by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 17, 2020) — Continuing from Part 46, former U.S. Army Capt. Gary Mason elaborated on the Army’s efforts to demonstrate that he was unfit for duty after more than a decade of exemplary service, invoking the specter of mental illness or suicidal “ideation” as justification.
Enlisting in 2000 in the infantry, Mason trained in combat, chaplaincy, and later, public affairs, serving three overseas tours in war zones between 2008 and 2012. While deployed to Afghanistan, he completed his studies and was ordained a Christian military chaplain, a career he hoped to pursue once returning stateside.
However, after his reassignment from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii to Fort Lee, VA and anticipating a fresh start, Mason and his family encountered further strife in the form of threats and apparent retaliation from his Hawaii command, members of whom had been displeased with a letter of concern he had written years before regarding his chain of command in Iraq.
Even as his superiors at Fort Lee worked to oust him on various pretexts, Mason said, he excelled in the Captain’s Career Course taken at the Army Logistics University (ALU) as preparation for a promotion to Major and expected transfer to Fort Hood, TX.
As a then-constituent of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mason filed a request for a congressional inquiry into the mistreatment he received in Hawaii which included unfounded “counseling statements” letters in his file; repeated overseas assignments without the customary R&R period in between; unwarranted verbal abuse; public berating; a lack of resources to perform his assigned duties; and a refusal on the part of his then-command to complete a routine Officer Evaluation Report (OER).
While at Ft. Lee, Mason said, Benessa Hubbard, a civilian supervisor in the security installation office at Ft. Lee, proved infinitely helpful to his family and him.
“They couldn’t really prove why they were coming up with all of these accusations,” Mason told The Post & Email, “so Ft. Lee was stuck in a tangled web. The retribution was non-stop. They couldn’t justify anything, so they began to trump up, ‘He has psychological problems.’”
His story continues:
I realized that their newest tactic was to try to go on record that I had some type of mental problem. Other soldiers told me that when the Army wanted to cover up their abuses, they try to make you look crazy.
I was ordered to do a video mental evaluation with a doctor in Maryland. I did a long assessment with a psychiatrist who wrote in her report, “Based on Capt. Mason’s testing, there’s nothing wrong with him. He’s not suicidal or homicidal. As a matter of fact, he shared with us that there is some concern that people in the Army are trying to harm him.”
That plan of attack was unsuccessful, but they kept trying. I guess if they could say I was crazy, they wouldn’t have to address the abuses I had reported. They told me I had to go back to Kenner Army Health Clinic again because they hired an outside contractor, Dr. Michael Lynch, who said, “I want to do a virtual video and put him through some other psychological testing.” And I said, “Why am I doing psychological testing? You just got the information back from Kenner’s Behavioral Health Department, and there’s no need for me to go through any more testing. “
My wife and children were in Maryland, and because of the stress they were experiencing, they started going to counseling at Walter Reed. So I transferred my medical care there. I said I would no longer go to Kenner Army Health Clinic at Ft. Lee because they were being co-opted by the general there to apply a false medical condition in my military records. So I began to see Dr. Angela Gilbert at Walter Reed. We started going to family counseling and had been going for about three months when suddenly someone from Kenner said, “We want Capt. Mason to have another psychological exam,” and I was thinking, “There’s no need.”
So my internal-medicine doctor from Tripler, who I trusted, said, “Go ahead and take the test and they’ll see there’s nothing wrong with you. Just do it at Walter Reed.” So I signed up to have it done at Walter Reed, but guess what happened? Kenner, based on orders from Gen. Wyche, ordered Kenner’s behavioral health department to call Walter Reed and single-handedly canceled my appointment with their behavioral health department; they said I had to have another exam done at Kenner. So their fix was, “There’s a guy named Michael Lynch who works out of Bethesda, MD,” but apparently it was really just a trick; they were really looking to have all of the medical procedures done under Gen. Wyche.
I was going to fight it, but they said, “You can’t really fight it because the commander is ordering you to do it.” So I had to go in. Senator Cardin’s office dismissed every complaint of abuse I filed except one. They confirmed that the Army illegally forced me to take psychological examinations. No one was held accountable or reprimanded in any way.
