Green Beret officer's Silver Star revoked as Army cites investigation


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice


Soldiers, friends and family members of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) filled an auditorium at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 15, 2011, as 30 soldiers from the group were honored -- among them was Capt. Matthew L. Golsteyn who received a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan in February 2010. The Army, however has decided to revoke the award from Golsteyn.

WASHINGTON — Capt. Mathew L. Golsteyn was leading a Special Forces team in Afghanistan in 2010 when an 80-man mission he assembled to hunt insurgent snipers went awry. One of their five vehicles sunk into mud, a gunshot incapacitated an Afghan soldier fighting alongside the Americans, and insurgents maneuvered around them to rake the soggy fields with machine-gun fire.

Golsteyn, already a decorated Green Beret officer, responded with calm resolve and braved enemy fire repeatedly that day, according to an Army summary of his actions. He received the Silver Star for valor for his actions on Feb. 20, 2010, during a 2011 ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C. Top Army officials later approved him for an upgrade to the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor in honoring heroism in combat by U.S. soldiers.

In a rare reversal, however, Golsteyn, now a major, no longer has either award. The Special Forces officer was later investigated for an undisclosed violation of the military's rules of engagement in combat for killing a known enemy fighter and bombmaker, according to officials familiar with the case. The investigation closed last year without Golsteyn being charged with any crime, but Army Secretary John McHugh decided to not only deny him the Distinguished Service Cross, but to revoke his Silver Star, too.

McHugh cited a provision in Army regulations that state that if facts become known that would have prevented a medal from being awarded, it can be revoked. The Silver Star was approved by a top commander in Afghanistan — Gen. David Rodriguez, then the three-star deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan — according to Golsteyn's lawyer, Phil Stackhouse.

"I firmly believe that had he known about the derogatory information that was founded by the aforementioned investigation, he would have never awarded Major Golsteyn the Silver Star," McHugh said in a Nov. 17 letter to Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R.-Calif., who has advocated on Golsteyn's behalf. "Accordingly, I have decided to revoke the interim Silver Star that Major Golsteyn received for this action."

The decision is still shrouded in mystery due to the secretive nature of the Army's investigation into Golsteyn, who spent extensive time working with U.S. Marines in and around Marja in Helmand province. An online Defense Department database of top valor awards still included Golsteyn's Silver Star as of Wednesday afternoon and said the information was current as of Jan. 30.

A spokesman for McHugh's office declined to comment on Wednesday, and said the Army was preparing a response to questions posed by The Post on Tuesday.

Hunter, a former Marine officer and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, alleged in the Daily Beast on Tuesday that the Army "went to extraordinary lengths" to investigate Golsteyn, threatening his fellow soldiers and offering them immunity. In a Dec. 4 letter to Army Human Resources Command, Hunter said the decision appears to be "retaliatory and vindictive."

"The Army has been unable to present substantive evidence while an overwhelming number of first-person accounts provided to Army investigators uphold Matt's record as a top-level operator," said Hunter's letter, which was released by the congressman's office to The Post.

Golsteyn's lawyer said the investigation into the Army officer's actions was launched in 2011, less than a year after he received the Silver Star. He remains assigned to Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, and is in the process of determining what to do with his future.

"In the summer of 2014, we were certainly under the impression that everything was done and complete," said Stackhouse. "The revocation of his valor awards came out of left field to us."

The decision also raises the question whether the military should strip troops of awards they have earned if they are found to do something wrong later.

On the day in question, Golsteyn assembled his unit after his base had come under sniper fire from a Dragunov rifle, according to an Army narrative of his actions. He directed his troops to launch an assault across 700 meters of open fields, but an armored truck known as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle sank into mud under gunfire after about 175 meters.

Under heavy machine-gun and sniper fire, Golsteyn ran about 150 meters to the trapped MRAP to retrieve a powerful 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, an anti-tank weapon. While moving under gunfire, he coordinated a medical evacuation for the wounded Afghan soldier, and then opened fire with the Carl Gustav, said the Army narrative, obtained by The Post.

"Captain Golsteyn was alone running in the open through enemy gun fire that had over 80 men pinned down, and from the crow's nest on top of [Forward Operating Base] McQueary, it looked like Captain Golsteyn was alone fighting 30 enemy fighters out in the poppy fields," the award narrative said.

Enemy reinforcements continued to arrive on the battlefield, so Golsteyn organized airstrikes by both a F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets and a Predator drone. No American or coalition troops were killed in the battle despite a barrage of enemy fire that lasted four hours, the narrative said.

Golsteyn has been critical of the mission he was assigned in the past. In the 2011 Bing West book "The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan," he is quoted as saying that the Americans were considered insurgents in Afghanistan who were "selling a poor product called the Kabul government."

