With 2 dead and 30 wounded, D Company became ‘More Than Brothers’

Last August, Captain Roger Hill and First Sergeant Tommy Scott traded their Army careers for the safety and lives of the soldiers they had led into battle. CPT Hill discussed what happened that day and what happens next with Freedom Radio:

Dog Company 1/506th Infantry deployed to Wardak, Afghanistan last spring:

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan, May 8 [2008] (Reuters) – Last week U.S. Captain Roger Hill led a patrol into the Jaldez valley, just southwest of Kabul, and was immediately ambushed from three sides by 50 Taliban fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades. The army of attackers, robed and bearded, fired somewhere between 25 and 30 grenades at his convoy, Hill said, pinning the patrol down in a furious two-hour gun battle that ended only when U.S. fighter planes swooped in for support. It was a relatively rare and surprisingly staunch attack for that area of Afghanistan, reminiscent in its intensity to episodes in Iraq, where Hill spent more than a year. Yet asked where he would rather be deployed, he is clear. “I feel like we’re getting somewhere here. In a way we’ve had to start much more from scratch in Iraq than in Afghanistan,” he said. “Here there’s a sense of progress.

The fighting intensified:

Lt. Larry Kay … arrived in the valley to set up a firebase. For the next six months, he says, he never had a day off, beating back 27 attacks in June alone.

They were stretched thin and paid a price for it:

Operating from [Forward Operating Base] Airborne with a fluctuating troop strength of 80 to 90 men, Dog Company was the smallest in the brigade. … Wardak, an area with half a million people, equal in size to Connecticut and teeming with Taliban. Wardak is also what the military calls “kinetic,” the Pentagon’s word for a place where lots of people are shooting at each other and blowing things up. During its first six months in the province, Dog Company suffered 30 wounded in action, cutting Hill’s unit by a third.

But the worst came in mid-August: …

… Two of Hill’s men, 1st Lt. Donnie Carwile and Spc. Paul Conlon, died from wounds suffered in a fiery ambush that included an IED explosion and small-arms crossfire.

It didn’t take Hill long to figure out that the Taliban had known they were coming. Shortly after the attack, Hill obtained intelligence that the ambush was probably the result of an “insider threat.” He suspected that Afghans working on FOB Airborne collaborated with the attackers. Using classified intelligence sources, Hill confirmed his suspicions by “leaking” false intelligence about a new patrol. He sent men to the same location where Carwile and Conlon were killed and just as before, insurgents were waiting for them.

In all, Hill outed a dozen Afghan spies, local nationals working in various jobs around FOB Airborne. One of them turned out to be his personal interpreter, Noori, a trusted aide who had accompanied Dog Company on patrols and even been with them in firefights. Hill and [First Sergeant] Tommy Scott rounded up the suspected Taliban collaborators and took them into custody.

Without knowing it, both had just set a 96-hour stopwatch on their Army careers.

— Lynn Vincent, World magazine, January 31, 2009

Damned if you do…

The Army presented evidence that under Hill’s command, 1st Sgt. Scott straddled the chest of at least one bound detainee as he lay on the ground and slapped the detainee in the face while shouting questions at him. The Army also showed that while Scott held several detainees in the FOB coffee house, Hill, standing outside with other detainees, fired his handgun into the ground about 20 yards away from the nearest prisoner, in effect performing a mock execution in order to scare the detainees inside into confessing. At least one did, according to Puckett. Two separate medical exams showed that none of the detainees was injured.

… damned if you don’t:

Watching the prosecution destroy the reputations of Scott and Hill was heartbreaking, tragic — and deeply conflicting. As an American who fiercely believes in the rule of law and due process, I understand that the actions of D Company are inexcusable. A mock execution, under almost any circumstance, is antithetical to the ideals and standards our nation aspires to. And perhaps Hill’s superiors had good reason not to take these particular men into custody. Maybe they were on the radar of U.S. intelligence and taking them out of circulation might have meant losing valuable information. But the soldiers of D Company felt that they were out of options.

