May 18, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Marine Brass Exonerate USMC Major from Kansas City After Media Ambush in Afghanistan

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To get the full thrust of what happened to former Marine Corps Major Fred Galvin in Afghanistan it is best to hear it in his own words. Eleven years after the incident his passion has not abated a bit.

In 2007, Galvin was awarded command of the Marine Corps’ first-ever special operations unit. A month after arriving in Afghanistan, his unit rolled into an Afghan village only to be confronted by a suicide car bomber and subsequent ambush with small arms fire from the hillside and nearby vehicles. His men returned fire, Galvin pleased that none of his men had been killed.

For Marine Major Fred Galvin the battle did not end in Afghanistan.

No sooner did the Fox Company arrive back at the base in Jalalabad, however, than Galvin was confronted with a BBC news story claiming his company, some of them drunk, had killed ten Afghans indiscriminately. With George W. Bush in the White House and an election year approaching, the American media picked up the story from there.

Under media and Afghan pressure, the Marine Corps brass in Afghanistan and back home buckled. Six days after the ambush, they ordered Galvin and his men to return to the United States. Two months later, the region’s top U.S. Army commander, Col. John Nicholson, told Afghan leaders he was “deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people.” He called the killings a “terrible, terrible mistake” and “a stain on our honor.” Nicholson paid as much as $2,000 to the families of the 17 allegedly innocent Afghan civilians killed by the Marines.

“After that, we were radioactive,” said Galvin. “These traditions — never leave a Marine behind — well, they left us behind.”

Marine brass denied the men any combat ribbons, not even a Purple Heart for the sergeant wounded in the bomb blast. In early 2008, Galvin and six others had to face a Court of Inquiry at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the first such inquisition in more than 50 years. At the trial, however, the case against the Marines began to fall apart. After more than two weeks of testimony, the three-officer jury cleared Galvin and the others.

For the next ten years, however, Galvin and his fellow Marines lived in a kind of bureaucratic and emotional limbo. “We were ambushed, and we fought on the battlefield with honor,” Galvin said. “There were allegations of homicide, and we’re living with that to this day. This haunts us.”

On Wednesday, Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who had working for 10 years to clear Galvin and his men, applauded the Marine Corps “for publically exonerating the members of Marine Special Operations Company Foxtrot.” The Marine Brass reaffirmed that the company “acted in accordance with the applicable operations order, the rules of engagement, and the law of armed conflict; and that the Marines’ actions on that day ‘reflected sound military judgement.’”

“These men have been to hell and back,” said Jones. “They were bravely serving their country, only to have their personal and professional lives ruined by misinformation and poor timing. I very much appreciate General Neller and his staff for taking a look at this case and reiterating that these men did nothing wrong on March 4, 2007.”

Galvin recently completed his MBA at UMKC and is a principal of a local ATM firm, Arrowhead Capital. He requests that readers urge their US congressman or woman to support Jones’s initiative in requesting the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Neller, to award his men their Marine Raider Uniform insignia at a public ceremony.

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