…MAKES FOR A MESS LIKE THIS
Read these articles first for some background:
*Bouhammer Note- The following post is an exclusive look into the other side of the story as told by CPT Roger Hill himself. I first wrote about CPT Hill’s story here, http://www.bouhammer.com/2008/12/2-us-soldiers-accused-of-abusing-detainees/ and have since talked about it on numerous other occasions both on this blog and on You Served Radio.
This posting is broken down into 3 parts. The first is an original posting from CPT Hill for the Bouhammer Blog. The second part is CPT Hill’s farewell letter to his company as he was never given the opportunity to say goodbye in person. The third part is CPT Hill’s letter to the Commander of Army Human Resources Command asking for his discharge to be changed so he could have some level of benefits once he is forcefully discharged from the US Army. All the parts and the links within them help paint the picture as to what really happened leading up to the 30 minutes that have forever changed CPT Hill and 1SG Scott’s life and the events that took place after. I have worked with Roger Hill to ensure these docs do not implicate anyone, contain any sensitive information, or that could harm anyone in the Area of Operation right now.
As a follow up to this posting, CPT Hill will be the first guest on this week’s You Served Radio show hosted by myself and CJ Grisham this week on Thursday, May 7th, starting at 7:00PM. CPT Hill will be on for the first hour to not only answer questions from CJ and I, but also from any guests that call in or ask questions in the You Served Chat room. The You Served Show can be listened to live at www.blogtalkradio.com/youserved from 7-9PM every Thursday and can also be heard after the show at that location or through podcast download in iTunes.
Cpt Hill was a member of 1/506th during this incident, which ironically was my Battalion when I was stationed in Korea from 1989-1990. The 1/506th was profiled and made famous in the Book and HBO Mini-series, Band of Brothers. The motto of the 1/506th is Currahee, which is the Cherokee word for “Stands Alone”. So not only is it ironic that CPT Hill and I have served in the same Battalion, but even more so that the US Army is making him live up to the motto, by casting him aside and making him “˜Stand Alone’. -*End of Bouhammer Note
First off, I would like to thank Troy Steward and all the other men and women in the military blogging community that have shown their support for the men of Dog Company. Your support has been unwavering. I hate to think of where I would be had this story not broken the mainstream media headlines. Your support has once again forced a level of transparency that would not have otherwise been achieved. Below are links to articles that a group of highly respected retired infantry officers wrote concerning the circumstances surrounding this case.
Colonel (Ret) O’Meara, Lt. Gen. (Ret) McInerney and Maj. Gen. Vallely, along with many others, have been unwavering in their support for my family and my men. What I appreciate about their words the most is the small unit combat experience they have to support their perspectives. Most of our military’s senior leadership today does not have that experience and it has created a dangerous double standard for those on the ground.
Like many of us, O’Meara, McInerney and Vallely are worried about the precedent that cases like mine will set for future combat leaders. Unrealistic rules of engagement make it harder for junior combat leaders to fight and win in today’s war on terror. The enemy does not subscribe to the Geneva Conventions. Our men and women in uniform support the Geneva Convention because restraint is a necessary part of combat. However, measuring a combat leader’s actions by an ever-shifting political climate will only hurt those who stand at the tip of the spear. We cannot continue to cater to the public opinion of European nations and liberal media that refuse to do their share in the fight against extremist Islam.
My purpose in continuing to pursue these injustices is simple. My purpose is to increase awareness over the rigid and antiquated policies that endanger our men and women at war today. The types of injustices recently suffered by the men of Dog Company are increasing in frequency because of misguided foreign policy. Reasonable acts of self-defense have become so scrutinized that dangerous hesitations and misguided priorities have become hallmarks of today’s battlefield. Our rules of engagement put the American Soldier at an unfair disadvantage.
The challenges faced by the men of Dog Company still loom overhead. Several Dog Company Soldiers are facing punishment for safeguarding their brothers in arms. The time is ripe for a public debate on the double standards that tie our hands in combat while making it easier for the enemy to cut them off.
Part Two-Farewell Letter to Dog Company (D co, 1/506th INF)
Death Dealers, January 2008
A great deal has transpired since 1SG Scott, LT Kay and I left Wardak. You and your families have endured so much these past nine months, more than anyone will ever know or appreciate. I wanted to fill you in on some of what has happened and bid you farewell until we meet again at Campbell. I know there have been several rumors since we left, many started by those conducting the investigation.
After 1SG and I left Airborne we came to FOB Salerno. We were put on restriction until just recently. We were unable to speak to one another or any of you during this time. This was especially hard since 1SG and I lived right next to one another, ate at the same chow hall, worked out at the same gym, MWR; anyways, you get the picture. Our weapons were taken from us and we felt like we were being treated as though we were guilty until proven innocent. I know that several of you can relate.
