Too long in coming

Army Capt. Will Swenson has been recommended by the top U.S. general in Afghanistan for the Medal of Honor after widespread speculation about why his heroism had gone unrecognized, according to a published report.

Swenson braved enemy fire on Sept. 8, 2009, with Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who will receive the nation’s top valor award Thursday at the White House. Meyer, now a sergeant in the Individual Ready Reserve, told Marine Corps Times recently that it was “ridiculous” Swenson already hadn’t received some form of valor award.

“I’ll put it this way,” the outspoken Meyer said in an interview. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, took a personal interest in the fierce firefight in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, that led to Meyer’s award, according to a report published on The Wall Street Journal’s website Wednesday night. The record of the battle was reopened last month, and “given the four-star general’s personal interest, sworn statements attesting to Capt. Swenson’s valor were quickly found.”

“Gen. Allen has since forwarded a Medal of Honor recommendation, saying it was the right thing to do despite a lapse of two years,” the report said.

As the story says ( this has taken too long to make happen and I along with many others are highly suspicious why it took so long for this recommendation to go forward.

This delayed recommendation has several scandalous facets to it. First and foremost is that even thought Dakota Meyer was nominated for and received the Medal of Honor, CPT Swenson was not even put in for an Army Commendation Medal, much less anything near MoH or the MoH itself. As documented in multiple sworn statements, CPT Swenson was side by side, performing the same heroic actions as Dakota Meyer. 

The other part of this story that makes one raise an eyebrow in skepticism is that Will Swenson openly criticized the command above him and other officers for denying him and the others with him the vital and life-saving support they needed.

“When I’m being second-guessed by higher or somebody that’s sitting in an air-conditioned TOC, why [the] hell am I even out there in the first place?” Swenson told investigators. “Let’s sit back and play Nintendo. I am the ground commander I want that f—er, and I am willing to accept the consequences of that f—er.”

Swenson added that he had been second-guessed on previous occasions, and was frustrated by a complicated process to clear fires, even under duress.

“I always get these crazy messages saying that, ‘Hey, brigade is saying that you can’t see the target,’” Swenson told investigators. “Brigade, you’re in Jalalabad. F— you, you know? I am staring at the target. … I just get the craziest things on the radio sometimes. Just people second guessing. If I am willing to put my initials on it, I understand the importance of making sure the rounds hit where they are supposed to hit. I understand the consequences of civilian casualties.”

I can totally understand why Swenson was so upset and I feel he was more than justified in saying what he said. There have been other detailed accounts of medical and weapon support denied to those on the tip of the spear. You can go read several books by James F. Christ like; The Boneyard, Landigal or Kamdesh and you too will be so pissed that you will start calling people F __ and other colorful words.

I can’t count the number of times that I personally was denied support in combat operations. It ranged from denied close air support to a US Company Commander who refused to allow his mortar section to fire illumination rounds over the heads of enemy soldiers attacking our FOB because he thought “the falling canisters could fall on someone’s head”. That was the only time I ever cussed out a Captain over a radio for all to hear. It was not professional of me, but I was pissed. I am a qualified Mortarmen and had spent most of my career doing that job. I know how to call for a fire mission and adjust rounds. Who is he to question what I see when I have the muzzle flashes coming at me.

Anyway, my points is that I get it. I get why CPT Swanson was so upset. He had every right to be, and apparently others felt the same way because a couple of officers were later reprimanded for denying the support.

At least two officers — with Task Force Chosin, a unit comprising soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y. — were later cited following the investigation for “negligent” leadership leading “directly to the loss of life” on the battlefield.

So it appears that by openly criticizing fellow officers, CPT Will Swenson’s MoH or whatever award he was recommended for kept getting lost or maybe was never submitted at all. If he ends up receiving the Medal of Honor himself, then if I was him I would make sure the White House invites all of those officers who denied his support (reprimanded or not) to the award ceremony so they would have to look him in the face.

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