Monday, May 11, 2009

Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C.

Cmdr. Springle was assigned as an Individual Augmentee to the Army's 55th Medical Company; died May 11, 2009 from injuries sustained in a shooting by a U.S. soldier at Camp Liberty, Iraq. Also killed were Army Spc. Jacob D. Barton, Army Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, Army Maj. Matthew P. Houseal and Army Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr.

Star News Online -- A Wilmington man killed Monday in Iraq once served as the director of a program at Camp Lejeune that counseled military members and their families, officials said.

Cmdr. Charles K. Springle, 52, was one of five people killed when a soldier opened fire at a clinic at a base in Baghdad, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and The Associated Press.

A soldier was charged with multiple counts of murder in connection with the shooting, and military officials have pledged to look into the mental health treatment provided for troops, according to The Associated Press.

1st Lt. Craig Thomas of Camp Lejeune said a Navy officer is assisting Springle’s family and answering any questions they may have.

Springle was a licensed clinical social worker who joined the Navy in 1988, according to a statement from Camp Lejeune. He was recently deployed to Iraq with a medical company.

Springle’s friend, Bob Goodale, told The Associated Press that Springle had dedicated his life to helping soldiers cope with emotional problems caused by combat stress. Goodale works with the Citizen-Soldier Support Program in Chapel Hill, an organization Springle dealt with when he directed Camp Lejeune’s Community Counseling Center.

The center provides counseling for problems including substance abuse, anger management and sexual abuse, as well as pre- and post-deployment issues and classes on post-traumatic or combat stress, according to Camp Lejeune’s Web site.

Springle was promoted to the rank of commander in 2002. He had received numerous decorations including multiple overseas service ribbons, according to the statement from Camp Lejeune.

Army IDs soldiers shot at Camp Liberty
By Michelle Tan
Staff writer

The Defense Department has identified the four soldiers killed Monday when a fellow soldier fired into a combat stress clinic on Camp Liberty, Iraq.

They are Maj. Matthew P. Houseal, 54, of Amarillo, Texas; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo.; and Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.

Houseal was assigned to the 55th Medical Company of Indianapolis, Ind.

Bueno-Galdos and Yates were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of Grafenwoehr, Germany. Barton belonged to the 277th Engineer Company, 420th Engineer Brigade of Waco, Texas. Bueno-Galdos was posthumously promoted Wednesday to staff sergeant.

The fifth service member killed Monday was identified Tuesday. He was Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C. He also was assigned to the 55th Medical Company.

As part of the medical company, Springle and Houseal both worked at the Liberty Combat Stress Control Center.

A sergeant from the Bamberg, Germany-based 370th Engineer Company, 54th Engineer Battalion, has been charged in the shootings.

Sgt. John M. Russell, 44, first joined the Army National Guard in 1988; he went into the active Army in 1994. He is charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Russell, who was on his third Iraq deployment, remains in custody in Iraq.

Special agents from Army Criminal Investigation Command continue to investigate the shootings.

The Army also has initiated an AR 15-6 investigation to determine if there are adequate mental health facilities in Iraq, said Lt. Col. David Patterson, a spokesman for Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

The suspect was referred to counseling the week before the shootings and his commander determined that it was best for him not to have a weapon, said Maj. Gen. David Perkins, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq.

According to an Army official who spoke on condition of anonymity, preliminary reports show the suspected shooter was unarmed when he was escorted to the combat stress clinic at Camp Liberty, a sprawling U.S. base near Baghdad’s international airport. Once inside, he got into a verbal altercation with the staff and was asked to leave. The soldier and his escort got back into their vehicle and began to drive away, according to the Army official.

At some point during the drive, the soldier got control of his escort’s weapon and ordered the escort out of the vehicle, the Army official said. The soldier then drove back to the clinic, walked in and began shooting, the official said.

Soldiers from the 55th Medical Company provided immediate counseling for those who witnessed the shooting and were at the center at the time of the incident, Perkins said.

“Anytime we lose one of our own, it affects us all,” MNC-I spokesman Col. John Robinson said. “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all the service members involved in this terrible tragedy.”

According to Army records, Russell, of Sherman, Texas, first deployed to Iraq in April 2003. He returned for a second tour in May 2005. Before that, he deployed for six months in 1996 to Serbia and for seven months in 1998 to Bosnia.

During a press briefing Monday afternoon at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed his “horror and deep regret” over the shooting, adding that officials are still in the process of gathering information on exactly what happened.