I am sorry that the investigative team and the CID acted so unprofessionally towards you. We dealt with the same harassment until the end. I had to give a DNA sample just two weeks ago. When they came with a search warrant for my gear, I offered the CID my mission gloves and they would not take them. It was clear to me that they were not out for evidence as so much as to intimidate us because they could. Exercising our rights to an attorney and maintaining silence throughout this ordeal served us very well in the end. Our legal team fought with honor and dignity for us all. You all standing by our sides despite the persecution you suffered allowed for us to get the entire truth out during the Article 32 hearing.
The Article 32 hearing went very well. 1SG and I were both faced charges that carried up to life in prison. As unfair and outlandish as those charges were, they were very real. We suspect that the 32 went so well that Division intervened unbeknownst to Brigade and offered both of us plea bargains out of fear of the media hearing about how we and this company were treated. One major news article was published; I have enclosed it with this letter.
The article 32 officer is another battalion commander in our brigade. He heard the entire story beginning with our arrival to Wardak. Once the 32 was completed, 1SG and I started gearing up for a General Court Marshal when Division came to us with the plea bargains. The 32 officer was finishing up his recommendations from the hearing at about this time. My plea offer included possible separation from the Army (resignation in lieu of court marshal), an Article 15 and a fine. As of now I am categorized as an Other Than Honorable discharge and will probably leave the Army in a matter of weeks. 1SG Scott was offered a Summary Court Marshal with a possible reduction of one pay grade as his maximum punishment. No matter what happens, he will always be 1SG Scott to me and I know you feel the same.
We have every reason to believe that Division knew which way the 32 officer was leaning with his recommendations before they made their plea bargain offers to us. This information was not disclosed to us. 1SG and I were given a hard choice based on limited facts when it came to deciding for or against taking our plea bargains. Take the deals while not knowing the Article 32 officer’s recommendations or go to a General Court Marshal and face possible life in prison. We took the deals, though our defense during the 32 had proven that we stood a great chance of winning in a General Court Marshal if given a fair panel. We decided that it was not worth the risk to our families. We hope you agree with our decision. The panel who would sit as a jury for our General Court Marshal would consist of senior NCOs and field grade officers. It was unlikely that these leaders would have led Soldiers at our level in extended combat. They would likely be unable to relate to our circumstances.
What I will tell you next is the most disappointing aspect of the entire hearing process. As stated earlier, 1SG and I signed plea bargains without knowing the 32 officer’s opinion on the matter. This information was withheld from us. After 1SG and I signed our respective plea bargains, 1SG Scott had his Summary Court Marshal with the same officer who presided over our Article 32. At the Summary Court Marshal, the 32 officer made a statement to 1SG Scott and his legal team that truly opened our eyes to how unfair this entire investigation has been since the very beginning. He said, “If it were up to me, I would dismiss this entire case.” This LTC and Battalion Commander, who was also our Article 32 hearing officer, had heard every witness and piece of evidence involved in this case. If we had known this information, we may have fought to go to a General Court Marshal. Instead, we were cowed into taking deals with the threat of life hanging over our families and our heads.
I am now out processing Brigade and will be stateside soon. 1SG Scott will continue with the rest of the deployment. He does not know what unit he will be going to next. LT, soon to be CPT, Kay really put his neck out on the line during the Article 32. The brigade has openly reprimanded him for his testimony, and all he did was tell the truth when asked questions by the lawyers and the 32 officer. MAJ Faber did the same. That took moral and personal courage. When I get home, hopefully soon, I will continue the fight to exonerate the twelve or so men in our company that are still being persecuted as a result of this investigation.
No one in this company did anything wrong during those days up at the coffee shop, not from a moral perspective. We did break some Army and ISAF regulations out of concern for the safety of our men. As the Commander and First Sergeant, certain information was kept close hold as to not burden you with it. Due to varying levels of clearance, not all intelligence or information could be shared. We all have our roles, jobs and duty positions. No job is more important than the other, though each job carries a different burden of responsibility. All jobs in this company were necessary to complete the mission and bring our family back safely. Only 1SG Scott and myself could have assumed the risks associated with interrogating those Taliban spies the way we did.
I hold the CID responsible for all adverse effects on any of our careers and/or families. The investigation was unprofessional, unethical and even criminal from a UCMJ standpoint. The CID intimidated and endangered our Soldiers by running rampant and unchecked through our company while we conducted combat operations on a daily basis. Many of you were shot at outside the wire only to come back to Airborne to be “sniped” at, threatened and intimidated by the CID investigative team. How you managed through that difficult time is beyond me, but you did.
