Written by Heather Earles
March 11, 2021
Is the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) trying to make an example out of Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Negron, Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Draher, and Chief Petty Officer Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman (SOIDC), Eric Gilmet without probable cause?
As journalists, our job is to report the facts without a biased opinion. However, a journalist also has the right, under some circumstances, to report on a story of interest to them. As the wife of a retired US Army Special Forces (SF) Officer-aka Green Beret, this story caught my special attention as it involved another SF soldier who was working as a contractor.
Twenty-five months ago, in the city of Erbil, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq), three MARSOC men, Draher, Gilmet, and Negron, were out celebrating the new year; also Draher and Gilmet’s soon-to-be promotion to E8 on January 1, 2019.
According to Phillip Stackhouse, Draher’s attorney, and the security footage from the TBar/restaurant, where the incident happened, “fellow contractors and several Marines with whom Rick Anthony Rodriguez worked with or around, all assigned to Camp 762” along with Draher, Gilmet, and Negron were present that night.
When Draher, Negron, and Gilmet entered the TBar/restaurant, they said hello to Rodriguez, a retired Army Special Forces master sergeant employed by Lockheed Martin Corporation (a Military Defense Contractor), and fellow marines assigned under Draher and other contractors. The exchange was pleasant, with both parties wishing each other a Happy New Year.
However, during the night, Rodriguez came up to Gilmet not once but twice, and due to his demonstratively aggressive behavior prior to Draher, Negron, and Gilmet arriving, and after the second time, words were exchanged, Rodriguez, clearly angry at Eric Gilmet, was asked to leave and escorted out of the bar by bouncers.
The MARSOC 3, as they have been labeled, were asked to wait a few minutes inside to give Rodriguez enough time to vacate the area. According to the security footage, MARSOC 3 obeyed but to no avail as Rodriguez and seven of his friends were still hanging out by the vehicles.
As the senior person in charge, Draher walked towards Rodriguez with Eric on the way to their vehicle in an attempt to clear the air from what occurred inside. Draher asked if everything was okay. The US Consulate is on the same block, and the men were standing in the street. There was no intention of starting a fight. That’s when the altercation occurred. Rodriguez told Draher to mind his own business stepped close to the point where Draher said, “I could feel the heat off of his body and spit.” Draher tries to de-escalate the situation. However, it does not work.
Rodriguez and Gilmet worked on the Erbil base and knew of each other prior to the incident on Jan. 1st but never spoke. MARSOC 3 would see him in the gym and around but didn’t converse with him.
According to different sources, the entire argument was, in a sense, a pecking order that escalated and then mixed with alcohol ended in devastating circumstances.
Cameras show that Rodriguez initiated the provocation by poking Draher in the chest and then went in with a head-fake. Draher pushed him back, trying to create distance when Rodriguez punched Draher twice. Negron stepped in, throwing one punch at Rodriguez to protect his comrade from getting hit a third time. Rodriguez fell to the ground immediately and was knocked unconscious. Another one of Rodriguez’s friends, at this point, lunged at Negron, tackling him to the ground. Draher stepped in, pulling the man off Negron to stop the fight. Negron, who ended up with a black eye from either a punch or an elbow to the face, was helped up as his attacker walked off with a couple of gals. The entire fight was 15 seconds. According to eye-witnesses, a small cut was visible on the back of Rodriguez’s head with no evidence of blood and no visible bruising or indentions.
Video surveillance shows that Chief Eric Gilmet, a Navy Corpsman (medic), immediately assesses Rodriguez’s medical state. The MARSOC 3 placed Rodriguez in their vehicle to transport him back to the base for his safety. There was no sign of Rodriguez’s friends at this point.
Once the MARSOC 3 with Rodriguez make it onto base, a further medical evaluation of Rodriguez occurs by Gilmet as he was the most qualified and senior enlisted medic in all of the task force’s area of operation. Gilmet placed a continual watch over Rodriguez however, later that morning, it is determined that he needs other medical treatment and is admitted to the Erbil base hospital. From there, the doctors decide he needs to be medevaced to The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany. LRMC is an overseas military hospital operated by the United States Army and is the largest US military hospital outside the continental United States. It was here that Mr. Rodriguez died four days later from complications from fixating on his vomit.
