Fighting for the truth . . . exposing the corrupt
TROUBLE IN THE TEXAS GUARD
A PRICE FOR TELLING THE TRUTH
Both men are whistle-blowers. Both suffered retaliation in the Texas National Guard. And both are determined to have their day in court.
Former Staff Sergeant John Rohmfeld and retired Major Jim Boswell are not your ordinary soldiers. These men possess not only a high degree of integrity, but indomitable courage to have survived the cruel harassment and hostility that was heaped upon them.
Taking a page from the "Gestapo" handbook, both men - demonstrably sane - were subjected to psychiatric "examinations" against their will, right after voicing objections to corruption and cover-ups in the Texas Guard.
This blatant attempt to intimidate and silence Rohmfeld and Boswell, caused pain and humiliation. But that didn't concern the "brass hats," bent on destroying the two soldiers no matter what. To the Guard commanders, these honest men were anachronisms and "trouble-makers" who refused to follow the old axiom: "to get along, go along."
DESTRUCTION OF AN OUTSTANDING OFFICER
We begin our story with MAJ Boswell, who went from the rank of major to sergeant and back to major again over the course of a decade. A truly unprecedented example of how the "system" can abuse an honest man. And how that man can face down adversity and win back the rank that was unfairly taken from him.
Boswell entered the Army in 1973, as a Distinguished Military Graduate (ROTC) at the University of Texas, Austin. He finished Ranger School and was a Command and General Staff graduate. Just the kind of officer the Army wants, right?
He served with distinction on active duty for sixteen years, until he was tagged with two consecutive adverse efficiency reports, dooming his career and costing him his Regular Army officer's commission.
"In Germany, I witnessed the epitome of military corruption," Boswell told MilitaryCorruption.com. "I saw the effects of adultery, command abuse and ignorance of risk management. And I reported the loss of a secret document by my then-commanding officer.
"I filed a complaint with the Inspector General and then a brick wall landed on me. After five outstanding evaluations in a row, I received an unfavorable performance report on my next OER. Telling the truth had only gotten me in trouble."
Shipped back to the States in the summer of 1986, Boswell ended up as an officer in the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
Letting his conscience and sense of integrity be his guide, Boswell became a whistle-blower again when he reported to the Professor of Military Science student complaints and allegations concerning control, accountability, and use of cadet money.
No remedial action was taken, and in December of that year, Boswell was approached by a female lieutenant at TCU who told him her friend, a female cadet, had been sexually assaulted by the Military Science senior enlisted SGM (Sergeant Major).
SWIFT RETALIATION AND A TRIP TO THE PSYCHO WARD
Instead of being commended for following UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) procedures, Boswell was taken into custody and escorted to the Psychiatric Ward at Carlswell Air Force Base Hospital. Found sane, he still was barred from TCU and "ordered to silence," forbidden to talk to any of the cadets.
Another "unfavorable performance rating" was added to his file and Boswell was sent off to the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas "with a cloud" over his head.
For a while, all went well. A highly energetic and competent officer, MAJ Boswell was made an assistant chief of staff to the division's commanding general. But it didn't take long for Boswell to be confronted with corruption again - this time an alleged misappropriation of $2,000 on the part of a colonel, the 2nd Brigade commander.
When Boswell reported this incident, retaliation swiftly followed.
"The interim chief of staff communicated a threat on my life," Boswell said, "and I was fast-tracked to a 'show-cause' hearing to recommend retention or discharge."
And WHO was assigned duties as President of the Board? You guessed it - the very same colonel Boswell had confronted over the financial discrepancy! Wait, it gets better. The leading government witness against the major was the colonel who days earlier had threatened MAJ Boswell's life!
In April 1989 came the ultimate reprisal, discharge from the military just a few years short of retirement.
THE TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD
In January 1991, Boswell completed work on a Masters degree in Public Administration. But he felt he still had something to offer the military. So, despite his prior service as a field-grade officer, Boswell entered the Texas National Guard at the rank of buck sergeant (E-5).
Knowing the regulations backwards and forwards, Boswell planned to win back his commission and old rank while serving as an NCO at the Guard's Fort Worth armory.
The full-time technician, rated GS-7, quickly acquired several merit awards, received favorable personnel ratings and quietly prepared an appeal for the Army Discharge Review Board.
But more trouble was just ahead. One day a major at the armory invited Boswell to watch porno films with him during duty hours. The deeply religious father of two daughters declined and, as his conscience had led him in the past, he filed a complaint with his superiors.
