This is part two of the untold story of the men from MARSOC Fox Company, and the leadership that failed them.
Now a retired lieutenant general, then-Major General Francis Kearney III was the SOCCENT commander ultimately in charge of Fox Company’s fate while in Afghanistan. He and his investigating officer both had significant impact on the biased outcome of this case. Kearney was later promoted to his third star and became the deputy commander of SOCOM, following his betrayal of the first Marine Special Operations Company.
As was mentioned in part one of this article, the importance of bringing this case back to the forefront is that the same officers who were instrumental in the destruction of the reputations of the MARSOC Seven are the leaders who now hold positions in the highest levels of our military, and who in retirement masquerade as experienced warriors, training our current young generation of military leaders to “hold people accountable,” unless it is their own son. But as this article reveals, Kearney never held his own son accountable for his—at best—questionable actions, when he condemned others for much less. These men are now part of the leadership that affects all of the military, not just a small part.
Along with then-Colonel Nicholson, Maj. Gen. Kearney demonstrated a willingness to ignore facts and evidence that were available, while picking and choosing sources en route to condemning MSOC Fox for their involvement in repelling a complex attack initiated by jihadis. In fact, NCIS investigation notes show that Kearney ordered MSOC Fox out of Afghanistan on 9 March, 2007, which is key because that is less than one day after his investigating officer had arrived at Camp Raider to interview the Marines. Bottom line: No findings of fact were gathered by Kearney at that time.
Regarding MARSOC Fox Company, Maj. Gen. Kearney’s SOCCENT command media release from April 11th, 2007, stated that “several women and children” were wounded or killed. The length of Kearney’s 11-page report to the media about what happened at the ambush site clearly shows that he fully discounted 100 percent of the Marines’ testimonies, and wholeheartedly accepted what the Afghans said about Fox Company killing civilians. This occurred without his investigating officer ever having proof of a single body, a single bullet, a drop of blood, or even a photo of a killed Afghan.
The Afghans had excellent reason to inflate the death toll. When the U.S. government provides $2000 U.S. dollars (the equivalent of four years’ salary for the average Afghan) to any Afghan citizen who alleged a family member’s death, the incentives were high enough to keep the death toll continually increasing from six, eight, 10, 12, 16, and finally, 19 alleged dead and 50 wounded. One high-level terrorist even cashed in on this U.S. taxpayer-funded payday. If any American citizen could expect the same payment of four years average U.S. salary, or over $200,000, without providing any first-hand proof, the line would likely have exceeded 19 alleged dead.
On 5 May, 2007, Fred Galvin took a polygraph test performed by Mr. Terrence Victor O’Malley, the president of the American Polygraph Association and one of the most qualified polygraph examiners in the United States with 25 years of experience. The results were very clear that Fred Galvin neither saw civilian casualties during the patrol, nor authorized his Marines to fire on civilians, nor saw any of his Marines leave their vehicles to fire at them. Fred Galvin had this to say to NEWSREP: “I saw no civilians killed at all, and the attack happened at 9:03 a.m. on a flat road where we stopped for a minimum of five minutes and then slowly left the area. I was in a position to observe everything that our Marines shot at.”
In the same media release regarding the “site cleanup after the incident,” it specifically cites that “seven journalists, representing eight different media outlets, complained that U.S. Marines and Afghan forces confiscated their equipment to delete any images.” It also stated that, “Marines expressly threatened journalists” with things such as, “delete the photographs or we will delete you.” Again, this is from a SOCCENT media release on 11 April, 2007, that was sent out to the press upon the completion of the battlespace commander’s (then-Col. Nicholson) 9 April, 2007 investigation finding that his own 3rd Brigade/10th Mountain Division soldiers did the “cleanup.” But Kearney has never corrected his false assumption in the press, which fueled the allegations of a massacre and cover-up.
