Special Defense Department Briefing- Inspector General Thomas Gimble Reports On The Death Of Corporal Patrick Tillman In Afghanistan from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Virginia
BRYAN WHITMAN: (Defense Department spokesman): Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us.
With me today here to my right are Mr. Thomas Gimble, the acting inspector general for the Department of Defense, and Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, who is the commander of U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command. They are here today to present the inspector general's review of the events surrounding and following the death of Corporal Patrick Tillman in Afghanistan.
Mr. Gimble will begin today with a brief introduction, followed by Brigadier General Johnson, who will discuss the Army CID review. Mr. Gimble will then return to the podium and -- with some concluding remarks and then take some questions, along with Brigadier General Johnson. When they are completed, after the Q&A here, Mr. Pete Geren, the acting secretary of the Army, and General Cody, the vice chief of staff of the Army, will take the podium briefly.
With that, Mr. Gimble, let me turn this over to you.
MR. GIMBLE: I'm Tom Gimble from the DOD Office of the Inspector General. With me is General Rod Johnson, Army Criminal Investigation Command.
On behalf of the Office of the Inspector General, I'd offer the sympathies to the Tillman family on the loss of a husband, a son and a brother.
Today we will present the results of two separate but coordinated reviews of the events before and after the death of Corporal Tillman.
The Army inspector general as well as several members of Congress asked my office to review the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death. We in the DOD IG determined the most efficient way to accomplish the review was to separate it into two parts. We asked the Army CID to determine the facts up to and through the incident itself, while we reviewed the events after the incident. We -- our review focused on three areas: adequacy of the investigation, notification of next of kin and accuracy of the documentation to justify the award of the Silver Star.
And now, I'd ask General Johnson of Army CID to present the results of their work, and then I'll come back and present the results of our review.
GEN. JOHNSON: Good afternoon. I'm Brigadier General Rod Johnson, commanding general with the United States Army, Criminal Investigations Command. And with me today is Special Agent Scott Godwin, who has worked this case since CID assumed jurisdiction.
On 6 March 2006, as a request to of the DOD IG, CID opened an investigation to determine if there was any criminality involved in the death of Corporal Tillman or the other -- or the Afghanistan soldier and in the wounding of two additional U.S. soldiers. The purpose of this brief is to inform you of the results of that investigation. At the conclusion of this briefing, we will provide with a complete redacted copy of the investigation, as well as a copy of all the slides and graphics that I will use up here this afternoon.
This is the agenda that I will follow during the briefing. As you're well aware, Corporal Pat Tillman was killed in action on 22 April `04. As background information, a number of other investigations were completed prior to our CID investigation. At the direction of his battalion commander, a captain assigned to the 2nd of the 75th Ranger Regiment initiated a 15-6 investigation on 23 April `04, the day following Corporal Tillman's death. This 15-6 investigation made it to a final draft status. The regimental commander of the Ranger Regiment terminated this 15-6 investigation and then appointed the regimental executive officer, a lieutenant colonel, to conduct a second 15-6 investigation.
Well, the lieutenant colonel initiated his investigation, basically a continuation of the initial 15-6.
The lieutenant colonel's 15-6 findings were classified and found the death to be by friendly fire.
On 8 November, '04, Brigadier General Jones initiated an additional 15-6, portions of which were classified. Brigadier General Jones's investigation also found the death to be as a result of friendly fire.
And finally, on 3 March '06, CID was tasked to investigate possible criminality surrounding the death of Corporal Tillman.
Thus, there were two ongoing investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Corporal Tillman, the death of the Afghan soldier, and the wounding of two additional U.S. soldiers. The DOD IG investigated the administrative issues following the death of Corporal Tillman, and CID was to determine if criminality was involved in this incident.
The following slides will outline in an animated format an account of the events that occurred starting the day prior to Corporal Tillman's death and ending when the troops reported contact. I will go into quite a bit of detail in the next few minutes, because I need to because I want to make it very clear exactly what happened. As I go through the account, you will see how rugged the terrain was in the area and why communications was lost between the two serials.
During my description of the events, you will also hear me refer to a locally hired jinga truck. Now, the picture shown here, while not the exact vehicle in question, is a good representation of what type of vehicle that is. I will also describe the actions of the soldiers in the lead vehicle of Serial 2.
Again, this is not an exact replication of the Ranger vehicle in question, but it does give you a good visual of the type of vehicle that I will be discussing.
At approximately 16:00, 21 April '04, the platoon leader received orders to conduct an overwatch mission near the village of Manah, Afghanistan. The 2nd Platoon, A Company, 7 of the -- 2nd of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was at Border Control Point -- or BCP -- 5 when they received the orders. The platoon had been attempting to repair disabled vehicles. Repair supplies were flown in, but the vehicle could not be repaired on site.
At approximately 06:40, 22 April, the platoon arrived in the vicinity of the village of Magarah. It was at this point that the disabled vehicle being towed by another unit vehicle was further damaged to the point where they were no longer able to tow it with internal assets. The platoon leader attempted to get the vehicle air- extracted but was unsuccessful.
At approximately 13:10, 22 April, the company commander back at the tactical operations center, or the TOC, ordered the splitting of the platoon into two serials. Serial 1 was instructed to carry on the mission of overwatch before nightfall, and Serial 2 was instructed to carry the vehicle to the coast highway, where the Ranger maintenance platoon would link up and take possession of the disabled vehicle. Serial 2 would then rejoin Serial 1.
At approximately 13:30, 22 April, the serials depart with their locally hired jinga truck towing the disabled vehicle behind it. Serial 1 takes a westerly route to get to the area of Manah, and Serial 2 takes a northerly route, separate from Serial 1, to get to the coast highway.
Shortly before entering the village of Tiet (sp), the jinga truck driver reports the route that they are embarking on is too treacherous to continue towing the vehicle. The leader of Serial 2 then makes the call to reroute behind Serial 1 to get to the coast highway. There are only two routes from their locations up to the coast highway.
Serial 2's leader reports that he attempted to contact Serial 1 and the TOC to advise of the route change but could not get positive two-way communications confirmation of the acknowledgment of the route change because of the rugged terrain.
At this point -- and it's a very important point -- at this point, Serial 2 loses all two-way communications with Serial 1 until the end of the incident.
