EAST MACHIAS, Maine — It appears that U.S. Army Sgt. Casey Kilton can forget about attending his grandmother’s Sept. 9 funeral service in Roque Bluffs.
The 30-year-old mechanic now stationed in Grafenwoehr, Germany, had been granted emergency leave and had taken out a loan to buy plane tickets to attend services for his father’s mother, Alta Kilton, who died Aug. 22 at age 85. He was scheduled to arrive back in his hometown of East Machias from Germany on Wednesday.
That was before what’s described by Kilton as a midnight raid on his home in Grafenwoehr by U.S. military and German police and bomb squads investigating a tip that he had 50 pounds of explosives hidden there as bomb-making materials. A search determined he didn’t, but not before Kilton was taken away in handcuffs and he, his wife, the couple’s 8-year-old daughter and a visiting friend were detained overnight. Although the tip proved groundless, Kilton’s leave remains canceled, and he’s been forced to relinquish his plane ticket.
“The chain of command here, from my sergeant major on up, is treating me like I’ve done some crime,” Kilton said Thursday from Germany in a phone interview with the Bangor Daily News. “I had borrowed money from the Army Emergency Relief Fund to get plane tickets to be with my family. Now they tell me I can’t go because my house is unlivable for a child.”
The day after his detention, Kilton said, the Army inspected his household, which had just been turned upside down by the search for explosives that weren’t there. They found unfolded sheets in the laundry room and beds that were unmade, he said.
“My daughter, being 8, has plenty of toys, and her room was a mess,” he said. “When they did the search they tore up the rest of the house.”
Kilton suspects this whole “bizarre” episode is the result of a Facebook posting that he thinks was somehow intercepted and misinterpreted. He had described online a substance marketed as Tannerite, an ammonium nitrate/aluminum powder used primarily in long-distance target practice with high-velocity firearms. Detonations of Tannerite targets occur at a very high velocity, producing a large explosion and a cloud of smoke. Possession of it is legal in the United States, and Kilton said he ordered 10 pounds to be shipped to East Machias so that he and a friend could shoot targets while Kilton was home on leave.
“It’s made for use with long-distance targets,” he said. “When you’re shooting at a target from 800 meters, it’s hard to know if you’ve hit it unless it lights up when you do.”
Kilton said he’s never possessed Tannerite in Germany, where he has been stationed for two years near the Czech Republic border after two tours in Iraq during his seven-year stint in the military.
“I think that the reason I’m being treated this way is that the chain of command here is upset that I came up on what they call ‘the blotter,’ when I was arrested on suspicion of possessing explosives,” he said. “It made them look bad. Even though I was cleared of any wrongdoing, they’re still treating me like I did some crime.”
Kilton’s mother, Donna, is “stressed out” by the notion that her son won’t be allowed to attend the Sept. 9 memorial service and has sought help from the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and the White House in getting her son’s emergency leave reinstated.
Attempts by the Bangor Daily News to reach U.S. Army officials in Germany and at the Pentagon for comment were not successful.
Collins’ spokesperson Kevin Kelley said Friday that the senator’s office had contacted the office of Army Congressional Affairs for more information. “In response, the Army indicated that it would not provide further information because of an ongoing investigation,” Kelley said.
Donna Kilton said Thursday, “This is a nightmare, and I haven’t slept at all since this happened on Monday. He was supposed to be home by 11 on Wednesday night. He should be here now, and why they are holding him there we just don’t know. Ours is a big and close-knit family, and Casey was very close to his grandmother. We haven’t seen him in a little over two years.”
Although his mother is doing a full-court press to get her son’s leave reinstated, Kilton said Thursday he is not optimistic that he’ll be back to Maine anytime soon.
“My sergeant major told me that, once he makes a decision, he doesn’t change his mind,” Kilton said.