It was 2009 in Iraq when one of my teammates decided to initiate an impromptu combatives match with half of a SEAL platoon, never a great idea under any circumstances.  He was the senior Special Forces medic on our team and we had been doing some joint operations with a SEAL platoon in Mosul.  Now we were all blowing off some steam around the camp fire and our medic decided to take it to the next level by “rolling” with a SEAL on the gravel strewn across our camp.

Our Special Forces ODA had a positive experience with the SEALs up until this point, but I was a little concerned.  Tempers can flare and a routine game of military grab ass can turn into full-blown fisticuffs.  I’d seen it happen when I was in Ranger Battalion many a time.  With a dozen SEALs standing over my team-mate, I was worried that it might get out of control and that they would start stomping our medic while he was on the ground.  Thankfully, my concerns were unwarranted.  The SEALs were proportional and took turns rolling with our medic.  A good time was had by all.  Like I said, this is how soldiers blow off steam in-between missions sometimes.

My thoughts were immediately pulled back to that night when the New York Times broke a story that two SEAL Team Six operators were under investigation for the murder of U.S. Special Forces soldier named Logan Melgar.  The incident took place on the night of June 4th in Bamako, the capital of Mali in central Africa.  As Americans have learned as of late, U.S. Special Operations personnel are active in this region of the world, a point brought home by many when a Special Forces ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) was ambushed in Niger last month.

According to what has been reported, the two SEALs initially told investigators that they found Melgar unsconcious and tried to revive him.  When a medical examiner determined that Melgar died by homicide via asphyxiation, the SEALs apparently changed their story, stating that they were participating in a combatives match with Melgar that went bad.  They tried to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful.

SOFREP sources commenting on the condition of anonymity have reported that Melgar was a good soldier, and held in high regard by his peers in 3rd Special Forces Group.  Furthermore, it is said that 3rd Group and Dev Group (SEAL Team Six) maintained a positive relationship in Mali.  A fellow Green Beret saw Melgar at approximately 3AM and engaged him in a brief conversation.  Everything appeared to be normal. Two hours later, Melgar lay dead, his barracks room looking like it had been hit by a tornado.  The Special Forces Company Commander on the base immediately suspected foul play and initiated the investigation.

But what really happened?  Why did the SEALs initially lie about what happened if it was simply a combatives match gone wrong?  SEAL Team Six has gained notoriety in recent years for a series of high-profile operations but also for committing a string of war crimes, drug abuse, and other indiscretions.  That said, not every SEAL in the unit is involved in such activities and the accused remain innocent until proven guilty.

It is difficult to imagine how Melgar could have been accidentally killed by being put into a choke hold during a combatives match.  Special Operations soldiers, no doubt including Melgar, are trained in Army combatives which is an off-shoot of Gracie jiu-jitsu.  This fighting style has also been popularized by the rise of Mixed Martial Arts tournaments including the UFC.  Both Melgar and the SEALs must have had previous experience in being “choked out” as well as choking out others.  In Army combatives training, each soldier is intentionally choked out by an instructor for a brief period of time simply to demonstrate that the technique works.

It has been reported that one of the two SEALs under investigation is Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph who not only received hand to hand combat training as a SEAL but is also a former professional MMA fighter.  DeDolph is no doubt well versed in various chokes, holds, and joint manipulations that are incorporated into MMA and the effect that each has on an opponent.