February 23, 2019

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An Operation in Niger Went Fatally Awry. Who Is the Army Punishing?

An Operation in Niger Went Fatally Awry. Who Is the Army Punishing?
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The initial findings by Africa Command released in May focused on missteps by junior officers before the 11-man Green Beret team and 30 Nigerien soldiers headed into western Niger’s desert scrub. That report yielded 23 separate findings, six of which were then investigated separately by Special Operations Command. Troops on the ground in Africa answer to Africa Command as the geographic headquarters. Special Operations Command is responsible for training, equipping and sending the forces to the military’s regional commands.

The drawn-out inquiry process resulted from a clash between Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine four-star general, and Gen. Tony Thomas of the Army, the head of Special Operations Command, according to officials.

General Thomas, in the weeks after the ambush, insisted that it would fall primarily on the Special Operations leadership to helm the investigation into the attack. But Mr. Mattis thought differently, ensuring that Africa Command — commanded by a Marine general — would lead the inquiry. After the investigation, it would then fall on General Thomas to ensure that any of Africa Command’s findings that pointed to missteps within the Special Forces team and its chain of command would be investigated and those involved appropriately punished.

As of now, four officers and two enlisted soldiers received letters of reprimand, known as a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand. Maj. Gen. Edwin J. Deedrick Jr., the commanding officer of the First Special Forces Command, administered five of the letters. The sixth was given by General Thomas to Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks of the Air Force.

A letter of reprimand’s severity is based on where it is placed in a soldier’s file. If the letter is considered “local,” it will disappear after the soldier changes jobs. But, if it is permanent, the punishment will stay with the soldier throughout his time in the military. In short: A permanent letter of reprimand often means the end of a career.

Below are the members of Third Special Forces Group and Special Operations Command-Africa who were punished and why.

Captain Perozeni was the leader of Team 3212, Alpha Company, Second Battalion, Third Special Forces Group. He received a letter of reprimand citing his actions before the mission, including insufficient training and rehearsals before leaving base on Oct. 3. One of the main criticisms outlined in the letter states that Team 3212 had rarely trained with the Nigerien soldiers who fought alongside his team that day.

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