The twelve men we detained were without a doubt Taliban spies. In the Washington Post article, you will see that the 32 Hearing revealed that the evidence against these infiltrators was “incontrovertible” or unquestionable. I purposely allowed for a perception of heavy handedness at the coffee shop that day. Those thirty minutes of interrogations was orchestrated and they worked. These confirmed spies talked and several documents of life saving intelligence were gathered. That evidence was probably the only thing that kept these spies in the NDS system and forwarded to the Kabul station. This prevented future attacks on Airborne and our other COPs. The operations immediately following the removal of this early warning network met with much greater success than we had experienced in Wardak in the past. The enemy’s early warning network had been effectively disrupted if not altogether eliminated on FOB Airborne.
During the 32, the prosecution attempted to prove that we abused detainees by being unusually cruel, sadistic and/or amused by our actions. The 32 officer made it clear that this was not the case. The CID also attempted to prove that we attempted to cover up abuse. First, what 1SG and I did was not abuse, at least not intentionally. In our hearts and minds our actions were taken out of military necessity. Second, over a dozen sworn statements from NCOs and Officers from Able and Dog Company to include the Able Commander provided no indication of an attempted cover up. The term “mock execution” was started by the CID. The firing of my weapon over twenty meters from any detainee, as witnessed to in the 32, was never intended to serve as a mock execution. This investigation was built on rumors, many of which were started by the CID as evidenced in many of the sworn statements.
If detainees are not being quiet when told to do so, then silencing them IAW the five S’s with cloth and tape is a necessary and proper escalation of force. Besides, cloth and tape were all we had. Sorry, no PX or supply warehouse on FOB Airborne. If we could only provide one or two Soldiers to guard these confirmed spies, then it was appropriate to keep them restrained for extended periods of time. If these spies were uncooperative when asked to move from one location to another, then some physical force was proper and necessary. If detainees are not cooperative to the commands they are given and a Soldier who is on guard points or “puts” their weapon on the detainee to ensure compliance then that is a proper escalation of force. It is the responsibility of that Soldier to provide himself and his fellow Soldiers with necessary force protection measures. These are our rights as Soldiers in combat.
The CID intimidated, cowed and eventually shamed several of our Soldiers into thinking that their escalation of force measures was excessive. The CID did this to the point of telling Soldiers that they would spend years in prison if they did not cooperate to their liking. How is it legal for the CID to threaten a U.S. Soldier, who was naturalized in combat, by telling him they will have his citizenship revoked for not cooperating to their liking? None of the Soldiers that were implicated, charged or threatened with charges were afforded their full rights as U.S. Citizens. I was personally denied about 80% of the evidence for which I was entitled. This was until my lawyers fought tooth and nail to get that evidence from the prosecution and the CID. Conveniently for the CID, much of the evidence withheld weighed in our favor. Acquiring this missing exculpatory evidence would likely lead to successful appeals should those Soldiers choose to pursue appeals with their lawyers.
The use of these types of intimidation tactics is wrong on so many levels, especially against Soldiers who are operating in a combat zone. I made a decision to take greater than normal precautionary measures because of the imminent threat in our midst. I would do it all over again if allowed to go back and relive those moments. All of us did the right thing(s) to include one of our guys who hit one of the Taliban spies in response to being bit on the hand by that spy.
Men, this is combat. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. We were not holding or building a whole lot in Wardak. We spent most of our time clearing (IAW FM 3-24), killing Taliban and setting conditions to come home alive. We did all we could along the other lines of operation given the limited resources we had available to us. The incoming Brigade, 3-10 Infantry, is bringing a Brigade headquarters, two Battalion headquarters and over 1,200 Soldiers to replace the 89 dog tired Soldiers of Dog Company. That is over 12 times more combat power, and we held it down for over six months.
Soldiers die when leaders cater to opinions and popular opinion over bringing our Soldiers home alive. Be proud that from the rifleman to the company command team you are part of a company that lived and fought by these principles. Life is too short to cower every time there could be a chance that someone might not see it your way. Remember what I said at our last company formation after the memorial service.
“If you ever get to a point in your career where your decision making is governed by promoting your career over taking care of Soldiers, then it is time to get out of the Army.”
I have learned from working with good NCOs over the years that Soldiers come first. This is in spite of the fact that every Army school I have attended has preached mission first. If you take care of your men, the men will take care of the mission.
