Monday, March 09, 2015

So, how do you get your good name back?

A very cautionary tale of what media, poor leadership, and a priority system infused with paranoia, interservice friction, over-reliance on training vignettes, and a disposable sense of loyalty can do to good people.

First, let's time travel - back to 2007 and the NYT;
Last May, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, went to Iraq to express deep concern to his marines and to reinforce what he called the “core values” that required them to respond to danger with thoughtful precision.

But almost a year later, marines killed at least 10 civilians in Afghanistan in an episode that bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings and suggested that the lesson had not taken, even in a platoon of combat veterans wearing the badge of the elite new Marine Corps Special Operations forces.

Marine Corps officials said the unit, whose members undergo at least four months of specialized military training, did not receive specific values training addressing the lessons of Haditha. The actions of the 30 marines on patrol in Afghanistan appeared to contradict many of the edicts General Hagee had implored the marines to remember.

“We use lethal force only when justified, proportional and, most importantly, lawful,” General Hagee declared in a series of talks he gave at Marine bases around the world. “We must regulate force and violence,” he added. “We protect the noncombatants we find on the battlefield.”

A preliminary military investigation found that the marines killed at least 10 civilians and wounded dozens along a stretch of road near Jalalabad on March 4, and no evidence that they were being fired upon.
“You do ask, ‘How did this happen?’ ” said an officer familiar with the inquiry, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And it’s a fair question.”
Thanks to Andrew deGrandpre over at MilitaryTimes, perhaps some good people can get their names back ... a bit. From the 1st of a 5-part series;
A prior-enlisted sergeant, Galvin made history in February 2006 when, as a major, he was selected to lead Marine Special Operations Company Foxtrot for the first-ever overseas deployment of an operational unit from MARSOC, the Marine Corps force that carries out highly sensitive missions for U.S. Special Operations Command. It was a prestigious assignment for which Galvin was hand-selected based on his record of success leading Marines in the service's specialized Force Reconnaissance community.

But the job would become a curse. On March 4, 2007, less than a month after arriving in country, 30 men with Fox Company's direct-action platoon were riding in a six-vehicle convoy that was ambushed while patrolling in the Bati Kot district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, a nefarious transfer point for suicide bombers and other extremists entering the country from Pakistan. Media reports about the incident seemed to surface before the smoke had cleared and the shell casings were collected. And it seemed to leave little doubt that the Marines went on a wild rampage, inflicting mass civilian casualties.

Within days, Fox Company was ordered out of the war zone under a cloud of shame. Galvin was stripped of command. Yet investigations into what happened in Bati Kot had only just begun.
You need to read it all, as this is where it goes;
... the "facts" accepted by investigators and subsequently presented to the court varied dramatically depending on the witness, the report concludes. For example, an Afghan man allegedly driving an SUV at which the Marines fired gave testimony so inconsistent that O'Rourke, Sloat and Morgan could not determine whether he was present during the attack or "lying," the report says.

The court's report says the investigating officer, Air Force Col. Patrick Pihana, attempted — unsuccessfully — to convince an Army explosives expert to reverse his determination that damage to their vehicles was caused by incoming small arms fire. After the soldier refused, the report says, the investigating officer elected not to include his statement in his final assessment of the incident, a decision the court's officers called "inappropriate" and may be due to the fact that the soldier's statement "did not support Col. Pihana's conclusion." Ultimately, Pihana recommended that four Marines be charged with negligent homicide. But to reach that conclusion, he had to "disregard the statements of every Marine on the convoy," the court determined. 
... Pihana, Kearney's (Army Maj. Gen. Frank Kearney, then the head of Special Operations Command Central) chief of staff, may have been "negatively influenced" by Kearney and others in the command — and that, above all, it was inappropriate for Kearney even to have assigned the investigation to his chief of staff, as doing so inherently raises questions about neutrality.
When does a bias towards truth lose out to a bias to the news cycle? When does a instinct to support your own people and a faith in their honor lose out to an instinct to buy in to the enemy's INFO OPS campaign?
"The big injury to Fred and his men is moral," said Steve Morgan, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and combat veteran who served as one of the three officers appointed to the court of inquiry. "It's an injury to their souls."
Those who helped bring that injury?
Kearney told Military Times that he's "not interested in resurrecting the dead." He ordered an investigation at the Marine Corps' request, he said, indicating he believed that Marine leaders felt obligated in light of two other high-profile war-crime cases arising from the deaths of Iraqi civilians in Haditha and Hamdania. "If these Marines have heartburn," Kearney said, "it should be with the Marine Corps."

Pihana declined to be interviewed. "In recalling that event I remain convinced there is nothing substantial I could add, remove or change to the original inquiry," he said. "… I can understand the personal feelings involved but that would not change the thrust of the investigation" he said.
As is the case more often than not - you are alone, and the only thing you can can do is to speak the truth and let time reveal the larger truth. Ultimately, you have to speak for your own name. Fred Gavin is doing that for him and his Marines. See the video in the linked article above to hear him in his own words.

Loyalty and honor are interesting concepts. You can find yourself alone very quickly. If there are higher priorities held by some, you become just a vignette, not a fellow American. You can be all in the right, you can speak the truth, but if others find the truth inconvenient, and people cannot wait for the truth - then your loyalty and honor to your service, chain of command, and your nation will not matter. Those up the chain who expect all the loyalty of those down the chain will, in an instant, refuse to return that loyalty.  The below video came out within days of the incident.

  Who will be held accountable? Who will own up to the damage done to our Marines?

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