Two Idaho Air National Guard pilots involved in the death of a British soldier in Iraq are still troubled by the friendly fire incident nearly four years later, a general who oversees their fighter wing said.
"There's not a day goes by that the pilots involved in this particular instance don't think about this, and that's something that they will live with and deal with the rest of their lives," Brig. Gen. Gary Sayler told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Neither pilot from the Boise-based 190th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was disciplined in the U.S. military's own investigation, which concluded the pilots followed procedures.
But the 2003 case jumped back into the international spotlight on Tuesday when a British tabloid published the name of one of the two American pilots and excerpts from a leaked cockpit video.
U.S. officials have since said they would release the video, which the Pentagon had said was classified.
The leaked video captured the dramatic exchange the between two American pilots, whose voices choke up when they learn they have killed a British soldier. "I'm going to be sick," one pilot says, later adding "we're in jail, dude."
Pilots moved families
Sayler, deputy commanding general for the Guard's aircraft operations, and other U.S. officials refused to confirm the pilots' identities.
Both men still fly with the Idaho unit, said Lt. Tony Vincelli, a Guard spokesman.
Sayler said the pilots have temporarily moved their families from their homes because of the media attention.
"With people camped out on lawns, it's very disruptive," Sayler said. "It's causing a great deal of concern among our families, families who weren't involved in any way, shape or form in this act."
At least one of the U.S. A-10 jets opened fire on Lance Cpl. Matty Hull's tank, which was part of a five-vehicle convoy engaged in combat outside Basra on March 28, 2003.
The pilots were recorded discussing whether the prospective targets were carrying orange rockets, and ground control affirmed there were no coalition troops in the area. Minutes after they fired they learned about the tragic mistake.
'Totally cleared' by inquiry
Sayler said he was confident in the pilots and the U.S. investigation.
"A Central Command investigation was conducted, which included both U.S. and British air and army officers," Sayler said. "We feel a full investigation was done. These individuals were totally cleared."
He said no training changes were deemed necessary.
"I'm not sure we will ever prevent things like this from happening as long as we engage in combat," he said.