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Deadly Incident Prompts Change In Army Training Exercise

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Miscommunication and mistaken identity are to blame for the killing of a soldier by a Moore County Deputy on Saturday. The Army said that it will not happen again.

Special Forces leaders are describing the incident as a tragedy, and the Army is taking immediate steps to make sure it cannot happen again.

For 47 years, the exercise known as Robin Sage has been held in communities surrounding Fort Bragg. Experience gained from the training is known to have helped soldiers now serving in Afghanistan.

Robin Sage may be an old training technique, but the Army said that there are now new rules for how the exercises will be carried out.

On Saturday, a Moore County sheriff's deputy pulled over two plain-clothed soldiers riding in a pickup truck.

The soldiers thought the deputy was roleplaying as part of their Robin Sage training. Unaware of the training, the deputy thought that his life was in danger and reached for his gun.

First Lt. Tallas Tomeny was killed by the deputy; Sgt. Stephen Phelps was injured.

"We knew they were in the area training. Yes, we did know that. We did not know they were in a vehicle in civilian clothing," said Chief Deputy Lane Carter of the Moore County Sheriff's Office.

In the past, a phone call would let counties know when soldiers were training, but Fort Bragg officials said that did not happen on Saturday, because they did not expect law enforcement to be involved. The notification process will now change.

"Our concern and the focus of our ongoing internal investigation is what elements of our standard operating procedures and admnistrative instructions may have contributed to this accident," said Col. Charles King of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group.

Those changes include:

  • An ongoing Army investigation, which is already under way.
  • Green Beret students will no longer wear street clothes.
  • Roleplaying by local law enforcement will stop.
  • Rules and safety procedures will be reviewed with the students immediately.
  • There will be detailed, face-to-face contact with Sheriff's Departments in the 10 counties where Robin Sage takes place.
  • "Before we do another Robin Sage, I can assure you, we'll have a program for complete and total coordination for all authorities within the vicinity we exercise," King said.

    "While we deeply regret the death of our comrade, we are confident we can adjust our procedures to preclude this from ever happening again," he said.

    The Army said that for this type of training to continue, it continues to need support from local authorities. Despite this horrible mistake, Moore County has pledged its support.


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