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Army: Sgt. Dugan wasn’t following
orders the day he died in Bosnia

Sgt. Donald Dugan Sgt. Donald A. Dugan, The first American soldier killed in Bosnia, apparently ignored procedures for dealing with mines and died while attempting to disarm one.

The Army said it didn't know why the soldier went into the minefield, or why he attempted to disarm the mine. The "We do know he knew where the mines were and that he had been instructed to stay out of such areas," said spokesman Col. Robert E. Gaylord.

The Army closed the Dugan case today by saying the 38-year-old career soldier's actions "were inconsistent with the training and guidance" he received. "Proper procedures for the discovery, marking and disposal of mines and unexploded ordnance were apparently not followed."

Gaylord told a news conference at U.S. headquarters that "this is a single instance of a lapse of judgment of a tremendous, highly motivated, non-commissioned officer and it led to tragic consequences." The proper procedure, Gaylord said, would have been to stop, identify the mine, mark the area, report it and move away from it.

Here are highlights from the Army's report

  • Dugan and an unidentified second soldier left their checkpoint on foot about 3:15 p.m. local time on Feb. 3 and walked about 200 yards. The second soldier was following Dugan, his superior, into the minefield.
  • They passed two civilians collecting wire, entered the minefield and began probing. The soldiers discovered and pointed out to the civilians an anti-personnel mine, the spokesman said. The civilians said the device was a "pineapple" mine.
  • "Dugan then cut a trip wire attached to the pineapple mine, which was on a stake several inches above the ground," Gaylord said. "Dugan and the other soldier continued through the minefield and went behind a building. Dugan returned to the mine, leaving the other soldier behind the building.
  • "At approximately 3:35 p.m., Dugan motioned for the civilians to move away, knelt, and we believe, attempted to disarm the mine with a small multipurpose hand tool. The mine detonated, killing him instantly."
  • Hearing the explosion, the second soldier ran toward Dugan and found him face down where the mine had been. He raced back to the checkpoint to alert medics. A Bradley fighting vehicle drove into the minefield to pick up Dugan. Dugan was evacuated by helicopter 35 minutes after the mine exploded to the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Zupanja, Croatia. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
  • Gaylord said that investigators are probing the subordinate's role in the incident to determine whether any disciplinary action would be taken against him.

Dugan had served in the army for 18 years and had only two more years to go until retirement. He was with Troop A, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, based in Budingen, Germany.

Additional resources
Berserkistan's Coverage of Dugan's Bio, Memorial, Family
Berserkistan's Land Mine Survival Guide