Soldier: Commander Influenced Whistle-Blower's Mental Exam

A National Guard commander told a mental health counselor to change an evaluation to show that a serviceman who accused fellow soldiers of abusing Iraqi prisoners was mentally unfit, another soldier says.

The commander has refused to comment on the allegation. And it is not clear whether the evaluation was, in fact, changed.

Sgt. Greg Ford of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion (search) has said he was stripped of his duties and ordered to see combat-stress counselors after reporting that three fellow soldiers in the California National Guard (search) unit brazenly abused Iraqi detainees during interrogations in Samarra (search) last year. He said the soldiers choked detainees, threatened them with guns and stuck lit cigarettes in their ears.

Ford was placed under the supervision of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Marciello, a team leader in the battalion. In an interview this week, Marciello said he was ordered to watch Ford's behavior at all times.

He said unit commanders believed something must have been wrong with Ford for making such "wild" claims against his fellow soldiers.

Marciello said that after a mental health evaluation came back saying Ford was OK, he witnessed a company commander in the 223rd, Capt. Vic Artiga, ask a counselor to change her evaluation.

"The company commander requested that this woman reconsider the end result of her analysis," Marciello said.

He said he did not know what the final report said.

"Something happened for them to take Greg away," Marciello said. "After a short discussion, they agreed to refer him to Germany for further evaluation. Then the following day, Greg was gone."

Ford has said that he underwent psychiatric evaluations at military installations in Germany and San Antonio, Texas, and that those evaluations found nothing wrong with him.

Ford said the counselor who evaluated him in Iraq was Capt. Merle Madera of the 113th Medical Company. She did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Artiga would not say whether he influenced Ford's mental evaluation. And he defended his soldiers against Ford's abuse accusations.

"I know they conducted all their obligations legally, morally and ethically," he said.

Marciello said he had never worked with Ford until after the sergeant made the allegations, and could not corroborate his claims of abuse.

Ford, 49, said he was a state prison guard for 18 years. He has since returned home to the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks. His unit, the San Francisco-based 223rd, returned home in March.