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New Lawsuit against the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense over Denied Promotion

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maj. Fred C. Galvin (USMC, Ret.), commander of an elite U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations unit falsely accused of war crimes in Afghanistan in 2007 and fully exonerated in 2019, but who was still denied retroactive promotion to lieutenant colonel by the Marine Corps in 2020 despite an otherwise exemplary service record.  The lawsuit was filed against the Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Harker, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. It alleges that the military violated the Administrative Procedure Act and another statute in denying Maj. Galvin a promotion (Maj. Fred Galvin v Thomas Harker et al, (No. 1:21-cv-01813)).

On March 4, 2007, Galvin and 29 members of the Marine Special Operations Company Foxtrot (Fox Company), the first combat unit of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), passed through the Afghan village of Bati Kot, near the Pakistan border, in a six-vehicle convoy. A suicide bomber driving a fuel and explosive-packed van approached the convoy at a high rate of speed. The van detonated, then fighters on both sides of the road opened fire on the convoy. Fox Company fought back and escaped, returning to their base with only one minor casualty. The Afghan government, numerous media outlets, and others falsely accused Maj. Galvin and the unit of war crimes in responding to the attack, and even the U.S. military, after a horribly flawed investigation, called for Galvin and six other Marines be charged with dereliction of duty and negligent homicide. Maj. Galvin was relieved of command, and Fox Company was redeployed out of Afghanistan.

Maj. Galvin and Fox Company were eventually exonerated by a Court of Inquiry that, in a historic finding, found the Marines acted properly and instead faulted both the Air Force colonel who investigated the incidents and senior U.S. military leadership. The Court of Inquiry also found that the Air Force colonel’s findings and conclusions ran counter to the weight of the evidence and faulted senior U.S. leaders for being unable or unwilling to respond appropriately to what was described as an “enemy information operation.” The Court of Inquiry also faulted senior U.S. leaders for failing to stand by Maj. Galvin and Fox Company until competent evidence had been gathered. According to the Court of Inquiry report, “The redeployment of [Fox Company] was based, in large part, on unsubstantiated allegations related to the 4 March 2007 incident. The decision to re-deploy [Fox Company] was influenced by the high level of command, media, and governmental attention focused on the 4 March 2007 incident.” A video produced in 2019 documents what happened to Galvin and Fox Company after the ambush and how false charges ruined their reputations.

Galvin was due to be considered for promotion to lieutenant colonel in August 2010, and although he was exceptionally well-qualified for promotion as compared to his peers, the board did not select him for promotion. Ultimately, he was forced to retire involuntarily from the Marine Corps.

In 2019, a U.S. Navy panel ordered that adverse fitness reports in Maj. Galvin’s service record regarding the 2007 ambush and a later event, in which Maj. Galvin also was found to have acted entirely appropriately, be removed from his service record. The panel also ordered that a special selection board be convened to consider Maj. Galvin for retroactive promotion to lieutenant colonel. The special selection board denied Maj. Galvin promotion again, despite his having an exceptional service record:

(Maj. Galvin) had served in several key leadership billets, a significant marker for promotion. He had extensive combat experience and had been “forward deployed” for more than three years, which also are significant markers for promotion. He had received multiple awards, including a Bronze Star with Combat V, and received glowing comments recommending him for promotion.  Plaintiff also had completed his Professional Military Education promotion requirement by attending the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and completing the Intermediate Level School in 2008. 

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Maj. Galvin was never provided an explanation – a “rational connection to the facts found and the choices made” – for why he was not promoted.

“The Pentagon’s continued refusal to promote Maj. Galvin is an absolute disgrace,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This American hero gave years of his life and his good name to serve our country selflessly and has been denied a well-deserved promotion because of anti-military politics, false narratives, and the cynical choices of his superiors. Judicial Watch is honored to go to court on behalf of Major Galvin, a brave warrior and patriot who first and foremost acted to protect the lives of the soldiers under his command.”

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