Prosecutorial Reachback

Back in 2008, Congress passed a law that allows federal prosecutors to  pursue cases against discharged servicemen who are alleged to have committed crimes under the UCMJ, and yet were discharged before any proceedings.

There’s some sound reasoning behind this. Let’s say a notional service member committed an offense while deployed, say murder of a foreign national, and yet managed to escape detection until he was beyond the reaches of military law. Absent an ability to try him in federal court, it’s conceivable he could get away with murder.

But here we have a case where a Marine either negligently discharged his weapon, or purposefully shot another American.

When the gun went off inside the trailer at a Marine outpost in Iraq in 2008, the bullet pierced the left temple of a Navy hospital corpsman who was seated on his cot, rupturing his left eye and exiting though his right cheek. He survived, but was left partly blind.

Wilfredo Santiago

A Marine corporal who was present, Wilfredo Santiago, then 23, first told the authorities that he had heard a shot but not that it came from his own gun. About a week later, he admitted to a Navy investigator that while unloading his weapon, it accidentally discharged, copies of his statements show.

“I froze for a moment,” Corporal Santiago said, adding that he looked at the corpsman and “saw blood begin to form on the left side of his face.”

Corporal Santiago said that the corpsman, who acted as a medic for their team of Marines, which was stationed at Camp Echo and periodically rotated to the outpost, had been a close friend, and that he “would never do anything to intentionally hurt him.” He regretted not coming forward sooner with the truth, he said, adding, “I was afraid, and did not know what to do.”

The military took no action against Corporal Santiago, who was honorably discharged some months later and now lives with his wife and child in the Bronx. But last January, federal prosecutors in Manhattan had him indicted on charges of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and of lying to military investigators, all stemming from the Jan. 26, 2008, shooting of the corpsman, Michael Carpeso.

At the time of his discharge,  no punitive measures were taken under the UCMJ, neither judicial nor non-judicial.*

I tend to believe the prosecution’s assertion that an administrative error lead to Santiago’s discharge without any punitive actions.  In my experience, a negligent discharge of any type is grounds for some adverse action, and certainly one which sees a fellow servicemember**  severely wounded and disabled.  My own negligent discharge of a blank round on a training mission lead to a Summarized Article 15 (5 days extra duty, in my case). And a friend who negligently discharged 7 rounds from an M249 SAW badly wounded two other soldiers. He was sent before a General Court Martial, and sentenced to 18 months, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge.***

But here’s the thing. The government had its shot at Santiago. It is not his fault that the Marines dropped the ball on flagging his records (preventing him from being discharged while under investigation) or otherwise meting out some punishment to him. It isn’t like the Marines didn’t know the incident had taken place.  The 2008 act by Congress was clearly not meant as a way for the state to get a second bite at the apple.

Further, a delay of five years from the incident certainly seems extreme.  The government has vast resources with which to locate and interview witnesses for the prosecution, but the defense rarely has more than the barest assets with which to merely review the government’s case, let alone locate and depose witnesses for the defense. Especially, in this case, when the unit interpreter, an Iraqi national, will likely prove quite difficult to locate, let alone bring to trial as a witness.

I’m all for the vigorous prosecution of wrongdoing. That’s a keystone of a stable democratic society. But I’m even more for the concept of a fair trial, in which the vast powers of the state are constrained, and laws intended for one purpose are not imaginatively applied by zealous prosecutors for entirely different reasons (RICCO, anyone?).

What say you?

*Punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ is handled by the unit commander, and is non-judicial in nature. That is, while it has adverse administrative effects and is often the basis for separation from the service, it does not count as a conviction, unlike a court martial.

**The Navy provides medical services to the Marines, including attaching Hospitalmen to the Fleet Marine Forces as combat corpsmen. They wear Marine uniforms, and are generally accepted by the Marines in a way no other sailors are.

***Upon review by the convening authority, his sentence was commuted to 6 months, reduction in grade to E-1, and forfeiture of pay and allowances. I forget the exact nature of his discharge, but I do recall it wasn’t a Dishonorable.

The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee – NYTimes.com

Every American knows the story of the Boston Tea Party and its implications on the Revolutionary War. Lesser known, but perhaps of greater relevance to a nation recognized more for coffee breaks than tea time, is the fact that America’s taste for coffee is inextricably linked to the history of its military.

We weren’t aware of it until just recently. But in hindsight, it made perfect sense that we would become obsessed with coffee when we joined the Marines. As we later discovered, we were part of a long line of men whose enthusiasm for the drink was closely tied to their experiences in the service.

Battle-weary Marines of the 22nd Regiment drank coffee after heavy fighting on Einwetok Atoll in the Pacific Theater in February 1944.

Battle-weary Marines of the 22nd Regiment drank coffee after heavy fighting on Einwetok Atoll in the Pacific Theater in February 1944.National Archives and Records Administration Battle-weary Marines of the 22nd Regiment drank coffee after heavy fighting on Einwetok Atoll in the Pacific Theater in February 1944.

As Capt. Robert K. Beecham wrote in his book, “Gettysburg: The Pivotal Battle of the Civil War”: “The power of the soldiers to endure the fatigue of the march and keep their places in the ranks was greatly enhanced by an opportunity to brew a cup of coffee by the wayside.”

Coffee’s popularity grew in the years following Reconstruction. But it didn’t become a household staple until the confluence of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the advertising age and the cultural mixing that occurred during World War I. As William Ukers explained in The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, “the 2,000,000 soldiers who went overseas and there had their coffee three times a day…since returning to civilian life are using it more than ever before.”

via The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee – NYTimes.com.

Let me tell you, it ain’t just the Marines secret weapon. I drank coffee long before I joined the Army, but I really became one with the coffee mug while in the service. I had a beer stein that never held beer, only coffee. I learned dozens of ways of making coffee, scrounging coffee, and keeping coffee hot in a thermos for 48 hours. And few memories of my time in the Army are more pleasant than those of sharing a hot cup with a fellow soldier on a crisp morning.

Links of Interest

Bob Rasmussen is a national treasure. I’ve been a fan of his virtually my whole adult life, but I’ll admit I didn’t realize he was also a sculptor.

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Four prototypes of the future CH-53K have already been ordered and are under construction. Now a contract has been signed for four production standard aircraft to carry out the Operational Test and Evaluation. Mind you, the first flight of a prototype is likely well over  year away. It takes time to get a program going. As it stands, a future production contract for a total of 196 more aircraft is planned.

There have been some complaints about the program, but overall, it’s been well run, fairly low risk, and no major failures have cropped up. Mind you, as I see it, the success of this program is more important to the future of the Marines than the F-35B program.

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Able to lift 143 tons to orbit? That’s like throwing two M1A1 tanks 125 miles straight up.

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CDR Salamander of GOFO bloat.

Or… Never have so few been lead by so many, so poorly.

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Sox must work for NSA, cuz he’s always watching me.

100_1892

New Britain

The Army/Marine campaign in World War II on New Britain featured some of the most miserable conditions faced by soldiers and Marines in the entire Pacific War.

Worse, the course of events have lead many to argue that the entire operation was unneeded.

An Army cavalry regiment (dismounted, fighting as infantry) landed at Arawe as a diversion/deception measure, and soon after, two Marine regiments landed at Cape Gloucester.

If you have an hour to kill…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLGDqFlrXhw]

The Care and Feeding of Co-authors.

Normally, I like to make fun of Marines. And I like to make fun of
Artillerymen. I especially like making fun of Marine Artillerymen.

But if I pick on URR too much, he pouts and doesn’t post much. Which means, I would have to, and what’s the point of having co-authors, but to pick up my slack?

And Roamy, bless her, likes some splodey/shooty. It’s not like I pay them for content, so once in a while, I have to be nice to URR and Roamy. Here, I’mma kill two birds with one stone.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwGp7NAx3vI]

The Marines will never have anything approaching the numbers of guns Army artillery has. Yes, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for tube artillery has been fairly sparse. But in a near-peer conflict, a war of maneuver, artillery will be as key as it always has been. One of the linchpins of a strategy of maneuver is denying that very maneuver to your enemy. And artillery fire is a key component of that. The old definition of maneuver was “fire and movement” and artillery provides the “fire” while infantry/armor provides the movement.

It’s not so much that the Marines are dim and not smart enough to buy a lot of artillery. They are. But they face two important constraints on the amount of artillery they can field. First, all their artillery pretty much has to be air transportable by helicopter. And given the very limited number of CH-53E’s available, if at all possible, they want systems that can be lifted by the smaller, more numerous MV-22B. Second, the Marines are an amphibious force, which means they have to travel on the amphibious shipping provided to them by the Navy. As big as those ships are, there aren’t a lot of them, and further, there is a fixed, finite space available for equipment. Finding a balance between tanks, artillery, amphibious assault vehicles, logistical trucks, Humvees and all the other stuff a Marine Expeditionary Unit needs to take along is one of the headaches Marine planners face on a regular basis. So finding an artillery system that uses less space, and weighs less and, in a perfect world, takes a smaller crew, is a key priority. So the Marines are buying the EFSS 120mm mortar system, in lieu of the traditional 105mm gun howitzer.

In the Army, all mortars, even the 120mm, are Infantry weapons, organic to Infantry and Armor/Cav organizations. But for the Marines, if you’re going to use a mortar as your primary direct support system, having the artillery man it makes sense.