- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Green Beret who is being discharged for roughing up an accused Afghan child rapist is gaining support nationwide from pro-military groups as his appeal nears the finish line.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland’s last stand will occur at the Army’s Board for Correction of Military Records. The panel’s website states that it exists to “correct errors in or remove injustices from Army military records.”

Supporters say that, if any case involves an injustice, it is Sgt. Martland’s — kicking out a decorated Green Beret for taking a moral stand against a child abuser.

After a failed appeal before a different panel, Sgt. Martland’s Army attorney this time is sticking to a legal, not emotional, argument before the records board.

There were “irregularities” in the soldier’s last evaluation — the document that put him on the discharge list — and thus it should be thrown out, will be Sgt. Martland’s legal position, according to Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican and war veteran who has taken up the commando’s cause.

If the board agrees, there would be no adverse findings in Sgt. Martland’s file, and he could be able to continue his 10-year Army career, something he badly wants.

“Kicking me out of the Army is morally wrong, and the entire country knows it,” Sgt. Martland says in a signed statement provided by Mr. Kasper. “While I understand that a military lawyer can say that I was legally wrong, we felt a moral obligation to act.”

Sgt. Martland and his team leader, Capt. Daniel Quinn, in September 2011 physically confronted an Afghan police chief on their base after a mother told of the rape of her 12-year-old son.

The two soldiers quickly found themselves banished from the war theater and slapped with formal written reprimands ordered by an Army general.

Still, Sgt. Martland’s stellar career did not seem endangered when the Army allowed him to reenlist. The 32-year-old married father of two sons had completed three war deployments and earned the Bronze Star for valor, among other decorations.

But the federal budget climate grew stormy. Last year, the Army began a budget-driven downsizing that can eject someone like the Green Beret because of his one bad mark.

The process is called the Qualitative Management Program. The Army came up with this soldier-by-soldier vetting to help it shed senior enlisted members to meet mandatory budget caps under the federal law that made “sequester” a Washington buzzword.

The Army explains it this way: “The purpose of QMP is to enhance the quality of the career enlisted force, selectively retain the best qualified Soldiers while denying continued service to nonproductive members, and to encourage Soldiers to maintain their eligibility for further service.”

A blemish such as a few negative lines in Sgt. Martland’s 2011 evaluation doomed his career under the Qualitative Management Program.

Growing support for the sergeant

Meanwhile, Sgt. Martland has gained support from conservative military quarters. Backers include the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, and a host of American Legion post Facebook pages where veterans have attached messages of encouragement and condemnation of the Army.

The VFW national headquarters released a statement that said “the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is questioning if the military is punishing troops for doing the right thing instead of examining Status of Forces Agreements that has them serving and protecting others in foreign lands, yet might force them to ignore local incidents that everyone knows in their hearts to be wrong.”

“We look forward to hearing more details about this matter,” said Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr., “because from the onset, it would appear that Martland is being punished for doing what I would hope anyone would do when encountering a wrong.”

The Center for Security Policy, run by Ronald Reagan-era defense official Frank Gaffney, is asking citizens to sign a petition for Congress.

“I, the undersigned, urge you to pressure the Pentagon to clear Sgt. Charles Martland’s record on the matter concerning his intervention to protect a young Afghan boy from sexual abuse,” it says. “I also ask that you investigate the policy concerning the ability of U.S. military personnel to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.”

In addition, the American Center for Law and Justice sent a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter demanding Sgt. Martland’s exoneration and reinstatement.

“Mr. Secretary, now that what is happening to SFC Martland has become public, you have both the authority and the responsibility to right wrong inflicted on [him]. He acted with honor and integrity. Mr. Secretary, we now call on you to act honorably and with integrity to correct this grave injustice,” the legal advocacy group said in the letter, signed by American Center for Law and Justice officials Jay Alan Sekulow and Robert W. Ash.

An online petition to the group from the Obama administration, which says “exonerate Sergeant Martland for defending a child from rape,” has collected more than 135,000 signatures.

Sgt. Martland’s raters sang his praises in a Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Report after the altercation.

“Leads soldiers from the front,” it says. “Soldier possesses unlimited potential; he will succeed in any duty position and at any task.”

The raters said that now-retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the top officer, singled out the sergeant for praise for how he trained Afghan police.

But there were two lines that ultimately led to his slated discharge.

“Demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member,” it said. “Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance.”

In a January memo to higher-ups asking that the QMP procedure not snare him, Sgt. Martland tried to overcome the evaluation.

“This action was in response to the [Afghan Local Police] commander kidnapping and brutally raping a young local boy and beating the boy’s mother after she came to our camp to plea for help,” he said in a memo provided by Mr. Kasper.

Sgt. Martland said two other police commanders received no punishment from the government — one for raping a 15-year-old girl, the other for an “honor” killing of another commander’s 12-year-old daughter for kissing a boy.

Mr. Kasper said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican, spoke with Army Secretary John McHugh. Afterward, Mr. McHugh extended Sgt. Martland’s service time for 60 days during the appeal.

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