Naval Special Warfare Command fired the three senior leaders of SEAL Team Seven on Friday, saying their failure in leadership caused a breakdown of good order and discipline.
The top SEAL commander, Rear Adm. Collin P. Green, relieved SEAL Team Seven’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Edward Mason; the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Luke Im; and the team’s top enlisted leader, Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler because of a loss of confidence, according to a spokeswoman for the SEALs, Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence.
The unusual move comes amid a flurry of high-profile incidents in the SEAL teams, prompting attempts by Navy leadership to bring the elite commandos under control.
Friday’s action was spurred by how the leaders dealt with actions by Team Seven’s Foxtrot platoon, Commander Lawrence said. The platoon was abruptly removed from Iraq in late July after reports of serious misconduct during a Fourth of July celebration.
Officials did not release any details at the time. But a senior Navy official with knowledge of the matter said the Navy was investigating reports that the platoon held a Fourth of July party in which a senior enlisted member of the platoon raped a female service member attached to the platoon, another SEAL made unwanted sexual contact with a second female service member and some team members consumed alcohol against regulations.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation, said no one had yet been charged.
When the entire platoon invoked the right to remain silent, commanders outside the team decided to send the whole platoon home.
Navy SEALs at Coronado, Calif., said removing a team’s top three leaders, known as the triad, is uncommon, but expected when a team has so many problems. Many longtime Navy officers think the firings are only the beginning of a larger house cleaning in the SEALs.
The problems in Foxtrot platoon are the latest in a series of reports of misconduct for the SEAL teams. Two SEAL members and two Marines were charged in the death of a Green Beret who was strangled in 2017 during a hazing incident while the commandos were on a secret deployment in Mali. One of the SEAL members pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May.
In SEAL Team 10, based in Virginia, an investigation revealed widespread use of cocaine and other drugs, and drug testing efforts so lax that SEALs considered them a joke.
Earlier this summer, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher went to trial on charges he shot unarmed civilians and stabbed a wounded captive to death while leading a platoon in Iraq in 2017. He was acquitted of nearly all charges, but evidence from the case also showed SEALs drinking in Iraq with their officers, and suggested Chief Gallagher and other high-ranking enlisted SEALs were abusing opiates both at home and in the war zone.
Military regulations forbid the consumption of alcohol in Iraq and Afghanistan, two predominantly Muslim countries. But its presence among American troops serving there is hardly rare and, in many units, including the SEAL teams, leaders sometimes turn a blind eye to moderate use.
But this year, in response to repeated reports of misconduct, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, Admiral Green, took steps to clean up SEAL culture with a focus on what he called “ethical compliance” and pushing the SEALs to take a hard look at themselves and rein in behaviors that had been quietly tolerated for years.
“Naval Special Warfare insists on a culture where ethical adherence is equally important to tactical proficiency,” the Navy said in a statement when Foxtrot platoon was recalled. “Good order and discipline is critical to the mission. We’re actively reinforcing, with the entire force, basic leadership, readiness, responsibility and ethical principles that must form the foundation of special operations.”