March 12th, 2010
07:13 PM ET

Silver Star Soldier gets career-ending reprimand

A U.S. Army officer who was awarded for valor after his combat outpost in Afghanistan was attacked has also received a letter of reprimand for failing to secure the base before the attack, according to Army officials. Such a letter normally would prevent career advancement.

Capt. Matthew Myer received the Silver Star for his part in repelling a Taliban attack on his small combat outpost in July 2008.

The attack, near the village of Wanat in eastern Afghanistan, is still the deadliest ground combat of the war involving U.S. troops. A coordinated Taliban attack from the steep hills surrounding the base almost resulted in the outpost being overrun.

According to troops who survived, the Taliban came at the base with about
200 fighters, outnumbering the U.S. forces at the base.

In the end nine soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded. About 100 Taliban
were killed.

Myer called in aircraft to beat back the fighters, some of whom had breached the base walls, according to U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. After the attack, the U.S. military scrutinized how enemy forces were allowed to get as close to the base as they did. Officials familiar with the after-action review said Taliban fighters got within grenade-throwing distance of U.S. troops.

Myer called in close air support to hit enemy targets just 10 meters from his own position, according to officials familiar with the after-action report.

Four-star Gen. Charles C. Campbell was chosen to review the final investigation and make disciplinary decisions. Campbell decided Myer would receive a letter of reprimand for failing to prepare the base's defenses sufficiently against an enemy attack. Myer was informed this week of his punishment, according to U.S. military officials. CBS News first reported his punishment.

Two of Myer's senior commanders, who were not at the base during the attack, also received similar letters of reprimand. Officials would not elaborate on the reasons for the reprimands. Army officials acknowledge the base, built to protect the people in Wanat, was at the bottom of a valley surrounded by high hills, an almost impossible location to defend.

According to one U.S. military official familiar with the general's decision to reprimand Myer, "he saw the evidence and made a decision based on that." However, the same official said, "Unless you've been there, you don't know how hard those places are to defend."

Myer and his two senior officers are allowed to appeal the punishment. Another U.S. military official familiar with the review said he expects the three officers to meet face to face with Campbell to plead their cases.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Garry Owen

    I think that Capt. Myer and his men fought like lions in an FOB that was completely indefensible, but they should not have been there. The actual blame for this tragedy lies with the full bird (or above) that left them in that Godforsaken hell hole even after it was determined to be strategically useless. I would caution those of you that have never been to Afghanistan against criticizing the actions of our men on the ground. You could not begin to imagine what it is like to find yourself in such a situation. This is a dirty, dirty war and our men on the ground operate on a razor's edge at all times. This will continue to happen as long as the only ones that have to answer for such things are Battalion level or below.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. James

    "The attack, near the village of Wanat in eastern Afghanistan, is still the deadliest ground combat of the war involving U.S. troops" -

    Wrong. Try Operation Redwing. Typical poor war reporting.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cindi

    I suggest to everyone who reads this comment, to go to the site, "Faces of the Fallen"- the Washington Post. Look up, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostorm Army 2008, and go down to "The Battle of Wanat". There you will find nearly everthing you should know about what happened at The Battle of Wanat. It has the Army 15-6 investigation, summary reports, summary finding's, etc. 1st Lt. Brostorm's father, went far beyond anyone's imagination, to find out exactly how and why his son and 8 other soldier's were killed in action at Wanat. Believe me, you'll be just as shocked as I still am. I pray for all of the soldier's, and my young son, who is a soldier too.

    March 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Major T

    Sounds familiar to me. I saw this kind of crap happen in Iraq. Full time higher commanders want to distance themselves from anything they might get tagged with. So, they place the rose on a lower level officer.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    Remember Dien Bien Phu? This Captain's high level commanders (the ones who wrote the letters of reprimand) should be getting the letters. But typical US military...hang the guys below your level and work your way upward until the gods are appeased with sufficient sacrifice. Way to go guys, way for the uppers to take responsibility for their people and accountability for their own actions; yet another reason why I'll provide every incentive for my son to never be in the US forces. Been there, seen it. Not the recipient of said lack of accountability by senior officers, occurred BELOW my level, but that's another story.

    March 14, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. June Humpton

    Why is CNN not covering the Afphan ward like they did Iraq? I agree with Patrick Kennedy we are disgraceful not covering the story of people who are willing to lay down their lives for us. Why are we not imbedded with them. There are too many frivolous stories on CNN lately. I watch a lot and think you need to rethink your program., less fluff please.