Serial 1 gets to a split in the road just north of Manah and makes a wrong turn toward the northern route, which leads to the coast highway. Immediately realizing they had made a wrong turn, they stop in place. Serial 2 about this time, after entering the canyon area, comes under mortar or rocket propelled grenade attack, RPG. Serial 2 reports the contact to the TOC at 1404 22 April. Serial 1, while still stopped, hears an explosion in the canyon area and observes tracer rounds coming from the canyon floor up into the canyon walls. Serial 1 also overhears intermediate traffic on the radio from Serial 2 reporting the enemy contact.
The next couple of slides will focus on the actions in this red- boxed area, with a picture overview of the area.
The following slide -- (audio break) -- from the call by Serial 2 reporting troops in enemy contact to the time medical evacuation is requested through the TOC. Now although I'm going to go through this event step by step -- and again, it's going to take me some time -- it's important to note that the entire action only lasted 14 minutes on the ground.
Serial 1 is shown here in red. The last two vehicles contain the Afghanistan Military Forces, or AMF, who were accompanying Serial 1. Serial 1 travels along the wadi, a washed-out creek bed, and stops when they realize that they have made a wrong turn. Upon stopping, they overhear an explosion coming from the canyon that they had just been through, and they observe tracer fire coming out of the canyon and hitting the canyon walls. Serial 1 dismounts their vehicles, and they overhear the radio traffic from Serial 2 that they under enemy fire. Again, Serial 1 still cannot establish two-way communication with Serial 2 due to the high canyon walls and the terrain.
Serial 1 decides to flank the enemy and provide cover fire for Serial 2 as they come out of the ambush area. The triangle symbols denote Corporal Tillman, the ranger who accompanied him, the AMF soldier and a squad of rangers. Members of Serial 1 follow a dry creek bed past a number of buildings housing an extended family, and they hastily clear the area. Three members of the serial remain with the vehicles pulling security. The squad takes up a position along a spur just east of the dwellings. Two soldiers take up a position at the corner of the southernmost building, where they attempt to make radio contact and call for fire support. The Serial 1 squad leader in control of the squad, who have just taken up positions on the spur, receives intermittent enemy fire from positions back in the canyon and across the wadi that they had just came through.
Corporal Tillman asked the squad leader if he can drop his body armor and assault across the wadi at the enemy position. His request is denied, and he's told that Serial 2 does not know our position and they are to hold and lay down suppressive fire for Serial 2 to come out of the ambush area.
Corporal Tillman requests to take a position on the forward portion of the spur facing across the wadi, so as to suppress the enemy fire. The squad leader observes the position and gives Corporal Tillman the okay to move forward. Corporal Tillman takes one soldier with him over the spur and has an AMF soldier in tow with him. Corporal Tillman and the U.S. soldier do not have an interpreter or language skills to freely communicate with the AMF soldier, but are able to orient him to fire on enemy positions shown, concludes shooting across the wadi.
It's important to note that the AMF soldier, according to platoon leader, were offered by the Afghan commander at BCP-5 to guide them on their route to Manah. The AMF soldiers and the rangers had not previously trained together or worked out how they would operate together for combat operations should the need arise.
While Serial 1 is taking covering and flanking positions along the spur, Serial 2 is making their way out of the ambush area. The jinga truck is the first vehicle in the convoy through the canyon- ambush area. Serial 2 reports that the jinga truck driver stops along the route several times creating a slow exit. Serial 2, vehicle 2, the vehicle behind the jinga truck, overtakes the jinga truck at approximately this location, which is still out of sight of Serial 1 personnel and Corporal Tillman's position.
At this position, neither element can see each other, and once the jinga truck is overtaken, the new lead vehicle in Serial 2 immediately reports seeing enemy combatants moving along the right canyon wall. Serial 2 does not come into view until the farm field south of Corporal Tillman's position.
The senior person in the new lead vehicle, a squad leader, then reports observing a suspected enemy combatant on the right hillside as you exit the canyon with beard and firing an AK-47. The squad leader then fires on the suspected enemy combatant, and his vehicle members orient their fire on the suspected enemy combatant's position. The two machine guns in the vehicle -- one operating an M240B Machine Gun and the other operating a .50 cal. machine gun -- also opened fire on the position after observing their squad leader fire on the position.
Our investigation showed that they did not know at that time that the position they were firing on consisted of Corporal Tillman, the Afghan soldier and one other ranger.
Corporal Tillman then throws a smoke grenade towards the wadi in hopes of getting a cease-fire. Shortly after his squad leader opened fire on the suspected enemy combatants, the driver of the lead vehicle states that he observed four friendly troops on the right hillside waving their arms. He immediately calls out that there are friendlies in the area and tries to get a cease-fire. The .50 cal. machine gun and the 240B had been fired throughout the ambush. The driver reports grabbing a hold of the .50 cal. machine gunner's leg to get him to cease-fire but to no avail.
Meanwhile, the squad leader from Serial 1 on top of the spur reports observing a vehicle firing on his squad's position, and he fires a Pen Gun Flare in hope of getting a cease-fire. Unfortunately, by this time Corporal Tillman and AMF soldier suspected to have been the enemy are mortally wounded. Additionally, the two soldiers at the corner of the building are also injured by friendly fire. One of the wounded soldiers reports observing a vehicle firing on their position.
By this time, the first vehicle in Serial 2 has progressed to the point where the driver reports observing vehicle 1 -- the vehicle was parked -- and an AMF soldier by the vehicle is waving his arms in attempt to get a cease-fire. The squad leader on top of the spur hears screaming coming from Corporal Tillman's position, and while approaching, he observes the soldier that accompanied Corporal Tillman. He then checks on the injured ranger, who is identified as Corporal Tillman. He also observes the AMF soldier approximately 10 feet down the slope from Corporal Tillman towards the wadi not moving.
The squad leader calls over his radio and reaches Serial 2 and reports that he has rangers down. Serial 2 personnel confirms Corporal Tillman's death and that of the AMF soldier. Serial 2 contacts the TOC requesting evacuation of the mortally wounded and injured. And by this time, it is dark enough that the rangers have to start using their night vision devices.
Again, total elapsed time from the start of the enemy ambush to the call for MEDEVAC was only 14 minutes.
As far as the conduct of our investigation, seven CID agents and two crime lab examiners conducted a death scene examination in Afghanistan, and were on the ground between 17 and 29 April '06. This was exactly two years from the date of the incident, as we wanted to get the proper environmental and lighting conditions for our investigation. It's important to note that the area of Corporal Tillman's is close to the border of Pakistan, and the area even today is considered extremely hostile. The 10th Mountain Division provided security forces on the ground, along with air cover from Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. A-10 and B-52 air cover support was also provided during our death scene examination.
The following photograph, and then a video, will clarify the location of personnel and familiarize you with the physical and environmental conditions at the scene. This photograph depicts the approximate lighting conditions at the time of the incident, according to the two ranger personnel we took with us who were present on the day of the incident. The photograph was taken at approximately 17:09 local time, which is almost an hour-and-a-half before the actual incident.
Now the reason for the photo is to show the sun setting behind the mountains, which cast shadows over the intimate scene. The examination team was unable to capture the exact lighting conditions at the time of the incident, simply due to weather conditions.
In the photo, the position of Corporal Tillman, the Afghan soldier and the other ranger is depicted at the red circle. The squad was deployed along the top of the spur, as denoted by the line. The square box is the corner of the building where the other two soldiers were positioned who were wounded by friendly fire. It's important to note that Serial 2 is in a moving ambush during this time, and does not know that Serial 1 personnel are in the area.
I'll now show a short video of the area. The video is a 180- degree pan from the wadi, looking up at Corporal Tillman's position, the position of the squad and the location of the two soldiers at the building. You will be looking at the exit out of the canyon, where the convoy would be coming at the camera. Note that Serial 2 cannot see Serial 1 until coming around the spur to where the farm field starts.
(Begin short video presentation.)
Okay, Corporal Tillman's position is center-screen at about that point, and the buildings are off to the left of the screen.
This photograph was taken of Corporal Tillman's position looking down at the area of the wadi. The distance to the wadi over the farm field is approximately 85 meters. Again, the lighting conditions do not coincide with the time of the incident, as it was much earlier in the day when the photo was taken.
This photo was taken to depict the slope of Corporal Tillman's position. The special agent with a chisel is in Corporal Tillman's position, and the other special agent is standing. The degree of slope is significant in that it would be difficult to kneel or lay prone and fire a weapon at the same time.
This photograph was taken to encompass Corporal Tillman's position in the wadi area, with a humvee in the shot for perspective.
This is a death scene sketch depicting Corporal Tillman's position facing from the wadi. It's important to note the detected impact strikes on rock C, as depicted by the red dots. Corporal Tillman's position was between the two large rocks.
Position A depicts the location of Corporal Tillman. While we believe the other ranger was located behind rock C, the AMF soldier was some 10 feet further down the slope.
This is a death scene sketch facing the wadi, depicting Corporal Tillman's position. It's important to note that the squad leader who allowed Corporal Tillman to position himself in this location reports that the soldier who accompanied Corporal Tillman was in the kneeling position behind rock B, and he would have had cover in the prone position.
This photograph was taken from the squad leader's position facing the wadi in the location of the houses where the other two soldiers were wounded.
And this photograph depicts the position of the two wounded soldiers. The red dots, again, indicate where we detected impact strikes on both sides of the corner of the dwelling.
The following video will depict the route of the convoy just prior to the termination of the ambush. Now, the vehicle is not traveling at actual speed, simply to facilitate better viewing. During the actual incident, the vehicles were traveling at approximately 25 to 30 miles per hour. The video finishes with the reenactment of the smoke grenade, pen flare and firing of weapons.
It's important to note that the actual incident from when the first vehicle rounded the spur and Serial 2 fired on Serial 1 personnel was less than 15 seconds. Note in the video the individual at Tillman's position wearing a similar uniform to what Corporal Tillman was wearing at the time and the individual at the location of the houses where the two were wounded.
The start location is when the first vehicle overtakes the jinga truck.
(A video presentation was shown.)
GEN. JOHNSON: At this point you could see an individual center screen -- yes, it's hard to see, but there's an individual there -- standing at Corporal Tillman's position, wearing a similar uniform to what he was wearing that day. You will also be able to see an individual standing at the large house. Eyewitnesses report that Corporal Tillman threw a smoke canister just prior to being shot.
At the end of the video is where the vehicles from Serial 1 came into view, and you will see a pen flare similar to that fired by the squad leader on the ridge.
(A video presentation was shown.)
GEN. JOHNSON: Over 80 canvas interviews were conducted in Afghanistan. Agents were able to identify the doctor who reportedly passed a note to the Rangers before the ambush that some believed gave warnings of danger. The doctor was interviewed, and we concluded that the note was not a warning, but simply an offer of medical assistance.
The jinga truck driver was identified and interviewed, and there's no indication that he had any involvement in the ambush.
Tani (ph) was tentatively identified as the AMF soldier who was killed. However, attempts to exhume his body for positive identification met with negative results.
After the death scene examinations, over 160 direct and indirect witness interviews occurred worldwide. Direct witness interviews were people who were present during the incident, and indirect are those having knowledge of the incident.
Upon arrival at the scene, our agents established exact locations where the incidents took place. The Army crime lab, or USACIL, was able to make the following determinations from witness testimony and evidentiary examinations.
Fifteen impact areas on large rocks were consistent with bullet strikes adjacent to Corporal Tillman's final position. The bullet strikes appeared to have ricocheted upwards, originating from the wadi.
The bullet strike to a horizontal support beam was struck by a bullet consistent with 7.62 millimeter with a trajectory from the wadi.
Metal fragments recovered from the platoon leader's mouth were metallurgically tested and could have only come from NATO M-4 SAW ammo 5.56.
Rock chips taken from the large rock confirmed to have contained Corporal Tillman's DNA. Head wounds to Corporal Tillman are consistent with either 7.62 or 5.56mm munitions. And it should be noted that the enemy also uses 7.62mm rounds. It's also important to note that the use of firearms experts advise that the cyclic rate of fire on these weapons can produce a tight shot grouping such as that found on Corporal Tillman's body. This is especially so on a vehicle-mounted weapon, which is more stable.
Corporal Tillman's flashlight was confirmed to have contained his DNA and was hit by a round from either a .30 cal. or 7.62, and residue of NATO lead was discovered in the flashlight housing.
Five soldiers in the first vehicle fired 5.56mm weapons and one fired 7.62. There was also one person in vehicle 2 that reported firing a 5.56 weapon. And fragments taken from Corporal Tillman's body during autopsy were consistent with the body armor and flashlight -- with his body armor and flashlight.
During the course of our investigation, we examined the rules of engagement, or ROE, governing operations in Afghanistan and found no violations of the ROE. We also looked at applicable training manuals and standard operating procedures, or SOPs, and again found no violations.
Therefore, given the evidence at hand, our findings are as shown on this slide. We determined that neither a negligent homicide or aggravated assault occurred in the shooting deaths and woundings of Corporal Tillman and the others. The manner of death was accidental, and we used a probable cause standard of determination.
