- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) — Three days after he arrived in Iraq, an Army interrogator saw the mangled body of an Iraqi man who had been cut in half by American fire.

Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany said he began shaking and vomiting and feared for his life.

Soon, Sgt. Pogany said, he had trouble sleeping and started having what he thought were panic attacks.

Six weeks later, Sgt. Pogany, 32, is facing a cowardice charge that he said was filed after he sought counseling. Sgt. Pogany denies that he acted in a cowardly way.

“What is tragic about this is the message being sent to other soldiers,” Sgt. Pogany said recently. “It’s not about me.”

A military court hearing is scheduled today at Fort Carson, 70 miles south of Denver, where Sgt. Pogany is stationed. The proceeding is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court where a judge determines whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

Cowardice violations can be punishable by death. Military code does not include a minimum sentence. Army officials have declined to discuss the case.

Cowardice charges are rare. The last such conviction in the Army occurred during the Vietnam War. During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, charges were filed against a married couple but reduced to mistreatment of public property, said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

“You have to look pretty hard to find any of these cases,” Mr. Fidell said. “We have a well-trained army that is a motivated one.”

“I think what you are seeing here is a consequence of the changed character of an all-volunteer force,” said military analyst Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank. “The strain gets worse when you have longer deployments or multiple deployments or changing deployments.”

Assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group, Sgt. Pogany was attached to a team of Green Berets on Sept. 26 when he departed for Iraq. He declined to discuss his responsibilities, citing security issues.

Three days later, he was standing in a U.S. compound near Samarra north of Baghdad when soldiers brought in the Iraqi man’s bloody body. The soldiers told Sgt. Pogany the man was killed after he was seen shooting a rocket-propelled grenade.

Sgt. Pogany said he was shaken, couldn’t focus and kept vomiting. He told his commanders he believed he was having panic attacks or a nervous breakdown and requested counseling.

At least one officer suggested he consider what such a request would do to his career, Sgt. Pogany said. When he sought help, “I was told that I was wasting their time,” he said.

Sgt. Pogany was examined by psychologist Capt. Marc Houck, who concluded he had signs consistent with normal combat-stress reaction. Capt. Houck recommended Sgt. Pogany be given a brief rest before returning to duty, but he was sent home to Fort Carson in mid-October and charged with “cowardly conduct as a result of fear.”

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