3 officers reprimanded in deaths of Hawaii soldier, 8 others
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Three Army officers have received letters of reprimand for mistakes made before a 2008 battle in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of nine American soldiers, including 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom of 'Aiea, the soldier's father said.
The disciplinary action is part of the fallout from more than a year's worth of efforts by Brostrom's father, retired Army Col. David Brostrom, to get the full details of what happened after the Army initially concluded in its investigation that commanders did nothing wrong.
David Brostrom early on blamed his son's command for a series of failures leading up to the attack.
CBS News reported that Jonathan Brostrom's company commander, Capt. Matthew Myer, along with two of Myer's commanding officers, received letters of reprimand for failing to adequately prepare defenses before the attack that killed the Damien Memorial and University of Hawai'i graduate and eight other soldiers.
The battle also resulted in 27 Americans being wounded.
NBC News reported that the other two receiving reprimands were the battalion and brigade commanders. At the time, those commanders were Lt. Col. William Ostlund and Col. Charles Preysler.
Brostrom said yesterday that he and family members of other soldiers killed in the battle are being kept in the dark about the disciplinary action and a new investigation into the July 13, 2008, battle. He learned of the disciplinary action from the media.
Brostrom said he called the Army deputy adjutant general's office yesterday about the lack of family notification.
"They (Army officials) apologized profusely, but I said, 'Listen, I shouldn't have to see on the news and have my wife read all this and get all these e-mails from families,' " Brostrom said.
MEDALS FOR VALOR
Jonathan Brostrom, a 24-year-old platoon leader, was killed after he ran through enemy fire to reinforce other soldiers at an observation post that was in danger of being overrun.
Last May, the 'Aiea family accepted a Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor, that Jonathan Brostrom received posthumously for his bravery.
A couple of months earlier at Fort Benning, Ga., Myer had received his own Silver Star for his actions at Wanat.
"It's very difficult to explain the complexities of what happened (that day)," Myer told Army Times after receiving the medal.
About 200 enemy fighters surrounded and attacked the much smaller force of U.S. troops who had been sent to set up a new combat outpost in Wanat in eastern Afghani-stan's Kunar province.
The soldiers were short on water and heavy equipment. An Army analysis of the battle — separate from the investigations — was critical of the operation.
After nearly 15 months in Afghanistan, the American commanders "had grown complacent," the report said. "In their hubris, they forgot that a new position is most vulnerable in the early days of its formation."
Myer arrived in Wanat the day before the battle, according to the analysis.
WAITING FOR REPORT
David Brostrom said that he called an Army official yesterday who confirmed Myer's reprimand.
"He said Capt. Myer, he's been read the letter, and he has a lawyer and he has so many days to respond," Brostrom said.
Army officials also confirmed two other commanders were read letters of reprimand, he said.
Army Gen. Charles Campbell, the commander of U.S. Forces Command, has responsibility for determining what effect the reprimands will have.
David Brostrom, a 30-year Army veteran, said he was told that "Gen. Campbell had not made a decision — letters were read to the individuals, but no decision has been made. Depending on how these officers (respond), they could get punished or nothing at all. He's waiting for the officers to come back and state their case."
Ostlund is deputy commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga. Preysler is on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
In September, the commander of U.S. Marine Forces Command, Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, was ordered to conduct a new investigation of the battle of Wanat. The 4,000-page report hasn't yet been released.
David Brostrom said he doesn't know whether the three officers being reprimanded should receive a stiffer punishment.
"I don't know. If I haven't seen the (new investigation), I can't judge either way," he said. "I will guarantee you, the Marine Corps, Gen. Natonski's investigating committee, did a very detailed job."
The families of those who died at Wanat are still waiting for the report and a family briefing.
"The only time I get anything out of this thing is when the news calls me," Brostrom said.