A number of oversights may have contributed to the Oct. 4 death of a U.S. Army National Guard explosive ordnance disposal technician in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the New York Times reports.
- The Times investigation into the improvised explosive device strike that killed Army Spc. James A. Slape found that his unit repeatedly used the same patrol routes during its daily operations, “prompting Taliban militants to bury explosives nearby,” military officials told the Times.
- On the day Slape was killed, a platoon with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment left Camp Dwyer and drove seven miles to a ridge, which the unit frequently used as an observation post from which to intercept Taliban radio and phone traffic, the Times reports.
- Though U.S forces typically vary their patrol routes to remain unpredictable and offset the risk of an ambush or improvised explosive device strike, the Times investigation claims that the same ridge was used multiple times.
- According to the Times account, a MaxxPro truck was struck by an IED along the ridge in the late morning on Oct. 4, destroying the tires and axle of the vehicle and stopping the patrol. After the initial detonation, Slape, a guardsman with the 430th Ordnance Company, went out with a quick reaction force to sweep the area, and after checking the rear of the MaxxPro, began to sweep toward the front. At around 1:30 p.m., he stepped on the IED that would ultimately kill him.
- A second unit was sent out, this time a route clearance platoon with equipment designed to scan the ground for mines, and after triggering two more devices, found another two, which failed to go off, according to the Times.
- Additionally, the Times reports that the 430th made repeated requests for “better equipment and predeployment training but was denied both because of a lack of funding.” At the time of the strike, the unit reportedly lacked adequate mine detectors that could locate IED components used by the Taliban.