Army to Further Question Notification Officers for Tillman Death
March 27, 2007
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 27, 2007) - A Department of Defense Inspector General report and findings of an Army investigation into the circumstances following the friendly-fire death of Cpl. Patrick Tillman were released yesterday.
DOD and Army officials announced that Tillman's death was accidental fratricide. An initial report from Tillman's unit determined his death was due to hostile fire.
When follow-on reports indicated Tillman's death was an accident, Army officials failed to notify the primary next-of-kin until a memorial service held weeks after his death.
"What should have happened (is) the moment that they'd suspected fratricide, there should have been a supplemental notification that processed through (the chain of command and to Tillman's family)," said Department of Defense Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble.
Gimble said at least nine officers are now being further questioned on why proper notification was delayed.
"Overall our review concluded that Cpl. Tillman's chain of command made critical errors in the reporting and assigning investigative jurisdiction in the days following his death," said Gimble. "The chain of command bears the ultimate responsibilities for the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and perceptions of concealment that led to our review."
Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren directed Gen. William S. Wallace, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, to begin an immediate review of actions by officers cited in the DOD report. An interim progress report is due in 30 days.
Tillman's Silver Star was also under focus. The IG concluded that responsible officials failed to comply with Army regulations when they submitted his Silver Star recommendation, which included inaccurate information and a misleading citation implying Tillman had died by enemy fire.
"The battalion, regimental and joint task force commanders are accountable for the inaccurate award recommendation and the commanders of the joint task force and the Army Special Operations Command are accountable for failure to inform the Silver Star approval authority that some of the circumstances in the recommendation package were under investigation," Gimble said.
Having advance notice of the IG's findings concerning the Silver Star, the Army completed a review March 17 affirming the process associated with the award was appropriate, but that the award's citation would be reworded to more accurately reflect the circumstances on the ground, Geren said.
Geren said the Army did not wait for the IG report's conclusion to improve casualty notification and posthumous valorous award procedures over the past two years. Unit commanders and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are required to notify the Army's Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center of ongoing death investigations, and to provide copies of the investigative reports upon completion to enable the center to cross-reference the investigations with the casualty information provided after the Soldier's death - all to ensure the families of the Army's fallen receive the most accurate and current information.
Geren also issued an apology to the Tillman family, who received the IG report the same time reporters were briefed.
"We as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all families of our fallen Soldiers, to give them the truth, the best we know it, as fast as we can," he said.
Tillman was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment's 2nd Battalion when he died April 22, 2004, in Afghanistan.