WASHINGTON — A Green Beret selected last year for involuntary separation from the Army because he hit an admitted child rapist in Afghanistan will remain with the service at least two more months.
However, some lawmakers in Congress have said the Army’s decision this week to postpone a verdict on Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland’s future with the service is not enough.
“It is unfathomable that the Pentagon has yet to reinstate Sgt. Martland,” Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said in a statement released Tuesday, when the Army’s decision on the soldier’s future had been due. “The Defense Department has had several months and several opportunities to right this wrong. I’m concerned that bureaucratic red tape is blocking common-sense action.”
The Army on Monday granted Martland, an 11-year veteran of Army special forces who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, an extension through May 1 to allow the Army’s Board for Correction of Military Records to consider his case, said Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, an Army spokeswoman. It was the second time the Army delayed a determination on Martland for 60 days.
Martland, a 33-year-old recipient of the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor, had been selected initially to be separated from the service by November 2015 through the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, which it has used to reduce its number of noncommissioned officers as it cuts its force. The Army agreed in October to allow him to remain in service to appeal his case at the request of several lawmakers. Buchanan, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and former Marine officer Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., have publicly backed Martland.
In September, Buchanan introduced a House resolution “to immediately reinstate Martland.” He said Tuesday that it was supported by almost 50 bipartisan lawmakers along with several veterans’ organizations.
Martland hit an Afghan local police commander in September 2011 while he was deployed to a remote combat outpost in Kunduz Province. The Green Beret and his detachment commander shoved and slammed Abdul Rahman into the ground after he’d admitted to chaining a 12-year-old boy and sexually assaulting him repeatedly during several days.
In a letter authored by Martland last year after his case became public, the soldier wrote he was “thrust into a situation where I had to make a decision.”
“There was no real right answer and no real wrong answer,” he wrote. “The morally right action conflicted with the legally right action.”
Martland’s case thrust into the spotlight the long-standing open secret in Afghanistan of sexual abuse of children, especially young boys, commonly called “bacha bazi” or “boy play.” The Pentagon Inspector General in October began a preliminary investigation into the military’s response to the issue. Last month, the IG announced its probe had morphed into a comprehensive assessment of the issue.
The IG has said it intends to determine whether accusations of the practice among Afghan military and police leaders were properly reported or went ignored by American troops. It also seeks to determine what legal authority American servicemembers have to intervene or use force if they witness or are informed of sexual abuse of a child.
It was unclear what impact, if any, the IG investigation could have on Martland’s future with the Army, said Johnson, the Army spokeswoman.