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Drill Sergeant Into Spandex and Torture
Virginian-Pilot  |  April 26, 2007
A Fort Eustis drill sergeant will spend six months in prison for having inappropriate personal relationships with three trainees in his command.

Staff Sgt. Edmundo Estrada was court-martialed Monday for his actions during a 15-month period at the post, where he oversaw low- ranking soldiers, many just out of boot camp.

Estrada, a drill sergeant with the 1-222nd Aviation Regiment, 8th Transportation Brigade since 2005, pleaded guilty to violating regulations not to develop relationships with subordinates and three counts of mistreating the three male soldiers.

Estrada said in court he had one-on-one interactions with each soldier. He asked each one to pose for what he called body- building photos, urging them to take their shirts off and wear spandex shorts.

He also pressured the soldiers to act out torture scenes from a movie.

One of his victims who testified Monday, a private first class now stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, approached Estrada for help after he was caught cheating on an exam.

Estrada testified he told the private he would help if the soldier re-created torture scenes from an unnamed movie. He threatened to stop helping and move the soldier out of the barracks unless he posed for the pictures, according to testimony.

Estrada, a married father of two, could have faced nine years in prison. He pleaded guilty to two of the three charges, a total of six counts, in exchange for the six-month sentence, reduction in rank to sergeant and a bad conduct discharge.

During testimony, Estrada told the judge, Lt. Col. Theresa Gallagher, he took the photos to mark soldiers' weight-lifting progress.

The original charges Estrada faced specified that the torture scenes he wanted soldiers to act out came from a pornographic film, but that reference was deleted as part of the plea. Wording indicating that Estrada sought sexual gratification from these actions were also excised from the charges.

The judge repeatedly questioned why Estrada violated strict regulations prohibiting drill sergeants from personal interactions with trainees, as well as those prohibiting instructors from entering trainee barracks rooms, which Estrada also acknowledged doing.

At one point Monday, Estrada said the photographs were to improve the trainees' self-esteem. Later, under questioning from the judge, he said he did it to degrade them.

He also acknowledged, when pressed, that he took the photos for his own viewing and did not return them to the soldiers as promised.

Estrada further acknowledged he never began a body-building program with any of the soldiers, and only talked about it with them.

The victim who testified Monday choked up during testimony, saying he became depressed, nervous and withdrawn after his interactions with Estrada.

Estrada also got emotional during the eight-hour hearing, especially when talking about how much he loved the Army. He acknowledged acting improperly as a drill sergeant. When pushed, he said, "I hurt them more than I helped them."

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