Army to court-martial soldier who refused second Iraq tour

An Army mechanic who refused to deploy to Iraq for a second tour of duty will be court-martialed on desertion charges, Fort Stewart officials said Friday.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40, missed his unit's deployment flight Jan. 7. Ten days earlier, he gave his commanders notice that he planned to seek a discharge as a conscientious objector, saying he had become opposed to war after serving in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Fort Stewart commanders contend Benderman had an obligation to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Forward Support Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division, as ordered while the Army processed his objector application.

Benderman will be tried by a general court-martial, the most serious form of court-martial, on charges of desertion and missing movement. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison, reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge.

Military courts can also opt for no punishment, even for defendants found guilty. No trial date has been set.

Benderman did not immediately return a phone call Friday from The Associated Press.

Military law defines a deserter as a soldier who either leaves the military with no intention to return or to "avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service."

The second charge, missing movement, accuses Benderman of intentionally skipping his deployment flight.

RUSS BYNUM Associated Press
© 2005 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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