TACOMA — A soldier who grew up in Tacoma and who died two years ago in Afghanistan was killed by friendly fire, according to an Army report.
The Army had said only that Sgt. Nathan Wyrick, 34, was killed on Oct. 10, 2011, by “combat-related injuries” at an outpost in the Kandahar Province.
The report obtained by The News Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request said three mortar rounds malfunctioned and one landed on his tent. Six fellow soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York, were injured.
The Army mortar fire was intended for an insurgent who fired at the outpost and the first rounds appeared to fall near the target, the newspaper reported Sunday.
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The unit that fired the rounds was part of the same command as Wyrick’s company in the 10th Mountain’s 3rd Brigade.
An investigation criticized the outpost’s infantry leaders for calling in mortar fire after they lost direct sight of the insurgent shooter.
However, the investigator acknowledged they had reason to believe they knew where the shooter was hiding and that their decision to call for mortars was not the cause of Wyrick’s death.
The investigation found the mortar team followed procedures and their targeting calculations were correct. Investigators concluded the mortar round malfunctioned because another mortar of the same type fell short of its target on the same day elsewhere in Kandahar Province.
Wyrick left behind his wife Rachel and four sons at their home in DuPont. He had his sons’ names tattooed on his body.
Wyrick was a 1996 graduate of Franklin Pierce High School where he played football. He had two previous deployments to Iraq. As a supply sergeant, his job kept him mostly on the protected base.
The shootout with the insurgent was fairly routine, the newspaper said. Wyrick and others were waiting it out in a sleeping tent near his company’s headquarters when it was hit.
“After we found out what happened we just sat there in shock,” one of the mortar soldiers wrote.