The public relations hits keep on coming for the Navy’s SEAL community, as a new report about an active duty SEAL acting in porn films joins a string of recent news stories in casting a shadow over Naval Special Warfare (NSW).

Recapping the latest salvos impacting the SEALs’ reputation, the Navy announced that there would be no criminal charges filed against a BUD/S instructor involved in the drowning death of BUD/S trainee James D. Lovelace last May.Though “good news” for the command, the headline nonetheless reminds the public of a tragic accident that occurred in the SEALs’ basic training program, thus calling into question its ability to keep its trainees safe while also subjecting them to a grueling training regiment.

Then there was the release of an explosive CBS News report last week detailing allegations of widespread drug use within NSW, and a failure of SEAL leadership to effectively deal with the problem.The Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) pushed back on that report, as cited in a Military.com article, offering their own statistics on drug testing within the community, as favorably compared to the statistics seen military-wide.Regardless of NSW’s defense, the blemish on the community’s image is not erased.

Additionally, further fanning the flames of the raging intra-NSW conflict over “selling the Trident,” self-proclaimed Osama Bin Ladin shooter Rob O’Neill is set to release his book “The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama Bin Ladin and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior,” on April 25th.This will no doubt lead to more public bickering over capitalizing on the SEAL brand, which will surely play out in the press, as various SEALs insult each other and defend their rights to free speech, all the while doing nothing more than to further erode public opinion of the SEAL Teams.

Next, and probably most alarming for many of those who are serving or have served in the SEAL community, was The Intercept report of alleged war crimes committed by SEAL Team Six that came out back in January of this year.Though the report was for the most part buried under the earthquake of Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, and thus largely ignored by most of the public, the disturbing story nonetheless remains “out there,” whether true or not.  It also has no doubt contributed to the degradation of the SEAL Teams in the eyes of many in the public.

As if all of that were not enough, the latest scandal to hit the community involves a combat-decorated SEAL, Chief Special Warfare Officer Joseph John Schmidt III, and his participation along with his wife in porn movies to make ends meet financially.

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On first reading the San Diego Union-Tribune article that broke the story, one is tempted to make light of the issue, which admittedly spawns unlimited joke possibilities in the minds of many (or at least, many of the immature variety, such as this author).However, the story touches on deeper issues, and deserves more than cheap jokes as a response.

Summarizing the Union-Tribune report, Chief Schmidt and his wife, in order to come out from under close to $2 million worth of debt — resulting from a failed real estate company — resorted to acting in pornographic films.  Schmidt’s wife, who goes by the name “Jewels Jade,” had first begun appearing in pornographic films in 2001, but had left the industry upon marrying Schmidt and becoming a mother.

Following the failed real estate venture, she returned to the industry to help the family make ends meet.  Jade eventually recruited Schmidt to participate as an unpaid performer (named “Jay Voom”), to help cut the expense of paying for a more established actor.  Jade went on to claim that NSWC knew of Schmidt’s involvement and that it was kept under wraps, or, at a minimum, was ignored.

That was until it became public.

Now, Schmidt faces a formal investigation over whether he improperly engaged in outside employment without prior approval, whether he engaged in behavior that is “discrediting to the Naval service,” and whether NSWC knew of the activity and did nothing about it.

This author, for one, sympathizes with Schmidt and his wife, and their need to pay the bills and come out from under crushing debt.After all, this was not some secret life a husband was keeping from his wife for the sheer thrill of sordid exhibitionism.This was a joint effort by the two of them to do what needed to be done to make ends meet, if you believe their version of the story as depicted in the article.

I might not agree with their course of action as the most healthy and effective way to handle a debt problem, but I get it.  Furthermore, Schmidt was not advertising himself as a Navy SEAL in his work in pornography.  He was thus not willfully endangering the community’s reputation in a blatant manner.  In other words, it does not appear that he engaged in some sleazy scheme to capitalize off the SEAL brand in porn, for example.

All that said, however, the public release of the news report puts NSWC and Navy leadership in a bind, as it forces them to deal with the issue to avert further public pressure and “preserve the honor” of the SEAL Teams and the Navy.  Schmidt will likely face some kind of reprimand for this behavior as a result.

The larger issues that come to light here, beyond what one man is or is not able to do in his free time to make money while serving as an active duty SEAL, are troubling.  Is there a double standard in the U.S. military when it comes to how men and women are treated in situations like this?  The Union-Tribune pointed out examples of how various male and female service members have been treated in the past for similar offenses.  Surprise, it was not equally.

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Additionally, did the Naval Special Warfare Command do nothing about this issue until it became public?  Did they willfully ignore it until public pressure forced them to deal with it?

If so, this will do little to alleviate the concerns of those who think it possible that a mafia-like mentality has settled over the SEAL Teams, in which the leadership sweeps problems under the rug until forced to deal with them in a formal way.  Those are, after all, the accusations of some from within the community itself with regards to alleged drug use and war crimes.

The bottom line is that the SEAL Teams — at a minimum — have a perception problem.  The perception is that behavior that should be prohibited and bring punishment is instead tolerated and at most, informally and lightly dealt with.  That perception — let alone the reality, if it indeed is the case — cannot be ignored.

This author would expect the command to remedy this problem in short order.

(Photo courtesy of Massage-Parlor.com)