Drone friendly fire

Missteps and miscommunication in the heat of battle led to the friendly fire deaths of a Houston-based Marine reservist and a Navy corpsman killed by a drone in Afghanistan this year, according to a Pentagon report.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, 26, of Arlington, and Navy corpsman Benjamin Rast, 23, of Niles, Mich., were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. Predator drone in southern Afghanistan on April 6. Both men served in 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, a Houston-based reserve unit also known as the Lone Star Battalion.

The Predator crew targeted Smith and Rast after mistaking their heat signatures on the drone’s sensors for those of enemy forces, according to the 381-page redacted report obtained by the Houston Chronicle on Friday.

The report blames a “lack of comprehensive situational awareness by all parties in the process, initiated by the on scene commander’s inability to interpret and communicate accurate friendly positions.”


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