Washington State National Guard recruiters repeatedly forged re-enlistment papers in a desperate attempt to hold on to soldiers in the run-up to the Iraq war surge, a local news channel's investigation has found.
In one case, a soldier found himself fighting against deployment to Iraq after re-enlistment papers with his signature on it appeared -- even though he never signed any such papers, reports Chris Ingalls at KING channel 5 news in Seattle.
And in another case, a sergeant who had signed up for a one-year tour of duty was shocked to discover his enlistment papers stated he had signed up for two years.
Former soldier Michael Patrick sounded the alarm when he discovered forged re-enlistment papers with his name on them.
"Sounds crazy," Michael Patrick told KING 5. "Sounds like something from a movie."
The Washington National Guard soon determined that Sgt. Wendy Schaefer, a recruiter, had paid soldiers and civilians out of her own pocket to sign up recruits. She also promised the Guard would pay $1,000 for each enlistment.
According to Guard documents, Schaefer "created an environment that may have caused some of these 'paid assistants' to fabricate documents in order to get money."
"The documents we received in the Patrick case do not explain how anyone would possibly think they could get away with signing over a soldier's life," Ingalls reported.
In another instance, Sgt. Keith Jackson says he was confronted by his superiors with enlistment papers showing he signed up for a two-year tour of duty, when he says he signed up for a one-year tour.
"I didn't sign it," he told KING 5. "That isn't my signature."
"While the Guard denies the forgery it granted Jackson an honorable discharge soon after KING 5 first told his story," the channel reports.
In neither case has anyone in the Guard been disciplined. Sgt. Schaefer told KING 5 in an email that she left the Guard with her record intact. And the soldier who forged the signature in order to collect money from Schaefer has never been held to account either.