Joseph Chamblin, a former scout sniper who faced fines and whose rank was reduced after he participated in the 2011 filming of Marines urinating on the corpses of three Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, is now a retired gunnery sergeant.
The Navy moved this week to award Chamblin the rank for which he was meritoriously recommended before the scandal. He had been demoted to sergeant from staff sergeant after pleading guilty in 2012 at a special court-martial.
But the service stopped short of giving the medically retired Marine what he had requested: the rank, all back pay and full retirement.
In a letter dated June 29 and obtained by Military.com, the Board for Correction of Naval Records informed Chamblin that he would be promoted retroactively to gunnery sergeant, back to Feb. 1, 2012, and would receive the associated additional pay for the rank for the period from that date to Sept. 29, 2013, when he was medically discharged.
The board also agreed to clear his record, removing “all documentation leading to and stemming from” Chamblin’s special court-martial.
“I’ll get a new DD-214, I’ll get all my paperwork — my enrollment in DEERS — changed. I’ll get my back pay. That’s pretty much it,” Chamblin explained in a phone call with Military.com Thursday.
Chamblin filed for correction of his military records after the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Criminal Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2017 on the basis that former Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John Amos had interfered in the investigation, exerting “unlawful command influence” on several occasions with investigators, including then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the case’s consolidated decision authority.
Chamblin and three other Marines were filmed urinating on the bodies of three Afghan men whom Chamblin said had been planting roadside bombs and recently engaged his team, part of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, in a firefight. The Marines also suspected that the men had been involved in the death of a Marine in their unit a few days before.
A scandal erupted over the incident when a video of the event was posted on YouTube in January 2012. The Marine Corps saw it as an embarrassment; the administration of President Barack Obama called it “deplorable” and a violation of the Geneva Convention.
Ultimately, eight Marines were punished as a result. But the case didn’t disappear: In 2013, Marine attorney Maj. James Weirick raised concerns that the corps’ top officer, Amos, had interfered with the investigation into the incident, saying the accused needed to be “crushed” and pressing for courts-martial for all involved.
Chamblin filed an appeal based on Amos’ interference and the appellate court agreed:
“This is an unusually flagrant example of UCI. We find that UCI this direct, and occurring at this level, is highly corrosive to public trust in this proceeding,” the judges wrote.
In Chamblin’s request for correction of his record, the board was split on the decision to give him retirement, according to the letter. The majority wanted to award him retirement under the temporary early retirement authority, or TERA, which was a 15-year retirement incentive offered to military personnel beginning in 2012 to coincide with the drawdown of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the minority argued against retirement, saying that the “restoration of rights and privileges did not require action beyond what he would have been eligible for if the injustice had not occurred” — a reference to Amos’ actions and the unlawful command influence.
The board’s executive director, Elizabeth Hill, concluded that any corrective action was “unwarranted” and recommended only to restore Chamblin’s rank to staff sergeant — the rank he held before the legal proceedings began.
But without any explanation, Catherine Kessmeier, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, sided with the minority.
The Chamblin decision is the second in a month by the Navy involving the decade-old scandal. On June 16, the Board for Corrections of Naval Records also cleared the record of Marine Capt. James Clement, the most senior Marine punished in the aftermath.
Clement did not participate in the incident, but as executive officer for Kilo Company, 3/2, he was held responsible in a 2013 Board of Inquiry, with the presiding officers saying he should have supervised his Marines more carefully. They voted to separate him from the corps with an honorable discharge.
The records board awarded him separation pay lost as a result of the disciplinary proceedings and forwarded a recommendation that he receive the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal he’d been submitted for prior to the scandal.
As with the Chamblin case, Hill also recommended denying Clement’s request.
Chamblin, 44, finished a book about his team, the incident and the war in Afghanistan. He now works in security for the Department of Energy and runs a construction company and says he is happy to be a civilian.
But he is bitter that the board’s decision took years and disappointed that he didn’t receive regular retirement.
“The money isn’t the point. I make plenty of money, and I know how to make money. The point is that they took 10 years to do the right thing, and they still didn’t do it entirely right,” Chamblin told Military.com during a brief interview Thursday.
He also is angry that Amos is drawing a four-star retirement and never faced any judicial proceedings.
“How about prosecuting [expletive] Amos for his unlawful command influence instead of letting him sit there and collect his [expletive] retirement,” Chamblin said. “They are not going to touch him, though, because he is rich and he’s got money.”
— Military.com Managing Editor Hope Hodge Seck contributed to the report.
— Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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