Navy's top SEAL says he's reviewing training and ethics amid murder and drug allegations in special ops

File photo: Navy SEALs in Mosul (Photo: CNN/screenshot)

SAN DIEGO — The commander of Naval Special Warfare said Wednesday that he recently commissioned a 90-day review of recruiting, selection, training, and leadership development in his command amid allegations of drug use, murder, and other ethical lapses within the SEAL community.

"We are looking hard as a learning organization to self assess to see, are we assessing and selecting the right people? Are we holding them accountable to standards of honor, courage, and commitment?" Rear Adm. Collin Green told the audience at the West 2019 conference, in response to a question from Task & Purpose.

Green was part of a panel discussion focused on restoring readiness and "[building] a more lethal force" when he was asked about what steps he was taking to address problems in the SEAL community. Among the issues cited by Task & Purpose were the nearly dozen SEALs booted from the service after testing positive for drugs last year, as well as others being investigated or brought to trial on murder charges.

As Navy Times' reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz notes, other SEALs have been charged with allegedly abusing prisoners in Afghanistan; another was sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for producing images of child sexual abuse in Feb. 2018.

The panel moderator, retired Vice Adm. James Zortman, initially tried to shut down the question as not having anything to do with readiness, but Task & Purpose pushed back, saying that SEALs under investigation are not ready to deploy. Indeed, special operations forces, as a rule, cannot be mass produced, so taking a small number of them out of the fight can have a deep impact on a community numbering in the thousands.

Green, to his credit, took the question head on and agreed that criminal and ethical issues in the command "does affect readiness."

Green said he picked an unnamed Navy captain who just returned from Iraq to study "what we're doing in the schoolhouse, what we're not doing, what we're doing relative to leader development and hard ethical decisions. Combat ethics, to see if we're addressing that through our inter deployment training cycle."

The study was commissioned on Jan. 1, according to NSW spokeswoman Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, and is expected to be submitted to Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of Special Operations Command, sometime in March. Green ordered the study after Thomas sent a memo to all special operators in November addressing a "deeper challenge of a disordered view of the team and the individual in our SOF culture."

"I'm gonna get the results ... and we will address those [issues]," Green said. "We've been at war for 17 years and those are the things that we are looking... So we are on it."

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