Gul Mudin was 15 years old, a farmer working in a poppy field in the tiny village of La Mohammad Kalay in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Members of the U.S. Army 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company had rolled into the settlement that morning, Jan. 15, 2010, mounted on Stryker armored vehicles. The platoon's mission was to sweep La Mohammad Kalay and root out anyone found to be supporting the Taliban.
Among the soldiers in the platoon was Pfc. Andrew Holmes, then 19, of Boise. Holmes and Spc. Jeremy Morlock, then 21, split off from their fellow soldiers and wandered toward the edge of town. There they saw Gul Mudin, working alone in the field. They shouted to him, telling him to stay still. He complied and Holmes and Morlock killed him with a grenade and gunfire.
Images of the kill can be found online. One shows Holmes, kneeling in his high-tech U.S. Army kit, a machine gun slung across his chest and a cigarette in his left hand. In his right hand, a fistful of Gul Mudin's hair, holding up the boy's blood smeared head—mouth agape—like a hunting trophy. Blood can be seen spattered on the dirt and running down Gul Mudin's exposed back—at some point, his pants had been stripped off and piled on his waist. His limbs are willowy and his feet are shoeless.
It is plain brutality, clear victimization and casual sadism.
Holmes was convicted of war crimes and served five years in prison for the murder. Morlock, who pleaded guilty to three counts of premeditated murder, received 24 years in prison. Other members of the so-called "Kill Team" were also sentenced to prison, including Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who is serving a life sentence on 15 counts of premeditated murder.
Former Boise Weekly intern and freelance writer Lizzy Duffy profiles Holmes in his first interview since being released from prison and returning home to Boise in October 2015. Holmes talks about the groupthink that led to the murder and how he is trying to put his life back together.
You won't find that image of Gul Mudin's body in this story, but I suggest you keep his name in your mind as you read it.