US War Hero Gets Career-Ending Reprimand over Wanat

#1
A case of "good news, bad news" I suppose. I do hope the investigation looked all through the chain of command as it seemed from the reports at the time that the situaiton at this COP was sufficiently dodgy that someone at higher ecehelons should have known better.

War Hero Gets Career-Ending Reprimand
Exclusive: Soldier Decorated for Bravery in the Deadliest Battle of the Afghan War Faulted for Inadequate Preparation



(CBS) The battle of Wanat was the deadliest battle of the Afghan war. Taliban video shows the enemy surrounding a remote outpost, and shooting down on U.S. soldiers like fish in a barrel.

When it was over nine Americans lay dead.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports their company commander, Capt. Matthew Myer, was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in fighting off a much larger force. His voice is heard calmly talking to Apache gunships overhead.

"Be advised, we're in a bad situation," Myer said. "Need you to come in hot immediately."

The enemy was so close that Myer told the incredulous pilots to lay down fire within 10 meters of his position.

"I know it's high risk, but we need to get these guys off of us," Myer said.
"Ten meters," the pilot replied. "You got to be kidding me."

Exclusive: War Hero's Acts Faulted

Now Myer, along with two of his superior officers who were not at the battle, have received career-ending letters of reprimand for failing to prepare adequate defenses in the days leading up to the attack.

Forty-nine Americans and 24 Afghan soldiers had been ordered to set up the outpost deep in enemy territory.

More about the Battle of Wanat
Watch David Martin's Exclusive Report on the Wanat Battle
Soldier's Last Letter from Afghanistan
"I was Just Starting to Live My Life"
9 U.S. Troops Killed in Afghan Attack

It was July of 2008, and according to Sgt. David Dzwick, they were short of not just troops, but basic necessities.

"The second day we were extremely low on water," Dzwick said. "When you start running out of water it's very hard to continue working through the heat of the day.

Despite warnings from villagers that an attack was imminent, an unmanned surveillance drone which had been watching over the troops was diverted to a higher priority mission.

"Not having surveillance was the concern for me," Dzwick said. "Part of the planning is that we would have some."

The first Apache helicopters got there an hour and five minutes after the Taliban opened fire. By then, Captain Myer was the only officer still alive.

Myer can still appeal but right now he has been both decorated and reprimanded for the same battle.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/03/11/eveningnews/main6290133.shtml
 
#2
Strange mi-coordination here. Decorate a guy for bravery then reprimand him for lack of prep. What happened to pre bravery award investigation?
 
#3
eodmatt said:
Strange mi-coordination here. Decorate a guy for bravery then reprimand him for lack of prep. What happened to pre bravery award investigation?
I have no idea. May be a "left hand/right hand" issue.
 
#4
Well, whatever it is those responsible cant be accused of issuing medals to cover cock-ups as has happened in our forces.
 
#5
As I understand it that there had been a decision to close this base as it was too costly and difficult to keep open.
This decision was never actually implemented ans sorta forgotten about, but the resources for it were already winding down.
Then the SHTF and now higher-ups are CTAs.
I hope that Captain Myer is able to fight this with similar resolve he showed in the battle,
even if legal support is similarly limited, and prevail.
For once the media can be useful in exposing the iniquity of Capt. Myer's situation.
Good find & thanks for posting this thread JJH.
 
#6
Maybe his Silver Star was "discounted" from a higher tier award as a "punishment"?
 
#7
Cuddles said:
Maybe his Silver Star was "discounted" from a higher tier award as a "punishment"?
Alas, it would not be the first (nor will it be the last) time that has happened.
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#8
I've been trying to find a reference but can't at the moment, but I believe various officers from USS Stark (hit and nearly sunk by 2 Iraqi exocets) were awarded medals for their efforts in saving the ship after she'd been hit, but were subsequently admonished or dismissed ship for their failures prior to and during the attack.
 
#9
Bouillabaisse said:
I've been trying to find a reference but can't at the moment, but I believe various officers from USS Stark (hit and nearly sunk by 2 Iraqi exocets) were awarded medals for their efforts in saving the ship after she'd been hit, but were subsequently admonished or dismissed ship for their failures prior to and during the attack.
I believe some of the lower ranks got commendations for damage control efforts after the attack but the officers got career-ending punishments:

Linky
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
I need to find Gajan's book but I'm pretty sure he got a meritous something or other a few days after the incident for his actions during the fire fighting and flood control. He was dismissed ship but stayed in the Navy (as an expert on damage control IIRC) for some time. He was in the CIC at the time of the strike but not in charge, so took some blame but not all.

He also commented on the Command taking the rap for failures of duty - according to Gajan's account the Captain tried to place the blame on his subordinates.
 
#11
Bouillabaisse said:
I need to find Gajan's book but I'm pretty sure he got a meritous something or other a few days after the incident for his actions during the fire fighting and flood control. He was dismissed ship but stayed in the Navy (as an expert on damage control IIRC) for some time. He was in the CIC at the time of the strike but not in charge, so took some blame but not all.

He also commented on the Command taking the rap for failures of duty - according to Gajan's account the Captain tried to place the blame on his subordinates.
I don't know about his book but here is the official investigation report and at the end it includes recommendations for awards-Gajan was recommended for a Purple Heart.

Linky
 
#12
Here are the actual reports of the AR 15-6 investigation-as shown, it was a desperate fight all round.

Volume I

Volume II


Another very comprehensive investigation (some 4000 pages) at USCENTCOM under the supervision of Gen. Natonski, USMC is pending release.

CENTCOM investigation of Wanat combat action completed; report forwarded to Army

U.S. Central Command


MACDILL AFB, Fla. (Jan. 29, 2010) – The investigation into the combat action that occurred at Wanat, Afghanistan on 13 July 2008, ordered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander, U.S. Central Command, and led by Lt. General R. F. Natonski, has been completed. The report has been thoroughly reviewed and endorsed by Gen. Petraeus and forwarded to the Department of the Army as a matter under its cognizance.

http://www.centcom.mil/en/press-rel...ction-completed-report-forwarded-to-army.html
 
#13
More of the aftermath of Wanat:


What Went Wrong at Wanat?
August 04, 2009
Seattle Times

What Went Wrong at Wanat?

A few months after Jason Bogar of Seattle died in a battle at Wanat, Afghanistan, in July 2008, his mother, Carlene Cross, began receiving his effects from the Army.

All his cammies -- camouflage uniforms. And boots, lots of boots. Three broken cameras and his laptop computer.

On the computer were a few diary entries from his time in Afghanistan and a letter to his family -- the last file he had saved.

"I feel my days are numbered so I want to say all this while I still can," the 25-year-old Army corporal wrote, noting that "death is all around me."

"Know that you all are the reason I am here and to give my life for that is nothing to me."

In the battle of Wanat, fewer than 50 U.S. troops faced some 200 insurgents. While the Americans kept the base from being overrun, nine soldiers died and 27 were wounded -- a 75 percent casualty rate.

As Cross learned more details about the desperate fight to defend the remote military outpost, her grief has been transformed into a campaign for an official Defense Department investigation into what went wrong at Wanat. The efforts have been bolstered by an unreleased study, obtained by The Seattle Times last week, that says questionable decisions by commanders put the unit in peril.

The study, written by historian Douglas Cubbison of the Army's Combat Studies Institute, says missteps left the unit short of supplies and heavy equipment to fortify the outpost and without requested air surveillance needed to track the enemy.

Cross has joined other families in a campaign started by David Brostrom, a retired colonel whose son also died in the battle. The families are pressing the military for more answers.

She hopes their efforts will help prevent other soldiers from finding themselves in the same situation as the war grinds on in Afghanistan.

"It isn't about any anger or revenge. Jason is gone, and I can't bring him back," Cross said. "It's about accountability and changing a system that to me doesn't seem to have a lot of accountability."

The most forceful advocate is Brostrom, whose son, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, died as he tried to reinforce soldiers under attack at an observation outpost at Wanat. David Brostrom began requesting answers from the military shortly after the battle.

"For this little mission, they didn't have anything. They were left out there," Brostrom said. "The least we can do for their honor is to do the investigation proper, garner lessons learned in an official document so it reduces the risk of this thing happening again.

"And that is not being done."

Brostrom's years in the military make him knowledgeable about strategy, tactics and how to maneuver through the Pentagon bureaucracy.

In November, he filed a hotline complaint with the Defense Department's inspector general to try to spur an investigation.

A spokeswoman from the inspector general's office confirmed that a complaint was filed and said the case is still active but declined further comment.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., met with Brostrom and also has requested an investigation. The families have been asking other members of Congress to request an inquiry as well. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray's office has said she supports the request and has been in contact with the inspector general's office.

Families who have lost loved ones have emerged as powerful voices in the long-running wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Early in the Iraq war, the deaths of soldiers in unarmored Humvees prompted some families to crusade for more heavily armored vehicles. Those eventually were funded by Congress.

In Afghanistan, the family of Pat Tillman, the professional football player turned Army Ranger, helped unmask a cover-up that sought to blame his death on an ambush rather than from friendly fire.

The Army's version of events at Wanat also is coming under scrutiny.

The official Army review places no blame on commanders who sent the unit to set up a new outpost at Wanat. While Cubbison's study cites shortages of water, concertina wire and other supplies needed to fortify the site, the official Army review makes scant mention of such problems.

Examining her son's diary entries and talking to those who survived, Cross discovered her son and other soldiers in the unit were full of foreboding about the mission in Wanat, which came less than two weeks before they were to go home.

"The last three patrols that have gone out that way have either been hit with small arms and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] or had locals tell us that there was Taliban in the area," Bogar wrote in a June 21, 2008 entry. "There is also Icom chat from Taliban that they have built up fighting positions and are just waiting for us."

Jason's father, Michael Bogar of Bainbridge Island, was uneasy before his son left because he had believed resources in Afghanistan were too thin. Plus, his son specifically had asked to go where he wouldn't just be sitting around.

About the time his son typed the June 21 diary entry about Wanat, Michael Bogar was looking forward to Jason's return, so he could "get to know him on a deeper level as a maturing young man."

This summer, Cross and her family finished a memorial garden for Jason Bogar in the backyard of her Issaquah townhome. On the anniversary of his death, they placed his ashes in the soil of a Bonsai tree there. One of the surviving soldiers from the battle attended.

Bogar's nephew, Isaac Jason Martindale, just 10 months old and born a month and a half after Bogar's death, crawls on it when he visits.

http://www.military.com/news/article/what-went-wrong-at-wanat.html
 
#14
Also this:

3 officers reprimanded in deaths of Hawaii soldier, 8 others

Three Army officers have received letters of reprimand for mistakes made before a 2008 battle in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of nine American soldiers, including 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom of 'Aiea, the soldier's father said.

The disciplinary action is part of the fallout from more than a year's worth of efforts by Brostrom's father, retired Army Col. David Brostrom, to get the full details of what happened after the Army initially concluded in its investigation that commanders did nothing wrong.

David Brostrom early on blamed his son's command for a series of failures leading up to the attack.

CBS News reported that Jonathan Brostrom's company commander, Capt. Matthew Myer, along with two of Myer's commanding officers, received letters of reprimand for failing to adequately prepare defenses before the attack that killed the Damien Memorial and University of Hawai'i graduate and eight other soldiers.

The battle also resulted in 27 Americans being wounded.

NBC News reported that the other two receiving reprimands were the battalion and brigade commanders. At the time, those commanders were Lt. Col. William Ostlund and Col. Charles Preysler.

Brostrom said yesterday that he and family members of other soldiers killed in the battle are being kept in the dark about the disciplinary action and a new investigation into the July 13, 2008, battle. He learned of the disciplinary action from the media.

Brostrom said he called the Army deputy adjutant general's office yesterday about the lack of family notification.

"They (Army officials) apologized profusely, but I said, 'Listen, I shouldn't have to see on the news and have my wife read all this and get all these e-mails from families,' " Brostrom said.
medals for valor

Jonathan Brostrom, a 24-year-old platoon leader, was killed after he ran through enemy fire to reinforce other soldiers at an observation post that was in danger of being overrun.

Last May, the 'Aiea family accepted a Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor, that Jonathan Brostrom received posthumously for his bravery.

A couple of months earlier at Fort Benning, Ga., Myer had received his own Silver Star for his actions at Wanat.

"It's very difficult to explain the complexities of what happened (that day)," Myer told Army Times after receiving the medal.

About 200 enemy fighters surrounded and attacked the much smaller force of U.S. troops who had been sent to set up a new combat outpost in Wanat in eastern Afghani-stan's Kunar province.

The soldiers were short on water and heavy equipment. An Army analysis of the battle — separate from the investigations — was critical of the operation.

After nearly 15 months in Afghanistan, the American commanders "had grown complacent," the report said. "In their hubris, they forgot that a new position is most vulnerable in the early days of its formation."

Myer arrived in Wanat the day before the battle, according to the analysis.
waiting for report

David Brostrom said that he called an Army official yesterday who confirmed Myer's reprimand.

"He said Capt. Myer, he's been read the letter, and he has a lawyer and he has so many days to respond," Brostrom said.

Army officials also confirmed two other commanders were read letters of reprimand, he said.

Army Gen. Charles Campbell, the commander of U.S. Forces Command, has responsibility for determining what effect the reprimands will have.

