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Air Force reprimands officer in Afghanistan Print
 Rowan Scarborough - The Examiner - Apr 5, 2007

WASHINGTON - A three-star general has reprimanded an Air Force officer for his confrontation with a private security guard in Afghanistan, contradicting an investigative report that cleared the officer.

Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of the 9th Air Force, issued the written reprimand to Lt. Col. Gary Brown.
“You acted with unreasonable force and intimidation over an automobile collision dispute and thereby escalated a situation which could have resulted in disastrous consequences for all involved,” North wrote. “You are hereby reprimanded!” The exclamation point North’s recounting of events last Sept. 19 is in conflict with the findings of Lt. Col. Leslea Pickle, the investigative officer appointed by North after the Air Force charged Brown with assault and conducting unbecoming an officer. Pickle concluded in her report that Brown and a second officer properly followed the military’s rules of engagement.

Brown’s attorney, Charles Gittins, expressed shock at the reprimand. In a letter to North Wednesday, he said, “I can only assume that you failed to read the detailed, fact-filled, and thorough report prepared by Lt. Col. Leslea Pickle as her report is directly contrary to your conclusions. Frankly, if anyone is a discredit to the Armed Forces, I am constrained to conclude it is you.”

A spokesman at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., 9th Air Force headquarters, said he could not comment on “private administrative actions.” North is an F-16 and F-15 fighter pilot who flew combat missions in Desert Storm.

The written reprimand becomes part of Brown’s service record and means it is unlikely he will be promoted to colonel. He remains in Afghanistan training Afghans in how to organize and run an air force.

After hearing witnesses at a pre-trial hearing in Kabul, Pickle wrote in her report that “Lt. Col. Brown demonstrated a calm, collected demeanor during the whole incident. Another person might have been ‘trigger-happy’ and shot Mr. Bergeron.”

Jimmy Bergeron is a Blackwater USA security guard. Pickle’s report said he tried to pass Brown’s vehicle on a two-lane road in Afghanistan and the two Sport Utility Vehicles bumped. Brown testified he thought he was the victim of a suicide bomber. When Bergeron’s vehicle pulled up behind him at a checkpoint, Brown got out, pulled his M4 carbine and subdued Bergeron. Bergeron was not charged and has left Afghanistan.

“Given the security situation in Kabul at the time and the facts and circumstances of their encounter with Mr. Bergeron on the road, and then at the gate, I believe that they truly felt threatened and reacted exactly as they were trained to do,” Pickle wrote.

She recommended dismissing all charges, a position with which North concurred.
 
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