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Navy SEAL investigated for alleged ties to extremists

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Bryce Henson has allegedly attended rallies with people wearing Proud Boys’ attire.
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Navy SEAL Trident
A Navy SEAL Trident. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker/U.S. Navy)

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Bryce Henson, an active-duty SEAL based in San Diego and former member of SEAL Team 6, is under investigation for allegedly participating with or supporting extremist causes, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesperson confirmed on Monday.

“While Sailors are always allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and assembly if they follow the law and policy restriction, participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is contradictory to the core values of the Navy and is not tolerated by NSW,” the spokesperson told Task & Purpose.

The spokesperson declined to say which groups Henson is suspected of associating with.

“As a matter of policy, we will not release specific details about the ongoing investigation,” the spokesperson said. “We ask for the public’s patience and understanding as we proceed with this investigation. Our priority is to ensure a fair and just process for all parties involved.”

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Henson enlisted in the Navy in May 2010 and his past assignments include serving with the Joint Special Operations Command’s Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as “Seal Team 6,” according to his service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. Since April, he has been assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Center at Coronado, California. He became a chief petty officer in April 2021.

KPBS, a San Diego television station, first reported that Henson has appeared at several rallies along with other people wearing attire frequently used by the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group that has a history of brawling with left-wing protesters.

Henson declined to comment when contacted by Task & Purpose on Monday.

A source with knowledge of the case told Task & Purpose that the Navy has yet to find evidence that shows Henson is an active member of an extremist group.

In December 2021, the Defense Department broadened its definition of “extremist activities” to include, “Advocating widespread unlawful discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

The Los Angeles Times first revealed in October that Henson had used the pseudonym “Ben Richards” when he helped lead a rally in August to protest against rights for gay, lesbian, and transgender students.

Henson initially identified himself to the newspaper as Richards, founder of SoCal Parent Advocates. The organization’s Instagram page says the group is dedicated to “exposing, challenging, and resisting CRT [critical race theory], radical gender ideology, and vaccine/mask tyranny” in southern California schools.

“Asked by The Times why he used the fake name Ben Richards — after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the 1987 dystopian film ‘The Running Man’ — Henson said he initially was concerned for his safety,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “Now, he says, he does it to make an ideological point. He said transgender people shouldn’t question his decision to ‘identify’ as a fictitious movie character if they want him to ‘respect their crazy identity.’”

SoCal Parent Advocates posted a Nov. 10 statement on “X” referring to Ben Richards as “a father, a Marine, and a Navy SEAL.” The statement did not identify Richards as Henson.

Before joining the Navy, Henson served in the Marine Corps from October 2004 until  February 2009 as a combat engineer, according to his Marine Corps service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose on Tuesday.

His military awards include the Iraq Campaign Medal, and his last duty assignment was with the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton in California. Henson left the Marine Corps as a sergeant.

“Currently involved in an ongoing investigation, Ben is unavailable for comment,” the statement says. “Nonetheless, he is confident that the investigation will vindicate him of any wrongdoing, demonstrating that he has only been a dedicated and responsible father, and, a hero for knowingly assuming risk to help parents under attack.”

UPDATE: 11/14/2023; this story was updated after the Marine Corps provided Task & Purpose with Bryce Henson’s service record.

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