FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Domestic violence and sexual assault cases can be a nightmare for victims to navigate through the court system, but they can get even more complicated when the alleged offender is an active-duty service member.
SGM Linwood Earl Barrett Jr., a member of the 82nd Airborne Division’s G-6 Staff, part of the division’s command team at Fort Bragg, was charged Tuesday with violating a domestic violence protection order. The order was issued after he was charged with assault on a female and assault by strangulation in a March 4 incident at his Cameron home.
Barrett’s girlfriend said he put her in a military-style choke hold and left her with bruises on her chest and arms.
Of the 532 domestic abuse cases the Rape Crisis Center in Cumberland County handled last year, 168 involved soldiers, said center director Deanne Gerdes.
Gerdes said it can be tough for victims of domestic violence to get justice when the perpetrator wears a uniform.
“It’s really led by the command, the command climate of the unit. We have some commands that are great. They understand that victims need resources,” she said.
But sometimes commands rally around the accused to protect his military career, she said, and the cases can get complicated with service members returning from war.
“Soldiers don’t have the right to go home and abuse their spouse and their children because they just got back from a war or they have PTSD,” she said. “That’s not an excuse.”
Fort Bragg says it’s cooperating with the investigation into the charges against Barrett.
“We take all allegations of wrongdoing on behalf of our Paratroopers – to include allegations of domestic violence – seriously,” Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, said in a statement.
The Army has a number of programs available on post to soldiers and their families to help them cope with stresses that could lead to domestic violence.
A conviction on domestic violence charges could derail a military career, former military attorney Todd Conormon said.
“You could be looking at a reprimand, which could be the end of someone’s career for all practical purposes,” Conormon said. “You could also face administrative separation. For people that are senior, there could be a loss of retirement, loss of promotion opportunities.”