Adam's War: The Good Boy and the 'Kill Team'

By John Goetz and Marc Hujer

Part 4: A Good Boy Turns into a Criminal

Photo Gallery: 'Terrible Things Are Happening Here' Photos
U.S. Army / REUTERS

If what the members of the kill team would later recount is true, then they literally scripted their perverted plans, which involved killing innocent civilians for no reason. They even constructed elaborate scenarios so that they could later claim they had acted in self-defense. Gibbs was the most enthusiastic participant in developing such scenarios -- and in executing them.

He left behind no evidence when killing. Whereas the others carelessly allowed themselves to be photographed, Gibbs deliberately avoided being in any compromising shots. The staff sergeant did, however, trade pornography with Afghan soldiers, getting Russian Kalashnikovs in return. His locker contained a veritable arsenal of enemy weapons that he apparently used to plant on his victims, in an attempt to present his murders as acts of self-defense.

One week after Adam Winfield told his father in a Facebook chat what was going on, the kill team went into action again, only this time he didn't accompany them. Gibbs felt he couldn't use Winfield as a foot soldier anymore and demoted him to the position of driver.

Gibbs, Morlock and Michael Wagnon -- a 30 year old from Pallyup, Washington, who was the eldest member of the team -- were the alleged perpetrators this time. The victim of the killing on Feb. 22, 2010 was an Afghan man named Marach Agha.

According to the investigation file, Gibbs had an old Kalashnikov with him, and the men worked according to the tried and tested principle that, if they left behind a Russian weapon, it would be proof of the troops' innocence.

Agha was sitting next to a wall. The Americans looked around to see whether they were alone. Gibbs fired off a few shots with the Kalaschnikov in the area, and then he took an M4 assault rifle and shot the Afghan. Once Agha was dead, Gibbs dropped the Kalashnikov at his feet.

'I'll Be With You To Do this Stuff'

Winfield, who had also learned about this murder, began telling people he was thinking of committing suicide. He suffered from feelings of guilt, which alternated with bouts of aggression. Sometimes he said he wanted to be blown up by a landmine. At other times, he implied he would prefer to shoot Gibbs. By this point, Winfield had become a threat -- not only to himself, but also to the entire kill team. Winfield's mood swings did not escape Gibbs' notice.

Winfield didn't know what to do. On the one hand, he opposed the crimes. But on the other, he wanted to at least maintain the impression that he was part of the team. "Winnie was having some issues," Morlock recalled. "He'd keep changing his views. He'd feel like, 'Yeah. That's cool. That's Gibbs' thing. Let him fucking kill guys or whatever.' Or, 'Hey, yeah. I'm on board and Gibbs, I'll be with you to do this stuff.'"

From roughly that point on, Winfield had the feeling that Gibbs was observing him with suspicion. He later stated that the others already considered him a traitor by that time: "Everyone thought that I had talked." Gibbs allegedly threatened him with a piece of pipe, and Winfield is positive that his superior meant it. According to a statement made by Morlock, another soldier in the unit warned Winfield, "Dude, Gibbs had talked about planning on taking you out, man." Winfield answered: "I fucking knew it. I knew that motherfucker was going to get me if it came down to it."

He then tried to appease Gibbs. He allegedly told his colleagues, "Let Gibbs know that I would never even think of ratting on him because I know Gibbs would fucking kill me."

According to other soldiers in the unit, it was clear to Gibbs that he could only eliminate the security risk that Winfield represented if Winfield murdered someone himself. Soldier Adam Kelly would later say that Winfield had "to take part in an orchestrated killing."

It was around this time that Morlock, Gibbs' closest confidant and right-hand man, began to worry about Winfield. Morlock had been in Afghanistan since July 2009. Sean McCoy, his hockey coach, describes him as having a violent, impulsive temperament -- he had beaten up his teammates in the locker room. Another coach described him as "a little crazy."

Morlock reported later to the investigators what Gibbs thought about Winfield. In conversations with him, Gibbs allegedly said: "Hey, you. I feel like Winnie is going to fucking rat us out." He threatened: "I'll take him out, dude. We'll go to the gym and drop a fucking weight on his chest or some shit like that."

And then came the day when Adam Winfield finally crossed the line -- the day when the good boy who wanted to fight in a just war turned into a criminal. Two-and-a-half months had passed since he confided to his father on Facebook.

As the kill team left for another routine patrol on May 2, 2010, Winfield initially wasn't even part of the unit. But then the responsible officer ordered that Winfield should go along to strengthen the team.

Morlock and Gibbs also went along, according to investigators. Once again, Gibbs had a hand grenade with him. The plan was that Morlock would later leave it next to the victim in order to divert suspicion from the group.

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US Army Responds
On the date of the original publication of this feature, March 21, the United States Department of Defense issued the following Army statement in response:

"Today DER SPIEGEL published photographs depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army. We apologize for the distress these photos cause."


Map: Location of FOB Ramrod Zoom
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Map: Location of FOB Ramrod


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