3 investigations look for answers into what happened in raid that led to death of Navy SEAL
By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 27, 2017
WASHINGTON -- Three separate military investigations are underway into a raid in Yemen that led to the death of a Navy SEAL, though it could be months before any of them provide insight into what might have gone wrong.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that all three reviews will be conducted by the Department of Defense.
During the Jan. 29 raid, which was launched just a week after President Donald Trump took office, Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed, four other U.S. servicemembers were injured and a $75 million Osprey was lost. Owens’ father on Sunday questioned in an interview with the Miami Herald whether the raid had been necessary and demanded the incident be investigated.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that the three investigations include a 15-6, which is an in-depth but informal military investigation routinely launched after a significant security incident, a civilian casualty assessment and an aviation mishap investigation.
U.S. Central Command is overseeing the 15-6 and civilian casualty assessment, and both are ongoing, said Andy Stephens, a Central Command spokesman.
Whether a 15-6 is launched is not dependent upon whether there was loss of life. For example, there was a 15-6 conducted after the October 2015 airstrike against the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where an estimated 40 civilians were killed when U.S. gunships mistook the hospital for an insurgent-controlled building. However, there was also a 15-6 initiated when the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground inadvertently shipped small samples of anthrax in May 2015 to labs across the United States and overseas.
In both cases, the 15-6 investigations took about seven months to release findings of the incidents. In both cases, the 15-6 made recommendations for disciplinary procedures for some of the personnel involved.
Central Command has also initiated a civilian casualty assessment on the Yemen strike in response to reports that dozens of civilians were killed as a result of the raid. The assessment is the first step. If the reports of civilian casualties are determined to be credible, the military will conduct a more in-depth review of the incident. The Defense Department has conducted multiple civilian casualty assessments in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. However, identifying who died and calculating how many died is often complicated by the difficulty of getting investigators on the ground during an ongoing conflict or the inability to determine whether an individual was a combatant.
“U.S. Central Command will investigate civilian casualty claims and make a determination on if there needs to be a full investigation,” Stephens said.
The aviation mishap investigation will look at what led to the loss of the Marine Corps Osprey. The aircraft had to be left behind and destroyed after it made a hard landing during the operation. The mishap investigations have also typically taken months to complete.