September 16th, 2011
11:34 AM ET

In Medal of Honor battle, senior officers failed

By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

Sgt. Dakota Meyer is wearing the iconic blue ribbon and gold star of the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan two years ago. But while that day was the pinnacle of Meyer's service in the Marine Corps, it may have been the nadir in the careers of three unidentified U.S. military officers involved in the incident.

Instead of medals, those three unidentified officers have received letters of reprimand, almost certainly meaning their careers are over.

President Barack Obama awarded Meyer the nation's highest military decoration on Thursday for risking his life to save 36 U.S. and Afghan troops caught in a blistering firefight. But an investigation by the military found Meyer may not have needed to act if some of the officers overseeing his mission from the rear had done their jobs properly.

READ the investigation report findings

An investigation into the mistakes made during the September 9, 2009, ambush found that "actions of key leaders at the battalion level were inadequate and ineffective."

The investigation also criticized the "poor performance of the commissioned officers who were present."

As Marines radioed to their base, "We are going to die out here," commanders denied requests for extra firepower, helicopters and backup troops, according to the investigation's executive summary.

Artillery was scrambled at one point, but according to the investigation, that decision was "overruled by higher echelons."

Meyer, who was posted behind the main patrol, asked permission four times to go into the middle of the ambush and help get his team out, but headquarters denied each request.

Finally, Meyer disobeyed orders and got in a Humvee with another Marine, Staff Sg. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, to go to the troops' rescue.

With Rodriguez-Chavez driving, the two entered the kill zone five times. Each time Meyer, who was manning the vehicle's gun, exposed himself to a hail of enemy fire.

The two Marines saved 13 U.S. servicemen and 23 Afghan troops, and brought out the bodies of four Americans who were killed at the start of the ambush.

Meyer also killed at least eight Taliban.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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