July 4, 2012

Army to kick out officer who left dying GI behind

Military officials make the ruling after four years of investigations and agitating by the victim's father.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The officer who shot and killed Pfc. David H. Sharrett II of Oakton, Va., in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq in 2008 should be terminated from the Army and stripped of a combat badge he received for a battle he fled, leaving the mortally wounded Sharrett and four other soldiers behind, military officials have ruled.

click image to enlarge

Army Pfc. David H. Sharrett II is seen at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2007. Sharrett was killed in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq in 2008. He would have turned 32 last Friday.

Photo for The Washington Post by Norm Shafer

The move was revealed the day before Sharrett would have turned 32, and it was the result of four years of investigating and agitating by his father, David Sharrett Sr., a retired English teacher.

At least four previous reviews by the Army resulted in little more than reprimands for the officer, Capt. Timothy Hanson, now 33, who was promoted from lieutenant a year after the incident, and who had been allowed to transfer from active duty to a full-time Army Reserve job in his home state of Wisconsin.

"This whole thing was about Dave, about giving him a voice. He acted honorably on the battlefield. He did everything he was supposed to do. And the ones who knew about this covered it up, acted cowardly," the senior Sharrett said Monday.

Hanson claimed in an Army probe last year that he didn't know he had shot Sharrett, even as the investigating general repeatedly showed him overhead video of the two soldiers within feet of each other.

Hanson said he needed to leave the battlefield to assist two wounded men and brief his commanders. The wounded men told the general that Hanson did not assist them, and Hanson apparently did not brief commanders or return to his unit, which remained on its mission for two additional days.

Hanson said earlier this year that he did not want to discuss the incident, but that he wanted to apologize to the Sharrett family. He did not respond to requests for comment in recent days.

The Army sent an email to David Sharrett Sr. last week saying that Army Secretary John McHugh had referred the awarding of Hanson's Combat Infantryman Badge to the Army's Human Resources Command for review. The email reported that the command's Army Awards Board had recommended revoking Hanson's badge, and McHugh had approved that move.

The email continued that McHugh, in late February, had ordered a review of Hanson's actions by the U.S. Army Reserve Command, because Hanson is now a reservist. The reserve commander "initiated elimination proceedings against CPT Hanson. As a result, CPT Hanson is currently being processed for separation from the Army."

Army officials declined to say whether the separation was honorable, though a dishonorable discharge would require court-martial proceedings. They also would not discuss why the move came more than four years after the incident.

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who commanded the multinational forces in northern Iraq in 2008, said in an email Monday that Sharrett was "incorrect about his perception about what the chain of command knew regarding Capt. Hanson's actions."

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