LCPLs Sledd and Simpson Update

This is long. I care about it. Get something to drink and read it carefully, or skip it.

I initially wrote about this event, which occurred during the run-up to the War in Iraq, in October, 2002. Briefly, during a training evolution on a Kuwaiti island, LCPL Sledd was killed and LCPL Simpson was wounded by Al Quaeda followers. Their assailants were then killed by MP’s (though they were part of a larger cell, and it isn’t clear what has become of those who escaped immediate justice).

I have had a very nice email exchange with the mother of the wounded Marine, LCPL Simpson, on the eve of the release of the investigation of the shooting. I’m going to cut and paste from both the email (with permission) and the investigation:

…(LCPL Simpson) has two titanium plates in his arm and more than twenty-five screws holding things together. It’s astonishing what a single AK-47 round can do to flesh and bone. He will deal with the limited range of motion, the nerve damage, and the chronic pain for the rest of his life, but the important thing to all of us is that he still has his life and he has many plans for his future: marriage, college and a career. He has a positive attitude and anything else would dishonor the service and sacrifice of Tony Sledd and all the men and women who wear the uniform.
There were many heroes that day in October–the Marines who pulled George and Tony to cover, the navy corpsman who administered first aid in the field under fire, the Marines who using their 9 mm pistols faced down and killed the terrorists armed with AK-47s, the helicopter pilots who flew Tony and George to the hospital, and the medical staff who under less than ideal conditions saved George’s life and limb and tried to save Tony. I wish I could personally thank each and every one of them.
It’s been a little disheartening to read the report released this week regarding the attack on Failaka Island (see the July 21 issue of Marine Corps Times or the stories at
Deficient Security Cited in Inquiry

Marines Blame Security for Kuwait Attack
That’s one reason it meant a lot to me to read what you wrote last October 9.

So, being the curious sort, and very concerned that Medical is being implicated in LCPL Sledds’ death, I followed the links (more excerpts, mixed together):

Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, who ordered the Marine Corps investigation, blamed the death of Cpl. Antonio R. Sledd on incorrect assumptions about security at the training site and mistakes in military trauma care.

“While it is impossible to say if everything had been done right and in a timely manner that this young Marine would have recovered, I do believe that the chances would have been greatly improved and that recovery was more than a remote possibility,” Conway wrote in his May 25 endorsement of the investigation’s findings.

The attack on Oct. 8, 2002, came in the early stages of the U.S. military build-up in preparation for the invasion of Iraq.

The Marines were attacked on Faylaka Island, about 12 miles north of Kuwait City. Sledd, a 20-year-old rifleman from Hillsborough, Fla., died several hours after he was shot. Lance Cpl. George R. Simpson, 21, was shot in the left arm.

Marines in the company’s command tent returned fire, killing both attackers. Authorities later identified the shooters as Kuwaiti citizens with ties to Osama bin Laden’s network.

“They were school-trained terrorists,” Marine Col. William Durrett said Thursday. “We think this was a concerted series of attacks.”

The report said Army Central Command, which was responsible for the security of U.S. forces in Kuwait, should have made force protection a greater priority, including staffing a protection office there full time.

Also, Marine Corps officials said that the military hospital in Kuwait City lacked a full surgical staff when Sledd was taken there. A surgical team was doing an appendectomy when he arrived, and officials also suggest the blood supply was limited.

and…

It said, “While in an open society it is impossible to completely protect our Marines from the approach of the ‘lone gunman’ who is willing to sacrifice his own life, it is clear to me that all services including the Marine Corps could have done a better job.”

Conway said if Sledd had received timely medical treatment, “I do believe that the chances would have been greatly improved and that recovery was more than a remote possibility.”

Sledd and others in his company had finished the day’s urban training drills and were preparing to play softball Oct. 8 when two Kuwaitis pulled up in a truck, according to the report. The appearance of a civilian truck wasn’t considered unusual because Kuwaitis used the road.

Armed with AK-47 rifles on automatic, the two men fired on the Marines. They hit Sledd, who was 10 feet away, and Lance Cpl. George Simpson, 21, from Ohio.

Sledd’s company commander and others in a nearby tent shot and killed the terrorists moments later, drawing their fire from the unarmed Marines on the playing field.

The Kuwaitis were part of a six-man terrorist cell led by one of the shooters, the report said. A Marine official said the group had ties to Al-Qaeda, the terrorists behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Sledd was airlifted to Kuwait Armed Forces Hospital, where the U.S. military commands one floor. The Marine had been shot five times and died of blood loss and shock.

He arrived at the hospital at noon, an hour after he was shot. No surgeon was available until 12:30, when a team dispatched by ground transportation from nearby Camp Doha arrived, the investigation said.

Simpson survived wounds to his left arm and now has some disability. Marine officials said he is now stationed in Ohio and will finish his enlistment later this year.

There is now a full-time office in Kuwait dedicated to overseeing security of U.S. forces there, said Col. William Durrett, a Marine staff judge advocate who released the report.

Durrett described Sledd’s medical care as “a deviation from what the norm should have been” for the U.S. military’s main hospital in the region.

The investigation does not recommend punishment for anyone involved.

Hmmm. OK, first things first. Neither of these reports says when the attack occured (though the Evil Murderers waited unti they were prepping for a Softball game to attack), so it’s had to tell from the above when the attack occurred, or the delay to care. Also, the final report says they were killed by Marines in the Command Tent, but the original report said they were killed by MP’s. (I suppose it’s possible MP’s were in the Command tent, but it’s unlikely).

The delay by the surgical team is harder to explain, and there isn’t enough here to criticize or to clear them. One article says they were performing an appy, another says they were late, and one doesn’t contradict the other. Odd, but not unlikely, given that the surgical team was stationed away from the Hospital (the appy could have been done at the Camp they were stationed). This makes good sense given the Force Protection (antiterrorist) issues involved, that we’d have a chunk of a hospital set aside while housing the docs elsewhere. That isn’t wrong, not being able to get the surgical team free and a casualty to them in a tmiely fashion has no-doubt been addressed.

Fittingly, one of the Camps for the war was named Camp Sledd, in honor of LCPL Sledd.

I stand by my closing from the October post: I’m glad they’re out there for me.


Comments

  1. I’m trying to imagine the sort of courage it takes to pick up a 9mm pistol and go running toward the guys with the automatic rifles, so you can get close enough to kill them both.

    The word “hero” has been overused. Hell, if you see a car accident and take a moment from your busy day to dial 911 on your cell phone, somebody will call you a hero. We need a new word for soldiers like that. Something that captures the essence of “I am not worthy” but without a trace of irony.

  2. With five AK rounds inside him, LCPL. Sledd shouldn’t have had to wait an hour for medical treatment. My God, what were they thinking? They just sat on their asses and watched him die. I understand why and how Ranger CPL. Jamie Smith bled to death and died in Mog…. because they couldn’t bring in a chopper, it was just too damn hot and everyone was engaged; but I don’t see the reasoning, much less an excuse in this sad situation.

  3. Anthony Waldroup says:

    Well, I’m sure no one sat on their ass whils LCPL Sledd lay bleeding to death. I’ve been to Kuwait and know that it probably took and hour to try and stabilized him in the field, make the transport arrangments, then medivac him to the Kuwait Military hospital. The military hosp. is at least 30 min. by ground from camp doha. Assuming according to the reports LCPL Sledd arrived at the hosp. at Noon and was attended to by a surgeon at 1230. That is about right timeline wise. That is if the surgical team mobilized quickly.