Reality Check for the Human Terrain System: Marilyn Dudley-Flores Responds

Posted on November 5, 2009 by


On 26 February 2009, a report by John Stanton was published on this blog (Some Breaking News on the Human Terrain System: Death Threats Against Female Colleagues). At the time it caused some uproar, was discussed on several other blogs, and perhaps no other story on this blog received so many comments as that one (200 comments to be exact). The story was followed up with this one: US Army 101st Airborne Investigative Report on Human Terrain System. In the midst of the furious commentary, many allegations were made about the person at the center of the story, Dr. Marilyn Dudley-Flores. Now, for the first time, Dr. Dudley-Flores presents her own story to the public. The text that follows was first sent to me by Dr. Dudley-Flores as an e-mail message earlier this week, and it is of course reproduced here with her permission and approval.

One last point before we proceed: as we know, the U.S. Congress is conducting an assessment of the Human Terrain System (see: John Stanton: U.S. Congress to Assess Human Terrain System [29 September 2009]; U.S. Congress and the Human Terrain System [04 October 2009]; and, John Stanton: US Congress Rewards Failure, Puts Personnel in Harm’s Way [10 October 2009]). It may be useful for all parties to send as much information and analysis as possible to the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees, in order to assist them in their review.

It may be for naught, as the same U.S. Congress has supported HTS generously. Indeed, one HTS blogger, “Caleb” (who of course blocked access to his blog, Always Under Way, as soon as it started to get attention) was already celebrating the Congressional review in his post for Wednesday, 30 September, 2009, “H.R. 2647“:

“This will be an opportunity for this amazing program to gain even greater buy-in by Congress, the Department of Defense, and the Obama Administration – all of whom have expressed their support for the program….That’s right, support the expansion of the HTT concept, including to other combatant command areas of responsibility!! We’re worldwide!” [his emphasis]

Well, Caleb was totally wrong about the play, “Anthropology–Or How to Win Friends and Influence Afghans,” thinking it was a prestige-making event that would applaud HTS, rather than criticize and mock it. He is very cheerful, and while his gushing optimism may be correct when it comes to Congress supporting HTS further (I think it will), the idea would be to make it as difficult as possible for them to accept a positive assessment without producing a tortuous, labored explanation.

From Marilyn Dudley-Flores:

[originally directed primarily to Christian Caryl at Foreign Policy]

I have just seen your piece entitled “Reality Check: Human Terrain Teams” over the Foreign Policy website dated 8 Sep 2009 ( ).

I have no major argument with your piece, but I do feel you unfairly cast me in a “feuding” role with soldiers in the field in Afghanistan. You wrote that writer John Stanton “included excerpts from an internal investigation by the 101st Airborne Division that harshly criticized failings in training and administration that contributed to a disastrous feud between one of the HTT scientists, Marilyn Dudley-Flores, and regular Army troops in the field in Afghanistan involving allegations of sexual harassment and death threats against the professor.”  Who were these regular Army troops?

I wanted to let you know that at no time was I locked in a feud with anyone at all in Afghanistan. There is a clear difference between a feud and a systematic running assault. One implies something along the lines of a more or less equal conflict that proceeds over time; the other has one or more perpetrators attacking a victim or victims.

FYI. I was sent out from Stateside to Afghanistan, spending 7-8 days in transit. Upon my leaving Fort Benning, Georgia was the only prior “heads-up” that was given to my team that I was being sent to them to co-lead and to provide counterinsurgency research services for the division-level Human Terrain Analysis Team (HTAT) on Bagram air base. The HTAT was then wired up to the 101st Army Airborne, although how we were wired up was not clear, because none of the women were allowed by the HTAT team leader to make briefings to or go to meetings with the senior staff officers of the 101st Army Airborne, as we were supposed to do. On Bagram, I almost immediately found my SECRET clearance only “pending,” although official documents on me do not reflect that, indicating that by 1 Sep 2008 I had an unfettered SECRET clearance. Having only a “pending” SECRET meant that I could not be badged to work in my own office on Bagram. This was a mystery (and still is in some respects) until HTS management “worked the issue” and got me badged somehow.

After about two weeks waiting to be badged, when I was able to get into my office in the day-to-day, after some time, I saw the female complement of the HTAT (three women) working in the office under such a regime, as if they were POWs, hectored around by, evidently what turned out to be two phony PhDs, a former Special Forces man with an apparent learning disorder and a lot of muscle, and an immature 30-year-old 1LT in the Puerto Rican National Guard. The “muscleman,” our HTAT’s deputy team leader, had formerly worked for the subcontractor company that had recruited and hired me for the HTS through an American Sociological Association ad. Present on our team was a decent young man with good credentials, a military veteran, and a criminal justice background, but he was due to rotate back Stateside soon after I arrived. With him gone, we were at the entire mercy of the others as I would go on to experience with the other women.

