G.I. Jerk

Phil Haberman claims he fought with special forces in Iraq, but he's about as real as Rambo

Not included in the affidavit was Haberman's explanation of what happened while he was in the ER in Iraq and casualties started pouring in from the field.

"I forgot about the pain and asked them if there was anything I could do to help them since I was a medic back home," Haberman wrote in a letter to RHS. "My first job was to help unload casualties from the ambulances when they came in. My life was never going to be the same again." He said he worked all day in the ER and gives graphic descriptions of men's wounds, claiming he conferred with the docs to figure out what had caused one man's wounds.

Hours later, Haberman boarded a C-141 transport plane for the flight to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany with other wounded troops. "These 43 other men with me all shared something that very few of us ever will share," Haberman wrote. "We shared an understanding of what we had just been through. What we had been through was hell."

Phil Haberman attended a court hearing in Las Vegas on August 3, 2005. His beret features the crest of Special Forces.
Phil Haberman attended a court hearing in Las Vegas on August 3, 2005. His beret features the crest of Special Forces.
Kristen Rhoad with daughter Heather.
Kristen Rhoad with daughter Heather.

After what appear to be 24 days in the Middle East, Haberman got a ticket home from suffering a fall on his tush. During that period, 106 American troops died in Iraq.

Fighting Mad

For almost 17 months, Haberman has been on "medical hold" with Delta Company at Womack Army Medical Center, a beautiful new facility at Fort Bragg. He claims he still suffers from injuries to his abdomen, knee and foot. He says he's had nine surgeries and more are scheduled.

As Haberman walks around the hospital, occasionally grimacing in pain, he is careful to refer to himself as serving in "Special Operations," a term that can encompass support units as well as Special Forces. (Haberman later admitted he wasn't "Special Forces qualified," meaning he hadn't completed the extremely rigorous training required to be a part of these elite units. His unit was simply attached to a Special Forces unit.)

To prove his expertise as a paratrooper, from a duffel bag Haberman pulls out the Gentex high-altitude parachuting mask and explains that he has been working on modifications to the mask for seven years with a government contractor, which he refuses to name. (A Gentex spokesman says Haberman has never been an employee, was not involved in modifications and is not authorized to represent or sell the masks.)

To prove she is out to ruin him, Haberman holds up a tape recorder and plays phone messages from Rhoad, who now lives in San Diego. Rhoad sounds increasingly histrionic, like an angry woman screeching into a vacuum because Haberman has blocked her calls and e-mails. "How can I divorce your stupid ass if I don't know where you are at?" she complains at one point.

Their marriage erupted in nuclear warfare when Haberman returned to Fort Bragg; he filed for an annulment in July 2004. None of Rhoad's accusations against Haberman resulted in criminal charges, but her constant complaints to his commanding officer prompted disciplinary actions. As a result, according to one military source, Haberman was demoted one rank for impersonating a higher-ranking officer.

Rhoad didn't believe he'd been seriously hurt in Iraq. In an e-mail to Rhoad soon after he left Iraq, Haberman complained "they are so infinite in their wisdom that they are saying pre-existing and no Purple Heart for me...But to be honest with you, after seeing everything that I have in the past week, I don't deserve it based on my minor injuries. The guy I saw cut in half deserves it and a lot more. I never thought...that it would be as bad as it is."

His injuries weren't slowing Haberman down. After arriving in Germany, he'd e-mailed Rhoad that he was going to Switzerland and Belgium on a hospital-organized sightseeing tour for the wounded. In May he went to Texas. That June, Rhoad was surprised to get an e-mail from a cousin in Massachusetts saying that Haberman had visited her while he was near Boston for some treatment. They'd gone to a karaoke bar together, and "They gave him a big round of applause and thanked him for what he did in Iraq," her cousin wrote.

While researching her husband's past, Rhoad discovered that despite Haberman's claims that he made $50,000 to $70,000, he'd never reported to the IRS earning more than about $12,000 a year. She found a trail of women who had agreed to help him because he was a soldier. Some took care of his dog Jake or did other favors. Several women had good experiences with him and thought Rhoad was being selfish and demanding. Others felt used and abused by Haberman.

"I don't even know you and I went and spent $200 to get your damn dog out and you haven't even so much as said thank you," one woman told him by instant message.

A female officer at Fort Bragg e-mailed Rhoad that after she agreed to take care of Jake, the dog bit a child and Haberman wouldn't reimburse her for expenses. "I hope you can do something about Phil, he is definitely poison...Phil is a liar and thinks the world revolves around him...Phil is to check into the hospital this evening...for a torn prostate or so he says. He is under the impression that they are sending him back to Iraq...someone needs to know of his instability..."

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