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US Pilots Escape Serious Penalties

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#21 EvilTree

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 04:59 PM

SOME of the glow sticks were covered. Not ALL.

Even if only every second or third men had their strob lights on, that suggest they have taken sufficient precaution.
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#22 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 05:08 PM

EvilTree, on Jun 22 2003, 06:00 AM, said:

SOME of the glow sticks were covered. Not ALL.

Even if only every second or third men had their strob lights on, that suggest they have taken sufficient precaution.
Not by the standard operating procedure and that places the Canadians in violation of the IFF procedure.  There is a reason why they entire unit should have their lights on.  From that altitude the pilot is going to have hard enough spotting the beacons if they were all turned on but just a few of them being on decreases the chances of any being spotted.  In addition you throw in the heavy tracer fire and the beacons that were on may have been lost in the mass.
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#23 EvilTree

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 05:25 PM

Note that Capt. Jasper said some of the lights were turned off because of chopper pilots being overwhelmed by them.

I think a similar assumptions can be made in case of Americans doing exercise on the range.

The Canadians did not have only few on. About 3-4 per 8 men section had theirs on.

Considering how much Tarnak Farm is used (seems that it was used almost every night), it may be considered SOP by both the Americans and Canadians, no?

I focus now on the Canadian board of inquiry's on pilot's behaviours.

http://www.vcds.forc...lv2/fr-14_e.asp

Blame
Were the deceased and injured non-commissioned members to blame for the injuries or deaths?
-None of the deceased, injured or other members of the 3 PPCLI BG who planned, coordinated or participated in the subject live-fire exercise at the Tarnak Farms range can be blamed in any way for the injuries or deaths that occurred as a result of the subject incident.

Were any other person(s), to blame for the injuries or deaths?
-The Canadian Board has determined that the actions of the Coffee 51 Flight are the primary cause for the injuries and deaths. Despite the initial misinterpretation of the live-fire exercise as a threat to their formation, there exists a series of related disturbing contradictions between their perceptions, their actions and accepted procedures.

Disturbing Contradictions

*Observations/Facts Board’s Conclusion
Approximately 4 minutes prior to invoking self-defence, and prior to splitting the formation, Coffee 51 Flight informs that they have ordnance onboard.
-It is unusual for a fighter formation to make such a comment to the controlling authority given the fact that they were proceeding home out of the mission area. This comment is inappropriate and the reason for it is unclear.

Approximately 90 seconds prior to invoking self-defence Coffee 52 requests permission to employ his gun against the observed ground fire location.
-Based on the SPINS as well as numerous testimonies, such a request seems to contravene accepted logic and procedures. Combined with the previous call to Coffee 52’s intentions are suspect. In addition neither of the aircraft in the formation had taken appropriate evasive action to counter the perceived threat.

Coffee 51 Flight’s description of the ground fire depicts significant rapid fire activity up towards their position at altitude.
-Actual ground fire consisted of anti-tank rounds being fired individually every 30 to 45 seconds for a total of 6 rounds. This was supported by small arms fire which included tracers. All ground fire was directed in a level plane in a westerly direction towards a single target about 200 meters away.

Both pilots of Coffee 51 flight were highly qualified pilots with previous combat experience, which included seeing hostile surface to air fire.
-As testified by a TF Rakassan helicopter pilot flying in the local vicinity just prior to the incident, the few ricochets that did occur never exceeded an altitude of approximately 1000 feet AGL. Given the unrestricted visibility and experience of these pilots, it is surprising that their perceptions (rate, direction and angle of ground fire) would be so inaccurate.

Coffee 52 not only remains within the immediate vicinity of the perceived threat, but increases the risk by descending lower to the threat while allowing his airspeed to occasionally decrease below optimal maneuvering speed.
-It is quite surprising and contrary to both SPINS and accepted defensive reactions that Coffee 52 would willingly allow himself to be exposed to a higher threat envelope through such actions. While the altitude minimums published may have permitted him to get this low to accomplish a “mark”, better airmanship would have dictated remaining at altitude or performing the designation at a greater distance from the perceived threat.

Throughout the 4 minute period prior to invoking self-defence, neither pilot’s voice reflect concern for their own safety.
-In reviewing their submitted statements as well as their post-flight testimony, it seems very clear that the perceived threat was both immediate and grave (perceived to be under ambush), that would have warranted concern in their voice, directive defensive calls and aggressive defensive maneuvers.

Coffee 51 Flight remains in the perceived threat area for an unusually long time, both before and after bomb release, without ever attempting to escape the perceived envelope. It is particularly alarming that neither of these experienced fighter pilots ever initiated a defensive reaction after the bomb had impacted, but rather continued to circle within the perceived threat area until AWACS directed to “Scram South”.

Coffee 52 invokes self-defence ROE based on his assessment that Coffee 51 was in imminent danger. Such an assessment defies the documented facts. Coffee 51 remains at a safe altitude and distance from the perceived threat throughout entire incident. Furthermore, Coffee 51 is in visual contact with the ground fire, yet never demonstrates (through calls or maneuvers) that he feels personally threatened. Finally it is doubtful that Coffee 52 truly had continuous visual contact with his lead considering the relative position of Coffee 51 to him (an average of above and over behind his aircraft) as well as the other tasks he was performing

visually monitoring ground fire and flying his aircraft).

Coffee 52 never provides a defensive directive call to his lead after deciding that self-defence of the formation was essential.
-Despite repeated claims that the invoking of the self-defence ROE was necessary to protect his lead, Coffee 52 never provided his lead with a directive call to take defensive action (ie: break L/R) or provide description of the threat direction and range.

Both on and in recorded statements, Coffee 52 attests to the existence of an artillery piece firing towards them.
-Once Coffee 51 and Coffee 52 have focused their on the ground fire location, only a few men are ever seen and no attempt is made by either pilot to positively discern and identify the perceived artillery piece.

It is common knowledge amongst the F-16 pilots, reinforced by their mission briefs, that KAF was an active Coalition airfield with a large concentration of friendly troops Coffee 51 becomes aware of the formations proximity to KAF over 1 minute prior to the bomb release.
-It is unusual that Coffee 52 would not have visually acquired the KAF given the significant artificial lighting at the camp on the runway. Given the close proximity of the ground fire to this significant feature should have given concern to the probable presence of “friendlies” (TF Rakassan personnel, and Afghanistan Military Forces) in and around the general area. Further complicating the issue was the lingering concern amongst the F-16 pilots about the uncertain location of “friendlies” in Afghanistan.

Throughout the period prior to and immediately after the bomb release Coffee 51 does not take positive control of the formations actions.
-Not only is Coffee 51 the flight lead for the mission, he is also the Commanding Officer of the 170th Fighter Squadron. Despite the extended period of exposure to the perceived threat, the calls and maneuvers by his wingman, and his knowledge of their position relative to KAF, Coffee 51 fails to take control of the situation. Given his position throughout the incident, in reference to the perceived threat and Coffee 52, he should have either directed the formation away from the threat or queried Coffee 52’s maneuvering into the higher threat envelope.

17 seconds after the bomb impacts, Coffee 51 queries as to whether the perceived ground threat was “shooting at us?”
-It is extremely unusual that a fighter aircraft would make such a request of an AWACS that was over away from the scene of the incident, and could not have possibly seen the ground fire. Furthermore, given the fact that Coffee 52 was so convinced that his lead was being fired at that he invoked self-defence ROE, this request demonstrates a significant difference in appreciation of the perceived threat between the two F-16 pilots, and is inconsistent with Coffee 51’s post flight statements.


It is the conclusion of the Board that the pilot’s actions were not consistent with either the expected practice for a defensive threat reaction or the existing published procedures, including the SPINS. This represented a failure of leadership, airmanship and technique. Furthermore, their actions contravened the published Commander’s direction with respect to reaction to AAA and employment of ordnance outside of engagement zones. Finally, even though it is reasonable to believe that the ground firing exercise at Tarnak Farm might have been perceived as enemy surface to air fire, a longer, more patient look from a safe altitude and range, combined with a good knowledge of the airspace and the threat in the area, should have confirmed that the event observed was neither a direct threat to their formation or enemy activity of a significant nature.
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#24 FlatlandDan

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 03:04 AM

Chill people...

Canadian are upset because we lost 4 brave soldiers unnessisarily .

Americans are upset because they feel that the Canadian soldiers took to many security risks.

I, as a Canadian, AGREE that the Canadian troops made mistakes.  They should have had every patch uncovered and every light on.  They should have been learning to deal with the problems that caused by there night vision goggles.  Whoever was in charge of those troops does bear some of the responsability.

However.  If I have my fact straight, the American pilots where told not to engage.  Could they not have just...flown off?  I don't know much about military, but I know that if someone is going to come a bully me and I've been told not to fight with them, I'm just going to hightail it out of there.

If the american soldiers had not made a possitive ID of the troops on the grounds and it was common practice zone then I  would think it would be common sense not to shoot.  Why would anyone want to risk killing an ally??

Given that the mistakes where made on both sides, I feel that manslaughter shouldn't really be an option.  But take there wings and take there jobs.  I will scream murder if the US lets them fly again.  

Hopefully, troops around the world can learn from this.

-Dan

Editted for speling

Edited by FlatlandDan, 23 June 2003 - 03:27 AM.

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#25 Rov Judicata

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 03:06 AM

I'm actually with Dan, except on the being Canadian part. I don't understand why they couldn't have turned tail, since it WAS a supposedly friendly area.
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#26 Kosh

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 05:07 AM

I've heard the recored conversation between the piulots and base,. exactly one time. It was very clear, listening to the tapes, that the pilots were ignoreing what Base was telling them. They were told not to fire, but they were not listening. They were so wired they were in their own world, a world clouded by drugs.

After the target was hit, you hear a pilots voice say that he hopes they did the right thing, after being told they had hit a friendly target. The guy was stoned, and it needs to come out or this kind of thing will continue to happen. It is difficult to blame the pilots when the Air Force requires drugs.
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#27 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 24 June 2003 - 09:16 AM

Quote

EvilTree: Note that Capt. Jasper said some of the lights were turned off because of chopper pilots being overwhelmed by them.

So?  That is still a direct violation of regulations by Canadian forces and a hindrance to effective IFF.  In addition the Canadians had never displayed red lights around the area where they were carrying out the exercise.  It is another IFF precaution that they fell flat on their faces when it came to implementing.  


Quote

EvilTree: I think a similar assumptions can be made in case of Americans doing exercise on the range.

Care to provide some proof here Eviltree?  I would instead argue this was the second time that Canadian forces were interpreted as hostile forces within that training area.  That time someone was able to alert the aircraft and wave it off.  I see no indications that any American forces operating within that area was ever interpreted to be hostile.  I find is odd that the two times that a misidentification occurred at this busy training site it was one involving the same Canadian infantry force.  A forces that has been demonstrated to not be falling proper IFF procedures.  

I would suggest the CO of the Canadian unit was further responsible for the incident due to the IFF procedures. After the first near miss there was no attempt to fix the IFF problems that the unit was suffering from.  I think the very fact that the same Canadian forces was involved in the only two known misidentifications in that area is a very telling factor in establishing something was wrong on the ground.    


Quote

EvilTree: The Canadians did not have only few on. About 3-4 per 8 men section had theirs on.

That is the majority of them having theirs off.  Again this is a blatant violation of the IFF procedures in regards to covering up the IR IFF and not deploying red lights.  


Quote

EvilTree: Were the deceased and injured non-commissioned members to blame for the injuries or deaths?
-None of the deceased, injured or other members of the 3 PPCLI BG who planned, coordinated or participated in the subject live-fire exercise at the Tarnak Farms range can be blamed in any way for the injuries or deaths that occurred as a result of the subject incident.

You know that just about confirms my suspicion that the Canadian Board of Inquiry was a politicized kangaroo court whose sole purpose was to pile the entirety of the blame on the American pilots.  We either have two possible situations. Either Canada Forces are too busy trying to cover their own rears and totally neglected to mention/investigate the IFF situation on the ground or the investigators should be getting new jobs for missing something so obvious.  

The USAF pilots are responsible for what happened but Canadians are intent on hanging them rather than instead of fixing things on their side that contributed to the incident.  


Quote

EvilTree: Approximately 4 minutes prior to invoking self-defence, and prior to splitting the formation, Coffee 51 Flight informs that they have ordnance onboard.
-It is unusual for a fighter formation to make such a comment to the controlling authority given the fact that they were proceeding home out of the mission area. This comment is inappropriate and the reason for it is unclear.


It depends on the ordnance onboard and how it would affect the performances of the aircraft.  Some ordnance creates more drag thus reducing fuel efficiency and require more tanker support.  In some cases certain ordnance will alter the flight characteristics of the aircraft sufficiently to cause the aircraft to handle differently when landing.
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#28 EvilTree

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Posted 24 June 2003 - 10:19 AM

Quote

CJ AEGIS: So? That is still a direct violation of regulations by Canadian forces and a hindrance to effective IFF. In addition the Canadians had never displayed red lights around the area where they were carrying out the exercise. It is another IFF precaution that they fell flat on their faces when it came to implementing.

http://www.vcds.forc...alv2/fr-8_e.asp

Quote

CDN BoI: The exercise planners developed the range practices based on the “A” Company operational tasks and the Commanding Officer’s guidance to OCs (Testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Stogran, 29 April 2002).  The subsequent conduct of the live fire exercise was consistent with established regulations, as directed by the Canadian Forces (Canadian BGL 381-018-001-TS/000 DAT 2001) and Task Force Rakkasan Tarnak Farm Range SOPs.

We have a contradictory statement here. However, since I do not have a copy of TF Rakassan SOP (and I was not able to ask questions to my sources due to OPSEC, I cannot compare the SOPs to Capt. Jasper's statement.

Also, cite your source concerning lack of ground lights by Canadians.

Quote

CJ AEGIS: Care to provide some proof here Eviltree? I would instead argue this was the second time that Canadian forces were interpreted as hostile forces within that training area. That time someone was able to alert the aircraft and wave it off. I see no indications that any American forces operating within that area was ever interpreted to be hostile. I find is odd that the two times that a misidentification occurred at this busy training site it was one involving the same Canadian infantry force. A forces that has been demonstrated to not be falling proper IFF procedures.

I would suggest the CO of the Canadian unit was further responsible for the incident due to the IFF procedures. After the first near miss there was no attempt to fix the IFF problems that the unit was suffering from. I think the very fact that the same Canadian forces was involved in the only two known misidentifications in that area is a very telling factor in establishing something was wrong on the ground.

I have no information to the first time IFF misidentification occured with the Canadians. I require a source.

Tarnak Farm was used by Coalition forces since late 2001. Say the farm was used from Dec.01 to time of incident it would have been used 4 and half months, with the Farm being used almost everyday. 2 IFF mishaps in what, 135 days gives something like 2% chance of IFF screw up. Perhaps luck of the odds?

My statement tried to drew a comparison between Canadians and Americans using same Tarnak Farm SOP.
I'm assuming that choppers do come to the farm both for the Americans and the Canadians.
If the strobe lights bothered the chopper pilots, it is assumable that the chopper pilots request both the Americans and the Canadians to... tone it down a bit.
Again, I have tried to verify this, but was unable to do so.

Quote

CJ AEGIS: You know that just about confirms my suspicion that the Canadian Board of Inquiry was a politicized kangaroo court whose sole purpose was to pile the entirety of the blame on the American pilots. We either have two possible situations. Either Canada Forces are too busy trying to cover their own rears and totally neglected to mention/investigate the IFF situation on the ground or the investigators should be getting new jobs for missing something so obvious.
Your own American BoI came to similar conclusion as the Canadian BoI.
Canadian BoI was also hampered by restrictions put on by Americans on certain information (OPSEC, regs, whatever reason)
IIRC, the pilots themselves refused to go under questioning by the Canadian BoI.

Quote

CJ AEGIS: The USAF pilots are responsible for what happened but Canadians are intent on hanging them rather than instead of fixing things on their side that contributed to the incident.

The pilots screwed up by the numbers, yes? That does not merit punishment?

CF is looking at ways to improve IFF, however, it'll take some time.

Perhaps if American pilots bother to ID the target properly, perhaps less FF would happen.
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#29 jon3831

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:18 AM

Schmitt is going to a general court-martial.

Pilot demands trial by court-martial

Quote

Maj. Harry Schmidt has demanded a trial by court-martial in lieu of accepting nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to officials here.

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#30 EvilTree

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:02 AM

Big gamble indeed...
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#31 FlatlandDan

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:17 AM

Not knowing much about military law, what does this meen for his punishment?  Is he taking a taking a bigger risk or is that sarcasm??  What is the highest punishment he could get now?

-Dan

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#32 Rov Judicata

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:22 AM

^

I'm not sure what the highest punishment is, but he is taking a risk.

