A conversation with Major Fred Galvin: Modern Marine Raider pioneer and author of ‘A Few Bad Men’
Major Fred Galvin served 27 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, beginning as a 17 year old who rose from the enlisted ranks to become an officer. Serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and elsewhere, he led the first special operations company in the Marines and earned 49 military medals and ribbons, including the Bronze Star.
Released on June 7, 2022, A Few Bad Men is the incredible true story of an elite team of U.S. Marines set up to take the fall for Afghanistan war crimes they did not commit—and their leader, Major Galvin, who fought for the redemption of his men.
A cross between A Few Good Men and American Sniper, Galvin's book is the true story of an elite Marine special operations unit bombed by an IED and shot at during an Afghanistan ambush. The Marine Commandos were falsely accused of gunning down innocent Afghan civilians following the ambush. As the unit’s leader, Major Galvin was summarily relieved of duty and his unit was booted from the combat zone. They were condemned by everyone, from the Afghan president to American generals. When Fox Company returned to America, Galvin and his captain were the targets of the first Court of Inquiry in the Marines in 50 years.
The book, written by Major Fred Galvin and Sal Manna, is available for order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other major outlets.
I spoke with Major Galvin about the challenges of writing the book, issues with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and more. Enjoy the interview below.
While the core topic is about the ambush of Fox company and the aftermath, what should a reader expect to learn from your book?
Major Galvin: In this case, don’t judge a book by its cover. What happened with Fox Company was we were instantly made out to look like we were the bad guys, and everything that the press and the Afghans had said we did was proven in court, by incontrovertible evidence, to be false.
The book provides volumes of detail regarding what was said against us and what we actually did. And when people read this, they will see that the press and many senior military leaders fell hook, line and sinker for a lie.
By the time it was corrected years later by civilian members of the media, not once did any uniformed person get up and use a legal term such as “innocent” or “not guilty” to describe us. But the damage was already done.
What happened to us is something that Americans don't expect from leaders within the greatest military in the world. Americans think that our leaders are trustworthy, and they don't expect them to betray those who fight for our country.
So again, one of the key aspects of this book is don’t judge a book by its cover. The true colors of several high-profile – to some, even revered – military leaders are shown in this book.
What influenced you to finally tell your story in written fashion?
Major Galvin: I think when we got cleared of our charges at that time, the most important thing for us was to continue to serve. I continued to serve for seven more years until I was forced to retire. I tried to correct all this stuff on my record, but you know, the Marine Corps wrote some very damning and false statements they put in my military records – and they remain there.
I fought for years to have those false statements removed but the Marine Corps fought very hard to keep that in there to get rid of me specifically. And then on the day of my retirement, the Marine Corps Times published a story saying that we killed 19 civilians and wounded 50 others.
That was absolutely false, so I contacted the managing editor of the Marine Corps Times, sent him a copy of my polygraph which explained the executive summary from the court of inquiry, and they just changed the words to say that we killed “up to 19 civilians”.
That was a by-product of the military never using legal terms of “innocent” or “not guilty”. They just said we “acted appropriately”, which isn't a legal term and allowed the press to say, “Well, there was never any comment that they were innocent.”
Later that year – on the Marine Corps birthday – we were again slammed with similar types of false accusations that we killed up to 19 civilians, so I decided to skip the managing editor and go right to the top – the president of the parent media corporation.
The military has never been held to account for dragging us through the mud and then allowing the lies in the media to persist. There has never been any acknowledgement from the military of what they did wrong.
And this book explains all of that. The full story had to be told. Generationally, you cannot have Marines – like the MARSOC 7 – move through life with this black cloud. The level of professional destruction committed against us is immoral, particularly because it was all false to begin with. And the military is not doing anything at all to correct the record.
In this book, I present our case using factual, incontrovertible evidence from court records that I fought to declassify and obtain in federal court. It's the first time that all of it has been declassified and put in one volume.
If you compare this story to a line from the movie A Few Good Men, we'll see if all the corrupt leaders that were involved can “handle the truth” that this book puts forward.
Readers will understand that me and my Marines were just doing what we were sent there to do, what we were trained to do, by responding with the right amount of force after a massive car bomb – a big van filled with explosives – ambushed our patrol in Afghanistan.
I encourage the readers to buy the book and understand the actions – and read the exact words – that leaders took to condemn a few good men.
What will it take for an overhaul to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to finally occur?
Major Galvin: I honestly believe that the military has proven that senior military leaders are unfit to adjudicate their own legal matters. A recent example is retired Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos, where in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ Court of Appeals, evidence of unlawful command influence (UCI) was found. UCI has been labeled as the mortal enemy of military justice.
We had senior military leaders who believed the original narrative that was brought against our patrol, despite not waiting for the facts to come out while rushing ahead with judgement. They believed the Afghans who said we were drunk, that we dismounted, went door to door, killed anything in sight – even animals – and that we fled the scene only to return to cover things up and make additional threats.
There was an investigation by the U.S. Army which disproved all of that, but the senior leaders didn’t care.
