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U.S. military officials in Afghanistan “frequently” lost or botched the paperwork packages nominating troops for medals and awards while serving in combat, according to the Defense Department Inspector General.
The IG launched a probe of the awards process in Kabul after complaints about the handling of the Medal of Honor submission for Army Capt. William Swenson, the first officer to receive that award since Vietnam.
The U.S. Forces-Afghanistan awards section “frequently lost awards, had unreliable processes and employed inadequate tracking systems,” the IG wrote in a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
The IG’s report prompted the top general at U.S. Central Command to order a new review into how nominations for awards are handled.
“I have directed [U.S. Forces-Afghanistan headquarters] to conduct a detailed review of their complete award tracking process and report back to me with findings and recommendations,” Army Gen. Lloyd Austin wrote in a letter to Hunter’s office.
Pentagon officials notified Hunter’s office due to his interest in the Swenson case.
Swenson led troops through a seven-hour firefight to rescue and recover dozens of fallen comrades and was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House on Oct. 15.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel publicly apologized to Swenson and his family because military officials in Afghanistan lost his initial nomination for the nation’s highest military award.
Army officials said in 2011 that Swenson’s initial nomination was lost at a headquarters unit in Afghanistan.
It received new scrutiny from Marine Gen. John Allen, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, after the battle drew extensive media coverage while a Medal of Honor nomination for another warrior in the same firefight, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, was making its way to President Obama.
Meyer received his Medal of Honor in September 2011.