Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has appointed a four-star general to lead a new review of the October 2017 ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger’s Tongo Tongo. The general’s name was not released.
The attack and ambush by ISIS-affiliated militants led to the deaths of Staff Sergeant Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, WA.; Staff Sergeant Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, OH; Sergeant La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, FL; and Staff Sergeant Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, GA. Four Nigerian troops were also killed in the battle.
This is not the first review of the 2017 ambush. The initial investigation was carried out under the direction of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis and found multiple failures leading up to the ambush, including a lack of pre-deployment training for the mission by the Special Forces team, failure to perform preparatory drills with Nigerian partner forces, and lack of communication and attention to detail at multiple levels of command.
The investigation report was released in May 2018 and nine lettters of reprimand were issued. Major General Marcus Hicks, the commander of special operations forces in Africa at the time, was the only senior officer who had administrative action taken against him.
Junior officers in the chain of command took the brunt of the punishments, a common and often unfair course taken during military investigations of incidents.
When asked about the previous investigation, Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan said, “I did not find that sufficient. So, I convened my own review so I can insure from top to bottom the appropriate accountability.”
Several soldiers involved in the attack, including some who were killed, have been recommended for awards. None have been issued to date.