Monday, July 6, 2009
Something to Write About
I wrote to my Senator today.
I also wrote to the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General.
If some good came out of Jason dying with eight other boys, its that the collective unit of people grieving together is larger than most. And that's really the extent of the good that came out of Jason dying with eight other boys that I care to think about.
One of the boys Jonathan Brostrom's father Dave Brostrom is an ex military man and also a very sharp engaged man. He is the one who called for the review of the events that led to the July 13th attack and is continuing to pressure the military to learn from their mistakes. So far, not much has happened in terms of policy changes surrounding the way those boys were basically thrown into a lion's den.
The line between blame and action is a thin one and all of the surviving family members who choose to get involved skate this line as well as the line between healing the wounds and rehashing them so that they come gushing open and overwhelming our lives. It is good that this is happening only now. It has been nearly one year and I am able to process this in a somewhat rational way. If it had been any earlier, I don't know that I would have been able to.
I've written to Senator Webb and the DOD IG.
I've based both emails off the following letter that Dave Brostrom crafted with such care.
My hope by the end of the week is to create a NING site and invite all the family members to join it and share their contribution to the actions taking place around raising awareness for the mishandling of this day.
More to come later.
I'm feeling the self righteous preaching rising up in my throat, so I better stop here.
Here's Dave Brostrom's wonderful letter. And above is a picture of his son Jonathan Brostrom who was killed that morning alongside Jason.
I can only hope that Jason agrees with it and that I'm not working against his memory but rather supporting it.
The Army has submitted their investigation on Wanat to the DoD IG-no
word yet on the results. I requested the DoD IG sequester the Historical
Study that is being pursued by the Army's Fort Leavenworth Combat
Studies Institute which I feel has uncovered some significant facts not
included in the original 15-6 investigation. I met with CSI in March
2009; and discussed the ongoing study with historians there at that time
After discussions with CSI it is my opinion that there was a serious
senior leadership failure by the Battalion, Brigade, Assistant Division
and Division Commanders that directly contributed to the deaths of the 9
US soldiers and the 27 wounded of 2nd Platoon Chosen Company 2/503rd ABN
Battalion. Below are short comments as to why:
LACK OF LEADERSHIP OVERSIGHT - Wanat was part of the larger Battalion
mission called "Operation Rock Move". This operation had multiple
complex missions that required the direct oversight of the Battalion,
Brigade and Division Commanders. Occupation of Wanat and construction of
a large Combat Outpost was a critical mission task. At no time during
the occupation before the actual fighting started at Wanat did the
leadership from the Battalion, Brigade or Division visit Wanat to assess
the situation on the ground. My opinion is that the senior leadership at
all levels became overwhelmed and overcommitted leading to a severe
sense of complacency toward the mission in Wanat.
LACK OF RISK MANAGEMENT - Operation Rock Move was briefed by the
Battalion and Brigade Commander to the Assistant Division Commander
during a time when the entire 173rd was conducting a very complex
Replacement and Transfer of Authority to a Brigade from Fort Riley
Kansas. A RIP/TOA demands the focused attention of the entire NCO and
Officer Leadership at all levels of command. There is no indication that
the Division or Brigade took additional measures to reduce the risk to
the troops on the ground and help focus the Battalion and Brigade
Leadership on Operation Rock Move versus the Transfer of Authority.
Sworn statements from the Battalion Commander indicate that the only
risk reduction measure taken was to assign the Chosen Company Commander
to oversee the occupation and construction of the COP at Wanat. The
Company Commander did not show up on site at Wanat until late in the
afternoon on the 12th of July-hours before the attack.
IGNORING INTELLIGENCE - Statements gathered by CSI indicate that the
Battalion, Brigade and Division senior leadership were briefed on the
heavy concentration of enemy insurgent fighters (in the hundreds) in and
around the village of Wanat days before the attack began. Statements
taken by CSI from intelligence officers who were assigned to the 2/503rd
Battalion S-2 indicate that their warnings and intelligence estimates
were ignored by the senior leadership.
SHORTAGE OF CRITICAL DEFENSIVE RESOURCES - Critical defensive material
and heavy engineer support key to the construction of the combat outpost
at Wanat never arrived. This defensive material and heavy engineer
support if available at the time of the occupation would have saved many
lives by adding additional force protection. This lack of engineer
support caused the soldiers of 2nd Platoon to improvise and cut in half
HESCO's filling them by hand in order to provide some minimal force
protection in case of attack. Soldiers were also forced to focus more on
building a defensive perimeter rather than on critical security tasks
that could have provided early warning to the insurgent attack. The
defensive material and heavy engineer status should have been a
Commanders Critical Information Requirement that would have prompted
immediate senior leadership involvement. This lack of support was
reported by the 2nd Platoon but never acted upon by senior leadership to
mitigate an increasing risk to the mission.
LACK OF FOOD AND WATER - Soldier statements in the 15-6 and corroborated
by CSI indicate that the 2nd Platoon had to stop and minimize work
details on the defensive perimeter due to lack of water and food. While
eventually resupplied the lack of support from the Battalion HQ caused a
delay in force protection that contributed to the KIA and WIA on the
13th of July.
LACK OF ISR - Predator Support that was vital to validating intelligence
estimates and indentifying insurgent forces in close proximity to US
Forces was not available. The CJTF provided conflicting reasons to the
Congressional Inquiries why this support was not available .The initial
report from the CJTF said that the Predator was unavailable on the night
of the 13th of July due to weather. Another report said that the
Predator support was unavailable due to other higher priority missions.
