It was winter time in Afghanistan and very cold. There were good intelligence reports of small pockets of Taliban resistance occupying the general area. Reports also showed unconfirmed IED-making cells might inhabit the patrolled area. Our company had taken IED strikes very seriously as we lost four troops within a six month period in three separate attacks. The sharpest platoon leader in the company called the company commander to tell him they had detained a man while on patrol. Based on bomb making material found on the scene, the platoon leader believed the detainee could provide valuable information on the IED network. He completed his report by telling the company commander they were beginning battle field interrogation.
The detainee provided little to no valuable information after an hour of questioning. The platoon leader and platoon sergeant believed the detainee had valuable and fleeting information on a target. Since they were running out of time, the platoon sergeant told the Lieutenant he knew a sure-fire way to make the detainee talk without “hurting” him. He assured the Lieutenant this technique would certainly yield information and they would not be going totally outside of the Rules of Engagement (ROE). He influenced the Lieutenant by appealing to his sense of loyalty to and grief for those Soldiers they lost and the “need” to destroy this IED cell. The Platoon Leader walked away. The Platoon Sergeant was a highly regarded and decorated Soldier and a consummate professional. When he spoke, everyone listened.
The Platoon Sergeant procured a 55-gallon drum, had his troops take it outside, and filled it with water. When asked by some of the younger privates what he planned, the Platoon Sergeant said “This technique has worked in the past, it will certainly work again.” One of the privates felt uneasy about what was about to transpire next but continued to fill the barrel with water when the Platoon Sergeant told him to remember his fallen comrades. The Platoon Sergeant took the detainee fully clothed and submerged him in the water up to his neck; he could still breathe. The Platoon Sergeant knew eventually the cold water would take effect and the detainee would talk. The Lieutenant returned and saw what was happening. He pulled the Platoon Sergeant to the side and clarified this technique did not fit into the ROE. The Platoon Sergeant stated, “We are not going to let him freeze to death but merely make him uncomfortable.” He again reminds the Platoon Leader of the troops they lost. The Platoon Leader, after a moment of reflection, admits to himself he knows they are close to tracking this IED cell down. He then gave the Platoon Sergeant a nod and walked away. Only minutes later the detainee began to talk. He offered valuable information which led the entire Company to a house where they killed six insurgents and caught a High Value Target.
What would you do as the Platoon Leader? When the company commander finds out what happened, what should he do?