The murder case of SSG Logan Melgar of the 3rd Special Forces Group (3rd SFG) is another tough scenario for the SF Group’s soldiers to bear. The unit lost four of its members in a deadly ambush in Niger and then to find out that one of its finer NCOs was murdered in US Embassy housing while stationed in Mali was worse. But worst of all was the fact that SSG Melgar wasn’t murdered by terrorists but reportedly at the hands of his fellow US Special Operations warriors from the Navy SEALs and Marine Corps Raiders. That is a stain regardless of the outcome of the court-martial on all of SOCOM that won’t soon fade.
While we’re not going to argue the merits of the case, this much is clear. Melgar shared an apartment with two members of SEAL Team Six, operators identified as Petty Officer Adam Matthews and Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph. Both SEALs admitted to breaking into Melgar’s room while he was asleep. Melgar died of asphyxiation and DeDolph has admitted to putting Melgar in a chokehold. The SEALs stories have changed several times which raised red flags which triggered a further investigation.
Last week, the military has said that they are charging the two SEALs and two Marine Raiders who are still unnamed with felony murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, burglary, hazing, and involuntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of Melgar in June of 2017. A preliminary hearing is set for December 10.
How this came to be is still a source of speculation but the military has obviously found enough evidence to proceed. Melgar was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Mali as part of a six-man intelligence cell in support of counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Daily Beast had a source with knowledge of the situation stating that Melgar was put off by the unprofessional behavior of the two members of SEAL Team Six.
The two had several lapses of operational security, bringing prostitutes to the safe house in the capital of Bamako. Worse, Melgar reportedly found evidence of the two skimming cash out of the operational fund to recruit informants about illicit Islamic activity in the area. Melgar reported his concerns to the chain of command. That had to have gotten back to the SEALs.
On the night of June 4, 2017, Melgar was invited to an Embassy party but the other four members had not. That, according to the Daily Beast was the final straw. They decided to plan an attack on him later that evening. According to the source, they planned for hours.
The SEALs went to the place where the Marines were staying for duct tape to restrain him. Shortly before 5:00 a.m. they kicked open his door, used the duct tape and then DeDolph put Melgar in a chokehold. When they saw he wasn’t breathing, they covered their tracks by doing first CPR and then a tracheotomy. They took him to a French hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Here is where the stories began to come apart. The story in the DB stated that the SEALs then began a coverup which included returning “to the safehouse, they engaged in a cover-up, according to several witnesses—including cleaning up evidence and coaching witnesses. The charge sheet accuses the members of the conspiracy with “providing a false timeline of events to the Navy chain of command,” and “purposefully” left out the duct tape when making their statements on Melgar’s death. They as well allegedly “disposed of the alcohol” they kept in the shared Army-Navy quarters and lied to investigators.”
The same sources told the DB that the SEALs filed two operational reports of the incident and this is where things began to go awry. In one report, the Navy operators said that the men were wrestling and Melgar was drunk. But Melgar didn’t drink alcohol and blood alcohol levels taken during a toxicology report showed zero in his system.
And the report that the men were just “playfully wrestling” left out that the SEALs used the duct tape to restrain him. Plus DeDolph as an MMA fighter knows the difference between when a chokehold would incapacitate another fighter or do serious harm.
This incident will have long-lasting implications. The very nature of Special Operations Forces and units like JSOC is the fact that all of the units in all of the services have to have one another’s back. And the trust factor to watch out over one another has to be supreme in SOF.
Melgar’s widow Michelle, was briefed on this case twice in the past month, first in Norfolk, Virginia and later again at Ft. Bragg, NC. While she declined to address specific aspects of the case, she uttered support for the prosecution but also feels that she doesn’t want to cause a rift between the Special Forces and SEALs and Marine Raiders.
“While I have faith that the military court will handle this situation in the best possible way, I also understand that the mission continues,” she said. “Our men must work well together, and we need to support them in doing so.”
She reiterated much the same feelings in a statement that she released to NEWSREP. “I fully support SOCOM, NCIS, and the prosecutors. It is important to me that we continue to support all of our Special Operators and their efforts to work together. The actions of these individuals is not a direct reflection on the organizations themselves. I am grateful for the continued support that SOCOM has shown me and my family throughout the investigation.
The U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) spokesman, Navy Captain Salata said the command honored Melgar’s memory and kept his loved ones in its thoughts. He pledged unity among the U.S.’ elite forces that probably none of them are feeling right now.
“We will not allow allegations or substantiated incidents of misconduct to erode decades of honorable accomplishments by the members of U.S. Special Operations Command. Ours is a culture of professionalism and accountability, which prides itself in being a learning organization that uses critical self-examination in a relentless dedication to improvement,” Salata said.
While all of what Salata said is absolutely true, it takes only one incident such as this one to erode what decades of dedicated Special Operators have accomplished. The command has a lot of work to do in this regard. The services have their jobs cut out for them in regards to this incident. They will have to tread very carefully here. The troops will smell B.S. in a second. But they must get everyone pulling in the same direction again.
Trust is very hard to build and it can be lost in a split second. Even if these charges are proved false, the damage has been done. And the losers are everyone in the SOCOM community.
Photo of Logan Melgar and his father: US Army