Sergeant Major Richard Cayton; phony POW (Updated)

| October 7, 2015

Cayton Retirement

This is the curious case of Sergeant Major Richard Cayton who had a superior career as an enlisted soldier from 1969 to 1995, including service in Vietnam with Gulf Company Rangers, he was a first sergeant in the 1st Ranger Battalion, he made brief appearances in Grenada and in Somalia. He’s pretty well decorated as you can see from his records;

Cayton FOIA

Cayton Assignments (2)

Cayton Assignments

Cayton Awards 1

Cayton Awards

The problems come on this page of his 2-1 Personnel Qualification Record where it says he was a POW in Vietnam, because he wasn’t;

Cayton 2-1

The Chicago Tribune did an article about him in 2008 that has since been dropped from their archives, but still available at the Wayback Machine;

The Schantags first heard about Richard Cayton in 2002, after an article in the Killeen Daily Herald in Texas detailed how victims of various hardships survive. One of those victims was Cayton.

“They did degrading, inhumane things to us,” Cayton said of his purported captors.

Cayton was a decorated soldier who retired in 1995 with the rank of command sergeant major after more than three decades in the Army, according to his military records.

But the Schantags, who have come to know many POWs, did not recognize Cayton’s name. They checked online; Cayton was not listed, so they wrote to the Army.

That prompted an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and a review by federal prosecutors. That investigation, according to documents and interviews, found probable cause for the belief that Cayton had falsified his military documents to show he was a POW.

As part of a pretrial agreement in September 2006, Cayton agreed to stop making those claims and to correct his military records, according to Army documents.

The old POW Network took down their pages, but reconstituted some of their more egregious phonies like Cayton at the Fake Warrior Project along with some of the mail from his lawyer before the trial that finally shut him up. He’s trying to rehabilitate his image and I just want to let him know that he’s still on our radar.

UPDATE: We got a hold of the FOIA for Cayton’s pre-trial diversion records from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID). They redacted his name from the record, but trust me, it’s Cayton;

Cayton convictionCayton Conviction 2Cayton Conviction 3

Cayton Conviction 4Cayton Conviction5

Category: Phony soldiers

Comments (61)

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  1. Old Trooper says:

    All I can ask is; why?

    Perfectly honorable career. Did more than a lot of guys. I just don’t get it.

    • Hondo says:

      “Perfectly honorable career”? You damn him with faint praise, Old Trooper.

      According to his records, the man had 2 Silver Stars, 2 BSM w/V, service in combat and with Ranger units, had the CIB and “master-blaster” jump wings with a combat jump, and ended his career as (apparently) the freaking FORSCOM CSM. He received the freaking DSM as well – which generally is an EOT or retirement award for a GO. “Perfectly honorable” doesn’t begin to do all of that justice IMO. “Storybook” is more like it.

      And he had to go sh!t all over all of his exceptional service by trying to play for sympathy by falsely claiming to be a POW, when no – he wasn’t. If his cock-and-bull story was true, he’d be listed in the linked document below. He’s not – and when later confronted, he appears to have obliquely admitted he was lying.

      Then again, the archived Chicago Trib article Jonn links above indicates “me first” attitude and conduct in this guy from early on in his career. So while I’m disgusted and saddened to see this, I can’t say I’m shocked.

      For some people, nothing is ever enough.

      • Old Trooper says:

        Well, I didn’t want to build it up, since he took a steamer all over it. Yes, he was a stud, but took it sideways. That’s why I said “perfectly honorable”.

      • Bobo says:

        According to the update, it looks like the DSM was faked, too. I’s also question a few of those PHs.

        • Hondo says:

          Hadn’t seen the update when I wrote the above commend, Bobo. I don’t believe a DSM for a retiring 4-star command’s CSM is very common, but I don’t think it’s completely unheard of either. Not sure, though.

          Having said that, I can’t say I’m surprised to find out his DSM is fake too. And yes: given the other known facts here, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find out that some of Cayton’s PHs were bogus, too.

          As I said above: for some people, nothing is ever enough.

          • Green Thumb says:

            I am confused here.

            So not only is his “POW” status bs, he is claiming other fake awards and decorations?

      • GDContractor says:

        There’s a comment on the Fake Warriors page (linked above) that implies Clayton’s father was the Bn SGM during the time that his son was in Vietnam, in the same Bn.

        At least I think that is what the comment is implying.
        “Cayton’s father was the Bn Sergeant Major when I got there. I saw him again at Ft Bragg sometime in 74….

        To my knowledge he never wore 2 Silver Stars while I was there. He may have waited until his Father was reassigned. I heard about the phony attack….., but don’t have any first hand knowledge of the incident. He did drive a new BMW which was strange for his rank and not the kind of vehicle someone would drive in Fairbanks Alaska. D.”

        According to other comments there, it seems perhaps that someone named Cayton had a habit and reputation of detonating grenades to simulate enemy attack.

        Sounds like Daddy didn’t love him enough maybe.

        • sourpaper says:

          Came upon this site today and while scrolling thru I was in total shock when I came upon CSM Cayton. The haunting memories that I have of him to this day from years ago it was like carma finally caught up to him. Let me explain myself. When I joined the Army in 1980 i joined the 1st Bn 75th Rangers. Once i reported to RIP, Cayton was my 1st SGT. He never missed an oppurtunity to “beat his chest” to us students in reference to his vietnam experiences. Being young and so naive (and a bit scare of him)we never question anything he said (signing your own death sentence). However I can not recall one single soldier that cared for him. After graduating from RIP they marched us down to the RGR BN barracks and placed us into various companies. Some months later CSM Cayton became our 1st SGT of Charlie Company. I remember thinking this is just f’in great, its got to be a mistake, out of the 4 companies in the BN how and why did we get him! Hell was following me around and of course he remembered me! As time went on this SOB of a 1st sgt and leader was just demoralizing to the company. Now what i am about to tell you is the Ranger God truth: various times he would give us classes on being a POW. The do’s and dont’s i quess you might say. He use to tell us how he was captured and how the “cong” would tie him to a standing post and with his arms tied above his head and being tortured for days. He would speak on how the maggots saved his life by eating the rot from his wounds. He told us that the scare on his face was from a knife inflected on him while being tied up. His wounds was from being shot prior to his capture and the rest was from his captures! I believe he said that he was a POW for 7-9 days (I do forget which)or something on that nature. I do not know if this rumor was BN wide or just company level, but I do know and remember the rumor was going around that he would be on patrol while in Vietnam and he would pull the pin on a frag and toss it any yell grenade and start shooting afterwards. All that i have stated about his being a POW and the grenade incidents was from time period of 1980-1984, WTF…no one questioned anything back then on him. Its hard to believe that this man lead a company of Army Rangers and he was a fraud the whole damn time…again, carma. To whom shall read what I have stated I want all to know that I have not and did not fabricate one damn bit of my story on CSM Cayton. I swear upon my Ranger Tab itself. I did not like the man then and I hate him now for what he has done. He is a discredit to all rangers.

    • streetsweeper says:

      Simple, Old Trooper. *GREED* Wonder if he still fly’s that Cessena twin engine he had.

      • Hondo says:

        I didn’t originally think so, but you may be right. The CID ROI says he got $51k+ in unauthorized VA bennies. I’m guessing that’s free medical care due to his “former POW” status.

        Hope it was worth it to him.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      I have to echo Old Trooper. I do not get it.

      When or IF we get an explanation for this, other than attention-whoring and greed, I hope it’s included here.

  2. OldSarge57 says:

    I would say it was probably the same reason for a lot of these Bozos: Money.

  3. Bobo says:

    He was one of my favorites on Mary’s old site. Man, I miss the POW Network.

  4. 68W58 says:

    This is the kind of career that us mere mortals stand in awe of, a real “been there, done that” stud…and then you read the letter in one of the links where the sister of a guy who died of his wounds in Vietnam is writing asking for the record to be corrected because of lies that this guy told. I never thought I would see anything that would make me lose respect for someone with that many awards for valor-but, yep, that did it.

  5. CAARNG 68W says:

    Jesus, Joseph and Mary.

    THIS Soldier is THEE Goddamn, mothafuckin’ example of a certified badass. I really just don’t fuckin’ get it – WHY?!

    I tell the Joe’s in my Guard unit all the time when Stolen Valor comes up (oh, and it’s been coming up more and more recently), it’s not always the career-civilians you gotta watch out for.

  6. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    It’s rather interesting how POW status has evolved over time, at least in the US. The first question regarding a POW is how the POW came to be captured. Was he ordered to surrender by his superiors? Was he wounded and unable to defend himself? Was he shot down or pulled from the sea? Or did he elect to give up, to preserve his own life rather than die fighting? There seems to be a presumption that POWs are never of the last variety but, of course, that’s not always true. What’s more, being a POW somehow, nowadays, seems to be on par with being a Medal of Honor recipient. I really don’t get it, but that’s okay. I’ll just add it to the list of things I’ll never understand. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I am not disparaging POWs in any way, shape, or form. But there is a reason fellows like Clayton here regard being a POW as enviable and supremely honorable in and of itself. And that’s the part I do not get.

