Subordinate: Maynulet acted out of compassion for wounded Iraqi
HANAU, Germany — Shortly after the incident that led to the death of a wounded Iraqi man, 1st Lt. Colin Cremin spoke with his company commander, who today stands accused of murder.
It had been another long day in Iraq, and though Cremin was near where the incident occurred, he wasn’t at the scene of the shooting to know what Capt. Rogelio M. Maynulet and others in the tank company were up against. The two discussed a few issues, including the matter that now has Maynulet sitting in a military court facing a possible court-martial.
“It was something he didn’t want to do, but it was the compassionate response,” Cremin said as he recalled the conversation at a pretrial hearing Wednesday in Hanau.
“It was definitely the humane response to that [situation],” Cremin added in response to a question posed by the lead prosecutor in the case.
Maynulet is accused of murder and dereliction of duty stemming from the death of the wounded Iraqi on May 21.
Army prosecutors say Maynulet unlawfully shot the man, while defense attorneys maintain his innocence.
What exactly happened that morning near Najaf has yet to be determined, but at the resumption of Maynulet’s Article 32 hearing, a process that started three months ago in Iraq, more details began to emerge.
The testimony also provided some interesting firsthand insights into the U.S. military mission in Iraq.
For example, Maynulet’s unit, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment of the 1st Armored Division, had half as many rifles as men.
That led troops to sometimes use confiscated weapons to fight Iraqi insurgents. Maynulet apparently took a submachine gun from an Iraqi police station, according to Army prosecutors.
And the dynamics of urban warfare in greater Baghdad and the rest of Iraq were such that U.S. soldiers “had to bring out old manuals from Vietnam” for any tidbits that might help in Iraq, said Capt. Jeremy Dobos, a battalion staff intelligence officer.
According to the testimony of several witnesses Wednesday, Maynulet excelled under such circumstances. The 29-year-old officer always found a way to accomplish the task at hand, whether it was winning a firefight in a graveyard, getting roads repaired or managing to talk black marketers into dropping the price of their propane.
Maynulet “is the best company grade officer I’ve known since I’ve been in the Army,” Dobos said.
The intelligence officer said Maynulet was “directly responsible” for information and methods that snowballed into an operation that ended in the capture of about 1,000 fedayeen fighters, Dobos said.
It seems Maynulet’s most effective method, based on the testimony of a few of his men, was conveying to the Iraqis that he was in charge, but that he carried an awful lot about finding ways to improve their lives.
“Would you go to war with him?” Army Sgt. Maj. Allen Ashton was asked by one of Maynulet’s lawyers.
Ashton, who served as a first sergeant under Maynulet, said he would.
His company, Ashton said, “was the best company in the battalion” in terms of discipline.
Perhaps the most poignant witness Wednesday was Cremin, Maynulet’s executive officer on that day in May.
On July 2, the Army issued a statement on the incident, saying the incident occurred when U.S. forces “came into contact with a black sedan believed to contain militia forces.”
“A chase began, and U.S. forces shot at the vehicle,” said the release from the U.S. Central Command. “The driver and a passenger were wounded. Shortly thereafter the wounded driver was shot and killed at close range.”
Using notes from an interview last month, the prosecution asked Cremin if his comments then were accurate. A couple of passages were read back, including one that recounted part of what Maynulet and Cremin discussed after the incident.
Based on what Maynulet’s medic told him, the Iraqi man had “half his brain hanging out” after a shootout between U.S. forces and Iraqis and a car chase.
Reluctantly, while taking some issue with the accuracy of the notes, Cremin said that characterization was “in the ballpark.”
He also acknowledged that Maynulet told him: “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some kind of negative reaction.”