Despite the fact that several special operators are facing murder charges, U.S. Special Operations Command is doing a bang-up job teaching ethics and professionalism, a Pentagon review has found.
ABC News' Luis Martinez first reported that the Defense Department's report to Congress about ethics and professionalism in the special operations community did not discover any “gaps in the administration, oversight, or management of ethics programs or professionalism programs.”
The seven-page report is mostly dedicated to how well special operations forces are trained to make ethical and moral decisions.
“The SOF culture requires more than adherence to the minimum standards of compliance with applicable law and policy,” the report says. “SOF personnel who manage violence under the stress and ambiguity of combat require the highest level of individual and organizational discipline. This is more than just adherence to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and ethics regulations. Rather, it is the cornerstone of the values system that trust and faith are built upon at every level within SOF.”
Reading the report, one would be forgiven for thinking things are just swell in SOF, but it comes amid of spate of recent news that read like Law & Order: Special Operations Unit.
Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly using his knife to kill a wounded ISIS fighter and then posing for a reenlistment video next to the man's corpse in 2017. Fellow SEAL Lt. Jacob “Jake” Portier is charged with dereliction of duty for allegedly not stopping Gallagher from wounding two non-combatants with a sniper rifle and not properly reporting allegations up the chain of command.
Meanwhile, Navy SEALs Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews, along with Marine Raiders Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, have been charged with murder and related offenses for allegedly strangling Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in 2017.
Two Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Marine special operations unit are reportedly under investigation in connection with the Jan. 4 death of American contractor Richard Anthony Rodriguez, a decorated former Green Beret.
And former Green Beret Maj. Matthew Golsteyn has been charged with murder after he admitted to killing an unarmed Afghan man whom had been identified by a trial leader as a Taliban bomb-maker.
The Pentagon report makes a passing reference to these and other alleged incidents of criminality in the special operations community.
“A review of instances of serious misconduct across SOF indicates that some SOF personnel face a deeper challenge of a disordered view of the team and the individual in the SOF culture,” the report says. “Left unchecked, a value system in disorder threatens to erode the mutual trust among members of SOF and the trust of senior leaders, our allies, and ultimately the American people in SOF.”
“In response to this challenge, SOF senior leaders have engaged in rapid and focused action to identify and address underlying causes, to prevent erosion of trust in the force, and ultimately to produce a more effective special operations force for the nation.”