Also in the 2007 SOCCENT media release, Maj. Gen. Kearney, as the commander, stated through his approved media release that he knew it was not MARSOC Marines who were involved with the cleanup. On 11 April, 2007, although MSOC Fox had been removed from Afghanistan and sent to Kuwait, MSOC Fox was still an SOF unit assigned to Kearney’s command at SOCCENT. Kearney had an obligation to report the facts that his own investigating officer knew about the Marines not being involved in a “clean up.” But instead, he allowed this issue to continue its course in the press, and to this day Kearney has never owned his omission of the facts that negatively impacted the Marines’ portrayal in the press during a criminal investigation. This is one of several egregious acts Kearney committed in this case, which, like Nicholson, clearly violated every one of the Army Core Values and the soldiers’ creed. Not only has Kearney failed to make any effort to correct his sins, instead he continues in his retirement to spread lies and insults that portray the MARSOC Seven as murderers who needed to be held accountable.
In a 15 April, 2007, press statement in the Washington Post, Kearney said, “We found…no brass that we can confirm that small-arms fire came at them,” referring to ammunition casings. “We have testimony from Marines that is in conflict with unanimous testimony from civilians at the sites,” Kearney said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Qatar. This statement was made in spite of the fact that Kearney did not “leave his FOB (forward operating base) and see the facts,” as he would later urge young leaders to do.
The current debate is not over whether the Afghans knew if the cleanup crew were Marines or soldiers. It is about how Maj. Gen. Kearney’s media release fueled the perception of a massacre, followed by a cleanup at the hands of Marines, and how he neglected his obligation to his special operators to counter these false assumptions. The Afghan nationals on scene taking pictures were likely clueless that it was soldiers and not Marines investigating the ambush site after the attack. Col. Nicholson and Maj. Gen. Kearney were so quick to jump on their condemnation of MSOC Fox, they overlooked the fact that an average Afghan simply views everyone as Americans, regardless of branch. Nicholson, Kearney, and the others involved with the accusations against MSOC Fox used this to their advantage in implicating the Marines and keeping the Army military police away from the negative media.
Another recently released document is the command investigation from then-Col. Nicholson’s own Task Force Spartan. His command investigating officer, on 9 April, 2007, delivered the following facts to the brigade commander (Col. Nicholson): “MSOC Fox was the subject of a complex ambush with a SVBIED…shot at from both sides of the road.” The report continues to explain how Nicholson’s own unit, the 66th Military Police, interfered with the media personnel on the scene of the ambush following MSOC Fox’s withdrawal from the kill zone. In the press, the men of MSOC Fox were torched because of the accusations that they killed civilians and then went back to the scene to threaten the media through a cover-up of the crime scene, even though they had nothing to do with it—as confirmed in the investigation report.
Was it a coincidence that LTG Kearney’s 11 April, 2007 media release was so similar in content—that of completely accepting the Afghans’ side of the story at face value, assuming that MSOC Fox killed Afghan civilians—as then-Col. Nicholson’s 8 May, 2007 press statement? The answer is, not likely.
The allegations of homicide at the hands of U.S. Marines, followed by the press barrage of Marines supposedly returning to the site for a “cover-up” and threatening the media by deleting their photographs, sealed the fate of the Marines’ reputations in the international media, with most believing they’d committed a massive war crime followed by a whitewash of the crime scene. The facts are that both Kearney and Nicholson knew the Marines were never involved in any interaction with the media or a clean-up, but they both allowed this disinformation to spread throughout the media. They have never corrected it to this day, even when it was proven during the COI that it was Nicholson’s own soldiers who interfered with the media.
Col. Nicholson’s 66th Military Police unit was never held accountable in any capacity for the destruction of evidence involved in this major law-of-war case. As an NCIS document from the case states, “Lt. [name redacted] was attempting to ascertain who was responsible for disposing of the casings within the burn pit.” This is not a simple mistake by a professionally trained U.S. military police command.
How would a U.S. Army military police unit, the week before NCIS showed up on 17 May, 2007, and over two months after an ambush—one highly politicized by the president of Afghanistan and the international press, the likes of which shut the battlespace operations down completely for a period of time—have allowed someone to simply walk into the operations center, pick up a bag of evidence (brass casings), and then accidentally throw said evidence in a burn pit? It wouldn’t happen by accident.
Fred Galvin states, “Fox Company never left our vehicles. Nicholson was briefed on this directly from me face-to-face, as well as his investigating officer telling him this, but he allowed the media to report that Marines threatened the media. Then he reinforced these false accusations against the Marines a full month after his investigating officer completed the TF Spartan command investigation, which, on 8 May, is when Col. Nicholson made his public condemnation speech.”
Captain Clancy (U.S. Navy, SJA), assigned to the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command at the time of his deployment to Afghanistan, served as the legal mentor to LTG Yarmand, the Afghan National Army investigator of the ambush. This senior Navy JAG officer, who was working side-by-side with the Afghan investigator, did not mention in his 8 Feb, 2008, email to the legal advisor of the COI that the “Afghan investigation” had any issues. The Afghan investigation stated that there is some evidence of a complex ambush at the immediate site of the incident, supporting this claim.
Captain Clancy did, however, mention, “I will pass to you some articulation of my uneasiness of the handling of the case by the U.S. side.” Even this neutral party could see that things were being mishandled by Nicholson, Kearney, and their units.
For a closer look at the character of Lieutenant General Francis Kearney III, we must examine several examples of his own words, which are in stark contrast to his actions. Similar to General Nicholson, Kearney sounds very polished in the media. This was highlighted during the court of inquiry by Lt. Col. Steve Morgan, who pointed out several articles that Kearney appeared in from the local media, the base newspaper, and the Washington Post.
While researching the case for the COI, what Morgan found particularly disgusting were several pictures of Kearney parachuting with foreign special ops forces displayed on the SOCOM webpage. Morgan stated, “This Kearney, what an ego! I’ve got no problem with training and jumping with our friends and allies. But to post several pictures, instead of maybe just one, indicates some sort of narcissistic defect to me. Think about it: Kearney is out sport jumping with his foreign counterparts and posting it to the command webpage while his troops are engaged in combat. I questioned Pihana about whatever happened to the phrase ‘quiet professionalism’ during his testimony, and he offered no clear answer.”
Both Fred Galvin and Steve Morgan agree that Nicholson and Kearney are “spotlight Rangers,” in that they love using the media to boost their self-image, and they have also both used the media along with their sharp tongues to tear others apart, even during ongoing investigations. But when proven wrong in a military court of law through incontrovertible facts, they take no corrective actions and instead continue to publicly slander the reputations of these Marines who fought against jihadis who were firing at them.
In Washington, D.C., the words under the apex at the Supreme Court state, “Equal justice under the law.” Both Nicholson in his May, 2007 condemning speech regarding MARSOC, and Kearney in his speech below talk about “high standards” and “accountability,” but they both demonstrate hypocrisy in that neither admit to their significant mistakes following the release of facts from the court of inquiry, nor have they sought corrective actions.
Francis Kearney works routinely with the Thayer Leader Development Group at the Thayer Hotel at West Point, New York, along with military and corporate groups to assist in improving organizational performance through leader development. Kearney’s self-aggrandizing listed accomplishments state that he “worked with 16-29 different cabinet-level agencies to plan and coordinate the whole of government efforts to achieve the goals of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy.”
Why has this strategy that Kearney takes credit for as the former deputy director for strategic operational planning at the National Counterterrorism Center failed miserably to prevent the rapidly growing threat of terrorism here in the homeland? This is another slick-sounding, self-praising accolade that in reality is an example of his professional failures that he chooses not to acknowledge or accept any responsibility for.
When Kearney was the CG of SOCCENT, he falsely accused—on two separate occasions—a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA) and MSOC Fox of homicide, and never held himself accountable for either incident when the facts were proven against his biased command investigations in two separate courts. As the deputy CG of SOCOM, when insider attacks led to a massive spike in the killing of coalition special operators by the partnered forces that SOF units were training, Kearney chose to accentuate the glory of his high-ranking position instead of claiming any responsibility for any part of these mistakes. Kearney’s habit of accusing Green Berets and Marine Raiders of homicide brings to question if, in his retirement, he should still be instructing our military leaders on morals, ethics, and leadership.
One Green Beret source, who wishes to remain anonymous for OPSEC reasons, had this to say about the situation:
What Fred and his men went through is not unique. It is a symptom of the core problem, and the reason we are still at war with no resolution in sight. It is because of poor leaders like Kearney who put themselves in a line of political privilege that are not being held accountable. It is a shame that Fred Galvin is not commanding SOCOM, because people like him should be in charge. Instead, they end up leaving and become successful civilian business leaders instead of contributing to the military.”