Each of you have taught, mentored and greatly enriched my life. God has truly answered my prayers. He has blessed Lauren and I by allowing us the honor of being a part of the Dealer family. Thank you for the privilege of serving alongside you. Thank you for doing what you do. And remember, no matter where they send us, we will be Death Dealers for life. Until we see one another again.
CPT Roger T. Hill
Part Three- Letter to HRC for change of discharge
17 December 2008
MEMORANDUM THRU Commander, CJTF-101, Bagram AB, Afghanistan , APO AE 09354
FOR Commander, Human Resources Command (AHRC-OPD-A), 200 Stovall Street, Alexandria , VA 22332-0478
SUBJECT: Statement Regarding Characterization of Service—CPT Roger T. Hill
1. I am respectfully requesting consideration for an upgraded discharge. I am requesting an Honorable characterization of service. I understand that the terms of my resignation include the potential for an Other than Honorable Discharge (OTHD) characterization of service. I am asking that the five day period leading to my discharge not be used as the sole basis to characterize my nine years of active duty service, plus four years at the U.S. Military Academy. I accept full responsibility for my actions. I have not written this document to serve as an excuse for my actions, but rather an explanation for why I made the decisions I made. It is my hope that after reviewing the circumstances of my case, you will find that my actions were not taken with malice. I hope that you will see that I acted with nothing short of honorable intentions with the end state of safeguarding my men.
2. Prior Military Service: My military career includes a total of three overseas tours to include my most recent tour as an infantry company commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in 2008. Previous to my time in Afghanistan, I also completed a twelve month combat tour as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). For my duty and performance in Iraq, I was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. While in Iraq, I served on multiple Transition Teams based out of Qayyarah of the Nineweh province and Ramadi of the Al Anbar province. In Iraq I mentored and fought alongside Iraqi infantry units from the platoon level up to brigade level staff. In addition to the above awards, I am also Airborne, Air Assault and Ranger qualified. I have been awarded the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, three Army Commendation Medals, and three Overseas Ribbons as well as a number of other awards and medals during my over twelve years of collective Army Service. I also served in the Old Guard as a platoon leader and executive officer from 2002 to 2004. I had the privilege of being hand selected to serve as the Officer in Charge (OIC) for the funerals of many dignitaries and fallen comrades. One such privilege included serving as the Guard of Honor OIC for former President Reagan. My dress blues coat is currently on display at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. I have also served as a platoon leader (mechanized and rifle), assistant S-3 and as an Infantry Officer Basic Course instructor. As reflected by all of my Officer Evaluation Reports (OERs), I was considered a top performer in every position that I held. Finally, I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from the United States Military Academy.
3. Personal Considerations: My wife and family have sacrificed much for the Army. I have spent two of my six years of marriage overseas and in combat. As Dog Company’s Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader, my wife Lauren played an active role in the lives of every Dog Company family. Lauren’s many duties included assisting with casualty notifications to the families of Soldiers who were either killed or wounded in combat. Dog Company suffered more casualties than any company in our battalion. Lauren volunteered to do all this in addition to her full time career as a public servant. She teaches children with special needs at a local elementary school. She has volunteered to bear a heavy burden for the Army and its families. The Army and infantry life style has also taken a heavy toll on my body over the past twelve years. Early in my career I sustained a cervical spine injury in an Army combatives course. My injury was misdiagnosed by the Army health care system at the time of the injury. By the time a proper diagnosis had been rendered, years had passed and irreversible damage had been done. Despite the injury and misdiagnosis, I completed every duty that the Army would ask of an infantry officer despite the wear and tear on my body. I would be remised if I did not mention the potential my injuries could have on my family’s future well being. I have sacrificed my body for the Army and require regular medical care in the way of physical therapy, chiropractic care and other methods of chronic pain management. The Army should bear some burden in my continued health care specific to the injuries I obtained while in the Army. An OTHD would certainly limit if not eliminate the Army’s burden of responsibility to that end. An OTHD would also make my transition to the civilian job sector significantly more difficult.
4. Current OEF Deployment (2008): After two separate rotations to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) my company, Dog Company 1-506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), deployed to Wardak, Afghanistan in early March of 2008. My company, the smallest infantry company in the Brigade, was responsible for the entire province of Wardak. Wardak, a province the size of Connecticut, was geographically the largest area of responsibility (AOR) in the Brigade. Wardak’s total population was in excess of 525,000 people. Consequently, this left our company and our partnership Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with a 1:525 peace keeping force to population ratio. This ratio went well beyond the guidelines for establishing a successful counterinsurgency in accordance with Army doctrine. Wardak was also one of the most kinetic AORs in the brigade. Our company suffered thirty wounded in action (WIA) and two killed in action (KIA) during our six months in Wardak. The two KIAs occurred just days before the events in question. Our company’s total combat power was just under ninety personnel. With those eighty plus Soldiers I was tasked to lead and bring unity of effort to all International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) along the lines of: security, governance, development (reconstruction), and information operations throughout the province. Despite the emotional and physical toll on my company, camaraderie was high—which was reflected in my company’s retention rate (the highest in the Brigade).
