By Debbie Gregory.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland’s Army career changed course during his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.
The Green Beret was facing discharge for striking an Afghan local police officer, one who had allegedly confessed to raping a boy and then beating the child’s mother for telling authorities.
Called bacha bazi, or “boy play,” the custom is practiced in Afghanistan and Iraq. Academics say the abuse of these “tea boys” is a product of sexual repression in traditional cultures and also poverty, as it is poor children who are usually preyed upon.
Martland has served in the Special Forces for 11 years. Many of his teammates say that he is the finest soldier they have ever served alongside.
Martland had fallen under the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, a process that can be triggered by derogatory information on their record. Though technically not a draw-down tool, it is aiding in force reduction efforts by weeding out less desirable soldiers; a black mark on their record, such as a relief for cause, can trigger a formal QMP review and result in involuntary separation.
After a fight to save his career, the Army has reversed from an earlier decision that raised ire in some corners, including U.S Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who introduced legislation on the soldier’s behalf.
Hunter, who led the fight to save Martland’s career, praised the Army’s move.
“They did the right thing. We finally kind of broke through the bureaucratic bulls–t barrier that they’ve created,” Hunter said. “This lets me know that there are people in the Army and the Defense Department and (acting Army Secretary) Patrick Murphy … they understand warfare. It’s not a game.”
U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote to the Army on Martland’s behalf. The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization also advocated for the soldier.
Justice has prevailed for an outstanding soldier who did the right thing for the right reasons.