(Then) CPT Matt Golsteyn Silver Star from Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr
John R. Houk
© February 10, 2015
I am a member of a restricted Yahoo Group that goes by ccpga which I have not actually visited for some time. So I don’t exactly recall how the acronym was decided upon but it stands for Christian Conservative Councilors. The group is restricted primarily to keep the trolls out. Now as if you were interested, I said all this about the group because a member sent info on Army Green Beret Major Matt Golsteyn. When the Major was a Captain he engaged in acts of heroism that resulted in the Silver Star which was expected to be upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross which is only surpassed in honor by the Medal of Honor.
I’ll let the Washington Free Beacon and Allen West give the specifics of why Major Golsteyn was a hero in 2010. The rendition is truly worth the read. Apparently heroism doesn’t matter much to the Obama Administration when the hero is critical of the President and the civilian leadership pols in the Defense Department of which the Department of the Army of course has a role when it comes to that Branch.
HERO Major Golsteyn who won his Silver Star as a Captain was stripped of that medal. Why? Because Major Golsteyn was critical of the military strategy used in Afghanistan. To be more specific Golsteyn was critical of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) used in Afghanistan. AND that criticism quoted in a book by a Marine whose name is Bing West. The book’s name is “The Wrong War”.
Here is a bit of an excerpt from a book review of “The Wrong War”:
… While his book focuses at the tactical level, West has the contacts and background to evaluate top-level decisions. As the title indicates, he has concluded that population-centric counterinsurgency will not work for this war. He then asks the very important question, “Since it would be disastrous to pull out and we can’t win with the current strategy, is there an alternative?”
West sets out to answer that question by describing “the fighting, the objectives, the interaction with the tribes, and the different tactics our military has undertaken.” To provide background, West takes the reader through a years-long summary of key efforts in both the north and south of Afghanistan. In doing so, he provides context over time that pointedly illustrates both the grit of our forces and the failure of the current approach. (The Wrong War written by Bing West; Review by Col Thomas X. Hammes, USMC (Ret); Marine Corps Association & Foundation)
I understand it is against the Military Code of Conduct to be critical of the civilian leadership, especially the
Coward … err … I mean Commander-in-Chief. The author Bing West is an ex-Marine that has made a career at being an author. According to the review I read, West’s classic book is “The Village” in 1972. So I think it is a pretty good guess that West didn’t think his book would be used to castigate an active duty member of the Service.
Here is an excerpt from a Time Mag online article from 2010 showing the time frame that then Captain Golsteyn faced in a do or die similar situation:
… Marines see an attack taking shape around them, the current rules of engagement mandate that they cannot shoot unless they are first shot at. The insurgents know this, so they often “drop and go”: firing from a distance, then abandoning their weapons. Sometimes Marines never get a single shot off in defense, an exercise in restraint that is especially taxing for the American military’s hardiest warriors. “It’s hard as hell holding back when you know what’s coming every time,” says a lance corporal from Lima Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines. … (Will Petraeus Change the Rules for Shooting Back? By Jason Motlagh; Time; 7/7/10)
By 2013 the ROE only get worse:
The new U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement adds restrictions on already bureaucratic rules of engagement for American troops by making Afghan dwellings virtual safe havens for the enemy, combat veterans say.
The rules of engagement place the burden on U.S. air and ground troops to confirm with certainty that a Taliban fighter is armed before they can fire — even if they are 100 percent sure the target is the enemy. In some cases, aerial gunships have been denied permission to fire even though they reported that targets on the move were armed.
The proposed Bilateral Security Agreement announced Wednesday by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Secretary of State John F. Kerry all but prohibits U.S. troops from entering dwellings during combat. …
“U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals,” Mr. Obama pledged in a letter to the Afghan leader.
The planned ROE for 2015:
… the recent New York Times article is that the original plan was to allow U.S. military forces in Afghanistan to attack al Qaeda targets (the counterterrorism mission) but not Taliban, Haqqani, or other non-al Qaeda targets (the combat mission?).
