An F-16 fighter pilot who in 2002 mistakenly bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan, killing four, was found guilty of dereliction of duty on Tuesday and reprimanded for "willful misconduct," the US Air Force said.
Besides the written reprimand, Major Harry Schmidt also forfeited US$5,672 in pay as punishment for the April 17 "friendly fire" bombing, the worst in the US war in Afghanistan.
Finding Schmidt guilty of dereliction of duty, Lieutenant General Bruce Carlson said Schmidt acted "shamefully" by ignoring orders, then lying about it and attempting to blame others for his mistake.
"You flagrantly disregarded a direct order from the controlling agency, exercised a total lack of basic flight discipline over your aircraft, and blatantly ignored the applicable rules of engagement and special instructions," Carlson wrote in a scathing letter of reprimand.
"Your willful misconduct directly caused the most egregious consequences imaginable, the deaths of four coalition soldiers and injury to eight others," he said.
"The victims of your callous misbehavior were from one of our staunch allies in Operation Enduring Freedom and were your comrades-in-arms," he said.
In Canada, a defense ministry spokesman spokesman declined to comment on the punishment.
"Given that is a US military judicial matter, it is inappropriate to comment on the appropriateness of the punishment," spokesman Darren Gibb said. "The minister [David Pratt] hopes that, given today's announcement, everyone affected ... will find the strength to cope with their pain and continue to cherish the memories of our fallen heroes."
The incident occurred when Schmidt detected what he thought was hostile fire as he flew his F-16 fighter over southern Afghanistan.
Unknown to him, Canadian troops below were engaged in a live-fire exercise at a range called Tarnak Farms, near Kandahar.
Without waiting for approval from flight controllers aboard an AWACS command plane, Schmidt declared that he was acting in self-defense and dropped a 227kg bomb that scored a direct hit on the Canadians.
Carlson said his flight leader had warned Schmidt to "make sure it's not friendlies" and a flight controller aboard the AWACS directed him "stand by" and later to "hold fire."
Schmidt, he said, should have marked the location with a targeting pod, and if he felt his aircraft was threatened should have taken evasive action.
"Instead, you closed on the target and blatantly disobeyed the direction to `hold fire.' Your failure to follow that order is inexcusable," Carlson wrote.
The general said he did not believe Schmidt had acted in self-defense but had declared it was only "as a pretext to strike a target, which you rashly decided was an enemy firing position, and about which you had exhausted your patience in waiting for clearance from the Combined Air Operations Center to engage."
"You used the inherent right of self-defense as an excuse to wage your own war," Carlson said.
The air force said Schmidt will no longer be permitted to fly air force aircraft but will continue to serve in the Illinois Air National Guard.
Schmidt had faced a court martial on the dereliction of duty charges, but on June 23 agreed to an administrative proceeding instead in which Carlson reviewed the evidence and decided on his punishment.
Schmidt, who has until Monday to appeal the punishment, presented his case last Thursday to Carlson in an hour-long session.
In his reprimand, Carlson told Schmidt he was "astounded that you portrayed yourself as a victim of the disciplinary process without expressing heartfelt remorse over the deaths and injuries you caused to the members of the Canadian Forces.
"In fact, you were obviously angry that the United States Air Force had dared to question your actions during the April 17, 2002, tragedy.
"Far from providing any defense for your actions, the written materials you presented to me at the hearing only served to illustrate the degree to which you lacked flight discipline as a wingman of COFFEE Flight on April 17, 2002," he said.
Carlson said Schmidt was a talented aviator who had combat experience and "the best aviation training on the planet."
"However, by your gross poor judgment, you ignored your training and your duty to exercise flight discipline, and the result was tragic," he said. "I have no faith in your abilities to perform in a combat environment."
Carlson said the "final casualty" was Schmidt's integrity.
"Following the engagement in question, you lied about the reasons why you engaged the target after you were directed to hold fire and then you sought to blame others. You had the right to remain silent, but not the right to lie," he said.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered