Slain soldier’s family meets with Pentagon officials

Posted Oct. 02, 2011, at 5:32 a.m.
Last modified Oct. 02, 2011, at 5:24 p.m.
Pfc. Buddy McLain, 24, of Peru, and fellow service members were killed last November by an Afghan border patrol recruit during training exercises.
Pfc. Buddy McLain, 24, of Peru, and fellow service members were killed last November by an Afghan border patrol recruit during training exercises.

PERU, Maine — Pfc. Buddy McLain’s family met with officials last week at the Pentagon for a briefing on measures, including better screening of recruits, the military has taken to prevent attacks by Afghan soldiers on allied forces.

McLain, 24, of Peru and five other soldiers in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division were killed by an Afghan border patrol recruit during training exercises last November.

McLain’s wife, Chelsey, his parents, Larry and Patti McLain, and his father-in-law, Andy Freeman, were accompanied by Ryan Vaart of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office on their trip to Washington, D.C.

Snowe had issued a letter to the Army shortly after McLain’s death asking for a full investigation.

“We cannot show enough gratitude toward Sen. Snowe for all that she has done,” Freeman said. “Snowe jumped all over the case from the first day and put the pressure on the military to make important changes in military standards.”

Freeman said Snowe and members of her office have checked in on Chelsey monthly and sometimes weekly to see whether the family needed anything.

During the summer, the family received two detailed reports explaining the events that occurred the day McLain and his fellow servicemen were gunned down.

Freeman said the trip to the Pentagon was to inform the family of the efforts the military has made on improving standards and policies surrounding the training of the Afghan National Army.

“There have been a lot of improvements that they have made, including better screening of Afghan Army soldiers,” he said.

Freeman said he could not discuss specifics because of the confidential nature of the briefing.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, commander of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, told CNN in a written response: “The insider threat is real. The expansion of the Afghan Army requires that more emphasis be placed on the screening and vetting of new personnel as well as the spotting and assessing of those already in the ranks.”

McLain, just before his death, told his wife he did not fully trust the Afghan soldiers he was responsible for training.

The Army has created a training program to help close the gap in cultural differences, which is believed to be a partial cause for the attacks.

“This cause has been a way for the family to channel its grief,” Freeman said. “To help improve standards and really make them look at their system so attacks can be prevented and protect service members is what Buddy would have wanted us to do.”

To see more from the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

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