    • AZtoVA says:

      Cav, I agree with you, and I believe most of those I serve with feel the same.

      Personally I believe the fake-POW claims are more for gaining sympathy from civilians than respect from military/veterans.

    • Geetwillickers says:

      I refer you once again to the Chief Doctrine of the Church of the Infallible Victim:

      Victims can do no wrong.

      In our society today, to be a victim lifts you above the rabble and entitles you to an entire world of benefits that you never had as a non-victim.

      Thus, folks who are seeking a way to elevate themselves, may see being a POW as the gateway to victim status, and thus, to societal elevation. Hence: Fake POWs.

      Another note – Just reading the info above, (I didn’t click over to the other site, or peruse his records carefully…) I begin to wonder how many of those other decorations were manipulated or outright forged, just as the POW status that he managed to have placed in his records.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      It’s easy to understand why someone would pretend to be a “Hero.” Heroes are venerated and admired, they are looked up to and respected and this has been true in most cultures throughout history.

      It’s also easy to understand (as Geetwillickers state) that in our modern culture, people would pretend to be “victims” because we have elevated “victim-hood” to nearly the equal of “heroism.”

      So in that sense, the fake POW makes sense because he is the ultimate melding of the two: The “Hero-Victim.”

      The Hero-Victim is strong and tough. He is allowed to criticize anybody for any reason without any reply. He is allowed to boast of his heroic deeds and bask in the admiration of his adoring fans.

      But he’s also wounded and hurt, and therefore if he drinks too much, beats his wife, or robs a liquor store, lies on an employment application – hey, give the guy a break! He’s a VICTIM. And he’s a HERO.

      “HERO-VICTIM”, the ultimate cultural super hero!

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        Ah. The light. I see the light!

      • Geetwillickers says:

        Martinjmpr – bullseye. I had not correlated the two statuses before now, but you are spot on. Yet another icon for worship in the Church of the Infallible Victim has now been named.

  7. Green Thumb says:


  8. Guard Bum says:

    kind of makes you wonder what else in his records is altered….falsifying a 2-1 goes beyond mere telling of tales.

  9. Luddite4Change says:

    He was our post CSM at Ft. Hood when I was an LT. Seemed like a good guy (for gosh sakes he was the JSOC CSM at one point).


  10. GDContractor says:

    Gotta love the Wayback Machine.
    Reading that Tribune article could make a guy wonder what else he falsified over the years.

    PFC Barry Howard Berger, not forgotten.
    SSG David Lee Meyer, not forgotten.

    • GDContractor says:

      “… wonder what else he falsified over the years.”

      Well, thanks to the “update” of the CID investigation, I did not have to wonder for long. Paraphrasing here: Apparently [Redacted] claimed he was cut by 5 unidentified black males while in Alaska. [Redacted] was later found to have cut himself.

      • AZtoVA says:

        Brings into question all of his awards, similar to a certain Commissioned Officer from Vietnam that was listed then de-listed on these pages last month. Wrote himself up for the vast majority of his valor awards.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        CID became suspicious when they discovered that there were only 3 black men in Alaska at that time. 😀

      • GDContractor says:

        What “cuts” you might ask.

        Well apparently it was part of his POW make-believe: “A tragic loss, a faith-shaking, demoralizing blow. But, not as much for a military-trained veteran. A survivor. Shot nine times in his combat career. A decorated hero. Escaping and evading the enemy for 31 days in the Vietnam jungle. An indelible scar shows on his face, where the Viet Cong cut and tortured him.”

        Scuttlebut in the SOCNET commentary is that he did not have those scars when he arrived at his Alaska duty station. What’s that term I am thinking of…. oh yeah, it’s “malice aforethought”. Also, the paragraph above begins by referencing a fire at his business. Of which he said, “”At the time, I didn’t think it was a blessing,” observes Rick Cayton, “but it turned out to be a godsend.””

        Hmmmmm. Business burned to the ground but it turned out to be a Godsend. Must be nice.

        Also mention in the comments on SOCNET that his SSM’s (qty. 2) have no accompanying citations but take that for what it is worth. No idea if that can be substantiated.

  11. OldSoldier54 says:

    Curious indeed, Jonn.

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive …

  12. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Cayton had to wear too large a jacket for his body just to accommodate his grapefruit. And then this.

