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Staffer defends commandant in Facebook comments

Oct. 20, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Lt. Col. Joseph Plenzler (Sgt. Ben J. Flores / United States Marine Corps)

A lieutenant colonel who works in the Marine Corps commandant’s office took to social media to defend the general, saying Gen. Jim Amos did not hijack the investigation into a video showing scout snipers urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Joseph Plenzler commented via Facebook on an Oct. 16 Marine Corps Times story after other readers accused the commandant of manipulating the military justice system to ensure the Marines implicated in the investigation were charged with crimes.

One of them, identified as Kyle Kerns, added that it is “sad” the commandant has never seen a firefight, an apparent reference to Amos, an aviator, not having a Combat Action Ribbon. He adds that retired Gen. James Mattis, an infantry officer, should have been named commandant, not Amos.

Plenzler pushed back, telling the Marines they had their information wrong.

“He has been in many a fight ... probably killed more enemy with his F-18 than any single company of grunts ... has been outside the wire with Marines in both Iraq and Afghanistan ... and General Mattis, who I worked for for 3 years, would be disappointed you posted this,” Plenzler wrote.

Plenzler posted his comments on a story about Gen. John Kelly testifying on behalf of Capt. James Clement, who was facing a board of inquiry assessing whether he was guilty of substandard performance and misconduct for not stopping the snipers from a variety of misdeeds captured on video in 2011. Clement said he was not present when the video was made.

In a separate comment on the story, Plenzler said Clement should be disciplined because he was the senior Marine present.

“He had both the opportunity and obligation to do something,” Plenzler said. “There is an old saying that wherever two Marines are present one is in charge. Without discipline, there is no victory.”

The board, comprising three colonels, decided the following day that there was sufficient evidence to suggest Clement failed to correct other bad behavior by Marines discovered in the Corps’ investigation. They recommended he be honorably discharged.

Plenzler told Marine Corps Times his Facebook comments were not made in an official capacity, and did not represent the opinions of Amos or Mattis. But he acknowledged being frustrated with perceptions some Marines have about the two four-star officers. Mattis is frequently lauded for his toughness, while some Marines criticize Amos for having an aviation background.

“There’s a misconception out there that General Mattis was not about good order and discipline,” Plenzler said in an interview. “Having worked for General Mattis ... I think he’d be pretty disappointed to see this.”

Plenzler’s comments came after a staff judge advocate working on the urination video cases, Maj. James Weirick, filed an inspector general complaint in March alleging that the commandant or members of his staff had illegally meddled in the legal process in an attempt to ensure harsh punishment for the Marines involved. Marine officials insist the integrity of the military justice system has been maintained.

Plenzler later removed his comments because he realized his “proximity to the commandant was being misconstrued for an official position from his office.”

“To avoid any confusion on the matter, I removed the posts,” he said.

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