a. The unit my company relieved had spent nearly six months in Wardak. Prior to that unit’s arrival to Wardak in fall of 2007, the U.S./NATO presence in the province of Wardak had been scarce at best. Some of the most horrific combat action occurred in this AOR. In fact, it was the province of Wardak in which a platoon from the 2-508 PIR had suffered the only loss in a decisive engagement to the Anti Afghan Forces (AAF) to date. This platoon had been chased out of a sub-valley in Wardak named Jalrez by over one hundred AAF in an eight kilometer long ambush. The end result was fourteen U.S. WIA and two Humvees destroyed. Our initial intelligence reports cited that enemy forces had been allowed safe haven in Wardak since the start of the war in 2001. The enemy went largely unhampered in its ability to acquire nearly 2,000 fighters. My company experienced even greater enemy threats and activity during our six months in Wardak.
b. In mid-August my company suffered the worst possible outcome in combat. First Lieutenant (1LT) Donnie Carwile and Specialist (SPC) Paul Conlon were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) initiated complex ambush along HWY 1. A mere week later, my company was tasked to serve in a battalion-led shaping effort in support of a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) in Jalrez Valley. Operation ORDU’s start time was delayed multiple times due to several confirmed intelligence leaks, all of which originated from forward operating base (FOB) Airborne. As the operation was being executed, a counter intelligence (CI) team, along with the Dog Company First Sergeant (1SG), conducted a FOB Airborne centric operation. This operation consisted of methodical screenings for over seventy local nationals that worked on the FOB. The technology used to conduct these screenings was classified. However, the information found was readily provided to us by the CI team who advised our efforts. The number of local nationals on our FOB was nearly more than what existed in my company; a ratio of almost 1:1. The number of local nationals was necessary. In addition to our combat mission, our command had also tasked our company with expanding the FOB’s capacity to fit a battalion plus in the near future. The expansion effort mirrored what one might see on any general industrial construction site. This was something that my infantry Soldiers were neither trained nor equipped to accomplish. Maintaining this large of a local national work force had obvious security risks associated with it. This risk was elevated especially since we were not provided with an adequate means to conduct background checks.
c. Throughout our time in Wardak, my company was forced to man additional static locations throughout the province. In addition to FOB Airborne, my company was solely responsible for three other combat out posts (COPs). Consequently, and to our detriment, each my four platoons were required to secure a COP or part of the FOB. My company was tactically fixed, or held in place with no flexibility. As a result, we had no real ability to react to the enemy. This was contrary to what I had been taught in every Army school I ever attended: fix the enemy and not yourself. Our nearest route clearance package (RCP) and explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) teams were over 130 kilometers away at our battalion headquarters in Ghazni. Both of these teams specialized in finding, identifying and neutralizing improvised explosive device (IED) threats. I confronted my battalion commander about the risks associated with tactically fixing my company. His response to my concerns was that he “”¦ knew exactly what he was doing to Dog Company.” His next statement was, “I need to increase significant activities (SIGACTs), enemy activity, in your AOR so that the brigade commander will fight to have the battalion headquarters placed at FOB Airborne instead of FOB Sharana.” Needless to say, I was shocked by what I had just heard. It was apparent that my battalion commander was okay with sacrificing my men’s safety and potentially their lives so that he could “sell” the next move for his battalion headquarters. I was more upset with this information because it was a cumulative train of thought by my battalion commander. Previously, my battalion commander took my company “trolling” for firefights in Wardak, at a significant risk to my men. At times, my men and I witnessed him brag about the number enemy contacts for which he had been a part. I soon realized that I was no longer protecting my men from just the enemy outside our gates.
d. As the commander of Dog Company, I openly expressed my concerns with my commander by seeking a dialogue with him. This simply never occurred, despite my best attempts with both the brigade and battalion commanders. As ordered, I always executed his guidance when my commander finalized his decisions. Not only was my company fixed in the largest and one of the most kinetic AORs, but three of those four platoons were not really platoons at all. Three of my four platoons were down to eleven to thirteen men each. These numbers included medics and forward observers (FOs). Every mission was further constrained by manning requirements. For instance, the CJTF 101 policy regarding minimal convoy requirements provided that all convoys must have at least four Humvees. While I understood the rationale for this policy (a National Guard crew that was mutilated in Tangi Valley, Wardak), the requirement was not ascertainable given my limited manpower. I was given hard choices between securing FOBs and convoy requirements. Again, I brought this to my battalion commander’s attention, but I was repeatedly told to simply “make it happen” with Humvees despite the division’s policy. I feared the consequences of an ultimate Catch-22.