The key facts that are shown here clearly support our conclusions. Of special note, the squad leader in Vehicle 1, Serial 2, honestly and reasonably believed that he was under hostile fire and he was returning fire against an enemy. As a soldier, he has a legal duty to engage the enemy. He was not negligent in engaging Corporal Tillman's position. A reasonable soldier would have concluded he was under fire and acted as he did.
The Army Crime Lab and the Picatinny Arsenal Lab results support our findings that Corporal Tillman's death was the result of friendly fire. The death was accidental. The same applies to the AMF soldier. The wounding of the other two soldiers was also accidental. We also found during the investigation that there was no ill will towards Corporal Tillman by the other Rangers.
Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes my portion of the briefing. I will be followed by Mr. Gimble of the DOD IG, who will now present the findings of his investigation, and we will then be available to take questions.
MR. GIMBLE: Thank you, General Johnson.
I'd like to note that my office reviewed the Army CID investigation and we concur with their finding.
As noted in my introductory remarks, our review focused on three areas: adequacy of investigations, notification of next of kin, and the accuracy of the documentation used to justify the order of the Silver Star.
The scope of our review included interviews of over 100 witnesses and over 20,000 staff hours. As we'll discuss in greater detail, there were three sequential Army Regulation 15-6 investigations into the death of Corporal Tillman. The investigations occurred at the battalion, regimental and command level.
As a preliminary matter, we concluded that despite shortcomings, each investigation established the basic facts for Corporal Tillman's death, that it was caused by friendly fire; that the occupants of one vehicle in Corporal Tillman's platoon were responsible; and that circumstances on the ground at the time caused those occupants to misidentify friendly forces as hostile.
None of the investigations suggested Corporal Tillman's death was other than accidental. Our review as well as the investigation just briefed to you by the Army CID reveal no evidence contrary to those findings.
Overall, our review concluded that Corporal Tillman's chain of command made critical errors in the reporting and assigning investigative jurisdiction in the days following his death and bear the ultimate responsibilities for the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and perceptions of concealment that led to our review. After clear evidence of fratricide emerged the day following Corporal Tillman's death, Corporal Tillman's battalion commander, with the concurrence of his regimental commander, improperly appointed a subordinate Army captain to investigate. The appointment was contrary to the Department of Defense guidance, which requires that a combatant commander, in this case, the U.S. Central Command, to convene a legal investigation into a friendly fire death. Additionally, the regimental commander failed to notify the Army Safety Center of a suspected friendly fire death as required by Army regulation and a safety investigation was not initiated at that time.
The captain concluded -- conducted his investigation in about two weeks, concluding that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire. However, the regimental commander determined that the first investigation was not thorough, did not approve the draft report, ordered his executive order, a lieutenant colonel, to continue the investigation of the death.
The second investigation, building on the first, was completed in about eight days: death by friendly fire and expanded -- provided expanded findings on the contributing tactical errors.
We determined that both investigations were deficient, primarily because the investigating officer failed to visit the scene to gather evidence and failed to interview all the relevant witnesses. As a result, the first two investigations lack credibility and contributed to the perceptions that Army officials purposely withheld key information concerning the death and injuries.
In November of 2004, because of lingering concerns regarding Corporal Tillman's death, the acting secretary of the Army directed that the commander of Army Special Operations Command to conduct an investigation. In turn, the commander of the Army Special Operations Command appointed a subordinate brigadier general to conduct the third investigation. That investigation was more through than the first two and included an on-site visit.
However, we determined the third investigation was also deficient primarily because the investigating officer failed to interview all relevant witnesses, did not assess the accountability for the chain of command's failure to comply with requirements, including failure to report and investigate friendly fire incidents, failure to provide timely information concerning the suspected friendly fire to Corporal Tillman's next of kin, and failure to ensure the accuracy of the documentation submitted in support of the Silver Star. The third investigating officer also reached findings related to the Silver Star that were not supported by testimony, and further exacerbated the situation by briefing those unsupported findings to Army leaders, Congress and the family.
With regard to notification of Corporal Tillman's next of kin, DOD and Army regulations require that the next of kin be advised of additional information concerning a service member's death as the information becomes available. In this case, although friendly fire was suspected by battalion and regimental leadership the day following Corporal Tillman's death, Corporal Tillman's family and family members were not notified of the suspicion, the investigations and the subsequent fratricide determination till 35 days after his death. This was the result of the decision by Corporal Tillman's regimental commander to keep the information about the friendly fire investigations on close hold.
Additionally, the commander of the Army Special Operations Command knew that friendly fire was suspected and was under investigation before he represented the Army at Corporal Tillman's memorial service. At that time, he was in a position to ensure the family was notified of the friendly fire inquiry. However, he decided not to tell the family until all the facts concerning the incident could be verified. We found no reasonable explanation for this failure to comply with regulations.
The citation and narrative justifications submitted to support the award of the Silver Star to Corporal Tillman contained inaccurate information that implied Corporal Tillman was killed by enemy fire. The two supporting valorous witness statements attributed to two of Corporal Tillman's platoon members were drafted by others and also contained inaccurate information.
We determined that several officers in Corporal Tillman's chain of command were accountable for the inaccuracies and the failure to correct the record once they became aware that the information was inaccurate. Further, the commanders of the Joint Task Force and the Army Special Operations Command failed to inform the Silver Star approval authority that the circumstances in the recommendation package were under investigation and fratricide was highly possible.
To summarize the conclusions of our review, first related to the three investigations of Corporal Tillman's death, we determined that the regimental commander failed to initiate through the chain of command timely notification to the Army Safety Center and the U.S. Central Command of the suspected friendly fire in Corporal Tillman's death. As a result, neither organization could comply with its respective responsibilities to assess the need for a safety investigation or convene a legal investigation.
Commander of the Army Special Operations Command failed to timely appoint a safety board to investigate the fratricide incident as required by Army regulation.
Each of the three investigations of Corporal Tillman were deficient, and thereby -- and thereby contributed to the inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and perceptions of concealment. Those deficiencies included:
The first two investigating officers were not properly appointed. They failed to visit the scene to visually reenact the incident, secure physical evidence, take photographs, and obtain accurate measurements. Also failed to interview relevant witnesses and failed to address factual inconsistencies in their testimony.
The first investigating officer failed to preserve or document physical evidence, and in consultation with his legal adviser withheld from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and the Army CID that information that the friendly fire was suspected.
