This is getting time on CBC as well as Global.... http://www.canada.com/national/story.asp?id=AE944043-D0A8-4936-B5EB-35671448C462
Canadian soldiers convicted in accidental gun discharges
Monday, September 29, 2003
KABUL -- Two Canadian privates have been convicted of negligence in the accidental discharge of their weapons, bringing to a head concerns over the readiness of guns carried by troops patrolling the Afghan capital.
The commanding officer of the Canadian contingent here, Lt.-Col. Don Denne, conducted summary trials and fined the two 20-year-olds $850 and $1,250 respectively for the incidents, which occurred a week apart late last month. Denne said they were inexcusable errors for infantrymen.
No one was injured in either incident but, as far as the army is concerned, that is beside the point.
"An infantryman must be an expert with his weapon,‘‘ Denne, a native of Hantsport, N.S., declared in an interview Monday. "In a light battalion, that is our bread and butter.‘‘
The issue of weapons readiness is an important one for the Canadian peace-support mission in Afghanistan. There are 1,950 Canadians serving in Kabul and surrounding areas as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Troops patrolling crowded city streets, back alleys, markets and mountain passes are under general orders to load their weapons _ magazines attached _ but not to put bullets in the chamber unless confronted with a tangible threat.
Chambering bullets involves cocking the weapon, bringing a single bullet into the firing chamber. Firing it requires the safety lever to be off and the trigger to be depressed.
Those calls are made by the on-scene commander, usually a master-corporal, a sergeant, a lieutenant or a captain. But his guidance comes from rules set down by Denne and his superiors.
Tangible threats are deemed to be hostile action or shots fired, and hostile intent, or hostile weapons cocked or pointed, or a suicide bombing.
In both cases involving the privates _ one fired off three rounds in an urban street, the other a single round along a rural road _ there were no tangible threats, said Denne.
In one case, "the platoon commander gave the order to make weapons ready based upon what he considered to be a threat,‘‘ said Denne. "That was a perceived threat. That is like chasing shadows.‘‘
Soldiers argue that having to **** their weapons constitutes an unwarranted delay in their response to threats such as car bombers, grenade attacks or mountain ambushes.
But Denne and his superiors say that walking around with a bullet in the chamber cancels out a series of measures their soldiers are supposed to take before they ever consider firing a round.
"Normally, you are not walking around with a bullet in the chamber because that denies the soldier the opportunity to escalate if he has to,‘‘ said Canadian Brig.-Gen. Peter Devlin, commander of ISAF‘s operational element, the 32-nation Kabul Multi-National Brigade.
"There are stages, from verbal warnings to physical warnings to the chambering of a round to the firing of a warning shot to the use of deadly force. And all of those steps are vital to resolving a problem.‘‘
Chambering rounds, Devlin said Monday, "denies the soldier the freedom to respond‘‘ as the threat dictates.
Besides, said Denne, the first thing a soldier does when he comes under direct fire is to take cover. Chambering a round _ or cocking his weapon _ takes a fraction of a second, and the soldier still has to determine the source of the threat, he notes.
The sound of an entire platoon cocking their weapons is a deterrence in and of itself, he added.
In the case of a vehicle-borne attack, soldiers would not have time to fire anyway, he said.
"So why run the risk of loosing off a round negligently and hitting somebody and making life difficult for your whole bloody organization for the six-month period you‘re here?
"That‘s the risk that I‘ve got to bear and I‘m not prepared to accept that kind of risk.‘‘
Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, ISAF‘s deputy commander and the top Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, said the rules of engagement under which the Canadians operate aren‘t much different than those of other ISAF members.
Leslie said soldiers have the latitude to do everything they have to do; the product, he said, of healthy debate among senior officers.
"If you‘re patrolling in downtown Kabul at the height of a market day and you‘ve got a bullet up the spout, two things happen,‘‘ he said.
"One is your response time is lowered and the second thing is there is no going back because you only have a split second to decide. A high-velocity round can go through two or three people, including children.
"Then you‘ve got a whole other set of issues.‘‘
Leslie acknowledged that Canadians are taking a degree of risk by requiring foot soldiers to patrol with their weapons loaded but not cocked _ Coyote and LAV-3 armoured vehicles travel with a bullet in the chamber of their 25mm chain guns _ but the commanders suggested the trade-offs are worth it.
Denne has evoked what he calls the "smile-and-wave campaign,‘‘ whereby his troops are encouraged to acknowledge the generally warm reception they have been given by locals. He says it‘s a key element in winning the hearts and minds of the people they have been sent to protect.
"You can‘t very well, on the one hand, be smiling and waving at folks, trying to win them over while surreptitiously having a round up the spout of your rifle ready to mete out death and destruction,‘‘ said Denne.
"Every time we walk out that gate, all of Canada walks with us. And I don‘t think Canadians would be particularly impressed if we were going out in any other way than we are right now.‘‘
Both soldiers convicted for the incidents in Afghanistan _ one from November Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, and the other from Para Company _ are on their first overseas tours. Both pleaded guilty to the charge of neglect or conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.
The soldier who fired off three rounds while exiting his Iltis vehicle in downtown Kabul also received seven days of extra work and drill on top of his fine, a hefty sum for a low-paid private.
"He‘s lucky,‘‘ said Denne. "He‘s extraordinarily lucky. Exceedingly lucky. He could have hurt or killed one of our soldiers but, worse, he could have hurt or killed an innocent civilian.‘‘
Note: The Article title gives the wrong terminology for the non-puposeful discharge of a soldiers weapon. These 2 cases are clearly negligent. The term "accidental" was changed because of soldiers getting charged for firing off weapons in clearing pits....not accidental, thats what clearing pits are for, right?
The guy from Para was no doubt a leg attached for ISAF.
Thank God this was NOT one of those times you must bury your mistakes.....