By Leo Shane III, Stars and StripesPacific edition, Saturday, August 4, 2007
WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps’ Inspector General will review all service combat casualty reports after senior leaders found numerous errors in units’ tracking and reporting of friendly fire cases.
The investigation, ordered by the commandant, will include a look at whether wounded Marines and their families are receiving proper notification of friendly fire incidents, and how officials could lose track of the strategically important data.
Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Corps, told members of a House Armed Services subcommittee Thursday that since 2001 the service has seen 23 incidents involving 82 casualties that may be a result of friendly-fire attacks, but he admitted he has little confidence that figure is accurate.
In June, Corps officials testified before the same subcommittee that only two friendly-fire incidents had occurred since 2001, with only 19 casualties. Thursday’s figures were the second time they sent corrected data to Congress.
“The families of our fallen and wounded Marines are entitled to accurate, timely information on the causes of their loved ones’ death or injury,” Magnus said. “We don’t want these families to feel like we’re not taking care of them.”
Magnus said that in some of the incidents, families still have not been informed that a friendly-fire investigation is under way, despite Corps policies requiring that information to be related to survivors within a few days.
Members of the subcommittee blasted the Corps for those violations in light of their extra emphasis by lawmakers on the issue and high-profile cases, such as the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.
Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., said the multiple errors in the process called into question all of the Corps’ assurances that the service is working toward a solution.
“I’m hesitant to believe there was any intent to deceive or mislead,” he said. “But it’s disturbing that the picture of the friendly-fire process compiled by Marine Corps Headquarters … was so different from how it was actually being implemented.”
Magnus blamed inconsistent paperwork for the mistakes, saying in some cases units used outdated or incorrect terminology that misclassified the cases. The inspector general’s review will include a look at those cases, and offer recommendations for corrections there as well.
Defense officials also are drafting plans for a militarywide friendly-fire reporting policy, modeled after updates in the Army’s regulations earlier this year, the assistant commandant said.
Magnus he expects to offer Congress an accurate number of friendly-fire investigations, casualties and deaths once the inspector general’s review is finished in a few weeks.
--submitted by Patti Woodard