By Chrissie Long, Staff Writer
Former army captain John Kurt Thompson, a student in the mid-career policy program at the Kennedy School of Government, confronted Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno in a forum presentation Thursday about an alleged army cover-up that turned him from a war hero to an outcast.
Before an audience of students, veterans and members of the armed forces; Thompson said, “The army’s illegal actions cost me my career and, more importantly, my son after 17 years of service.”
Thompson, a West Point graduate, had served in Iraq on a transition team and in Afghanistan as part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. In Iraq, he lost half his team when the handful of the 1,200 Iraqis they were training turned on them. Throughout his years of service, he had an immaculate record, very positive ratings and no disciplinary charges.
Life took an unexpected turn when he returned to Fort Bragg in January of 2012 and learned his wife had been cheating on him. Over the next few months, their relationship soured and, following custody battles and her arrest on assault charges, his wife framed him for allegedly hiring two individuals to hurt her.
Instead of providing Thompson with support during the trials and divorce, the army attempted to suppress the issue.
“They tried to invent a story that I had personality disorder issues so they could separate me before I was exonerated,” he said. Thompson said he was illegally placed on a five-month house arrest and, when he pressed for information about the army’s investigation, his Freedom of Information Act requests went ignored.
This past Thursday, Nov. 14, he asked Chief of Staff Odierno to respond to his Freedom of Information Act request:
“It’s taken a lot for me to get from where I was in the army to this microphone,” Thompson said. “Would you please help me get a copy of the investigation?”
Thompson said later that his situation speaks to a larger issue of balancing mental health support with career advancement. Many soldiers fail to report depression or other mental health issues because of professional ambitions. As a result, problems that could have been prevented or addressed worsen over time and result in suicides or chronic mental health problems. He senses that his decision to seek help for depression and issues relating to his divorce motivated the army to try to disengage him.
“Publically, the army wants to encourage people to come forward,” Thompson said. “[However,] captains and colonels are still very quick to punish soldiers and leaders who seek treatment. They see it as a form of weakness.”
Despite the treatment received in the army, Thompson is still looking to improve the military by recruiting and training good leaders and increasing advocacy to remove bad ones. He and his family (all five of his siblings and father are veterans) launched the LCPL Ben Carman Academy. The Carman Academy receives donations C/O Rev Charlie Thompson at 1475 265th St., Jefferson IA 50129.
To see the video clip of Thompson addressing Odierno in the Kennedy School forum, click here for a low-quality excerpt and here for the full length recording (Thompson’s question appears at minute 54.)