Pentagon report on deadly Niger ambush details acts of bravery by soldiers

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by David Martin
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WASHINGTON — A Pentagon report out Thursday said multiple failures, including a lack of proper training, led up to the deadly ambush in Niger last October.

Four U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded. The team of American and Nigerien soldiers had been searching for a suspected terrorist for nearly 36 hours when they were ambushed. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of U.S. forces in Africa, said it came without warning.

“They had never seen anything in this magnitude, numbers, mobility and training. It was a total tactical surprise,” he said.

The military’s digital recreation shows the troops got out of their unarmored vehicles and returned fire. But realizing they were outgunned and outnumbered, they tried to drive out of the kill zone. One vehicle was left behind, and Sgt. Bryan Black was the first to die.

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright stayed with Black until they were forced to withdraw. They ran until the bullets caught up with them. The troops fought bravely, but they were not prepared for the combat they faced.

“If you get to a position in an operation where you have enemy contact, you need to be able to operate like clockwork,” said Waldhauser. “In this particular case the team did not conduct those basic soldier level skills that are really necessary to go on an operation such as this.”

The rest moved to a second position. But again they were overwhelmed and had to retreat. The team commander, Capt. Michael Perozeni, was shot and thrown from the vehicle.

Sgt. La David Johnson made a dash for life which ended at a tree, chief investigator Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier said.

“He ran 960 meters,” Cloutier said. “He ran a long way from where he was last seen and he made his last stand where he fought to the end under a dense thorny tree.”

Some of the soldiers will be awarded medals for their bravery, but some also face disciplinary action for the failures in training and planning that preceded the ambush.

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