Don’t ignore the insights gained in the heat of battle
It has been almost 600 days since 28-year-old Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney from Brisbane was killed in action in Afghanistan.
The new dad was shot in the upper body by a single enemy round during the Battle of Derapet in the Tangi Valley on August 24, 2010.
Following the battle one of his close mates in the Mentoring Task Force wrote a detailed email in which he claimed that with better fire support from mortars, artillery and light armoured vehicles, Lance Corporal MacKinney might not have been killed.
The internal inquiry released today by the military briefly address issues raised by the digger but dismisses them because he told his superior officer (a Colonel) that he was just “venting’’ as part of the grieving process when he wrote the email.
“I am satisfied that the comments reported in the media did not represent any genuine complaint but were simple expressions of grief,’’ the report says.
It finds no shortcomings with command, fire support or intelligence despite the fact that intelligence reports predicted between 15 and 25 enemy fighters when the combined Australian-Afghan patrol in fact encountered a force of more than 100 enemy fighters who unleashed withering and accurate fire. It was a miracle that more diggers were not hit.
The inquiry officer also makes the extraordinary claim, given that he was not there on the day, that he was “satisfied’’ that “earlier engagement of offensive fire support from 120mm mortars would not have altered the outcome in relation to Lance Corporal MacKinney.’‘
The mortars were in place but were not used because of the risk to friendly forces, local civilians and the lack of a clearance from air traffic control. The battle was so intense that many soldiers were almost out of ammunition by the time they were ordered to break contact under covering fire from an Apache helicopter.
Despite this the inquiry found that no member had “exhausted his total ammunition supply’’ although there were some “ammunition natures that were exhausted but all members retained “some” ammunition for their personal weapon.’‘
As- part of his “venting’’ process the soldier who penned the email complained bitterly about ammunition re-supply.
The inquiry officer went further and said he found ``no evidence of any substantial weakness or deficiency in relation to the incident.’‘
So the views of a young soldier who had fought for his life during a three-hour battle are simply dismissed as “venting’’ during the grieving process and the actions of everyone along the chain were exemplary, even those who had miscalculated the strength of the enemy by a factor of four.
The Federal Opposition has rejected the findings of the internal inquiry and demanded an independent commission of inquiry to examine all factors involved in the death of Lance Corporal MacKinney and the overall conduct of the Battle of Derapet.
The Gillard Government should take this on board and launch an independent inquiry. There are some 36 inquiries underway into Defence matters at vast taxpayer expense, but this one is of vital importance.
The blunt dismissal of detailed concerns from a soldier in the battle, by a Colonel who wasn’t, is not acceptable.
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