On paper, Boswell was on firm ground. Showing porno films in an open armory where family members sometimes would show up unannounced, was not only against regulation, it was highly reckless and contributed to a "hostile work environment."
Boswell was soon isolated from other armory functions, kept out of regular staff meetings and assigned duties so menial that most men would have quit in disgust. Not this man.
SOME SPEAK OUT
He was not without friends. Boswell noted discrimination committed against minorites and females by the "Old Boy" network in the Guard and spoke out for those oppressed. One friend he made was the supply sergeant.
SGT Clinton K. Payne was an African-American soldier who shared Boswell's disgust at the behavior of some of the senior officers.
In a sworn affidavit obtained by MilitaryCorruption.com, Payne said he witnessed harassment against Boswell. He told of senior officers trying to "intimidate" the former major and "make him as miserable as possible."
"If you filed a complaint, you were labeled a trouble maker," Payne explained. "Eventually they would find a reason to terminate you or make your work environment unbearable, to the point you would quit."
Another veteran sergeant who spoke out in favor of Boswell was Sam Kinser, facility manager of the 2nd Brigade armory on McCart Avenue, Fort Worth.
"Mr. Boswell was a very efficient employee, an outstanding instructor, team player, soldier and technician, " Kinser recalled. "He was respected and very well liked. He was selected as runner up for the 2nd Brigade's NCO of the year, I believe, in 1994. It was obvious to me that the Department of the Army and Texas Christian University hurt Boswell, while he was on active duty, in the worst possible way."
Kinser said SGT Boswell was "treated unfairly, humiliated, deprived of his usual work station, stripped of his duties, and not allowed to attend staff meetings.
"He was caring, sensitive and always there for us. We developed an outstanding relationship. I was his mentor and in a sense he was mine. He taught all of us a lot about leadership, about courage and conviction. He will always be remembered and admired."
TURNING A DEAF EAR TO PLEAS FOR JUSTICE
Boswell paid a heavy price for his integrity. His superiors denied him every opportunity to win promotion in the NCO ranks and he remained a junior sergeant for all the seven years he served in the Texas Guard.
Letters to then-Gov. George W. Bush, state guard commander and the man who appointed Maj. Gen. Daniel James, head of the Texas National Guard, were ignored.
Every effort to obtain justice and punish wrongdoing at the state level was thwarted.
Like so many state governors, Bush chose to "look the other way" when seemingly powerless soldiers pleaded with him for help. He appointed the adjutant general to lead the Texas Guard and he was going to stick with his man, no matter what.
PERSISTENCE FINALLY PAYS OFF
The Department of the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB) in 1993 questioned the active duty chain of command actions in the Boswell case. That precipitated a DOD Military Whistle Blower investigation two years later which led the way to the Army Board of Corrections verdict to overturn MAJ Boswell's discharge in 1997.
One of the recommendations was to discipline Boswell's commander, a full colonel, but instead the field-grade officer was promoted to brigadier general! Such is the state of "politics" in the Texas National Guard.
Even after he won his case, Boswell was forbidden from wearing his major's "oak leaf" in the Fort Worth armory. He remained a sergeant and full-time technician until 1999 when he left the Texas Guard. But Boswell continues his battle for full restitution of what was taken from him.
Today, Jim Boswell is a retired major, the only soldier in the history of any National Guard to go from field-grade to NCO and back to field-grade in a decade. He still is seeking rightful promotion to lieutenant colonel, which was denied him during the seven years he was "in exile" as an NCO.
"If I have to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, I will, "Boswell vowed to MilitaryCorruption.com. "It was a horrible experience, what I went through, but I thank God I learned from it too. I saw how those in the minority and female soldiers are discriminated against, despite public relations about 'equal opportunity for all.' And I will spend the rest of my life fighting to see to it that there is justice for all who wear our country's uniform."
CASE OF REVERSE DISCRIMINATION
The story of SSG John Rohmfeld doesn't have a happy ending - yet. But this former Marine NCO is just as courageous and strong in his convictions as his friend MAJ Boswell. And he will continue the fight until ultimate victory.
But what a price he has paid! Put out of the Texas Guard with just 4.5 years to qualify for retirement. Crippled for life by a medical condition traced not just to military duty, but to the cruel, callous treatment of a senior NCO who was never punished for his actions.
