Spc. Pat Tillman was dead.Sitting in a crammed tent at Camp Salerno, the Army's Forward Operating Base in the province of Khowst, Afghanistan, Mansfield witnessed the raw emotion and friction in the unit as the soldiers agonized over the tragic outcome of the mission. An Army chaplain pulled up a seat. So did an Army psychiatrist as squad leaders and high-ranking officers joined the 30 or so young Rangers still fresh from their first firefight.The soldiers in the Black Sheep platoon didn't need a tidy, bureaucratic Army inquiry to tell them what they already knew: Pat Tillman had been killed in a case of fratricide, otherwise known as friendly fire, by someone among them at the meeting.By then, they knew that. Like Mansfield, though, many of them were struggling with how it had happened. With why it had happened. With the awful enormity of it all."It was emotional," said Mansfield, then 20 years old and a gunner in the vehicle that had been just in front of Tillman's, in an interview with ESPN.com. "Some people had things they said that other people didn't want to hear. It was just pretty personal. People in the second serial [the trailing half of the platoon] had a different perspective of what happened than people in the first. ..."
The previous investigations under Army regulation 15-6, which establishes procedures for such inquiries, concluded that a trio of young Rangers was following the initial fire of their squad leader, Sgt. Greg Baker, as the soldiers were trained to do. But none of those official inquiries identified who squeezed the trigger on the fatal shots.
It was early evening, close to 6:45. Daylight was waning along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, though it wasn't quite dark enough for night vision goggles. Suddenly, small arms fire from Afghan insurgents rained down from high atop a ridge, and an explosion rocked the floor of the canyon near where the second serial was traveling. The Rangers still in the canyon had no place to hide.
Making matters worse, when the trailing convoy, including the disabled Humvee and the jinga truck, was caught in the ambush, the non-English-speaking jinga driver was out in front of the Army's elite soldiers. According to the transcripts of statements given by several witnesses, the jinga truck initially blocked the convoy's escape route through the canyon. Kevin Tillman was in the rear vehicle of the second serial, which had come under fire.
When asked by ESPN.com whether the other Rangers in the second serial should have known what they were shooting, Arreola said: "Yes, definitely. That is what we are taught. It is burned into our minds."
Arreola, who was in the last vehicle of the second serial, told ESPN.com he did not shoot at Tillman or the other Rangers on the ridgeline. Both Arreola and Mansfield were interviewed on Memorial Day of this year at an Orange County (Calif.) jail facility, where they are serving sentences for felony assault for their part in a November 2004 bar fight in Fullerton.
Pat Tillman and other Rangers on the ridgeline frantically waved their arms. Tillman set off a smoke grenade. At one point, the firing ceased briefly when the soldiers in the trailing serial lost sight of their targets as their vehicle rounded a curve. Thinking the firefight was over, Tillman and O'Neal stood to stretch their legs. According to O'Neal's interview transcript from the Army's November 2004 investigation, the two Rangers assumed the shooters had recognized the tragic error. 2b1af7f3a8