National Security

Marines Didn’t Reach Out to Innocent Special Operators Until Story Went Public

Marine HQ cites ‘breakdown in communication’

US Marines from 1st Battalion 7th Marines Regiment walk at dusk in Afghanistan
US Marines from 1st Battalion 7th Marines Regiment walk at dusk in Afghanistan / Getty Images

The Marine Corps failed to reach out to seven special operations Marines exonerated from false accusations of war crimes, despite the assurances of top leaders to Congress.

On Dec. 19, Major General Frederick M. Padilla sent a letter to Rep. Walter Jones (R., N.C.) confirming that seven members of the elite Marine Special Operations Company Foxtrot (MARSOC) had been wrongfully accused of drunkenly murdering Afghan civilians in the wake of a suicide bomb attack. Padilla said the Marines "reflected sound military judgment" in returning fire against the enemy, citing a 2008 Court of Inquiry, which cleared the unit of wrongdoing, despite public condemnation from top military leaders—including the current leader of Afghan operations, Gen. John Nicholson. Padilla assured Jones that the Marine Corps was working to assist the men, several of whom are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.

"We are concerned to hear of the challenges many members of Fox Company are facing," Padilla said. "I have asked the Commanding Officer of our Wounded Warrior Regiment to follow-up with these Marines to ensure they are receiving appropriate and all necessary care and support."

Retired Major Fred Galvin, who led the MARSOC 7 in combat and has campaigned for the past decade to publicly clear their names, said those follow-ups never occurred until the story went public on Feb. 8. The Wounded Warrior Regiment provides Marines and their family members with resources to ease the transition into civilian life and provides counseling information to veterans. Galvin told the Washington Free Beacon that he got in touch with the Wounded Warrior Regiment after seeing a press release from Rep. Jones.

"I was surprised that the Regiment had found out about [getting in touch with us] in the media," Galvin said. "When a two-star general says something is supposed to get done, it gets done."

A spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Regiment said nobody in the organization had heard from Padilla before media picked up on Jones's release. Commanding Officer Col. Larry Miller spoke to Galvin on Thursday to assure him that "regardless of what has happened in the past, [Miller's] focus is to take care of these Marines and lend assistance if possible." The spokesman added that the regiment immediately made contact with multiple members of the MARSOC 7, only one of whom remains on active duty, though he did not elaborate, citing "privacy concerns." Several of the Marines told Regiment representatives they no longer wanted to be contacted, though they "appreciated the support."

"The Wounded Warrior Regiment was not aware of the directive to contact the MSOC F Marines prior to Thursday [Feb. 8] morning," the regiment spokesman said.

A Marine Corps spokesman blamed a "breakdown in communication" for the failure to make contact with the MARSOC 7 in the weeks between the Jan. 19 letter and its February publication. He said there was "no intent to deceive" in Padilla's assertion that the regiment was already aware of the MARSOC 7. The Marine Corps' staff director delivered the order to the regiment on Feb. 8.

"There was just a breakdown in communication in that process … it was a simple oversight," the spokesman said.

Galvin said he was satisfied with the regiment's response following the publication of Padilla's letter, but he remains upset with how Marine Corps Headquarters has responded to the issue. He is petitioning the military to publicly apologize for "throwing their own under the bus" in the wake of the ambush and also asking the Marine Corps to provide him and his men with the Marine Corps Raider Badge, the insignia that is awarded to current MARSOC servicemen, though it did not exist during Fox Company's 2007 deployment.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jones did not return request for comment.