Reservist says he wasn't in charge of range where soldier killed

Major Darryl Watts, a Calgary reservist, and his lawyer Balfour Der walk through Mewata Armoury to Watts' ongoing court martial proceedings in Calgary, AB.



CALGARY -- The Calgary army reservist charged with manslaughter in a deadly Afghan training exercise testified Monday he was not the officer in command of the firing range.

And Maj. Darryl Watts told defence lawyer Balfour Der he wasn't even familiar with the C19 mines which were test fired at the end of the Feb. 12, 2010, drill northeast of Kandahar city.

Watts, testifying at his Calgary court martial hearing at Mewata Armoury, said he delegated the responsibility of the C19 range to his second-in-command, Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale.

He said he was only in charge of one of the four ranges set up at Kan Kala, in the desert just northeast of Kandahar.

"Each range ... was under the supervision of one individual who was trained to conduct that range," Watts told a five-member jury panel of senior officers presiding over his court martial.

Watts, 44, faces six charges, including manslaughter in the explosion, which killed Cpl. Joshua Baker and injured four other soldiers who were members of his platoon.

He testified his then superior officer, Maj. Christopher Lunney, was informed Ravensdale would be in charge of the range where Claymore mines would be detonated, because the warrant officer was familiar with the weapons.

Lunney has since been demoted to captain after pleading guilty to charges at his own court martial.

Watts testified he was still cleaning up after his own range testing of light armoured vehicles when the C19 testing was ongoing.

"I was still finishing up my duties ... as the LAV (range) commander," he told Der.

Watts said he had no prior training on the use of the C19 weapons, which involved ball bearings being discharged through plastic explosives.

"Everything seemed fine from my limited experience," he said of the moments leading up to the deadly blast.

At one point Watts had to pause in his testimony and control his emotions as he spoke of the aftermath of the explosion.

If convicted, Watts could face a number of punishments, from a reduction in rank to imprisonment.

Ravensdale is to face a similar hearing on the same charges in the new year.

Watts' testimony continues Tuesday.

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