In 2013, Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie Sutton was killed at the hands of his wife.
Sutton suffered 121 knife wounds throughout his body, one of which chipped his skull and another that broke a tooth in half. Sutton’s body was found by police and Army leadership in his home wrapped in trash bags and duct tape.
Col. Anthony Hale, the guest speaker during the Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program’s “Leading the Way” domestic violence symposium, Oct. 7, was Sutton’s brigade commander at the time. Hale currently serves as the U.S. Army Forces Command G-2.
“I and other members of our command began to ask the questions, which you would expect — ‘why?’ ‘What did we miss?’ ‘What more could we have done to ensure the safety of our Soldier?’”
Hale said there were warning signs but they may have been ignored because the Soldier was a senior noncommissioned officer.
“It’s difficult to imagine an NCO who has served multiple tours in combat being beaten or killed by his intimate partner. She was half his size,” he said.
Hale urged leaders attending the symposium to get to know their Soldiers and get involved with ACS and FAP.
FAP can help leaders organize a response to domestic violence and help prevent domestic violence through education and prevention resources available to units.
ACS offers classes that can help couples with communication, parenting, and stress and anger management.
“As commanders and senior leaders, there are tools and resources and programs available to assist us but there is no substitute for knowing your Soldiers,” Hale said.
The Army has established protocols when responding to incidents of domestic violence.
The policy at Fort Bragg is Master Policy 80. It outlines how to respond to an incident that occurs on or off post and gives guidance on what to do if a Soldier is a victim or the offender, Hale explained.
“It’s all in there. If you haven’t had to use it, or haven’t memorized it, you can call Family advocacy or the victim advocate hotline,” he said.
Hale said commanders who have a domestic violence occurrence in their ranks should complete the checklist in Master Policy 80, start a local file on the case and reference it each month. The file should contain documentation such as copies of police reports, separation orders and counseling statements.
“As commanders, you may choose to take action through separation based on misconduct, non-judicial punishment or court martial but our primary focus has to be ensuring victim safety and preventing further incidents,” he said.
Domestic violence is an issue that is not only important in October, but every day in the Army.
“Any time a member of our Family suffers from abuse, we all fall short of our readiness goals,” Hale said.
Leaders who would like more information about preventing or reporting domestic violence can contact FAP at 396-5521 or visit the website www.fortbraggmwr.com/acs/family-advocacy/.
Victim advocates also are available at Fort Bragg 24/7 by calling 322-3418.