By Mr. Paul Boyce (FORSCOM)August 1, 2007
The U.S. Army announced July 31, 2007, steps taken by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, and the results of a review by the commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command of the March 26, 2007, DoD Inspector General's report into matters related to the 2004 friendly fire death of Army Ranger Cpl. Patrick Tillman.
As a result of his independent review of the evidence supporting the DoD Inspector General's report, Gen. William S. Wallace, a veteran battlefield senior commander and General Court-Martial Convening Authority, took action against six of nine Army officers identified in the DoD Inspector General's report.
Gen. Wallace sanctioned Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Philip Kensinger, one of the general officers mentioned in the DoD Inspector General's conclusion, for lying in follow-on investigations conducted seven months after Cpl. Tillman's death. After reviewing Gen. Wallace's actions, the Secretary of the Army took further action to censure Lt. Gen. (Ret.) and to refer his case to an Army Grade Determination Review Board.
It is important to note that, consistent with the DoD Inspector General's report, Gen. Wallace found no evidence that anyone in the chain of command sought to cover up the fact that Cpl. Tillman had died by friendly fire. Rather, Gen. Wallace determined that the delay in notifying the Tillman family of the on-going friendly fire investigation resulted from a well-meaning, but misguided intent to wait until all investigations were complete.
"We made a number of mistakes-in fact, I cannot imagine that this situation could have been more poorly handled-but at no time did the Army try to cover up the truth or deceive the American public about how Cpl. Tillman died," Mr. Geren said. "Cpl. Tillman was killed on the evening of April 22, 2004, and by the very next morning the system was working its way toward the truth: that he was killed by friendly fire. Along the way, the Army violated its own regulations and policies regarding casualty notification and friendly fire investigations, and appropriate action has been taken. But in seven investigations into this tragedy, not one has found evidence of a conspiracy by the Army to fabricate a hero, deceive the public, or mislead the Tillman Family about the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death."
On April 22, 2004, in the vicinity of Magarah, Afghanistan, U.S. Army Soldiers of the 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were moving through a remote canyon when a portion of the convoy was ambushed and engaged in a running gun battle with the enemy. Because of difficulties caused by an inoperable tactical vehicle, and the mission to achieve an established objective by nightfall, the platoon ground assault convoy-consisting of 41 Army Rangers, four Afghan Military Forces soldiers, and 12 vehicles-split into two groups or "serials."
In a 14-minute period of confusion that ensued, the first serial of the convoy was not aware of the other's location; ultimately the second serial fired on Cpl. Tillman's position.
Initial unit investigations determined that the Rangers misidentified Cpl. Tillman, an Afghan soldier, and one other Ranger as enemy. Based on these initial investigations, seven Soldiers of the 75th Ranger Regiment received some type of disciplinary action, ranging from Article 15s to reprimands, to removal from the Ranger Regiment.
Exercising independent discretion as a commander to address and resolve disciplinary concerns, Gen. Wallace reviewed evidence, made findings, and took the following actions involving the general officers:
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Philip Kensinger, then commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command: written reprimand; written censure; request for Army Grade Determination Review Board
* Findings and Actions by Gen Wallace:
* Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Kensinger made three false statements in follow-on investigations.
-He failed to properly notify the Tillman family of the fratricide investigation.
-He failed to notify then-Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee of the friendly fire investigation.
-He did not initiate a timely Army safety board investigation as required by Army regulation.
-Gen. Wallace issued a written reprimand to Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Kensinger.
* Findings and Actions by Secretary Geren: On July 30, 2007, Secretary Geren issued a written censure to Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Kensinger that addressed his knowing submission of a false report to the Secretary of the Army on a matter of grave importance to the Army. The Secretary also cited Lt. Gen Kensinger's failure of leadership as the senior officer in the administrative chain of command of the Ranger Regiment. The Secretary has directed that an Army Grade Determination Review Board evaluate the highest grade in which Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Kensinger served satisfactorily on active duty for retirement purposes.
Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then Joint Task Force commanding general: no action warranted. Gen. Wallace determined that as a Joint Task Force Commander in combat, Lt. Gen. McChrystal reasonably and appropriately presumed the Silver Star award packet presented to him for signature was accurate. In addition, Gen. Wallace also determined that Lt. Gen. McChrystal acted reasonably and quickly when he alerted his higher headquarters through use of a "Personal For" (P4) message about the expectation that the outcome of the ongoing investigation would determine Cpl. Tillman died from friendly fire.
Brig. Gen. James Nixon, then commander of 75th Ranger Regiment: written memorandum of concern. Gen. Wallace found then-Col. Nixon's well-intentioned but fundamentally incorrect decision to keep information close-hold within his staff about the ongoing fratricide investigation deprived him of the advice he needed to make an informed decision on casualty notification. Gen. Wallace did find that then-Col. Nixon kept his chain of command fully informed.
Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Gary Jones, then commander of U.S. Army Special Forces Command and one of the Army Regulation 15-6 investigating officers in the case: written memorandum of concern.
* Gen. Wallace found Brig. Gen. Jones should have interviewed an additional witness about Lt. Gen. Kensinger's statement as to when he was informed about the Tillman fratricide, in order to complete his review.
-Gen. Wallace also found that Brig. Gen. Jones incorrectly characterized the basis for Cpl. Tillman's actions in his explanation of why Tillman's actions merited the Silver Star.
Remaining Officers Identified in DoD IG Report.
Gen. Wallace also reviewed the actions of five other officers, all below the rank of a General Officer. Based on his independent review of the evidence, Gen. Wallace elected to take action on three of these five officers, and took no action on the remaining two officers in this group of five. Consistent with the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, and longstanding Army policy and procedures, the names of these non-senior officials will not be publicly released.
Findings in Regard to the Silver Star.
Gen. Wallace found that each of the three Commanders who signed the recommendation for a Silver Star for Cpl. Tillman acted reasonably given the information that was available for him to consider at the time. Each was aware that it was likely that Cpl. Tillman died from friendly fire. Gen. Wallace also took into account that at that time, unlike now, there was no regulatory prohibition preventing the processing of a posthumous valor award while a suspected fratricide investigation was on-going. He specifically found that the basis for the Silver Star was for Cpl. Tillman's acts of gallantry up until the point that he died by friendly fire.
On March 17, 2007, an Army Senior Decorations Board reviewed the posthumous award of the Silver Star to Cpl. Tillman. On March 26, 2007, the Army announced that it was implementing the Board's recommendations affirming the Silver Star but modifying the citation to more accurately reflect the circumstances and Cpl. Tillman's actions.
Background and Evidence Considerations.
Gen. Wallace independently reviewed the facts and evidence regarding the Army officers named in the DoD Inspector General's report. Gen. Wallace was not bound by the conclusions or recommendations outlined in the DoD report or limited to the evidence it considered.
The evidence reviewed by Gen. Wallace included sworn testimony, interviews, and documentary evidence collected during all of the various investigations, and any statements or matters submitted by the officers. In addition to the evidence, where appropriate Gen. Wallace also considered each officer's age, rank, education, military record, intent, motives, training, experience, and length of service. He also considered, existing pressures, constraints, and resource limitations each officer faced while operating on the battlefield.
With regard to all of the officers under his review, Gen. Wallace chose the disciplinary or leadership tool he deemed best to serve justice, good order, and discipline. In some cases that tool was a Memorandum of Concern, which is not punishment, but is often used by a commander to coach, teach, educate, train and mentor when matters involve mistakes or misjudgment.
Army Improvements: 2004 to Present.
Since October 2001, more than 3,640 service men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, and more than 400 have been killed in Afghanistan, all in service to our nation in the war against terrorism. The Army grieves the death of every one of these Service Members and shares the grief of every bereaved military Family. Timely and accurate Family notification is a duty based on core Army values.
Over the past five years, the Army has incorporated lessons learned and new procedures to ensure timely, accurate notification of Families as well as to improve casualty-assistance procedures. These new procedures include:
* Revising Army Regulation 600-8-1, "Army Casualty Program," to require commanders of deployed forces to initiate an Army Regulation 15-6 investigation into all hostile deaths. The policy applies the regulation's thorough investigating techniques to initial casualty circumstances to ensure Families receive accurate information.
* Directing a field-grade officer review initial casualty reports to verify their accuracy based on all of the information known at the time.
* Requiring the Army's Criminal Investigation Command and unit commanders to notify the U.S. Army Human Resources Command's Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center of on-going death investigations and provide copies of investigative reports upon completion. The Center then cross-references these investigations with the initial casualty circumstances to ensure they match.
* Incorporating additional training about casualty procedures and dealing correctly with battlefield deaths into Army education, such as pre-command courses, career courses and officer basic courses.
* Establishing a new valorous awards policy, requiring that prior to taking any action on a posthumous valorous award recommendation, the designated approval authority must review the completed Army Regulation 15-6 collateral investigation. The narrative presented in the award must not materially conflict with the findings of the investigation.
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