Army Pfc. Rudy A. Acosta, the grandson of Banning Center for the Arts manager Clidine Roper, was killed by hostile fire in Afghanistan just over 10 months ago.
The loss was tempered by the fact that 19-year-old Rudy wanted to be a soldier and he wanted to serve his country, Roper said in a recent interview in Banning.
But the tragedy was compounded because Rudy was deliberately killed by an Afghan security contractor who was hired to help protect U.S. forces, according to the Army and the Department of Defense.
Such incidents have become a disturbing trend in Afghanistan, with "at least 26 murder/attempted murder incidents by ANSF or ASG members against ISAF/UNAMA members, resulting in the killings of at least 58 Western personnel" since May 2007, according to an unclassified report dated May 2011.
"Most of these incidents have occurred since Oct. 2009, representing 6% of all hostile deaths by ISAF during this period," the author of the report, Jeffrey Bordin, Ph.D., a political and military behavioral scientist, stated in an executive summary. "Such fratricide-murder incidents are no longer isolated; they reflect a growing systemic threat."
Roper and Rudy's father, Dante Acosta of Canyon Country, are lobbying Congress for change in military policy and procedure, in an effort to protect other U.S. forces and their families from similar tragedies.
"I would like to see the entire situation change," Roper said Thursday. "Why should they hire those guys?
"Our own soldiers should be guarding our soldiers," Roper said. "And if it takes people writing to their congressmen or whatever it takes it really needs to be changed, this policy."
Roper last saw Rudy in January 2011 when he was home on leave.
On March 19, 2011, he was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, when he was killed in Kandahar province, along with another soldier from Ohio, according to the Department of Defense.
"They died March 19 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they were allegedly shot with small arms fire by an individual from a military security group," the Defense Department said in a statement in March before Rudy's funeral in Canyon Country.
According to a Department of the Army investigation report dated April 14, 2011, "the assailant, Shia Ahmed, seized upon the opportunity to execute an insurgent assault on US Sodiers . . . Ahmed had expressed intentions to target US Soldiers in July 2010 at FOB Blackhawk and was subsequently fired by his first line supervisor.
"However, Tundra failed to ensure his files were updated to reflect that he should not be hired again," the report states.
"After reviewing all the evidence, I believe the assailant was an insurgent who was planted into the Tundra guard force to execute a disruptive, spectacular, internal suicide attack. . . .
"On the morning of 19 March 2011, at approximately 0800 hours, the 4/2 SCR TAC was outside the TOC on their Stryker vehicles" in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border.
"They had the ramps down and were conducting weapons cleaning in preparation for an upcoming mission. . . .
"At approximately 0819, Shia Ahmed moved towards the TAC personnel, drew his weapon to the 'ready' and engaged them with well aimed automatic fire. The majority of the Soldiers immediately dropped to the ground and began maneuvering to the front of the vehicles for cover.
"These Soldiers had no means to defend themselves as their weapons were disassembled. . . . The assailant maneuvered around the vehicles toward their front, while continuing to fire in an attempt to maintain a clear line of fire with the engaged Soldiers.
"He expended all rounds in his first magazine while maneuvering and reloaded."
A U.S. soldier fired and struck Ahmed with "a well aimed shot which struck the assailant center mass," the report stated. "However, because he was wearing body armor, the assailant was not disabled."
Ahmed kept firing and eventually a U.S. soldier shot and killed him.
Casualties from the incident included the deaths of Pfc. Rudy Acosta and Cpl. Donald R. Mickler Jr., 29, of Bucyrus, Ohio, and the injuries of four other U.S. soldiers, according to the report.
Rudy's grandmother and the rest of his family know a change in military policy and procedure will not ease their loss, but they do not want the circumstances of his death to be forgotten.
"We don't want to see other families going through the same thing, and it has happened again, more than once," Roper said. "It happened earlier this month, and it will continue to happen as long as they're there.
"There may be some good guys involved, but how can we trust them, we don't know who we can trust, regardless of what they tell us," Roper said. "We just don't want other families to have to go through this same agony and pain that we're going through.
"It would be easy to just say 'Oh well' but there are other families that will have to endure it if something isn't done to change it. Really, it just has to stop. I don't know what it's going to take."
Rudy's father has already been to Washington, D.C., to visit with Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and he intends to go back in February, Roper said.
The unclassified report, "A CRISIS OF TRUST AND CULTURAL INCOMPATIBILITY: A Red Team Study of Mutual Perceptions of Afghan National Security Force Personnel and U.S. Soldiers in Understanding and Mitigating the Phenomena of ANSF-Committed Fratricide-Murders," was cited in a front page news report in Friday's New York Times, and in a June 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal.
"American and other coalition forces here are being killed in increasing numbers by the very Afghan soldiers they fight alongside and train, in attacks motivated by deep-seated animosity between the supposedly allied forces, according to American and Afghan officers," the New York Times reported Jan. 20.
The killings of American soldiers by Afghan troops "could undermine the entire war effort, according to a classified military study," the Wall Street Journal reported June 17.
"The study by Jeffrey Bordin, a political and behavioral scientist working for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, warns that the magnitude of the killings 'may be unprecedented between 'allies' in modern history,'" the Journal reported.
Dante Acosta said in a phone interview he learned Friday that a hearing has been scheduled before the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 1 to address Afghan security concerns.
"I'm disappointed I have not been invited to speak," he said. "I have to pay for my flight and my hotel out there. But at least they have scheduled the hearing."
Roper encouraged Banning-Beaumont Patch and other Patch readers to reach out to McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and their local congressional representatives.
McKeon describes himself as "a champion of a strong national defense, the men and women of America's Armed Forces and their families, easing the nation's national debt, and returning fiscal discipline to the Department of Defense."
He can be reached at (202) 225-1956 in Washington, (661) 254-2111 in Santa Clarita, or (661) 274-9688 in Palmdale. To send an email to McKeon visit this web page.
McKeon's mailing address in the Nation's Capital is
2184 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, currently represents the west San Gorgonio Pass, and he can be reached at (202) 225-5861 in Washington, (909) 862-6030 in Redlands, or toll free at (800) 233-1700. To send an email to Lewis click here.
Lewis' mailing address is
2112 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, represents the east Pass, San Jacinto-Hemet, and Coachella Valley areas, and she can reached at (202) 225-5330 in Washington, (760) 320-1076 in Palm Desert, and (951) 658-2312 in Hemet. To send an email to Bono Mack, click here.
Bono Mack's mailing address is
104 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dante Acosta also recommended concerned readers reach out to California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
Banning is situated in the San Gorgonio Pass in Riverside County, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles.