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Bullets Flyin’, Soldiers Lyin’


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Real Clear Defense

John Waters

May 28 2022


Fred Galvin enlisted in the Marine Corps as a 17-year-old and quickly deployed to combat in the Persian Gulf. A few years later, he commissioned as a Marine officer and served with elite infantry, reconnaissance, and force reconnaissance units. In early 2007, Major Galvin deployed to eastern Afghanistan to lead the first Marine Special Operations (MARSOC) task force in combat.

On March 4, 2007, Galvin and 29 of his Marines were ambushed by a suicide bomber and other insurgents while conducting a mounted reconnaissance patrol along Highway 1 in Bati Kot District. Rocked by the blast but mostly unharmed, the Marines defended themselves and aggressively counterattacked before aborting the mission and returning to base. By that point in his career, Galvin had deployed to combat numerous times, and so he “wasn’t excited or freaking out about the tactical situation” he’d just survived. The actual combat was fairly routine. Galvin and his Marines performed just as they had been trained.

But within 30 minutes of returning to Jalalabad airfield, international media reports alleged the Marines had killed and wounded dozens of Afghans by firing indiscriminately into a crowd of civilians. The allegations were false and later disproven, but not before the Marines were condemned as criminals by the media, public, and top military brass. It took a lengthy inquiry and years of conflict between Galvin and the military bureaucracy to correct the record. And yet, “not once did any uniformed person get up and use a legal term such as “innocent” or “not guilty” to describe us,” Galvin said. “The damage was already done.”

Galvin and co-author Sal Manna tell the full story in their new book, A Few Bad Men (Post Hill Press, 2022). What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.  


What motivates you to tell your story and advocate for changes in the military justice system and at the Pentagon?  

Because we need to take a hard look at the military and its leadership. We are promoting people who are incompetent or unethical or both. Yes, I’m talking about our general officers. Young sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines are led by senior commanders who have a value system that is entirely different than the man in the arena. As my story demonstrates, these leaders want professional destruction of lower-level guys, if it suits their political agenda. Right now, there are senior Marine Corps officers trying to quash my story and stamp out lower-level people who ran afoul of them. As a start, I’d recommend at least a 360-degree evaluation as part of the promotion process. This would help to root out toxic leaders and ensure we’re promoting those who are committed to their Marines and mission accomplishment. The caliber of leadership is directly correlated to the level of morale, which is low across the board. 

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Mar. 22 2022

Maj Fred Galvin is a retired MARSOC Raider, Recon Marine, infantry officer, and combat veteran. He and members of his team were falsely accused of murdering Afghan civilians during an attempted Taliban ambush. Undue command influence, intimidating witnesses, and other illegal means of prosecution were encountered by Fred and his fellow special operators as they fought to clear their names.

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