Army lifts lockdown at Washington state base over missing gear

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 10, 2012 11:53 PM
Army lifts lockdown at Washington state base over missing gear

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Army officials on Tuesday lifted lockdown restrictions on 100 soldiers at Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord while continuing a probe of $600,000 in missing optics equipment.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord spokesman Major Chris Ophardt said the soldiers, members of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry division's Charlie company at the base located about 9 miles south of Tacoma, were allowed to return to their homes at 5:45 p.m. local time.

Army officials "felt they had enough information to be able to continue the investigation," Ophardt said. He declined to elaborate on that information or say if the missing equipment had been recovered.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the theft of the sensitive weapons accessories, which include hundreds of night-vision goggles, weapons sights and other optics gear.

The theft did not include military-grade weapons and does not pose a public threat, Army officials have said.

"The Army takes property accountability very seriously," brigade commander Colonel Michael Getchell said in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.

"These restrictions have been an integral part of the investigation, and it is the professional response the American taxpayer expects when over $600,000 worth of Army equipment is suspected to be stolen," he said.

The Army has offered a $10,000 reward for information regarding the missing equipment.

Lewis-McChord also is the home base of a group of soldiers convicted of assaulting and murdering unarmed Afghan civilians while on patrol as part of a combat unit formerly known as the 5th Stryker Brigade.

A staff sergeant from that unit was found guilty by court-martial on most of the charges against him in November, becoming the 11th soldier convicted in connection with the widest-ranging prosecution of U.S. military atrocities and other misconduct during 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

A 12th soldier, one of five originally charged with murder, still faces a court-martial.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan)