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A U.S. military probe into the deaths of eight American soldiers that died during an attack in northeastern Afghanistan concluded that the deaths could have been prevented if commanding officers had heeded warnings and not left the troops exposed. In addition to the eight deaths, 22 of the other 45 soldiers stationed at the remote outpost of Combat Outpost Keating were injured in the attack when more than 200 Afghan insurgents advanced on the vulnerable troops with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and guns in October 2009.
It took more than 18 months for U.S. Central Command to complete the investigation report, which recommended that four officers - a captain, a major, a lieutenant colonel, and a colonel – be punished with official letters of admonition or reprimand for their part in putting soldiers from B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry in a “tactically indefensible position” with an “unclear mission.” The names of the officers were rescinded in a public copy of the investigation report.
According to survivors, many of the Afghan soldiers that were stationed at Combat Outpost Keating with American troops ran or hid during the attacks, which may have led to an worse loss. Other contributions to the attack included too few soldiers stationed at the outpost and the lack of barriers and other defenses built there. The outpost had been scheduled to close previously.
The eight soldiers who died in the attack were: Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson, Spc. Michael P. Scusa, Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, Spc. Stephen L. Mace, Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk and Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt.