Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that the Army has completed action on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) independent investigation of the July 13, 2008, battle fought by soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Wanat, Afghanistan. This engagement claimed the lives of nine U.S. soldiers and resulted in 27 casualties.
On Jan. 27, McHugh appointed Gen. Charles Campbell, former commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, to review the CENTCOM investigation and take appropriate actions with regard to officers identified therein. Campbell’s examination involved a detailed analysis of the CENTCOM investigation, as well as a review of the original investigation conducted by the 101st Airborne Division.
On March 5, based upon his initial review of the CENTCOM investigation, Campbell initiated adverse administrative actions against former officers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’s chain of command. As part of administrative due process, each officer was given full access to both the CENTCOM and 101st Airborne Division investigations. Additionally, Campbell afforded each officer the opportunity to submit matters for his consideration. They provided extensive additional written information to Campbell, which was not previously provided to the CENTCOM or the 101st Airborne Division investigators. Campbell also met with each of the officers.
After careful consideration of the additional information, Campbell concluded that the officers were neither negligent nor derelict in the performance of their duties and that their actions were reasonable under the circumstances. Therefore, he withdrew the adverse administrative actions.
“In every review and study conducted to date, the courage, valor, and discipline of the soldiers who fought at Wanat have been universally praised. These soldiers were well-trained, well-led, and fought bravely to defeat a determined and intense enemy action to overrun their base in Wanat. They persevered in a fashion that deserves broad recognition of their bravery and tenacity,” said Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff. “Our hearts go out to the families of the fallen soldiers.”
“We can never alleviate the suffering felt by the families and friends of the incredibly brave soldiers who were killed and injured during this battle, or adequately express our sympathy for their loss,” said McHugh. “We remain grateful for and humbled by their extraordinary courage and valor.”
In keeping with the Army’s pledge to the families of the fallen soldiers, Campbell and Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, the investigating officer for the CENTCOM investigation, briefed the families earlier today at Fort McPherson, Ga. As stated in his report, Campbell told the family members that the U.S. officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers and Marines at Wanat met the test of battle. “By their valor and their skill, they successfully defended their positions and defeated a determined, skillful, and adaptable enemy who masses and attacks at times, ways and places of his choosing,” Campbell said.
The redacted report of Campbell’s review is available on-line at http://www.army.mil/wanat. A redacted copy of the CENTCOM investigation is available at http://www2.centcom.mil/_layouts/AccessAgreement.aspx.
Media may direct queries to Lt. Col. Chris Garver at 703-697-2564, Army Media Relations Division.