In regards to the ODA situation, the source stated,
The ODA doesn’t need anything from this story because the record shows that all the accuser’s accusations were wrong. No one was out to get them, and only Kearney, Pihana, and their group commander didn’t like the ODA team. They had plenty of support before, during, and after their case by the entire unit and SOF community. What I would like to see is for this story to cause young leaders to think, and to see a change in the way leadership acts. I want young leaders to engage their cognitive reasoning to make the right tactical and ethical choices, not what is politically popular. Unfortunately, the facts show that in the case of the ODA, the accuser’s behavior is the counter-example.”
This video provides insight into several instances where Kearney says one thing, yet does the polar opposite:
- 23:30 – Kearney discusses the My Lai massacre and how only the junior leaders, Lieutenant Calley and Captain Medina, were held accountable. Later, they found there was a cover-up, and the battlespace commander who was later promoted—Maj. Gen. Coster—was held accountable and forced to retire at a lower rank. Kearney goes on to state, “Officers are the conscience of an organization…it’s your job as a leader. You have to hold people accountable.” Yet Kearney has never held himself accountable for the facts proven in court against his biased investigations.
- 25:39 – Kearney states, MARSOC “was not ready for prime time…weren’t trained properly, they had a different attitude that they brought with them from Iraq…it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made (referring to expelling MARSOC from Afghanistan)…with the toughest blowback that I’ve ever had in my military career.” Kearney states this in his video nearly a decade later. He publicly states his false allegations of a capital offense without any remorse at all, even after proven to be false in a court of law.
Steve Morgan had this to say about Kearney’s claim that the fighting men of MARSOC were not properly trained, which was proven to be false during the COI:
As a member of the court of inquiry, I find it rather enlightening that Kearney uses that terminology. As the newest member of the SOCOM team, I wonder why MARSOC wasn’t “ready for prime time.” Why wasn’t SOCOM fully engaged in ensuring MARSOC was ready? SOCOM has some culpability here. Yet Kearney doesn’t acknowledge that point. He won’t take responsibility and hold his former command, or himself, responsible for some of MARSOC’s perceived shortcomings. Fox Company was in fact “certified” prior to deployment. Is Kearney now saying the certification was pencil-whipped and not legitimate?
- 25:39 – Kearney states, “At the same time I had an ODA (Special Forces team) positively identify the terrorist…he asked his master sergeant (MSG) to shoot him…no one in the entire special operations community would hold that captain and lieutenant accountable…so I chose to hold them accountable. Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division) stated that ‘he could be killed.'” Kearney states again, “They (CID) didn’t want to make the tough call…no one would hold them accountable. No one wanted to hold people accountable.”
- 33:45 – Kearney states, “Character matters.”
- 50:00 – Kearney states, “Trust in your team.”
- 51:20 – Kearney states, “Commanders sit inside of TOCs instead of getting out on the battlefield and seeing things…because when you’re sitting on a nice, warm FOB…you don’t get the whole picture. They’ve (front-line leaders) got it; you have to trust them.” Kearney stated this in August, 2015, in a paid lecture to military leaders eight years after he recommended that two special operations units be investigated for homicide from his nice, warm office at SOCCENT in sunny Tampa, instead of getting the whole picture.
- 1:02:34 – Kearney states, “The worst thing that you can do to a special operator is that you can’t be in this unit anymore.” But Kearney has never made any apologies for his rush to judgment and failures in falsely accusing special operators of homicide, which led all of the special operators who were tried, in military tribunals, to be forced from military service.
On the point of leadership, in the above video of Kearney talking about getting out of the FOB, he failed to demonstrate his own self-proclaimed style of leadership by appearing on the battlefield—or courtroom, as he refused to appear to testify during the COI—in which he recommended the MARSOC Seven be investigated for homicide. Prior to the MARSOC case, the most recent COI was from 52 years ago, in April 1956, for SSgt. McKeon, a Parris Island drill instructor, which resulted in a trial where the commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, General Pate, and even Chesty Puller, were present for testimony. Why couldn’t Kearney back up his words with actions when he so frequently talks about leadership?