In the meantime, my subcontractor company, stopped paying me. About a month on the scene, in early December, the day after they began to catch my pay up, they inexplicably fired me from my position as a key asset to the Army Human Terrain System in the war zone. This is a little like a soldier in the foxhole saying to his mates, “Sorry, guys, I’m off the clock, my pink slip has been handed to me.” HTS managers apparently didn’t know anything about it.

HTS managers scrambled to turn this new fiasco around. That is when the managers discovered some sort of communication between Bagram and the little hiring company exuding false information about the fit of my body armor and my ability to get in and out of humvees. Even after this was laid to rest, a company spokesperson was talking to authorities on Bagram about my having been fired. HTS managers had to go to extraordinary steps to make it clear that the 101st was supposed to be communicating about HTAT personnel with them and no one else.

This situation might not have existed except that the phonies had been “empire building” and covering their lack of ability to perform our mission with one or more Reserve Information Operations officers on the 101st’s senior staff who were jones’ing to hook up with the HTS program and make the large amount of money that HTS’ers did. That element covered for their inadequate performance, as well as contributed to the information ops that was devised against me while I was in transit to Bagram. (Read: a weapon of war was used against me before I set foot on Bagram.) I was not a welcome addition to the team because the baddies already figured out that I had a substantial background from Googling on me. (They did not previously know me from training, although one of the women recalled seeing me around Fort Leavenworth. Several hundreds or thousands of hits will come up if you Google on “Dudley,” “Dudley-Rowley,” or “Dudley-Flores.”) They evidently feared exposure as posers and they found a lot of fodder with which to propagandize me.

Not able to zing me back Stateside within a few days, the real slagging began. While sexual harassment was present, and had been before I had arrived, that was the least of our problem. All of us women were in fear of physical intimidation, as had been used on us. And, a major biggy: the “Rev. Dr.” Sturgis, the team leader, was ramping up the immature 1LT to view us as traitors. Outside the wire, in the field in Ghazni Province, in December 2008, he had the 1LT trying to maneuver us into specific villages where we knew specific Taliban military commanders had re-infiltrated. We already had enough data we needed about those villages to know they were red hot and no purpose was served by going there for more interviews, us women unarmed. We would, in fact, have been going off mission as previously briefed if we would have gone to those areas. The three of us women on that mission knew what the story was on that note. The 1LT was following directions from Sturgis to position us to get attacked and killed. (At no time was anyone “just trying to scare us.”) And, the 1LT was so vapidly enamored with Sturgis with his promises of Dubai vacations, good officer evaluation reports, cherry postings, etc. that he would have been dumb enough to drive us over an IED-strewn road if Sturgis had told him to do it. None of the HTS managers back Stateside changed words with me when I turned to them for advice and told them that I was not taking the women into those places. The 1LT was crestfallen when he heard from higher-ups on the FOB where we lived on-mission that those places were too hot. But, he really was fit to be tied when he saw John Stanton’s story in December that tagged on a paragraph about us women’s difficulties in the field (that did not disclose any information from the scene that could not be found over Wikipedia). And, in any case, I was not the one to leak that news to Mr. Stanton.

But, Sturgis and his buddies likely thought that I was the leaker since they were obsessed with targeting me. So, next thing we knew, we were being hustled away from FOB Ghazni back to Bagram. Come to find out, Sturgis, himself and/or through the 1LT, communicated to the CO of the FOB that we were in violation of operational security and needed to come back to Bagram to be called to account. We were greeted to a sign in the office about being traitors (as seen over No one ever debriefed us about any OPSEC violation. The 1LT’s behavior worsened.

On the 31st of December 2008, Sturgis and the 1LT tried to get me off alone on a part of the Joint Operations Compound on Bagram that we never used, but we women foiled that attempt. In the meantime, while the 1LT had a pistol and a rifle, the civilian men (except one of the posers who had gone on vacation) were buying long guns in the bazaar and trying to get them operational. One of the women, a civilian who was a Army Reserve captain, but not in uniform on this tour of duty, was hard over to obtain a weapon. Her husband from Stateside was demanding that she buy a gun if push came to shove. When military women in my sleeping hooch on Bagram found out what was happening to me, they lent me a rifle to keep in my sleeping cubicle in case they had to step out and would not be able to defend me. (One of the women’s superiors had previously barred the 1LT from their workplace on Bagram because of his inappropriate behaviors.)