Mrs. Andrea Richardson, the Administrator of the Department of Psychology at Kenner Army Health Clinic, was speaking with me in her office, kind-of debating and arguing with me about how I had to take this test with Dr. Lynch. I told her I wanted a copy of the video and the reports. She told me Dr. Lynch had been removed from the contract and his computers had been confiscated by the Army and she couldn’t access my records. I told Dr. Lynch during this bogus exam that the doctor at Tripler tried to get me to say that I was suicidal when I wasn’t. At that point Dr. Lynch looked shocked and leaned back in his chair and said, “We’re done.” Apparently, I had said something that he didn’t want to hear, and he just disappeared. He would not give me a copy of the report. So I had to go down and file a FOIA to force them to give it to me. The FOIA came back, so apparently Mrs. Richardson spoke with Mrs. Hubbard. The Ft. Lee security installation office was having problems because they disproved everything the ALU said — the “AWOL,” the officer misconduct, “dereliction of duty,” all of which were allegations — my clearance was reinstated, which went against that I was suicidal or homicidal. It basically made everything moot.
Illegally pulling my security clearance is a federal offense and lying about me being AWOL should have gotten Major Acker and the commanders at Schofield Barracks fired or at least court martialed.
They were in a fix, and I wanted to file charges against the people in Hawaii who violated my HIPAA rights by looking in my medical records without my consent.
Well, after Mrs. Richardson said that, the garrison commander went down and personally walked in to Mrs. Hubbard’s office and said, “How much is Captain Mason paying you?” Mrs. Hubbard told me all of this later, including that the commander demanded she discuss personal matters in my files to him, but she refused. “That’s against regulations,” she told me she told him. “Everything that Capt. Mason has presented me is in black and white.”
She told me she told the commander, Col. Rodney Edge, that what they were doing to me was wrong and Hawaii was wrong. “Everything that was said about him was an allegation, and I told you that you needed to fix this, but you-all have pursued him, for whatever your reasons are, to destroy his career. Everything Capt. Mason has presented has been in black and white. I’ve asked all of you to present evidence in black and white, which you haven’t done. So don’t come in here and jeopardize my job and break regulations and security.”
According to Mrs. Hubbard, he became so angry that he got up and walked out and stopped talking to her. Before that, they reportedly had a great relationship, but because she was investigating what was going on, the command and ALU command refused to speak to her. The garrison commander is supposed to keep tabs on what’s happening on his post and report back to the general. This guy was apparently being harassed and attacked by the commanding general, as in, “How come you haven’t found anything to kick Capt. Mason out yet? He’s been here over a year; he’s just sitting here…”
Immediately after that, Col. Edge took a retirement and got out. But here’s what happened: When Sen. Cardin’s inquiry kept coming down, they pulled Edge out of retirement. This followed a big retirement reception in one of the buildings there at Ft. Lee. The guest commander and elected officials were present and all kinds of dignitaries from the city of Petersburg. They did a really big spread for him, but after he did all of that, they called him back to active duty, put him in uniform, gave him a small desk somewhere and said, “You’re going to start going back and responding to all of these congressional inquiries.”
Mrs. Hubbard told me about an occasion when Col. Edge went in to her office and sat down, dropping his head. She said he looked as if he were hurt and angry and that he immediately started going off on Gen. Wyche.
I found out that Col. Edge; Col. Harney, the commandant; and Commanding General Larry Wyche were fraternity brothers. I had started thinking, “Why is this turning into a fraternal organization?” A couple of people from their organization called me and asked me if I was affiliated with a college fraternity and said that if I were, they would probably help me out. I said, “I’m not affiliated with a college fraternity, and why is my career hinging on whether or not I belong to a Greek fraternity? What does this have to do with the Army?”
The answer I received was, “A lot of the African-American officers have affiliations with fraternities and sororities, and they help each other out based on that.” And I was thinking, “What? What does this have to do with…?” And they said it was either that or “Are you in the Masons?” meaning the “Freemasons.”
I said, “Wait a minute.” I was upset. “You’re telling me that you want to know if I’m affiliated with the Masons or a Greek fraternity in order for me to keep my career?” and they said, “Yes. If you’re affiliated, we can probably help you, but if you’re not, there’s no one here to support you.” That’s what it came down to at Ft. Lee.
I was going to African-Americans for help. This whole story stems from the fact that yes, there was racism – organizational, systemic, whatever you want to call it. But now, I felt as if the African-Americans were in a position to be used as a tool to punish me and get rid of me so it wouldn’t be deemed as my having been persecuted or my career ending because of racism. They would try to cover up the racism by involving black folks.