Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Wanat: What the families want (IV)

Here is another comment from a relative of a soldier who was killed at Wanat that answers the question of what some of them want from the Army: My name is Jessica Davis. I am the sister of Jason Dane Hovater who was killed during The Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. ...

Freedom Remembered
Freedom Remembered
Freedom Remembered

Here is another comment from a relative of a soldier who was killed at Wanat that answers the question of what some of them want from the Army:

My name is Jessica Davis. I am the sister of Jason Dane Hovater who was killed during The Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

I realize that we cannot change the past, but I am writing today because we can change the future. I would like for it to be understood that I am not bitter about what happened; I am concerned.

Here is another comment from a relative of a soldier who was killed at Wanat that answers the question of what some of them want from the Army:

My name is Jessica Davis. I am the sister of Jason Dane Hovater who was killed during The Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

I realize that we cannot change the past, but I am writing today because we can change the future. I would like for it to be understood that I am not bitter about what happened; I am concerned.

Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ I personally do not hold the officers that General Natonski found derelict in duty, responsible for my brother’s death; I do not believe that it is my place to. However, I do feel it is the responsibility of the United States Army to show accountability when obvious mistakes are made and to ensure that commanding officers perform with their best judgment during one of the most unpredictable times, which is war.

General Campbell explained during his briefing that one of the reasons why he changed the decision to reprimand the accused officers was so that future commanding officers would not hesitate during the heat of battle; for being afraid of the repercussions that would follow for their decisions. I believe that future commanding officers should make thoughtful decisions in planning before an attack and in the heat of a battle. 

One of the officers that General Natonski interviewed explained that based on the history of the Korengal Valley he had no reason to believe that there would be an attack of this magnitude. Well, now this battle, the Battle of Wanat, is now part of history. Learn from the mistakes made so that in the future commanding officers can make better decisions based on “history.”

Whatever is the appropriate form of accountability, it should be put in action to ensure that these same mistakes will not be repeated. Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices, in other words absence of accounting means absence of accountability. Webster’s definition of accountability is: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.

General Campbell made a comment that these officers did not intentionally make decisions to get their soldiers killed. He said, “If there is one thing I pride myself in it is to assess the character of others.” He then explained that these officers did not make these mistakes intentionally. To me, this is not a character issue, it’s a performance issue. I know these officers accused did not intentionally make bad decisions. But the fact is they did, based on the findings of General Natonski. Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I forgive these officers who are accused. They did not kill my brother, the enemy did. However, I do believe that there were poor decisions made in planning, oversight, and supervision.

I fully know that there is death in war and there are mistakes made in the heat of the battle. The greatest mistake would be to not learn from our mistakes and to continue making them.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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