Skip to comments.Army surrenders to 'coward' GI
Posted on 07/15/2004 4:13:00 PM PDT by ebersoleEdited on 07/15/2004 4:16:13 PM PDT by Admin Moderator. [history]
WASHINGTON, July 15 (UPI) -- The Army has dropped all legal action against a soldier who was charged with cowardice in Iraq, apparently because an Army malaria drug made him sick.
The case of Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany drew national attention last year because he was the first soldier charged with cowardice -- an offense punishable by death -- since the Vietnam era. Pogany countered that his only offense was asking for help after suffering a panic attack caused by mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug that lists "panic attacks" as a side effect.
"There are currently no disciplinary charges pending against Staff Sgt. Pogany," Special Operations spokesman Blake Waltman told United Press International Thursday.
"Additional information became available over time that indicates that Staff Sgt. Pogany may have medical problems that require treatment. Our primary concern is the health of Staff Sgt. Pogany."
A number of soldiers at Fort Carson in Colorado, where Pogany is based, have also claimed the drug caused severe mental and physical problems -- including suicidal feelings and homicidal rage.
Fort Carson did not return calls seeking comment. Pogany had no immediate comment.
Pogany fought the cowardice charge, which later was downgraded to dereliction of duty. Last month a Navy doctor diagnosed Pogany with brain-stem and vestibular problems likely caused by the drug, which is also known as Lariam. He received treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and returned to Fort Carson last Saturday.
Thursday he met with military officials who told him the charges were being dropped because of evidence he had a medical problem, although they refused to identify the problem. Waltman, at Special Operations, said he did not know what medical problem was involved.
Pogany was attached to 10th Special Forces in Iraq when he suffered a panic attack last year after seeing a dead body. For months Pogany was caught in legal and medical limbo, waiting for the Army to pursue charges against him and evaluate a list of mental and physical symptoms that started when he took mefloquine in Iraq.
Pogany's tests last month by a Navy doctor at the Pentagon's Spatial Orientation Center in San Diego showed eye and ear abnormalities and balance problems consistent with reported side effects of the drug, his medical records state. He is one of 11 service members diagnosed in the past few weeks with damage to the brainstem and vestibular, or balance, system after being given the drug while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Last summer the Food and Drug Administration took aggressive steps to make sure patients taking mefloquine are warned in writing of the possible side effects, including anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.
While the military is required by law to record the use of mefloquine in soldiers' medical records, none of the soldiers diagnosed at the San Diego center had the drug included in their records, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
The Army developed mefloquine in the 1970s and it was cleared for use in the United States in 1989, It has been taken by 5 million Americans. Two years ago, UPI reported that mounting evidence suggests it has caused mental problems so severe that in a number of cases it has led to suicide.
Pogany, 33, said he had just taken his third weekly pill when he suffered the attack after seeing the body of a mangled Iraqi. He raised the issue of mefloquine after news outlets including UPI asked if he had taken it.
I remember this story.
Attached to 10th Special Forces? I could understand a regular army person sufferring from something like that, but the Forces are some damn mentally strong people. Seems odd.
How is he a coward if he had a reaction to the drug?
Just because a soldier is attached to SF doesn't mean that he (or she, sometimes) is SF-qualified. It just means they're in a support position to the ODAs.
I'm willing to cut him some slack, and also understand why the military wishes to make it all 'go away'.
These powerful drugs are needed for deployment, and in most cases are relatively safe - but also can be physically life altering in certain individuals.
What a horrible headline!
I disagree with your title!
I didn't come up with the title..Dan Olmsted and Mark Benjamin did...
Oh yeah, the devil made me do it. I was beaten as a child. I grew up poor. blah blah blah blah....Just someone else who doesnt want to take responsibility for their own actions.
Better warriors through chemisty?
Just because you are "attached" to SF does not mean you are SF.
My son is in the Peace Corps in Africa, and they have to take Lariam. They were all told to be aware of those types of side effects, and many of his co-workers had severely troubling reactions, up to and including hallucinations and incredibly bizarre dreams.
My youngest has complained that he has horrible dreams if he takes Lariam in the evening instead of the morning.
I have taken it before and it is nasty stuff. I didn't have hallucinations, but it need make me violently ill.
"including hallucinations and incredibly bizarre dreams."
Sounds like they could sell it on the street in California.
You really don't want to know the answer to that one.
I've had panic attacks due to an inner-ear infection. It's called vestibular disorder. Anyone who has never had a panic attack knows nothing about them, and is not fit to comment on them. If there's a hell on earth, it's a panic attack. And you have absolutely no control over them.
I agree with you, and we should not make judgements about those medications...they affect people differently, and stress is a factor. I am glad Army recognized this and is correcting his status.
We have a group of smart alecks in this country that need to be right in the middle of a terrorist attack to improve their attitude. One of the problems we have in this country, combat has not been brought to their back yard. "Army surrenders to Coward GI" shows the stupidity of the author and is followed by El Macho individuals criticizing the GI for cowardice when his former actions showed real leadership and bravery. He broke with the possibility of malaria medication possibly contributing.
A non-SF interrogator attached to an ODA in 10th SFG freaks out, after being in country for three days, and seeing one dead Iraqi.
Not exactly Silver Star material.
