The news keeps getting worse and worse out of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), as yet another Special Operations soldier, retired Green Beret and contractor Rick Rodriguez was killed in Iraq, not in combat. But by the hands of our own troops. Two senior NCOs (Gunnery Sergeants) from the Marines and a Navy Corpsman are under investigation in the incident.
This latest black eye for SOCOM occurred on New Year’s Eve in Erbil, Iraq, which is the center of the Kurdish territory after a dispute in the post gym. The Marines and Navy troops are assigned to Erbil as advisors from a Marine SOF unit operating in Northern Iraq working with the Kurds and Iraqi forces in the area.
Rodriguez, a 20-year retired Green Beret was working as a contractor for Lockheed-Martin and supposedly was beaten by the men and left unconscious. He was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where he was taken off life support on January 4th after his wife and children flew from Ft. Bragg, NC and agreed to that.
Rodriguez was a very well-known and respected member of the Special Forces community and was always known as a peacemaker rather than a troublemaker or a hothead. His most recent posts on Facebook would also point to that as well. He would frequently post pictures from his workouts as a place of refuge and for his peace of mind. One recent post had this: “This makes sense to me. This right here. This place. This sanctuary. This quiets the thoughts. Calms the nerves. In here I feel like my old self,” he wrote in his Facebook post.
Lockheed Martin released a statement where they said that the company “was saddened to learn of the loss of one of our employees, who was fatally injured while supporting Special Operations Forces within the Operation Inherent Resolve area of operations in a noncombat-related incident.”
They added, “We are supporting the Naval Criminal Investigation Service as they conduct an investigation into the circumstances of his death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and we are committed to supporting them during this difficult time.”
The Navy’s NCIS would only confirm that this latest incident was under investigation but declined to give any details. MARSOC gave the typical no-informational statement, saying, “MARSOC is providing all requested support to investigators as they look into this incident,” MARSOC spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler said. However, the Marines and the Navy Corpsman were not being detained and are still on duty in Iraq.
There have been multiple sources reporting that “there were a lot of witnesses.
This investigation is the latest of several ugly incidents stemming from deadly misconduct among the U.S. Special Operations community. Back in November, two Navy SEALs and two Marines were charged with murdering Army SSG Logan Melgar, who was strangled in his apartment in Mali in 2017. The SEALs and Marines in that case also were charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing, and burglary. If convicted, they could face life imprisonment or potentially the death penalty.
In two other cases, a Navy SEAL and an Army Green Beret are under investigation for murders of ISIS or Taliban combatants. Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward R. Gallagher, 39, has been charged with premeditated murder and other offenses in connection with the fatal stabbing of a teenage Islamic State prisoner under his control in Iraq in 2017, as well as with the shooting of unarmed Iraqi civilians.
Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn after he allegedly told the CIA interviewers while applying for a job at the agency, that he had killed a Taliban bomb maker in 2010. The Army Criminal Investigation Command investigated, ending with Golsteyn receiving an official reprimand and having his Silver Star and Special Forces tab revoked.
The case was later reopened after Golsteyn appeared on Fox News in 2016 and claimed he killed the man due to a concern that he would target Afghans who were assisting U.S. troops.
This was after the Commander of SOCOM General Tony Thomas issued a command internal review after several cases of the command running amuck with severe cases of misconduct and an aura of entitlement that is permeating the force.
“Left unchecked, an eroded values system threatens to erode the trust of our fellow comrades, our senior leaders, and ultimately the American people,” GeneralThomas wrote.
“A survey of allegations of misconduct across our formations over the last year indicate the USSOCOM faces a deeper challenge of a disordered view of the Team and the Individual in our SOF Culture.”
“No component or command has escaped this trend and all of us will feel the disproportionate and negative impacts of these incidents on our missions and people,” Thomas wrote.
And it hasn’t just been U.S. troops as elements of the Australian Special Operations Forces have been under investigation for murder as well as other war crimes.