The second investigating officer drew conclusions not supported by evidence that was included in his investigative file.
The third investigating officer failed to interview all the Rangers in Serials 1 and 2 to resolve the uncertainty of the sequence of events that occurred on April 22nd, 2004; failed to apply relevant standards and assign accountability for the mishandling of physical evidence in the days following Corporal Tillman's death; failed to fully address the next-of-kin notification issue as a violation of regulations; failed to pursue the inaccuracies related to the Silver Star; reached findings not supported by testimony; and exacerbated the situation by sharing those findings with family members, senior Army officials, and members of Congress during official briefings.
The commander of the Army Special Operations Command misled the third investigating officer and this office when he denied he knew friendly fire was suspected before the memorial service for Corporal Tillman. Related to that issue, we determined also that the third investigating officer failed to pursue those misrepresentations by the commander of the Army Special Operations Command.
With regard to our second area of focus, the notification of next of kin, we concluded that Army -- responsible Army officials failed to notify the primary next of kin as soon as they reasonably suspected friendly fire. The regimental commander was accountable for his decision to delay the notification of the primary next of kin, and the commander of the Army Special Operations Command was also accountable because he was in a position to ensure that primary next of kin was notified prior to or immediately after Corporal Tillman's memorial service, but decided not to do so.
On our final area of focus, the Silver Star, we concluded that responsible officials failed to comply with Army military war regulation when they submitted a Silver Star recommendation that included inaccurate information and a misleading citation that implied Corporal Tillman died of 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.
I would like to note that while our review is under way, the Department of Army undertook a number of steps to remediate several of the issues identified during our review, particularly with regard to investigation of friendly-fire deaths, notification of next of kin, and posthumous valor awards.
Based on the review, we made the follow recommendations:
That the acting secretary of the Army take appropriate action with respect to the officials we identified as accountable for regulatory violations and errors in judgment that we describe in our review.
Initiate a review of the Silver Star Award to ensure that it meets regulatory requirements.
That the commander of U.S. Central Command issue implementing guidance on investigating friendly-fire incidences.
In closing, again, I would like to offer our sympathy to the family for this tragic loss of life. I would like to emphasize that while Corporal Tillman's death was an accident, this in no way diminishes the fact that he was someone who displayed a high degree of patriotism and self-sacrifice.
Additionally, before taking questions, I'd like to acknowledge the length of time that we required to complete this review and provide definitive answers on the matter. We started our work in June of 2005. However, the absolute requirement for thoroughness in describing the friendly-fire incidents and the aftermath, the need to locate and interview over 100 witnesses, and the need to resolve inconsistencies in witness testimony consumed significant time and resources. We believe that our obligation to conclusively address all matters concerning the death of Corporal Tillman have been fulfilled.
We'll have copies of the -- of this report and the CID presentation available at the conclusion of the question-and-answers.
And General Johnson, if you'd join me.
Q Sir, I tried to follow along very carefully as you were saying this, but can you tell us, aside from officers who may have made errors in judgment, how many officers either lied or withheld information to intentionally deceive people? It sounded like, for instance, the commander of the [sic: Army] Special Operations Command was one, and it sounded like the people who were involved in the preparation of the Silver Star citation also misrepresented or lied or specifically deceived.
MR. GIMBLE: There's inaccurate information in the Silver Star citation. The commander of the [sic: Army] Special Operations Command did -- in our view, based on a preponderance of evidence, did mislead the investigating officer.
Q Well, just to be clear, because people can be misleading or have inaccurate information because of what people refer to as an honest mistake -- understanding, confusion -- but knowingly misleading is -- you know, is deception or commonly known as lying. And I'm just trying to figure out how many officers are we talking about that are sort of in that category of intentionally deceiving.
MR. GIMBLE: Actually, we conclude there's one, and we haven't concluded that he intentionally lied. We referred that back to the Army, and they would do the investigation.
Q Who is that?
MR. GIMBLE: The commander of the [sic:Army] Special Operations Command. That's been referred back to the Army, and they'll make a decision as to the appropriate actions to take or not take in his regard.
Q And will his name be released?
MR. GIMBLE: It will be.
Q Can you tell us now?
MR. GIMBLE: Yes. Lieutenant General Kensinger.
Q Can you expound that a little bit? Some of the stories that have been leaking said nine officers, including four generals -- you would recommend that they'd be held accountable. Is it that many? And if not, what's the correct number?
MR. GIMBLE: The correct number is nine that we've referred back to the Army to look at. They have a list of the nine people, and they have all of our information. And they're taking whatever action to look at those.
Q Four generals?
MR. GIMBLE: Four generals.
Q And just to be clear, if it was a matter of intentionally misleading, we're talking about criminal conduct here.
MR. GIMBLE: It will have to be determined.
Q Are all the generals' names in your report? Excuse me, all the officers?
MR. GIMBLE: The general officers' names are in the report. Everyone -- the Privacy Act, we redact names that are, in the case of military, 06 and below. So all the names you'll see in there will be -- it will be like "Colonel Blank."
Q Except for one general who you've named, the others acted -- it was an accident; it wasn't intentionally misleading. Is that what you mean?
MR. GIMBLE: No. What I mean is that there was a failure to follow prescribed regulations and directives.
Q And you don't know their intent in that failure.
MR. GIMBLE: I don't. I wouldn't speculate on that.
Q Would you tell us more about the drafting of the Silver Star? Statements -- you mentioned that it was drafted by someone else, not the people who --
MR. GIMBLE: The valor statements?
MR. GIMBLE: Yeah. When we got the package, it had the valor statements in it. We took it back to the people that were -- that had been attributed that wrote them and said, did you write this statement? And their answer was, no, we didn't. And there was some inaccurate information, and there was some accurate information in those, too.
Q But who wrote that? I mean, is that --
MR. GIMBLE: That's a good question.
Q Is that forgery, or is that some other crime, misrepresentation?
MR. GIMBLE: The Army will address those issues.
Q So you were not able to determine who wrote the valor statements supporting the Silver Star citation.
MR. GIMBLE: It went through a number of edits, so there is some question as to who all had input into those statements.
Q Were those statements essentially a work of fiction?
MR. GIMBLE: They had some inaccurate information; they had some accurate information. And our recommendation to the acting secretary of the Army is that they go back and re-establish and correct the record and make a determination as to what's the appropriate award.
Q Is it possible that the Silver Star award would be rescinded?
MR. GIMBLE: You would -- the acting secretary of the Army is coming, and I think they would have an answer for that. I'm not aware of what the action is.
Q You mentioned the memorial in San Jose. Do you know who provided the information to the Navy SEAL that spoke at that memorial?
MR. GIMBLE: I do not. I'd have to get back to you on that.
Q You mentioned several individuals who could have or should have notified the family early on with information about the friendly fire. Did your investigation find out why those individuals, including the one at the memorial service, did not notify the family of what was known at that point?
MR. GIMBLE: No, and that's the failure to follow the directives. The proper way to have done that is the initial report they thought it to be hostile fire, and that was reported promptly to the family. They were notified. But what was -- what should have happened is the moment they suspected fratricide, there should have been a supplemental notification that processed through, and basically, it would have said that the -- it was unknown and then subject to the final investigation. But it was just left -- no one ever filed the supplementals.
Q But it mentions dozens of interviews. Did you learn why those individuals didn't tell the family members what they knew at that point?
MR. GIMBLE: I think I -- yes, that's detailed in the report, but it -- and I would, rather than go through the whole litany of it, it's basically they made a decision to hold the information, and we say that that was a violation of regulations.
Q But why? You consider intent in your investigation into why these series of things happened.
MR. GIMBLE: No, I did not.
Q Why not?
MR. GIMBLE: Well, the intent -- I mean -- I guess, I'm --
Q I mean, if it's -- I mean, why would these regulations, why would the regulations not be complied with over a series of weeks and months and by a series of officers?
MR. GIMBLE: As I stated in my statement, we found no reasonable explanation for the failure to follow the recommendations -- (inaudible).
Q Did you find that any senior officer, any of these generals told some of the lower-level officers not to report that it was fratricide, that there was any command from above not to tell the family that it was friendly fire?
MR. GIMBLE: We didn't find evidence of that.
Q When do you -- when should have the family been notified? What date do you think, based on your investigation, should they have been told? So how many weeks did they go without knowing that?
MR. GIMBLE: They went about 35 days without knowing. They should have been notified -- as soon as we -- the incident was determined to have suspected fratricide, there should have been a supplemental report by the day following -- actually, on April 23rd, and that should have processed through the system within a day or so to the family.
Q So could I just ask the question a different way? So you found no evidence to suggest that because of the personality involved, anybody intentionally decided to conceal information regarding the fratricide?
MR. GIMBLE: No, we didn't find that.
Q What information did the commander of [sic: Army] Special Operations Command give you for providing inaccurate information, and why is not is not reasonable?
MR. GIMBLE: You mean in terms of the family?
Q Correct. I believe you said that --
MR. GIMBLE: I said he was in a position to notify the family and chose not to.
Q But didn't you also say that he misled several officials?
Q Yeah, you said that you found no reasonable explanation why he didn't.
MR. GIMBLE: Right.
Q But I believe you also said that he was -- he misled the DOD IG and other officials on whether he suspected fratricide. What explanation did he give on that matter, and why was that -- and what made you feel it's not reasonable?
MR. GIMBLE: Well, the thing is, we interviewed a number of people and we had -- what we use is a preponderance of evidence standard, and we thought that that was just -- his position was that he didn't -- he wasn't aware of it. There was evidence that would indicate that he did -- was aware prior to the memorial service. So --
Q What is this evidence?
MR. GIMBLE: Well, it's -- we have interviews with other people and we have some documentation, people and messages.
Q So he says that when he -- he spoke at the memorial service, correct?
MR. GIMBLE: I'm not sure he spoke. He was at the memorial service. I'm --
Q So he says when he was at the memorial service -- this was 26 days after, or something, the death?
MR. GIMBLE: It was on May the 3rd, and the actual incident occurred on April 22nd.
Q So he's saying at that point he didn't know that fratricide was a likely cause -- a likely reason for the death and that he didn't find out until afterwards, and you didn't find that credible?
MR. GIMBLE: We didn't find that credible. We found evidence that he knew in the April time frame.
Q Did you --
Q That sounds like lying.
MR. GIMBLE: Well, in the Army we'll look at that and we'll make a determination.
Q Did you confront him with that contrary evidence and ask him why he told your --
MR. GIMBLE: Our investigators did, yes.
Q And what was his response to that?
MR. GIMBLE: I'm not exactly sure what his individual response was.
Q But, General Johnson, a lot of people are going to be wondering, did this episode occur basically because of radio communication breakdown between the two squads? Is that at root cause for what happened? And why would the most -- the best-equipped Army in the world three or four years into the conflict have radios that can't talk to each other? Can you explain that a second?
GEN. JOHNSON: The -- yes, our investigation clearly showed that one of the primary causes of this was the breakdown in radio communications. Serial 2 was broadcasting, Serial 1 could hear them, but Serial 1 could not communicate back with them. So no two-way communications.
They were in an area -- very mountainous terrain. You saw how high it was; 300- to 500-foot peaks around them. And they -- when they got into that area, they lost radio communications. Our Special Forces have some of the best radio communications we have, but there are going to be areas where you cannot communicate.
Q One follow-up. Has the Army in the last couple years given them better radios? Have they solved this commander control problem? Do you know?
GEN. JOHNSON: I don't know if they've upgraded their equipment. We're going to have a round table in a bit, and we can address that. But no matter how good it is, you are going to have, in some areas, radio communication that's going to cause problems.
Q Just go back to follow up on this point of the root cause of what caused this. The other problem was they split up.
GEN. JOHNSON: Correct.
Q And wasn't there resistance from the commander on the scene to splitting up? And wasn't he overruled by somebody who wasn't at the scene, or can you explain what happened?
GEN. JOHNSON: Our investigation showed that the company commander back at the TOC is the one who made the decision to split that platoon into serials. So they had tried for a day and a half to work with that vehicle and make sure they didn't have to just leave that vehicle there. And, yes, the company commander back at the TOC was the one who directed and ordered them to split into two serials.
Q But isn't it generally believed that the on-scene company should defer to the on-scene commander who's there and can best assess the situation? In retrospect, was that a mistake to split the platoon?
GEN. JOHNSON: I would not make a judgment on that. In retrospect, it was obviously a mistake. But that order was given.
Q Mr. Gimble, you said that you found no reasonable explanation for the failure to notify the family the series of mistakes here, but I'd just like to get another crack at this. Did any officer that you involved who was -- who were involved in the mistakes offer you an explanation for the failure to follow regulations and to notify the family? What did they say when you confront them with what you've learned in your investigation?
MR. GIMBLE: What they said was is they were investigating to determine exactly what did happen, and it took a certain amount of time to do that. What we're saying is that that was not the -- if you follow the regulations, you wouldn't wait until you finished the investigation; you determine it to be unknown and report that to the family, and then report the actual facts as when they finish the investigation. That's what didn't -- I mean, they just didn't report it.
Q Mr. Gimble, when these officers talked to investigators, were they under oath?
MR. GIMBLE: When they talked to our investigators?
Q Yes. Were they under --
MR. GIMBLE: Yes. We had all of our people that we interviewed sworn in -- the investigators, and I think --
Q Well, this brings up another question.
If you suspect that you were given -- well, that you were given misleading information by someone under oath, could that be perjury?
MR. GIMBLE: And again, we've turned that over to the Army to make that determination.
Q But when you said -- you used the verb "misled," as in "we believe you misled us," that sounds like some -- the commander we're talking about, of [sic: Army] Special Operations Command, intentionally gave false information while under oath. Doesn't that meet the definition of perjury?
MR. GIMBLE: It would meet the definition of false statement. But again, we have -- we've turned all that all over to the Army. They're the owner of the asset.
Q So he could potentially be charged with making a false statement?
MR. GIMBLE: I -- and I wouldn't speculate on that, but absolutely. Whatever the Army decides to do, they will do.
Q Were there witnesses who declined to answer questions?
MR. GIMBLE: It's my understanding there were two individuals that are no longer in the Army that we did not interview. I think the consensus was that they were not necessarily of high-value interviews.
Q In your review, did you determine what transpired that it did come out, this friendly fire? And what conversations on what happened was finally revealed in this?
MR. GIMBLE: Well, the -- my understanding is, is that the -- before they left the scene out there that afternoon --
Q Yeah, but in terms of public revelation, this was friendly fire.
MR. GIMBLE: When -- I think that was actually made public when they notified the family back -- and 35 days after the death. I'd have to go back and check that.
Q I'll just have a follow-on. How the story went from being friendly fire to being he died defending himself against an enemy attack -- did your investigation or the general's investigation look into specifically how that happened and why that story turned around? And who turned it around?
MR. GIMBLE: Well, the events up to the -- it was determined to be fratricide by the official investigations. I mean, that's always been the case. Where we -- I think it may be a little confusing is in the Silver Star citation it indicated that he had died from friendly fire. That's what we said was inaccurate, needed to be fixed.
Q Well, what was the genesis of that? How fast did that happen after the friendly -- after the -- Corporal Tillman was shot? How fast was that Silver Star citation initiated?
MR. GIMBLE: It's my understanding they started the paperwork the next day. And it was approved on April 29th, I believe, but I could check that. It was before the memorial service.
Q Who pushed that forward?
MR. GIMBLE: The -- as I understand, the Ranger operating procedures were -- was to have any awards to be presented at the memorial service. So it was pushed through the chain of command.
Q By who?
MR. GIMBLE: Well, it started out at the unit level, and it progressed up through the joint task force, and it was finally approved with the acting secretary of the Army.
Q How many officers knew that it was suspected friendly fire, at least that was under investigation, while approving the Silver Star citation? Do you know that?
MR. GIMBLE: I'm not exactly sure how many were. There were -- even as it got approved, there was evidence that a fratricide had been determined. That was out there on the scene, so I don't know exactly how many people were involved in that.
Q Somebody, some people should have stopped that or had information to stop that citation from going forward in the form that it took; is that correct?
MR. GIMBLE: That's correct. And they should have corrected it, is what we had recommended.
Q Pundits are going to say cover-up, concealment, My Lai, Watergate. Is this more of an example of incompetent bureaucracy here versus a willful cover-up to save the Army from embarrassment?
MR. GIMBLE: I think there was a series of mistakes. We never saw that there was any attempt to cover up, because the investigations were executed timely. They initiated them the day after the incident. And so we thought there was never an attempt to cover up.
Q When the family was notified, was the Army acting in good faith saying that it had been enemy fire, and it wasn't until after the family had been notified that they discovered the friendly fire also?
MR. GIMBLE: When the acting secretary approved the award, he was unaware that friendly fire was suspected.
Q The initial notification. When the family was initially notified, the Army believed it was enemy fire?
MR. GIMBLE: The initial belief on the field that day was they believed it to be hostile fire. Later that day, after the notification was still processing through the system, they determined it would be investigated as a fratricide investigation.
And then you say that's why the Army secretary was under the impression that it was hostile fire when --
MR. GIMBLE: He believed that the citation as written was accurate.
STAFF: We have time for just about one or two more.
Q Given the failure to complete good, solid investigations initially, I mean, how concerned are you, looking into this one case thoroughly, that friendly fire in general may not be being thoroughly investigated?
MR. GIMBLE: That's a good question. We think that friendly fire is being investigated. This was -- as I say, this was investigated as friendly fire from the investigation standpoint from almost the beginning. And so we think the fact that there -- even though this had a series of errors, it was still investigated as a friendly fire incident.
Q Just a quick housekeeping issue. How much did each of the investigations cost, individually?
MR. GIMBLE: Our part of this is, we think, a little bit in excess of $2 million.
Q (Off mike.) And the Army?
GEN. JOHNSON: To be honest with you, I don't know. Our report is a thousand pages. We had 240 interviews, spent two weeks on the ground in Afghanistan. Honestly, we never really considered the cost. There had been three previous investigations. Our goal was to make sure we knew exactly what happened and what the facts were.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. JOHNSON: I'm not sure.
Q You touched on this, I believe, but are you changing the casualty notification process in any way because of this case or recommending changes?
MR. GIMBLE: Actually, when the Army IG went back and looked at that as a result of the first -- the third 15-6, and they made some adjustments to the procedures. And as I understand, as I recall, the new directive was issued in, I think, it was March of -- either March or April of 2006.
Q And what sort of -- what does it do that it didn't do before?
MR. GIMBLE: You know, rather than me misquote, we do have that detailed in the report, and I'd like to defer to that.
Q How did it begin, the citation for the Silver Star? Who recommends that?
MR. GIMBLE: It's my understanding that the company commander put in an initial citation recommendation. It was reviewed at battalion level. It actually started out as a Bronze Star with "V" device, and they decided it should be -- it would merit a Silver Star. And so it was actually initiated at company level --
Q Was the company commander at that time aware that it was friendly fire, that the belief was that it was friendly fire and still put in the Silver Star recommendation?
MR. GIMBLE: I believe he was aware that it was friendly fire -- or not hostile fire. I'm not exactly sure what he was sure of at that point in time because it was under investigation.
