• U.S.

Eyewitness Account: Tragedy at Camp Pennsylvania

2 minute read
Jim Lacey

It was 1:45 Sunday morning when I was awakened by the first blast–a boom 10 times louder than a car backfiring. Ten seconds later there was a second blast, and then soldiers started screaming, “Get out! Get out!” Someone had slipped two hand grenades into the tent housing more than a dozen of the brigade’s officers. One woman in my tent, which was 10 yards away from the explosion, yelled, “I’m hit.” A piece of shrapnel from the grenade had lodged in her leg.

I ran out of my tent into total chaos. The Scud alarms were sounding, and people were running for the bunkers we use during those alerts. Most soldiers were in uniform, but some were wearing the workout clothes they sometimes sleep in. Realizing the explosions were not Scuds, I walked over to the tent where the grenades had gone off and saw two very badly wounded soldiers–one bleeding from his leg, back and stomach. The medics had not yet arrived, so soldiers were bandaging wounds themselves. I noticed the chaplain trying to comfort the dozen or so who had been wounded. Sergeants were shouting orders to form a security perimeter. Some of the younger soldiers were looking on in a state of shock and had to be hand-led to their positions. Fifteen minutes later an ambulance drove up to take away the badly wounded soldiers. One died soon after.

Because a number of officers had been hit, no one knew at first who was in charge. Then two officers who were bleeding from wounds started giving orders.

Thinking there was a terrorist on the loose, a group of soldiers began assembling to conduct a manhunt. Other officers were inspecting the tents and bunkers to make sure everyone was accounted for.

One of those officers spotted a soldier, lying alone in a bunker near the explosions, who appeared to be wounded. The soldier, who has a Muslim name, had, according to military sources, recently been acting insubordinate; his superiors had decided not to bring him into Iraq.

Camp sources say he initially admitted responsibility. The officer drew his weapon and called for backup. Then they handcuffed the soldier, read him his rights and waited for criminal investigators to arrive.

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