[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

SCVNews.com | Man On a Mission: Soldier’s ‘Avoidable’ Death Spurs Gold Star Dad to Action | 12-07-2011
Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Mostly clear
Mostly clear
73°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 30
1869 - The Del Valle family's then-1,340 acre Rancho Camulos is legally separated (partitioned) from the Rancho San Francisco land grant [story]


Rudy Acosta was a Santa Clarita boy through and through. Born at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, he attended Santa Clarita Christian School and enlisted in the Army as a medic. He wanted to save lives and become a surgeon.

He shipped off to Afghanistan in the summer of 2010. When he came back home for a visit in January, he came back a man.

Two months later he was dead.

He didn’t step on a land mine. He didn’t get shot by a sniper. He didn’t fall in a firefight.

Rudy and his fellow soldiers were back at their base – safely, by all rights, inside the wire. They were preparing for a mission, cleaning their guns, when an Afghan insurgent masquerading as a protector opened fire on the troops he was hired to guard.

Rudy may have saved one last life as he fell. Reports suggest he may have stepped into a bullet intended for another solider – a woman who credits Rudy for the fact that she is alive today to raise her own family.

Dante Acosta is a man on a mission.

Santa Clarita’s newest Gold Star father has a message for military leaders:

Stop hiring independent contractors for U.S. force protection. Don’t entrust soldiers’ lives to private security firms that hire native residents in an active war zone. Don’t hand an AK-47 to someone who hasn’t been properly vetted.

As it turns out, the Afghan infiltrator had been hired just 10 days earlier and was a security team leader, Dante Acosta said.

Dante Acosta discusses his son's death on "SCV Newsmaker of the Week"

“This was totally avoidable,” Dante said in an “SCV Newsmaker of the Week” interview Tuesday on SCVTV.

While Dante’s message might sound simple and even sensible, his quest for action hasn’t been nearly so simple. Not during troop reductions. Not when the military is shaving $465 billion from its budget over the next 10 years. Not when a congressional supercommittee can’t come to terms and stave off further cuts that could render the U.S. incapable of operating simultaneously in two theaters.

Much has changed in the seven decades since Pearl Harbor. Even in Korea and Vietnam, Navy Seabees cleared most of the airstrips and the Army Corps of Engineers built the bridges and paved the highways. Today, more and more of the functions once performed exclusively by members of the U.S. armed forces are farmed out to private contractors.

Usually that’s because it is more cost-effective to hire contractors. In Afghanistan the situation is more complex. It’s a NATO command, and cost containment isn’t supposed to be the overriding factor in Afghanistan. Instead, U.S. and international forces are supposed to be training Afghans to take over more of the peacekeeping responsibilities.

For Rudy Acosta, the reason for farming out force protection didn’t matter.

Dante Acosta thinks it is worth neither the risk nor the cost.

“We’re penny wise and pound foolish,” he said, letting his experience as a senior financial advisor with UnionBanc Investment Services kick in. Pennies saved on force protection are outnumbered by the dollars lost with the death not only of two trained soldiers – Rudy, 19, and Cpl. Donald R. Mickler Jr., 29, of Ohio – but of two people who would have gone on to become productive, tax-paying members of society.

Dante has taken his message to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee – his own Santa Clarita congressman, Buck McKeon.

McKeon invited Dante to testify in Washington about native security forces in Afghanistan. Dante came away feeling unfulfilled. He said the discussion centered on the Afghan National Army and Afghan border police – “which are not the same thing. Those are actually Afghan governmental agencies.”

Rudy’s case involves “civilians hired by an Afghan subsidiary of a Canadian firm (that) hires local Afghans to guard our soldiers,” Dante said. “I haven’t been successful in having a hearing specifically about this issue.”

At the Sept. 22 hearing, McKeon formally submitted 10 questions on behalf of Dante and his wife, Carolyn Acosta, to Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy.

Answers were supposed to come in 60 days. The deadline passed two weeks ago. McKeon – and the Acosta family – still await a formal Defense Department reply to the questions, which appear below.

Also awaited are the results of an investigation McKeon requested March 28, 2011, nine days after Rudy’s death.

