Imagine, If You Will, That You Are a Young Marine Corps Lieutenant

…who stops the fellow caught red-handed burying the bomb meant for your troops ~ harm not a hair of a single civilian’s precious head as they rush to aide the insurgent ~ and YOU…are the war criminal.

Don’t you love “Rules of Engagement” that don’t permit “engagement”?

Shifting guidelines prompt calls for ROE reform
Second guesses on front-line decisions can jeopardize careers

The Afghan man captured on a grainy surveillance video was a known insurgent. And there he was — again — digging a hole for a homemade mine beneath a well-traveled dirt road in Helmand province.

Several Marines in a nearby combat outpost watched the video feed closely, but a decision on what to do fell to 1st Lt. Josh Waddell, executive officer of India Company, who was running the command post on the afternoon of Nov. 1 for 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Waddell, 25, sprang into action, calling his battalion headquarters to get authorization — what military lawyers call “positive identification” — to launch a strike. From there, he hurriedly issued orders to ground patrol units, sniper teams and aircraft hovering nearby, coordinating a complex operation to kill or capture the enemy.

The insurgent was surrounded by a village full of women and children, so Waddell’s decisions required the kind of nuanced judgment call that has become a hallmark requirement of today’s often murky counterinsurgency missions.

Waddell opted against calling in the helicopter gunships. Instead, he ordered a sniper team to home in on the insurgent. The first sniper shot was high and off-target, sending the man sprinting across a patch of farmland. But other shots struck his leg and stomach. The man dropped and rolled into a ditch for cover.

Waddell had a split second to decide on his next move. And the choice he made — to fight rather than stand down — put him in one of the thorniest dilemmas faced by leaders in today’s wars: the rules of engagement…

An order to fire

When Waddell saw some civilians hoist the wounded insurgent onto a nearby tractor, the young Marine saw a tactical retreat. He ordered his snipers to fire at the tractor’s engine block, to disable it until a Marine foot patrol could arrive to detain the man.

What a lawyer later saw were civilians conducting a medical evacuation — and firing on them was a potential war crime.

Waddell ultimately ordered his snipers to cease fire after more civilians, including a child, gathered around the tractor.

In the end, the insurgent was found dead from his wounds. No civilians were injured.

Nevertheless, the incident made Waddell a target for months of investigations. His commander, Lt. Col. Seth Folsom, later said he acted “recklessly” and showed “poor judgment.” Although Waddell did not break any international laws of war, he violated the “tactical directive in effect at the time.”

The young officer was relieved from his job as company XO. Folsom later gave him a searing “unsatisfactory” on a fitness report, saying Waddell was “not recommended for promotion with his contemporaries…

Is it any wonder they come home wounded, both physically AND mentally?

Read the whole thing.

It will make you ill.

8 Responses to “Imagine, If You Will, That You Are a Young Marine Corps Lieutenant”

  1. JeffS says:

    Well, that ruins an entire generation of junior officers. After this, they will either be so cautious as to accomplish nothing, or they will leave the Marine Corps in particular, and the military in general.

    That battalion commander, LTC Folsom, is who needs the soft kill on his career.

  2. major dad says:

    This disturbs me. When ROE drives all decisions we have a problem. Really, lawyers driving combat decisions? Pathetic. From the article I didn’t see anything wrong, I would argue that the civilians became combatants when they came to his aid and then surrounded him. Obviously they know the deal, I bet they wouldn’t do that if they thought there was a good chance they would become targets or at least be in the field of fire. That Battalion C.O. is the one that needs to be fired. You are either in it to win it or you need to go home.

  3. Mark says:

    Wretches. Miserable, “career first, responsibility to their men last” bastards.

    I expect this crap in my Air Force, or from the Army, but not the Marines.

  4. JeffS says:

    Major Dad, lawyers are driving decisions, period. Combat decisions are the worst of all, because lives are lost or ruined.

    But I am watching a (thankfully non-lethal but incredibly stupid) situation unfold in my office where every major decision has been made, influenced, or even road blocked by a lawyer somewhere in the process.

    In the end, it has cost us tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary or added costs, hundreds of hours of lost productivity, plummeting morale, and the loss of a considerable amount of credibility and prestige for the agency I work for. And the work won’t be completed as originally planned, so we’ll have to spend more money to finish the project.

    And the bosses? They’re happy we followed the process. Pfui!

    It’s all through government. They call it “risk management”, but it’s really “risk aversion”. You can’t control or eliminate risk, sooner or later things things go south, and the lowest life form on the food chain gets blamed. As happened with 1LT Waddell.

  5. Crusader says:


  6. Ebola says:

    There’s a rather large difference between ORM and allowing the enemy to get away. As a matter of fact, it’s contrary to ORM to do so concerning non-uniformed combatants…who aren’t covered by the Geneva Conventions in the first place.

  7. aelfheld says:

    Let’s put the lawyers on the front line.

  8. Firehand says:

    The terms I use are ‘effing Politicians in Uniform’ and ‘effing Lawyers in Uniform’ who don’t give a rats’ ass about their troops.

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