Black hawk incident "tragic series of errors". by MSgt. Louis A. Arana-Barradas Air Force News Service WASHINGTON -- The events leading to the trial of Capt. Jim Wang were " a "tragic series of errors" -- not one person's fault, Secretary of The Air Force Sheila Widnall said June 20 1995. Wang was acquitted at a court-martial of three counts of dereliction of duty June 20 in connection with the April 14, 1994, accidental shootdown of two Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters over northern Iraq. Shot down by two Air Force F-15 fighters, the friendly fire incident claimed the lives of 26 people. Wang was the only person referred for court-martial. He was the senior director of the mission crew on board the airborne warning and control system aircraft the day of the incident. "The Black Hawk helicopters were downed as a result of a tragic series of errors and unfortunate events involving numerous people," Widnall said in a press statement. "The mishap was not the result of any one individual's actions; the conduct of numerous officers and the system itself contributed." Wang's court-martial started June 2 at Tinker AFB, Okla., where he is assigned to the 552nd Air Control Wing. By the time the 10-member board of officers reached a verdict -- deliberating five hours -- more than 40 people had testified. Widnall said the Air Force had considered the "culpability of all individuals involved" and did address personal responsibility and accountability. At a Department of Defense press briefing the same day, Maj. Gen. Nolan Sklute, Air Force judge advocate general, said, "My heart -- and I'm sure all of our hearts-- goes out to the families involved in this incident. Everyone in the Air Force's heart goes out to the family members. "But an incident like this does not necessarily mean that the conduct of all those involved rises to the level of criminal culpability," Sklute said. In her statement, Widnall said Air Force officials conducted a series of independent inquires and investigations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice lasting nearly four months. Respective commanders reviewed the evidence in making their individual determinations on individual responsibility. "It was determined that a number of Air Force officers, from the general officer level on down, failed to carry out their duties responsibly," Widnall said in her statement. As a result, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey S. Pilkington, who commanded the Provide Comfort Combined Task Force that Wang was assigned to at the time of the incident, received an official letter of admonishment for "his failure to fulfill his responsibilities as a commander" and was reassigned. Brig. Gen. Curtis H. Emery II was serving as commander of the Combined Air Force Component at the time. He also received an official letter of admonishment for "failure to maintain adequate control and aircraft integration within the tactical area of responsibility." Additionally, one officer received an Article 15 and five others received letters of reprimand. The letters were all placed in unfavorable information files, to remain there for two years. Sklute said he was "completely satisfied" that proper procedures were followed in the court-martial proceedings and the "rights of the individuals were fully protected." "I'm satisfied that the government had its opportunity to present its evidence in the case of
. I'm satisfied that our Air Force commanders worked long and hard in a very, very complex facts situation," Sklute said. "And I'm satisfied that they exercised their independent judgment in arriving at the decisions they ultimately reached." In her statement, Widnall said she appreciated "all who put forth a considerable effort to ensure the issues in this case were fully and fairly considered." "I have full confidence in our system of military justice and firmly believe that the interest of both the United States and Captain Wang were professionally represented in the proceedings," Widnall said.
Air Force Grounds Pilots, Controllers Involved in Blackhawk Shootdown
WASHINGTON (AFNS) --The secretary of the Air Force approved the chief of staff's recommendations to remove from flying duties five officers involved in the April 1994 shootdown of two U.S. Army helicopters.
Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman also gave seven officers a letter of evaluation for "failure to meet Air Force standards in job knowledge, judgment and leadership." The evaluations, and any responses by the officers to them, will become a permanent part of each officer's record.
The two F-15 pilots--Lt. Col. Randy W. May and Capt. Eric Wickson--were taken off flying status for at least three years. Additionally, AWACS officers Capt. Jim Wang, Capt. Joseph M. Halcli and 1st Lt. Ricky L. Wilson were disqualified from controlling aircraft for three years.
Fogleman made a video in which he describes his views on standards and accountability. The video tape is mandatory viewing for all officers, senior NCOs and senior executive service members. Copies of the tape were sent to all Air Force agencies in August.
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