Behind the cover: Marine lieutenant’s firing causes uproar over rules of engagement


This week's cover story, written by Marine Corps Times' Pentagon bureau chief, Andrew Tilghman, examines the case of 1st Lt. Josh Waddell, who was fired after his commander accused him of violating the rules of engagement in Afghanistan.

First Lt. Josh Waddell ordered his men to take out an insurgent last fall in Afghanistan, and that decision has come back to bite him pretty badly. Now, the 25-year-old finds himself at the center of a contentious debate over the rules of engagement and the potentially disastrous career implications for those deemed to have violated them.

When the incident occurred, Waddell was the executive officer for his company with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which oversaw security in the Sangin district of Helmand province. He was subsequently fired from that job, given a lousy fitness report and told he would not be recommended for promotion. His father, a retired Navy SEAL commander, has gotten involved — and made enough noise to capture the attention of some in Congress, who are pushing for creation of ROE “review boards” that would afford troops an independent review of any administrative action stemming from alleged violations. But some worry that would serve to undermine the chain of command.

Also this week, staff writer James K. Sanborn has an exclusive first look at the Corps’ plan to develop new functional fitness tests, part of the service’s evaluation of opening additional ground combat jobs to women. The goal is to establish gender-neutral standards for physically rigorous tasks required of Marines  whose primary mission is to close with and destroy. As we reported in February, the Corps is opening to women about 400 jobs in six types of battalions. Officials said then that this was a precursor to implementing broader changes. These new strength tests are a key piece to doing so.

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  1. Reading the ROE issue and the careers of those being placed in jeopardy it makes me sick the circumstances the military has sunk to in (pseudo) war fighting. I’d like to see the O5s and above get off their REMF cans and get on the pointy end of things and come back spouting this JAG (don’t ask don’t tell) drivel about medevac of a combatant. (Yeah, like when you see a white circle with a red cross on their rag heads).

    The ‘Stan and its corrupt leadership isn’t worth spit let alone piss and as unfortunate as all the treasure and lives lost, it NEVER was worth one, except for the initial and successful reactions following 9/11, ousting the Taliban. Whatever happened to “Send in the Marines” meaning they kick ass and take names breaking things all the way and then some? If you don’t want that don’t send them and put a broom in some State Department POG’s hands and send him down range with a bucket of money and properly tendered apologies in all relevant languages on a thumb drive firmly inserted where the sun don’t shine.

    Better yet have the political commissars in Congress get their collective butts there to do fact finding and learn about split second life and death decision making and not come home until they have had just such an encounter and have to stand by their action. They’ll learn review boards will be the American voter.

    Military theorist Bill Lind was castigated at the onset of the Afghan war for calling on nuking the place. In hindsight it looks like a better option every day. Imagine the billions unspent, U.S. lives saved and the line in the sand (err, glass) that it would have made. So what of world opinion… they hate us anyway. Look at it as our contribution to unilateral arms reduction.

    Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six is the best damn ROE guidance ever issued. KISS!

    If one takes anything away from the Waddell incident is that the Corps needs to improve its sniper training. One shot, one kill and this wouldn’t have been more than a SPOTREP.

    Ever PC I just know there will be no intestinal fortitude at Gannett to print this in its entirety but feel free to summarize my position with the two paragraphs immediately above! Expect it gets circulated in the office, however. Hang it prominently on the water cooler.

    A Concerned Combat Veteran

    “On the bounce!”

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