Commanding officer's letter defends Sergeant Alexander Blackman

 Royal Marine Sergeant Alexander Wayne Blackman Blackman had been a Royal Marine for 15 years

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One of Britain's highest-ranking Royal Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Chapman, pledged his "full support" for Alexander Blackman in a letter to the judge. He described the marine as "a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war".

He wrote: "I am the Commanding Officer for Sergeant Alexander Blackman.

"He is known to the general public as Marine A, a man who has been found guilty of murder on a foreign battlefield.

"I know Al Blackman as a caring and devoted family man who, until recently, had a bright future in a Corps with a worldwide reputation as one of the elite fighting forces.

"From the rank of marine up to sergeant, he has served his Queen and country loyally for 15 years, completing six operational tours of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Talented and capable'

"In doing so, he has won himself a justifiable reputation as a talented and capable soldier and senior non-commissioned officer in a corps with many such men.

"Through hard work and determination, he has progressed up through the ranks, earning the privilege of mentoring junior officers and leading and training corporals and marines.

"Like many of his peers, he has made personal sacrifices and foregone precious time at home with his family to serve on operations overseas in times of crisis.

"He has done so uncomplaining and without seeking accolade.

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His momentary and fatal lapse of judgment on the battlefield two years ago not only served to end an enemy combatant's life prematurely, but it has also altered his own life, and that of his family, immeasurably”

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"Al Blackman stands before you as a sergeant and he would have been promoted to colour sergeant already, but for this incident.

"Such is his ability he has previously been employed as such, albeit in acting rank, specially selected from a talented cohort to train and advise soldiers and marines deploying to theatres of war overseas."

"His momentary and fatal lapse of judgment on the battlefield two years ago not only served to end an enemy combatant's life prematurely, but it has also altered his own life, and that of his family, immeasurably.

"He had so much to behold - a proud career and a promising future. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

"But, fundamentally, he is not a bad man. In fact, in almost every respect, he is a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war.

"However, his good work has been undone and his reputation and standing are lost. His career is over - he has no future as a Royal Marine.

'Significant punishments'

"But more than this, for a period of his life to come, he must contend with the loss of his freedom and opportunities to spend cherished moments with family and friends.

"This, and the loss of the comradeship of his fellow marines, are the most significant punishments for him to bear."

Lt Col Chapman described the last year as "extraordinarily difficult" for Blackman and his family, whose love and support allowed him to face "incomprehensible pressures with great fortitude and dignity".

The letter added: "Not once in 14 months has he asked for anyone's sympathy or requested special treatment.

"Nor has he sought to excuse his actions on that day in Afghanistan.

"He has continued to serve loyally and obediently, treating every day as an opportunity to better himself and give something back to the Corps that he has served so well."

Lt Col Chapman said he was confident Blackman would use "strength of character" to forge a future beyond the Royal Marines.

"I cannot overlook what has occurred, nor condone what Sgt Blackman has done, but he has my full support and he will continue to do so as he makes the difficult transition from military to prison life," the letter concluded.

"The Naval Service is supporting his family and, in due course, the Royal Marine Association will examine what further support can be offered to Sgt Blackman and his family.

"With the help of others, I very much hope they can negotiate this extremely trying period in their lives and build a new future together."

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