A military criminal investigation obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team shows nearly half of a National Guard detachment from Jackson, TN, were investigated for having sex with prostitutes in an area of the world known for human trafficking.
Members of the 775th Engineering Detachment were also investigated for allowing prostitutes into a room where secret documents and weapons were stored.
The criminal investigation was launched in July of 2013, but the public never knew about it.
The 775th Engineering Detachment was sent to help dig water wells in and around Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, Africa and Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
The military documents show the soldiers were given training by a captain in early July of 2013.
The captain wrote that he warned the unit, “That there was an issue with human trafficking in the area.”
The captain also wrote how, “Women end up stranded in Dire Dawa while trying to make it over to the Middle East … I told them not to engage in using prostitutes and that part of the mission is a positive projection of America."
"The poverty makes people desperate in that region; it's not uncommon to see underage girls, sometimes boys, eke out a living by selling themselves,” said Moses Ochonu, a native African and African history professor at Vanderbilt.
The government records show both before and after the training about human trafficking, military investigators based out of Germany found probable cause that nine of the 19 members of the detachment had sex with prostitutes either at an off-base residence in Djibouti or at the Samrat Hotel in Dire Dawa.
(Image from Google Maps)
The military documents show a lieutenant said there were ring leaders who told the soldiers what to say and how to stay out of trouble.
Another soldier told investigators that some of the men bragged about the sex and that a medic handed out condoms.
"To perpetuate that absolutely counters everything that we should be there to do,” said Derri Smith, executive director of End Slavery, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit. "I think it if was your daughter or your niece, you would think it was a big deal," Smith said.
When the soldiers were later interviewed, the documents show one sergeant made a spontaneous statement that “several of the women (referring to the prostitutes) were younger than his daughter.”
The age of the soldier’s daughter is blacked out in the document.
"How can you have a conscience and not speak up and do something?" Smith said.
But the investigation shows at least one lieutenant did do something. In an interview, the lieutenant wrote that a sergeant reported to him that soldiers were bringing back prostitutes back to their room at the Samrat Hotel, and the lieutenant then alerted a non-commissioned officer.
The investigation shows photographs and drawing of an additional concern.
The documents show that a lieutenant said senior leaders were taking prostitutes to a room where their weapons were stored.
That lieutenant said that the prostitutes were taken to a sergeant’s room where a secure communications system was kept and secret documents were stored.
In another interview, a soldier is asked by an agent, “Tell about the security violations regarding the classified information or classified computer.”
The soldier responded, “I just know the girl was in the room.”
In yet another interview, a lieutenant is asked: "Do you know if any sensitive or classified material has been compromised?"
He answers, "No. But everything has been accounted for."
"It's a cocktail of pressure," Ochnu said. "But you expect professionally trained soldiers to be able to withstand that pressure and do the job for which they were sent there."
While one of the soldiers did admit to paying for a prostitute, others asked for lawyers.
Evidence was seized. The colonel said that some soldiers did not want to give up their phones. He is quoted as believing the phones may contain evidence of criminal actions.
Hearing all this makes those who fight against human trafficking say the National Guard needs to explain what happened.
"If the military has the face that we do not want our soldiers to go in and buy sex, then there needs to be some consequences," Smith said.
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