Wednesday, August 09, 2006

We 'Got' One of Our Own announced tonight, the death of a another Canadian soldier in Afghanistan. This one as the result of the accidental discharge of a comrade's rifle.

Televised footage of a firefight involving Canadian troops last week indicated that at least one man had forgotten the prime lesson of gun safety: muzzle awareness and control. A light machine gunner was depicted firing bursts of shots across the top of a mud wall, while his comrades took cover behind it. He is seen taking cover between bursts. In two of these instances he swings the muzzle of his weapon across the body of a soldier crouched beside him.

Nothing occurred, but an accidental twitch, or a bump, might had resulted in another soldier shot.

One would think that, given the power of modern automatic weapons, a soldier would have the safety of his weapon in mind at all times, particularly in conditions of high excitement. That is when 'accidents' are most likely to occur.

I have noted, in video, that soldiers take particular care to see that chambers are empty and magazines unloaded when returning to base areas. While this is entirely laudable, it should also be noted that maximal danger exists when the weapons are loaded - as in a patrol situation. Real 'accidents' don't happen often, negligences do.

Canada cannot afford to lose young lives in 'accidents'. The military - by nature of the job it might be called upon to do, has no right to be frivolous in concern about the basic safety of service personnel. Anyone who puts safety second, except in the dire necessity of combat, should not be carrying a weapon. And even then fire discipline is every bit as important as promptly following orders.

This 'accident' should be investigated. I imagine his buddy feels terrible about the incident. It would be a good exercise for every soldier to imagine how terrible it 'feels' to accidentally kill a friend. This should be done, repeatedly as part of basic training. No soldier should be excused an 'accident' that harms a fellow soldier. It's tough, but nobody should think that he can 'goof' and apologise.
Our forces are too small to allow that.

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