David Brostrom, a 30-year Army veteran, said he was told that "Gen. Campbell had not made a decision — letters were read to the individuals, but no decision has been made. Depending on how these officers (respond), they could get punished or nothing at all. He's waiting for the officers to come back and state their case."

Ostlund is deputy commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga. Preysler is on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

In September, the commander of U.S. Marine Forces Command, Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, was ordered to conduct a new investigation of the battle of Wanat. The 4,000-page report hasn't yet been released.

David Brostrom said he doesn't know whether the three officers being reprimanded should receive a stiffer punishment.

"I don't know. If I haven't seen the (new investigation), I can't judge either way," he said. "I will guarantee you, the Marine Corps, Gen. Natonski's investigating committee, did a very detailed job."

The families of those who died at Wanat are still waiting for the report and a family briefing.

"The only time I get anything out of this thing is when the news calls me," Brostrom said.

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2010/Mar/13/ln/hawaii3130332.html
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
jumpinjarhead said:
Bouillabaisse said:
I need to find Gajan's book but I'm pretty sure he got a meritous something or other a few days after the incident for his actions during the fire fighting and flood control. He was dismissed ship but stayed in the Navy (as an expert on damage control IIRC) for some time. He was in the CIC at the time of the strike but not in charge, so took some blame but not all.

He also commented on the Command taking the rap for failures of duty - according to Gajan's account the Captain tried to place the blame on his subordinates.
I don't know about his book but here is the official investigation report and at the end it includes recommendations for awards-Gajan was recommended for a Purple Heart.

Linky
Thanks for the link. Stored for future reference. Both Gajan and Lt Montcrief were awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Medal fairly shortly after the action, for their conduct after the missile strikes. Gajan, as mentioned, was dismissed ship and stayed in the Navy, Montcrief was lambasted for his failures and "voluntarily" resigned. So back to the OP's point, it has happened before
 
#16
Bouillabaisse said:
jumpinjarhead said:
Bouillabaisse said:
I need to find Gajan's book but I'm pretty sure he got a meritous something or other a few days after the incident for his actions during the fire fighting and flood control. He was dismissed ship but stayed in the Navy (as an expert on damage control IIRC) for some time. He was in the CIC at the time of the strike but not in charge, so took some blame but not all.

He also commented on the Command taking the rap for failures of duty - according to Gajan's account the Captain tried to place the blame on his subordinates.
I don't know about his book but here is the official investigation report and at the end it includes recommendations for awards-Gajan was recommended for a Purple Heart.

Linky
Thanks for the link. Stored for future reference. Both Gajan and Lt Montcrief were awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Medal fairly shortly after the action, for their conduct after the missile strikes. Gajan, as mentioned, was dismissed ship and stayed in the Navy, Montcrief was lambasted for his failures and "voluntarily" resigned. So back to the OP's point, it has happened before
Absolutely.
 
#17
The seeds of this are more indepth than just poor prep from the officers on the ground surely?

Would it not have come from a very much higher level as to where this forward base was to be placed in the first place.From the various descriptions of the base it appears to have been in a natural bowl and overlooked from all the surrounding terrain !

From the first days they had inadequate supply of just about everything, with a lack of numbers to get the base operational and stocked/protected.
 
#18
BaldBaBoon said:
The seeds of this are more indepth than just poor prep from the officers on the ground surely?

Would it not have come from a very much higher level as to where this forward base was to be placed in the first place.From the various descriptions of the base it appears to have been in a natural bowl and overlooked from all the surrounding terrain !

From the first days they had inadequate supply of just about everything, with a lack of numbers to get the base operational and stocked/protected.
One would surely think so as well as remembering there is a time element here in that the officers reprimanded were not responsible for the initial deployment and other aspects that pre-dated their deployment. IMHO, any officer who was involved over time in the glaring security issues apparent from the first siting of this outpost should be held accountable for allowing it to go on to the point that this engagement occurred as it did.
 
#19
My take from the report was that the men on the ground (officers included) did the very best (exceptionally actually) with a bad situation, it was already noted that OP topside was in a bad postion but to move to a better protected position would have been to isolate the OP and not to have one would have caused obvious problems, Had it not been for the OP I would imagine the perimeter of the PB would have been breached as EN forces would have remained undetected right to the wire, in essence the OP was a necessary evil.

I am sruprised having read the after action review that a higher award (perhaps CMOH?) was not suggested for the individual who provided continous aid under fire after the medic was hit or for the officer who lead the initial reinforcement to the OP, either way all men involved (including Afghan counterparts) performed heroically and exceptionally well under the circumstances, a fine example of heroism and bravery from US forces rather then what could be perceived by some corners as a failure.
 

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