West later wrote in a review of a book about another Special Force soldier, Maj. Jim Gant, that the careers of Gant, Golsteyn and a third Green Beret, Dan McKone, were "terminated," assessing that the Army failed them without elaborating on Golsteyn's case. West could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Golsteyn wrote about his assignment in Afghanistan in a June 2014 academic paper for a class at Fayetteville State University. The paper, published online, covers his 2010 deployment and says that his team — known as a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha, or A-Team — operated in multiple two- and three-man teams across the area they were assigned. Over time, local tribesmen grew to trust them, especially after three weeks of fighting in Marja, he added.

"We enjoyed repeated interactions with the local populace because we lived with them, fighting for them as well as alongside them," Golsteyn wrote. "In a 60 day period, our medical clinic run by Green Berets with several Marine medics treated approximately 1,000 local Afghans. We executed multiple helicopter casualty evacuations for civilian victims of [improvised explosive devices] in addition to being the first responders to the scene in nearly every case."
Army looks like a sulky petulant child right now, who didn't get their own way and decided to take away someone's toy. I'll be rather interested to see what the nature of this investigation was.
So he did this heroic thing and was awarded, but later did some unmentionable act and had an award pulled? In that manner? :rolleyes:

Pardon me while I wait for the Paul Harvey moment...
So he did this heroic thing and was awarded, but later did some unmentionable act and had an award pulled? In that manner? :rolleyes:

Pardon me while I wait for the Paul Harvey moment...
That's the back story, but they won't reveal what the investigators were looking for.
He'll retire as a Major, write a non-vetted book and make lots of money.
Army looks like a sulky petulant child right now, who didn't get their own way and decided to take away someone's toy. I'll be rather interested to see what the nature of this investigation was.

So he did this heroic thing and was awarded, but later did some unmentionable act and had an award pulled? In that manner? :rolleyes:

Pardon me while I wait for the Paul Harvey moment...

I'm very curious as to WTF happened with all this. I'm sure it will all come out at some point in time.

The Pom's used to revoke VCs back in the day (can't be done presently), I recall one winner in the 1800's who later had it revoked for stealing a cow. O_o
This is my first post after a long interval here. I learned about this from two diferent articles, one from Congressman Duncan Hunter and the other from a Marine that seems to know Golsteyn. I found them interesting and totally infuriating if this is the way things played out. But being an outsider I have no way of knowing.
Nevertheless, here are the links for anybody interested.

Now, I can understand if a medal is withdrown because the recipient was found guilty of some criminal act. But being acquitted and having your valor medal withdrawn seems totally unjust. And the fact that this same officer was a critic of the war effort in Stan in Bing West's book make this case even more fishy!
I just heard about this on a Marine website. Bing West is a fellow brother from the Combined Action Program who's written extensively about OIF/OEF. Sounds like the Army is throwing Golsteyn, Gant and McKone under the bus for their criticisms of policy in OEF. Golsteyn must have rocked the boat in West's book.
This case has taken an interesting turn of events recently. Apparently, Maj. Golsteyn was interviewing for an Agency job and at some point derogatory information came up. Officials at Langley shared this with the Army, who now not only are stripping Golsteyn of his DSC, but his Special Forces tab. To a lay person like me, this case seems incredibly bizarre.
CIA job interview leads to criminal investigation of Green Beret
A Green Beret officer who was stripped of a prestigious valor award and dropped from the Special Forces fell out of favor with Army officials after the CIA shared information it gathered about him while he was going through screening for a potential job, according to officials familiar with the case.

Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn was investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Command for an undisclosed violation of the U.S. military’s rules of engagement in 2010 that resulted in the death of a known enemy fighter and bombmaker in Helmand province, Afghanistan, according to the officials. The Army closed a lengthy investigation last summer without charging Golsteyn with any crime, but Army Secretary John McHugh revoked a Silver Star that Golsteyn had been awarded for heroism on Feb. 20, 2010, during the iconic Battle of Marja.

The Army also took away Golsteyn’s Special Forces tab, a qualification that goes to any soldier who completes Special Forces training, and reassigned him to the conventional Army as an infantry officer, several officials said. He is in the process of determining his future with the Army, said his lawyer, Phil Stackhouse.

It’s an uncommon fall for a commander who led a 3rd Special Forces Group team in combat. Golsteyn received the Silver Star in 2011 for braving enemy fire numerous times as a captain on a day in which his team came under attack while hunting an enemy sniper team that had opened fire on their patrol base, according to an Army summary of action. Army officials later approved an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross — considered one level down from the Medal of Honor in honoring combat heroism — but ultimately decided Golsteyn deserved neither.

Neither the Army nor Stackhouse have been willing to elaborate on the allegations he faced, and Golsteyn declined to be interviewed through his lawyer. But three sources with knowledge of the investigation told The Washington Post that the Army began probing Golsteyn’s actions after he interviewed for a job with the CIA. Todd Ebitz, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment.

Golsteyn’s story received attention after Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R.-Calif.) wrote a piece for the Daily Beast this week that accused Army investigators of threatening the men who served under Golsteyn and offering them immunity in exchange for their testimony. None of his fellow soldiers were willing to speak to investigators, Hunter said. Chris Grey, a spokesman for Army CID, confirmed they investigated Golsteyn, but declined additional comment.

An independent expert on military awards, Doug Sterner, said it is highly uncommon in the military for a prestigious valor award like the Silver Star to be stripped away later. Sterner, An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, questioned whether it was fair to do so.

“His award went through the process,” Sterner said. “It was properly vetted, it was properly processed and it was awarded for a single act at a moment in time.”

A number of influential people have advocated on Golsteyn’s behalf. In addition to Hunter, Medal of Honor recipient William D. Swenson wrote a letter that was circulated on Capitol Hill and said he would “gladly stand with [Golsteyn] on any battlefield against any enemy.” Swenson wrote they went through training together early in their careers, but were brought back together through “unfortunate circumstances” that he does not describe.

“Having now known Golsteyn through the course of his career as an Officer, I can truly say he is the finest Officer I have served with,” said Swenson’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post. “He stands apart. When our nation calls for warriors to defeat our enemies, it calls for Officers like Matt Golsteyn.”

Swenson, who received the nation’s top award for valor in 2013, could not be reached for comment.

A recently retired Marine officer, Col. Randall Newman, who led infantry operations during the Battle of Marja, also has advocated for Golsteyn on several occasions and written letters on his behalf, he told The Post on Friday. Golsteyn led operations in the southern portion of what had been a Taliban stronghold, and had his complete trust, Newman said.

“Matt is a very conscientious guy, and probably one of his greatest attributes is that he is one of the harshest critics of himself,” Newman said. “I can see him being a guy and being involved in an action, and then wondering afterward if he had done the right thing.”

Newman said he was interviewed by Army investigators, but is not clear on all the specifics of the allegations against Golsteyn.

“Until someone produces some viable evidence that he has done something wrong, he should be treated as an innocent man,” Newman said. “Matt has been exposed to what I imagine is the worst punishment possible for a warrior, which is being benched.”

The Washington Free Beacon is also reporting that the Army has begun proceedings to kick him out of the Army. It's difficult to get a read on this story. At first glimpse, it seems like the Army was very upset over his comments to Bing West and railroaded him over that, but this new information from the agency suggests that whatever he did could have been incredibly bad. I posit this question to SF members of the site: what kinds of crime does a soldier have to commit not only to get an prestigious award revoked, but also their tab? Is there a possibility that this isn't just a case of Big Army (or someone higher up) having it out for him because of his comments?

EDIT: As an aside, I came across a critique of this case from an interesting site called Veterans Today, who bills the case against Major "Goldsteyn"(sic) as "...retaliation against Jews in the military as part of the president’s personal war on Israel." :rolleyes:
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The Army comes out looking very stupid the way they are going.
They need to release the allegation against him and justify their actions.
CIA loses too, they just don't know it yet.
@Deathy McDeath I have no idea what constitutes such swift and aggressive action to take his awards and his tab (aside from any major felony). No one where I work is talking about this and I can't find a single guy who worked with him. I'd have an easier time getting teeth from a rabid tiger. The only thing I know is he is being set in position for removal from military service. That decision rests with the CG. His name is no longer on the Silver Star recipient list.

The Battle of Marja is legendary here. A lot of commanders and men saw their stars rise after it, and rightfully so.

Whatever happens, I hope the truth wins the day. The tragedy is not only his career ruined but an entire cohort of his peers and subordinates may never know the real story.
At first glimpse, it seems like the Army was very upset over his comments to Bing West...

Publicly critisizing higher command usually gets a reprimand or an invitiation to resign. But stripping someone of his SF tab? That indicates he might have done something to bring discredit or disgrace to Special Forces. Over the years we've seen some dubious charges leveled against fighting men, some politically motivated, so the Major gets the benefit of the doubt in my book. The Army better have it's shit together on this one because they've already convicted him.

They've managed to treat the Bergdahl affair with more tact.
Yeah, Paul Harvey...

You don't strip a tab for something minor or without a protracted investigation. Then he lost the Silver Star over this?

Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn was investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Command for an undisclosed violation of the U.S. military’s rules of engagement in 2010 that resulted in the death of a known enemy fighter and bombmaker in Helmand province, Afghanistan, according to the officials.

Some of you know the guy I'm talking about, no I won't repeat his name, but he was threatened for a 15-6 over smoking a guy with an RPG. While I think that's patent BS, it shows how sacred the ROE have become. When you need a lawyer's approval to pull the trigger? Sad. In other words, maybe the charge against the Major is sufficient, but without facts I'd give him the benefit of doubt because a "ROE violation" ranges from the small to My Lai 2.0; it is incredibly vague. Gant...he flaunted his violations, hung a neon sign around his neck, and even if you don't agree with his dismissal I'd like to think no one can condone the manner in which he "informed" everyone about his story and big, bad Mother Army.

The only good part of this article is no one's really talking. For once no one is leaking the details. Otherwise, this thing is a bucket of fail and will remain so until more facts are available. Owing to a lack of details taking a side right now is asinine.