“At this time, charges against three members of MARSOC in connection with the death of Mr. Rodriguez have been referred to a general court-martial,” spokeswoman for MARSOC Maj. Kristine Tortorici said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “During this process, it is imperative that the rights of the service members are protected, and the integrity of the military justice system is maintained. We are committed to ensuring this process is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.” But are they?
During the interview with Retired Major Fred Galvin, who has been advocating for Draher, Gilmet, and Negron for the past 25 months after going through a similar situation, he expressed, “I honestly believe that hypocrisy is the mortal sin of the military. There have been many cases, such as General Petraeus, who served 37 years on active duty, commanding all multi-national forces in Iraq, then the entire Middle-East and later commander of all forces in Afghanistan and has his own General Order #1 state, “no sexual relations in theater.” But then, breaks his vow to his wife of 37 years, whom she raised his two sons, and here is an example of where general officers in the US military, whatever the flavor of the branch, receive different spanks for different ranks, get off with lesser charges. How can you have a guy, Petraeus, who was supposed to be sent over to Afghanistan to win a war and has a journalist, Major Paula Broadwell, US Army Reservist, wife to a former Army officer and Medical doctor and mother of two boys, come into his chamber multiple times, has an affair, and Petraeus receives a mild punishment, you know, 50 lashes with a wet noodle which propelled his post-military and CIA retirements to become a member on multiple boards of directors and receive professorships from numerous prestigious universities. And yet Draher, Gilmet, and Negron are going to a general court-martial for self-defense. I don’t understand that. What kind of example are we setting to the rest of the troops, to our military if you no longer have the right to defend yourself?”
To clarify, Petraeus received a sentence “to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. No charges were ever filed against Broadwell.” Oddly Broadwell did not get her security clearance taken away even after receiving classified and top-secret information from General Petraeus. In fact, all investigations into the matter were closed. But the MARSOC 3 had their security clearances immediately taken away and continue to be revoked.
However, the lack of leadership does not end there. According to an article written by Nick Coffman of SOFREP on June 14, 2020, Maj Gen Yoo MARSOC’s commander at the time of the MARSOC 3 incident “was rumored to be under investigation for potentially unethical real estate practices tied to the consolidation of all Marine Raider Battalions to the east coast (Camp Lejeune, North Carolina).” Since the incident, General Yoo was forced into early retirement, “relinquishing command to Major General James F. Glynn,” who was also in command of Marine Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Shame on Yoo, as reporters have labeled him has been quiet regarding his decision to send “the MARSOC 3, to a general court-martial, which carries the most severe level of punishment, over a lesser form of trial or hearing. GySgt Daniel Draher, GySgt Josh Negron, and Chief Eric Gilmet have been accused of manslaughter for an incident” that clearly and overwhelming evidence shows was an act of self-defense.
If leadership within MARSOC is looking to set an example out of the MARSOC 3 without probable cause, the American people face a greater travesty than ruining three families’ lives. To convict a man without probable cause means the justice system is broken and controlled by the bureaucrats, whether it is Civilian, Government, or the Military. According to the constitution and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) handbook, “Under our legal system, everyone is presumed innocent until a court finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A court may make a fair and just decision only after it has heard all the evidence relating to the guilt or innocence of an accused.”
Also, according to UCMJ, A person has a right to defend another to the same extent the other person had to defend themself.
But none of that appears to matter. Even with the evidence on MARSOC 3’s side, the charges and trial appear to be the railroading of an unjust and corrupt system.
No one is lessening the life and travesty of Rodriguez as every life matters and he had a family of his own who have suffered.
As the wife of a former Green Beret, my biased, if any, would be toward US Army Special Forces, but one cannot ignore the case’s evidence or facts. So to place a court-martial on the MARSOC 3 without probable cause while defending themselves and their comrade raises serious questions about the over-charge by the command and real intent of a court-martial being to make an example out of a few good men.
After speaking with Destiny Draher, wife of GySgt Danny Draher, a 13-year Army vet, a “Next of Kin,” (PNOK) pin recipient, and widow of “Staff Sgt. Liam A. Flynn who died when a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter crashed near Eglin, Florida, at approximately 8:30 p.m. March 10, 2015. Flynn, 33, a native of Queens, New York, served within U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operational Command as an assistant element member. His personal awards include (3) Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals with Valor, the Bronze Star with Valor, and Combat Action Ribbon.” According to USNI News.
