Government: Capt. Clement did nothing wrong, he just did nothing

21 Oct 2013 | Sgt. Justin M. Boling

A Marine Corps board of inquiry recommended a commissioned officer be administratively separated after reviewing his actions during a combat patrol with the scout snipers who were filmed urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan in 2011, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Oct. 14-16.

Capt. James Clement was charged with substandard performance of duty, misconduct, and moral or professional dereliction for his performance while deployed in 2011. 

The board, made up of three colonels, concluded that Clement was not derelict in his duties on the day of the combat patrol, but he did demonstrate a substandard performance of his duties as a Marine Corps commissioned officer.

The classification of Clement’s separation will be honorable. The recommendation will be forwarded to the Secretary of the Navy for full review.

Clement, an infantry officer was charged for his failure to correct and guide the combat operations performed by scout snipers, with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Four of the snipers were involved in the filmed desecration of the dead enemy combatants in Musa Qala, Afghanistan, July 27, 2011.

Beyond the video, the Marines’ helmet mounted cameras captured more than ten hours of footage depicting what the board determined was negligence by Clement for not watching the undisciplined and unprofessional conduct of the patrol.

Clement, who had been promoted to captain six months prior, served as the executive officer for Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, when he volunteered to serve as a communications officer for Sniper Team 4. Clement volunteered in order to provide more efficient reporting to higher headquarters during their next patrol.

Though the patrol was officially a Kilo Company operation, it was scout sniper-commanded. It was the first combat patrol of Clement’s career.

The 20-man patrol conducted a successful ambush killing three insurgents after arriving at their target. The snipers defaced and destroyed civilian property including cutting a rope which allowed civilians to draw water from a well, and attempting to slash the tires of a tractor.

After patrolling the area looking for a reported automatic grenade launcher and insurgents, they began applying suppressive fire at an adjacent building.

Clement operated the radio for four hours during the evolution of the firefight. Testimony stated, Clement was fully engrossed with radio communication and failed to lead or correct the Marines.

The defense representatives likened the scout sniper’s use of a 240B machine gun to firing in a training environment instead of combat. All the snipers were stacked around the weapon with little or no cover and were not wearing their helmets. Two Marines without helmets left the cover of the building to retrieve a wounded insurgent to provide medical aid. Clement also removed his helmet while performing radio operations while the patrol engaged targets.

The scout sniper team supplied suppressive fire to an area they had patrolled earlier and reported no hostiles present. They engaged with aggressive firing of 240B machineguns, M-40 bolt-action sniper rifles, a captured enemy machine gun and an AT4 rocket launcher with broken rear sights.  The target area lay within meters of the fleeing civilian populace, which the sniper team noticed while firing.

The team also experienced a misfire of a M203 grenade launcher, which launched the grenade vertically in an arc putting the whole patrol in danger. These actions happened without any fire control or correction being made by Clement, who was within sixty feet of these activities on the roof of an adjacent building.

At the end of the combat patrol 12 insurgents were killed and there were no Marine, ally or civilian casualties.

Headquarters Marine Corps