The Brigade Commander stated that Predator support was never available
despite his requests. Statements provided to CSI indicate that the
Predator was pulled from supporting Wanat two days into the occupation
by the Assistant Division Commander of the CJTF due to lack of
intelligence indicating a imminent danger to US Forces. Further
investigation by CSI indicates that ISR assets were withdrawn on 12 July
but were available to the 173rd from 8 July to 12 July. CSI verified
that ISR assets were not available during the night of 12-13 July when
the ACM insurgents moved into their assault positions. The decision to
pull he Predator from the 173rd was adamantly protested by the Battalion
and Brigade staff officers. Despite a growing enemy threat and now lack
of overhead support there was no additional risk mitigation action taken
by the senior leadership at any level of command.
LACK OF RESPONSIVE ATTACK AVIATION - In response to Congressional
Inquiries the Apache Attack Helicopter support was reported by the CJTF
to have arrived at the Battle of Wanat at the normal and expected
response times. Evidence uncovered by CSI indicates that the generation
of Apaches was delayed by approximately 15 minutes and delayed again in
route. If the attack assets had arrived even 15 minutes earlier could
have saved lives. No attempt was made by the senior leadership to reduce
this response time due to the other critical elements of Operation Rock
Move increasing the risk of the mission (lack of heavy engineer,
defensive material and Predator). When the Congressional Inquiry asked
why the Apache's were not used to fly in and around Wanat at critical
times when the enemy normally attacks- the CJTF response was that it was
too risky to fly an attack helo in this type of profile. CSI interviews
with the Apache Bn Commander who was in support of Wanat on the 13th of
July stated that the Apache's were frequently used in deterrence
missions but in the Wanat case TF Bayonet (173rd Inf Bde) never
requested this type of support. The attack on the 2nd Platoon clearly
highlighted the fact that attack aviation resources were extremely
limited. There was no mention of this critical shortage of attack
aviation assets in the 15-6 investigation.
SENIOR NCO DOUBTS AND LACK OF PREPARATION - Majority of soldiers
interviewed to include senior NCO's of 2nd Platoon stated their
apprehension in conducting the mission to Wanat so close to redeployment
back to Italy. Preparation time for this complex mission was lacking.
One alarming deficiency was that there was no rehearsal supervised by
the Bn Cdr that would have identified and synchronized critical
resources required for the mission.
MIS-LEADING THE PUBLIC & NEVER TO RETURN - The Battalion, Brigade and
Division leadership purposely misled news media and family members by
publically stating that the mission of 2nd Platoon at Wanat was not to
construct a Combat Outpost. The 2nd Platoon mission was merely to
establish a routine Vehicle Patrol Base at Wanat to engage with the
local population in accordance with COIN Doctrine-no intent to construct
a full up Combat Outpost. To this day the Public Affairs Office of the
CJTF 101st publically profess that the occupation of Wanat by the 2nd
Platoon was just a Vehicle Patrol Base nothing more. Official engineer
documents, mission statements, troop task organization (heavy engineer
support) and statements from soldiers obtained from CSI clearly show
that the 2nd Platoon Chosen Company 503rd was ordered to Wanat with the
specific task to construct Combat Outpost Kahler at Wanat. Sworn
statements by the Company and Battalion Commander in the 15-6 verify the
mission was to construct a Combat Outpost. The Battalion Commander also
emphasized the significance of establishing a COP at Wanat as key to the
successful COIN strategy for the region. After 10 months of negotiating
with Wanat Village Elders and suffering the decimation of an entire US
Infantry Platoon the decision was made by the CJTF to never return to
Wanat as punishment to the local Afghan people.
NO CULTURAL OR ENVIRONMENTAL TRAINING -The 173rd Infantry Brigade
received no cultural, tactical or environmental training specific to
Afghanistan. The Brigade's training was focused on Iraq. Immediately
after completing their deployment train-up for Iraq the Brigade was
informed that they were to deploy to Afghanistan. A few of the officers
and NCO's had previous deployments to Afghanistan. However the majority
of soldiers, officers and NCO's who were going to engage with the Afghan
people on a daily basis were put at a distinct disadvantage.
LOOSING THE HEARTS AND MINDS & WARNINGS - Evidence uncovered from CSI
shows that the attack on the 2nd Platoon Chosen Company at Wanat could
have been heavily influenced by a US Army Attack Helicopter that had
engaged innocent civilians in the vicinity of COP Bella on the 4th of
July. Killed in the helicopter attack were numerous doctors, nurses and
children who were trying to evacuate Bella during a time when the 173rd
was also evacuating and closing COP Bella. The Closing of COP Bella was
one of the complex missions of Operation Rock Move. What is
disconcerting is that in the 15-6 out brief the 173rd Bde and 2/503rd
Inf Bn boost that they expended more ammunition, fired more artillery,
dropped more bombs and had more soldiers submitted for medals of valor
than any other unit ever deployed to Afghanistan. In the 15-6 out brief
there was no mention of number of villages won over by US Forces, number
of MEDCAPS, DENCAPS and other humanitarian support to the people of
Afghanistan. Findings by CSI indicate that the 173rd lost all of the
progress that the 10th Mtn had accomplished due to their heavy reliance
on Kinetic Diplomacy. My son also verified this on his return home in
May of 2008 stating that most engagements with the local population
resulted in a kinetic response with frequent bombing of villages causing
extensive collateral damage. My son also said that because of the
collateral damage to innocent civilians he was told by village elders at
COP Bella that there would be numerous revenge attacks on US Forces and
that his platoon once relocated to Wanat would be followed and attacked.
IGNORING THE REAL ISSUES -The 15-6 investigation findings and
recommendations were purposely written to cover up the majority of the
above major deficiencies. Most of these deficiencies were identified in
soldier testimony but omitted by the chain of command . Other issues
thought obvious were never included in the report. Both the Assistant
Division Commander and Division Commander CJTF signed the 15-6 agreeing
to its contents and findings.
v/r Dave Brostrom