The U.S. soldier accused of going on a rampage and killing 16 Afghan civilians in their homes, identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, arrived today at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Bales, 38, a husband and father of two, was serving on his fourth combat deployment in 10 years, the first three in Iraq. He was on his first tour in Afghanistan, where he'd been since December.
The combat veteran is accused of leaving his remote base Camp Belambay in the middle of the night Sunday and walking about a mile to an Afghan village where he broke into homes and killed 16 civilians, mostly women and children.
The plane carrying Bales from Kuwait landed at Kansas City International Airport about 10 p.m. ET under tight security, the Associated Press reported.
Bales is expected to be charged with 16 counts of murder, charges that could bring the death penalty. Those charges could be filed as early as Saturday.
Pentagon officials said that Bales' being brought back to the U.S. does not necessarily mean that his military court procedings will be held in the U.S., holding out the possibility that they could be held in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is demanding that Bales be tried in Afghanistan.
Bales' alleged murderous rage is in stark contrast to what he said after a fierce battle in Zarqa, Iraq, in 2007.
"I've never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day for the simple fact that we discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us," he told Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.
"I think that's the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm's way like that," Bales said at the time.
Bales was first deployed in November 2003 when his unit spent a year in Mosul, Iraq.
In June 2006 he and his unit were sent back to Iraq and their year-long deployment was given a three month extension until September 2007. During that time, he saw duty in Mosul in the north, Bagdad when the city was pressed by militants, and then to Baquba where his unit took major casualties.
His final Iraq deployment was from September 2009 to September 2010 in Diyala province, which was also a hotbed of insurgent activity.
In December 2011, he was ordered to Afghanistan.
Kassie Holland, a neighbor in Lake Tapp, Wash., where Bales lived, told the Associated Press that him playing with his two kids.
"My reaction is that I'm shocked," she said. "I can't believe it was him. There were no signs... He always had a good attitude about being in the service. He was never really angry about it. When I heard him talk, he said, it seemed like, yeah, that's my job. That's what I do. He never expressed a lot of emotion toward it."
The Army's Criminal Investigative Command is conducting the investigation into the shooting rampage and will forward their results to the military chain of command.
John Henry Browne, Bales' lawyer in Seattle, told The Associated Press Thursday that the soldier had witnessed his friend's leg blown off the day before the massacre.
Bales reportedly spent his entire 11-year career at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and lived not too far from the base. Originally from the Midwest, he was deployed with the Second Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in December.
Browne said that he was highly decorated and had once been nominated for a Bronze Star though he did not receive it. He also lost part of a foot because of a combat injury.
"He's never said anything antagonistic about Muslims. He's in general very mild-mannered," Browne told the AP.
Bales reportedly left Camp Belambay, where he was stationed to protect Special Operation Forces creating local militias, in the middle of the night wearing night-vision goggles, according to a source. The shooting occurred at 3 a.m. in three houses in two villages in the Panjway district of southern Kandahar province.