Completely Preventable KIA

February 2012



Pfc. David Sharrett and his father

Pfc. David Sharrett was killed on January 16, 2008, in Balad, Iraq. This is an unfortunate learning moment for everyone in the military. The full Washington Post article can be accessed here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/david-sharretts-family-still-wants-justice-for-friendly-fire-death-in-iraq/2012/02/22/gIQA097ScR_story.html

On the morning of January 16, 2008, a helicopter spotted six unarmed insurgents running into a brush. At 0515, the company’s executive officer, Lt. Hanson, led a team to capture the insurgents. Lt. Hanson failed to tell his men to activate their infrared sensors, which help air support and fellow soldiers identify friendlies. Meanwhile, the insurgents armed themselves from a hidden weapons cache in the brush. As the team approached the brush, the insurgents opened fire, killing Pfc. Danny Kimme and Cpl. John Sigsbee.

In the midst of shooting back at the insurgents, Lt. Hanson shot his own soldier, Pfc. Sharrett, at point blank range, severing his femoral artery. During the firefight, Lt. Hanson said to one of his men, “We’re getting shot at, and I don’t know where any of my guys are.” Then, Lt. Hanson left the scene on the first helicopter to land, leaving his men behind with no leader to get accountability. The unit did not realize Sharrett was missing until over an hour later. At 0635, the unit finally recovered Sharrett. He died soon after arriving at the combat hospital.

I understand that mistakes happen in combat, but Pfc. Sharrett would not have died had Lt. Hanson acted like an officer both before and after the actual combat. During the mandatory investigation of the incident, Lt. Hanson did not mention that he had fired his weapon. The Army initially told Sharrett’s family that Sharrett was not killed in a friendly fire incident. Lt. Hanson completed his tour with his unit, returned back to the U.S., and eventually made captain.

I’m amazed this story hasn’t garnered more media attention after the strikingly similar Pat Tillman incident. If everyone involved had been forthright from the beginning, this incident would not have landed on the front page of the Washington Post. I want to believe that the U.S. Military will learn from this mistake and remember the simple adage the upperclassmen taught us during Plebe Summer: honor above all else.

Posted by jjames in Army

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  • This is a tragedy on multiple levels; but as you write, a sense of honor and responsibility would have made an difference.

  • Byron

    And the second most important thing: Always take care of your troops. Obviously this Lt. didn’t consider this to be a priority since he was on the first helo out while still unsure of the status of his people.

  • This is appalling.

    How did the unit manage to carry on after such a breach of faith? Does the Army realize how grave this is, at this time? The promotion of an officer apparently guilty of dereliction in combat should merit the same response as mishandling of nuclear weapons in peacetime — SecDef and JCS scrutiny and a partial stand-down to sort things out and to drive home the seriousness of the matter.

  • “there is no substitute for the spiritual in war … if each man knows that all the officers and men in his division are animated with the same fiery zeal as he himself feels, unquenchable courage and unconquerable determination crush out fear, and death becomes preferable to defeat or dishonor.”
    — LtGen John A. Lejeune, USMC

  • Paul P

    What the fongoul was the company XO doing leading a patrol? Should’ve been the platoon leader or if a bigger operation, the company commander. Where were the NCO’s doing this mess?

    This family does deserve the truth and does deserve justice.

  • John L. West


    If this officer could not or would not lead then an NCO should have stepped forward to do so. Always take care of your people and never ask them to do anything you are not willing to do yourself.

  • Haole Jon

    I don’t find it suprising that LT Hanson has been promoted. CAPT Dorsey has been nominated for a star, even though he shot down a friendly aircraft during a simulated attack. Simulated. In the print article in Navy Times, several senior Navy leaders remark that it is well established that there are senior officers who have made egregious errors and continued to have successful careers. Even when an officer gets found at fault, they are often “punished” with full retirement and benefits.

    The fog of war can be blinding, and in such circumstances, maybe it isn’t always proper to pursue criminal charges in friendly fire incidents, yet in situations such as this, and in the incident with CAPT Dorsey, I feel that more scrutiny should be used to determine if a person is truly suitable for the stresses and complexity of military service.

    As a young Sailor, I remember being told you needed two divorces, a CO’s mast and a DUI to get selected to CPO. I had an XO that didn’t trust Chiefs that didn’t smoke. Yet, we have seen the culture changing, and a DUI or poor performance on a PT test can get you axed in today’s Navy. It was said in the article regarding CAPT Dorsey that the Navy is not a zero-sum organization. And maybe, in all services, it shouldn’t be. However, it might be time to move that decimal point over to the left a bit.

  • Paul P

    “You just remember this: the day you have to be the first one to stand up and say, ‘Follow me,’ that’s the day you will earn every salute you ever get.”

    ~ David Donovan
    Once A Warrior King