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Fired and ‘scapegoated’ Navy SEALs going after commander over abuse of power

Members of SEAL Team Seven jump from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter assigned to the "Chargers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, during parachute operations, Feb. 26, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Shannon Renfroe/Released)
September 25, 2019

In a Tuesday complaint, U.S. Navy SEALs allege the recent firing of a SEAL Team Triad was a political move by Rear Adm. Collin Green to preserve his own shaky status among Naval Special Warfare leadership.

In the 17 page complaint filed with the Defense Department’s Inspector General, ex-SEAL Team 7 leader Cmdr. Edward J. Mason and Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Hugh C. Spangler provided pushback on Green’s Sept. 6 decision to relieve them of their command over leadership failures that resulted in a “breakdown of good order and discipline.” The complaint alleges Green himself had permitted the “boozy culture” and that he used them as “expendable scapegoats,” according to Navy Times.

Lt. Cmdr. Luke Hong Il Im, the third SEAL affected by the firing did not add his name to the complaint.

SEAL Team 7 was kicked out of Iraq amid allegations that a SEAL sexually assaulted a female service member and that the unit threw a rowdy Fourth of July bash where liquor was heavily present.

The complaint by the SEALs calls for Green to take a polygraph test, which they say will reveal he and Force Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) William A. King, an enlisted advisor for Green, permitted the SEALs to possess liquor while their unit was stationed in Iraq.

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The SEALS also allege King threatened to strip them of their SEAL tridents if they “played lawyer games” in reaction to losing their command.

The complaint, filed ahead of plans by Adm. Michael Gilday to visit Green in Coronado, Calif., also calls on Gilday to perform a “Command Climate Survey” of Green and King’s leadership.

The complaint claims Green’s firing decision was an effort to protect himself from an apparent lapse in leadership, amid other scandals. The complaint repeatedly referred to the court-martial case of then-Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher on murder charges.

Though Gallagher, another member of SEAL Team 7, was cleared of murder charges over the death of an ISIS prisoner while on deployment in 2017, the complaint alleges a lingering “Gallagher effect” caused Green to worry about the appearance of his leadership.

The SEALs allege then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson confronted Green, and pressured him to fix problems in the Naval Special Warfare community, to which Green responded by instituting a “toxic plan,” and “scrambled to save his career.”

Furthermore, Green is alleged to have admitted to firing Mason and Spangler because they “already decided to retire with honor and dignity.” The complaint called that reasoning an “unlawful driving factor” for Green’s decision.

The complaint also alleges Green made the decision against Mason and Spangler despite pushback from other members of leadership who backed the fired SEALs.

The SEALs say Lt. Gen. Paul Joseph LaCamera, the Commanding General for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, had expressed “complete trust and confidence” in the SEALs.

The SEALs also pointed to part of an email by an unnamed investigator of the misconduct allegations in Iraq. In the email, the investigator expressed he was “absolutely appalled and disgusted that they did this to [CDR Mason] and CMC Spangler.”

The two SEALs are requesting to be “immediately reinstated” with SEAL Team 7, which remains without its command triad.