The harassment and indignities he suffered at the hands of his senior NCOs while stationed at the Texas Guard's Corpus Christi National Guard armory boggle the mind.
Called "white boy" and "gringo" by the Hispanic sergeant first class, Rohmfeld was put on notice he was unwelcome from the first day he transferred into the highly ethnic unit. Almost all conversation was held in Spanish and Rohmfeld was treated like a pariah. Those who wanted to be his friend, didn't dare, so open was the hatred and hostility directed towards him by SFC Alfred Senteno.
Rohmfeld's company commander was a "gutless wimp" who didn't want to make waves, sources on the inside said, and everywhere he turned for help, the former Marine staff sergeant found himself alone.
Every effort SSG Rohmfeld made to advance in rank was blocked. The maintenance shop senior NCO, SFC Senteno, routinely assigned Rohmfeld on TDY to other armories to get him out of the Corpus Christi facility. Then, in the vehicle mechanic's absence, Senteno would "plug in" lower-ranking soldiers, cronies and friends, to fill the promotable slot, thus blocking Rohmfeld's military advancement and humiliating him in the process.
But perhaps the cruelest thing done to this hard-working, honest NCO, was causing him to lose part of his hearing. To this day, Rohmfeld suffers from severe tinnitus, a high-pitched ringing in the ears caused by damage to his eardrums from repeated loud noise at work.
And it didn't have to happen.
Witnesses reported that SFC Senteno delighted in ordering Rohmfeld to remove "ear protectors" while working around loud noises. The staff sergeant tried to reason with Senteno, even cited regulations in his favor, but the SFC out-ranked him and he was forced to comply. It was an illegal order, and Rohmfeld took his complaint to the IG, but had about as much success as MAJ Boswell.
On paper the Inspector General's Office seems like a good idea. Someone to look out for the troops' interest. But in reality, seldom if ever do low-ranking enlisted people get justice. Many don't even bother filing a complaint, knowing the IG is beholden to the command and only "goes through the motions."
AN "ENEMY OF THE STATE"
For years, the Soviet Union used bogus psychiatric exams to declare dissidents "crazy" and discount their version of events. The United States hasn't gone that far down the road, but it's getting there.
How would the mothers and fathers of America like to know that some of their sons and daughters have been subjected to forced "mental exams" by the military, notably the National Guard, whenever officials deem them "troublesome."
This was the fate of SGG John Rohmfeld.
Only six months after filing his first complaint to the Texas Guard's Inspector General, Rohmfeld was given two mental health evaluations during annual training at Fort Hood, Texas.
"I was humiliated," Rohmfeld said. "This was clear retaliation. They wanted to frighten me to back off. In their way of thinking, if you try to point out wrong doing you must be crazy. Well, I'm not, and the tests proved it. But I'll resent to my dying day being treated in such a despicable way."
SOME DECENT MEN
Some officers and a few NCO's were willing to speak out on Rohmfeld's behalf. CPT David K. Travis related how his six-year extension of the sergeant's enlistment was turned around to an only six-months extention on "orders from above." Also how Rohmfeld, despite a knee injury suffered on duty, was set up for failure on the APFT (annual physical fitness test). All this AFTER the NCO filed complaints with the IG over harassment in the workplace.
"I believe it was retaliation," Travis said. "Other soldiers were allowed to extend for several years, no problem. John Rohmfeld was singled out . . . and was treated unfairly."
CPT Travis, in a notarized statement provided to MilitaryCorruption.com, said he had reviewed a document written by MAJ Tone Johnson (Battalion Surgeon) which excused Rohmfeld from having to take the test.
"But for unknown reasons, this document was not delivered to John's commander. As a result, John was forced to participate in the APFT (while in extreme pain) and failed the two mile run. Because of the injury, John should not have had to participate in the APFT at all. John was slated for surgery a short time after the test was scheduled."
Travis said this "tactic" had been "successfully employed in the past" by Texas Guard leaders who wanted to "get rid' of certain soldiers.
Injured and unable to quickly lose weight, SSG Rohmfeld exceeded the limit and was an easy target for elimination. Chances are he would not have been separated from the Guard except for his causing "trouble" by "complaining to the IG," an inside source said.
SGT Gerald Norman confirmed Rohmfeld was the target of retaliation. Once, when a officer was questioning the shop workers about Rohmfeld's complaint he'd been forced to take off ear guards while working in a noisy environment, SFC Senteno yelled at Rohmfeld in Norman's presence: "This is only the start of your troubles, now!"
Another NCO, SSG Raymond Fuller, in a signed affidavit wrote how he noticed discrimination against his co-worker, SSG Rohmfeld.
"I personally witnessed John consistently working by himself. We were told to stay away from John by the supervisor, Senteno, because John was a loner and a troublemaker. My men and I ignored this and worked with John anyway.
"I never witnessed any incident where John caused trouble," the veteran NCO said. "John was constantly harassed by Senteno and others for wearing the guards to protect his hearing. Rohmfeld was right, as protectors should be worn (by regulation) in a high-noise environment."
"I was a motor sergeant for ten years and I have never witnessed anyone isolated or treated with racial hostility as much as John Rohmfeld. John was forced to do heavy lifting alone, which he should not have been forced to do. John was not included in any shop discussions. I noticed that anytime Senteno, Alaniz and Vela were around John, they only spoke Spanish."
An Hispanic NCO, now retired SGM Arnoldo Diaz, a victim of discrimination himself while being denied promotion above SFC at the armory for many years, spoke out on SSG Rohmfeld's behalf.
"During his assignment at the OMS shop in Corpus Christi, SSG Rohmfeld began to complain about the loud noise level in the maintenance shop. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, there were ear protectors available in the shop's common tool set. John complained to all his supervisors and CPT Shell about not being allowed to wear the ear protectors. His complaints were of no avail
"While there, I personally witnessed one of the worst cases of individual isolation I have ever witnessed in my long military career. It was directed at SSG Rohmfeld. It included the work area, all break periods and special gatherings."
In a telephone interview with MilitaryCorruption.com, SGM Diaz said he was "sickened" that non-commissioned officers would treat a fellow soldier "in such a hateful manner."
NO HELP FROM ABOVE
During the years leading up to his 1993 removal from the Guard, SSG Rohmfeld sought help in every possible way. From his chain-of-command, up to then-Gov. and Guard commander George Bush ("He was more interested in protecting his high-ranking officer friends than in helping me," Rohmfeld recalled), to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and local officials. The staff sergeant continued his pleas for help and only occasionally was it extended. One exception to the wall of indifference Rohmfeld met was Texas State Sen. Carlos Truan.
Very few officials would extend help or in any way anger the Guard leadership, but Thomas R. Sanchez, commander of American Legion Post #99 in Kingsville, Texas proved to be a stand-up guy.
In a letter dated Nov. 7, 1999, Sanchez wrote he had reviewed dozens of documents in the Rohmfeld case and found "strong evidence to indicate Mr. Rohmfeld was unjustly treated by his military superiors, racially discriminated against and denied his rightful promotion to E-7, Sergeant First Class."
"I am overwhelmed at how the Texas Army National Guard at the highest levels has refused to take disciplinary and/or administrative action against those individuals who treated Mr. Rohmfeld like this," Sanchez write. "He has taken his case to the Adjutant General of the state of Texas, and several members of the U.S. Congress, but to no avail.
"Documents I have read show positive favoritism in support of Hispanic guardsmen who have filed EEOC complaints, but not so in the case of former Staff Sergeant John Romfeld. While others who filed EEOC complaints have gotten their overdue promotions, benefits and assignments, John Rohmfeld was completely disregarded and labeled a 'trouble maker.'
"No member of the Armed Services, active or inactive, should be treated and humiliated in this manner. When John complained to his superiors, he was verbally threatened, given false information, labeled a "nut case" and treated as a non-person. Mr. Rohmfeld's only crime, as I see it, was that he made his superiors aware of racial discrimination in the enlisted ranks of his unit. And what was his reward? Wrongful termination from the military, a military that promised him a career with benefits and retirement in the future.
"How many more years will John Rohmfeld have to continue with his fight for justice and due process? How many more letters of support will he need? How many more soldiers will have to suffer racial discrimination and wrongful termination from the military, while the leaders of this nation's military service stand by and refuse to come to the aid of a wounded soldier?"
We at MilitaryCorruption.com couldn't have said it any better. We salute the brave Legion commander, Thomas Sanchez, and we urge those of you out there who believe in honesty and fair play to contact the governor's office in Austin and let them know what you think of how Texan John Rohmfeld was treated. He served our country for fifteen years, isn't it about time he received our thanks?
His case is now languishing at the Army Board of Military Corrections for the second time in six years and is awaiting a decision. It's time we help this proud man obtain justice at last.
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