The top Navy SEAL has given commanders until Wednesday to report back to him with recommendations on how to fix ethical and credibility issues facing the elite naval special warfare community following several high profile incidents of misconduct.
“We have a problem,” Rear Adm. Collin Green wrote in a letter addressed to the secretive force.
Green, who leads Naval Special Warfare Command, did not single out a particular incident but implied that the erosion of the public’s trust is at stake.
The letter, first reported Thursday by CNN, is dated July 25, the day after the U.S. Special Operations Command announced that a platoon of San Diego-based SEALs was sent home from Iraq “due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods.” The New York Times reported that those SEALs are being investigated for sexual assault and unauthorized alcohol use.
Also, in late July, the Navy Times reported that members of the Virginia Beach-based SEAL Team 10 used cocaine and cheated on drug tests during a scandal that came to light in 2018. Four SEALs were administratively separated following the incident, and a fifth was cleared of wrong doing. A sixth SEAL, a petty officer third class who had tested positive for cocaine, committed suicide in his home in May, 2018, according to an investigation obtained by The Virginian-Pilot.
Those reports also followed dramatic courtroom sagas involving SEALs that have played out in recent months. Eddie Gallagher was acquitted on murder charges but demoted from chief to petty officer first class after being found guilty by a military jury in San Diego last month of posing for a photo with a dead Islamic State prisoner. This week, the Navy dismissed charges against Gallagher’s platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier.
In May, Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews, a member of the Virginia Beach-based SEAL Team 6, pleaded guilty at a special court martial at Naval Station Norfolk for his involvement in the 2017 hazing death of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Mali. Matthews was sentenced to a year of confinement and a bad conduct discharge. Chief Special Warfare Operator Tony DeDolph and Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez, a Marine Raider, are scheduled to appear in a preliminary hearing in the case at the naval station Monday.
“I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately,” Green wrote.
Green also assigned some mandatory reading: the first two chapters of former SEAL Dick Couch’s 2010 book, “A Tactical Ethic,” about battlefield ethics.
Naval Special Warfare Command Group 2 spokesman Lt. Katie Koenig declined to comment Friday. Group 2 oversees East Coast-based SEAL teams 2, 4, 8 and 10 as well as support units.
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