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US Soldier Suffers Panic Attack; Charged With 'Cowardice'
Published on Thursday, October 30, 2003 by The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Carson Soldier Faces Charge of Cowardice
by John Diedrich
 

A soldier with Fort Carson’s 10th Special Forces Group has been charged with cowardice for allegedly refusing to do his duty in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Georg Porgany, 32, a Special Forces interrogator, is charged with showing “cowardly conduct as a result of fear, in that he refused to perform his duties,” according to his charge sheet.


Instead of help, Porgany said, one of his superiors told him to “get his head out of his ass and get with the program.”

If convicted in a court-martial, the soldier faces prison time and a dishonorable discharge. He was charged Oct. 14. His first court appearance is Nov. 7 at Fort Carson.

A cowardice charge is extremely rare, military law experts say. Army officials couldn’t say Wednesday the last time it had been filed.

Porgany said he is wrongly charged.

The soldier said he experienced a “panic attack” after seeing the mangled body of an Iraqi man and told his superior he was heading for a “nervous breakdown.”

After that, Porgany said he didn’t request to go on missions nor did the unit ask him to go.

Porgany said he asked for help but was denied the care soldiers with “combat stress” are supposed to receive.

Instead of help, Porgany said, one of his superiors told him to “get his head out of his ass and get with the program.”

An Army psychologist in Iraq said Porgany had a normal reaction to seeing the body and recommended rest and then a return to duty, the soldier said.

Instead, his commander ordered him back to Colorado Springs to face a court-martial for “misbehavior before the enemy.”

“I don’t know how asking for help qualifies as misbehavior,” Porgany said.

“Something happens, you ask for help and they throw the book at you and kick you to the curb.”

Army officials declined to talk about the case.

Porgany, an intelligence soldier with the group for two years, left for Iraq on Sept. 26 from Fort Carson. He is not a Green Beret but was attached to a team of Green Berets for this mission.

The unit was working on Sept. 29 out of Samarra, north of Baghdad, when Porgany saw the body of an Iraqi man brought into the Army compound.

Soldiers on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle killed the Iraqi after he was spotted shooting a rocket-propelled grenade, Porgany said.

Porgany had never seen anything like that. Shortly after, he said, he began shaking, couldn’t focus and kept throwing up his food.

Porgany said he was terrified he would be killed.

“Until you are faced with the chance you could die in two minutes, that an RPG could come through the window when you are sleeping, you don’t know how you will react,” he said.

Porgany said he told his team sergeant, a superior, that he was headed for a “nervous breakdown.”

The sergeant told him to “go away and think about what I was saying because I was throwing my career away,” Porgany said.

For the next day, Porgany said he was repeatedly told he had “one more chance to redeem himself.”

Superiors began threatening court-martial, he said.

His superiors labeled him a suicide risk, Porgany said. The soldier said he never thought of suicide and wasn’t a risk.

On Oct. 1, Porgany was sent to another base, where the 10th Special Forces Group’s higher headquarters is located.

While on that base, Porgany said he asked to talk to a chaplain, who suggested he go to a Combat Stress Management Team. He said he referred himself in for care.

He was examined by psychologist Capt. Marc Houck, who wrote in a report that “the soldier reported signs and symptoms consistent with those of a normal combat stress reaction.”

He recommended Porgany rest for a day or so and receive stress-coping skills.

Houck recommended that remaining with his unit would help Porgany’s recovery.

Those steps are typical for a soldier who experiences combat stress, said Col. Rene Robichaux, chief of the Department of Social Work at Brook Army Medical Center in Texas, who wasn’t speaking specifically about Porgany’s case.

Army psychologists are trained to let soldiers know their reactions are normal, Robichaux said.

“It is appropriate to say, ‘This is crazy over here. What you are doing and everyone else is doing is bizarre. Being scared is not only normal, it is life-saving. If you are not scared, there is something wrong.”

Special Forces follows all the same programs as any Army unit, a spokesman at Army Special Operations Command said.

Porgany said he returned to the 10th Group after he was examined, was ignored for more than a day and then told he was being sent home to face charges.

The soldier said he had asked three times to stay in Iraq and work through his problem.

Back in Colorado Springs, Porgany said he was ordered to see a psychologist at Fort Carson, again as a suicide risk.

The psychologist wrote that Porgany was not a suicide risk and should be returned to duty without any change.

Porgany said his security clearance has been pulled, and he is forbidden to have a gun.

Porgany questioned what might happen if troubled soldiers are afraid to come forward, noting the three soldiers who were accused of killing their wives last year after coming home from in Afghanistan.

“What is tragic is the message they are sending,” Porgany said.

“In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything, but that is the wrong answer.”

Copyright 2003 The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO

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