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A Green Beret's plea to Donald Trump: No more 'quibbling micromanagers' at the Pentagon

November 22, 2016 (Photo Credit: James Robinson/The Fayetteville Observer)
Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece. The writer is not employed by Military Times and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Military Times or its editorial staff.

In the wake of a momentous presidential election, it’s obvious that Americans demand something different from their government. Those of us who've been at the tip of the spear in our country's the 15-year war on terrorism demand something different from the Defense Department as well.

There is cause for optimism in hearing the names of potential candidates for key positions in the executive branch. One of the Marines with whom I served in Afghanistan, now a company commander, contacted me recently to say that he and his Marines are excited at the prospect of seeing one name in particular elevated to a position within the Pentagon: Congressman Duncan Hunter. As I offer my support for his leadership, I am passing along theirs as well.

Duncan Hunter 2015
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is Marine Corps combat veteran who has come to the defense of several embattled rank-and-file service members. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP)

One could ask why the U.S. military would be excited about a young congressman from California. The short answer would be: Semper Fidelis, the Marine Corps motto meaning “always faithful.”

You may or may not be familiar with the war the Department of the Army waged against me since 2011. The rank and file in the U.S. military, particularly in the Army and Marine Corps, most certainly are. And through all of it, as others turned their backs, it was Congressman Hunter and his staff who were fully invested in the fight with me, unafraid to defend what others wrongly suggested was indefensible.

In my case, the Army alleged that in 2010 I killed a known Afghan bomb maker by acting outside the rules of engagement. The bomb maker was responsible for the death of at least two U.S. Marines supporting the fight in Marjah, Afghanistan, when conditions there were at their worst. 

Congressman Hunter never faltered in my defense. And why would he expend his political capital on an Army Green Beret? Maybe it was because, as a Marine officer himself, Congressman Hunter had served in Fallujah, Iraq, and thus understands the realities of combat. Maybe it was because he saw a moral necessity to intervene.

Either way, he was my fiercest advocate, and I credit him, along with my legal counsel, for successfully resolving the Army’s case against me. He has rightfully earned a reputation as a force for action, supporting many other war fighters who’ve been wronged.

The case against me was anything but an isolated instance of organizational insanity. It is part of an organizational norm that is rooted in a progressive decay of moral courage in the Defense Department's military and civilian leadership. Consider too the cases of Clint Lorance, Jim Gant, Will Swenson, Jason Brezler, Jason Amerine, Rob RichardsCharles Martland, Lawrence Hutchins and Rafael Peralta. These cases reveal a vicious military bureaucracy struggling to live up to the values it espouses.

Congressman Hunter has been a beacon of hope for the oppressed in uniform. Among the names mentioned above, he is responsible for the award of a "lost" Medal of Honor, the return to active-duty service after wrongful termination for another, and the renewed push to prevent service secretaries from revoking past valor awards. This list goes on.   

Herein lies the problem that Congressman Hunter and the few like him recognize. Remote command centers now consume a majority of our force structure and nearly all of the military's officer corps. Combat has become a spectator sport for senior leaders glued to kill-TV. For too many, their exercise of battlefield command is commensurate with a round in the board game "Risk." And we have witnessed loyalty to the war fighter falter because some leaders fear the risk to their personal advancement.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the longest period of sustained conflict in American history. Their human and economic costs have been steep, and now the Pentagon advocates further intervention in Syria. At the same time, the Defense Department's leadership has focused on integrating women into all-male combat units contrary to the findings of a peer-reviewed scientific study; naming warships after social activists instead of war heroes; and writing transgender manuals into military doctrine after losing two wars.

The nation's war fighters have had their fill of quibbling micromanagers who live in fear of the 24-hour media cycle and the social sensibilities of political elites. The Defense Department has lost its way, and we need a war fighter with the relevant experience, moral courage and youthful energy to lead and refocus the institution.  

I can think of no one better suited for that task than Congressman Duncan Hunter. Count this Green Beret among the many others who hope that President-elect Donald Trump will task him with a national security position in his administration that will enable him to make a greater impact than he has already. He’s the type of leader our military desperately wants and needs.

Golsteyn, an Army major, served with the 3rd Special Forces Group .
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