Botched Medical Procedures May Have Led to Death of U.S. Soldier

The American military’s Africa Command had no immediate comment on the investigation.

The Green Beret team’s mission on June 8, alongside their Somali counterparts, was to push into Shabaab-held territory, where the militants had been instigating attacks from, and build the small base that would later be renamed after Sergeant Conrad.

Sergeant Conrad, from Chandler, Ariz., joined the Army in 2010 and was trained to interact with local populations to glean information about militant groups. He had been to Afghanistan twice before finding himself attached to a Green Beret team from Third Special Forces Group in Somalia. When he was killed, his team had less than a month left on their deployment. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star with valor for running out in the early minutes of the firefight on June 8 and ushering a civilian linguist to safety.

The Shabab, an extremist group that has long tried to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, has lost much of the territory it once controlled, but Pentagon officials fear the group still might be growing in Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa. Last month, Shabaab militants attacked a Somali air base used by American forces with multiple car bombs, injuring civilians there.

About 500 American troops are in Somalia, and they are mostly Special Operations units. Last year, after a broad review under Jim Mattis, the defense secretary at the time, the Pentagon announced that it was reducing the number of troops on the continent. In 2017, a member of the Navy SEALs, Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Milliken, was killed and two other American troops were wounded in a raid 40 miles west of Mogadishu.

The focus on providing emergency medical care to wounded troops in what is called “the golden hour” has long been a concern of Defense Department officials, especially during the height of combat in the wars that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. As defense secretary in 2009, Robert M. Gates became concerned that the rugged terrain and vast distances of the Afghanistan war zone were keeping wounded troops from reaching hospital care within 60 minutes.

Mr. Gates ordered more helicopters to Afghanistan to evacuate wounded troops, and directed that helicopters previously set aside for rescuing downed pilots be reassigned to medical evacuation. Mr. Gates also increased the number of field hospitals.

A peer-reviewed medical study published in 2015 found that those initiatives saved an estimated 359 lives from June 2009 to March 2014. Applying the same standard to operations elsewhere has proved difficult, as was evident in the ambush in Niger.