Kearney has previously stated, “If I’m in an organization, I’m all in—I’m accountable.”
In this video of Lt. Gen. Kearney from 27 August, 2015, he talks about the VUCA environment, which he often speaks about as a self-proclaimed expert. So clearly, he understands the Army’s coined term of a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. And still he threw a MARSOC unit out of a VUCA environment, and then condemned MSOC Fox and an Army ODA team’s leadership of “homicide” by twisting the facts to fit his version of a “politically appropriate response.” This is how he justifies what he did.
Not only did Kearney omit facts in the MARSOC case, but his own investigating officer omitted and obstructed key facts, such as the testimony of the Afghan interpreter who made a statement which proved the same as involved Marines and sailors. Also, his investigating officer, as evidenced by witness testimony in the COI, attempted to have the Army EOD expert change his report to back up Col. Pihana’s biased opinion that the MARSOC patrol was not attacked by insurgents shooting at them. When the Army SFC EOD expert refused to change his report to reflect what Col. Pihana wanted, Pihana simply omitted the report from the investigation entirely.
At 10:36 of this video, Kearney states that “nobody will trust you if you don’t have competence and you don’t have character…if you don’t follow the Army values…if you don’t live a life that you talk about.” Kearney continues by explaining how he discussed with the audience his ideals on the Army’s concept of “be” in relation to how the leaders need to “take time to reflect…what values you uphold…the statement you want to make.” He speaks about his role in retirement as the “development of a leader.” Is his unrepentant character, which destroyed multiple service members’ lives and hard-fought combat careers by distorting and omitting the incontrovertible facts that exonerated them of his false allegations, the sort we want to have the military bring back as a civilian “gray-beard?” One we pay to train our current and future military leaders?
Starting at 25:39 of this video from 2015, Kearney falsely accuses MSOC Fox of not being properly trained, suggesting they were not ready for prime time, and that they had training focused on Iraq. It should be noted that when Fox Company were told onboard their ship that they were going to Afghanistan, Major Galvin coordinated to have a Naval graduate-school professor—Doctor Johnson, Ph.D., an Afghan cultural expert who was onboard the USS Bataan—provide his men with language and culture classes daily. Also, Major Galvin had the MEU SJA provide Fox Company with rules of engagement (ROE) and law of war (LOW) classes repeatedly. These ROE and LOW classes were also the focus for an entire day once they arrived in Afghanistan. The CJSOTF-A SJA and deputy SJA provided classes for another day. Colonel Pihana actually stated during the COI that the Marines “recited the ROEs verbatim.” This is completely contrary to Kearney’s saying in 2007 and 2015 that Fox Company was not trained for Afghanistan or ready for prime time.
It is also important to note that each Marine in the turret for the patrol completed a close-quarter battle package that year and conducted sustainment shooting a minimum of once per week during the workup, three times a week on ship along with every day while in Afghanistan. The first order of business for the MARSOC Advanced Echelon (ADVON) landing in Afghanistan in January, 2007, was to create a range for the main body’s arrival, which was operational and used every day starting upon their arrival in February, 2007. It should also be noted that the deputy CJSOTF-A commander, Lt. Col. Baldwin, used an unauthorized .45-caliber pistol and had a negligent discharge of that weapon in the CJSOTF-A headquarters in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Baldwin then came out to Jalalabad on 9 March, 2007, and told Major Galvin and his men that Fox Company was “all @#$%’d up” and that they were going to be kicked out of Afghanistan.
Eight years after the COI concluded that MSOC Fox was highly trained and had the appropriate command climate, Kearney is still publicly condemning MARSOC of being poorly trained—exactly the opposite of what he preaches about in regards to getting out of one’s warm FOB and knowing what is going on. He is literally making a living and receiving pay for his lectures in which he continues to professionally and falsely slander MSOC Fox.
Take a look at the photo gallery below, which shows MARSOC Fox Company performing a wide variety of high-quality training. Their training began in February, 2006, and led all the way into their time in Afghanistan without pause. These Marines were well prepared for any situation that they might find themselves in—besides having commanders rush to judgment, act on false assumptions, and completely turn against them by telling the world that seven Marines should be investigated for crimes that carry the death penalty.
All photos courtesy of Fred Galvin.
