(WASHINGTON) — In a rare move, the three senior leaders of the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL Team 7 have been removed from their positions due to a “loss of confidence” after allegations of misconduct among one of the platoons under their command that was sent home from Iraq.
The misconduct includes allegations that a member of the platoon committed a sexual assault and that platoon members drank alcohol during the deployment.
“Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command Rear Adm. Collin Green relieved the three senior leaders of SEAL Team Seven from their positions Sept. 6,” said a statement released by NSW Command.
“Green relieved the unit’s commanding officer, Cdr. Edward Mason; executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Luke Im; and the team’s top enlisted leader, Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler due to a loss of confidence that resulted from leadership failures that caused a breakdown of good order and discipline within two subordinate units while deployed to combat zones.”
In late July, a platoon of about 20 sailors belonging to SEAL Team 7 was ordered back to the United States after an ongoing investigation found some of them had been drinking alcohol while deployed and that others who knew about it didn’t report it.
Defense officials later confirmed that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service also was investigating an allegation one platoon member had committed a sexual assault against a female service member. That allegation remains under investigation.
The three SEAL Team 7 leaders removed from duty are not accused of engaging in the alleged misconduct, but the Navy said they bear responsibility for those under their command.
Mason, Im, and Spangler are currently in San Diego at Naval Special Warfare Group 1 awaiting their next assignment. The sailors accused of drinking during a deployment are awaiting possible punishments.
“No decisions have been made yet with regards to disciplinary action,” said Capt. Tamara Lawrence, the spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Command. According to a defense official, the sailors in the platoon could likely face administrative action including non-judicial punishment.
The incidents involving the platoon were the latest in a series of high-profile incidents of misconduct involving the Navy’s elite special operations units including reports SEAL Team 10 members were abusing cocaine while stationed in Virginia and worked to evade military drug tests.
In May, Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews, a member of SEAL Team 6, was sentenced to a year in military prison after pleading guilty to his role in the June 2017 strangulation death of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar during a hazing incident in the west African country of Mali.
No trial dates have been set for another SEAL and a Marine involved in Melgar’s death.
In July, Chief Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher was acquitted on charges of killing an unarmed ISIS militant during the battle for Mosul in late 2017. The investigation into the alleged drinking in the SEAL platoon was triggered by allegations of similar behavior during Gallagher’s deployment with another platoon in SEAL Team 7.
“I want all hands to understand that ‘we have a problem’ and that this is our main effort and my top priority,” Green acknowledged in a late July letter to Navy SEALS.
“Some of our subordinate formations have failed to maintain good order and discipline and as a result and for good reason, our NSW culture is being questioned,” Green said. “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.”
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