The Pentagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into the case of a Green Beret war hero who was recommended for the nation’s highest valor award — the Medal of Honor — by senior military officers in Afghanistan, but instead received a decoration two levels lower.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work requested a review of Army Sgt. 1st Class Earl D. Plumlee’s case in a Sept. 2 letter to Defense Department Inspector General Jon T. Rymer. Work asked Rymer to examine the Medal of Honor nomination and the subsequent decision to award the Silver Star instead.
“In particular, I request that you examine whether there were any deviations from the standard procedures for processing such valor awards,” Work said in his letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
The investigation comes as the Pentagon is set to release the results of a long-awaited review of its awards process, and whether service members have always been recognized appropriately for their heroism in combat. Rank-and-file troops have long questioned how much politics and personalities play a part in the process, which service officials defend as fair and impartial.
Plumlee, a member of 1st Special Forces Group and a former reconnaissance Marine, is credited with playing a leading role in stopping a fierce Taliban assault on Forward Operating Base Ghazni, a coalition installation in eastern Afghanistan. The Aug. 28, 2013, attack was launched with a 400-pound car bomb rocking the eastern side of the base, with insurgents pouring through a hole left in the wall while armed with suicide vests, a grenade launcher, hand grenades and small arms.
Plumlee was nominated for the Medal of Honor by the head of a Special Operations task force in Afghanistan, Army Col. Patrick B. Roberson, two months after the attack, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Senior military officers in Afghanistan at the time — including Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, who will soon become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, who just became the chief of staff of the Army — signed off on the recommendation, typically the largest hurdle to receiving a major valor award.