Brandon Sun (Newspaper) - June 29, 2002, Brandon, Manitoba
Families relieved reports find no fault with troops
By Alison Auld
TATAMAGOUCHE, N.S. — On the day his son would have turned 27, Lloyd Smith rose early and marched outside to raise three Hags in his memory. Hours later, two military reports condemned the American pilots who took his boy’s life.
“This is a very special day for us,” Smith said after he lifted a Union Jack, a Canadian flag and hts son Nathan’s regimental banner from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry skyward.
“We raised these in his honour and will continue to fly them as long as we’re healthy enough to do so.”
Smith and his wife Charlotte marked their son’s birthday yesterday by gathering with a small group of friends in their rustic home tucked in the hills of rural Nova Scotia. They then awaited two military officials who delivered the news they had been expecting, but not wishing to hear.
Shortly before noon, the couple were handed a Defence Department report and told their son, known for his passion for military lore, books and flags, had been killed by a U.S. pilot who acted rashly and breached appropriate procedures.
“We lost our son, we can’t bring him back, but if any good can come out of this it’s that there are ways to prevent this from ever happening again,” Smith said in his 100-year-old home, surrounded by pictures of Nathan in his military uniform and with his fiancee.
The Canadian military released its report into the deaths of four Canadian soldiers who were killed when an American pilot dropped a 250-kilogram, laser-guided bomb as they were practising live-fire exercises near Kandahar.
The Canadian investigation found the two F-16 fighter pilots — the bomber and his wingman — were the direct cause of the accident. The findings mirror the con
clusions of an Amencan report released simultaneously yesterday that blamed the pilots.
The most seriously hurt of eight injured soldiers said he was satisfied with the reports.
“I was only looking for one thing, and that was to see if they were actually going to come forward and put responsibility on somebody, and they did,” Sgt. Lome Ford, who lost an eye and could still lose his injured leg, said from his home in Edmonton.
Ford, who had to seek medical attention this week when his artificial eye put him in temble pain, said he doesn’t hate the pilots who made the mistake, but would like to see them acknowledge what they did.
“I would like to see them come forward,” he said. “It’s been the way I’ve always been taught — if you do something wrong, you come forward and take
Yesterday’s official releases came more than a week after part of the U.S. report was leaked to the media. They only confirmed for some families of the soldiers what they had already suspected — that the Canadian troops acted properly and the accident was the fault of the U.S. pilots.
“It doesn’t surpnse me,” Maureen Decaire, whose son Cpl. Brian Decaire was injured in the attack, said from her home in Winnipeg. “There was a mis-communication along the line and somebody messed up.”
Smith, who last spoke to Nathan in February when he phoned to wish his mom happy birthday, said little would be accomplished by prosecuting the pilot, a member of an elite squadron with the Illinois Air National Guard.
“If sending him to jail would bring my son back, I’d say do it,” Smith said moments after watching a televised briefing by Baril. “But my son’s death has got to mean more than that. Some good’s got to come out of it.”
Soldiers confident in due process: Stogran
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Due process, rather than revenge, is at the top of the minds of most Canadian soldiers who found out two U.S. pilots are to blame for the bombing deaths of their four colleagues, their commanding officer said yesterday.
But the more than 800 soldiers on the ground — who’ve taken pains to move beyond the April 18 friendly-fire incident — are confident that due process will prevail, Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran said.
Soldiers weren’t surpnsed by the findings of two boards of inquiry, released yesterday, which concluded that two American pilots involved in the incident were “the direct cause” of the deaths.
The reports also concluded that Canadian troops followed proper procedures dunng their nighttime, live-fire exercise, when one of the U.S. pilots
mistook them for hostile forces and dropped a bomb.
Although their suspicions have now been confirmed, soldiers are most interested in getting on with business, said Stogran.
“We’re not here to seek revenge, or to satisfy our anger,” he said in his dusty office in the Kandahar airport terminal.
“We’re all disciplined professionals in this ... and I think we’re all comfortable with the process taking its course.”
Stogran wouldn’t comment on whether the U.S. pilots should be disciplined for their actions.
“I’ve been living in fear of one of my soldiers shooting another one of my soldiers. And I would like to think that if negligence was involved, we would treat it in an impartial and unbiased manner and let justice take its course.”
— Canadian Press
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U.S. pilots blamed for deaths
By John Ward
Retired General Maurice Baril, head of the Canadian inquiry into the friendly fire incident, alongside Defence Minister John McCallum (left) and Chief of the Defence Staff Ray Henault address the media on the reports findings at a news conference in Ottawa yesterday.
Baril said if someone claims selfdefence, they have to be prepared to prove
The 225-kilogram, laser-guided bomb, which killed four and injured eight, was dropped moments after an airborne control plane told the F-16s not to fire.
“The pilot’s actions were not consistent with either the expected practice for a defensive threat reaction or existing published procedures,” the Canadian investigation reported. “This represented a failure of ... airmanship and technique.”
The American report was equally harsh: “The (inquiry) found the cause of the friendly fire incident to be the failure of the two pilots to exercise appropnate
flight discipline, which resulted in a violation of the rules of engagement and an inappropriate use of lethal force.”
The U.S. board, however, also cited “failings within the pilots’ immediate command structures” as contributing factors.
Bani dismissed the idea of contributing factors.
“The pilots... were the two individuals who were in a position to stop the chain of events that caused the death of our soldiers and that’s why we said unequivocally that they were the cause of the accident,” he told a news conference.
The Canadian soldiers were cleared of any responsibility by both boards.
“Canadian troops conducting the live-fire exercise followed all appropriate procedures and regulations,” Defence Minister John McCallum told a news conference.
The U.S. report said the planes were on their way home after a long patrol when they saw what looked like “fireworks” on the ground and believed it was hostile fire. This was likely muzzle flashes and tracer trails from the Canadian exercise.
The lead pilot requested and received permission to determine the precise coordinates of the fire. The second F-16 pilot then requested permission to fire his 20-mm cannon at the target, but an AWACS airborne control plane in the vicinity instructed him to “hold fire.” That pilot then declared that he was “rolling in in self-defence” and released the bomb.
Baril said that even without the personal testimony of the pilots he was satisfied his board had access to all the documentation and testimony needed to draw solid conclusions.
OTTAWA — Two separate military reports blame two American F-16 pilots for the deaths of four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, but the reports don’t explain why one pilot ignored a direct order and attacked.
Parallel Canadian and U.S. inquiries said yesterday the pilots broke the rules and are directly responsible for the four deaths and eight injuries in the so-called friendly fire incident in April.
The investigators explain how, where, when and what. But they don’t say why the airman bombed the Canadian night firing exercise even after he was told to hold his fire.
Only the pilot — identified in published reports as Maj. Harry Schmidt of the Illinois air national guard — knows, and he’s not talking. He answered some written questions for the Canadian inquiry, but declined to appear in person.
“We certainly would have loved to have the pilot in front of us but... there’s no capability for me as chairman of the board to compel the pilot to come in front of me,” said Maurice Baril, the retired general who led the Canadian investigation.
Capt. James Key, the pilot’s lawyer, said his client didn’t know friendly forces were training in the darkness below him. The reports acknowledged that the pilots weren’t told about the exercise.
“The pilot also followed the proper defensive procedures in place at the time,” Key said in a statement from a U.S. air base in Germany. “He believed that his and the other pilot’s lives were at stake, and he took defensive action.”
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