An Operation in Niger Went Fatally Awry. Who Is the Army Punishing?

An Operation in Niger Went Fatally Awry. Who Is the Army Punishing?

Captain Perozeni was the leader of Team 3212, Alpha Company, Second Battalion, Third Special Forces Group. He received a letter of reprimand citing his actions before the mission, including insufficient training and rehearsals before leaving base on Oct. 3. One of the main criticisms outlined in the letter states that Team 3212 had rarely trained with the Nigerien soldiers who fought alongside his team that day.

Team 3212 had been in Niger less than a month and had focused on training another counterterrorism unit before the Oct. 3 mission. Captain Perozeni was recommended for the Silver Star, a medal for valor third to the Medal of Honor. He was wounded during the ambush.

The team’s second in command, a master sergeant, was punished for many of the same reasons Captain Perozeni was faulted for: not doing enough training with the Nigerien troops, along with a lack of rehearsals before the mission. His name, and others, have been withheld because of privacy concerns. The names have not been published throughout the investigation.

Maj. Alan Van Saun, the company commander for Alpha Company, was home on paternity leave when Team 3212 was ambushed. He was reprimanded for improper training before the company was sent to Niger.

While Major Van Saun was stateside on leave, the acting company commander was a junior captain, meaning most of his responsibilities were left instead to a more experienced chief warrant officer. Even though the warrant officer’s role meant he was not in charge of Alpha Company, he carried out most of the company commander’s responsibilities. Because of this, the chief warrant officer’s letter of reprimand faulted him for the inaccurate mission plan that helped launch the first of the three missions.

Investigators believed Team 3212 and its immediate leadership in Niamey lied about the first mission because the team had an American intelligence contractor, who was able to detect and locate cellphone and radio communications, accompanying the team. The investigators thought that by bringing the civilian, Team 3212 had counted on finding and going after Mr. Cheffou. Team 3212 brought him, however, because dated intelligence pointed to Mr. Cheffou’s presence in the area and it was worth at least trying to locate him when the team was at the Nigerien checkpoint, according to military officials.

The Army also punished Alpha Company’s sergeant major, who left the unit before Team 3212 deployed. As the top enlisted soldier in Alpha Company, he was responsible for the overall training of the company and ensuring that the six teams in the company were properly staffed.

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