ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In early October of last year, U.S. troops were ambushed by Islamist extremists while on patrol in Niger. Four Americans and four Nigerian soldiers were killed in the fighting. The Pentagon hasn't said much about what happened that day until now. They finished an investigation and this week began briefing relatives of the troops killed in the ambush. We're going to hear now from one of those relatives. Will Wright's brother Dustin was a 29-year-old Army staff sergeant killed in the ambush. Will Wright, welcome to the program.
WILL WRIGHT: Thank you for having me - appreciate it.
SHAPIRO: Was this briefing experience for you a sense of closure or sadness? Did it make you angry? Can you sort of take us into the room, how that felt?
WRIGHT: It was enlightening. It gave us a window into the preparation and processes that led to this event. It gave us clarity on some of the details. So it was helpful, and it was - brought closure to a lot of questions we had.
SHAPIRO: Can you give us an example?
WRIGHT: One question in particular I had was on the timelines and when other assets arrived as far as support - Nigerian forces, the French involvement. Airpower is a huge advantage for American military forces, and what I wanted to know and what our family was interested in - when were drones on station or in the area at the site of the attack? When did the French arrive? And they did answer our questions in the context of combat. The response was quick. It was powerful, and it prevented the situation from getting much, much worse.
SHAPIRO: The report from the Pentagon said there were multiple failures at various levels. Is that consistent with what the briefers told you when you met with them yesterday?
WRIGHT: It is. But out of respect for the families that haven't received their briefings yet, I'd like to avoid specifics and give them time to have their day to be briefed. And, you know, at a later date, we can address specifics.
SHAPIRO: Do you hold anyone responsible? Do you think there should be any discipline? Do you think there was something preventable here that somebody should be held accountable for?
WRIGHT: I don't hold any one individual responsible, but that does not mean there shouldn't be changes a turning of the page, so to speak. If you asked me to point to one thing that went wrong, well, as an NCO, a staff sergeant myself who's been in combat, I can tell you I may have made different decisions on the ground. But I wasn't there. And the main thing is what we do next. And if it's looking for heads to roll and punishing people, we're going to lose sight of the true issues that we have as a nation, and that's standing behind our troops and being more engaged ourselves.
There is a very complacent attitude when it comes to American involvement in the world. We've been at war in this particular war for 17 years, and it's time for us to wake up. You know, we still have troops in danger. We still have places that are very hostile that we have soldiers there. And if they're going to be in those areas, they need to have our full support and our full attention because we sent them there.
SHAPIRO: Is there something specific that you would like people to remember your brother Dustin by?
WRIGHT: His heart, his passion, the way he loved others, he served others. And if you're one of his people, he'd give his life for you. And that's what he did. He gave his life to have his brothers know he'd never leave a fallen comrade. That's what I want him to be remembered for.
SHAPIRO: Will Wright, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: His brother was Army Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright, who was killed in an operation in Niger last October.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.