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Father: 507th ambush a 'preposterous' tragedy

Pfc. Jessica Lynch was among those captured

Pfc. Jessica Lynch was wounded in the attack on the 507th Maintenance Company convoy.  She's pictured here when she was rescued in a raid on an Iraqi hospital.
Pfc. Jessica Lynch was wounded in the attack on the 507th Maintenance Company convoy. She's pictured here when she was rescued in a raid on an Iraqi hospital.

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CNN's Barbara Starr on the Pentagon's report on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance near Nasiriya.
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(CNN) -- The father of a soldier who died in Iraq's ambush of the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company said Thursday the attack was a "preposterous" tragedy caused by commanders' race to Baghdad.

"The 507th Maintenance Company was placed in a terrible predicament by the wanton desire of its command structure to race to Baghdad," said the Rev. Tandy Sloan, father of Pvt. Brandon Sloan, 19, of Cleveland, Ohio.

He made the comments in a written statement to CNN.

Eleven soldiers died in the ambush and seven were captured.

Lynch was wounded when her vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The event was among the highest-profile struggles U.S. forces encountered in Iraq.

Her best friend Pfc. Lori Piestewa died of wounds she suffered in the assault. (More on the attack)

An army report, the full version of which has not been yet been released by the Pentagon, blames a disastrous series of errors for the March 23 attack near Nasiriya, Iraq.

Elements of the unit found themselves "in a desperate situation due to a navigational error caused by the combined effects of the operational pace, acute fatigue, isolation and harsh environmental conditions," according to the draft report.

Army Spc. James Kiehl, 22, of Comfort, Texas, was among those killed in the attack.

His father, Randy Kiehl, told CNN's "American Morning" Thursday that he doesn't blame anyone for the mistakes or his son's death despite the unanswered questions about how well the unit was equipped and briefed.

Kiehl said he's found solace in the fact that his son wasn't executed by the Iraqis, according to initial autopsy results he has viewed.

"It gives me some peace of mind that James was not executed, that he was trying to get out of the area, to possibly even turn around and help his fellow members of the 507th," Kiehl said.

However, the Army is still investigating the deaths of the 11 soldiers to determine if any were executed.

Soldiers 'fought the best they could'

Soldiers and vehicles from the 507th began what would become a 42-hour push toward Nasiriya on March 20 from their camp just inside Kuwait.

They were under the leadership of Capt. Troy King, who misunderstood his orders, the report determines. King thought he was to follow "Route Blue" to a region south of Najaf, Iraq, about 100 miles south of Baghdad and northwest of Nasiriya. Instead, he was supposed to follow "Route Blue" only to a certain point and then turn west to avoid the city rather than going through it. (Interactive: The 507th's wrong turn)

Sloan said Army officials informed him and his family about details of the ambush Monday.

"It seems to us that these events were brought about by unpreparedness of our military in this conflict," he said.

"In their view, [they] could not afford time to cover their ranks as they went, or even to slow down for unforeseen complication, such as heavy trucks stalling or becoming bogged down in the sands of the desert they knew they had to cross," Sloan added.

He called the events "a tragedy which is preposterous in nature, and unheard of in proportion."

Despite the consequences, he said, the family is proud of the bravery of the unit.

The Army's report concludes that the soldiers "fought the best they could until there was no longer a means to resist.

"Every soldier performed honorably and each did his or her duty."

In the dark early morning hours of March 23, elements of the convoy, which had gotten separated from vehicles and troops ahead of it, crossed through the center of Nasiriya -- experiencing small arms fire as they went. The group emerged north of the city before realizing a mistake had been made, the draft report says.

A decision was made to go back through the city to find the correct route.

The convoy was already plagued by vehicles running out of gas or getting stuck in the sand, and the distances between vehicles increased with each new problem.

And Iraqis had placed debris and disabled vehicles in the roadway to block U.S. troops.

As some elements of the convoy searched for a turn they had missed earlier, they came under a "torrent" of fire from Iraqis for as long as 90 minutes, the draft said.

During the firefight, some soldiers tried to fight back but were hampered by malfunctioning weapons and debris in the road.

The draft says Sgt. James Riley made a lifesaving decision when he surrendered himself, Spc. Edgar Hernandez and Spc. Shoshana Johnson after their M-16 rifles jammed.

The report also says Pfc. Patrick Miller was surrounded by enemy fire and may have killed as many as nine Iraqis before he was captured.

Miller later apparently told his Iraqi interrogators the pieces of paper inside his helmet were prices for water pumps when they were actually radio frequency codes. Miller has received a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his actions.

Lynch was captured and then treated at the same hospital where U.S. forces eventually rescued her April 2. Pentagon sources who announced the rescue said Lynch suffered multiple serious gunshot wounds. It was later determined that Lynch had not been shot.

POWs Edgar Hernandez, Shoshana Johnson, James Riley, Ronald Young, David Williams, Joseph Hudson, Patrick Miller were rescued about two weeks later.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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