WASHINGTON – The Army on Saturday blamed a computer mix-up for recruitment letters mistakenly sent out over the holidays to the families of 275 officers killed or wounded in action in Iraq.
"Every Army leader is just sick that this happened," said Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff. "This is an inexcusable mistake. Five years into this war, the Army can do better than this — and we will."
Senior Army leaders were frustrated and disappointed by their blunder, Cody said. The Army used the wrong database, he said, when it generated a mass-mailing of letters between Christmas and New Year's Day to more than 5,100 Army officers who recently had left the service.
Included were letters to 75 officers killed in action — more than one-third of all Army officers who have died in Iraq since the war began — and 200 more wounded in action.
The letters encourage the officers to consider returning to active duty.
Cody said the Army immediately began contacting each family to offer a personal apology.
"I can't imagine how these soldiers and family members felt upon receiving those letters," he said. "Army senior leaders also plan on personally contacting them in writing to apologize and let them know that the Army is still a family made strong by caring leadership and strong Army families."
The reason for the embarrassment — an inadvertent switch with the mailing databases — has been corrected, Cody said. He pledged that the mistake would not be repeated in future mailings.
The Army had scrubbed the database it intended to use, removing the names of wounded or dead soldiers, but then erroneously used an earlier list that still contained those names, he said.
The Army recruits about 80,000 people a year. Only once, in 2005, has the Army missed its recruiting goal since 1999.
Some 3,006 people from all branches of the U.S. military died in Iraq since the war began, according to an Associated Press count. Included in that toll were at least 217 Army officers. Among the thousands more wounded have been 894 Army officers.