I fear that this kind of story will repeat itself in other parts of Afghanistan again and again, if only because U.S. forces know that their enemy’s mission is clearer than their own.

— P.J. Tobia, staff writer and investigative reporter for Nashville Scene, writing for the Washington Post, December 14, 2008

After their Article 32 hearings, the Command confirmed what CPT Hill had alleged:

The intelligence report detailing how these Afghan men were working with the Taliban is classified “top secret.” But an Army spokesman who has seen it said that the evidence against them was incontrovertible. “There was a legitimate report saying that [Hill’s translator] was a bad guy and was sharing information with the Taliban,” said Marine Capt. Scott Miller, media liaison for the hearing. “He was providing information to recognized bad people.”

Things kept happening in Wardak and the 1/506th Infantry was still there:

In late November, more than 400 battalion troops embarked on a disruptive operation into the Jalrez Valley from their base in western Paktika province. The long trip got off to a rough start. In neighboring Ghazni province, an improvised explosive device blew up under an Afghan police Ford Ranger pickup at the front of the convoy, killing two and wounding four. The $270 million U.S.-funded highway that connects Kabul with the southern city of Kandahar looked like a vehicle graveyard — lined with burned-out delivery trucks scarred by bomb blasts.

It was still dark when the convoy reached the Jalrez Valley. Moving into defensive positions, American forces established a command perimeter in the village of Eshma-Kheyl in case of an insurgent attack.

“It’s almost too quiet,” said Capt. Spencer Wallace of McComb, Miss., while scanning the rows of adobe compounds. “They knew we were coming.”

More Than Brothers

… was started by the families and friends of Captain Roger T. Hill and First Sergeant Tommy L. Scott, the former commander and first sergeant of Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment.

Our purpose is to increase awareness over the rigid and antiquated policies that endanger our men and women at war today. The types of injustices recently suffered by the men of Dog Company are increasing in frequency because of misguided foreign policy. Reasonable acts of self defense have become so scrutinized that dangerous hesitations and misguided priorities have become hallmarks of today’s battlefield. Our rules of engagement put the American Soldier at an unfair disadvantage.

The challenges faced by the men of Dog Company still loom overhead. Several Dog Company Soldiers are facing punishment for safeguarding their brothers in arms. The time is ripe for a public debate on the double standards that tie our hands in combat while making it easier for the enemy to cut them off.

On this website you will notice a link to donate. This link will allow anyone to make a donation directly to Captain Roger Hill’s Defense Fund through an existing account established by Captain Hill’s defense counsel, Mr. Neal Puckett .

Help Captain Hill and the men of Dog Company pay off over $40,000 in legal fees and Army fines. Several Dog Company Soldiers are still facing prosecution for erroneous charges. … Read more about Dog Company.

A message from the Family and Friends of Dog Company:

If you would like to help Captain Hill get an honorable discharge, please write to:

Secretary of the Army, Honorable Pete Geren
Department of the Army
107 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0107

Ask that CPT Hill receive an honorable discharge.

Thank you.

  2 comments for “With 2 dead and 30 wounded, D Company became ‘More Than Brothers’

  1. ringmaster
    March 31, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Who is supplying the info to the army on these alleged abuses?????? Can anyone be trusted today?

  2. March 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    It makes no sense that we send these brave men into battle and then worry about the rights of the the thugs we send them after!!!! Shame on anyone who is involved in the prosectution of these Brave American Soldiers! We give our Soldiers training to go get the bad guys, they get the bad guys, and then we punish these brave men and women who are trying to defend all of us, of which they have done incredibly well for the last 71/2 years.

    This is traitorous behavior on the part of these prosecutors and as a mother whose Son served 4 deployments, I am outraged by this. God Bless Capt Hill and First Sgt Tommy Scott and their families. Please donate and pray for them and call your Congressman and Senators! America needs to wake up and defend those who are trying to defend all of us.

    Beverly Perlson
    The Band of Mothers

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