Spokesman: Probe Will Determine Chinook Crash Facts

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011 — An inves­ti­ga­tion will deter­mine the facts sur­round­ing the deaths of 30 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers and eight Afghan com­man­dos when their CH-47 Chi­nook heli­copter went down in Afghanistan’s War­dak province Aug. 6, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman said today.

Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan warned against jump­ing to con­clu­sions about the inci­dent.

“Any con­clu­sions are pre­ma­ture until we con­duct an inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine the facts,” he said dur­ing an infor­mal meet­ing with Pen­ta­gon reporters. Leaks of infor­ma­tion result­ed in report­ing that was “all over the place in terms of facts that were not accu­rate,” Lapan said.

“It’s nev­er help­ful when peo­ple get out in the imme­di­ate after­math of an inci­dent like this and start pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion that one, can be inac­cu­rate and lead to inac­cu­rate report­ing, and two, can be spec­u­la­tive about what may or may not have hap­pened,” he added.

A rock­et-pro­pelled grenade shot down the Army heli­copter, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said today. Five of the U.S. casu­al­ties were air­crew mem­bers, and 25 were mem­bers of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand. It was the largest loss of life in a sin­gle com­bat inci­dent in Afghanistan, offi­cials said.

Lapan cau­tion reporters against read­ing too much into a sin­gle com­bat inci­dent. As trag­ic as the loss of life is, he said, it is not a trend, but an anom­aly.

“This one sin­gle inci­dent does not rep­re­sent any water­shed or trend,” Lapan said. “As we have said con­tin­u­ous­ly, the Tal­iban was going to come back hard. They weren’t going to take the loss­es that they have suf­fered light­ly. They were going to try to inflict casu­al­ties not only on us, but the Afghans, and those are the things we are see­ing.”

The Tal­iban are still on the run, and the coali­tion and its Afghan part­ners have reversed the momen­tum of the insur­gent group, the colonel said, adding that spe­cial oper­a­tions forces will con­tin­ue to dri­ve on.

“In the imme­di­ate after­math, they press on with the mis­sion,” the colonel said. “It is an unfor­tu­nate fact of the busi­ness we’re in that we take casu­al­ties, and our folks are well-trained to rec­og­nize that they can’t let the loss of their com­rades deter them from the mis­sion, espe­cial­ly since this is a very dan­ger­ous under­tak­ing, and you can’t afford to lose focus.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)