Anger, confusion and controversy surrounded the former Marine Corps commandant’s decision to approve a promotion for his predecessor’s son while troops under the younger officer’s command were investigated for war-zone misconduct, but the directive did not amount to preferential treatment, according to a recently unsealed Pentagon investigation.
During a ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on June 1, 2012, Maj. James Brandon Conway was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Looking on proudly as he was pinned with new rank insignia were his mother and his father, the former commandant of the Marine Corps.
But for 12 tense hours the day prior to the ceremony, at least six of the service’s most prominent generals — and perhaps dozens of legal staff and personnel specialists — raced to freeze Conway’s promotion only to then scramble again so it could proceed.
This is a loooong article (and well worth reading) but it boils down to this- a relatively minor infraction, through the power of social media, became an international incident, and drew the attention of the White House and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
It also showed that while GEN Amos had the right idea- that authority is delegated, but accountability isn’t- he himself failed to follow the rules, arguably in a manner far more egregious than the Marines who urinated on the Taliban corpses.
When the Congress has passed a promotion list, the Commandant has no authority to put a hold on that promotion. That’s an authority held by the Secretary of the Navy. It’s deliberately withheld from the Commandant to prevent petty personal issues from interfering with promotions. It’s simply one more of the checks and balances in our government.
And it is quite apparent that Amos exerted undue command influence on the investigation into the original incident. Arguably, so too did the White House.
What should have happened to the snipers? Their crime was petty and stupid. They should have received some minimal punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ, and had their personnel evaluations reflect their lack of judgement. Similarly, their supervisors and chain of command failed to ensure unit standards were upheld, and that should have been reflected in their own personnel evaluations. A bad NCOER or OER (or whatever the Marines call them) would have halted the careers in question.
Had GEN Amos simply said to the public that the incident was under investigation, and to trust the military system of discipline and justice, he could have avoided multiple IG investigations, and arguably the worst tarnishment on his career.