… the article suggests that U.S. forces will continue in 2015 to have authority to attack at least Taliban targets…though not based simply on positive identification of their membership status. Rather than status-based targeting, in other words, the contemplated rules of engagement will be threat-based. An unnamed senior official explains in the article:
“We will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban,” the official said. “To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe.”
This leaves the question whether status-based targeting will be an option for al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan. I’ve not seen it publicly stated that the military’s ROE in Afghanistan currently provides for status-based targeting, though I’m guessing that it does. Nothing in the article suggests that this would change in 2015, and indeed the emphasis on changing from status-based to some notion of threat-based targeting for Taliban fighters in 2015 implies that the rules will be otherwise (i.e., will remain status based) for al Qaeda.
AND SO Major Matt Golsteyn save lives but didn’t check to see if the Taliban was shooting at his Green Beret unit and some Marine engineers that were tasked to clear Taliban land mines. In 2011, the Free Beacon reports, that Major Golsteyn experienced the beginning of a military criminal investigation accused of “… an undisclosed violation of the military’s rules of engagement in combat for killing a known enemy fighter and bomb maker.”
The accusation was baseless and unofficially based on Golsteyn’s criticism of the ROE that was quoted in the West book. So they stripped him of the well-deserved Silver Star.
In the process of researching this outrage I just found out more crap is proceeding from the influence of the Obama Administration:
Separations proceedings were initiated against Army Major Matt Golsteyn on the same day that Congressman Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) published an article in the Daily Beast highlighting Golsteyn’s case, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The letter, signed by Hunter and addressed to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, states the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by Golsteyn began on November 29, 2011, and concluded on November 24, 2013, with no charges being pressed.
Hunter’s original article appeared on the the (sic) Daily Beast‘s website on Tuesday, February 3, 2015. The Army initiated proceedings to eject Golsteyn from the military the same day, the letter states.
The letter also raises questions about whether Golsteyn was offered appropriate due process in response to the decision to revoke his Silver Star made late last year, noting that, “denial of [Golsteyn’s] appeal appears not to have been reviewed by the appropriate authority–underscored by the fact that Matt was notified of his record change via a system generated e-mail on January 8, 2015.” Hunter goes on to ask McHugh to confirm that the appeal was reviewed by the appropriate authority and was not influenced by McHugh’s office.
The letter also suggested that there had been “questionable actions” on the part of investigators during the course of the inquiry into Golsteyn, and offers to share information regarding those actions with McHugh’s office.
Hunter’s letter concludes by noting that “from the beginning, I have urged the Army to bring a case forward against Matt should the full scope of evidence point to a crime.”
However, instead of criminal charges, Golsteyn has faced exclusively administrative actions that offer little chance for self-defense, now including the initiation of proceedings to eject him from the Army after thirteen years of service.
Here’s a copy and pasted of Duncan’s letter to the Secretary of the Army John McHugh which I extracted from a PDF file linked from the Free Beacon with a Scribd link:
February 9, 2015
Honorable John McHugh Secretary of the Army 101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Dear Secretary McHugh:
The Army’s case against Major Mail Golsteyn continues to lack clarity and consistency. I am especially confused by your decision to revoke Matt’s valor awards without substantive justification—when Army officials have said that all decisions related to Matt now sit with his command following the conclusion of the investigation. Several individuals within the Army have indicated that decisions regarding Matt are being influenced from outside his command. I hope this is not the case.
Matt’s situation demands objectivity, which I fear has not been provided. Most recently, separation proceedings were initiated by Major General Richard Mustion, Human Resources Command, on February 3, 2015—the same morning I introduced Matt in a Daily Beast commentary indentifying (sic) failures in leadership. Such timing is unlikely a coincidence, given that the Army’s investigation started on November 29, 2011, and concluded on November 24, 2013.
In fact, you will recall that the Commander of Criminal Investigation Command was surprised to see Matt at Will Swenson’s Medal of Honor ceremony, stating that he thought Matt was no longer serving in the Army. He too must have been confused by his own investigation.
