A decade-plus of nonstop SEAL combat deployments caused undeniable psychological trauma that in turn, coupled with senior SEAL leadership’s failure to control culture, fueled rampant drug abuse, active duty SEALs moonlighting in Hollywood, sex scandals, murder, embezzlement, theft, and more, Admiral Greene finally admitted… “We have a problem.”
An excerpt from his letter to Naval Special Warfare is below.
From: Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command
To: Naval Special Warfare
Subj: LETTER FROM THE COMMANDER
“We have a problem. 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. 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. Good order and discipline is the foundation for every military organization and it is a leadership responsibility. As Commander, I own it. As Commodores, you also own it. We must now take a proactive approach to prevent the next breach of ethical and professional behavior in our formations, instead of continuing on our current consequence management approach.” –Read the full letter here.
Booze, Coke, Hazing, Forced Redeployment — What’s Wrong With the Navy SEALs?
Meanwhile, two SEALs have been implicated in the hazing death of Special Forces Sgt. Logan Melgar in Mali. Navy Special Operations Chief Tony DeDolph is accused of placing Melgar in a chokehold until he asphyxiated. Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews, who pleaded guilty to hazing, assault, and other charges in May, is also under investigation for allegedly trying to flirt with and manipulate Melgar’s widow. -Read the rest on, “Insider”, here.
Current and former SEALs talk about instances of criminality and drug use in the Teams. Video courtesy of YouTube and CBS News
For SEALs, It’s Back to Regulation Haircuts and Uniform Inspections
Stung by a string of scandals starring SEALs behaving badly, Naval Special Warfare commander Rear Adm. Collin Green on Tuesday issued a four-page “back to basics” directive designed to shore up shoddy conduct, restore moral accountability and create better leaders. –Navy Times
Culture Drives Behavior
“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.” -Admiral Green
I learned in Harvard Business School that you are who you hire and who you hire, and how leadership acts determines culture.
It’s why flying United Airlines is very different from Jet Blue and how Apple is different from Google.
Culture determines how people behave in any organization.
While I applaud the Admiral for finally addressing the issue I find it disturbing that he doesn’t clearly see the issue as a major cultural problem within the SEAL Teams.
However, to be fair, sometimes it’s hard to see things clearly when you are in the organization itself but the data points around cultural degradation are loud and clear. A quick Google search will give you an idea of this.
Read Next: ‘We have a problem’: Top Navy SEAL partially acknowledges cultural issues but ignores reality
I used to get really angry, as someone who left the community as a Chief in 2006, at the SEALs and their outrageous unprofessional conduct unfolding in the press when I was on the outside looking in.
The same guys shitting on me, Luttrell, and Chris Kyle for writing books were moonlighting on paid Hollywood gigs, stealing, and much worse. You can read about some of it here.
Then after years of reflection, I realized that it was actually WARCOM that had failed these guys.
I started to take a more compassionate look and shrug off a lot of the trauma-fueled jealousy with the understanding that a lot of these men were in pain and looking for an easy outlet to vent.
The behavior was a symptom of a system that failed them and continues to leave them with the short straw to this day.
We see this recently in the case of Navy SEAL Daniel Swift (KIA in Ukraine).
And he’s not the only SEAL who’s been left like scraps of meat lying on the butcher’s floor for the late-night janitor to pick up.
A Flawed System of Promotion
Instead of creating a system of promotion that encouraged active-duty SEALs to take time off for family (a psychological pause) and seek psychological treatment, the opposite ensued.
Overdeployed and over-traumatized.
To gain rank and a pay raise, you needed to leave your family often for the combat zone. If you didn’t do this you’d be passed on for promotion by your SEAL peers who were deploying over and over again.
Flawed incentives around promotion led to over-deployed SEALs and trauma overdose.
This then led to unbridled shenanigans left unchecked by senior leadership, which became a wildfire out of control for WARCOM.
The system let these guys down. Guys like Eddie Gallagher, a long list of others, and now more recently, Daniel Swift.
Swift was AWOL from his unit and killed in action fighting in Ukraine after a string of run-ins with the law, which resulted in him divorcing and losing custody of his children.
To add insult to injury, his family is now fighting for survivor benefits.
How many other families are out there?
WARCOM would be wise to re-tool the promotion incentive system to create a better psychologically balanced fighting force and start addressing a very clear cultural problem.
Haircuts and uniform inspections are not going to solve this alone.
The Command would also be wise to create a sanctioned alumni association that is more than the current drinking club with a fighting problem (our annual SEAL reunion).
Transitioning from active duty to civilian life is incredibly challenging, and having the safety net of professional alumni would go a long way to softening the blindfolded parachute landing of being a Navy SEAL one minute and out in the cold with no underpants the next.
I can only hope that WARCOM will look in the mirror and compassionately support the Swift family and other families left behind (a lot of times alone) to pick up the pieces of their husbands, brothers, and sons’ war-torn lives.
*The original article has been edited by the author to include more clarifying details.
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