    June Humpton

    March 14, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Junior Officer

    This attack happens in July of 2008 and this Officer is informed almost two years later that his career is now down the drain? Really Army? Whatever happened to swift justice? This guy could have been searching for another job and probably didn't even know that this was a possibility...especially seeings how the first 15-6 investigation concluded that these guys did everything they could and just recommended valor awards. Funny how this punishment gets doled out after the COP Keating investigation handed out punishments identical to this. Check out McClatchy's article about LTC Brown, COP Keating, and Nuristan. If you haven't been here, you have NO idea what this place is like to try and defend. Two hundred determined, skilled, and many times, suicidal attackers are going to cause casualties. Was it this Officer's fault that HESCOs were only half filled? Yes. Was it his fault that fighting positions were out of position? Yes. Was it his fault that Apache helicopters were three hours late and re-inforcements were even later? No. Was it his fault that the Army put these guys in such a disadvantageous position? No. Were the generals punished for pursuing this type of course of action? No. Total and absolute crap and an insult to the memories of the families of the dead, to the families of the Soldiers that were probably SAVED by this man, and to everyone in the service. These generals should be ashamed. Punish EVERYONE if you want to go down this very, very, slippery slope. I'd fight with you Matt...any day man.

    March 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. VOR1

    Sounds like they should reprimand the bonehead that choose that location as a base to start with.

    March 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. johnsnow75

    In war there is noting more honorable than victory!

    March 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LTC John Kaylor

    Myer and his soldiers were operating in an outpost that was almost impossible to defend. In fact there are many outposts like that in Afghanistan. He was given an almost impossible mission, faced overwhelming odds, and still successfully defended the outpost. Yes, he took casualties. How could he not? Do you think Myer is responsible for selecting this location? Do you think even his immediate superiors are responsible for this location? NO. But now they are the scapegoats. Its BS. Its criminal that he receives a letter of reprimand. Hell with the media and the politics. For Gods sake stand behind your warriors Generals.

    March 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. A. Smith, Oregon

    Didn't this all out assault occur after a Muslim Cleric whipped up his entire congregation on the routine 'death to the infidels' and like army ants literally poured out of a nearby Muslim Mosque to suddenly and without warning swarm on the nearby forward operating base?

    If this is the same, the Commander should be commended on his restraint. I would have blasted the hell out of every Muslim moving towards the Forward Operating Base (FOB), AND I would have called in repeated air-strikes on that Mosque until every structure and brick were leveled to the ground.

    21 Casualties is very high for a FOB skirmish, however the early reports indicated the insertion point (the Muslim Mosque) was very close and unless the parameter guards were immediately pouring fire onto the Muslim mob erupting from the Mosque, they would have literally been within 100 yards almost immediately.

    Also, if I recall there also was the recurring issue of M4's jamming (standard light ammo firearm used by American soldiers) during this skirmish leaving American soldiers defenseless.

    The issue and subsequent public reports of the M4's jamming is likely the sole reason these brave officers are being reprimanded.

    March 13, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Donald Peters

    So some pencil pusher who hasn't seen combat since Vietman, who has'nt been to the outpost (I have to assume), gets to ruin a young mans career. Is that the American Way or what? The young Captain obviously is an outstanding man and soldier, or do they just give away silver stars now? Its just like our govt to put great soldiers in untenable situations and then punish them for it. I'm disgusted again by the stupidity of leaders, both military and political.

    March 13, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. major aristeo escobar, us army retired

    Strategy must be the only reason why the camp was in an area impossible to defend. They don't deserve a reprimand. Theae are good officers, because they were used as a bait for the Taliban to attack, combat even with General Patton and other generals ordered their men to sacrifice their lives in order to accomplish their objectives. War is a devil's game, being considerate to soldiers placed in this predicament must be the aim because no man can avoid what has already been set by the uknown. To continue and punished them is playing along with the devil.

    March 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan Lafayette,IN

    A letter of reprimand? These men were stationed in an outpost down in a valley surrounded by hills and very hard to defend but they manage to kill 100 and loose only nine men. The Capt. and his men are all heroes.

    March 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sodathief

    Well, maybe if the higher ups had allocated the captain enough resources, he wouldn't have to see his career end. Seems fair, right?

    March 12, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |