News   Reform

Shanahan Accepts Findings of Investigation Into 2017 Niger Attack

June 6, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone
You have accessed part of a historical collection on defense.gov. Some of the information contained within may be outdated and links may not function. Please contact the DOD Webmaster with any questions.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan has accepted all findings for both valor awards and nonjudicial punishments included in a report detailing the attack on Special Forces personnel of Team Quallam in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

The ISIS attack killed four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien soldiers.

The announcement comes after a review by Army Gen. Robert Brown, the commander of U.S. Army Pacific. The acting secretary appointed Brown, an experienced combat officer, to review the U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Operations Command investigations into the action "to ensure every aspect has been fully considered," officials said.

A soldier motions another soldier into position next to a shrub as others look out.
Flintlock Movement
A Belgian special operations soldier, center, whose face is blurred for security considerations, advises the Nigerien ground commander during a ground movement to attack a hostile command-and-control station at Camp Po, Burkina Faso, Feb. 20, 2019, during Flintlock 19. Flintlock is an annual special operations and State Department exercise involving more than 2,000 soldiers, airmen, naval and police forces from 30 nations.
Photo By: Richard Bumgardner, Army
VIRIN: 190220-A-JJ298-014E

Shanahan is satisfied appropriate individual accountability measures, valor recognition and organizational improvements are in place. "Irrespective of anything that happened before the ambush, the men of Team Quallam fought valiantly, and we will recognize that valor," Shanahan said in a statement. "Throughout the process, our primary concern has been the families of the fallen. We knew we had to be thorough to ensure the right decisions were made for our service members and provide the opportunity for closure to the families."

The Army approved nine valor awards for the action. The families of Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright and Sgt. LaDavid Johnson — both killed in the action — will receive the Silver Star. Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson will receive posthumous Bronze Star Medals with "V" devices.

Two more team members will receive the Silver Star. Other awards include Bronze Star medals with "V" device, Army Commendation Medal with "V" device and Army Commendation Medal with "C" device. The "C" device recognizes "service or achievement under combat conditions."

A soldier instructs others at a firing range.
Range Instruction
A counterterrorism advisor talks to Nigerien soldiers at the range at Bob-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, Feb, 21, 2019. Flintlock is U.S. Africa Command's premier and largest joint operations forces exercise.
Photo By: Army Spc. Dracorius White
VIRIN: 190221-A-MM937-1201E
Soldier takes cover behind a tree.
Tree Cover
Nigerien soldiers move into position before attacking an enemy command-and-control node during training at Camp Po, Burkina Faso, Feb. 20, 2019, during Flintlock 19. Flintlock is an annual special operations and State Department exercise involving more than 2,000 soldiers, airmen, naval and police forces from 30 nations. Lessons learned at Flintlock strengthen global security institutions, promote multinational sharing of information, and develop interoperability among western and partner nations in North and West Africa.
Photo By: Richard Bumgardner, Army
VIRIN: 190220-A-JJ298-012E

Ultimately, leaders bear primary responsibility for fielding trained, disciplined forces. Based on the findings of the Africom investigation, Socom directed two reviews of leadership and accountability. These reviews and additional investigations led to the Socom commander and the commander of the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) issuing administrative reprimands and/or removing personnel from leadership positions.

U.S. Special Operations Command also initiated accountability actions against nine leaders, from the unit level to a general officer.

The lessons learned from the 2017 attack were immediately shared with the rest of the joint military force. Improvements include training, field discipline, equipment, operational procedures, risk management and leadership. The department has completed — or is in the process of completing — implementation of recommended improvements to equipment, processes, and training to mitigate risk to the force.