Entries in Afghanistan (73)


Military Suicides in 2012 Top Military Deaths in Afghanistan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of suicides among active-duty service members, across all four military branches, reached a record high of 349 in 2012, compared with 301 in 2011.

The 2012 suicide total was higher than the number of U.S. servicemembers killed in Afghanistan last year.  The number for Operation Enduring Freedom – the war in Afghanistan — was 313 dead.

The Army reported the highest number of suicides — 182 — among active-duty troops last year, according to the Pentagon, compared with 167 in 2011. The Marine Corps reported the sharpest increase — 48, compared with 32 in 2011. The Air Force reported 59 suicides, compared with 50 in 2011, and the Navy reported 60, compared with 52 the previous year.  

Historical information from the Pentagon’s Suicide Event Report for 2011 showed that about 90 percent of the military suicides that year were among those serving at bases in the United States, not in Afghanistan or Iraq.

A study released last spring found the rate of Army suicides had “soared” since the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan War Hero to Receive Medal of Honor

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A former Army staff sergeant who helped repel one of the deadliest attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan will receive the Medal of Honor.   Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, 31, becomes only the fourth living recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House announced Friday that on Feb. 11 Romesha will receive the medal for his actions in repelling the deadly  attack on Combat Outpost Keating on Oct. 3, 2009.   At the time Romesha was serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

The attack by hundreds of Taliban fighters on the remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan killed eight American soldiers and left 22 others wounded.   The attack was profiled in the book The Outpost by Jake Tapper, formerly of ABC News.

Romesha will become the 11th veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be awarded the medal.  Seven of them have been awarded posthumously.

Combat Outpost Keating was a small base in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province,  located at the bottom of a valley surrounded on all sides by steep mountain ridges.  Plans to close the base had been delayed for months when the attack was launched by 300 Taliban fighters, hiding in the rugged terrain.

According to the citation accompanying his award, Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and was injured by a rocket propelled grenade as he engaged a second one.

“Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight,” says the citation, “and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.”

Now leading a five-man team, Romesha used a sniper rifle to fight back Taliban attackers, including three who had breached the outpost’s perimeter.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets,” says the citation.

Maintaining radio communication with the tactical operations center at the base, Romesha identified a main point of attackers and directed air support that killed “over 30 enemy fighters.”

“After learning that other Soldiers at a distant battle position were still alive, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire, allowing three of their wounded comrades to reach the aid station." Romesha and his team then "pushed forward 100 meters under withering fire, to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades.”

The citation says “Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers.  His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.”

After the battle, Outpost Keating was finally closed down.

Romesha enlisted in the Army in September 1999 and served until April 2011. Married and a father of three, he currently lives in Minot, N.D.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Grinch Steals Christmas Care Packages Meant for Troops in Afghanistan

Move America Forward(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A Sacramento, Calif., group that sends out hundreds of Christmas care packages to America’s troops serving abroad has fallen victim to a Grinch.

Dec. 17 was the cut-off day for Move America Forward to get 350 care packages to the post office with the guarantee they’d be there by Christmas.  As the boxes sat in a trailer on Dec. 16, waiting to be shipped the next day, some Christmas ne’er do well broke the trailer’s lock and stole 25 of the packages -- all of them intended for soldiers in Afghanistan.

Scott Raab, outreach coordinator for Move America Forward, said the contents of the boxes were probably worth around $5,000, but the cost isn’t the issue.  The care packages were intended to give soldiers a reminder of the comforts of home, he said.  And, since the boxes were all individually addressed, there will be 25 soldiers going without this year.

“We pack pretty much everything in there,” Raab told ABC News.  “Deodorant, coffee, candy.  But also notes from school kids here at home thanking them for their service, Christmas cards, everything we can.”

Raab, who is himself a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said the packages really mean a lot to soldiers serving overseas who miss the comforts we take for granted at home.

“This can mean the whole world to these troops.  We send packages year-round, but during the holidays it’s even more special.  And we get some of the packages out to specific soldiers whose family is not able, for whatever reason, to send them anything.”

The packages were all clearly marked for military personnel and contain literature about Move America Forward, Raab said, so whoever the culprit is knows precisely who they’ve stolen from.

Raab is working with various organizations and accepting donations through to replace the stolen items and help ensure the soldiers whose packages were stolen get their Christmas gifts, even if they are a few days late.

Though disappointed, Raab said he remains confident his organization will get all the losses covered.

“These people are the definition of a Grinch,” he said.  “It is disheartening for those of us who worked so hard to get all these Christmas packages together.  But we’ve had an overwhelming response from people wanting to help out and it just shows how much support there is out there for our troops.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Army General Charged with Forcible Sodomy During Tour in Afghanistan

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(FORT BRAGG, N.C.) -- An Army brigadier general has been charged with forcible sodomy, inappropriate relationships, and possessing alcohol and pornography while serving as a senior commander in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, a deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, faces a possible court martial over the charges handed down Wednesday.

