The Tragic End of Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton in Afghanistan
by Diana West
On August 2, 2012, while many millions of Americans were either on, refreshed from or perhaps contemplating their summer vacation, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton and another U.S. soldier stepped on an IED in a mine-riddled field in Afghanistan. They were both killed. Sitton's sacrifice came to our attention all too briefly in September when a letter he had written to his Congressman in desperation about the strategic futility of such patrolling -- a COIN (COunter INsurgency) staple -- became public.
In looking back on the year, it is important not to forget what Sitton wrote. The recklessness and failures of COIN must still be addressed by the nation.
From September 21:
Below is an extraordinary, heart-stopping and historic letter. It is a letter SSG Matthew Sitton sent to U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young after his commanders in Afghanistan told him to "quit whining" about orders to lead patrols without objective "through, for lack of a better term, basically a mine field on a daily basis," as Sitton wrote.
Twice daily basis, in fact. On August 2, 2012, Sitton and another U.S. soldier were killed in one the IED-riddled field he spoke of. Eighty-one-year-old Rep. Young, who attends the same church in Florida as the Sitton family, this week announced he no longer supports the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and called for their withdrawal in advance of 2014.
Young also held a hearing yesterday to ask the agency in charge of protecting troops against IEDs to explain why so many are still dying and suffering horrific injuries despite an annual budget of nearly $3 billion.
It is time for Sitton's commanders and their commanders and on up the chain of command to be questioned, to talk to We, the People about who devised and signed off on this morally and militarily bankrupt doctrine -- counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy -- that patriots such as Matthew Sitton have paid for with their lives.
It is time for Generals Petraeus, McChrystal, Allen, Dempsey, Admiral Mullen and many more to face us and explain. It is also time for former President Bush and his advisors and President Obama and his advisors to answer for the failure of their misbegotten and irresponsible policy of nation-building in the Islamic world, which COIN supports.
The following letter by Matthew Sitton, RIP, is the right place to start:
Hello my name is SSG Matthew Sitton. I am in the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Ft. Bragg, NC. I am currently deployed with the 4th Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I am writing you because I am concerned for the safety of my soldiers. This is my 3rd combat tour to Afghanistan, so I have seen the transition in Rules of Engagement and Overall Tactics over the past 6 years.
I am only writing this email because I feel myself and my soldiers are being put into unnecessary positions where harm and danger are imminent. I know the threat of casualties in war and am totally on board with sacrifice for my country, but what I don't agree with is the chain of command making us walk through, for lack of a better term, basically a mine field on a daily basis.
I am in a platoon of 25 soldiers. We are operating at a tempo that is set for a full 35-40 man infantry platoon. We have been mandated to patrol twice daily for 2-4 hours each patrol on top of guarding our FOB [Forward Operating Base] and conducting routine maintenance of our equipment.
There is no endstate or purpose for the patrols given to us from our higher chain of command, only that we will be out for a certain time standard.
I am all for getting on the ground and fighting for my country when I know there is a desired endstate, and we have clear guidance of what needs to be done. But when we are told basically to just walk around for a certain amount of time, it doesn't sit well with me.
As a Brigade, we are averaging at a minimum an amputee a day from our soldiers because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives. Not to mention that the operation tempo that every solider is on leaves little to no time for rest and refit.
The moral and alertness levels on our patrol are low and it is causing casualties left and right.
Here is an example of how bad things have gotten. Our small FOB was flooded accidentally by a local early one morning a few days ago. He was watering his fields and the dam he had broke and water came flooding into our living area.
Since our FOB does not have any portable bathrooms, we had to dig a hole in the ground where soldiers could use the bathroom. That also got flooded and contaminated all the water that later soaked every soldier and his gear.
Instead of returning to base and cleaning up, our chain of command was so set on us meeting the brigade commanders 2 patrols a day guidance that they made us move outside the flooded FOB and conduct our patrols soaked in urine.
That is just one single instance of the unsatisfactory situations that our chain of command has put us in. At least three of my soldiers have gotten sick since that incident and taken away from our combat power because of their illness caused by unhealthy conditions.
I understand that as a commander you are to follow the orders of those appointed over you, however there needs to be a time where the wellness of your soldiers needs to take priority over walking around in fields for hours a day for no rhyme or reason, but only to meet the Brigade Commanders guidance of you to conduct so many patrols for such an allotted time.
I'm concerned about the well being of my soldiers and have tried to voice my opinion through the proper channels of my own chain of command only to be turned away and told that I need to stop complaining.
It is my responsibility to take care of my soldiers, and there is only so much I can do with that little bit of rank I have. My guys would fight by my side and have my back in any condition, and I owe it to them to have their best interest in mind.
I know they would, and I certainly would appreciate it if there was something that you could do to help us out. I just want to return my guys home to their families healthy. I apologize for taking your time like this Sir, and I do appreciate what you do for us.
I was told to contact you by my grandmMother (name blacked out) who said that you had helped her son (my uncle) (name blacked) out many years ago. He also was serving in the military at the time. Thank you again for allowing soldiers like me to voice their opinion. If anything please pray for us over hear. God bless.
SSG Matthew Sitton
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Diana West is a journalist and columnist. Her book, The Death of the Grown Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization was reviewed by Steven Emerson, who said it is "a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why ... many in the West are apologetic when confronted with the excesses of radical Islam and what we need to do to win the War on terror."