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Another open letter to Gen. John Sattler, USMC

Editor’s note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.

RE: March’s Defending America column concerning the mistreatment of Individual Ready Reserve Marines who’d completed active-duty tours and then re-upped to get shot at in Iraq as replacements under your command.

Regarding your response to that column, thanks for the kind words about my service and your ooh-rah for my – and Soldiers for the Truth’s – “concern for our young men and women who wear the uniform.”

Of course, I know your own reputation as a straight shooter who shares our concern for the troops. But frankly, general, some of your flunkies are blowing smoke – and lots of it – up your cammie trousers.

You state that your staff took an “impartial, matter-of-fact look into the unit’s promotions” and found only “administrative discrepancies.”

You ask, “Did we find evidence of malice and unfair promotion practices directed at Marines who selflessly volunteered to return to active service when their country called?”

Your answer: an unqualified “Absolutely not!”

You are therefore being sent the names/billets of two of the principal – unprincipled – staff noncommissioned officers who were derelict in their duty to make sure the IRR Devil Dogs were welcomed aboard as full-fledged members of the “Band of Brothers” instead of being treated like Cinderfellas.

And I’m sure you’d agree that any inquiry truly in search of the truth would at the very least include interviews with the alleged victims. Yet out of a half-dozen IRR troopers, not one was questioned. And they don’t think any of the others were, either.

So here’s hard evidence to support the premeditated malice that’s been going down on your watch: Within the past two weeks, one IRR Marine went to the S-3 office of 3rd LAR (Light Armored Reconnaissance) Battalion and easily located a copy of his company’s Physical Fitness Test administered before the battalion deployed to Iraq, including his name and score. A score that the company first sergeant claimed didn’t exist – accounting for the “zero” carried in the official record. Malicious? Well, no Marine can be promoted without a current PFT score.

You make the point that your inquiry “found no plausible motive for anyone within I MEF [First Marine Expeditionary Force] to sabotage the promotions of IRR Marines. There is no connection between promotion allocations and cutting scores for reserve personnel.”

Yet a company first sergeant called a meeting in Iraq solely to share his intent that none of the Reserve Marines in his company would be promoted on his watch because such promotions would count against the quotas for “real Marines.” And even after an affected Gyrene researched the promotion policy and tried to tell the first sergeant there was absolutely no connection between regular and IRR promotions, his righteous words fell on deaf ears.

Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, commander of Marine Reserve Forces, also read my column and had his staff review “the entire IRR promotion system.” According to Col. Bob Braithwaite, Lt. Gen. McCarthy’s chief of staff, this review uncovered that:

… some individuals, particularly those activated and deployed in support of GWOT [Global War On Terrorism], may not have been given proper consideration for promotion due to administrative oversight. The unintended consequences of a new policy intended to increase promotion opportunity for our IRR Marines unfortunately resulted in some administrative confusion that appears to have temporarily penalized some of those Marines. We are taking proactive measures now to rectify those issues and will take care of our Marines.

I urge you to follow his example and order another, more formal inquiry, particularly since these fine young warriors say they’re committed to making sure that any Reserve Marines who follow them don’t get the same short end of the stick.

As one of these stouthearted truth-tellers put it: “My first four years of active duty were with two battalions whose leaders went out of their way to help their Marines get everything they deserved to get, while 3rd LAR went out of their way to screw with us.” Another says: “This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one stinking abuse after another in this unit.”

Apparently, your palace guard is telling you only what it thinks you want to hear – and meanwhile those bad-apple sergeants are still wearing the Eagle, Globe & Anchor. For sure some “remedial instruction” in Marine leadership is needed. Hopefully, you are just the Marine general to make it happen.

Semper fidelis,