More than a dozen senior Drug Enforcement Administration agents, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, claim their bosses at the law enforcement agency ridiculed their military service, and assigned them to jobs their war injuries made especially difficult.
The agents have filed a formal complaint with a federal watchdog agency over allegations that date back more than a decade. According to interviews obtained by Fox News, “the agents believe they were singled out from other veterans within the agency because their duties caused staffing problems.”
DEA Special Agent and Marine reservist Mark Coast was called to active duty in 2003 and served in Iraq, where he was awarded a Purple Heart. Coast told Fox News that when he returned home, his civilian boss asked him how the war treated him. When he replied that it was pretty hard, the DEA boss responded:
‘Well, you know, if you had gotten out of the reserves this wouldn’t have happened. You pretty much deserve everything you get.’
Coast claims that another DEA superior belittled his military service and said he was “playing Army.” That superior went on to say that Coast’s internal complaints about mistreatment wouldn’t matter, according to Fox.
“They called me a poisonous pansy,” DEA Special Agent Mark Coast
Coast says his superiors “went out of their way to undercut his promotion applications because of his military time away from the agency.”
An attorney for 16 agents, who are also current or former reservists, has filed a formal complaint with the Merit Services Protection Board. The agents believe they were discriminated against because their superiors fear that the loss of manpower will affect their own promotions and performance bonuses.
DEA agents across the country and at outposts around the world have similar complaints. One Army guardsman in Arizona, said his DEA supervisor told him he wasn’t “pulling his weight” because of his military obligations. Another Special Agent in Florida, an Army Ranger, says his boss called his time in Iraq a “vacation” and warned that “playing soldier” would hurt his DEA career.
A retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel now based as an agent in Honduras, said during an earlier job in California, he asked for leave for annual reservist training. Shortly after that request, the agent was transferred to an office 90 minutes away from his home. The agent claims his boss said the move was “freeway therapy” for having fulfilled his reservist obligations.
Other complainants say the agency’s bias against reservists was clear from the very beginning. One agent, who was in the military for 14 years, tells Fox he started his DEA career with a pay scale lower than his experience warranted.
Perhaps the most shocking claim comes from a Special Agent and lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard Reserves. That agent claims he found a DEA-issued Blackberry phone clumsily concealed under the hood of his SUV. He told Fox News, he believes the phone was planted to track his movements or eavesdrop on conversations with his wife, who also works for the DEA.
Officials at DEA headquarters declined to answer Fox News’ questions about all the agents’ allegations, citing the ongoing litigation.