Two Air National Guard pilots involved in a 2003 friendly fire case in Iraq that killed a British soldier are troubled every day by images from that desert mission, said a general who oversees their fighter wing.
“There’s not a day goes by that the pilots involved in this particular instance don’t think about this, and that’s something that they will live with and deal with the rest of their lives,” Brig. Gen. Gary L. Sayler, deputy commanding general for the Idaho National Guard’s aircraft operations, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The U.S. military has not released the names of the A-10 pilots from the 190th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron involved in the event that resulted in the death of Lance Cpl. Matty Hull.
Hull was killed when at least one U.S. jet fired on his convoy in the southern Iraq city of Basra.
The case has jumped back into the international spotlight because of an ongoing British probe of Hull’s death.
Although a British tabloid has published the name of one of the two men, Sayler, Idaho National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Stephanie Dowling and other U.S. officials will not confirm the pilot’s identity.
In a 20-minute interview at the Idaho Air National Guard’s home at Gowen Field in Boise, Sayler said the men involved have temporarily moved their families from their homes, in an attempt to skirt intense media scrutiny since excerpts of a leaked combat video of the botched mission were published in the British newspaper The Sun on Tuesday.
Since then, U.S. officials finally agreed to release a cockpit video capturing the exchange with the two Idaho pilots.
For Sayler, the case has already been resolved: Neither pilot from the Boise-based squadron was disciplined in the U.S. military’s investigation, which concluded the pilots “followed the procedures and processes for engaging targets.”
“A Central Command investigation was conducted, which included both U.S. and British air and army officers,” Sayler said. “We feel a full investigation was done. These individuals were totally cleared.”
Both men still fly with the Idaho unit, said Lt. Tony Vincelli, a Guard spokesman.
No training changes were deemed necessary, Sayler said. A-10 pilots have focused on their customary practice procedures.
Sayler said the intensity of the response to the leaked video has served to close the ranks of the squadron’s pilots as they turn to each other for support. British news organizations have sent reporters and cameras to Idaho to chase the story.
“With people camped out on lawns, it’s very disruptive,” Sayler said. “It’s causing a great deal of concern among our families, families who weren’t involved in any way, shape or form in this act.”
Sayler said they have not forgotten Hull’s family, however.
“On behalf of all the members of the Idaho National Guard, we’d like to express our deepest sympathy for Lance Corporal Hull,” he said.