Maj. Jason Brezler made a mistake last year. In his rush to alert fellow Marines about the security risk posed by a shifty Afghan police chief, he sent classified communications over an unclassified network. Brezler realized his mistake immediately and reported what he’d done to his chain of command.
In other words, he did the right thing. Despite Brezler’s warning, three Marines were gunned down in an insider attack, allegedly at the hands of a teenager working for the police chief. Now Brezler faces the end of his military career, accused of substandard performance, misconduct and professional dereliction. An administrative hearing will determine his fate. A reservist, Brezler has extensive combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he’s received high praise from at least two Marine generals who’ve spoken up on his behalf. He’s the sort of officer the Corps needs more of, these generals suggest.
More important, Brezler’s treatment sends the message that in the Marine Corps there’s no room for honest mistakes. That’s a dangerous precedent to set in any line of work, but most assuredly in the military, where even four-star generals will acknowledge that an understanding commander showed them some leniency along the way.
The commandant is a terrific example this. In his quest to recenter the Corps and “hit the reset button on accountability,” Gen. Jim Amos has said that the new law of the land does not mean “zero defects.”
“There are going to be mistakes,” he told Marine Corps Times last spring while reflecting on the patience others exhibited toward him when he was a young officer. “I don’t think you can learn” otherwise.
Brezler’s case is an opportunity for the Corps to act on Amos’ intent — and do the right thing.