I went to bed last nite grinding over the information we’ve been given, regarding the ambush and fatalities in Niger. Much remains to be revealed or acknowledged…but there are some things that are clear to me, assuming what we have thus far been given is not false or misleading.
Sgt La David Johnson was a jump qualified Infantry NCO. He was not SF trained, he was assigned/attached to the SF team. The four soldiers had been incountry a number of weeks. Prior patrols had involved the entire forces they advised.
NONE had a CIB. That is a specific Infantry decoration, denoting service under fire. In WW II it required one year in a combat zone. By Vietnam, it required 30 days. My point is that none of these men had earned it, which presumes no tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m sure they were well trained…but they were green.
The mission is described as a recon. That’s generally a small unit, tasked to analyze and report back, NOT to engage. The mission evolved into a combat patrol, seeking a specific target. That’s a very different animal, yet they are reported to have taken it on. So we have roughly 10-15 men max, now hunting for a specific target.
They were ambushed by a force estimated at 50 enemy. That they were outmanned and outgunned would have been instantly clear to the team. It is reported that 30 OR 60 minutes passed before they requested air support. That I just don’t believe. It may have taken them 30 minutes to make contact with the French…but I suspect they started calling within minutes.
It took 30 more minutes for the French jets to scramble and yet 30 more to arrive on station. That is just insane. And when they did arrive, they could not engage, supposedly because their weapons array did not permit safe close support.
There are SO many things wrong with this op, its hard to know where to begin…and these are basic things. Air support is useless if its not pre-planned, especially in this clusterfuck of a chain of command. Our soldiers were patrolling with their counterparts; this was described as “a training mission.” Anyone can be ambushed! But the lack of pre-planned air support, the change to a mission for which they were ill-equipped, the fragile and unwieldy assemblage of extraction and medical reinforcement and THE CERTAINTY THAT THESE MEN KNEW HOW COMPLICATED THEIR CHAIN OF SUPPORT WAS…
This is a command failure. Period. These men either went rogue or were allowed to change their mission, once underway. SOMEONE authorized that change. I want to know his name and outcome.
Finally I have read (unsubstantiated) back channel reports from a survivor that Sgt Johnson acquitted himself honorably, heroically during this contact. I hope this is true and if so, that he will be publicly acknowledged in time to come.