PORTLAND, Ore. – Army Spc. Suzanne Swift spent five months in a seacoast town hiding out, smoking cigarettes and reading. Meanwhile, her military police unit was half a world away in Iraq.
It was the second tour of duty in Iraq for the 54th Military Police Company. But Swift couldn't take part because she had been sexually harassed by three noncommissioned officers, her mother said.
The 22-year-old was charged Wednesday with being absent without leave and missing movement. The latter means she wasn't with her company when it left in January for its four-month tour of duty, said Fort Lewis spokeswoman Sgt. Maj. Yolanda Choates.
Swift, of Eugene, could face a reprimand or a court-martial, Choates said. She was arrested at her home in Eugene in June.
Swift, who served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005, claimed she had been harassed or abused by three noncommissioned officers — two in Iraq and one at Fort Lewis.
The Army said it was able to substantiate one allegation, involving an officer at Fort Lewis, and took disciplinary action. But it said it was unable to substantiate allegations that one officer in Iraq sexually harassed her and another forced her into a sexual relationship.
The Army said it had delayed disciplinary action to conduct a "thorough, impartial investigation" into her allegations of sexual harassment and said that Swift, on the advice of her lawyer, did not provide a sworn statement to investigators.
Her mother, Sara Rich of Eugene, said her daughter suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and should have a medical discharge to deal with it. She has been traveling to talk to groups that have taken up Swift's cause.
Rich said that as her daughter prepared to deploy in January she realized she couldn't go through with it.
She "froze with her keys in her hand and said, 'I can't do it,' " Rich said.