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Father: 'A lot of questions' about Pentagon report

Randy Kiehl, whose son James was killed in Nasiriya, Iraq.
Randy Kiehl, whose son James was killed in Nasiriya, Iraq.

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CNN's Barbara Starr on the Pentagon's report on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance near Nasiriya.
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(CNN) -- Fatigue, mechanical malfunctions, and a series of errors plagued members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company near Nasiriya, Iraq, on March 23, resulting in an attack by Iraqis that left 11 U.S. soldiers dead and seven others captured, a draft report from the Army said Thursday.

One of the soldiers killed in the battle was 22-year-old Army Spc. James Kiehl of Comfort, Texas, a computer repair technician who found himself in the middle of a fierce firefight that day.

Kiehl's widow, Jill, provided his father, Randy Kiehl, with a copy of the draft report to read last month. Randy Kiehl shared his thoughts on the report and the loss of his son Thursday with CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: What's your reaction to the details in this report?

KIEHL: Having read the report, my daughter-in-law [Jill Kiehl] mailed down a copy of it -- we have yet to hear it from the military -- but having read the report, it gives me some piece of mind that James was not executed, that he was trying to get out of the area, to possibly even turn around and help his fellow members of the 507th. We've also got the initial autopsy report that tells us exactly how James died and that's lent some piece of mind also, that he was not executed.

O'BRIEN: The details in the report, however, seem to underscore complete chaos. The report highlights navigational errors, a combination of pace of movement and acute fatigue and isolation and a harsh environment all leading to what happened on that day. In your mind, does this information settle questions for you or does it raise more questions?

KIEHL: Initially, when Jill got her briefing on the 24th of June, I had sent up 12 questions to be presented to [the Pentagon]. Having read the report, some of those questions were answered and it raised even more questions. Their communication gear -- in most of the vehicles -- had battery-operated hand-held radios, which after 24 hours were dead. And a lot these troops were going for 40 to 60 hours without sleep. That raises a lot of questions about the way things were handled.

O'BRIEN: And, in fact, the report highlights that rifles jammed, the radios -- as you mentioned -- failed, the individual soldiers lacked grenades. Do you want some specific person or persons held accountable? Who do you blame?

KIEHL: I don't blame anybody. Accountable, yes. And from the standpoint of, 'We need to learn from this.' Accountable, not from a punishment side, but from an operational side that, 'These were the mistakes that were made. Let's not make them again.' You mentioned hand grenades. According to the report, all the pyrotechnics and anti-tank rounds were consolidated and secured. So, that was another question: Did they have access to them to defend themselves?

O'BRIEN: Your son and the rest of the 507th Maintenance personnel had all gone through basic training but they were not combat trained. Did you ever talk to your son about the potential for combat? Did he ever express any fears to you?

KIEHL: James and I talked the Sunday before he left and he said, "Dad, I'm a computer repair technician. I should not be going towards anywhere near any of the fighting, I should be in the back behind the lines." And then to see him end up in one of the actual hot zones, literally scared [my wife] and I to death. We did see the 507th's emblems and signs at Doha, Qatar, and we thought James was there. And several days later we found out James was actually en route up through, and ending up in Nasiriya.

O'BRIEN: You mentioned earlier, Jill, who is your daughter-in-law. Your son left behind a wife, and also, she just had a baby. How is she coping?

KIEHL: Each day is taken a day at a time. Just like [my wife] and I, Jill has her good days and she has her bad days. When the military presented the report to her on the 24th of June, it was extremely hard for her. And rather than have her recount it again, we asked that she just send it down to us so we could read over it. I finally got it the day before yesterday. And I got an actually opportunity to read the military's report. As parents, we have yet to hear from the military. [An Army representative] did promise he would call. That was last week. To this time I have yet to hear from him.

O'BRIEN: The report highlighted the bravery of the soldiers in that unit. As you learn more about what happened on that day, what do you think you will tell your new grandson Nathaniel about his dad?

KIEHL: We have something rather unique. All of the videotapes that are being done, news broadcasts, we are preserving them VHS and then I'm duplicating them on to DVDRs [DVD Recordable] to preserve them so that when Nathaniel is old enough, we can show him everything. We've had friends and family write letters -- not to James -- but to Nathaniel. And they are also going to be preserved so that when he is old enough, he can read over what friends and families and outside associates thought of James and how James was.

O'BRIEN: The report also says that military officials have told families that they will improve their training so that the soldiers and the commanders will learn how to protect convoys. Is that enough for you?

KIEHL: As I understand it, the United States Marine Corps sends all of their troops through a basic training. Then they go to a three-week combat training school and then on to their individual training. The United States Army sends their soldiers through basic training and on to their individual school. I feel the military needs to ensure that each soldier is trained adequately to defend themselves and their unit. James was a computer repair technician. That's all the real, formal schooling he had, as far as the military went. They did do ground exercises, but nowhere near the training that they needed for al Nasiriya.

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