That same investigation is what the Army is imposing on Matt’s command. Unfortunately, the investigation fails to thoroughly account for some information—including Matt’s relationship to Swenson and the Army’s conduct with both individuals. Questionable actions by investigating agents continued throughout the investigation—and I am willing, once again, to provide that information at your request. Bottom line: I have serious concerns that the investigation into Matt was neither fair nor objective, yet the command is being asked to make judgments, reportedly under influence from Army leadership, on that same investigation.
Moreover, when you revoked Matt’s valor awards under your authority, it was stated that Matt is entitled to an appeal, and that the appeal would not bear the Army’s mark in any manner. Though denial of the appeal appears not have been reviewed by the proper authority— underscored by the fact that Matt was notified of his record change via a system generated email on January 8, 2015. As such, I ask for confirmation that the appeal was reviewed by the proper authority—and not influenced by your office. I would also like to make an official request for a detailed timeline of communications between your office and HRC related to the valor awards you personally revoked. This includes any communications pertaining to Matt’s appeal.
Mr. Secretary, from the beginning, I have urged the Army to bring a case forward against Matt should the full scope of evidence point to a crime. It’s been over three years since the Army started its investigation and a high-level operator has been sidelined as a result. Still, Man has yet to be charged with a crime or convicted of any wrongdoing. Yet the Army is going to great lengths to administratively punish him.
You are probably aware that I have made several requests to discuss the latest developments in Man’s case. I hope you will reconsider
Member of Congress
As Representative Hunter wrote in his letter, Major Matt Golsteyn was NEVER charged or tried in Military Court. Hence mustering out is a top down order probably politically inspired by vindictiveness associated with public criticism shared in a book. A CHARGE NEVER BROUGHT AGAINST Major Golsteyn!
It is my opinion that Golsteyn is a victim of the Obama purge (See HERE and HERE) of anyone in the military that has a contrary opinion on President Barack Hussein Obama’s policy on winning or I should say – LOSING – a war that was started by Islamic terrorists who were protected by a strict Sharia ruled Taliban-Afghan government. President Bush was correct when he let Americans know we are at war with Islamic fascists. In the latter days of his Presidency massive criticism against the war in Iraq saw President Bush walk-back his thoughts on Islam.
I don’t know the constitutional situation for this thought. If Major Matt Golsteyn is indeed drummed out of the Army due to criticism made public in a book that the Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan are bogus AND a recipe for defeat. Then the current Republican Congress should take steps to overrule the Secretary of the Army and just go ahead and award the Constitutional Medal of Honor to Matt Golsteyn.
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Afghanistan War Hero Stripped of Silver Star
Feature: Army Major Matt Golsteyn betrayed by cowardly leaders
February 6, 2015 5:00 am
By February 20th, 2010, the Battle of Marjah had been underway for a week. In order to seize the Afghan district—an IED-infested, Taliban-dominated collection of villages and crisscrossing canals and tree lines that were a defending fighter’s dream—the U.S. military had divided its force into thirds. A task force of more than a thousand U.S. Marines, accompanied by Afghan soldiers, assaulted the northern portion of Marjah. Ditto for the central portion of the district.
And the southern third? It had been attacked by a single U.S. Army Special Forces team consisting of nine men, accompanied by a handful of Marine engineers tasked with clearing bombs from the roads and a few hundred Afghan troops that were more of a babysitting case than true partners. Such a light American footprint on at least part of the battlefield would “put an Afghan face” on the operation, as the lingo went at the time.
As the Special Forces soldiers wore Afghan Army uniforms, the Taliban concluded that there were virtually no Americans on their southern flank. The fighting there was intense.
Having secured a defensive position in the heart of the Balakino Bazaar (picture the Bakara market in the film Black Hawk Down, but more impoverished) the Special Forces team, led by a captain named Matt Golsteyn, repeatedly attempted to expand their footprint, but regularly met fierce resistance. On the 20th, one of the team’s assaults into Taliban territory took a turn for the worse. An Afghan soldier was wounded and a vehicle got stuck in the mud as insurgents raked the coalition formation with gunfire.
Under heavy fire, Golsteyn, as Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post summarized this week, “ran about 150 meters to the trapped MRAP to retrieve a powerful 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, an anti-tank weapon. While moving under gunfire, he coordinated a medical evacuation for the wounded Afghan soldier and then opened fire with the Carl Gustav.”
Running through the open despite the fact that the Taliban had successfully pinned down the rest of his men, Golsteyn looked like he “was alone fighting 30 enemy fighters out in the poppy fields.” He then coordinated airstrikes from F/A-18 Hornets and a drone, silencing the enemy. The battle lasted four hours.
For his actions, Golsteyn was awarded the Silver Star, and was told that the medal would likely be upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross (the Army’s equivalent of the Navy Cross, and second only to the Medal of Honor) after review by the Secretary of the Army. I can confirm that this was true because I was present at the ceremony where Golsteyn received his Silver Star, and personally overheard Lieutenant General John Mulholland, then the commander of the Army’s Special Operation’s Command, say that an upgrade was under consideration.
In fact, I know Golsteyn—now a major—well. I served alongside him in Marjah for months (though not on the 20th of February—I was among the thousands of Marines fighting elsewhere in the district that day) and can attest that he is one of the most courageous, dedicated, and honorable officers I encountered during my service in the military. He would give his life for the men he led without a moment’s thought—and he very nearly did, on several occasions. When we returned from our deployments and honors began to roll in for Golsteyn, I reflected that it is nice to see the good guys get recognized.
It didn’t last long. In 2011, shortly after a book by author and Marine Bing West came out that detailed Golsteyn’s heroism and quoted him making critical remarks about the American strategy in Afghanistan, I learned that the Army had launched a criminal investigation into his actions during the battle. (Again, full disclosure: I was also interviewed for that book, The Wrong War, and make a brief appearance in it.)
The investigation, apparently, had nothing to do with the acts of bravery that earned Golsteyn his medal. Instead, according to the Washington Post, which cited officials familiar with the case, it concerned “an undisclosed violation of the military’s rules of engagement in combat for killing a known enemy fighter and bomb maker.” The investigation stretched on for nearly two years, during which time the Army effectively put Golsteyn’s career on ice. In 2014, Golsteyn and his lawyer were informed that the investigation was finally complete. No charges were filed, but Golsteyn still wasn’t released from administrative limbo.
Alerted about the controversy by another Army officer, Captain Will Swenson, Congressman Duncan Hunter wrote last year to John McHugh, the secretary of the Army, asking about the status of Golsteyn’s seemingly endless career freeze. Apparently the secretary did not take kindly to the inquiry, as he responded in a letter last November that not only would he not be upgrading Golsteyn’s Silver Star to a Distinguished Service Cross, but would be revoking Golsteyn’s Silver Star entirely, a fact that Hunter revealed publicly in an article for the Daily Beast published on Tuesday.
The revocation of an award such as the Silver Star is extraordinarily rare, and typically would happen in the case of the recipient being convicted of a serious crime that in some way dishonored his service. But not only has Golsteyn not been convicted of a crime—he hasn’t even been charged with one.
McHugh would not reveal to Hunter specifically why he was taking his action beyond submitting the innuendo that he was privy to “derogatory information” regarding Golsteyn’s record. What could this information be? Who knows? Having, according to Hunter, spent years threatening Golsteyn’s men, searching for and failing “to find one piece of evidence to corroborate the allegation” that launched the investigation, the Army clearly decided to punish Golsteyn anyway, through publicly dishonoring him in a manner that allows him effectively no recourse or due process.
Such institutional cravenness is even more extraordinary when one considers the circumstances of Golsteyn’s service. Commissioned in 2002 out of West Point, he has served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was already the recipient of valor awards by the time he fought in Marjah. There, he and his handful of American soldiers succeeded in securing a big chunk of one of the deadliest places on earth at the time, under constant and intense opposition from the Taliban. Working with the local tribes, Golsteyn came to be recognized as one of the most successful officers in Helmand Province. The Taliban tried to kill him and his men again and again, and found themselves driven back every time. What success there was in Marjah was in no small part due to him.
Such is the quality of American military leadership that generals and political appointees like McHugh will send courageous soldiers like Golsteyn into incredibly difficult (some would suggest impossible) circumstances, then invest years in second-guessing their actions after the fact—and then, finding no evidence of wrongdoing, still publicly dishonor the man without giving him a chance to defend himself. Never mind the fact that if a Taliban bombmaker did in fact die in a violation of the rules of engagement, then in what topsy-turvy universe is that a bad thing? The veterans who had to risk their lives because of these ROEs have almost universally criticized them. Established and enforced by men sitting safely in Kabul and Washington who never shared the daily risks of Golsteyn and his soldiers, the rules were wrong and self-serving to begin with, a politicized effort that has, without question, caused the needless deaths of many young Americans.
In any event, if the Army truly does believe that Golsteyn violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, then they should charge him with a crime. If they can’t do that, then we must conclude that insufficient evidence of a crime exists, in which case Secretary McHugh should give him the Distinguished Service Cross he deserves.
Congressman Hunter pointed out in his article that a recent survey conducted by the Military Times revealed only 27 percent of the military felt that their leaders were looking out for the best interests of the troops. Golsteyn’s situation illustrates why this is the case, and is of a piece with the case of Will Swenson, whose Medal of Honor package was “lost” after he bitterly criticized his chain of command over the ROEs, or of Jim Gant, one of the most successful special operators of the last decade, who was nonetheless drummed out of the Army after running afoul of his superiors.
Golsteyn, Swenson, Gant, and others like them are led by men who interrupt their political intrigues and email flirtations with wealthy socialites only to crucify the troops actually doing the fighting when, for whatever reason, they become politically inconvenient—preferably, as with Golsteyn, in a manner that allows for no response or appeal.
Most Americans would take one look at Golsteyn’s record of service and call him a hero. The men who will not share Golsteyn’s risks, but who will hurl innuendoes at him after the fact and publicly dishonor him in a manner that allows him to mount no case on his own behalf? There’s a word for them too: cowards.
Army revokes Green Beret’s Silver Star for killing known enemy and bomb-maker
February 7, 2015
Just when I think the news cannot possibly get any worse and it’s gonna be hard for me to find something to talk about – we hit a new low. The U.S. Army is hiding a deserter — Bowe Bergdahl. We have Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance in prison for killing the enemy. And my Army finds a way to go even lower.
As reported by the Washington Post, “CPT. Mathew L. Golsteyn was leading a Special Forces team in Afghanistan in 2010 when an 80-man mission he assembled to hunt insurgent snipers went awry. One of the unit’s five vehicles sank in mud, a gunshot incapacitated an Afghan soldier fighting alongside the Americans, and insurgents maneuvered on them to rake the soggy fields with machine-gun fire.”
“Golsteyn, already a decorated Green Beret officer, responded with calm resolve and braved enemy fire repeatedly that day, according to an Army summary of his actions. He received the Silver Star for valor for his actions during a 2011 ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C. Top Army officials later approved him for an upgrade to the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing combat heroism by U.S. soldiers.”
But here’s the kicker.
The Post says the officer, a former member of the 3rd Special Forces Group and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., was later investigated for an undisclosed violation of the military’s rules of engagement in combat for killing a known enemy fighter and bomb maker, according to officials familiar with the case.”
The investigation closed last year without Golsteyn’s being charged with a crime, but Army Secretary John M. McHugh decided not only to deny Golsteyn the Distinguished Service Cross, but also to revoke his Silver Star. McHugh cited a provision in Army regulations that if facts become known that would have prevented the awarding of a medal, the award can be revoked.”
Ok, here we go again. How does one “violate the rules of engagement in combat by killing a known enemy fighter and bomb maker?” What does Secretary of the Army McHugh recommend — sharing MRE recipes?
Now, unless Major Golsteyn killed this enemy fighter by dismembering his body while alive, I truly don’t give a doggone. Remember the Combat Restraint Medal that was once considered? Well, thankfully it was defeated by those combat veterans who made their voices heard. But what kind of Army do we have now when we revoke medals for heroic actions because the same fella killed an enemy fighter! Doggone Secretary McHugh, that is what happens in COMBAT! And this is what happens when we’ve turned these positions into nothing but political appointments.
I’m beginning to believe we should just eliminate the Military Service Secretariats — Army, Navy, Air Force. We should just keep the Secretary of Defense organization. Think about the cost savings in the defense budget.
But back to the story at hand, “The decision is still shrouded in mystery because of the secretive nature of the Army’s investigation into Golsteyn, who did extensive work with U.S. Marines in and around Marja in Helmand province. A spokesman for McHugh’s office, Lt. Col. Chris Kasker, declined to comment Wednesday, citing the administrative nature of the decision. But he released details of Golsteyn’s service record that show he no longer has a Silver Star and is not in Special Forces anymore. The major earned a Bronze Star and Army Commendation medal with “V” devices for heroism in earlier actions, Kasker said.”
“Golsteyn joined the Army in 2002. “The Army has been unable to present substantive evidence while an overwhelming number of first-person accounts provided to Army investigators uphold Matt’s record as a top-level operator,” said Hunter’s letter, which the congressman’s office released to The Post.”
I am still looking for something specific as to what Major Golsteyn did to violate ROE in killing the enemy. How is it that a decision can be made to revoke awards for the action for which he earned them? If there was an issue with Golsteyn, you don’t revoke something he’s earned, you suspend any positive actions for the Soldier. And it seems that there is nothing substantiated from the Army’s investigation, so why didn’t they reinstate his awards — and upgrade?
This is the Army — the America — in which we are now living.
But I wonder if Golsteyn’s critique of the Afghanistan mission in the past has anything to do with this kerfluffle. The Post says, “In the 2011 Bing West book “The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan,” he is quoted as saying that the Americans were considered insurgents in Afghanistan who were “selling a poor product called the Kabul government.” West later wrote in a review of a book about another Special Forces soldier, Maj. Jim Gant, that the careers of Gant, Golsteyn and a third Green Beret, Dan McKone, were “terminated,” assessing that the Army failed them.”
A deserter named Bowe Bergdahl may walk with $300,000 in back pay. A Special Forces Green Beret officer who faced the enemy and killed them gets his awards for heroism revoked. So let me end this asking a simple question.
Secretary McHugh, whose side are you on?
And by the way, if you’d like a dose of heroism, here is the full account of what then CPT Golsteyn did:
Golsteyn’s Silver Star came for actions on Feb. 20, 2010. He assembled his unit after his base had come under sniper fire from an insurgent wielding a Dragunov rifle, according to an Army narrative of his actions. He directed his troops to launch an assault across 700 meters of open fields, but an armored truck known as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle sank into mud under gunfire after about 175 meters. Under heavy machine-gun and sniper fire, Golsteyn ran about 150 meters to the trapped MRAP to retrieve a powerful 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, an anti-tank weapon. While moving under gunfire, he coordinated a medical evacuation for the wounded Afghan soldier and then opened fire with the Carl Gustav, said the Army narrative, which was obtained by The Post. Captain Golsteyn was alone running in the open through enemy gun fire that had over 80 men pinned down, and from the crow’s nest on top of [Forward Operating Base] McQueary, it looked like Captain Golsteyn was alone fighting 30 enemy fighters out in the poppy fields,” the award narrative said. Enemy reinforcements continued to arrive on the battlefield, so Golsteyn organized airstrikes by both F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets and a Predator drone. No American or coalition troops were killed in the battle despite a barrage of enemy fire that lasted four hours, the narrative said.”
Obama Administration Disrespects War Hero
John R. Houk
© February 10, 2015
Afghanistan War Hero Stripped of Silver Star
Army revokes Green Beret’s Silver Star for killing known enemy and bomb-maker