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Due process cleared officers, Army says

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The secretary of the Army recently told a group of U.S. senators recently that Army officers had received due process and nothing more could be done after they were found to be derelict but then were exonerated for their roles in a deadly 2008 battle in Afghanistan, a family member who lost a son in the battle said.

Aiea resident David Brostrom, whose 24-year-old son, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, was killed in Wanat, said in an e-mail that Army Secretary John McHugh informed U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; Jim Webb, D-Va.; and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., of his decision two weeks ago.

It is another blow for the families of nine men killed at Wanat when an overwhelming enemy force attacked Jonathan Brostrom’s platoon in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

"Not good" is how David Brostrom said he felt Monday about McHugh’s response.

Brostrom said he was told the meeting with McHugh and the senators ended with a promise by the Army to send a letter to the families explaining in more detail why the officers were exonerated.

David Brostrom, a retired colonel who spent 30 years in the Army, pushed for and obtained a second investigation into the Army’s planning and logistics after it sent his son’s platoon into a known hostile area with less than two weeks remaining in their Afghanistan deployment.

Soldiers said they were low on water and heavy equipment to set up what was to be a new outpost.

Jonathan Brostrom’s company, battalion and brigade commanders subsequently received letters of reprimand based on the reinvestigation, which found a series of command failures leading up to Wanat.

But immediately after families were told of the results of the U.S. Central Command reinvestigation, the Army reversed the punishment given to the three officers.

Five U.S. senators, Akaka among them, had asked in July for the Army secretary to explain why the Army decided to overturn the results of the independent investigation into Wanat.

In addition to the nine U.S. soldiers killed, 27 were wounded in a battle that saw 200 militants attack and nearly overrun the small U.S. outpost, which was being built and lacked established defenses.

The Army’s decision to exonerate officers identified as being derelict "raised a number of troubling issues," the senators said in the letter to McHugh.

"Family members of the deceased who have contacted our offices have expressed their concerns over what they see as the Army’s failure to hold commanders accountable and the resulting likelihood that similar tragedies will occur," the letter said.

U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, has since called for a congressional hearing to determine how "the U.S. Central Command investigation and the subsequent U.S. Army review reached entirely different conclusions on the questions of command negligence or dereliction and accountability."

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