Military News

Green Beret who beat Afghan leader over child’s rape gets more time to fight Army discharge

A Green Beret facing an involuntary discharge from the Army because of discipline he received for assaulting an Afghan militia leader after a boy’s rape will get more time to appeal his case, the Army announced Tuesday.

The decision is a temporary reprieve for Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, formerly of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 1st Special Forces Group.

It was a courtesy to Martland’s supporters in Congress who say that he shouldn’t be discharged because he “stood up to a child rapist.”

Martland, 33, had been selected for a discharge this year in a sweeping Army downsizing that is cutting soldiers with demerits in their service records.

The derogatory mark for Martland was his September 2011 assault of an Afghan police commander on the U.S. military’s payroll after the Afghan admitted raping a boy. It violated Special Forces’ standards that require soldiers to try to motivate allies rather than use force to change behavior.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, took up Martland’s case Tuesday in a phone call with Secretary of the Army John McHugh. Thornberry is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Thornberry put much of the blame for the Army’s decision to discharge Martland on an Army drawdown that is shedding about 120,000 active-duty soldiers from its peak strength during the Iraq War.

Martland would have been able to stay in the Army despite the discipline if not for those cuts. Still, Thornberry said Martland’s case warranted more consideration.

“In my review of Sgt. 1st Class Martland’s case, I noted potential procedural errors in due process. I believe the best recourse now would be to allow Sgt. 1st Class Martland to remain in the Army long enough for him to prepare an appeal with adequate military counsel and for the Army to act on such an appeal.”

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Justin Platt later released a statement saying McHugh agreed to give Martland 60 days for an appeal “out of respect for Chairman Thornberry.”

“While the material in Sgt. Martland’s file required that he be considered by the (downsizing) board, it is our desire to ensure every soldier receives fairness and due process, and we continue to act accordingly,” Platt said.

The News Tribune reported on Martland’s pending discharge on Aug. 31. The New York Times later wrote about the case, which spurred a new round of congressional inquiries in defense of Martland.

Influential men in Afghanistan sometimes take part in an illegal but fairly common practice of taking boys as sexual partners. The practice is known as bacha bazi.

Martland and the commanding officer leading his Special Forces team, then-Capt. Dan Quinn, lost patience with the practice after they noticed Afghan leaders in their outpost repeatedly condoning behavior they found morally repugnant.

Quinn, who has since left the Army, told The News Tribune that he and Martland beat up the police commander after they learned of his sexual assault from the victim’s mother.

Quinn and Martland “felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our (Afghan local police) to commit atrocities,” Martland wrote in an earlier appeal of his discharge.

Martland now is a well-regarded instructor at an underwater Special Operations training course in Key West, Florida.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646