I began carrying my combat knife at all times. On the 2nd of January 2009, we discovered the death threat written in Spanish on a dry erase board in the office. After five days’ trying to get advice from a silent HTS management back Stateside, at the behest of friends, family, and the other women, I asked my Member of Congress to get a message to the Commanding General about what was happening to us. A few hours’ later, HTS Deputy Program Manager, retired Army Colonel Steve Rotkoff phoned and told me to come back Stateside to report on what had been going on.

I did so and fully expected to re-deploy from the verbal and gestural responses I was getting from HTS managers who heard my three-and a-half-hour report. But, instead, afterwards, I was left for about four weeks in a Kansas City hotel room until I received a firing notice in the e-mail from the subcontractor that recruited me and hired me for the HTS. They claimed that BAE and the government authorized them to fire me for inadequate performance. Pinging HTS managers to confirm that this was, indeed, a genuine firing this second time around, met with silence. Two days later, John Stanton had the first of his stories up online about what happened to me and the other women.

It is interesting to note that in the timeframe that we women were trying to get help, and as subsequent events played out, HTS salesmen were selling the program to President Obama for the cornerstone of the civilian surge in Afghanistan:

How we were treated suggests that our concerns were covered up so as not to blemish the sales pitch to the President. For, in the case of the only Afghanistan HTAT, it demonstrated that the HTS was easily sabotaged from its internal “bugs” contradictory to its mission as a warfighting system.

In the meantime, Sturgis was recalled around the same time as myself and fired or forced to resign. However, he almost immediately found work with some facet of Glevum Associates and I would not be surprised if he found his way back to Afghanistan: Kabul or back on Bagram — by June 2009. (Glevum was a subcontractor in service to MPRI-L3 that was on contract with the government to provide various media assessment support services in the region to HTS, the 101st Army Airborne [now to the 82nd Army Airborne], and another client.)

I was fired before the 101st was able to complete their “window dressing” investigation that involved no Criminal Investigation Division authorities. Two-thirds or more of the report given to my Member of Congress is a tissue of lies. The pictorial evidence meant they had to cop to the fact that sexual harassment was going on. Some parts of the report are actually revealing, however. Like, how the 1LT acted in ways to make his death threat credible. Like, (and I learned this later from more information sent my Member of Congress) how the Special Forces “muscleman” had his Joint Ops Compound badge revoked for his failure to lead as “deputy team leader.” Like how the “Rev. Dr.” and the muscleman were blacklisted for contract hire in connection to any 101st capacity ever again.

When I FOIPA’d for the background materials that went into the 101st’s “investigation,” I obtained Sworn Statements from three Army lieutenant colonels on the senior staff of the 101st and an Army Reserve LTC working for an HTS unit near ours. The 101st’s investigation lasted from about mid-January to late March. In the last week of their investigation, they pulled these Sworn Statements out of these LTCs. All of them would be viewed as “false official statements” under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Recall that by this time I had already been fired. In that final week of the investigation, statements were sought from these men to the tune that I told incredible stories about famous people I knew, about my prior military and other background, about poor alleged production that came from me (Sturgis blocked all of us women from briefing any senior officers about the operationally relevant data that we had uncovered in our counterinsurgent activities as we were supposed to do). Additionally, these Army field-grade officers made whopper statements about my being so fat that I had to come through doors at an angle and could barely walk and stand upright on a level floor or fit into a tactical vehicle. One of these men claimed that I was in the central Joint Ops Compound building all the time complaining about living conditions, etc. The fact is, the whole time I was in Afghanistan, I was only in the office part of that closely neighboring building for a grand total of two hours, about one and a half hours spent with an Army Inspector General LTC explaining what was happening to me and the other women just prior to being sent outside the wire to FOB Ghazni. A FOIPA procedure revealed that the man didn’t even file a report on my visit.

As I have said elsewhere, I think the whole debacle started out small with the posers and their buddies not wanting to be found out to be posing and/or inadequate to the mission, along with such facts that they had probably, in toto, been paid about one million federal dollars for not doing the work of the HTAT and instead spending a good portion of their time abusing the HTAT women. Yet to be discovered is what, if any role, Sturgis and one of the Info Ops officers played in diverting or causing to be misused (if indeed the case) a federal money train of perhaps as much as five million dollars from federal contractor MPRI-L3 to Glevum Associates where the HTS and the 101st Airborne and another party were clients. It will also be revealing to find out who all among the 101st senior staff were in on the active perpetration in the overall affair, who were passive perpetrators, and just how widespread was any sort of “social contagion” from Sturgis et al.’s mythmaking among the 101st senior staff officers. Whomever all were in uniform who participated in these events should be held to account just for giving the 101st a black eye on the “Duty, Honor, Country” front. So far, my FOIPA’d information suggests that almost all the 101st’s senior staff officers were ultimately involved in some way. If that is so, where is the 101st’s Army Airborne’s honor?