  13. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Grapefruit? Yeah, grapefruit. Too much Thera Flu.

  14. mr. sharkman says:

    It could very well be a different person, but the picture and name sort of ring a bell.

    I recall hearing about a ‘storybook’ Ranger from some other Rangers, and claims of putting guys at additional risk in combat in order to ‘set up’ circumstances where an award for valor could be dishonorably yet legitimately claimed.

    I am far from 100% certain this is the guy attached to the tales that I recall. Maybe go see what the Rangers at or have to say about him.

  15. mr. sharkman says:

    Same guy.

    Read this for some in-house Ranger insight on this guy:

  16. Martinjmpr says:

    Jonn, at the risk of being pedantic, I don’t see a ‘conviction.’ Reading the CID investigative report it looks like he entered “pre-trial diversion” and agreed to amend his records and stop making POW claims.

    It’s a little hard to understand but one part of the report indicates a $50k loss to the US Government based on his claims while another part states that the VA determined his benefits would have been the same whether he actually qualified as a POW or not, making the monetary loss to the US Government $0.

    So I’m not sure if this qualifies as a “conviction.” Looks more like a wrist slap, ass chewing and “don’t do it again” to me.

    • streetsweeper says:

      The US Attorney (Waco) wouldn’t pursue the case, IIRC. Kept stonewalling CID…there was something else but I forget what it was.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        Yeah, that’s why I find use of the term “conviction” to be problematic. It appears that Cayton admitted wrongdoing but unless there was some kind of formal conviction entered into the record, I don’t think you can call it a “conviction” and doing so might actually be considered libelous.

        • 2/17 Air Cav says:

          I understood Jonn to mean that Cayton was convicted in the court of public opinion, if not in a legal forum. In any event, on the civilian side of this type of case dispositions, a guilty verdict is entered and then struck if the defendant complies with the terms of the deal struck. Thus, a defendant is convicted in then–ahem–unconvicted. Whether this common procedure applies in UCMJ cases I have no idea.

          • Martnjmpr says:

            Looks like it was referred to the AUSA which means this was a Federal criminal case, not UCMJ. I think there are circumstances where a retiree can be called back into service to face UCMJ prosecution but this does not seem to be such a case.

            Were Cayton subject to UCMJ he could indeed have been prosecuted for wearing unearned medals but in this case the “injury” alleged was theft by deception or fraud (i.e. obtaining benefits he’d otherwise not be entitled to) and once the VA official confirmed that Cayton would have received the exact same VA benefits whether he was officially designated as a POW or not pretty much ended that claim. At that point the only statute they could have gotten him on was the Stolen Valor law but I don’t know when that was enacted or when it was found to be unconstitutional. Either way, once the fraud claim vanished it seems the AUSA lost interest.

            • Hondo says:

              Don’t think the fraud claim ever went away.

              My guess would be the loss to the government was due to copayment waivers he received as a “former POW” to which he wasn’t entitled. Those invalid copayment waivers wouldn’t have affected his VA benefits one bit, but would have definitely resulted in a financial loss for Uncle Sam.

              Under current policy pretty much any vet with a VA disability rating can use the VA as their primary medical care provider. However, for those with less than a 50% VA disability rating copayments are required for care provided for non-service-connected conditions and for medications associated with the treatment for same. Those copayments are waived for those with a VA disability rating of 50% or more – and for Former POWs.


              Over a decade, those copayments can add up to a pretty penny – particularly if he was being treated for a slew of non-service-connected conditions or received a substantial amount of specialty or inpatient care. Hypothetical example: bypass surgery for a cardiac condition that did not manifest while on active duty.

              An average of $5k a year in copayments sounds like a lot. However, at $15 per routine visit/$50 per specialty visit/$252 per day for hospital stays/$8 per prescription those copayments can add up quite fast for non-service-connected conditions.

              Just one possibility. Might or might not be the case.

              • Martinjmpr says:

                Hondo: Were that the case, though, there would have been some loss to the government but if I understand the CID investigative document correctly, they are saying that the actual loss to the VA was zero.

                See the document “CaytonConviction 2” paragraph 4. Also, “CaytonConviction 4”, where Paragraph 20 indicates a loss to the US Government (referring to a VA statement from 02/06) but paragraph 29 indicates that there was no loss to the government based on a memo from the VA dated 09/06.

                • Hondo says:

                  I read item 29 as referring to an AIR – Agent Investigation Report – vice a VA memo. Without the redacted info, it’s unclear to me what organization authored the AIR in question and precisely with whom coordination was performed.

