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Mayport sailor gets 3 months in brig

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Published by Florida Times-Union on January 23, 2009.

A Mayport-based sailor who kicked and punched a handcuffed Iraqi detainee he was guarding will spend three months in the brig and forfeit $3,600 after pleading guilty Thursday to charges related to the incident.

Seaman Trevor Slane is stationed on the USS McInerny, but was serving as a guard at the largest prison camp in Iraq in May on a day when things turned bad.

Slane was near the end of his 12-hour shift when he came down from a guard tower to talk to a colleague standing near the fence separating the men from the detainees. As they spoke, a detainee who Slane had been haranguing early in the day approached and flung a cup full of feces on the sailor, getting it in his eyes and mouth.

"I've gotten angry when my car didn't start. I've been upset when I flunked a test, " Slane said Thursday. "This put me at a level of madness I've never seen in my lifetime."

Other detainees threw rocks and metal scraps at the sailors as Slane vomited. The riot lasted about 10 minutes.

A half-hour later, Slane said, he and other sailors planned their revenge, getting the OK from the chief petty officer leading them.

The detainee who had flung the feces was brought into a holding area while Slane and his colleague, Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Broadway, donned hard-knuckled gloves before going in to beat the man.

"The chief instructed us 'No face shots, no blood, ' " Slane said.

Instead, Slane said, he took the man to the ground, and the two sailors began to punch and kick him. They left a few minutes later, standing outside and smoking a couple of cigarettes.

But Slane wasn't done. He went to the chief petty officer and said he "wanted more revenge." After the two sailors beat the detainee again, Slane said, the man was sent back to his cell.

Broadway will face his own court-martial today on charges similar to Slane. The chief petty officer who oversaw the men, Tracy Necaise, will go on trial later this year.

Beating bound prisoners was not the type of thing Slane imagined doing when, eight months earlier, he had volunteered to go to Iraq as an individual augmentee.

"I was just proud of him for being so selfless to do that, " his wife, Heather Slane, said Thursday.

He hadn't realized he'd be there as a prison guard, a job for which Slane - a man whose former commanding officer called "a thug" - was wholly unsuited.

Twenty-two years old and the lowest-ranked sailor in the unit, Slane had been in the Navy for 1.5 years: He signed up to go to Iraq after spending six months at sea washing dishes, hoping for some excitement and a chance to help out.

"I was tired of seeing what the troops were dealing with on a daily basis and wanted to be part of the solution, " he said in a statement to the military judge who sentenced him Thursday.

All the sailors who ended up as guards at Camp Bucca went to Mississippi for training, but spent most of their time learning how to handle convoys.

About five days of the training were spent on dealing with detainees, said Lt. Hoang Tran, who ended up overseeing the compound where Slane worked. The sailors there came from 53 different jobs, only a handful security-related - not the background Tran said he'd expect for those overseeing "the worst of the worst, " and a situation that led to morale problems.

But morale was even worse, said Chief Petty Officer David Momberg, after Slane and other sailors were arrested in the wake of the incident, which occurred the same day as at least two other abuse incidents.

"Everybody felt like their legs had been cut out from under them, " said Momberg, a guard duty officer at the camp. "Everyone looked down on us, looked down on the Navy."



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This is a showcase of the work done by Timothy J. Gibbons during a journalism career now stretching back more than a decade.

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