Las Vegas Review-Journal
Court-martial charges dropped
Staff sergeant, suffering from PTSD, released from Nellis confinement
A Creech Air Force Base drone sensor operator has been released from confinement and all charges he faced in a court-martial set for June 16 have been dismissed, his civilian attorney said Fri- day.
Staff Sgt. Shane R. Owens, a remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator for overseas missile strikes, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been held in confinement at Nellis Air Force Base since March 5 and faced charges based on allegations of domestic violence, drug use and disobeying orders.
He will receive an other-than-honorable discharge but will have no criminal conviction for anything and is in the process of being discharged, said his attorney Craig W. Drummond.
“While we looked forward to address- ing many issues related to the Air Force’s allegations, and continue to dispute all of the charges, we believe that this is a good outcome that allows Staff Sergeant Owens to move forward with his life,” Drummond said in an email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
A query seeking comment from Nellis and Creech officials has been received
PTSD resulted from drone missions with loss of life
by the 99th Air Base Wing public affairs team at Nellis who had no immediate comment on Owens’ case. An email reply said they are working to provide answers, however.
As part of the case, Drummond had requested data that the Air Force mentioned in a response to a draft report by the Government Accountability Office on actions needed to strengthen management of drone pilots. The response was one of seven the Department of Defense made to the GAO’s recommendations in a memo last year by John T. Park, a member of the Senior Executive Service, a leadership agency for transforming the government.
“The Air Force has ample data showing the analyzed effects of RPA pilots being deployed-on-station over the last nine years,” reads the response attached to the April 2, 2014 memo to the GAO from Park, deputy director of force management policy for the Senior Executive Service.
“The stressors have been identified and discussed at length and many stressors could likely be addressed with personnel solutions (increased crew ratios, as mentioned),” reads the response.
In his email to the Review-Journal, Drummond said the “‘data’ was denied by the prosecutors and we were in the process of litigating the issue with the military judge as to whether they would be required to disclose the data and analysis to the defense.”
Drummond had filed a writ of habeas corpus petition April 9 with U.S. District Court in Las Vegas seeking Owens’ release on grounds that a “neutral and detached” officer had never performed a seven-day review of his continued confinement as required under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In the 11-page petition that names Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Lt. Col. Ryan P. Keeney, commander of the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, as respondents, Drummond claimed Owens’ commanders had violated military law by holding him in confinement without preferring charges in a timely manner.
He alleged that the pretrial confinement reviewing officer, Lt. Col. Erin D. Cluff, is not “neutral or detached” because she is married to Col. Jim Cluff, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech, who is one of Owens’ commanders and commander of Keeney, the officer who put Owens in pretrial confinement.
There is no mention in the petition, however, that her husband, Col. Cluff, the wing commander, played any role in the decision to confine Owens, nor is there anything that indicates she would have a personal interest in Owens’ confinement.
The Creech base at Indian Springs, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is a hub for drone operations where pilots and sensor personnel sit at computer consoles to control unmanned MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft via satellite links for overseas combat operations. Among the duties of sensor operators is to control laser-guided missile strikes triggered by pilots inside ground stations.
The court papers say that Owens “has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to drone missions involving the loss of human life.”
According to Drummond, Owens’ marriage to his wife, Ashley Owens, began to fail late last year. After he told her of his plans to file for divorce, the relationship boiled over Feb. 20 when she alleged that he grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her to the ground.
A protective order was issued against Shane Owens but on Feb. 26 a Clark County District judge denied to extend it after Ashley Owens failed to appear in Family Court. Contact Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2.