May 09, 2018 - Wednesday
A Readiness Ready-Mess for U.S. Soldiers
Nothing the Pentagon can say would make the loss of four American soldiers easier on any family. But in the case of last October's deadly Niger ambush, it can certainly make things worse.
For the parents and wives of Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, Dustin Wright, Jeremiah Johnson, and Sgt. La David Johnson, the flag-draped coffins that arrived from West Africa last fall was their worst nightmare. The young heroes, who were part of a 12-man task force, were supposed to be doing a routine reconnaissance mission. Months later, investigators are saying the operation was anything but routine.
A 6,000-page report released this week reveals that two captains intentionally filed an incorrect mission plan. Hoping to capture a high-value target, they moved forward with a plan to hunt down an ISIS terrorist at a nearby village in Niger. The plan was approved, and commanders assumed the team was just going to meet with local leaders and gather information. "The assessment by U.S. military leaders on the ground was that contact with the enemy was unlikely, according to an October briefing by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. But that assessment was based on the belief the team would be conducting a reconnaissance mission, not the mission the team was actually pursuing -- trying to capture or kill a terrorist."
On their way back from the search, they stopped at a village to do what their paperwork implied they were doing all along. But when they left Tongo Tongo, they wandered straight into an ISIS kill zone. The enemy drew them in and then overwhelmed them with firepower. Black, Wright, Johnson, and Johnson died instantly, along with five Nigerian soldiers. Other members of the team tried to intervene, but it was too late. Not all of the Americans had their protective gear on, either because they were kept in the dark about the mission or because they were just ill-prepared. "They were armed with small arms, machine guns, and a single-shot grenade launcher," investigators wrote.
After interviewing 140 people, the Pentagon has concluded that the soldiers didn't have enough training before they left for Africa or their mission. And while officials say "no single failure" led to the loss of lives, the tragedy could have almost certainly been prevented if these soldiers had been better prepared.
Readiness has been a major focus of this administration, and after eight years of Barack Obama, it's obvious that there's still work to do. FRC's Lt. General Jerry Boykin (Ret.), who once commanded the Army's Special Forces, can't help but think that the politically correct agenda of the last commander-in-chief is partially to blame. Thanks to the deep state leadership situation, there are still men and women inside the military demanding that these soldiers spend precious time learning about diversity and tolerance when they should be getting ready for battle.
"Talk to any service member today," he says, "and you'll find that a majority of them will express great frustration with the amount of time that they spend in these lectures on inclusion or sexuality at the expense of preparing for war. Every hour our troops waste on these sensitivity exercises is time they could have been on the range or practicing combat maneuvers. When do you train for battle when you're bogged down with these politically-correct mandates? You don't. You go out and crash ships or get captured by Iranians, because you were never prepared for war. Policies like that degrade individual and unit readiness."
These four men didn't die because they sat in a diversity lecture, but those are the kinds of distractions that detract from the real training our troops need. For more than a year, President Trump has been trying to restore the proud warrior culture of the military that existed before Barack Obama's eight years of social experimentation. Unfortunately, the tentacles of his progressive agenda have anchored itself deep inside the Pentagon. In other cases, like Obama's transgender policy, military leaders are ready to correct the situation only to have the decision taken out of their hands by the courts. Until these activist judges are reined in, and the forces of political correctness are ferreted out, the lives of the brave men and women who defend this country will be at higher risk.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.