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Family of fallen Marine blasts NCIS' secrecy

Mar. 5, 2013 - 08:59AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 5, 2013 - 08:59AM  |  
The family of Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley is pressing NCIS for an explanation of how he died. The 21-year-old from Oceanside, N.Y., and two other Marines were gunned down 
Aug. 10 in Garmser, Afghanistan, by a teenage boy.
The family of Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley is pressing NCIS for an explanation of how he died. The 21-year-old from Oceanside, N.Y., and two other Marines were gunned down Aug. 10 in Garmser, Afghanistan, by a teenage boy. (Courtesy of the Buckley family)
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Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson ()

Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley was working out at a base gym in Afghanistan when he and several other Marines were ambushed by an Afghan police chief's teenage "tea boy," military officials have said. The attacker turned an AK47 assault rifle on them, wounding one Marine and killing Buckley and two others.

Six months after that August massacre in Helmand province, the families are still waiting for answers, said Mary Liz Grosseto, Buckley's aunt. An investigation is ongoing by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and few details have been released. The lance corporal's father, Greg Buckley Sr., was told that if the family wants to learn more, they need to submit a Freedom of Information Act request and wait for the results, she said.

"That's nonsense," Grosseto said. "A father is [seeking information about] his son, and he has to submit a FOIA report?"

The case highlights the frustration families of service members killed in insider attacks face as the military pieces together what happens afterward. Once an investigation is launched, it can take months for the results to be divulged. The FOIA Act is intended to provide civilians with access to official, unclassified information, but the military and other parts of the U.S. government have long been accused of making the process unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming.

Buckley's case caught the attention of Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y. In October, the Long Island congressman called for the military to answer the family's questions, submitting letters to Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Mark Clookie, director of NCIS. King continues to wait, too.

"I remain deeply concerned about">Lance Corporal Buckley's case, and those other service members killed in insider attacks," King said in a Feb. 22 email to Marine Corps Times. "The Buckleys deserve to know the facts of what happened to their loved one, and I am committed to helping them find the truth. And those Afghans responsible for those attacks must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Killed in the Aug. 10 attack were Buckley,">Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson and">Cpl. Richard Rivera, all members of an adviser team working alongside Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. They were among at least 61 coalition troops who were killed last year in so-called "green-on-blue" attacks. At least 81 additional coalition forces were wounded in such attacks last year, according to statistics compiled by the Long War Journal.

Like many other insider attacks, some details of Buckley's case trickled out through the media. The Washington Post reported a week after the Marines were killed that their assailant was a 15-year-old boy named Aynoddin. He'd been serving as the "tea boy" to Sarwar Jan, the police chief in Garmser district, who had been accused by villagers of sexually abusing boys, Marines told the Post. Jan denied the practice, known as bacha bazi in Afghanistan.

On the night of the attack, Aynoddin stole a rifle lying in an unlocked Afghan barracks at Forward Operating Base Delhi and unloaded until he was out of ammunition, the Post reported.

"Don't you want to do jihad, too?" Aynoddin told Afghan police officers who ripped the gun from his hands after the shooting, the report said, citing several witnesses. "If not, I will kill you."

‘Justice for Greg'

Since the attack, Buckley's family has established a">Facebook page dedicated to "justice for Greg Buckley Jr. and all victims of insider ‘green-on-blue' attacks." It has more than 22,000 fans and growing.

To keep heat on NCIS, the family has asked for everyone interested to submit a FOIA request on their behalf. Buckley's father also asked those willing to help to contact their elected officials.

On Facebook, he said that in the weeks following his son's death, the Corps concluded its investigation and classified it as a homicide. They turned it over to NCIS, and the family has felt stonewalled since. They believe Sarwar Jan was released and that the Pentagon wants to turn Aynoddin back over to the Afghan government, rather than prosecuting him.

"I will not rest until they explain why they allowed Chief Jan to be released," Buckley Sr. wrote in a Feb. 11 post on his son's Facebook page. "I will not rest until Aynoddin is tried as the terrorist he is. And I certainly will not rest until they admit these insider attacks are in-fact [sic] terrorist attacks."

Ed Buice, a spokesman for NCIS, acknowledged the investigation is ongoing and declined additional comment. The Corps did not convene a separate command investigation in the case, said Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel, a spokesman with Marine Corps Forces Central Command, which oversees most Marine war-zone investigations.

Grosseto said she doesn't blame the Corps for what happened, and that the family has been pleased with how the service has treated them. In particular, they've grown close with their casualty assistance calls officer, Gunnery Sgt. Stephen Covington.

Still, the family isn't satisfied.

"It's not just us that want answers," Grosseto said. "This isn't just for Gregory. This is for all the victims of green-on-blue."

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