I had the opportunity to work with some 10th Group guys a few months ago, and jokingly asked my collegues about 'their boy Pogany'. A few of them refered to him as 'he who shall not be named', and didn't care to elaborate. I did meet one guy who had to babysit Pogany after his breakdown, but before they shipped him home, and he had nothing good to say. I distinctly got the impression that he wasn't thought highly of before his episode, and his actions weren't out of character (except in intensity).
As a support guy, I'm used to the Green Berets not taking anyone without the tab seriously. At first, that is. If you prove competent at your job, motivated, tough and at least moderately skilled with a weapon, you'll become the ODAs lost kid brother. If you're incompetent, lazy, risk averse, or seriously lacking in weapons handling skill, you'll not fit in, and in their eyes ruin the reputation of your self, detachment, MOS, and possibly your entire branch.
So, I understand Pogany's position of having to work with a pack of snake eating killers that will initially treat you like a red headed step child with leprosy. The first time is pretty intimidating.
Now, it is possible that the drug (which God knows how many hundreds of thousands of people take on a weekly basis) did affect him. Given the already thin line of trust that existed, the ODA could have just assumed that he was a dirtbag, and cast him off.
Still, I can't shake the impression that this guy is a dirtbag, and is looking for an out. I mainly think that because of his actions after he returned home and came off the meds. An SF Group does not lack for medical personnel, so it strikes me as odd that this wouldn't have been noticed or thought of until now. If he only just now decided to go with 'the meds made me do it' angle, what was his reason for denying the cowardice charge before.
His actions, under what I would basically call negligible stress levels, are inexcusable. He simply did not see or experience enough for a person in his line of work to suffer the kind of breakdown he claims. Period. Yet he ran to the press to cry foul. Without any mitigating circumstances, there's no story: he's a coward. Now, months later, he seems to have found an excuse, but that doesn't explain why he thought he was innocent before.
So, maybe the meds did make him do it. I suppose it is possible. I still suspect that he's just another intel guy who probably didn't belong in the Army, much less in Group, and who failed badly when confronted with reality.
Actually, it makes far more sense that it was the drug than that a Spec Ops guy would suffer from cowardice.
I read about his story about a month ago (either in Esquire or GQ). Apparently Pogany latched on to the medical condition excuse way after the fact. On the other hand, it did seem like the Army over-reacted--they likely don't have time for hand-holding or use for people who need it. In any case, I did not come away from that article with a sympathetic feeling for the guy (even though the author tried to lead the reader in that direction).
Doesn't help the SF cause when two of the witnesses on the team aren't around to testify...Andrew keeps forgetting to tell the media that he got out of going to Iraq on the first rotation in February claiming marital problems and was trying to get out of going on the second rotation.
Being mentally strong would have everything to do with overcoming a physical reaction. That is what advanced training teaches, overcoming cold, heat, pain, fear, etc. with the mind. A drug should not immediately render all that useless.
Yea, luckily my son has tolerated the lariam pretty well, but has been living with 'intestinal' upset pretty much constantly for the last 2 years. There's no sense in getting rid of the parasites/bacteria that causes it until he leaves the area, since he will just get it again from eating/drinking.
Is Lariam the big red horsepills? I've taken anti-malarial drugs for about a month on different occasions but don't remember the name. Also don't remember being warned of any side effects. After a port visit to Mombasa in 1985 a sailor on one of the ships in the battle group died of malaria. Wasn't caught even though they must have expected it since we were given the medicine.
Please read the story! This guy was NOT Spec-Ops/SF!!!
She recently gave birth to our second child, but we were prepared and had her taking Prozac immediately after delivery. I also have worked from home since the birth, and it's been a wonderful experience.
Can't, or at least don't think I should, comment.
I will say this- (uhh...gues I'll comment after all.) I've seen fucked up dead people, and even my little eighty-deuce ass could hang...hard to imagine someone who had demonstrated much more tenacity, perserverance, and character than I ever had to would fold.
Who knows. Hope things work out for him.
since I don't have the soldier's medical records in front of me, I cannot say that you are wrong in this case.
However, you may want to lighten up.
If a drug messes up your brain chemistry, you may suffer changes in personality and performance levels which have nothing to do with your own intents.
Vestibular problems are also no laughing matter.
I came down with viral labyrinthitis and "disequilibrium syndrome" while at Ft. Lewis in '91, and it turned me into a useless bundle of nerves for over a week... it happens when what your eyes see and what your balance mechanisms (in the inner ears) tell you simply don't add up - it affects a human very adversely at a subconscious level which has significant impact on that person's ability to consciously perform even simple tasks.
Don't sneer at this stuff unless you have been there.
This picture says it all. Unfortunately I can't find a better image of it.
Ive had an inner-ear infection before. I couldnt walk for 4 days, but I sure as hell didnt dessert my country either. Sorry, I feel no sympathy.
My sister and an old girlfriend had panic attacks. It is absolutely a horrific experience. They can happen for no reason at the most random times. I've gotten phone calls at work, at 3 in the morning to go comfort them.
If that drug caused the panic attack, I can understand.
You can only rule out an adverse drug reaction by eliminating the drug. I know a doctor who didn't recognize an adverse drug reaction in himself until months after he stopped taking the drug which can effect the nervous system. It was not the typical and most worrisome of the drugs possible adverse effects, and other doctors were unable to recognize it either.
You can only rule out an adverse drug reaction by eliminating the drug.