Airborne soldier killed; Army looking into possible friendly fire
A 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldier killed Saturday in Afghanistan might have been a victim of friendly fire, according to a Defense Department release posted on its Web site on Monday morning.
The DOD has identified the soldier as Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Ryan Kahler of the Vicenza, Italy-based 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment.
According to a DOD release, Kahler, 29, was killed by small-arms fire in the village of Waygul. The Army is investigating the incident, which it says might have been the result of friendly fire. An Afghan guard reportedly fired the fatal shots.
That release, however, was removed from the Web site later in the day.
Lt. Col. George Wright from the Army public affairs office said there were a “couple errors” in the original posting and that a new one should be posted soon. Asked if the information was incorrect or just posted prematurely, Wright replied: “The circumstances around his death are still being investigated.”
The Defense Department’s revised news release made no mention of a possible friendly-fire incident, but it did say the incident is under investigation.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said the changes made to the news release made it consistent with all department news releases.
Asked why the reference to friendly fire was removed, Withington said: “We leave it to the investigation. We don’t speculate in our releases.”
Withington deferred comment to the Army as to why the possibility of friendly fire was mentioned in the original release.
Southern European Task Force officials sent a news release later in the day to identify Kahler as the deceased soldier. The release made no mention of his death possibly being the result of friendly fire.
A memorial service is scheduled tentatively for 2 p.m. Thursday in the base chapel at Caserma Ederle for Kahler, the 30th soldier from the 173rd to die as a result of wounds in Afghanistan since the unit deployed in May. Twenty-five of the fallen soldiers were based in Vicenza and assigned to the brigade’s two infantry battalions.
Kahler’s wife and 4-year-old daughter live in Vicenza, according to an online report from the Pioneer Press, a Minnesota newspaper.
The report said that Kahler, from Granite Falls, Minn., served with the brigade on all three of its deployments to southwest Asia. He jumped into northern Iraq in 2003 as part of the brigade’s insertion into the war and later deployed to Afghanistan in 2005.
Ernest Streich, Kahler’s father-in-law, described the soldier as an avid hunter who was proud to be in the military.