Fox Company of Task Force Violent head to Congress to clear their names
This is sort of a complicated and long story. I'm going to start at the end, which is what is in the Military Times today:
It's been a decade since Fred Galvin and his Marines were in a battle for their lives following a coordinated attack not far from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. That every man on the patrol survived remains a testament to good training and, above all, good fortune. Yet the hell they've endured since stands among the war's tragedies, and now there's an effort in Congress to help them find peace.
On Thursday, Galvin will represent his old unit at the U.S. Capitol as four congressmen call on the Marines' top general, Commandant Robert Neller, to make a public overture declaring that Galvin and his elite commando team, Marine Special Operations Company Foxtrot, did nothing wrong when defending themselves during that attack. Many of the Marines involved say they still suffer psychologically from the backlash they incurred when the military sought to imprison them over bogus claims they killed more than two dozen innocent bystanders.
The effort is led by Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, who came to the Marines' defense 10 years ago and has continued to advocate on their behalf. He has introduced a resolution, H.Res.21, that would require Neller to "issue a public document certifying that members of Fox Company ... were not at fault in the firefight ... [and] deserve to have their names cleared."
There's a good video of the commander who seems a vert ernest sort of guy here doing the best he can for his troops:
Now, at the link to the Military Times piece they have a 5 part series with links, unfortunately though the links are all wrong. I was able to find some of them by Googling. The first one is here, and I wanted to quote one portion that gives you an idea of the background:
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.
If you have the time to read them all, and see how these poor Marines got seemingly railroaded, I highly recommend it.
Part III is HERE, more also from this one below.
Lastly, Part V is HERE. (The last is a pdf of the entire story, so you have to scroll down to page 52.
But from Part III, I did want to give this teaser:
The attack still replays in high definition: The van approaches, then makes a hard, tire-shrieking turn into the convoy. It's loaded with enough fuel and firepower to kill everyone in at least one of the Marines' six humvees. Those closest figure they are goners.
The turret gunner, Sgt. Josh Henderson, was partially exposed when a roar of fire and smoke swallowed him and the four others inside. In that instant some thought about their families, and how the military would inform them their kids had died on a highway in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Armed insurgents watched from both sides of the road, poised to finish the job — or die trying.
The Marines had never seen such a massive fireball. "Oh my God," the patrol commander thought. "All of my men are dead." From his vantage point directly behind the targeted humvee, the second in their procession, this was a perfectly reasonable assumption. If any Americans had died that day, March 4, 2007, it's likely no one would have questioned what happened next.
The whole thing is a tragedy, but to pin something on a unit like this and blackball them is craziness. I wasn't there, so don't know if civilians were killed or not, but apparently none of the Marines believe that there was. But firefights are by their very nature chaotic. But the Rules of Engagement are fairly clear on self-defense, if you feel there is a threat to your life, you engage. When someone attacks you with a car bomb and then small arms fire, everything after that is an attack and survival is your only concern, both your own and those of your brothers to the left and right of you.
But you should go read it all. I hope these Marines get their names cleared. They served our country, and they feel like in turn the country betrayed them. No matter what happened that day, this is a sad event, but it's not one that should haunt people until they go to their eternal rest.
A quote from one of the Marines:
But the betrayal from within, that shattered their trust in the institution. It defied the core values instilled in these men from the moment they joined the Corps: honor, courage, commitment. "This still haunts us," one of those Marines explained, "because no one has publicly acknowledged we did the right thing that day. We did our jobs — and we were crucified for it."
Also, major props to MIlitary Times and in particular the writers who worked on this story. It may be the best piece of journalism I've read in a LONG time.