Kearney likes to brag about spending seven years in education during his 35-year career. Again, this self-aggrandizing of his educational accolades is similar to Nicholson’s own self-aggrandizing videos, which showcase him as the “point-man on the ground…he rolls through the battlespace like a new sheriff.” They also prove his cultural insensitivity to Islam as he jokingly dons a turban, and highlight the fact that his 3 BDE/10th Mountain Division unit sustained the highest casualty rate of any unit in OEF. His PT program also just happened to be aired in front of the bright lights of NBC cameras, and he even managed to sneak in a boast of his two master’s degrees during a battlefield interview.
Nicholson states that he believes he was spared on 9/11 from the airplane flying into his office at the Pentagon for a purpose. Perhaps Nicholson’s beliefs surrounding how his life was spared through divine providence would have also led him to live his life away from the civilian media’s spotlights as prescribed in II Timothy 2:4 (NIV) of his Bible: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
In regards to the investigation he initiated, recommending NCIS investigate the MARSOC Seven of article 138, negligent homicide, Kearney has said, “That destroyed my career.” His recommending Marines be tried for capital offenses, which ruined their marriages and cost them fortunes in defense counsels, supposedly ruined his career. Yet as a retired lieutenant general, he is doing quite well traveling around on the lecture circuit training organizations on “leadership.”
It is very important to know the context of this investigation. Several joint-service, high-level investigations were going on at that time. Congressman Murtha (who served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam) had accused the Haditha Marines of killing Iraqi civilians in “cold blood,” which made international headlines. The news claimed that the Marine command did not investigate quickly or thoroughly enough. Pat Tillman’s investigation in 2006-2007 was in its fifth iteration, and Kearney observed this as the CG of SOCCENT as well as the DCG of SOCOM. These, along with others like the Hamdania case and the Ilario Pantano-Fallujah case, left commanders in 2007 and 2008 hesitant to give their subordinates the benefit of the doubt, likely contributing to the reasons Kearney “selectively” pursued allegations with overzealous investigations. All the while, Kearney was the guardian to those closest to him, who later admitted to committing war crimes.
When then-Col. Nicholson’s 3rd Brigade/10th Mountain Division was replaced in Regional Command East of Afghanistan by the 173rd Brigade combat team, a beloved relative of Kearney appeared on the scene: his firstborn son, then-Captain Dan Kearney, U.S. Army. Captain Kearney followed closely in his father’s footsteps and took advantage of what the largest media organizations around the globe offered to advance his career during his one deployment. Multiple articles about the younger Kearney appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post, which then inspired Sebastian Junger’s New York Times best-selling book, “War.” That book later became an Academy Award-nominated movie titled “Restrepo,” which showcased Captain Kearney’s first deployment to Afghanistan. Dan Kearney did not receive the same scrutiny or call for “accountability” that his three-star Army general father later insisted on; during the same exact year and in the same region of Afghanistan, Kearney repeatedly talked tough to reporters about intentionally “killing civilians.”
Captain Kearney reported that he’d seen a woman and child inside a house from which they were taking fire. “We saw people moving weapons around,” Kearney told me. “I tried everything. I fired mortars to the back side to get the kids to run out the front. I shot to the left, to the right. The Apache (an attack helicopter) got shot at and left. I kept asking for a bomb drop, but no one wanted to sign off on the collateral damage of dropping a bomb on a house. We shot a javelin and a TOW (both armor-piercing missiles). I didn’t get shot at from there for two months,” Kearney said. “I ended up killing that woman and that kid.”
The article points to another later instance where Kearney admits to killing more civilians: “Finally, around dawn, a weary Kearney, succumbing to gallows humor, adrenaline, and exhaustion, said: ‘OK, I’ve done my killing for the week. I’m ready to go home.’ Kearney estimated that they killed about 20 people, adding, ‘I’m not gonna lie. Some are probably civilians.’ They radioed that the village elders were asking to bury their dead. They’d also collected wounded civilians. The tally was bad: five killed and 11 wounded, all of them women, girls, and boys.”
How does General Kearney continue, to this day, to receive pay and teach military leaders about accountability, showing them films of his son in Afghanistan, when such a man would boldly, and repeatedly, boast of killing Afghan civilians on multiple occasions?
