The Army has revoked the Special Forces military occupational specialty of an Arkansas political candidate who claimed he served as a Green Beret in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kenneth Aden, a Democrat running against incumbent Rep. Steve Womack for Arkansas' 3rd District, has said in interviews he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Green Beret, though a DD-214 and other documents he released to substantiate the claim only raised questions.
In a statement Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Special Warfare Training Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., said Aden was dropped from Special Forces training in April 2008 "after failing twice to pass the Light Weapons Exam and Hands-on Mortar Exam."
Nevertheless the center in June 2008 erroneously issued an order awarding him the 18 B MOS – Special Forces Weapons Sergeant – and then failed to catch the mistake. When told last week that the Army called Aden's MOS order a mistake and had revoked it, campaign spokesman Vincent Leibowitz said Aden never received orders pulling the MOS.
That turns out to be true, since the Army only noticed and corrected its mistake after media attention focused on Aden's military background, according to training center spokeswoman Janice Burton.
Retired Special Forces Master Sgt. Jeff "JD" Hinton, who has exposed many phony veterans or troops who embellished their records, says Aden had to know all along that he never was Special Forces.
"He knew, just as we knew, that you don't get the award of the 18-series MOS unless you complete the entire" training program, Hinton said. "Somehow he held onto those orders and wore them like a king's crown."
Aden had already backpedaled on claims that he served as a Green Beret in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying he misspoke. He did deploy and serve a combat tour with the 82nd Airborne Division.
His claims of having been a Green Beret unraveled the same week theSupreme Court struck down a law making it illegal to make false statements about a military record, including claiming unearned medals and decorations.
The high court's ruling has angered many servicemembers, veterans and retirees, but it's too soon to tell whether striking down the law might create a boom in fakers, said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"No one will know until it's covered in the media," he told Military.com.
Hinton received a copy of the revocation orders Tuesday, along with a description of Aden's time in SF training at Bragg; he received them after filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the school.
Center spokeswoman Burton told Hinton in an email he copied to Military.com that Aden completed the SF assessment class that ran from October to November 2006, and was then selected for the Special Forces Qualification Course.
He completed the Warrior Leader Course in April 2007 and then went on to Special Forces Medical Sergeant Training in June; he was pulled from that course in October for failing to meet course academic standards, according to Burton.
Meanwhile, he completed Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape – SERE – training in September. He was recycled for the 18B Weapons Sergeant Course for academic reasons. Finally, after twice failing to pass the Light Weapons Exam and Hands-on Mortar Exam he was dropped from the Special Forces program on April 29, 2008, she said.
Jennifer Martin, another spokeswoman for the training center, said last week that officials believed revocation orders had been cut back in 2008.
Leibowitz insisted that Aden legitimately held the 18B MOS and over the weekend circulated a letter from a non-commissioned officer that served with Aden in Iraq that seemed to support the claim. In a June 29 "character letter" for Aden, Sgt. First Class David L. Pratt Jr. said Aden's MOS was 18B and recalled that he was a good soldier.
But within 24 hours of Leibowitz releasing the letter Pratt apologized for having written it, saying he had done so "in good faith and [said] what I believed to be true at the time."
Pratt was also fooled by Aden, Hinton said. Hinton, who operates the website ProfessionalSoldiers.com, said the NCO contacted him and the spec ops-oriented site SocNet.com, to post the apology. Aden first was challenged by the blog ThisAintHell.
Pratt, non-commissioned officer in charge at the Warrior Training Facility, 59th Ordnance Bde., Fort Lee, Va., could not be reached for comment.
"[Aden] can and did fool many of the civilians with those orders but he's never fooled the real Green Berets, not for one second," Hinton said.