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Father of fallen soldier says military ordering soldier to keep quiet about training

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River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The father of a Wisconsin soldier killed in Iraq last month says military officials have ordered soldiers in his son's unit not to cooperate with an investigation into the allegedly poor training they received before they went to Iraq.

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But a National Guard spokesman says a new order issued last week makes it clear the soldiers can speak freely.

Stephen Castner's son complained about inadequate training at Camp Shelby before he went to Iraq.

Families of other soldiers in the unit say some got only two hours of training driving the Humvees they would be using daily to escort supply convoys. Castner's son was killed by a roadside bomb in his first Humvee mission, just days after arriving in Iraq.

Castner says he wants assurances that soldiers will be able to openly speak with investigators.

He says some parents actually said their sons said they were threatened with prosecution or prison if they did and specifically that they were not to speak to him.

Castner says he doesn't know how they're going to overcome that fear, so he says it's necessary to figure out some way to reverse those statements and assure them that they can speak truthfully without fear of retribution.

But Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, Wisconsin National Guard spokesman, says that's already been done.

He says all of the soldiers in First Battalion/121st Artillery have been directed by the battalion commander to fully participate and cooperate with the investigation and answer all questions truthfully and without fear of retribution. He says it's everybody's desire to have a thorough investigation of the quality of training at Camp Shelby and other mobilization stations.

If that's the case, Stephen Castner says he wants to see that order in writing. He says so far, there have been only promises and he's still not convinced the investigation will examine the allegations of poor training and the shortage of Humvees in Camp Shelby, Mississippi where the unit was trained.

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