Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Harry Schmidt

My wife likes the TV show JAG, which was on as I woke this morning. I recognized the case they were acting out. It was about a guy with whom I served with, Harry Schmidt. Schmidt was a TOPGUN Instructor, and a man of high integrity in my experience.

Schmidt made a decision in the middle of the night in a distant land that turned out to be bad. His government then charged him on thirteen criminal counts. Here is one account of his experience. Make your own judgments; I defer to the man on the front lines.

What this account leaves out is that Schmidt was offered a formal reprimand, politically motivated in my opinion, that would have allowed him to continue with his life, and Schmidt said no. He demanded a court-martial to clear his name. This was and is inspirational for me. He was cleared on twelve of the thirteen criminal counts, and was then presented with this in June, 2004:

"You acted shamefully on 17 April 2002," wrote Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, the judge in the case. "Your willful misconduct directly caused the most egregious consequences imaginable. . . . By your gross poor judgment, you ignored your training . . . and the result was tragic. . . . You had the right to remain silent, but not the right to lie. In short, the final casualty of the engagement over Kandahar . . . was your integrity."

The statement from the General was out of line. Schmidt made a decision, which turned out to have been wrong. Most people decide not to make decisions. Schmidt will punish his own conscience for the rest of his life.

Subsequent to his statement, Lt. General Carlson was selected for a fourth star, which was awarded in November, 2005.

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