13 August 1997
THE TRIAL WAS A CRUEL JOKE
Kyle Grogan should not be locked up in an Army prison. Nor should his brilliant career be flushed down the toilet because of lousy medics in a despicable hospital, a self serving general and a judge who couldn't spell justice even if he had a legal dictionary jammed up his left nostril.
Last week Grogan was found guilty of negligent homicide in a military court in Panama. In March, two of his elite Special Operations sergeants failed to obey orders. With his skipper's okay, he took them on a 4.5 mile "motivational" run. During that run one of the sergeants heat-stroked and was rushed to the Army hospital.
At the trial, the U.S. Army's expert on heat injuries said the only correct medical care was administered by Grogan. Another expert witness, a medical doctor, blasted the Army hospital, blaming the medics for the sergeant's death. Even the prosecution lawyers admitted that the docs "didn't get the heat stroke victim's temperature down fast enough."
Grogan clearly wasn't guilty. The soldier died because of poor medical treatment in a hospital that holds the Army record for maltreatment claims. U.S. Army Panama head man General Lawson Magruder ordered Grogan's trial to cover his own rear. And perhaps it is no coincidence that this hospital-from-hell happened to be under Magruder's command.
Grogan chose to be tried by a military judge because he didn't believe he'd get a fair trail from a jury composed of Magruder-influenced U.S. Army Panama staff officers. He was also leery of people who had never worn a Green Beret and wouldn't understand the type of absolute discipline needed in Special Warfare units where life can become death because of a split second's hesitation.
Sadly, a judge who has never worn muddy boots or disciplined anyone other than his own kids for not obeying orders couldn't or wouldn't work out who was responsible for the death. He took the expedient route: guilty as charged.
A Special Warfare officer who sat through the trial said "When I heard the verdict, I was in total shock and I immediately lost my faith in the military justice system."
Another Green Beret eyewitness said "The trial was a blatant miscarriage of justice. It will have a lasting impact on the good order and discipline of the Army. Who will want to impose discipline? Who will want to take risks?"
I gave up on the military justice system almost forty years ago when I was the president of a Special Court Martial. My colonel said "Major Hackworth, I want that SOB found guilty and in the stockade before the sun sets."
Although I've been told that maybe this was how the Old Army worked but not so today, I don't believe it. As a reporter, I've watched too many military trials and have seen too many innocent soldiers get the shaft.
Let's face it, the guy that orders the court martial is frequently the boss of all the people involved -- the judge, the jury, the lawyers and the witnesses. And soldiers like to please the boss, especially in our all-volunteer Army.
It's a tragic shame that Grogan, the kind of warrior-leader who would throw himself on a hand grenade to save a comrade, has been sacrificed on the alter of a warped legal system and bootlicking. An Army only has a few soldiers of his skill and dedication.
A former Commanding Officer said, "Grogan was a caring, concerned leader who always chose the hard right over the easy wrong and always looked after his soldier's welfare."
I've interviewed over two dozen Special Forces or Airborne Ranger warriors who served with Grogan. They say:
"He is the most outstanding soldier I have served with in 24 years of service."
"When I go to war, I want him next to me"
"He epitomized the Army ethic and he had the moral courage to enforce the standards with not only subordinates, but peers and superiors as well"
"He is almost as demanding of others as he is himself"
"He demanded excellence, and excellence is what's needed in battle, where coming in second cannot be expected or tolerated."
An appeal is being put together. Support is needed. Congress needs to be told of this injustice. Send contributions to: Grogan Defense Fund, 430 Kilgore Rd. Griffin, GA. 30223