So, to answer your question, when you have a convening authority that exerts unlawful command influence, like, “Hey, this is the narrative, this is what we're going with. This is what we're going to say happened.” It is so permanently destructive to those such as the MARSOC 7 where the commander can can imprison them, destroy their reputation, and destroy their careers among other things.
Thankfully there are men like, Congressman Walter Jones, God rest his soul, who have stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and challenged the Marine Corps by saying, “These Marines’ rights have been violated while there was a criminal investigation still going on – and even before the investigation started.” He was the only member of Congress to fight for us from the very beginning. It takes courage like he had to stand up and demand accountability.
The beauty of this book is that nothing is embellished. There's no hyperbole. These are the words that these senior officers either said to the press, or they said in sworn testimony. This book is another step toward enacting change to the UCMJ by shining a light on the issues plaguing it.
Major Galvin: I know a lot of people, these days, aren't into reading books more than they are about listening to, let’s say, podcasts. And while there are other ways to present this information, this book is something that's distilled down, extremely concentrated, to the key important facts. And it's very powerful.
As soon as I retired, I wrote down, chronologically, everything that had happened so that I wouldn't forget it. To obtain the classified information, I had submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests while I was still in the service in 2011. Unfortunately, some of that still has not been declassified, although I’ve been able to still get hundreds and hundreds of pages of information.
Still, there’s the one thing I want. And I've asked for it since 2011, which is just one sentence. Now, 12 years later, I am still being stonewalled by the Special Operations Command office saying that they're busy, they're working on it, etcetera. Obviously, that's false, but there is still so much information available to me now, and the story needs to be told.
It has been an extremely long process and, as we're discussing this today, the editors are still not finished making their final touches on the manuscript that will be published in June. But it's an important story and I'm glad it's being deliberately reviewed.
Once it is told I think the readers will, I believe, really enjoy reading it. It's going to shock a lot of people that may not have been familiar with the story of MARSOC’s first combat deployment to Afghanistan for Fox Company.
Aside from your previously mentioned issues with the FOIA requests, did you receive any pushback from the military community with your efforts writing A Few Bad Men?
Major Galvin: Well, to my face there has been no resistance.
However, the Pentagon’s review process for a normal book – at the time I submitted mine – was said to take 30-90 days for it to be reviewed. Mine took approximately nine months with me pushing every step of the way.
So, the process did take a long time but then now that it has gone through the security reviews, it's being handled very carefully just to make sure that it is presented to the public without any factual issues. It is going to be presented in a way that will ensure it is not going to have credibility problems.
What do you hope that this book accomplishes in terms of actionable takeaways for readers?
Major Galvin: Great question, Nick. This is not just some retirement project for me. This project has two specific purposes that I hope to aid in accomplishing.
One is to increase the awareness of the injustice of our so-called military justice system. I want reform. I'm working with one of my former attorneys, Raymond, Toney, and organizations like United American Patriots to showcase cases like these so people will understand the abuses that occur against the sons and daughters of America.
And the other point that I believe needs to be immediately corrected is to eliminate blind spots in military leadership by allowing peers and even subordinates to have a say in the performance and careers of their senior officers. With the existing promotion system of our leaders, there is no bottom-up input.
Currently, if your actions are pleasing to two officers above you, and you show up and check certain boxes, you are going to get promoted even if you are a toxic leader that abuses their authority. That’s wrong.
Two key tenants of Marine Corps leadership are accomplishing the mission and looking out for your Marines.
There should be some type of a consensus from those – particularly in combat roles – that have an officer in charge of their lives. Those warfighters should be asked, “Do you trust that this leader would do anything possible as long as it's legal, moral, and ethical to accomplish the mission?”
Additionally, the second question Marines should be asked is, “is this officer willing to lay their life down to ensure we have the best possible chance of survival?” If the majority of Marines led by an officer do not have confidence in their commanders, then the commanders are unfit to lead America’s Marines.
Despite what the military put you and your men through, it is still very apparent that you would have continued serving if you could have. Why would you do that?
Major Galvin: Well, as we are speaking today, we see many situations in which the mainstream media largely ignores something until it gets to a flashpoint.
As I have always stated, the men and women who've served in our military deserve competent commanders.
Unfortunately, right now there's a lot of incompetent commanders. There's a lot of commanders who are immoral and unethical and doing illegal things they are not held accountable for. You've seen the revolving door with senior officers in the ranks of General and Admiral. They retire to go work for the defense industry and they get hired back into politics after working for Raytheon.
If those of us who aren’t corrupt all leave, who will be left? Only the incompetent and corrupt. In this life or the next, there will be a judgment and I just encourage those leaders, get yourself right.
I encourage all Marine officers to stand up and exercise courage. It's not impossible. They can do it. And I encourage them – men and women – to be the leaders that they were trained to be.
Nick Coffman: Thank you, Major Galvin. I really do appreciate your time.
Major Galvin: My pleasure. Thank you for speaking with me.