“Such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause of great and urgent concern,” he said.

When asked if the suspected gunman had been deployed multiple times, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday he did not have that information. However, he said, the tragedy occurred while service members were seeking help at the clinic.

“It does speak to me for the need for us to redouble our efforts in terms of dealing with the stress [of combat],” Mullen said. “It also speaks to the issues of multiple deployments [and] increasing dwell time.”

The death toll from the Monday shooting was the highest for U.S. personnel in a single attack since April 10, when a suicide truck driver killed five American soldiers with a blast near a police headquarters in Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Liberty shooting victims united by circumstance

By Allen G. Breed
The Associated Press

The paths that brought six men together in a Baghdad military clinic traced across the globe, from South America to rural Missouri, from the islands of Alaska to deepest Antarctica, before intersecting in a tragic shooting spree.

Authorities say Sgt. John M. Russell, who was nearing the end of his third tour in Iraq, was deeply angry at the military when he walked into the combat stress clinic at Camp Liberty on Monday and opened fire.

Two of the men who died devoted their careers to helping men like Russell: soldiers suffering from the stress of combat and repeated deployments to dangerous overseas war zones.

Keith Springle, a Navy commander who grew up swimming and fishing off the North Carolina coast, was in Iraq because it was his duty as a military psychologist. Dr. Matthew Houseal, a psychiatrist and major in the Army Reserve, was there because he felt he needed to be.

The three other victims were Russell’s comrades. Soldiers like the Maryland rebel who liked tinkering with guns and despised “pencil pushers.” A Peru native who, whether walking the streets of New Jersey or the dirt roads of Iraq, was a magnet for candy-seeking kids. And the shy video gamer from Missouri whose refusal to back down probably cost him his life.

Killed were Springle, 52, from Beaufort, N.C.; Houseal, 54, of Amarillo, Texas; Army Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo.; and Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md., who had met Russell shortly before the shootings.

The remains of Houseal, Yates and Bueno-Galdos were brought to Dover Air Force Base Wednesday night with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, attending. The three transfer containers were lowered down on a lift from a 747 commercial airplane, and six military personnel carried them onto a white truck. The families chose not to give interviews.

Family and teachers said Jacob Barton was a quiet student who loved graphic novels and science fiction. Growing up with his grandmother in the house, he sometimes had trouble relating to kids his own age.

“His grandmother was foremost on his mind at all times,” said Rod Waldrip, Barton’s high school English teacher at Rolla High School, where Barton graduated last year. “He sometimes wouldn’t do after-school activities because he had to see if she was OK.”

Barton’s older sister had been in the Army, and by graduation he’d already made up his mind to follow her. The grandmother he rushed home to see, Rose Coleman, said he was adjusting to life in the Army and that he “seemed to like it.”

Although he was reserved, he wasn’t afraid. Waldrip remembers seeing Barton come to the rescue of somebody who was getting bullied.

“He wouldn’t say much unless there was some injustice being done, and then he would speak up.”

Coleman said the Army told the family that Barton died trying to shield another man from the shooting.

“And he tried to talk the guy with the gun to put his gun down,” she said.

Springle, whose first assignment with the Navy was in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, wanted to be make sure mental health issues faced by soldiers and their families were treated properly, said Staff Sgt. Robert Mullis from the 1451st Transportation Company of the N.C. National Guard, who was part of a civilian outreach program with Springle.

“He saw it as preventive maintenance,” Mullis said. “They’ve just been through some tough experiences. He was reaching out trying to try and stop a big beast before it got started.”

Springle grew up in the little fishing village of Lewiston, N.C., just east of Beaufort. Cousin Alton Dudley said the pair were a kind of saltwater Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

“It was a carefree life,” said Dudley, a fishing boat captain who was nine years older than Springle. “I am sure that he joined the Navy so that he could be at sea or close to it.”

All who knew him talked about Springle’s sense of humor and upbeat attitude. But Springle — whose son and son-in-law have each done a tour in Iraq — took the issue of combat stress very seriously. His work on the homefront with the Citizen-Soldier Support Program was a labor of love.

“This was volunteer work,” said Bob Goodale, director of behavioral mental health for the program. “He was doing this because it was the right thing to do — training civilian providers so they were better equipped to serve the families and the service members.”

Houseal was under no obligation to go to Iraq, but he was already something of an adventurer.