In May, Sinclair was sent home to the United States in the middle of his combat tour in Afghanistan, where he was serving in the southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar as the deputy commander of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne.

Sinclair was sent to the division’s home base of Fort Bragg, N.C., so allegations of potential misconduct could be investigated.  At the time of his return, base spokesmen confirmed that Sinclair was under criminal investigation.

A news release by the Fort Bragg Public Affairs Office listed the charges presented against Sinclair as including, “forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, attempted violation of an order, violations of regulations by wrongfully engaging in inappropriate relationships and misusing a government travel charge card, violating general orders by possessing alcohol and pornography while deployed, maltreatment of subordinates, filing fraudulent claims, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman and engaging in conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

Few specifics about the allegations against Sinclair were released Wednesday, but a Defense Department official said, “several women were the subject of Sinclair’s alleged misconduct.”

A former U.S. official who worked with Sinclair during his deployment in Kandahar said he and other officials who knew Sinclair were shocked by the news of the charges.  He described Sinclair as being “very proactive” and a “gregarious individual.”

Sinclair remains at Fort Bragg, where he has been serving in a placeholder position as a special assistant to the commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps.  A Defense Department official said Sinclair was read the charges against him on Monday.  Another official added that Sinclair is not under detention at the base.

Sinclair will now face an Article 32 hearing, at which evidence will be presented to a presiding officer to determine if his case should proceed to a court martial.  No date has been set for that hearing.

This past decade, Sinclair has served two tours in Iraq and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan.  He had also deployed as part of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Army spokesman George Wright says that in the past decade there have been only two Army general officers who have undergone court martials.

In June, Brig. Gen. Roger B. Duff, a former commander of the 95th Training Division, pleaded guilty to two charges of false statements, two charges of conduct unbecoming, and seven charges of wearing unauthorized badges, awards or ribbons.  Duff was sentenced to two months confinement and dismissal but, because of a pre-trial agreement, only the dismissal could be imposed.  Duff’s sentence has not been finalized.

Prior to Duff’s case, the only other court martial involving an Army general officer was in 1999, when Maj. Gen. R.E. Hale pled guilty to seven counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of making a false statement about an adulterous relationship. He was reprimanded, fined $10,000, ordered to forfeit $1,000 a month in pay and retired as a brigadier general.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wife Skyping Soldier in Afghanistan Saw Bullet Hole After He Died

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A woman who watched her husband, an Army nurse in Afghanistan, die during a Skype video chat, says she saw a bullet hole in the closet behind him after he collapsed suddenly.

In a statement released on Sunday by Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark’s family, his wife, Susan Orellana-Clark, described what she saw from the Skype video.

“During the Skype conversation on April 30th 2012, there was no sign that CPT Clark was in any discomfort, nor did he indicate any alarm.  Then CPT Clark was suddenly knocked forward.  The closet behind him had a bullet hole in it,” the statement read.

The Skype video link continued for about two hours as Clark’s family tried to get help, according to the statement.

“After two hours and many frantic phone calls by Mrs. Clark, two military personnel arrived in the room and appeared to check his pulse, but provided no details about his condition to his wife,” the statement continued.

The cause of Clark's death is still under investigation.  He is survived by his wife and two daughters, ages 3 and 9.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Soldier Killed in Afghanistan During Skype Chat with Wife

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EL PASO, Texas) -- A Michigan native serving as an Army medic in Afghanistan was killed during a Skype video chat with his Texas-based wife earlier this week, The Detroit Free Press reports.

Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark, a 43-year-old Army chief nurse, had been assigned to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso and deployed to Afghanistan in March. He was killed on Monday as his wife watched helplessly on a Skype video-chat. Clark's body was returned to Dover Air Force Base on Thursday.

A funeral is planned in Spencerport, N.Y., his wife's hometown where they formerly lived. A memorial service is also planned for Addison, Mich. where Clark graduated from high school, according to the paper.

Clark is survived by his wife and two daughters, aged 3 and 9.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama Hails 'Light of New Day' in Afghanistan

The White House(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In a dramatic, live address to the American people from inside Afghanistan, President Obama on Tuesday hailed a new milestone in his effort to end the nearly 11-year Afghan war. He also marked the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who triggered it.

"We have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," Obama said.

"The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm's way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda."

"This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end," Obama said later.

The live address from Bagram Air Field, a U.S. military base outside of Kabul, comes on the one-year anniversary of the successful Navy SEALs mission into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, who plotted and launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghan soil.

It is believed to be the first time a sitting U.S. president has spoken to the American people from inside an active war zone. Obama flew to Afghanistan on a secret overnight mission aboard Air Force One, landing under the cover of darkness. He is expected to leave before dawn.

"One year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is within reach," Obama said.

Since bin Laden's death, 367 American troops have been killed and almost 4,500 wounded in Afghanistan. In the 10 and a half years since America's longest war began, more than 1,800 service members have lost their lives.

There are roughly 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now, according to the Pentagon, but a withdrawal of those troops is well underway.

