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Probe reveals how awards paperwork was lost for Medal of Honor recipient

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New details from the Department of Defense shed light on how a 10th Mountain Division-affiliated soldier’s Medal of Honor packet was lost traveling up the chain of command in Afghanistan.

Department of Defense Inspector General investigators said Capt. William D. Swenson’s paperwork was last seen with top American military leadership in Kabul. This came after now-retired Gen. David H. Petraeus recommended that the award be downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. Investigators said the materials were not sent properly to higher leadership.

Capt. Swenson was first nominated for the award after a lengthy battle in the Ganjgal Ghar valley in September 2009, during which he was credited with saving more than 12 Afghan military personnel.

Last seen in July 2010, Capt. Swenson’s paperwork was resubmitted in July 2011, and he was presented the Medal of Honor in October 2013. Defense Secretary Charles Hagel apologized to Capt. Swenson for the errors.

The investigation documents were first reported by the Military Times, which requested the documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The report also was posted to the Inspector General’s website.

Lingering questions from Congress about the missing paperwork sparked the DOD investigation. The report stated Capt. Swenson would not accept any award unless the problems were reviewed.

At the time of the 2009 battle, Capt. Swenson served as an embedded trainer and mentor of the Afghan National Security Forces, linked with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Capt. Swenson never served at Fort Drum.

Capt. Swenson’s comments about a lack of air support during the fight brought trouble from higher leadership. Capt. Swenson told investigators he was told his remarks made “powerful enemies.”

However, the IG report indicated no evidence that top officials mishandled or destroyed the paperwork. The report recommended an awards process review.

The retired Gen. Petraeus told Military Times this week there was no link between the critique in tactics from Capt. Swenson and the missing paperwork. Congressional staffers quoted by the paper questioned Gen. Petraeus’s claims.

In April, Capt. Swenson returned to active duty, and he now serves at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The DOD investigation report can be found at http://wdt.me/swenson-paperwork. The Army Times report about the files about the can be found at http://wdt.me/nmmRZv.

Swenson paperwork investigation
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