In 1991, the University of Michigan graduate was a physician at the Amundsen-Scott Station near the South Pole in a climate research project, said Mike O’Neill, the group’s electronics technician.

“He came in at the last minute not knowing anybody,” O’Neill said. “That’s one of the reasons I really respected him.”

Houseal was inquisitive, always checking on people at the station, even if it meant braving temperatures that dropped to minus-107 degrees that year.

The Amarillo man had worked for a dozen years at the Texas Panhandle Mental Health and Mental Retardation clinic, said executive director Bud Schertler. He left Texas for Iraq in late January and was assigned to the 55th Medical Company in Indianapolis, which ran the clinic where the shootings occurred.

Bueno-Galdos couldn’t wait to serve his adopted country and did so exceptionally, earning three Army Commendation Medals.

He was 7 when his family emigrated from Mollendo, Peru. The youngest of four children, he became a U.S. citizen in high school and joined the Army as soon as he graduated.

Back home in Paterson, he never made a trip to the corner bodega without a group of neighborhood children tailing him, knowing he would buy them candy or soda, his family recalled. It was the same in Iraq, where he was on his second tour.

On Mother’s Day, Eugenia Gardos made a small shrine to her recently deceased mother, placing her photograph on a small glass table surrounded by silk roses, a rosary necklace, votives and a prayer card of Senor de los Milagros — patron saint of Peru. The next day, she added a photo of her son Christian to the memorial.

“We want people to know we’re proud of our son’s Army, but if my son had died in war we would be able to handle that,” said his father, Carlos Bueno. “But not to die in this manner.”

Yates displayed zeal for serving in the Army, but perhaps not his locale, as evidenced by his MySpace page.

His profile lists his location as “(expletive), Iraq.” For his education, he listed his major as “KILLING F...ERS” and his minor as “SHOOTING THEM IN THE FACE.” Under clubs, he declared himself a member of “THE US ARMY THE BEST ORGINIZATION.”

Yates’ mother, Shawna Machlinski, said her son joined the Army not out of a sense of duty, but because he didn’t see many other options. Besides, his stepfather and two stepbrothers were military men.

“Michael was a hands-on person who didn’t like book work,” she said. “He liked putting guns together ... He just wanted to do something that he thought he would be good at, and he always liked guns and that kind of stuff.”

So two years ago, he got his GED and signed up.

Alexis Mister, 18, of Seaford, Del., and the mother of Michael Yates’ son Kamren, said he was an extremely caring father. “He was always was concerned with Kamren so much,” she said. “He loved him.”

Mister said Yates came home in April for the boy’s first birthday party and doted on his son by buying him a four-wheeler. “It’s absolutely devastating,” Mister said, choking up during a telephone interview discussing Yates’ death. “My son doesn’t have a father anymore.”

Yates’ mother said that April trip left him anxious. He wasn’t home long enough, but he’d still been away from “my military family” too long. Once back in Iraq, his mother said he began to think about things he wished he’d done while visiting Maryland.

When the strong emotions began surfacing, she said, he was transferred to headquarters company “so he could stay out of combat.”

“He didn’t like headquarters at all,” said Machlinski. “He said they’re stupid pencil pushers.”

Despite the stigma, Yates volunteered to go to the stress clinic.

“I need help dealing with this,” he told his mom.

Yates had been at the clinic nearly a week when he told his mother he bumped into Russell. Yates told her Russell seemed like a nice enough guy. But after three tours, he clearly hated the Army.

“Man, this guy’s got issues,” she remembers him telling her.

Russell, 44, who just shy of finishing his third tour, told his family that the clinic was hurting more than helping. Now, he is facing charges of murder and aggravated assault.

As angry as Machlinski is at Russell for taking her boy, she’s angrier at the military.

“My heart goes out to him, too,” she said of Russell. “Someone should have helped this sergeant way before he got this bad. I would rather have my son doing his job in combat, I would rather him have been blown up by a bomb ... than be shot by friendly fire.”


Breed reported from Raleigh, N.C. Contributing to this report were Associated Press Writers Maria Sudekum Fisher in Kansas City, Mo.; Samantha Henry in Paterson, N.J.; Kevin Maurer in Wilmington, N.C.; Brian Witte in Seaford, Del.; Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas; and Linda Franklin and Regina L. Burns in Dallas.

Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle was killed in a shooting by a U.S. soldier at Camp Liberty, Iraq on 5/11/09.

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