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The Honolulu Advertiser


By William Cole

Posted on: Sunday, February 7, 2010

More info expected on battle of Wanat

 • Ex-POW feels overlooked

First Lt. Jonathan P. Bro-strom in May received a Silver Star posthumously in Hawai'i for his valor in battle in Afghanistan.

The Damien Memorial School and University of Hawai'i graduate ran a gauntlet of fire in a remote mountain village to reinforce an observation post that could have been overrun and paid with his life for doing so.

A couple of months earlier, on March 30 at Fort Benning, Ga., Brostrom's company commander, Capt. Matt Myer, received his own Silver Star, the U.S. military's third-highest award for valor.

"It's very difficult to explain the complexities of what happened (that day)," Myer told Army Times after the award was made.

A new investigation into the 2008 battle that killed nine U.S. soldiers and wounded 27 others is expected to shed new light on the attack by more than 200 enemy fighters on the relatively small U.S. force in the village of Wanat in mountainous eastern Afghanistan.

That light already is casting a glare. The Washington Post reported that Myer is one of three commanding officers who are being singled out for possible disciplinary action in the firefight, in which the enemy surrounded U.S. troops and hammered away at the Americans until Apache attack helicopters arrived an hour later, according to reports.

The new, 4,000-page investigation report hasn't yet been released, but a separate Army analysis of the battle said Brostrom's platoon didn't have enough water, heavy equipment or support as it attempted to set up a new outpost.

Myer arrived in Wanat the day before the battle, according to the analysis.

Once at Wanat, Myer "fearlessly led the defense" in the employment of artillery, mortars, close air support and the gunfire of his men, the narrative for his Silver Star states.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. William Ostlund and brigade commander Col. Charles Preysler also were named by the Washington Post as being in line for possible disciplinary action.

Brostrom's father, David, a retired Army colonel who lives in 'Aiea and pushed for a new investigation into Wanat, said another line of inquiry being pursued is whether his son's unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, misused white phosphorus in Afghanistan.

White phosphorus, nicknamed "Willy Pete," is a controversial combustible: It can burn down to the bone. The U.S. military said coalition forces used white phosphorus in compliance with international law, for marking targets, illumination, destroying unoccupied bunkers and other uses, but that it was not intended for use against people.

"That (inquiry) is not completed yet," Brostrom said.