This article was originally published by SOFREP on August 23, 2020.
Marine Raiders, Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Draher, Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron, and Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet, and their families are in a fight for their lives. Each of those men — the MARSOC 3 as they are called — is being sent to a general court-martial for crimes they did not commit.
On June 26, 2020, MajGen James Glynn assumed command of MARSOC (Marine Forces Special Operations Command) as well as the role of convening authority for the case in question.
After more than two months of reaching out to the MARSOC CommStrat office, they have yet to provide responses to repeated requests for comment by SOFREP. Our questions to MARSOC include among others:
- Whether MajGen Glynn intends to take a fresh look at this case and the exonerating video evidence.
- Why MARSOC included Obstruction of Justice charges with each court-martial in spite of the fact that the preliminary hearing officer (a highly respected Colonel) found that there was “no probable cause.”
- Why MARSOC is pursuing three separate court-martials instead of a joint trial.
After two months of being told by MARSOC that they were working on responses, they have produced nothing.
Just like his predecessor, MajGen Daniel Yoo, it seems clear that MajGen Glynn and those under his command are not interested in supporting their own men. This is despite the fact that initial news reports on the situation spread false information about what transpired and they inaccurately painted the accused as guilty. The government was responsible for allowing false information to spread for over a full year. Yet MARSOC has never taken any actions to correct the record. As a result, servicemembers and civilians were led to believe lies.
In Erbil, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) on New Year’s Eve, 2018, with permission to leave base, the three decorated Marine Raiders were assaulted by a drunken civilian contractor, Rick Rodriguez, after he instigated a verbal confrontation. Video footage shows Rodriguez, a retired Green Beret, acting so aggressively that he was thrown out of the establishment. Footage also shows that he decided to wait outside in the path of the MARSOC 3 as they later exited and were walking to their vehicle. After Rodriguez had thrown his third punch, one of the Raiders stepped in to defend his fellow Raider from receiving additional harm and knocked Rodriguez out with one punch. Rodriguez’s group of friends either left or stood around not knowing what to do. The three Raiders brought the contractor back to base for observation.
Chief Eric Gilmet watched over Rodriguez through the night and into the morning. After having been relieved early that morning by a base contractor, Gilmet was called back to find that Rodriguez was now unresponsive. Rodriguez was then transferred to a hospital in Germany where he died four days later of complications arising from his intoxicated state and from having choked on his own vomit.
During the subsequent Article 32 hearing, video evidence and testimony from the lead investigator confirmed that Rodriguez was the aggressor and sole instigator in the incident and that the Marines did not use excessive force, nor did they attempt to obstruct justice. Despite that evidence, MARSOC leaders have contradicted their own core beliefs by neglecting to support the accused and their families, punishing the accused by taking away pay, and suspending their security clearances. Furthermore, by sending the accused to a general court-martial — which carries the most severe punishment — despite video evidence that shows self-defense, and by inexplicably including charges that were found to have no grounds during the Article 32 process.
Still, per their own website, MARSOC states the following:
“Just like being a Marine, being a Marine Raider is a way of life. The mission is important and ever-changing. It can be a big commitment. If your Marine is considering a move to MARSOC, you may have some questions. But with preparation and good communication, your family can adjust to and thrive in the Marine Raider community. Below are some basic facts about Marine Raider family programs.”
“Marines are our most important resource. We take excellent care of them, providing world-class training to prepare Marines for deployments, including dealing with stress. MARSOC looks out for Marines’ physical, psychological, and spiritual needs with a cadre of fitness trainers, nutritionists, medical personnel, psychologists, social workers, and chaplains dedicated to the total well-being of Marine Raiders.”
In reality, GySgt Draher, GySgt Negron, and CPO Gilmet have not for a moment been afforded their right of presumption of innocence by their own command. Before their trial, they had pay taken away, security clearances suspended, and promotions denied. They have been removed from their teams, humiliated in front of their peers, and have even been sent a packing list for the brig. Certain members of MARSOC have been coerced into not providing character statements on behalf of the accused. Members of the defense team have had gag orders attempted against them to suppress their voice in the media. When questioned, a MARSOC representative told SOFREP that the Raiders “are presumed innocent of the charges against them until proven guilty at a court-martial.”
Where is the presumption of innocence? There is no evidence of looking out for their Marines’ physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. Is that what MARSOC calls taking excellent care of their most important resources?
In spite of video evidence that proves this was a case of self-defense, the command overzealously sent its own men to a general court-martial and, as a result of taking the aforementioned actions against the innocent Raiders, have sent the message to the MARSOC community and the rest of the world that these men are guilty.
“MARSOC supports a robust network of Family Readiness Officers (FROs) and volunteers who provide support for families, whether it be a spouse, parent, or significant other. MARSOC has tools to support and help you—and help you support your Marine. No question is too small for the FROs or MARSOC counselors.”
In reality, MARSOC has never once, in the last year and a half, reached out to the families of the MARSOC 3. When asked why no one from the command took it upon themselves to check on the affected Raiders and their families, the response was that “as members of the command, they and their families continue to have access to the same resources for support as every Marine Raider and family member.” With such a statement, the Command indicates that it has no interest in being proactive regarding its stated values.
“Flexibility, trust, and communication hold a MARSOC family together. As a spouse, you may find yourself taking on new responsibilities. Trust your ability to keep yourself and your family happy and healthy while your Marine is serving. You are a full and active part of your family — and of MARSOC. Families who take advantage of MARSOC’s resources and spouse network can thrive.”
In reality, the examples listed above are enough to prove that this is not true. MARSOC has shown to be unwilling to communicate with spouses. (Destiny Draher was never even contacted by the command that her husband Danny was being sent home early from his deployment). It has also shown that it has no interest in taking action in the event that it is contacted by spouses and families, such as when the name of a fallen Raider had been misspelled on a memorial and was never corrected after repeated requests to fix it.
It begs the question, why would a spouse or family member have reason to trust the command by asking for help in the first place? MARSOC has demonstrated that, in spite of the fact that the UCMJ gives the convening authority power to act, and in contrast with its stated beliefs, the Command is only interested in protecting its image. If you happen to be perceived as a threat to that image and to the next career step for senior leadership, you don’t have a prayer of being offered a helping hand.
This situation offers an opportunity for MARSOC to change the tides of history for future generations of Marine Raiders affected by an antiquated Uniform Code of Military Justice system. Will MajGen Glynn and MARSOC have the courage to take action? Time is quickly running out, but it is not yet too late for them to do the right thing by dismissing the case. It is also not too late for every reader of this article to support these warriors and their families by contacting his or her state representatives and demand accountability of our military leaders — to demand justice for Marine Raiders.