Q Knowing what you know now, does it still merit the -- do his actions still merit a Silver Star?
MR. GIMBLE: Silver Stars are awarded by the Army, and basically it's a subjective command decision based on the facts. And so I have no opinion. I'm not in that --
Q General Johnson, do you have an opinion on it?
GEN. JOHNSON: No I don't. They will hold a board and they will evaluate it, now that we have all the information.
Q When was the Silver Star initiated? I know it was approved on the 29th, but --
MR. GIMBLE: I believe it was initiated on the 24th.
STAFF: With that, let's move to the second part of this briefing.
(Pause while Mr. Gimble and General Johnson leave the briefing room.)
BRIGADIER GENERAL ANTHONY CUCOLO III (chief of Army Public Affairs): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Tony Cucolo, chief of public affairs for the Army.
The acting secretary of the United States Army, the Honorable Mr. Pete Geren, and the vice chief of staff of the Army, General Dick Cody, will add their comments.
Following that, I'd like to remind you that Army officials will host an on-the-record roundtable in the Secretary of the Army's Conference Room, that's 3D572, the Gardner Room, to provide additional clarity and answer even more follow-up questions.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, the acting secretary of the Army and the vice chief of staff of the Army.
MR. GEREN: Thank you, General Cucolo.
On April 22nd, 2004, Army Ranger Pat Tillman died a hero's death in Paktika province, Afghanistan. He died going to the aid of his fellow Rangers who were under enemy attack. On that day, the Tillman family lost a loved one, a son, a brother, a husband. We, a grateful nation, are forever in his debt, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to the Tillman family.
On that day, Corporal Tillman joined the hallowed ranks of the now more than 3,000 men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. Our Army grieves the death of every one of those soldiers and shares the grief of every bereaved family.
We stand here today, three years later, on receipt of this IG report because we as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all families of our fallen soldiers: give them the truth, the best we know it, as fast as we can. Our failure in fulfilling this duty brought discredit to the Army and compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family. For that, on behalf of the Army, I apologize to the Tillman family.
But words are not sufficient. We are taking corrective action and requiring accountability.
I thank Tom Gimble, the acting Department of Defense Inspector General, and his team, and Brigadier General Rod Johnson, the commanding general of the Army Criminal Investigative Division, for their investigations and reports on the circumstances surrounding the death of Corporal Tillman and the conduct of the investigations, the reports and family notifications that followed.
They have identified the shortcomings, and the Army will address them.
Today I would like to speak specifically to two issues raised in the IG report.
One, the recommendation that the acting secretary of the Army take appropriate, corrective action with respect to the nine Army officers identified as accountable in the report; and two, the recommendation to initiate a review of the Silver Star Award for Corporal Tillman to ensure that it meets regulatory requirements.
There are other important matters in the report that will be discussed in detail in the Army briefing that will follow this press conference.
Regarding the nine officers, I have referred the IG report to General Scott Wallace, commanding general of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, and directed him to examine the conduct of the nine officers individually and collectively. General Wallace, a four-star general officer and combat veteran, has at his disposal the full range the investigative and disciplinary options. I spoke to General Wallace this morning on his way to the Philippines. He will return Saturday, but he has directed his deputy, Lieutenant General Tom Metz, to commence the review immediately. We are forwarding the report to him this afternoon, and a Department of the Army team will brief General Metz tomorrow morning.
Regarding the award of the Silver Star, I received advanced notice of this recommendation from the inspector general and directed the Army Senior Decorations Board to convene and review the award. The Decorations Board met on March 17 and recommended the affirmation of the Silver Star and further recommended the modification of the wording of the citation to accurately reflect the circumstances on the ground and the valorous actions of Corporal Tillman. I accepted both of the recommendations. Corporal Tillman died while risking his life to come to the aid of his comrades. He died a hero. The Silver Star stands. His citation will be revised to reflect his actions and the circumstances of that day.
Timely and accurate family notification is a duty based on core Army values. As an Army, we already have incorporated lessons learned from our failures in this tragic event. We will use the DOD IG Report to continue to improve our practices. But at the end of the day, no system is better than the people charged with the heavy burden of leadership. As an Army, we failed in our duty to the memory of a fallen soldier and to his family. We failed to live up to Army values. The failures of a few brought to discredit to many. We pledge to do better.
Today over a million soldiers, active, guard and reserve, wear the Army uniform. They are an all-volunteer force, the best Army our country has ever put in the field. They are selfless and dedicated public servants. We owe them our best. Thank you.
GEN. CODY: Thank you, Secretary Geren.
I don't have much to add to what Secretary Geren has just outlined for you. I would just like to emphasize briefly our commitment, and then in -- turn this over to our subject matter experts, who will go over in detail with you after this briefing.
I've deployed my two sons five times to Afghanistan and Iraq. And though you don't dwell on what could happen while they are deployed, every time I hear report of an aircraft going down or a convoy being attacked, it would hit me in the gut. And I would realize I wasn't prepared. I simply wasn't prepared, as a soldier or as a father, for what is the worst news a family can receive.
I've been fortunate that they both have returned safely. But it reminds me, even after 34 years in uniform, after losing soldiers, and after consoling their families, that there is no preparation for the loss of your loved one. And there are simply no words or actions that will make it right, because there are no words or actions that will bring them back to us.
As every leader who has lost soldiers knows, no matter if it's in combat or an accident or in training, one of the most difficult duties you have as a leader is to bear your own grief while finding ways to comfort that soldier's family, their friends and fellow teammates as they grieve. What is never in question, though, is that as leaders, we owe the family the truth, the best we know it and without undue delay. And we must ensure that as an institution of the United States Army, we must remain strong; we must remain proud but more importantly accountable and worthy of the service and the ultimate sacrifice that our sons and daughters, husbands and wives make on behalf of this great nation. And that's true for every soldier.
In April 2004, the Army broke faith with the Tillman family in how Pat Tillman's death was reported and briefed to him.
For that I am truly sorry both as a general and as an Army father. But apologies aren't enough, and that is why we have investigated, taken corrective action and will continue to hold ourselves as an Army accountable not only to the Tillman family, but to every Army family. Our Army values and our soldiers' creed are non-negotiable.
Finally, every soldier who volunteers to serve our nation and who gives their life on behalf of this nation, in my opinion, is a hero. Corporal Pat Tillman is an Army hero. This investigation has only confirmed that. His service and his sacrifice will continue to be example of courage, valor and honor for our Army and this great nation.
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