Former sergeant Kenneth Davis, who will testify for the defense, wants to speak about what he saw and hopes the soldiers he once served with will accept it. Sgt. Robert Jones, summoned by the prosecution, aims to salvage some respect for his Army unit, and for himself.
Sgt. Hydrue Joyner said he no longer is sure where he stands and just wants it all to end.
After Kenneth Davis, left, Robert Jones and Hydrue Joiner arrived in Texas for the trial, they began "talking, reminiscing," Davis says. "It felt really good."
(Steve Traynor For The Washington Post)
Months ago, the three men served in the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Md. Now they are reuniting as witnesses at Fort Hood, Tex., called by both sides in a military trial they hope will put Abu Ghraib and Iraq behind them.
Scarred by scandal and war, they met in a Howard Johnson motel, preparing for the court-martial of Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., 36, which began yesterday. Graner, an MP with the 372nd, is accused of playing a leading role in the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. For the three of them, Graner's trial brings a chance for both culmination and catharsis.
"It's like being back over there," said Davis, who left the Army last year. "You're thinking, 'I don't know what's going to happen, and I don't want anybody hating me.' "
After the prison abuse came to light last spring, the 372nd was split up, its members sent to serve across Iraq. Davis, suffering from a medical problem, left the Army in mid-2004. Since then, he has talked with superiors, members of Congress and the media about the role of military intelligence in the abuse. He was subpoenaed by Graner's defense team.
He boarded a plane for Texas on Friday, joining two U.S. corrections officers who had worked with Graner before he was sent to Iraq, a few military investigators and Capt. Donald J. Reese, the 372nd's commanding officer.
"We were talking, reminiscing. It felt really good," Davis said. "I didn't know how they viewed me since I spoke out, even though it was the truth." On the tarmac in Killeen, Tex., an Army representative told the group not to speak with reporters. "You might tell soldiers what to do, but you won't tell me," Davis said he replied.
Davis, 34, said he arrived in Iraq in September 2003, with a knapsack full of religious tracts and a heart full of good intentions. But by the next month, wandering onto Abu Ghraib's Tier 1A, he saw soldiers -- directed, he said, by military intelligence -- ordering naked prisoners to crawl across the floor, holding them there by stepping on their backs.
Since leaving the Army, he said, he has talked with a mental health counselor, who advised "that it's good to talk about it and be around the soldiers that you relate to.
"They are a part of one of the most important chapters in my life. But I wasn't sure where we all stood on this."
Davis met with Jones and Joyner in the lobby of the motel, an "upscale barracks," as Jones called it, in Killeen, across the street from a Red Lobster restaurant. He was nervous; they were delighted. "You've got less hair," Jones told him.
Davis, Jones and Joyner said the 372nd soldiers, military investigators and other witnesses are spread across several Killeen motels, except for Army Spec. Joseph Darby. Darby, who exposed the abuse by slipping a CD with photos of it beneath the door of a superior, is booked into a separate hotel, alone.
Jones, a Baltimore police officer and former Marine, was assigned to a guard tower at Abu Ghraib. He recalled a conversation in late 2003, when a soldier told him about the prisoner abuse. Jones, 34, who had reported a previous allegation of abuse to his superiors, asked whether anyone knew more. Darby was there, Jones said, but said nothing. A day later, Darby slipped the CD under his superior's door.