David M. Bresnahan
TAMPA, Fla. -- Two US.
F-16 pilots, along with those in their chain of command, have been
blamed for a "friendly fire" incident the cost the lives of
four Canadian soldiers and injured eight more.
Investigation Board found the cause of the friendly fire incident to be
the failure of the two pilots to exercise appropriate flight discipline,
which resulted in a violation of the rules of the engagement and an
inappropriate use of lethal force," announced U.S. Marine Lt. Gen.
Michael P. DeLong, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, Friday.
"The board further
found that failings within the pilots' immediate command structures,
while not causing the incident were contributing factors," the
told reporters at a news conference. The investigation board was co-led
by a U.S. and a Canadian general officer.
Canadian Brig. Gen.
Michael Gauthier, operational commander for Canada's 2,000-strong
military contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, was in attendance
for the announcement. He told reporters that the shock of the incident
was felt by the entire 22 nation coalition in Tampa. "The
friendship and trust among the allies in this campaign extends beyond
the color of our national uniforms," he said.
There are now 35
nations in the growing coalition, and DeLong said it was like a
"team," or a "family."
Gauthier said he
believes the Canadian public still supports Canada's contribution and
the role it has to play in the war on terrorism.
Soldiers from Alpha
Company, 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry,
were engaged in night time live-fire training at Tarnak Farms Range,
Afghanistan, just south of Kandahar. The F-16s, passing over the area
reported seeing "fireworks," according to the coalition
aircraft, perceiving this as surface-to-air fire, asked and received
permission from an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft
to determine the precise coordinates of the source of the surface-to-air
fire," DeLong said. "While attempting to obtain the
coordinates, the wingman, flying with the lead, requested permission to
fire on the location with his 20 mm cannon.
"The AWACS told
him to stand by," he said, "and the AWACS later requested the
wingman provide additional information on the surface-to-air fire while
directing him to 'hold fire.' The wingman provided the requested
information to the AWACS and then, declaring self-defense, rolled in on
DeLong said, "(the wingman) released a 500-pound laser-guided bomb
that impacted a Canadian firing position at Tarnak Farms Range. Four
Canadians were killed, eight wounded. All the wounded soldiers were
immediately evacuated from the area for medical treatment."
Army Gen. Tommy R.
Franks approved the report and has forwarded on to the Air Force for
"All ranges of
disciplinary actions are open," DeLong said. "It's the service
Policies and procedures
may be changed to avoid similar problems in the future.
"Any time we have
an incident like this, we look at what happened. If there were
deficiencies, we make the changes right then so we can get on with
either the operation or training, whatever the event happens to
be," explained DeLong.
Reporters pushed for
greater detail of the incident and the board's recommendations, but
DeLong refused to provide the information. He insisted that because the
investigation will continue by the Air
Force additional information can only be obtained upon completion.
"We have come
through this tragedy with a renewed commitment to the coalition and its
objectives," Gauthier continued. "We're here together to
demonstrate our joint resolve to help bring a measure of closure to
those affected by the loss of these fine young soldiers."
© David M. Bresnahan - All Rights
David M. Bresnahan [email protected]
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