At a late-February press briefing, White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked about reports that two Army brigades were being sent to Iraq without any desert training. His reply was widely quoted at the time: “Well, but, they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq.”
On February 9, the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News reported: “At least 143 soldiers joined Fort Stewart’s 1st Brigade too late to participate in a final combat exercise before their units deployed to Iraq. Last week, one of those soldiers – Pvt. Matthew T. Zeimer, 18 – was the first from the brigade to be killed when he was hit by enemy fire in Ramadi, the stronghold of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency.
“Zeimer arrived at Fort Stewart on Dec. 18 after basic training and deployed to Iraq just a few weeks later. He missed the brigade’s intensive four-week mission rehearsal in October when more than 1,300 trainers and Iraqi role-players came to the post as part of the most realistic training program the Army offers for Iraq operations.
The current news:
Two soldiers killed in Iraq in February may have died as a result of friendly fire, Army officials said Wednesday, not from enemy fire, as the press reported.
The military suspected friendly fire later in February but did not inform the dead soldiers’ families of these new doubts.
One of the soldiers died just hours after arriving in Iraq — and was one of those troops rushed to the country in the “surge” who did not receive full training.
That soldier was Zeimer. This is what can happen when you send untrained kids into the field. “Here’s your helmet and rifle. Don’t get yourself killed.” On-the-job training isn’t really appropriate for combat.