Members of a Tennessee National Guard unit are being accused of “dishonorable conduct” while they were on an aid mission overseas –in an area of Africa known for human trafficking.

The US Army has launched a criminal investigation into the actions of the 775th Engineering Detachment- from Jackson, TN.

The unit was sent to the horn of Africa to help dig water wells in and around Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, and across the border in Ethiopia.

U.S. Army Sgt. Roy Hayes (left), and Spc. Andrew Collins stand by their equipment while drilling a well in Dikhil, Djibouti, Feb. 20, 2009. Both are part of the 775th Well Drilling Detachment, which falls under the 194th Engineer Battalion, a part of the Tennessee Army National Guard. The detachment is deployed to Africa in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, the primary mission of which is to help Africans solve African challenges.. . (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph L. Swafford Jr./Released).

U.S. Army Sgt. Roy Hayes (left), and Spc. Andrew Collins stand by their equipment while drilling a well in Dikhil, Djibouti, Feb. 20, 2009. Both are part of the 775th Well Drilling Detachment, which falls under the 194th Engineer Battalion, a part of the Tennessee Army National Guard. The detachment is deployed to Africa in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, the primary mission of which is to help Africans solve African challenges.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph L. Swafford Jr./Released).

The Tennessee soldiers allegedly disregarded warnings from a captain, “That there was an issue with human trafficking in the area.”

A military investigation revealed that the soldiers were given training in early July and were told about the human trafficking issue, and that “women often ended up stranded in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, while trying to make it over to the Middle East.”

During that training they were told, “not to engage in using prostitutes.” But it looks like some of the soldiers didn’t heed the warnings. Before and after the training, military investigators found “probable cause” that  9 of the 19 soldiers had sex with prostitutes either at an off-base residence in Djibouti or at the Samrat Hotel in Dire Dawa.

Regional experts say poverty on that part of the continent makes people desperate, and it’s not uncommon for them to try and ‘eke out a living’ by selling themselves.

A local prostitute, Tina,  told a photographer in an interview, “The best is to find an American soldier”  She continued to say “The French are the most generous clients; they pay for our apartments so that we don’t have to work. But sooner or later, they all go back to their wives.”

One sergeant blurted out during interviews later on, that “several women were younger than his daughter.” But the age of his daughter was blacked out in the documents obtained by WSMV.

One lieutenant reportedly did do something after seeing the soldiers bring prostitutes back to their hotel rooms. The documents show that a lieutenant said “senior leaders” were taking prostitutes to a room where their weapons and secret documents were stored, and where a secure communications system was kept.

Many believe the soldiers also committed security violations while engaging in this “dishonorable conduct.”

But during interviews, the soldiers claimed that no classified material was compromised.

Some of the soldiers have hired attorneys and are not talking. Many of them did not want to give up their phones, which may contain evidence of criminal actions.

Human trafficking experts say the National Guard needs to explain what happened.

“To perpetuate that absolutely counters everything that we should be there to do,” said Derri Smith, executive director of End Slavery, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit. “I think it if was your daughter or your niece, you would think it was a big deal,” Smith said.

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