Series of Lapses Led to Army Soldier’s Death in Afghanistan

American ground units are typically trained to vary their patrol routes and to not repeatedly stop at or use the same places. Why this unit returned to the same observation point multiple times is not clear.

After other American patrols there, the Taliban dotted the ridge with possible antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices. The trap appeared to have been recently laid; in late September, another unit from the battalion stopped there and found no buried explosives, though the soldiers reported that they were being watched.

Later that Oct. 4 morning, Specialist Slape, along with a quick-reaction force, left Camp Dwyer and headed to the damaged MaxxPro. As a bomb disposal technician, he was responsible for finding explosives and clearing a path to the damaged truck so that a recovery vehicle could tow it away and those inside could exit.

Specialist Slape, a National Guard soldier, was assigned to the 430th Ordnance Company in Washington, N.C., an explosive ordnance disposal unit that had been in Afghanistan since April. The 430th had repeatedly requested better equipment and predeployment training but was denied both because of a lack of funding, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Some of the equipment included tools often used when clearing buried land mines and improvised bombs.

According to two officials familiar with the unit’s deployment, the 430th borrowed some equipment like telescopic rifle sights and radios from other National Guard units before leaving the United States and received more items upon its arrival in Afghanistan, but still lacked the most advanced mine detectors that could locate bomb components that the Taliban use. That detector has been issued by many active-duty bomb disposal units, including some not deployed to conflict zones.

Bomb technicians said that much of the equipment and training the 430th had sought were standard for active-duty counterparts, especially those in an area like southern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold. The decision by the National Guard to deny its soldiers an equivalent level of support was of concern, the officials said. Even so, it is unclear whether this discrepancy contributed to Specialist Slape’s death.

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