Skip to comments.Hyped Story Of Lynch's Capture Covers Officer's Incompetence, Vets Say
Posted on 08/12/2003 10:02:02 AM PDT by mark502inf
Three old soldiers say the hoopla over Pfc. Jessica Lynch has drowned out a darker story - that her company commander foolishly put Lynch and her comrades in harm's way.
Just as bad, the three say, is the Army's official report on what happened on March 23 when Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company ran into a firefight in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.
The report calls the clash "a tragedy" and says the 507th's soldiers "fought hard. ... Every soldier performed honorably, and each did his or her duty."
That statement raises the eyebrows of retired artillery Col. Jerry Morelock of Fulton, Mo., now the director of Westminster College's Churchill Memorial.
In an e-mail interview, Morelock questioned whether the company commander had acted honorably and done his duty. That commander was Capt. Troy King. Morelock noted that King had:
Misread maps all along his convoy's routes.
Gotten his soldiers in one piece through a hostile city - and then turned around and driven back through it. (At that point, Morelock says, "the Iraqis found the soft targets presented to them by Capt. King's incompetence too tempting to pass up.")
Refused to jettison his unit's trailers, even when they slowed what should have been a hasty retreat.
Apparently abandoned some of his soldiers on the battlefield.
Tom Kuypers of St. Charles is a retired lieutenant colonel of infantry. In an e-mail interview, he offered a stark judgment: "Capt. King will have to live with the burden that he failed to accomplish his mission. He failed his troops as a commander. He lacked competence as an officer. ... Commanders never abandon their troops in battle."
Another retired lieutenant colonel of infantry, Ed Kennedy of Leavenworth, Kan., shared that view. By e-mail, he quoted a maxim heard often in the Army: "A commander is responsible for everything his unit does - or fails to do."
All three veterans were stunned by the report's repeated mention of weapons jamming or malfunctioning. All three called the breakdowns a classic symptom of bad leadership.
Kuypers termed the jamming "a giveaway for lax discipline and the unit's lack of attention to detail." Kennedy said, "Dirty rifles are a sign of indiscipline, no matter how you cut it."
Kennedy blamed what he called "a major cultural divide between the combat arms and those of support soldiers. It's almost as if we're in different armies. And the 507th is part of this non-combat arms culture. There's a lot of tough talk but an underlying softness. They take pride in living in tents or trucks and not being fighters."
Kennedy added, "I think the pervasive number of females has made this even worse in the last 25 years."
"Iraqis probably saved her"
But Kuyper said the 507th had gotten little in the way of help from the links above it in the chain of command. Among other things, he said, nobody provided an airborne escort, even though "helicopters routinely 'cover' convoys."
Even Kennedy said: "The leaders were all suffering from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. This added to the problem. ... Even a good rest plan can't fix this problem, and I empathize with their physical condition. I've been there. But battle drills that are rehearsed counter the effects of sleep deprivation."
King's home station is Fort Bliss, Texas. A spokeswoman there, Maj. Catie Morelle-Oliveira, said King had decided against granting interviews but was preparing a written statement.
Morelock scoffed at the press's lionization of Pfc. Lynch. In the official report, Morelock said, Lynch "comes across as just some poor young kid who got smashed up in a vehicle accident. In all likelihood, the Iraqis probably saved her life. Certainly they did more to ensure her immediate survival than Capt. King did."
Morelock's final words targeted the Army itself: "To refer to this combat action as 'a tragedy' - an 'event' in which the convoy seemingly just happened to find itself - is nonsense. Dismissing the whole thing by claiming that 'all served nobly' and then throwing medals at them is an insult to the soldiers who died and ought to be an embarrassment to the survivors."
I respect where these veterans are coming from, but "throwing medals" is a time-tested way to coverup for a command failure. I suspect that every officer in the Army knows the score, and if they think Capt. King is culpable, he will be passed over for Major and his career will end.
Except that their version of Sergeant Hulka wasn't quite able to get the troops out of the mess they were in.
Man, I miss Warren Oates.
Yeah, but it is still a big leap to field grade (Major). The competition is intense. Even if he wasn't at fault, a blackmark like this could lead to a less-than-glowing fitrep and that is a career-ender.
Don't mean to pick nits here, but I think that this ambush took place during that infamous sandstorm. Pvt. Lynch's Humvee rear-ended a disabled truck because visibilty was so poor. Isn't it reasonable to assume that rotary wing aircraft were either grounded (or at least ineffective in scouting for this particular convoy)?
Besides this, the rest of the criticism seems to be reasonable based on public information.