The Special Forces colonel who had approved a 2017 mission in Niger, in which four U.S. troops from the 3rd Special Forces Group were killed in action, has been permanently removed from the promotion list to Brigadier General.
Col. Bradley D. Moses was in charge of the 3rd SFG in October 2017 when his troops were ambushed while on an operation in a remote part of Niger. Moses was nominated earlier in the year to become a brigadier general, after a tour in Afghanistan but in March his name was temporarily removed at the request of the Senate.
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy notified the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday that Moses’s nomination for brigadier general was being withdrawn. An Army spokeswoman declined to comment on the report and said the service does not comment on nominations being considered by the Senate.
Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3212 was stationed at Quallam in Niger when it was tasked with a mission, whose parameters kept changing. The detachment commander, CPT Michael Perozeni, asked for permission to return to base, due to a lack of usable intelligence, a non-existent air support element for wounded troops, and a chain of command that was micromanaging the operation from far away. The request to return to base was denied by LTC David Painter, the Battalion Commander; Moses, the Group Commander seconded Painter’s denial.
The team was assigned the mission to capture a high-value target outside of Tongo Tongo. It was ambushed on October 4, 2017, soon after leaving the village near the border of Mali by over 100 ISIS fighters.
The SF troops were riding in three unarmored pickup trucks; the Nigerien soldiers were following in four more. They were about 120 miles from their camp when the ambush began at 11:40 a.m.
The team, IAW their established SOPs, and tried to break out of the ambush using fire and maneuver. But the enemy force was too strong and forced them back. Taking heavy fire, they were forced to retreat. After several attempts to break out of the ambush were thwarted, the team was forced into a small defensive pocket.
Two hours after initial contact, French Mirage fighter jets roared overhead. But the enemy insurgents were too close and the jets couldn’t fire. However, the jets’ presence did give the insurgents enough pause for the Americans to begin pulling out.
During the ambush, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson were killed. The firefight during the ambush was the subject of a long military investigation, which found that the A-team was ill-equipped and prepared for an attack of that magnitude by Islamic State militants.
While nine U.S. officers were reprimanded for their roles in the planning and approval of the mission as well as oversight of forces in the region, Moses was the only one who had been previously unpunished. Moses was the forward SOC Forward North-West Africa (SOCFWD-NWA) commander located in Baumholder, Germany at the time. He approved Painter’s recommendation that the mission continue, despite the A-Team commander on the ground requesting that it cease.
Among the officers who were sanctioned was Major General Marcus Hicks the commander of Special Operations Command Africa at the time. The decisions all focused on training failures before the soldiers deployed to West Africa, the lack of any plan for MEDEVAC for wounded troops, as well as a general lack of air support.
An earlier SOFREP piece stated that many members of the 3rd SFG that were familiar with the incident wrote to members of the Senate encouraging punishment to be issued to senior officers, feeling that the junior members of the command were being singled out.
“Family members of the soldiers killed in the ambush, and even some members of the 3rd Special Forces Group, had expressed anger at the multiple investigations, spread out over almost two years. They also berated the lack of reprimands for high-ranking military officials, including Colonel Moses, for ordering the 11-member Special Forces team on the mission without knowing the enemy’s strength.
In several interviews with soldiers who served under his command, but wish to remain anonymous, SOFREP learned that the general feeling about Col. Moses is sour, with all of the soldiers having nothing good to say about the officer in question. When asked if this was because of the Niger ambush, all declined and rather said that Moses had lost touch with the men on the ground and forgotten what it was like to be on a team.”
Yet, Maj. Alan Van Saun, the ODB commander who was not even on the mission in Africa, received a formal reprimand after the Army’s investigation ended, which effectively ended his Army career. Van Saun was home on paternity leave at the time of the ambush. Army investigators said that he did not properly prepare his troops for deployment, citing that as a cause for the deaths of the men. Until recently, both the battalion and group commander, who had ordered the mission to continue, had not suffered any adverse action.
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