After I was fired…. When John’s 26 February 2009 article made the international online media, I began to be “counterblogged” over the Open Anthropology website (now Zero Anthropology). The blogger was an Army lieutenant colonel I did not know, LTC Robert Bateman. He was found to be counterblogging on me from his Pentagon computer during duty hours from his work in a DoD think tank close to the SECDEF. Besides Dr. Max Forte’s publicized data, I also FOIPA’d the proof right out of Bateman’s machine. In his blogs, he made crazy statements to make it sound like I never worked with Dr. Louis Dupree on the rescue and relocation of Afghans (a theme that the Bagram HTT LTC would hype in his Sworn Statement riddled with falsehoods). Bateman went on that I might be a fake veteran, and that “Mata la vaca” means “The Cow Kills.” I and my supporters’ analysis later found out that one of his associates is close to the HTS and has a history in opposition research. That person was Sean McFate, Dr. Montgomery McFate’s husband. I had to be separated from Dr. Dupree, now seen by a wider audience as the stellar Afghanistan scholar that he always was, because how crazy would it be seen in the media if a Dupree associate on a substantial project involving Afghans was removed from Afghanistan and the HTS (amid public accusations that very few scholars with any Afghanistan credentials are in the country with HTS)?

I did not engage in a disastrous feud with soldiers in the field, but I most assuredly am doing my best to let Congress and federal executives know what happened to me and the other HTAT women in Afghanistan in detail. Because, it is our story that is the “poster child” of what has gone wrong with the Army’s Human Terrain System. There are many stories like ours from among our “big tent” teammates from former and currently serving HTS’ers. Ours was just more egregious in many ways. However, in the aggregate, there is a clear signal in the noise, a pattern that reveals the raging flaws in the HTS program and who all are/have been those who create and/or duplicate those flaws. In many respects I have been making a human terrain analysis of the Human Terrain System. My abilities are not so much from my intermittent 30-year background as a professor, as from the other things I have done to put food on the table during that same time span, like having been a soldier, having been an investigative news reporter, having done criminal justice research for real live drug and human trafficking cases, and having sought grants and contracts for scientific studies outside of Academe in which I partnered. It is, in fact, this background in addition to my academic PhD that made me a logical asset for the HTS.

What has not been widely mentioned in the media thus far has been my prior background at the forefront of “human terrain analysis” in the organization of social structural concepts and analytical techniques for a victimization and property damages assessment for Kuwait toward the end of the Gulf War. This effort that created a body of methodology and some other features, like a hybrid team for insertion into a war-torn area and a reachback-like cell preceded Mitzy Cybele Carlough’s (aka Montgomery McFate’s) 1994 dissertation by at least three years, her bar napkin epiphany by 10 years, and the 2006 Army and Marine Field Manual on counterinsurgency by 15 years. (By the way, the other HTAT women did not even know this until I told them at supper in the chow hall the night before I was flown off of Bagram in January. So much for my bragging on myself and talking about “famous people.”) I only mention it now to show how dysfunctional the HTS was/is.

It is the height of craziness that I was not re-deployed with the HTS. What is more, though I have been in demand for other programs requiring a SECRET clearance, I can’t be hired for the jobs because Sturgis and collaborators screwed my clearance up. I call them collaborators in every sense of the word because they not only sabotaged me, but the functioning of a warfighting system in Afghanistan. At the end of the day, what was done was sabotage and not merely “grab assing” among bored field-grade officers and sophomoric pranksterism with civilian “good ol’ boy” buddies. And, it is a national shame that HTS higher-ups thanked me for my role in bringing it to their attention, my life on the line, by firing me to cover up the facts. We Viet Nam Era vets call such treatment the “f**k you very much for your service” phenomenon. The more things change the more they stay the same.

To date, I have pulled together 600+ pages of evidence, analyses, and narrative. This packet is in the hands of members of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and other interested parties. I can forward a copy to you, Mr. Cary, if you are interested.

In the meantime, please know that I was not a party to a “disastrous feud.” I and my female teammate were victimized by “snakes in our foxhole” while attempting to perform our duties. We tried to get help as best we could, and at other times, we kept our heads down to survive. Other than that note, thank you for writing about the HTS. It is important to keep it in the media eye and to discuss its issues.

Many Kind Regards,

Marilyn “Stryker” Dudley-Flores, PhD

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