e. Each static location was at a high risk due to the limited number of U.S. Soldiers versus the number of enemy in the vicinity of each of those areas. 107 mm rockets, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine gun fire was frequently used against these COPs. The most kinetic of those COPs was the outpost located just inside the Jalrez Valley. It was in the Jalrez Valley that we had come to take most of our casualties. This was the same Jalrez Valley in which the unit before us had suffered so many casualties. I fought to close down this COP on numerous occasions. I attempted to speak to both my battalion and brigade commanders regarding my growing concerns over the extremely high risks that we were assuming due to a gross lack of combat power and resources. My concerns were ignored until the deputy commanding general of operations (DCGO), brigadier general (BG) Milley, visited COP Conlon. Even BG Milley recognized that the threat against that outpost was so great that it resulted in being closed down the next day due to its potential for being over run by the much larger enemy force in the area. Ironically, this was the position I attempted to take with my command long before BG Milley’s visit. Soon after, my company was subjected to clear retaliation for openly agreeing with the decision to close the COP.
f. As the month of August began, our human intelligence collection team (HCT) began to receive a number of reports citing recent efforts by the enemy to plan and execute a complex catastrophic attack against one of our four static locations. Most of the dozen or so source based intelligence reports put FOB Airborne and the COP in Jalrez as the enemy’s primary targets. Reliability of our past human intelligence (HUMINT) or source based intelligence was approximately eighty percent. As the commander, I determined that threat of a complex suicide attack was likely.
g. Several factors played into my threat assessment at that time: (1) increased vulnerability due to relief in place (RIP) operations, (2) our command’s inconsistent approval of indirect fire support, (3) an increased suicide bomber threat and (4) infiltration of the ANSF on our FOB by enemy.
h. The increased vulnerability due to RIP operations: FOB Airborne and all its tenants were at an increased vulnerability because we were attempting to conduct relief in place operations with another company in our battalion. Dog Company had only been given a total of fourteen days to conduct this RIP. The short amount of time allotted for this RIP only increased the amount of risk being assumed. The RIP involved moving our sister company, Able Company 1-506th PIR, into Airborne and preparing our company for movement to Khowst province. The move to Khowst would take four to five days travel by convoy. It was during this process that I was reminded of a conversation with BG Milley and became similarly concerned about a possible repeat of patrol base Wanat (Enclosure 6) where another unit was attacked while in transition. It was just weeks before at patrol base Wanat where Afghan trusted agents were said to have assisted with coordinating the attack that led to nine KIA and twenty seven WIA.
i. The command’s inconsistent approval of indirect fire support: There were multiple occasions in which our battalion headquarters, despite the possibility of any collateral damage, refused to authorize us counter-battery fires in response to continuous enemy direct and indirect fire attacks. During one particular engagement, battalion waited forty-five minutes to grant us permission to return fire with 105 mm artillery. In other instances, due to the lack of fire support, the enemy was allowed to move within direct fire range of the platoon COP. This put the platoon, which was already grossly outnumbered and under resourced, in grave and imminent danger.
j. The increased suicide bomber threat: Less than two weeks prior, we interdicted four vehicle born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), one of which causing five wounded in action alone. The suicide threat was proven to be alive and very real in the area just outside FOB Airborne. This threat was ultimately materialized in November at COP Sayad Abad, where a dump truck full of explosives detonated at the entry control point (Enclosure 11). Nine Soldiers were WIA and Sayad Abad base was leveled.
k. The infiltration of the ANSF on our FOB by enemy: Our company had also verified that both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) had been effectively infiltrated by the enemy. Less than three weeks prior we caught several ANA in the act of stealing night vision goggles (NVGs), government computers along with other personal electronic equipment that was assigned to or belonged to U.S. Soldiers on FOB Airborne. The Soldiers from this ANA battalion had just arrived to replace a previous ANA battalion we had worked with for over two months. The ANA stood watch on half of the eight guard towers that spanned the perimeter of FOB Airborne. We were forced to allocate combat power from our company just to ensure that the ANA were not vacating their towers during guard rotations, which was a common problem. This only served to enhance my overall concern of the enemy conducting a successful suicide attack on the FOB.
