old girl in 2012; the accusations surfaced in the midst of a child support and child custody case; MSG Gwinn maintained his innocence but a potential trial loomed and his military career and child visitation rights were on hold; Joe loved his family
  • The accusations negatively impacted MSG Gwinn’s military career and ability to spend time with his two sons; this in turn negatively impacted his mental health; the stress of the child custody case & accusations took their toll; up until this point, MSG Gwinn had a stellar military career and had never been accused of any crimes
  • According to local media, Alva was facing a trial in November 2017 and they made a loose connection between a pending trial date and MSG Gwinn’s suicide
  • What prompted the media to mire MSG Gwinn’s memory with an accusation when they reported on his death? Is that fair when the accused can’t defend themselves?
  • Whether guilty or innocent, this is a tragic end for a man accused of a crime
  • What does the Army do with the accused who are awaiting criminal trial?
  • Is Fort Hood responsible for the mental health of those accused of crimes?
  • What is the military’s policy on child visitation when a military member is accused of a crime against a child other than their own?

Related Links:
Obituary: Alva “Joe” Gwinn
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier (Ft Hood Press Center)
Fort Hood Fallen Warriors
Killeen man arrested for sexual assault of 12-year-old
Man arrested for aggravated sexual assault of a child
Fort Hood soldier arrested on aggravated sexual assault charge
Fort Hood soldier indicted in sexual assault case
Man who died in Thursday chase identified
Man in Bell County Chase was Fort Hood Soldier
Soldier who died in pursuit a decorated combat engineer
Soldier who led officers on Williamson Co. chase was facing sexual assault trial
Deputy in deadly Bell Co. chase was 12-year veteran, Williamson Co. sheriff’s office says
In the military, trusted officers became alleged assailants in sex crimes
Man who died after 2-county chase was facing child rape trial
Affidavit: Man in officer-involved shooting was charged with aggravated sexual assault of child
Ft. Hood Soldier leads police on high speed chase before killing himself
Authorities: Man shot after police chase in Bell County killed himself
Army master sergeant commits suicide during police shoot out after giving chase
Army MSG was facing charges of sexually assaulting 12 year old girl
Man who died during pursuit had court date for sexual assault of a child
Man who took own life after WilCo pursuit was soldier facing child sex assault charge
One dead after officer-involved shooting in Bell County
Affidavit: Suspect in officer-involved shooting was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child
Man who died during pursuit had court date for sexual assault of a child
Ft. Hood Soldier leads police on high speed chase before killing himself
No charges filed against Williamson County deputy in officer-involved shooting
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Washington DC Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (2017)

Fort Hood CW02 Andre Nance, US Army, Found Unresponsive at Fort Rucker Hotel in Alabama While Attending Training (2017)

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CW02 Andre Nance, US Army

CW02 Andre Nance, 34, US Army, of Fort Hood was found unresponsive in his on-post hotel room at Fort Rucker, Alabama on February 27, 2017.  CW02 Nance’s home of record is listed as Randallstown, Maryland and he entered the Army in February 2004. CW02 Nance was attending the warrant officer advance course at Fort Rucker and was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, III Corps at Fort Hood. Nance deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from April 2009 to April 2010, January 2012 to March 2012, and June 2014 to March 2015. The circumstances surrounding the incident were under investigation by Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID). The official cause of death is unknown.

Related Links:
CW2 Andre Nance lg.jpg
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andre George Nance – III Corps
Deceased Fort Rucker soldier identified
Fort Hood Soldier Found Dead in Alabama Hotel
Fort Hood soldier found unresponsive at Fort Rucker
Army IDs Fort Rucker soldier found dead on post
Fort Hood: Soldier found dead in Alabama hotel identified
UPDATE: Soldier found dead at Fort Rucker hotel identified
Fort Hood soldier found dead on post in Alabama hotel
Army identifies Fort Hood soldier found dead in Alabama
Why Have So Many Fort Hood Army Soldiers Died Stateside in the Last Year?
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas
The Fort Hood Fallen on Facebook

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Calvin Aguilar Found Dead in Copperas Cove, Texas (August 4, 2016)

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Sgt. Calvin Aguilar, US Army

Army Sgt. Calvin Aguilar, 32, was found dead in Copperas Cove, Texas on August 4, 2016. Sgt. Aguilar’s home of record is listed as Hayward, California and he joined the Army in October 2006. Sgt. Aguilar was a working dog handler assigned to the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade at Fort Hood. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from December 2007 to March 2009 and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from January 2012 to January 2013. He was married with one daughter and the proud owner of Nico, a military working dog he was reunited with. At the time of the Fort Hood press release, the circumstances surrounding the incident were under investigation.

Sgt. Aguilar was the kind of person you can only hope to encounter once in your life. He wore many hats: brother, friend, counselor, drinking buddy, designated driver, wingman, jokester. He was the calming presence in the midst of chaos. He had a sixth sense about it: he knew when you were off your game and he would do anything in his power to make you right again. –Obituary

“Retiring MWD Nico P432 (U.S. Army) is reunited with battle buddy SGT. Calvin Aguilar. After serving together in Afghanistan, they were apart for one year. Aguilar adopted Nico, and Mission K9 Rescue raised the funds for Nico to be shipped from Weisbaden, Germany to Texas.”

