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Officer who ordered fire on insurgent vehicle exonerated

Aug. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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A Marine officer who was removed from his post for ordering fire on a known Afghan insurgent’s vehicle in alleged violation of the rules of engagement has been exonerated by a military review board.

On Nov. 1, 2011, then-1st Lt. Joshua Waddell, the executive officer for India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, ordered a sniper team to fire on the engine block of a tractor a wounded insurgent was using as a getaway vehicle. Because Afghan civilians were assisting the insurgent, gathering around the tractor as sniper fire continued, some attorneys reviewing the incident called it a medical evacuation, and said Waddell violated ROE in ordering his men to fire. He was later removed from his post by his commander, who said Waddell acted “recklessly” and with “poor judgment,” and gave him an “unsatisfactory” mark on his fitness report.

Folsom’s report could have been a career-killer for Waddell, but he received an outpouring of public support when his father, retired Navy SEAL commander Mark Waddell, launched a legal defense campaign for his son. Attorney Jeff Addicott with the Center For Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University, petitioned the Board for Correction of Naval Records to have the adverse report removed from Waddell’s record. The Marine officer was promoted to captain in June 2012.

On Aug. 14, Waddell received a brief missive from the Performance Evaluation Review Board saying his record had been cleared.

“Having reviewed all the facts of record, the Board has directed that your naval record will be corrected,” the memo reads.

Waddell declined to discuss the board’s decision. However, Addicott said the facts of the case left officials with a clear course of action.

“The opinion of any reasonable person is that he’s done nothing wrong,” Addicott said. “I think the Marine Corps recognized that, this is a great officer, and we don’t want to lose him.”

Addicott, who has defended a number of service members accused of violated ROE in combat zones, has drafted legislation to alter the rules of engagement to make them easier to follow for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. He also wrote an article detailing the legal issues in Waddell’s case, which is pending publication in the St. Mary’s Law Journal.

Waddell is completing a master’s degree program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

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