Sensitive Equipment Stolen From Troubled U.S. Base

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Photo: Stephen Brashear/2011 Getty Images

The U.S. Army says it has launched an investigation into the disappearance of "sensitive" equipment at a military base near Fort Lewis, Washington.

The military has not said exactly what that "sensitive" equipment that has been stolen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord is. A 100-member infantry company has been put on lockdown at the joint Army and Air Force base while the investigation is conducted, reports the Associated Press.

The disappearance of equipment "sensitive" enough to lock down an entire company is alarming, and is even more concerning at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which has had more than its share of trouble in recent years. It has been called "the most troubled base in the military" and described as a "base on the brink."

The base has been a focal point for the challenges service-members face when returning home from multiple — often traumatic — deployments.  A recent Los Angeles Times profile of the Fort Lewis area detailed how suicides, murders, fights, robberies, domestic violence, drunk driving, and drug overdoses have all increased around the base as veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The local crime wave became apparent as early as 2004, when three elite Army Rangers were among a group of five men who stormed into a Bank of America in Tacoma armed with AK-47s, took over the branch and walked out with $54,011.

Over the last two years, an Iraq veteran pleaded guilty to assault after being accused of waterboarding his 7-year-old foster son in the bathtub. Another was accused of pouring lighter fluid over his wife and setting her on fire; one was charged with torturing his 4-year-old daughter for refusing to say her ABCs. A Stryker Brigade soldier was convicted of the kidnap, torture and rape or attempted rape of two women, one of whom he shocked with cables attached to a car battery; and an Iraq war sergeant was convicted of strangling his wife and hiding her body in a storage bin.

In April, 38-year-old combat medic David Stewart, who had been under treatment for depression, paranoia and sleeplessness, led police on a high-speed chase down Interstate 5 before crashing into a barrier. As officers watched, he shot himself in the head. His wife, a nurse, was found in the car with him, also shot to death. Police later found the body of their 5-year-old son in the family home."

Benjamin Colton Barnes, the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed a park ranger before drowning in a creek on Mount Rainier last week, was stationed at Lewis-McChord.

Base officials are reportedly offering a $10,000 reward for the return of the equipment.