He's so sure that he did the right thing, he wants to go to court-martial, where he believes he'll be completely exonerated. :).
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#33 G1223

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:23 AM

FlatlandDan, on Jun 26 2003, 05:18 PM, said:

Not knowing much about military law, what does this meen for his punishment?  Is he taking a taking a bigger risk or is that sarcasm??  What is the highest punishment he could get now?

-Dan

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By refusing the boards finding and asking for a court marshall he is taking the risk that the punishment could be mucgh higher. Meaning they could find he was criminal in his behavior and give jail time along with dishonorable discharge and losing pay and benifits.
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#34 Jid

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:26 AM

As I understand it, before the pilots were not risking ejection from the military.

Schmidt now can.  Under court partial, he could be subject to punitive discharge, prison, hard labour, fines...  I think, iirc, under law there are 9 possible penalties he could face if convicted.

Bigger consequences if he's found guilty, iow.
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#35 Josh

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:27 AM

Quote

He's so sure that he did the right thing, he wants to go to court-martial, where he believes he'll be completely exonerated.

He's risking a lot. However, I can think of more than a few people who will be pissed if he gets completely off (including myself).
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#36 EvilTree

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 04:54 AM

IIRC, under Article 15 hearing, Schmidt could have lost his flight license plus other lesser punishments.

But since he choose court martial, he can also face years in prison for manslaughter and other charges if the court decides to press such charges on him.
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"Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
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"Self control is chef element in self respect. Self respect is chief element in courage."
-Thucydides

#37 eryn

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 06:06 AM

I think the harshest punishment is 64 years in prison... I could be wrong though.

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#38 Kevin Street

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 06:28 AM

He's certainly taking a big gamble. We'll have to see how it turns out.

#39 jon3831

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 10:46 AM

Charges against Major Schmidt


Charge I: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92 (Failure to obey an order or regulation) (1 specification)
Charge II: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 119 (Manslaughter) (4 specifications)
Charge III: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 128  (Assault) (8 specifications)


My take: Major Schmitt is gambling that the other screw-ups in the chain of command will serve to clear him of wrongdoing. By going for court-martial, he's hoping to put the AWACS operators,  the Air Officers Commanding, US Central Command, the Air Force, and even the Canadian Forces on trial for failing to give him a definitave answer on whether or not to release ordinance. As noted, there were many, many failures along the line that led to this tragedy. The Canadians weren't displaying proper IFF. The Air Officers Commanding didn't respond to requests in a timely manner. AWACS wasn't properly up to speed on the position of the Canadian troops. The Air Force wasn't properly briefed (either the fault of the Canadians failing to report their position, or the Air Force failing to disseminate that information.) And last but not least, Major Schmitt didn't leave well enough alone and released a weapon anyway.

It's a *big* gamble. If convicted of all charges, as others have noted, he can recieve hard prison time, loss of pay and benefits and a dismissal from the service. If he had gone with the Article 15, he likely would've lost his wings, lost some pay, and been confined for 30 days before being "seperated" from the Air Force. Hotshot Fighter Jockey then gets to spend the rest of his career flying airliners. (Which is as bad as purgatory for those of the fighter pilot mindset)

Will it work?

That's questionable. Historically, courts-martial undertaken for the "good of the service" don't do very well. Whoever is being court-martialled is crucified and it usually takes the service 15-20 years to stand up and say, "Hey, he might have been right." Now then, did he disobey orders? Yes, he did. He disregarded the "Hold fire" he recieved from the AOC, even though the hold fire order implied a "stand by, we're still trying to figure it out". Does it warrant assault and manslaughter charges? Perhaps. Even if they are warranted, I'm not convinced they warrant hard time. There were enough other screwups on all sides to cast a lingering shadow of doubt on the whole thing, no matter how this turns out.

My $0.02.
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#40 EvilTree

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 11:19 AM

I think the trial will come down to this:

Did Maj. Schmidt act properly according to tactical situation?

Let's say even with Canadians failing to take zero IFF precautions, word failed to pass around US chain of command, AWACS wasn't fast enough checking the situation out, I think it comes down to Maj. Schmidt actions on that night.
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"Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
-Robert A. Heinlein

"Self control is chef element in self respect. Self respect is chief element in courage."
-Thucydides



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