A board of inquiry has ruled the Army failed to substantiate its contention that a Green Beret hero murdered a suspected Taliban bombmaker, but nonetheless recommended a general discharge because of his battlefield conduct.
Maj. Matt Golsteyn had been stripped of his Silver Star and Special Forces tab by Army Secretary John McHugh after the officer told the CIA in a job interview polygraph that he had killed an unarmed bombmaker in Afghanistan in 2010.
The Army never charged Maj. Golsteyn. The Army convened a three-member board at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in an attempt to slap him with an other-than-honorable discharge. Instead, he received a general discharge under honorable conditions.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, presented legislation earlier this year that would strip the service secretaries of the power to revoke valor awards unless the service member is formally charged.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command investigated Maj. Golsteyn for four years, but the Army never brought charges against him.
Mr. Hunter reacted with a statement criticizing the board’s and the Army’s conduct:
“The Army’s bureaucratic machine threw everything it had at Matt and after years of making a case, with the Army hiding behind process and authority, a charge that the law of armed conflict was violated could not be substantiated, even at the more-likely-than-not standard. For four years, the Army made Matt’s life a living nightmare and the major chargers they sought, from charges of murder and conspiracy to a violation of armed conflict, were unsupported by the evidence. Especially considering what the Army tried to do, this is a major victory for Matt and for every soldier in harm’s way, who don’t have the time or the opportunity to litigate split-second battlefield decisions from the rear, sometimes years after the fact even, as the Army did in Matt’s case.”
While the board of one colonel and two lieutenant colonels cleared the officer of the most serious charge of violating the law of armed conflict, it substantiated a charge of conduct unbecoming an officer.
His attorney, Phil Stackhouse, said he plans to appeal what he considers an inconsistent verdict because the conduct unbecoming charge was tied to Maj. Golsteyn’s killing of the Afghan, for which the board did not substantiate wrongdoing.
The Fayetteville Observer, which covered the hearing, reported that the board at first rejected the prosecution’s attempt to enter the CIA interview transcript as evidence. But its legal adviser overruled the board. The board then tried to obtain the video over the weekend, but the CIA rejected the request. The board issued its opinion Sunday night.
Maj. Golsteyn’s Silver Star narrative tells of a Special Forces soldier who repeatedly risked his life during a four-hour battle in Helmand province on Feb. 20, 2010. He organized an 80-man Green Beret/Marine Corps/Afghan force to hunt down Taliban firing on their forward operating base.
The Silver Star ranks third in precedence in combat valor awards, behind the Medal of Honor and the Army Distinguished Service Cross.
“Captain Golsteyn was alone running in the open through enemy gunfire that had over 80 men pinned down, and from the crow’s nest on top of FOB McQueary it looked like Captain Golsteyn was alone fighting 30 enemy fighters out in the poppy fields,” the narrative says.
The Army issued a statement in March that said, “Although the CID [Criminal Investigation Command] investigation did not result in a prosecution, the Army has taken, and is taking, appropriate action in response to the evidence uncovered in the investigation. We provided a comprehensive explanation of the CID investigation and the decision to revoke the awards to the Army’s four oversight committees.”
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