CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Army News Service, March 1, 2007) - The recent death of a Soldier in Baghdad from poor weapons handling has increased focus on the prevention and consequences of negligent discharges among Soldiers in Iraq.
So far in 2007, 16 negligent discharges have resulted in 16 injuries and one death in the Multinational Corps Iraq area of operation, according to Lon C. Cooper, MNC-I safety officer.
"Weapons handling is one of our most basic soldiering tasks. Though they are a part of everyday life in theater, we cannot become complacent," MNC-I Commanding General Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno wrote Jan. 31 in a safety alert to Soldiers. "We must be disciplined Soldiers who do not carelessly injure ourselves or our battle buddies."
Odierno referred to the recent death and other such incidents as "unnecessary, preventable and a direct result of Soldier and leadership failures to enforce safety standards.
The prevention of future negligent discharges starts with proper clearing procedures and treating every weapon - regardless of its status - as if it is loaded, Cooper said.
If knowledge that they have injured or killed another because of their own negligence is not enough to make Soldiers observe proper practices, they can also face wide-ranging charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to Capt. Michael Rizzotti, MNC-I trial counsel.
Commanders dictate unit policy for responses to negligent discharges. Those responses can range from informal retraining in weapons handling to criminal charges in negligence and dereliction of duty. Injuries or death can result in harsher punishments.
"With a negligent discharge with no injury, it's usually handled at the commander's level," said Rizzotti. "If there's any sort of injury, it's a much more formal, more involved investigation."
The Soldier is ultimately responsible for his weapon and its actions, said Lt. Col. John Wells, MNC-I administrative law chief.
"Every Soldier should know - when he fires his weapon - exactly where that round is going to go," Wells said. "It's not just a matter of professionalism, it's a matter of pride."
(Spc. Abel Trevino writes for the 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)