Top general in Afghanistan found guilty in court martial for inadvertent shot

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Canada's top soldier in Kandahar has been fined $3,500 for negligently firing two rounds with his assault rifle as his boss the chief of defence staff stood nearby.
A court martial handed down the fine Tuesday after finding Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard guilty of an offence under the National Defence Act.
It's the stiffest fine handed down to a soldier for mishandling a weapon. Menard, who presides over similar cases in Afghanistan, said the most he has ever fined someone is $1,200.
In delivering the sentence, military judge Col. Mario Dutil said "this case sends a clear message" that the Canadian Forces takes weapons offences seriously.
The March 25 incident occurred as Menard and Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff, were about to board a Blackhawk helicopter at Kandahar Airfield.
Menard, commander of Task Force Kandahar, struggled to load a magazine into his C8 assault rifle and put the safety on. His gun was at waist level, pointing at the runway, when it fired a two-round burst.
The bullets whizzed between two armoured vehicles, missing two Blackhawk helicopters and about 10 soldiers also within range. No one was hurt and no property was damaged.
Menard handed the weapon to his driver and ordered him to have it looked at. Then he and Natynczyk boarded the helicopter and left the base.
The next day Menard reported the incident to the Task Force provost marshall. When an investigation found no problem with Menard's weapon, he assembled about 300 troops to tell them about the incident.
"He mans up right away," defence lawyer Lt.-Col. Troy Sweet told the court martial. "He says, 'Yes, it's me. I did it."'
Menard said he talked to the troops to put any rumours to rest.
"The last thing that I wanted was for rumours to go around," Menard told reporters outside the court room.
"So I said 'I'll kill that immediately."'
Menard pleaded guilty at the start of Tuesday's court martial to one count of "neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline" under the National Defence Act.
"I did accept, right from Day 1, full responsibility of my actions. And now it's something that is behind us," he said.
"I'm certainly very eager to go back to my troops."
Menard, who took over as commander of Task Force Kandahar last November, has until Aug. 1 to pay the fine.
He is only the second general to be court martialled. The first was in 2001 over the misuse of a Defence Department computer.

Organizations: National Defence, Canadian Forces, Defence Department

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Kandahar, Canada

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