VA Soldiers Accused Of Abandoning Civilians In Iraq

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

September 29, 2006

A video has surfaced from Iraq that appears to show troops abandoning a civilian truck convoy during an attack by insurgents. This has the Virginia National Guard under scrutiny.

The video begins with a supply convoy taking a trip north of Baghdad. Preston Wheeler a Haliburton driver was shooting the video. It was a routine mission until the convoy took a wrong turn and was attacked by insurgents.

Wheeler's truck was disabled and he saw his military escorts leave the scene. Then insurgents killed one of the other drivers in cold blood. Three drivers were killed that day.

Wheeler said he felt abandoned and waited 40 minutes before rescued.

"Why didn't the gun truck behind me stop? If the gun truck in front of me stopped and secure that area, then guys would not be executed if the military had followed their protocol, which they call it," said Wheeler.

A formal investigation by the U.S. military found the soldiers did follow their training by not stopping until they could safely counter-attack.

"They didn't leave the scene. They pulled up out of the kill zone and established a security defensive line so that they could continue to fire and protect the convoy." sad Lt Colonel Michelle Martin, spokesperson for the Multi-National Force-Iraq .

The investigation also concluded that the military's action saved the lives of two contractors including Wheeler.

The Virginia Guard officials confirmed that its 1173rd Transportation Company was on active federal status at the time and under a higher command. That company is based in Martinsville and Rocky Mount, Virginia.

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