McKeon wrote to then-NATO ISAF Commander Gen. David Petraeus seeking his “personal assurances that your command will spare no effort to determine the root causes for this and other similar attacks by Afghans employed by the U.S. directly or hired by U.S. funded contractors.”

Also March 28, McKeon wrote to Army Secretary John McHugh, asking him to assess whether U.S. troops were adequately prepared to “detect and possibly prevent attacks by host nation personnel hired by the U.S. Army in support of counterinsurgency operations.”

And in a same-day letter to then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, McKeon requested “a review to ensure that the Department of Defense and all the combatant commands have in place processes and procedures to assess the reliability of host nation personnel … who are contracted, utilized or employed by U.S. military forces.”

Army Spc. Rudy Acosta

“As Dante and Rudy Acosta’s representative,” McKeon told SCVTV in a statement, “it is my duty to make sure that the issues and concerns of my constituents are echoed in Washington.

“As Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, there is no matter I take more seriously than the safety of our service men and women.  There is no greater loss than the loss of a soldier, and as a father I can only imagine the grief that their loved ones bear.

“I share Mr. Acosta’s concerns to ensure the safety of our nation’s sons and daughters who bravely and selflessly answer their country’s call to duty.  I look forward to Mr. Acosta’s continued partnership in our pursuit to best serve the troops who serve our great country.”

Dante Acosta knows it takes time and tenacity to effect change, and he’s determined to commit both to his cause.

“I don’t know that I can rest knowing that we have soldiers over there still in theater (who are) not allowed to protect themselves,” he said. “They’re asked to stand by while there are 90 or so Afghans with AK-47s on our posts, on our bases, and they’re tasked with guarding our troops – to sometimes tragic results.”

“When we had bad body armor going over there, that got changed because the public demanded it,” Dante said. “When the public demands no more foreign nationals guarding our troops as they sleep and eat on their bases, then it will change.”

 

Dante Acota’s “SCV Newsmaker of the Week” appearance will be televised Thursday, Dec. 8, at 9 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 8:30 a.m. on SCVTV (Time Warner Cable Channel 20, AT&T U-verse Channel 99, SCVTV.com live stream, with an archived copy on demand at SCVNewsmaker.com).

———-

Questions submitted Sept. 22, 2011, by U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon on behalf of Dante and Carolyn Acosta to Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy:

1. Why do we trust non Americans to guard our troops in a war zone?

2. What are the other options to having contractors like Tundra Security assigned to protecting our troops in wartime and in foreign lands?

3. Who is directly responsible for approving these contracts and implementing this policy?

4. What ties to any US government or foreign governments does Tundra have?

5. What criteria must be met by a contractor to be awarded a contract such as this?

6. Now or in the past have former employees ever worked for any agency of the US Government?

7. Why are these guards allowed on base with loaded weapons?

8. Where is the threat to them or the convoys they escort on the base?

9. What kind of supervision are these guards under?

10. How are the guards trained and who trains them?

 

Army Spc. Rudy Acosta in Afghanistan

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

Comments are closed.