Minutes later in the same speech, LTG Kearney states that MARSOC wasn’t ready for “prime time,” and at that CID stated the ODA could kill the terrorist. What’s the difference? Is it that MARSOC and the ODA specifically killed jihadis and Captain Kearney admitted to killing civilian women and children? One cannot ignore that Captain Kearney’s father was LTG Kearney, which allowed him to have a “successful combat deployment,” receive accolades for his deployment, multiple media articles in the largest media organizations in the U.S., and a best-selling book and Academy Award-nominee film based on his unit. Is this the type of accountability LTG Kearney referred to when chastising the MARSOC Seven? Hardly. Is this what our founding fathers considered “equal justice under the law?” I think not.
It was not just overzealousness that doomed Kearney’s judgement, but also his appointments for the investigation. The investigator Kearney used both with the ODA and with MSOC Fox was USAF Colonel Pat Pihana, who proclaimed that he had “no combat experience.” Col. Pihana was Kearney’s chief of staff at SOCCENT, and the COI suggested that this posed a conflict of interest given his appointment as investigating officer. After displaying poor judgment in appointing a colonel from the Air Force who admitted to having no tactical combat experience in the ODA case, Kearney could have chosen instead Col. Burkholder, USMC, who was also from Kearney’s command deck to conduct the investigation, but instead he again decided to send in Col. Pihana, who had no experience with combat or Marine Corps training.
The context of the ODA investigation of October, 2006, and the MSOC investigation of March, 2007, should be looked at through the lens of numerous other law of war investigations that were in progress or had just wrapped up at that time: 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano’s case from Fallujah in 2004, the Haditha case of 2005, and the Hamdaniya case of 2006, for instance, all of which increased pressure on commanders.
Just as in Nicholson’s case, the proper thing for Kearney to do would be to step forward and admit that he made a bad decision, and apologize to the men of MARSOC and the ODA that he has continued to slander. What true American would choose, as a retired military officer, to make a living by shaming Marines who fought heroically through a complex ambush? He talks about accountability, and yet he publicly slanders MSOC Fox for having “carried practices over from Iraq…not ready for prime time…[while] poorly trained.”
Kearney constantly talks about accountability, but he could have taken accountability throughout the 11 months of MARSOC’s work-up by providing clear guidance on where they were going to be deployed instead of waiting until they embarked on ships. He violated the military leadership planning rule of one-third to two-thirds—leaders utilizing one-third of the planning time to issue their guidance and allowing their troops two-thirds of the allocated time to plan for the mission. Kearney didn’t take any accountability for setting the planning or training conditions in Fox Company’s pre-deployment training period, which could have allowed MARSOC greater success.
After CID stated that the ODA was justified in killing the terrorist, Kearney discarded their recommendation and preferred to level charges against the ODA leadership, but during the same year, he had no issue with his beloved son admitting in the New York Times killing several civilians on multiple occasions, including women and children. This is hypocrisy at its worst and one of the reasons why our best young leaders often leave, and our worst leaders remain in the service. Kearney should never talk about accountability again; he should publicly apologize to MARSOC and the ODA for his complete failure and dishonorable conduct, as well as admit to his fraudulent training in his counterfeit albeit highly paid leadership lectures.
Kearney is still making a living by falsely slandering the MARSOC Seven and ODA 374 publicly to military and business leaders. Watch and read LTG Kearney’s own words to see how he falsely condemned seven Marines in the media years ago, and continues to do so on the lecture circuit. Then, decide for yourself whether his actions are honorable or dishonorable.
For more information on this case, you can read the full series here:
- The untold story of the leadership that failed MARSOC Fox Company (Part 1)
- The untold story of the leadership that failed MARSOC Fox Company (Part 2)
- Covert corruption in ‘MARSOC 7’ command investigation (Part 3)
- Extreme Prejudice: Unethical conduct by NCIS and prosecutors to convict innocent Marines (Part 4)
- The internal assassin of MARSOC Fox Company (Part 5)
- SOFREP radio Episode 198: featuring Maj Fred Galvin
- SOFREP radio Episode 206: featuring Maj Fred Galvin & LtCol Steve Morgan