Green Beret Afghanistan Hero Stripped of Award for ‘Undisclosed’ Violation

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The Army stripped former Capt. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Afghanistan War hero, of the prestigious Silver Star award, citing an investigation for an “undisclosed” violation of the military’s rules of engagement, The Washington Post reports.

Capt. Golsteyn, now a major, was also denied the Distinguished Service Cross after the Army had already approved him for it. The Distinguished Service Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing a soldier’s valor in combat.

The Army also “stripped the officer’s Special Forces tab,” according to Army Times.

In revoking the captain’s award, the Army cited an investigation, but little else. He was never charged with a crime.

The Army refuses to disclose specific details of the violation that led to the captain losing his award.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has accused the Army of failing to find a shred of evidence during its investigation, which lasted a year and a half.

In an article published by The Daily Beast, Rep. Hunter said Golsteyn’s comrades have been both intimidated and promised immunity in an effort to implicate the captain in wrongdoing.

“In a rare reversal, however, Golsteyn, now a major, no longer has either award. The officer, a former member of the 3rd Special Forces Group and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., was later investigated for an undisclosed violation of the military’s rules of engagement in combat for killing a known enemy fighter and bomb maker, according to officials familiar with the case,” reports The Post.

President Obama has changed the rules of engagement.

“The investigation closed last year without Golsteyn’s being charged with a crime, but Army Secretary John M. McHugh decided not only to deny Golsteyn the Distinguished Service Cross, but also to revoke his Silver Star,” it added.

“The decision is still shrouded in mystery because of the secretive nature of the Army’s investigation into Golsteyn, who did extensive work with U.S. Marines in and around Marja in Helmand province,” noted The Post. “An online Defense Department database of top valor awards still included Golsteyn’s Silver Star as of Wednesday afternoon and said the information was current as of Jan. 30.”

On February 20, 2010, Capt. Golsteyn led a Special Forces team into battle in Helmand, Afghanistan. That was the deadliest year of the Afghanistan war, which started Oct. 7, 2001. Helmand is the deadliest province of the war.

The captain assembled an 80-man mission to go after terrorist snipers.

Many things went wrong during the operation, but Capt. Golsteyn, through his leadership and bravery, took the reins of the situation.

With a unit vehicle sunk in mud, a gunshot hit an Afghan soldier fighting alongside the U.S., and terrorists were able to plow the fields with machine-gun fire.

“Golsteyn’s Silver Star came for actions on Feb. 20, 2010. He assembled his unit after his base had come under sniper fire from an insurgent wielding a Dragunov rifle, according to an Army narrative of his actions,” The Washington Post explained.

“He directed his troops to launch an assault across 700 meters of open fields, but an armored truck known as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle sank into mud under gunfire after about 175 meters,” The Post continued. “Under heavy machine-gun and sniper fire, Golsteyn ran about 150 meters to the trapped MRAP to retrieve a powerful 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, an anti-tank weapon.”

He arranged the medication evacuation of the wounded Afghan soldier while he was under gunfire. Then, he opened fire himself against the terrorists using the Carl Gustav he retrieved, an Army narrative obtained by The Post reveals.

“Captain Golsteyn was alone running in the open through enemy gun fire that had over 80 men pinned down, and from the crow’s nest on top of [Forward Operating Base] McQueary, it looked like Captain Golsteyn was alone fighting 30 enemy fighters out in the poppy fields,” also said the narrative.

In 2011, Capt. Gosteyn received the Silver Star for his bravery during a ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Nevertheless, despite his display of sheer courage, the Army revoked the captain’s Silver Star and he was denied the Distinguished Service Cross.

U.S. Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, then-the deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, approved the Silver Star for Golsteyn.

“I firmly believe that had he known about the derogatory information that was [found] by the aforementioned investigation, he would have never awarded Major Golsteyn the Silver Star,” Army Secretary McHugh said in a Nov. 17 letter to Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R.-CA), who has advocated on Golsteyn’s behalf, The Post reported.  “Accordingly, I have decided to revoke the interim Silver Star that Major Golsteyn received for this action.”