Originally created 09/15/99

Soldier reprimanded for fraternization

A Fort Gordon drill sergeant was reprimanded and reduced in rank after pleading guilty to charges of having improper relationships with female trainees during general court martial proceedings Tuesday.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvin A. Terrell chose to be court martialed before Chief Circuit Judge Col. Kenneth Pangburn, declining the option to have his case heard before a panel of superior officers.

Sgt. 1st Class Terrell, 38, admitted guilt in most charges against him -- including dating and fraternizing with trainees and making false statements -- both in direct violation of Army policies and directives of his superiors.

Col. Pangburn imposed a sentence of a formal reprimand and reduction in rank by three grades to specialist, after hearing almost seven hours of emotional testimony from the accused and others who spoke on his behalf, said Fort Gordon spokeswoman Marla Jones.

"They painted a picture of a emotionally crippled man," she said.

The 19-year veteran had been under investigation since April, when the first allegations of misconduct with trainees were reported to superior officers, according to Fort Gordon spokesman James Hudgins.

In testimony, Sgt. 1st Class Terrell described his liaisons with two female privates -- one from August 1998 to February and another from March to June -- as normal "boyfriend-girlfriend" relationships.

"They were just like the usual relationships -- hugging, kissing, holding hands, sexual intercourse and going out on dates," he said.

The former drill sergeant also admitted to assisting one of the female trainees in going absent without leave from her duty station at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. for more than three months.

However, he denied conspiring with a fellow noncommissioned officer, Master Sgt. Mitchell F. McMurray, to arrange an off-post liaison with another female trainee.

Master Sgt. McMurray was court martialed on similar charges last month.

Both men were senior enlisted leaders in the 369th Signal Battalion, a unit made up of both male and female soldiers in training for military job specialties at Fort Gordon's Signal Training Center.

After being called to testify against his former colleague Tuesday, the now-Pvt. McMurray told defense lawyers he had received a lighter sentence through entering a pre-trial agreement with Army prosecutors.

A military panel had recommended that the former master sergeant be reduced in rank to private, given a dishonorable discharge and a 4-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to misconduct charges Aug. 25.

But in return for his cooperation with the prosecution, Pvt. McMurray said he was sentenced to only one year of confinement and allowed to remain in the Army.

Fort Gordon commander Maj. Gen. Peter Cuviello will review the sentence of both men at a later date. As the court martial convening authority he has the power to reduce the sentence or throw it out altogether.

Reach S.B. Crawford at (706) 823-3217 or scraw@augustachronicle.com.


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