Gibbs, Afghan 'kill team' platoon's leader, had dark side

The (Tacoma) News TribuneOctober 18, 2011 

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs looked the part of the no-nonsense squad leader who’d keep his fellow soldiers alive when he joined a platoon three months after it hit the ground in Afghanistan.

Gibbs had two combat tours behind him when he joined the Joint Base Lewis-McChord platoon in fall 2009. He struck his new platoonmates in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division as a “take-charge, tactically competent” veteran.

But there was a dark side. He’d rarely socialize with fellow soldiers. When he did, he started to share troubling stories about “things” he got away with in Iraq, such as shooting civilians, according to sworn statements obtained by The News Tribune.

Platoonmates said he jokingly called Afghans “savages” and espoused a “kill or be killed” view of the world. Those conversations planted the seeds for three murders he and his comrades allegedly carried out in the months after he joined them at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan.

It wasn’t the kind of influence 5th Brigade leaders hoped they’d gain from Gibbs when they tapped him to replace a wounded sergeant in the 3rd Platoon, B Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. Gibbs led a squad of six men.

He’s due in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord later this month. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of murdering the Afghan civilians, assaulting a private and keeping body parts as “war trophies.” Nine of his former platoonmates have already been sentenced for crimes they committed after he joined them.

Gibbs’ arrival at the forward base in November 2009 stands out as a marker in the unit’s deployment. Before he showed up, the 3rd Platoon’s 29 soldiers had not seen a dead body. They’d count at least five afterward, three of them from engagements the Army now considers murders.

A 532-page Army investigation into 5th Brigade leadership obtained by The News Tribune shows Gibbs was sent to the platoon after he was kicked off the brigade commander’s security detail for fooling around with an all-terrain vehicle.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs looked the part of the no-nonsense squad leader who’d keep his fellow soldiers alive when he joined a platoon three months after it hit the ground in Afghanistan.

Gibbs had two combat tours behind him when he joined the Joint Base Lewis-McChord platoon in fall 2009. He struck his new platoonmates in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division as a “take-charge, tactically competent” veteran.

But there was a dark side. He’d rarely socialize with fellow soldiers. When he did, he started to share troubling stories about “things” he got away with in Iraq, such as shooting civilians, according to sworn statements obtained by The News Tribune.

Platoonmates said he jokingly called Afghans “savages” and espoused a “kill or be killed” view of the world. Those conversations planted the seeds for three murders he and his comrades allegedly carried out in the months after he joined them at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan.

It wasn’t the kind of influence 5th Brigade leaders hoped they’d gain from Gibbs when they tapped him to replace a wounded sergeant in the 3rd Platoon, B Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. Gibbs led a squad of six men.

He’s due in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord later this month. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of murdering the Afghan civilians, assaulting a private and keeping body parts as “war trophies.” Nine of his former platoonmates have already been sentenced for crimes they committed after he joined them.

Gibbs’ arrival at the forward base in November 2009 stands out as a marker in the unit’s deployment. Before he showed up, the 3rd Platoon’s 29 soldiers had not seen a dead body. They’d count at least five afterward, three of them from engagements the Army now considers murders.

A 532-page Army investigation into 5th Brigade leadership obtained by The News Tribune shows Gibbs was sent to the platoon after he was kicked off the brigade commander’s security detail for fooling around with an all-terrain vehicle.

To read the complete article, visit www.thenewstribune.com.

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