The last of the president's "surge troops" -- 23,000 service members -- are expected to withdraw by September, with the remaining U.S. combat forces scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. The transition is made possible, Obama said, by the determination and sacrifices of men and women in uniform.

"Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and the flag they serve under," he said.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder," he said. "In their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country."

But while Obama sought to reassure his domestic audience of the war's end -- a key campaign promise -- he also tried to assure Afghans and insurgents that the U.S. will not abandon the country after 2014.

Earlier on his visit, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement that outlines ways the U.S. will remain engaged in Afghanistan's development and security to prevent the Taliban from re-taking control of the government.

"The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: as you stand up, you will not stand alone," Obama said.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found a record-high number -- 66 percent -- of Americans believe the Afghanistan war has not been worth fighting, matching opposition to the war in Iraq at its peak five years ago.

As for views of Obama's handling of the war effort, more Americans approve than disapprove of his leadership, 48 to 43 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Briefed on Photos of Soldiers Posing with Dead Suicide Bombers

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama was briefed on photos published Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times depicting U.S. military personnel posing with the dismembered bodies of suicide bombers.

Carney, speaking with reporters on Air Force One Wednesday, said he did not ask the president if he’d actually seen the images but he noted that “the conduct depicted in those photographs is reprehensible.”

“It does not in any way represent the standards, the high standards of the U.S. military,” Carney said. “And the president certainly shares in the defense secretary’s opinion that this needs to be investigated, and it will be investigated, and that those responsible will be held accountable.”

Carney also added White House Officials were “very disappointed” about the decision to publish the photos. The Pentagon “obviously urged the newspaper not to publish these photos,” Carney said.  He added that editors at the paper were told by military officials that publishing the photos would put U.S. military and civilians in Afghanistan in danger.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Hero' US Soldier Gives Life to Save Afghan Girl

U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) -- It is a compelling war-zone story of heroism of a U.S. soldier who gave his own life to save an Afghan girl from certain injury.

Sgt. Dennis Weichel, 29, died in Afghanistan last week as he lifted an Afghan girl who was in the path of a large military vehicle barreling down a road.

Weichel, a Rhode Island National Guardsman, was riding along in a convoy in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan when some children were spotted on the road ahead.

The children were picking up shell casings lying on the road. The casings are recycled for money in Afghanistan.  Weichel and other soldiers in the convoy got out of their vehicles to get them out of the way of the heavy trucks in the convoy.

The children were moved out of the way, but an Afghan girl darted back onto the road to pick up some more casings that lay underneath a passing MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle.  The huge armored trucks can weigh as much as 16 tons and are designed to protect the troops they carry from roadside bombs.

Weichel spotted the girl and quickly moved toward her to get her out of the way.  He succeeded, but not before he was run over by the heavily armored truck.  The girl was safe, but Weichel later died of his injuries.  He had arrived in Afghanistan a few weeks ago and had been a member of the Rhode Island National Guard since 2001.

Lt. Col. Denis Riel, a spokesman for the Rhode Island National Guard, said Weichel embodied values that can’t be taught. “I have heard nothing but incredible stuff about this kid, selfless beyond our core values that we live up to,” Riel said.  “As I hear more from family and others, he was the living embodiment of the Army’s core values: courageous, selfless and loyal.  All values we expect from our soldiers.  We mourn all combat deaths, but this one is a significant loss.”

An Army article quotes two former colleagues praising Weichel’s character.

Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, who deployed with Weichel to Iraq in 2005, said, “He would have done it for anybody,” adding, “That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was that type of guy.”

First Sgt. Nicky Peppe also served with Weichel in Iraq.  “He was a big kid at heart,” Peppe said. “He always had a smile on his face and he made everyone laugh. But as much as Weichel was funny, he was also a professional. When it was time to go outside the wire for a combat patrol, he was all business.”

Since his death, the father of three has been posthumously promoted to sergeant and received the Bronze Star for his heroism.

His remains will arrive in Rhode Island Saturday, and a wake will be held in Providence Sunday. He’ll be buried Monday.    He is survived by his children, his fiancée and his parents.  Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has ordered flags in the state to be flown at half-staff until Weichel’s burial.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bales to Wife: 'Something Terrible' Has Happened

US Army(WASHINGTON) -- Just moments after allegedly murdering more than a dozen Afghan civilians in an apparent unprovoked attack, American staff sergeant Robert Bales called his wife and told her “something terrible” had happened, the wife’s lawyer told ABC News on Friday.

Robert Bales called his wife Kari from Afghanistan apparently after he had surrendered to coalition forces there and spoke to her for about three minutes before the call was cut off, attorney Lance Rosen said.

It wasn’t until Bales was back in the U.S. that Bales spoke to his wife again Wednesday.

According to Rosen, the two did not discuss the case against Bales in the more recent call, but spoke about the couple’s two young children.

“It was so good to hear his voice,” Kari Bales told Rosen.

Bales was charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, plus six counts of aggravated assault and six counts of attempted murder.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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