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Pentagon Briefs Families Of 4 Soldiers Killed In Niger Last October


The Pentagon has now briefed the families of four soldiers who were killed in Niger last October. Officials have not publicly released their report on the attack, but details have emerged from the investigation that outline errors in planning and also training. Now, one of the Americans killed was Staff Sergeant Bryan Black. His family was among those briefed over the weekend, and we reached Sergeant Black's father, Hank, in North Carolina. I asked him to tell us a little bit about his late son.

HANK BLACK: Bryan was a very dedicated son, soldier, husband and father. He loved chess. He was very interested in languages. And he loved his kids and his wife a whole lot and was very proud of them.

GREENE: And what did he talk about when he went on this mission and was in Africa during this time?

BLACK: He didn't talk about any of this. And I was with him the weekend before he left - simply told us where he was going. But I stayed away from specifics, and that's something that I had no great interest in getting into the specifics about.

GREENE: Well, now I understand you've been briefed on a lot of the specifics. I know the Pentagon has briefed you on what happened the day that your son was killed. What have you learned?

BLACK: They provided a very complete picture of what happened before and during and after. And it was very comprehensive and answered the questions we had. And when it was done, we were very appreciative of what they had done.

GREENE: You feel like the questions you had have been answered.

BLACK: Our questions have been answered, yes.

GREENE: We understand, you know, from what we've learned about this report that there were mistakes made in terms of planning for this mission, in terms of the training for a mission of this kind. What - can you tell me specifically what they said about those mistakes?

BLACK: I'm not going to really address that because I know that other briefings will follow - and I think a more public briefing. And I believe that those questions can be asked of them. From my perspective, when we look at what some people call mistakes, especially in these situations, people make decisions based on the knowledge they have, and I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.

GREENE: One question that's been raised in all of this is whether Green Berets are taking too much risk. Did your son ever talk about that or tell you anything that would suggest he felt like he was put at too much risk?

BLACK: That's something that, frankly, I don't want to discuss. My son and I talked a lot about a whole wide range of things, and that's a question that really is something that I really don't want to discuss.

GREENE: Mr. Black, you, I understand, quoted A.A. Milne, the "Winnie-The-Pooh" writer, who many people know, at your son's funeral. Can you remind us of what you said and why that was important to you?

BLACK: The quote was, how lucky I am to have someone who makes saying goodbye so hard. And that's how we feel about Bryan. We are blessed to have had him in our lives, and we are very thankful for the life that Bryan lived.

GREENE: Well, Mr. Black, thank you for your son's service. And again, we'll all be thinking about you and your family.

BLACK: I appreciate that.

GREENE: That was Hank Black. His son Staff Sergeant Bryan Black was killed in Niger last October. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.