Gen. David Petraeus recommended former Army Capt. William Swenson's Medal of Honor be downgraded to a lesser award, according to a Pentagon inspector general's investigation.
But the probe did not say how the military hero's nomination paperwork disappeared instead of being advanced up the chain of command.
President Barack Obama awarded Swenson with the country's top military award for courage on Oct. 15, four years after he was recommended for his actions in extracting fellow soldiers during a battle in 2009 in Afghanistan, reports McClatchy DC
Obama's presentation was made based on duplicate files, since Swenson's original paperwork still is lost. The investigation was completed by the Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General just after the award was conferred.
Swenson, 34, said he is disappointed by the investigation and its failure to find out how his nomination was mishandled.
"An institution can’t heal itself unless it can identify what its weaknesses are, and its weaknesses in this case is an individual," Swenson said. "The investigation failed to meet the standard of a military investigation in which individuals are identified."
The Inspector General's Office found during its investigation of the Swenson medal that a top commander, who was identified only as the "former commander, USFOR-A" rather than naming Petraeus, recommended "downgrading the MoH to a Distinguished Service Cross, which was within his discretion to do."
The Distinguished Service Cross is the Army's second-highest decoration. But, according to a 2011 internal investigation, Petraeus signed Swenson's Medal of Honor packet on July 28, 2010.
Petraeus last year said he had "no recollection" of seeing Swenson's file, described as a three-ring binder full of sworn statements, photographs, maps, and other items to support the nomination.
But after Petraeus recommended the downgrade, Swenson's file went back to Kabul, the investigation found, and was never forwarded. However, the investigation found "no evidence a senior official mishandled, lost, destroyed, purged, disposed of, or unnecessarily delayed the recommendation."
Further, the investigation did not reveal how Swenson's information disappeared from all military computer systems or why a separate Medal of Honor nomination processed through Petraeus' office at about the same time.
But according to the inspector general's office, the U.S. headquarters award section "frequently lost awards, had unreliable processes, and employed inadequate tracking systems."
Commanders have three options for Medal of Honor nominations: approving, disapproving, or recommending a downgrade to a lesser award before sending it on to the president for final approval.
Swenson received an apology from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month for having to wait so long for his award, reports Fox News
. He said Swenson proved his valor twice: on the battlefield and by questioning Army leaders about the award.
The inspector general's findings were outlined in a letter sent to California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who requested the probe as part of a larger effort to overhaul the military awards process, which he says is too dependent on politics and other factors.
Obama also awarded Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, of Columbia, Ky., with the Medal of Honor in October.
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