- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AP) A Canadian soldier who lost an eye and a leg when U.S. pilots mistakenly bombed allied forces in Afghanistan testified yesterday that his troops were not firing into the air when the bomb exploded.
The military hearing, which began Tuesday, will determine whether Majs. Harry Schmidt and William Umbach should face a court-martial for involuntary manslaughter.
The two Illinois National Guard pilots said they believed they were being attacked by enemy ground troops. The Air Force said the pilots failed to make sure no allied ground troops were in the area.
Four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in the April 17 bombing.
Sgt. Lorne Ford, one of the Canadians injured, was one of four soldiers to testify at the hearing that none of the Canadians had fired his weapon skyward or saw ricochets that went any higher than 200 feet.
He said he was observing the group's live-ammunition exercise near Kandahar when he heard the sound of a jet overhead, then he blacked out.
"I woke up on my right side and I noticed my injuries right away," Sgt. Ford said. "I had lost muscle and tissue on my upper left leg."
Sgt. Ford's leg had to be amputated, and he also lost his right eye. He spent two months in hospitals.
Three other Canadians, Capt. Joseph Jasper, Cpl. Brian Decaire and Cpl. Brett Perry, also testified that none of their troops had fired skyward.
Capt. Jasper testified Tuesday that the troops had not fired their weapons for several minutes when he heard the blast of the 500-pound bomb.
"Basically, we looked at each other and said, 'What was that?'" Capt. Jasper said.
Air Force attorneys yesterday played videotape taken from Maj. Schmidt's F-16 that showed the explosion.
Immediately before the blast, Maj. Schmidt is heard saying he is under attack and is "rolling in, in self-defense."
The pilots' attorneys, David Beck and Charles Gittins, said the two men weren't told Canadian troops were conducting live-fire exercises in the area.
Capt. Jasper testified Tuesday that more than half of his troops had covered up blinking red lights on their helmets, which they normally used for safety reasons during live-ammunition exercises, because the blinking sometimes bothered helicopter pilots landing at an airfield about three miles away.
Under cross-examination, Capt. Jasper said he "had no idea" that U.S. military rules stated that ground troops in exercises must leave the lights visible partly to warn American pilots that allied troops were on the ground.
Mr. Beck also had argued that Air Force-issued "go pills," otherwise known as the prescription amphetamine Dexedrine, might have impaired the pilots' judgment. The Air Force issues amphetamines to help pilots stay awake during long missions, he said.
The Air Force has said that use of the pills is voluntary, and that their effects have been tested thoroughly.
Both U.S. pilots also face charges of aggravated assault and dereliction of duty and could receive up to 64 years in military prison if convicted.


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