l. Upon completion of Operation ORDU and the local national screenings as a part of that operation, a total of twelve detainees were taken due to confirmed ties to the Taliban (Enclosures 7, 8 & 9). One of the most critical infiltrations included Noori Noorula, my own personal interpreter and a person I considered a dear and close friend. Not only was my unit betrayed, but I was as well. He was considered a trusted agent and a Dog Company member. Once the local nationals were determined to be infiltrators, my company executive officer (1LT Kay) reported these detainees to our battalion headquarters. Not only did he report the status of the detainees, but he also repeatedly asked for guidance on what to do with the local nationals in accordance with standard protocol. Simply put, Dog Company did not have the manpower or resources to handle these local national men. Our requests for assistance were responded to with excuses and delays. Initially, all of these insider-threats were meant to be Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) detainees. The commander of the CJSOTF operation had agreed to detain, process and transport all insider-threats found on FOB Airborne as a part of the Operation ORDU. OEF detainees are technically “better” for everyone because it means that the U.S. has control of the detainees for interrogations. The decision to not take, process or transport these insider-threat local nationals was made at some level of the CJSOTF command just before all combat forces left Jalrez Valley. Literally, as they passed by the entrance to FOB Airborne, Dog Company was left with the responsibility of identifying, processing and securing each confirmed insider-threat.
m. Again, my Soldiers now had to do a job for which they were neither equipped nor prepared to conduct. Our higher headquarters failed to provide a team or guidance to assist with the “”¦ over watch, screening and facilitation of CI support”¦” These requirements were outlined in the division and brigade FRAGOs (Enclosure 10) supporting this operation. As the commander, I had no choice but to order the detainment of all remaining confirmed insider-threat local nationals on the FOB. Dog Company began processing them under ISAF guidelines. I, along with my company executive officer (XO) and our partnership Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team leader, actively and repeatedly attempted seek guidance and/or assistance in finding a solution to the processing of the detainees. My XO made several attempts on a daily basis to battalion regarding the matter—again, to no avail. Simultaneously, the ODA team leader did the same via his OEF contacts. The ODA team on FOB Airborne was also an ISAF unit and fell under ISAF guidelines. I consulted with the battalion’s detainee operations officer, who was on our FOB for the entirety of the operation. The detainee operations officer relayed to me that even if the detainees were sent up U.S. channels of the ISAF detainee chain of custody that it would ultimately result in their release. Dog Company had seen this happen at least a half a dozen times in the past. Orders from our higher command to release these detainees often meant taking fighters that we had captured in the act of ambushing our platoons back to where they were captured. Obviously, the points of capture were often well known ambush locations. This was a very sore point of contention for our company, especially after 1LT Carwile and SPC Conlon’s death.
n. Our only hope was to garner support from our battalion headquarters or transfer the detainees to the NDS. Due to its classification, none of the intelligence gathered by the CI team or the methods used to gain that intelligence was releasable to the NDS. Therefore, the NDS could not keep those detainees in accordance to their operational guidelines. As we approached the end of our ninety-six hour window of custody, I grew very concerned about the possibility of having to free these detainees due to the ISAF ninety-six hour time standard. Once again, Dog Company was in a Catch-22 situation. Our calls to battalion resulted in zero progress. At no time did the battalion authorize or even suggest that I could keep the detainees longer than ninety-six hours.
o. We had previously made contact with the NDS, but they did not show to pick up the detainees as promised. I contemplated the thought of being forced to free these detainees who knew everything about our FOB, its inner workings and its security measures. I also considered the already likely threat of a suicide attack on one of our COPs or FOB Airborne. I determined that the threat against my men at that time was imminent and decided to take action. By the last twenty-four hour period of custody, we had given up on the possibility of our battalion headquarters retrieving the detainees. The battalion detainee operations OIC had even been on FOB Airborne for the entirety of the operation and his attempts to assistance in the matter made no difference. Desperation was setting in. It was in the last twenty-four hour period that I made the command decision that it was necessary to acquire some intelligence on the early warning network to which these detainees belonged. Giving these detainees to the NDS was equal to simply setting them free; free to attack U.S. forces. Again, I made a command decision that it was necessary to pull timely intelligence from the detainees myself. They all possessed intimate knowledge of the inner workings of our unit, in particular my interpreter Noori. I felt that releasing them created an imminent threat to those on our FOB and our three platoon COPs. Approximately twelve different source based human intelligence in the last month stated that the AAF in our area was planning a catastrophic suicide attack on one of our four static locations. We were just spread too thin for me to take any more risks and battalion left me with no choice. I made the command decision to question these detainees in an effort to gain intelligence that would allow us to disrupt this imminent attack and prevent future ambushes. A passive approach was simply not feasible. My ultimate goal was to limit future casualties. At the very least, I would give the NDS enough evidence to keep the twelve in the ANSF branch of the ISAF chain of custody until our operational tempo (OPTEMPO), mission load, and threat level were reduced.
