Aug. 4, 2004. 06:22 AM
Friendly-fire pilot loses appeal
Air force upholds Schmidt sentence
Killed 4 Canadians in Afghanistan
NEW ORLEANS—The Illinois National Guard pilot who mistakenly bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan, killing four and wounding eight, lost his last U.S. air force appeal yesterday.
The commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia upheld the punishment ordered last month for Maj. Harry Schmidt: a severe reprimand and loss of a month’s pay. Schmidt, 39, who was found guilty of dereliction of duty, also has agreed that he will never fly U.S. air force jets again, although he remains in the National Guard.
Schmidt was on a mission in April, 2002, when he dropped the bomb on the Canadians. He said he mistook their gunfire for an attack from Taliban fighters and argued his superiors never told him the Canadians would be conducting live-fire exercises near Kandahar airport.
The attack killed Pte. Richard Green, Pte. Nathan Smith, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer and Sgt. Marc Léger — the first Canadians to die in combat since the Korean War. Eight other Canadians were wounded.
“It does bring closure, some form of closure, because now we can go on with our lives,” said Lloyd Smith, father of Nathan Smith, speaking yesterday from his home in Tatamagouche, N.S.
In yesterday’s ruling, Gen. Hal Hornburg did not write an opinion; he simply check-marked “appeal denied” after reviewing evidence and Schmidt’s appeal memo, said Capt. Bernadette Dozier, spokesperson for Langley Air Combat Command.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice allows a single appeal.
“(The) decision brings nonjudicial punishment proceedings on this issue to a close,” an air force statement said.
However, it isn’t over. Schmidt’s lawyer Charles Gittins said he could ask the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Record to clear the pilot’s name or take the case before the Court of Federal Claims to seek reimbursement for the withheld wages.
“A coalition of Harry’s lawyers will make a decision,” he said, adding that Schmidt is on vacation “and I’m not disturbing him with this …”
Gittins said the decision was “not unexpected. The one thing that was unexpected was it took them this long to perform no review and to come up with a decision that was all but decided” before the appeal was made.
Lt.-Gen. Bruce Carlson, who found Schmidt guilty of dereliction of duty last month after a hearing at Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana, had refused to reconsider his ruling.
His letter of reprimand said Schmidt acted shamefully and showed “arrogance and a lack of flight discipline” in the bombing. Schmidt originally faced charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault, but those were reduced last year to dereliction of duty.