Mrs. Draher not only suffered the loss of her first husband but then three years later, after finding love again and starting a family, was in shock when she received the news from her husband about the incident. She is incredulous as to how the command treated her husband, along with Gilmet and Negron, from the very beginning. “I had to go pick up my husband at the corner of a highway gas station at three o’clock in the morning when Danny was sent home from Iraq. I was four months pregnant, and that was orders and failure of the command.”
Mrs. Draher continued to tell her story, relaying, “A month later special assignment pay is getting taken away, and security clearances are being revoked. The commands pretty much alienated them from their regular jobs. I think my biggest issue is that I’ve sat there in the grand jury hearings or the military’s version of the grand jury watching the video. It just seems so clear-cut that they were defending themselves, but yet the command is treating my husband like he’s convicted. And that’s pretty much been the climate. They have already punished them and made them feel like they are convicted.”
Mrs. Draher was unsure how her family was supposed to move forward. “My husband and the other guys were not recommended by the command to enter The Honor Foundation which is a program for guys that are transitioning out of special operations. They were denied that. Eric Gilmet was denied entry into UNC-Chapel Hill for his master’s program because he was going to be a threat. Special Operations is supposed to be this tight brotherhood where they take care of the families. There is a lot of money that goes to Family Readiness and preservation through SOCOM. They make these guys go to suicide awareness once a year and talk about mental health. But yet look at what they are doing. If it wasn’t for family support, the men could be dead hanging off a rafter or drinking to an excessive point because nobody from the command has ever asked how our families are doing. The command has no empathy.”
Destiny is concerned about the trial, “I feel like if we go into court, there’s already going to be a skewed judgment on the guys.” Her concern is understandable given the push to have MARSOC 3 charged and the leadership doing it, similar to the MARSOC 7 case where a “narrative was spread throughout the media as a result of a rush to judgment by several military leaders who were directly responsible for the expulsion of Fox Company from Afghanistan. This rush to judgment occurred without sufficient evidence, as later proven during a court of inquiry (COI).
One of thousands of recently declassified pages in General Nicholson’s (then a Colonel) sworn testimony from the 2008 court of inquiry shows despite the facts known at the time of the 2008 COI, he still accused Fox Company of homicide even though his command, which was the first on the scene of the ambush in Bati Kot, never observed any bodies, blood or evidence to support his accusation of a capital offense. He never actually read any of the investigation reports, even though he had the opportunity to do so prior to making his judgments.” -sofrep.com
This continued failure of command leaves families, such as the MARSOC 3 in turmoil. If they can’t trust the command then who can they trust? A question they are still trying to answer.
Danny and Destiny Draher’s son is now two. The couple also has a daughter who is seven from Destiny’s previous marriage to Flynn.
Mindy and Eric Gilmet have two daughters, age ten and seven, and a son who is three. Like Mrs. Draher, Mrs. Gilmet expressed her frustration from the very beginning with the command. “The command didn’t let us know anything. There was even a point where they took our husbands’ cell phones away. I had no contact with him; I wasn’t even sure where he was until he was able to use a buddy’s cell phone, letting me know he was okay and what was happening.”
After the incident, Mrs. Gilmet expressed the only contact they received was from a social worker after Gilmet had called. He was worried about the effect stress would have on his wife. When asked how Eric was doing with the stress, Mrs. Gilmet said her husband finds comfort in God and through prayer.
“Some people are hotheads that go out itching for a fight whether they are drunk or not, and Eric’s just not that guy. Yes, he will stand up for himself and his family, but he doesn’t seek out confrontations.”
When asked why Eric chose to be a Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman Mrs. Gilmet said from an early age he wanted to be a medic, so he picked a navy corpsman because of the medical field and being able to work with Marines. However, “the prosecution is trying to get it where Eric’s medical training, which is extensive, is not able to be used for the trial. They’re basically trying to strip that all away from him. And he is just going to be categorized as a reasonable person.” An interesting and perhaps noteworthy move to demean the aid Gilmet provided to Rodriguez.
Given the entire situation, and no matter the outcome, The MARSOC 3 and their wives are trying to protect their children and their future; for this reason, children’s names will remain disclosed.
They do not want to put undue stress or worry on their kids. Mindy and Eric Gilmet have said nothing to their children. “What are we supposed to say, especially when the trial keeps getting delayed and delayed?” The couple has stated they will wait until something is definite.
Josh Negron and his wife did not wish to comment and are keeping a close hold, not talking to the press until the trial is over.
A person could say these men were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but does that issue a charge of homicide? The mixing of alcohol, testosterone, and pecking order not only took one man’s life but is ruining that of three others.
According to the Manual for Courts Martial (MCM), “A general court-martial consists of a panel of not less than five members and a military judge, or an accused may be tried by military judge alone on their request. Enlisted members may request that the panel be made up of at least one-third of enlisted personnel.
A general court-martial is often characterized as a felony court, and may try all persons subject to the UCMJ, including enlisted members, officers, and midshipmen.
The accused has a right to be represented by a free military attorney or may hire their own civilian lawyer.
A general court-martial may deliver any punishment not prohibited by the UCMJ, including death when specifically authorized.” A possible death penalty for self-defense? Also, there only has to be three-quarters of the jury pool saying guilty or not; it doesn’t have to be a unanimous verdict. Which, in the words of some family members, “is intimidating.”
Intimidating, out of touch, and showing a lack of leadership skills are words used by some witnesses to describe the command. If the military wants to set an example, perhaps they should choose leaders willing to stand beside their men and assume innocence until proven guilty. Or show leadership by example.
Draher told the Washington Examiner, “As we have said from the beginning, and is captured on video, Mr. Rodriguez attacked me in a drunken state,” Draher said. “My colleagues and I reacted only in self-defense. Once the fight was over, it was me and my colleagues — not his friends — who took him back to our base for safety. The fact that Mr. Rodriguez passed away is nothing short of tragic, and I wish his family and friends did not have to feel the pain and sorrow that I am sure they do. In the end, I have to trust the system in which I find myself. I would have much preferred to have had the trust and support of my command.”
It was once said, that “Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.” And for the MARSOC 3 and clear evidence, they have proven this to be true. When Rodriguez’s friends left him lying unconscious on the ground, it was the MARSOC 3 who stayed with him and watched over him through the night. Those are not the actions of criminals.
Although prosecuted separately, Draher and Negron had a trial date of April which has been delayed. Gilmet’s trial intended for March 1 has a new date of May 10th through May 28th.
At the end of the interview, Galvin encouraged people to “Ask yourself if you, your family, or a friend were attacked by a violent, drunk, massive trained Special Forces combat veteran would you have the right of self-defense using minimal force and no intention of permanent physical harm? Then why are US service members now being subjected to this overcharge, presumption of guilt for the past 25 months, and ordered to a trial in the military’s most severe form of Court Martial (a General Court Martial)?”
The Secretary of Defense and the Commander-in-Chief have an obligation to dismiss this clear case of self-defense prior to it entering a prejudicial process with the almost inevitable decisions of guilty verdicts for Article 134 (homicide – a capital offense) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and setting an irreparable case precedence where US Service members are not allowed the right of self-defense.
America’s most dedicated warriors require the assistance of the People to urge their Members of Congress to join Congressman Louis Gohmert in requesting Secretary Of Defense, Lloyd Austin to dismiss this case.” https://www.congress.gov/members?searchResultViewType=expanded
“A bad system can destroy good people.” -Gary Mottershead. But never forget good people can destroy a bad system.
Special Note from the author: I am not trying to demoralize a particular military group, only present the facts pertaining to this case. Each military group has problems with high-ranking officers taking a stance against their men to further their careers instead of standing by and supporting their troops.
Also, some may think this article is arguing “that the military is unfit to discipline their own fairly and that potentially the justice department should step in and take over the military UCMJ process,” since it “is a genuine debate today.” However, that is in no way the intention of this article. Furthermore, if it is a genuine debate, one would think the military would be addressing this issue with their commanders instead of hanging the troops in all branches of the service out to dry.