p. I was the officer with overall responsibility for the safety of all ISAF in Wardak. I felt that it was my duty to do anything within my power to maintain that safety in light of an impending attack. I made the command decision to utilize a variety of shock tactics to intimidate and scare those detainees. My goal was to extract valuable intelligence that would allow U.S. forces to effectively disrupt the AAF who had inflicted so many casualties over the past year. In my mind, we escalated force as necessary to maintain the situation. I did not consider the consequences of my actions with respect to my career. Rather, my focus was on the possible consequences to my Soldiers if I took no action. None of the twelve detainees were hurt. This was evidenced (Enclosure 12) by the FOB physician assistant’s examinations, my battalion XO who examined each detainee before transfer and in a statement by one of the twelve detainees himself. My actions resulted in obtaining valuable and potentially life saving intelligence on the AAF’s early warning network. An entire link analysis of the early warning network as it originated from FOB Airborne was obtained from multiple detainees. This intelligence also gave the NDS enough evidence to maintain custody of and even transfer these detainees to their NDS headquarters in Kabul.
q. Despite holding the detainees for ninety-six hours, the interrogations that we conducted lasted less than thirty minutes. Prior to and following this short time period, these twelve detainees were returned to their normal routine of sleeping, eating, smoking and restroom breaks. My men were not as fortunate. While the detainees slept in a hardened building, many of my men slept in tents. My men frequently missed meals. We were all fatigued, having worked eighteen plus hour days prior to Operation ORDU, and a full three days with little to no sleep leading up to and during the operation. Our mission was so demanding, most of my Soldiers were only afforded the short time at the Fallen Comrade Ceremony to grieve and recover from the loss of SPC Paul Conlon and 1LT Donnie Carwile.
5. In Closing: It has since been decided that a brigade minus would be headquartered out of FOB Airborne (Enclosure 5). Now, over 1,200 Soldiers are being brought to Wardak to be headquartered out of FOB Airborne—in essence replacing what was once a mission conducted by the 89 dog-tired Soldiers of Dog Company 1-506th PIR for six brutal months. These numbers alone should serve as an obvious indicator as to how poorly resourced and dire the situation in Wardak was for the men of Dog Company 1-506th PIR.
a. I am respectfully requesting that you not judge my entire career, over 4,500 days, on my command decision that lasted no longer than thirty minutes. This five day period is only a short glimpse of my entire career. Upon reading this synopsis of the events in question, it is my hope that you will see that my intentions were nothing short of honorable and in keeping with the principles of a United States Army officer. I know for a fact that the families of the men in my company appreciate my willingness to put their loved ones above my own career. I ask that you not view the actions I took during the five day period in question as the defining moments of my over twelve years of exemplary service to the Army. I readily admit to violating U.S. Army policy in order to safeguard my men. I understand that the Army cannot condone these violations on the whole; however; as the commander on the ground responsible for all the allied personnel in Wardak, I would ask you to fully consider the enemy situation and the facts in my case. I was not focused on the consequences of my actions at that time but the consequences to my Soldiers for doing nothing. I made a command decision based on the best information I had at the time, and was faced with seemingly limited options and no support.
b. Again, I ask that you consider my career as a whole—and further ask for some level of understanding about the impossible mission that I was given in Wardak. I have learned valuable lessons, but also know that my life will forever be impacted by a mere thirty minute time period.
6. Recommended Courses of Action: An Honorable discharge characterization for my service to this nation.
13 Encls ROGER T. HILL
1. CPT Hill ORB & photos CPT, IN
2. CPT Hill awards
3. CPT Hill OERs
4. CPT Hill schools attended
5. Background maps and articles on Wardak province
6. Background articles on patrol base Wanat
7. ((SECRET)) CI assessment and survey log
8. ((SECRET)) Four of the nine confirmed infiltrators, link analysis assessments
9. ((SECRET)) FBI Report regarding on the FOB infiltration
10. ((SECRET)) FRAGOs outlining parent headquarters responsibilities regarding CI assessment and screenings
11. Article 32 testimony confirming a materialized imminent SVBIED threat and character reference for CPT Hill
12. Article 32 testimony, informal 15-6 investigating officer’s memorandum for record and a detainee’s statement denying any signs of detainee abuse
You can access the website setup by the friends and family of Dog Company to support CPT Hill and 1SG Scott here, http://www.morethanbrothers.com/