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Questions persist on soldier’s death

Military: U.S. Army investigation still under review for delays in communication

Posted: January 1, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 1, 2012 1:55 a.m.

The year 2011 saw the death of U.S. Army Spc. Rudy A. Acosta, of Canyon Country, shot in Afghanistan by a rogue security-firm recruit hired to protect American soldiers.

The story of Rudy Acosta, born and raised in the Santa Clarita Valley, who served with the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment​, dreamed of becoming a doctor, and who was revered as a combat medic, has become a cause célèbre for his father.

That cause is about stopping — or at least improving — the way foreign nationals are recruited by private security firms to help guard U.S. troops.

The story’s timeline begins with the hiring and subsequent firing of an Afghan national in 2010.
Acosta’s killer had been hired by a contracting firm called Tundra, but fired in July 2010 after he had expressed intentions of killing U.S. soldiers.

Tundra then re-hired killer Shia Ahmed — and that’s where the story of both Rudy Acosta and the scandal involving foreign national recruits begins.

March 9:
Afghan national Shia Ahmed is re-hired by Tundra.

March 19:
Ahmed opens fire on American troops as they began cleaning their weapons inside the Forward Operating Base Frontenac in Afghanistan, killing two Americans, including Acosta, and leaving four others wounded by the time he is shot.

March 24: More than 800 attend a special service for Acosta at Santa Clarita Baptist Church on Luther Drive in Canyon Country.

March 26: Brig. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, acting commander of the 10th Mountain Division, appoints a U.S. Army investigator to look into the shooting, in accordance with Army Regulation 15-6.

March 28: Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon asks Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general of U.S. forces  in Afghanistan, to launch an investigation into the March 19 shooting at FOB Frontenac, and sends copies of the request to Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the U.S. Central Command. He also asks Secretary of the Army John McHugh to assess the training given to U.S. soldiers to “detect and possibly prevent attacks by host national personnel hired by the U.S. Army in support of counterinsurgency operations.”

April 1: An estimated 5,000 people holding flags and waving to motorists — many with young children, some sitting in folding chairs, waiting for close to an hour — lined the streets of an approximately 12-mile route that encircled Santa Clarita from the Baptist church in Canyon Country to Eternal Valley Memorial Park on Sierra Highway in Newhall.

April 14: The U.S. Army investigator assigned to the probe completes his report, which details interviews, identifies problems and makes recommendations.

April 15:
McHugh notifies McKeon that the U.S. Army has completed its investigation, noting: “Although Army training guidance does not specifically require units to consider contracted security forces as a potential threat, infiltration of friendly forces is recognized during training as one of the many threats in operational environments associated with counterinsurgency missions.”

McHugh adds to the typed letter in his own handwriting: “Mr. Chairman, Let me know if you desire further information.”
McKeon never received the letter.

April 17: Petraeus sends McKeon a letter from U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan that “several guards were dismissed” from Tundra contracts after special screenings were carried out in response to the March 19 shooting, noting that at least 64 guards or “potential guards” were fired after biometric screenings revealed they were all on a watch list.

Sept. 22:
Acosta’s father, Dante Acosta, attends a congressional hearing of the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., called to provide politicians with an update on security forces in Afghanistan.

Nov. 9: The Signal publishes an interview with Dante Acosta, disappointed after his trip to Washington, who calls on officials in Washington to hold a hearing to address the issue of foreign nationals recruited to watch over U.S. troops.

Dec. 14: Dante Acosta tells The Signal he’s still waiting for the U.S. Army’s promised reply to his questions asked in September at the Armed Services Committee hearing.

Dec. 16:
McKeon first hears about the U.S. Army probe completed eight months earlier. He sends a stinging letter of rebuke to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, expressing his anger and frustration over the delay in receiving the Army report, demanding that the Committee of Armed Services be given all classified and unclassified investigations into the attack, including criminal investigations department and counterintelligence documents.

Dec. 21: U.S. Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Devine notifies The Signal that questions asked of the U.S. Army about its April investigation have been sent to U.S. military officials in Afghanistan.

As the new year approaches, questions have yet to be answered about how enemy combatants can be hired to protect U.S. troops by private security firms.

The U.S. military has two more weeks to submit the documents requested by McKeon.

That deadline arrives Jan. 15, 2012.


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