CBC In Depth
U.S. Air Force Verdict
CBC News Online | July 6, 2004

On July 6, 2004 Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, 8th Air Force Commander, found U.S. Air Force Major Harry Schmidt guilty of dereliction of duty for his role in the April 17, 2002 Tarnak Farms fratricide bombing incident which resulted in the deaths of four Canadian soldiers and the serious injury of eight others.


Approved Punishment--Schmidt Art 15

Forfeiture of $2,836.00 pay per month for 2 months. Reprimand.

You are hereby reprimanded. You flagrantly disregarded a direct order from the controlling agency, exercised a total lack of basic flight discipline over your aircraft, and blatantly ignored the applicable rules of engagement and special instructions. Your willful misconduct directly caused the most egregious consequences imaginable, the deaths of four coalition soldiers and injury to eight others. The victims of your callous misbehavior were from one of our staunch allies in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and were your comrades-in-arms.

You acted shamefully on 17 April 2002 over Tarnak Farms, Afghanistan, exhibiting arrogance and a lack of flight discipline. When your flight lead warned you to "make sure it's not friendlies" and the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft controller directed you to "stand by" and later to "hold fire," you should have marked the location with your targeting pod. Thereafter, if you believed, as you stated, you and your leader were threatened, you should have taken a series of evasive actions and remained at a safe distance to await further instructions from AWACS. Instead, you closed on the target and blatantly disobeyed the direction to "hold fire." Your failure to follow that order is inexcusable. I do not believe you acted in defense of Major Umbach or yourself. Your actions indicate that you used your self-defense declaration as a pretext to strike a target, which you rashly decided was an enemy firing position, and about which you had exhausted your patience in waiting for clearance from the Combined Air Operations Center to engage. You used the inherent right of self-defense as an excuse to wage your own war.

In your personal presentation before me on 1 July 2004, I was astounded that you portrayed yourself as a victim of the disciplinary process without expressing heartfelt remorse over the deaths and injuries you caused to the members of the Canadian Forces. In fact, you were obviously angry that the United States Air Force had dared to question your actions during the 17 April 2002 tragedy. Far from providing any defense for your actions, the written materials you presented to me at the hearing only served to illustrate the degree to which you lacked flight discipline as a wingman of COFFEE Flight on 17 April 2002.

Through your arrogance, you undermined one of the most sophisticated weapons systems in the world, consisting of the Combined Air Operations Center, the Airborne Warning and Control System, and highly disciplined pilots, all of whom must work together in an integrated fashion to achieve combat goals. The United States Air Force is a major contributor to military victories over our Nation's enemies because our pilots possess superior flight discipline. However, your actions on the night of 17 April 2002 demonstrate an astonishing lack of flight discipline. You were blessed with an aptitude for aviation, your nation provided you the best aviation training on the planet, and you acquired combat expertise in previous armed conflicts. However, by your gross poor judgment, you ignored your training and your duty to exercise flight discipline, and the result was tragic. I have no faith in your abilities to perform in a combat environment.

I am concerned about more than your poor airmanship; I am also greatly concerned about your officership and judgment. Our Air Force core values stress "integrity first." Following the engagement in question, you lied about the reasons why you engaged the target after you were directed to hold fire and then you sought to blame others. You had the right to remain silent, but not the right to lie. In short, the final casualty of the engagement over Kandahar on 17 April 2002 was your integrity.


THE VERDICT: Text of USAF decision Harry Schmidt
THE HEARING: The friendly fire hearing Statements issued by Majors William Umbach and Harry Schmidt Transcripts of the friendly fire incident radio communications (pdf)
THE SOLDIERS: Who they were The Fog of War: Casualties of friendly fire
THE INVESTIGATION: Final reports from the Canadian and U.S. board of inquiries Go-pills, bombs & friendly fire The Board of Inquiry Maurice Baril
KEY RESOURCES: Media CBC News Archive Links Photogallery: Send-off for Canadian forces
VIEWPOINT: Reaction Military wife diary
RELATED: Witness: Friendly Fire

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