The head of Naval Special Warfare Command reportedly sent a letter to commanders on July 25 proclaiming that “we have a problem,” while urging them to detail what issues they see and provide recommendations by Aug. 7 on how to get the SEAL community off the skyline, according to CNN’s Barbara Starr.
“I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem,” wrote Rear Adm. Colin Green, according to CNN, “I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately.”
“Some of our subordinate formations have failed to maintain good order and discipline and as a result and for good reason,” the culture of the SEALs “is being questioned,” he added.
Green reportedly sent the letter amid a number of high-profile scandals involving SEALs — a community of elite operators numbering less than 2,500 personnel among a force of more than 437,000 active-duty and reserve sailors.
Additionally, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday vowed to identify the “root causes” of ethical concerns among SEALs during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday. If confirmed, Gilday will take over as the chief of naval operations.
Among the issues that have come to light in recent years were the nearly dozen SEALs booted from the service after testing positive for drugs in 2018, as well as others being investigated or brought to trial on murder charges. As Navy Times’ reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz noted, other SEALs have been charged with allegedly abusing prisoners in Afghanistan; another was sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for producing images of child sexual abuse in Feb. 2018. That same sailor was sentenced to an additional 60 years for child molestation on Tuesday.
More recently, the entirety of SEAL Team 7 Foxtrot Platoon was pulled out of Iraq last month amid allegations of a boozy Fourth of July party and an allegation of sexual assault, and Navy Times’ revealed several members of SEAL Team 10 were using cocaine and other drugs regularly. SEALs were also involved in the hazing death of a Green Beret in Mali, one of whom is now being investigated for allegedly trying to flirt with and manipulate the victim’s widow.
And despite the acquittal of former SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher on murder charges in early July, his court-martial revealed that members of his unit, SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon, constructed their own rooftop bar in Iraq and engaged in other alleged misconduct on deployment.
“We are looking hard as a learning organization to self assess to see, are we assessing and selecting the right people? Are we holding them accountable to standards of honor, courage, and commitment?” Green told the audience at the West 2019 conference, in response to a question from Task & Purpose in February.
Green’s acknowledgement that there is indeed a problem stands in stark contrast to a March report to Congress from Special Operations Command, which found there were no “gaps in the administration, oversight, or management of ethics programs or professionalism programs.”
Naval Special Warfare did not immediately respond to a request for comment.