SCV NewsBreak
Loading...
Related Content
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 5:53 pm
Family of Orphaned Crash Survivor Turns to Community for Help
After the fatal crash in Acton nearly a week ago, the family members of the two deceased victims are coping with the loss and coming together to care for the victims' orphaned 1-year-old daughter.
Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 4:45 pm
Hollywood Writer Allegedly Stole Clothes from Walmart
A Hollywood screenwriter credited with “Snakes on a Plane” was arrested Monday night in Canyon Country on a burglary charge at a Walmart in Santa Clarita, according to Sheriff’s Station officials.
Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 3:39 pm
County Going for Grant to Restore Placerita Habitat, Create Braille Trail
The Board of Supervisors approved a measure Tuesday allowing the Department of Parks and Recreation to apply for $328,000 in Proposition A grant funds to improve facilities at Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1869 - The Del Valle family's then-1,340 acre Rancho Camulos is legally separated (partitioned) from the Rancho San Francisco land grant [story]
Many years ago when Placerita Junior High still had classrooms that at least smelled new, there was a teacher who owned some radio-controlled model airplanes. A bunch of us students would go out to the football field and watch him fly the little planes.
Terror From the Skies | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
St. Stephen’s is pleased to sponsor its Back 2 School Bash and Blessing of the Backpacks event on Saturday, Aug. 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 9: ‘Blessing of the Backpacks’ at St. Stephen’s
A Snakes on A Plane screenwriter was arrested at a Walmart in Santa Clarita on a burglary charge Monday night. That plus more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave thumbs-up to the expenditure of $280,000 in grant funds to help preserve 74 acres of wildlife habitat in Agua Dulce near the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.
Board Says Yes to Preserving 74 Acres Next to V-Rocks
Free training for local entrepreneurs, from the Small Business Development Center at College of the Canyons.
COC Small Business Development Center Training Sched. (7-29-2014)
After the fatal crash in Acton nearly a week ago, the family members of the two deceased victims are coping with the loss and coming together to care for the victims' orphaned 1-year-old daughter.
Family of Orphaned Crash Survivor Turns to Community for Help
A Hollywood screenwriter credited with “Snakes on a Plane” was arrested Monday night in Canyon Country on a burglary charge at a Walmart in Santa Clarita, according to Sheriff’s Station officials.
Hollywood Writer Allegedly Stole Clothes from Walmart
The California State University has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation that will fund a study on the impact of service-learning courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
CSU Receives Grant to Study Impact of STEM
Safeco Insurance will donate $10,000 to the charity with the most votes and $5,000 to the runner-up. All nonprofit organizations featured in the contest will receive an additional $500 donation from Safeco if the total votes in the contest reach or exceed 25,000 votes.
Vote Online Daily to Help SCV Senior Center Win Money
The 9-and-Under team from Hart PONY Baseball defeated North Valley 7-2 to win the inaugural PONY Mustang 9U World Series Title.
Hart PONY 9U Team Wins World Series
The Board of Supervisors approved a measure Tuesday allowing the Department of Parks and Recreation to apply for $328,000 in Proposition A grant funds to improve facilities at Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center.
County Going for Grant to Restore Placerita Habitat, Create Braille Trail
In the future, Rexford plans to upgrade the property with overall aesthetic improvements and functional enhancements, to enable the opportunity to capture higher rents upon renewing or re-tenanting.
Avenue Kearny Buildings Change Hands for $11.5 Mil.; Buyer Looking to Raise Rent
Local author Pam Ripling will share her knowledge of our West Coast beacons, relating how they came to be and where they are now, at the Old Town Newhall Library on Saturday, Aug. 9, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Aug. 9 Author Event: History, Mystery of California Lighthouses
1983 - U.S. release of "National Lampoon's Vacation"; Magic Mountain is Walley World [story]
Santa Clarita Valley animal experts warned pet owners Monday about people falsely identifying themselves as animal trainers or as part of a rescue operation.
Be On Alert for Fake Animal Trainers, Rescues
CHP officers are teaming up with Caltrans to conduct maximum enforcement in construction zones across the state thru August first. That story plus more local news tonight on SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Monday, July 28, 2014
Flying a remote-controlled helicopter, plane or even a small drone might seem like a fun thing to do in a public park, but doing it in a park in Santa Clarita could earn you a citation.
City: No Drones Allowed in Santa Clarita Parks
The reason our president has been referred to as the leader of the free world is because the persons who previously sat in that office understood the role the president played in keeping communism and socialism at bay. That fear of the military and economic might of the U.S., along with its allies in the free world, were what kept peace in a large part of this planet.
Leader of Free World?
This week's events and activities from the SCV Chamber of Commerce.
SCV Chamber This Week (7-28-2014)
Have you decided to separate or divorce? Do you have a loved one who has decided to? Private family mediation is an alternative to the adversarial court system, saving you time, money and continued heartache.
Aug. 1: Lunch & Learn About Family Mediation
The CHP is conducting maximum enforcement of traffic laws in active construction zones as part of a public safety campaign focused on work zone safety.
CHP Cracking Down on Construction Zone Scofflaws
While the cause of death remains under review, a Los Angeles man believed to have been murdered and then dumped in Gorman was identified Monday by Sheriff’s Department officials.
Detectives Identify Body Dumped in Gorman
A Santa Clarita woman is due back in court next month after pleading not guilty to charges related to driving a stolen taxi cab while under the influence at the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall in May.
Woman Pleads Not Guilty to DUI Taxicab Joyride