Navy dismisses SEAL team leaders amid sex assault allegation

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SAN DIEGO (AP) – In a highly unusual move, three senior leaders of a SEAL team were dismissed Friday from their positions only weeks after a unit was sent home from Iraq accused of sexually assaulting a female service member and the platoon chief of another unit was convicted for posing with a human casualty.

Naval Special Warfare Command said Rear Adm. Collin Green relieved them because their leadership failures caused a breakdown of order and discipline within two units while deployed to combat zones.

It did not name the units. The men will remain in the Navy and they are not accused of any misconduct themselves.

The Navy did not make clear which two units it was referring to but it named the team leaders who were relieved. They are the unit’s commanding officer, Cdr. Edward Mason; executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Luke Im; and the team’s top enlisted leader, Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler.

The Navy did not respond to requests asking to reach the men, and The Associated Press was unable to contact them for comment.

SEAL Team 7 has had a series of recent problems.

The firings come only weeks after Green ordered new rules to crack down on misconduct within the elite force and told commanders “that a portion of this force is ethically misaligned with our culture.”

In July, a SEAL unit was sent home from Iraq amid allegations its members were drinking and sexual assaulted a female service member attached to the unit there.

The same month the unit was sent home for drinking and accused of sexually assaulting a female service member attached to the unit, a military jury acquitted a SEAL of murder charges involving the death of a wounded prisoner in Iraq in 2017.

Chief Edward Gallagher was found guilty of posing for a picture with the corpse and recommended for a demotion, which will affect his pay and benefits. The sentence must still be approved by a higher authority under the military justice system before it goes into effect. Gallagher’s lawyers are appealing.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command last month ordered an ethics review of his commando forces, in the wake of a number of recent incidents of bad behavior and criminal allegations against troops.

Army Gen. Richard Clarke said the review will focus on how the command recruits special operators, how it educates and trains the force and how it addresses ethical failures when they occur.

Green has proposed a tracking system in which leaders will be asked to air bad behavior on an internal portal of the Naval Special Warfare Command as a way to keep things in check.

“The root of our problem begins with members who fail to correct this behavior within their sphere of leadership and prioritize this misalignment over the loyalty to Navy and nation,” Green wrote in his memorandum.

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