Related Links:
Obituary: Sgt. Calvin W. Aguilar
A canine’s farewell: Soldiers pay tribute to faithful working dog
It’s a dog’s life after Army retirement
It’s a dog’s life after Army retirement
‘Every one of them is a hero’: Group helps working dogs retire with dignity
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier
Fort Hood officials ID soldier found dead in Copperas Cove
Fort Hood announces death of a soldier in Cove
Fort Hood: Soldier found dead identified
Deceased Fort Hood Soldier Identified
Fort Hood military police sergeant found dead
Ft. Hood identifies Soldier found unresponsive last week
Army to investigate mistreatment claims by injured, ill soldiers at Fort Hood
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas
Reunion of MWD Nico P432 and his former handler, Calvin Aguilar, together again (YouTube)

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Dougal Mitchell Died From Injuries Suffered in an Automobile Accident in Georgetown, Texas; Accident Claimed Two Lives (June 11, 2016)

Dougal Mitchell

Sgt. Dougal Mitchell, U.S. Army

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Dougal Mitchell, 32, died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Georgetown, Texas on June 11, 2016. According to the Killeen Daily Herald, the automobile accident resulted in the death of two people. Sgt. Mitchell’s home of record is listed as Palmdale, California and he enlisted in the Army in September 2002. Sgt. Mitchell was a petroleum supply specialist with the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Sgt. Mitchell deployed five times: once to United Arab Emirates, three times to Kuwait, and once to Iraq. Sgt. Mitchell’s awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, four Army Good Conduct Medals, two Kuwait Defense Service Medals, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and five Overseas Service Ribbons.

Related Links:
Obituary: Sgt Dougal Mitchell
Greywolf Brigade honors SGT Dougal Mitchell
Fort Hood IDs soldier killed in car crash
Fort Hood identifies soldier killed auto accident
Fort Hood soldier dies after car accident in Georgetown
Fort Hood: Soldier dies of injuries from traffic accident
Dougal Mitchell died in a Georgetown, TX car accident
Sgt. Dougal Mitchell Killed in Georgetown, TX Accident
Details surface in June crash that killed 2
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Duane Shaw III Found Unresponsive in Off-Post Killeen, Texas Home; 12th Reported Fatality in One Month (June 8, 2016)

US Army Seal

Sgt. Duane Shaw III, U.S. Army

Army Sgt. Duane Shaw III, 34, was taken to a hospital in nearby Temple, Texas where he was pronounced dead on June 8, 2016. Sgt. Shaw was found unresponsive at his off-post home in Killeen, Texas. Sgt. Shaw enlisted in the Army in December 2005 as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialist. He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Sgt. Shaw deployed in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom; he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, a Combat Action Badge and a Driver and Mechanic Badge with Wheeled Vehicle Bar, and other awards and decorations. Sgt. Shaw’s death was the third death reported in one week by Fort Hood officials. Decorated combat veteran SFC Antino Glass died in a fatal motorcycle crash on June 5th and Spc. Bernardino Guevara, Jr. was found dead with a gunshot wound on June 6th in a parking lot on post. Additionally, this was the 12th death reported in the month of June at Fort Hood. On June 2, 2016, nine service members died in a flood water training accident on post.

Related Links:
SGT Duane Cass Shaw, III | Find A Grave
Soldier re-enlists on Bridge of No Return
Soldier found unresponsive in Killeen identified
Fort Hood IDs soldier found dead in off-post home
Col. Andrew Poznick, One of Too Many Fort Hood
Soldier suicides: Causes studied in attempt to prevent future tragedies
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)

Army SFC Antino Glass Died in a Fatal Motorcycle Accident After Hitting Livestock on Fort Hood in Texas (June 5, 2016)

Antino Glass

SFC Antino Glass, U.S. Army

Army SFC Antino Glass, 34, died on his way home from training duties on June 5, 2016 when his motorcycle struck livestock on Fort Hood in Texas. SFC Glass’ home of record is listed as New Orleans, Louisiana. He enlisted in the Army in 2002 and served with the 2nd Battalion, 291st Infantry Regiment at Fort Hood since 2015. He deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. SFC Glass earned the Purple Heart Medal, five Army Commendation Medals, the Combat Action Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge with Wheeled Vehicle Bar, and other honors and decorations.

Related Links:
Obituary: Antonio Michael Glass
Fort Hood IDs soldier killed in motorcycle wreck
Fort Hood Soldier Killed in Motorcycle Crash
Motorcyclist dead after hitting livestock on Fort Hood
Decorated Fort Hood soldier dies in motorcycle crash
Highly-decorated soldier named as motorcycle accident victim near Fort Hood
In Memory of U.S. Army SFC Antino Glass | Freedom Isn’t Free
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
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