It’s time to crush the case against the Marine Special Ops Command three
Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
The Marine Corps has fiercely fought in every American battle for over 246 years. But in recent years the application of military justice has been identified as one of the root causes impacting the morale and effectiveness of our military forces. If enlisted and junior officers believe senior officers will railroad them, will they choose to volunteer to serve?
A current case involving three personnel from the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) went to trial in June 2022 and is awaiting the disposition of two Marine Corps judges. This is the case of the MARSOC 3.
On January 1, 2019, in Erbil, Iraq, Gunnery Sergeant Danny Draher USMC, was violently assaulted twice by Rick Rodriguez, a Lockheed Martin defense contractor, who was neutralized by Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron USMC. Negron punched Rodriguez once, and he fell and hit his head on the ground. Navy Hospital Corpsman Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet immediately provided medical care to Rodriguez, while Rodriquez’s other seven friends who surrounded the MARSOC 3 at the time of the assault instantly fled. The MARSOC 3 instantly notified their command, stabilized Rodriguez, and assigned a watch over him until he was medically evacuated to a military trauma care center in Landstuhl, Germany. Rodriguez died there four days later. The MARSOC 3 have been charged with Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Negligent Homicide, which carries the maximum punishment of death.
The MARSOC 3 case highlights several of the Pentagon’s mixed signals when the Marine Corps’ generals issue orders for our front-line warriors to follow and then snares them in the cross-fire when these warriors actually do.
For instance, the Marine Corps requires mandatory training programs such as the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). The Marine Corps requires every Marine to practice and maintain qualification by continuously attaining various levels of belt colors for promotion to the next rank. MCMAP instills in all Marines that when attacked they will utilize “one mind and any weapon” to defend themselves and their fellow Marines with “proportional” force as an “ethical warrior.” Marines live by this thinking at all times, including when they are in combat zones such as Iraq.
The MARSOC 3 were trained in MCMAP and they all could have utilized various objects that were at hand as weapons. They did not. Negron could have used a far greater application of his MCMAP training on Rodriguez, but he restrained himself to one single punch. The MARSOC 3 could have collectively aimed their MCMAP skills in a dog-pile on Rodriguez or all of his seven friends, but they did not. Although Rodriguez’s seven friends left him there and did not provide any first aid, the MARSOC 3 had the integrity to immediately report the incident to their command, medically treat Rodriguez, and brought him to a safe location to have him monitored until he was taken to Germany.
The MARSOC was designated as the convening authority in the case and swiftly relieved all three of the MARSOC 3 of their duties, stripped them of their security clearances, stopped all of their special operations pays, withheld the upcoming promotions scheduled for two of the three, and relegated them to menial duties. But after charging the MARSOC 3 with homicide their case has languished in the military justice bureaucracy for over three and a half years.
Fortunately, this incident was recorded on surveillance video cameras and the video proves that Rodriguez attacked Draher, then Negron defended Draher with one punch. There is no doubt about what happened, but there is a great deal of doubt about how the Marine Corps is behaving.
The Marine Corps’ prosecuting attorneys tried to persuade the Marine Corps judge to issue a gag order against the MARSOC 3 and their prosecuting attorneys, barring them from making any comments to the media. The judge denied this outrageous request. Meanwhile, the USMC has allowed a top officer to threaten the MARSOC 3’s defense attorney, in violation of policy.
On April 20, 2021, the Marine Corps revised its official policy on prohibited activities and conduct on harassment, hazing, and bullying. This policy prohibits any Marine from threatening another Marine.
But less than seven months after the Marine Corps established this policy, it sent one of its top staff judge advocate attorneys, Colonel Christopher Shaw, from the Pentagon on November 18, 2021, to address Marine defense attorneys at Camp Lejeune, N.C.. Eight of the Marine Defense attorneys including one of the MARSOC 3’s military defense attorneys signed sworn affidavits regarding Shaw’s threats to Captain Thomas, a Marine defense attorney for one of the MARSOC 3 who was handling other high-profile defense cases. They testify that Shaw threatened Thomas with comments such as, “I know your name and I know the cases you’re on and you are not protected. You are shielded but not protected.”
Shaw later denied knowing Thomas at all, which was proven false from official meta-data substantiating that Shaw had correspondence not only proving that he knew Thomas but even discussed his recent military assignment to a prestigious military education program. Shaw has since invoked his right to silence.
The Marine Corps has treated Shaw much differently than the MARSOC 3. Despite evidently violating clear USMC policy, Shaw has not had his security clearance revoked, nor any of his attorney special pays rescinded.
Due to Shaw’s conduct, Thomas said he, “feared that his continued representation of Gilmet (one of the MARSOC 3) would be detrimental to (sic-his) career.”
On Feb 9, 2022, US Navy Commander and military judge Hayes C. Larsen dismissed the case against Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet with prejudice. Four months later in June 2022, the Marine Corps filed an appeal of Commander Larsen’s ruling to retry Gilmet, and the following week in June of 2022, the two Marines of the MARSOC 3 also had their hearings by another Marine judge.
The MARSOC 3 have been accused of homicide for over 3.5 years yet the two Marine Corps judges have not issued any decision for over the past month, whereas standard civilian decisions have occurred as quickly as 11 minutes. The length of time in this case suggests that senior military leaders are influencing it.
The MARSOC 3 all enlisted to serve and repeatedly fought with honor during America’s longest wars. They deserve their day in court. Please contact your members of Congress at www.congress.gov/members to see that they get it.
Major Fred Galvin served over 26 years in the Marine infantry, reconnaissance, force reconnaissance and Marine Special Operations. He was selected in 2006 to serve as the first commanding officer of a Marine Special Operations Task Force which deployed in 2007 to combat in Afghanistan. He and six other Marine special operators (MARSOC 7) were falsely accused of murdering Afghan civilians. The longest war crimes trial for mass murdering alleged civilians in Afghanistan in Marine Corps history commenced on 7 Jan 2008 and Galvin was fully acquitted of all charges. Galvin is the author of the book, A Few Bad Men – Ambushed in Afghanistan and Betrayed in America, which details the government’s unethical tactics used during the investigation and trial in an effort to convict innocent Marines of homicide.