                  You’re possibly correct. But without seeing the unredacted referenced documents, it’s kinda hard to know precisely what each discussed.

  17. OldManchu says:

    Makes me proud to be a one-enlistment-wonder! If I’ve ever had regrets about not doing more time, this asshole makes me at least glad that I can be proud of my little stint.

  18. GDContractor says:

    Is it just the way they did 2-1’s back in the day or is that 2-1 jacked up?
    No dates of promotion in rank. No dates of re-enlistment.
    Shot by the enemy 9 times…no documented time receiving medical care.

    • CLAW131 says:

      GDC, that is the way your 2-1 appears when you were in the running to be the Sergeant Major of the Army. But instead of him big Army picked Gene McKinney and we all know how that worked out.

      Very crisp and pristine having been reworked many many times.

      Don’t forget, he spent his last four months in country in Vietnam as a 71L Personnel Admin (HR) clerk, so he knows how a 2-1 should look. That could be when some of his suspicious awards (no citations) showed up. All you have to do is add your name to a set of orders for other people.

  19. Mayhem says:

    He was a Toxic Leader way before the Army ever coined the phrase.

  20. Skippy says:

    WTF is wrong with our leaders !!!!!
    Climb to the top. Stellar career
    And shit all over it with a BS story
    So damn sad

    • Devtun says:

      Who knows? Maybe pissed even as a CSM at the 4 star nominative level…he makes less coin than majors.

  21. Formally known as JR says:

    Why in the fuck would you claim that in the first place? Then add the fact he has a badass record, what the fuck. Multiple silver stars and BSMs with V device, you would think you would be happy to come out of those deployments without being a POW. He went from being a badass to being a POS just to claim one medal that nobody wants.

  22. Martinjmpr says:

    OK, I wanted to respond to Hondo above but I’m putting this down at the bottom because the ever-diminishing text boxes make it hard to read. 😉

    I was wondering what an “AIR” was but nevertheless, my quibble is with the use of the term “conviction records.” I see nothing that’s been presented here that indicates that Cayton was ever “convicted” of anything. A conviction for a federal fraud charge ought to be a matter of public record and not that hard to find.

    “Pre-trial diversion” (as mentioned at the end of the document posted) may mean that he enters into an agreement whereby he admits to his wrongdoing, promises to never do it again and to correct the record and in exchange the government essentially drops the charges conditionally – conditional on his fulfilling all of his requirements including the requirement that he stay out of trouble for x number of years.

    Whether Cayton’s conduct could have resulted in a conviction or not, a pre-trial conditional agreement like that is not a “conviction” in any sense of the word.

    Given that this all apparently transpired 9 years ago, in the absence of evidence to the contrary I, as a reader, would conclude that whatever pre-trial agreement Cayton entered into he must have fulfilled and therefore he was not, in fact, “convicted” of anything.

    The public shaming is another matter, and I don’t have any qualms with that. But I do take issue with the use of the term “conviction.”

    • Hondo says:

      No argument with your main point – I’d not have used the term “conviction” either. My preference would have been to call that the “CID Report substantiating his stolen valor” (or words to that effect).

      My initial reply above was merely intended to provide a scenario showing how loss to the USG might still have occurred while the “his benefits would have been the same” statement from the VA was also true. I don’t necessary accept the latter as a given – e.g., I don’t accept without question the VA statement that his benefits would have been the same. I’m reluctant to do that based on the multiple examples of gross incompetence and blatant untruths we’ve seen from the VA over the past decade or so.

      My guess is that there was actually a loss to the government in terms of waived copayments that he’d have otherwise made – either to the VA or to TRICARE, had he opted to use TRICARE instead ov the VA. I’m thinking he used the VA as a “former POW” because it was free to him, and TRICARE would have required some copayments as a retiree. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

      Unfortunately, without seeing the full and unredacted ROI – including attachments – we’ll never really know.

    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

      Martinjumper. You are correct, but I guess you knew that. Under fed pretrial diversion, there is no conviction and there is no finding og guilt. Intsead, the defendant admits responsibility for the bad act. If he successfully completes the probationary term and fulfills the agreement he entered into, he’s free and clear. If he doesn’t, it’s back to prosecution square #1. This is in contrast to probation before judgment states where there is a tech finding of guilt, it is struck, and it stays stuck if the defendant completes probation successfully. There is no such procedure in the federal rules. So, absent additional info on Cayton, it is error to say he was convicted but just dandy to say that he acknowledged that he did the bad act(s) that could have led to a conviction.

  23. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    He. Fucked. Himself. I have no pity for him.