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The SEALs can learn a lot from the Marines about honesty
Two services. Two incidents involving service members accused of serious misconduct. Two vastly different approaches to openness and transparency.
When U.S. Special Operations Command announced on Wednesday that a SEAL platoon was being sent home early from Iraq because their commander has lost confidence in them, U.S. military officials did not mention that one of the SEALs had been accused of sexually assaulting a female service member. That was first revealed by New York Times reporter David Phillips about 24 hours later.
San Diego-based attorney Jeremiah Sullivan confirmed to Task & Purpose that he represents a member of Foxtrot Platoon SEAL Team 7 who is being investigated for sexually assault but has not been charged.
In contrast: The Marine Corps issued a detailed news release on Thursday about 16 Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, who were arrested on allegations of taking part in human smuggling. 1st Marine Division spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz also immediately knocked down a false rumor that the division had held a bogus awards ceremony so that NCIS could nab the Marines.
Bravo Zulu to the Marines for providing timely and accurate information. They understand that hiding bad news does not make it go away and letting the facts come out in drips and drabs undermines your credibility.
The SEALs and the entire special operations community have much to learn from how the Marine Corps got in front of this story. Some defense officials initially told reporters that the SEALs had been sent home for drinking alcohol, but Phillips first reported the SEALs' commanders lost confidence in them after the entire platoon refused to talk to investigators about the both the sexual assault and drinking allegations.
The officials' failure to disclose the sexual assault investigation gives the impression that they were trying to obscure the real reason why the SEALs were kicked out of Iraq.
A spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command said it is unfair to compare how the Marines and SEALs responded because the two situations are totally different.
"You are comparing arrests on criminal charges versus an ongoing investigation into allegations," Kenneth McGraw told Task & Purpose on Friday. "We do not comment on ongoing investigations."
News of the SEAL platoon being removed from the war-zone is just another black eye for the Navy special warfare community, which is reeling from a series of scandals involving cocaine use, murder, and other alleged crimes.
This reporter understands that SEALs and other special operators live and fight in the shadows, so it is natural for them to want to provide as little information as possible to reporters and the general public.
But it is also clear that SEALs feel the rules don't apply to them. The platoon that was sent home early reportedly came from the same team as Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher, who was recently acquitted of murdering a wounded ISIS fighter but found guilty of posing with the fighter's corpse.
Members of Gallagher's platoon have revealed they regularly drank alcohol while deployed. During Gallagher's court-martial, jurors were shown a picture of the SEALs drinking at a bar they had built at their compound with their assistant platoon leader serving as the DJ.
In a separate case, a Navy SEAL and Marine Raider have both acknowledged they had been drinking alcohol before taking part in the June 2017 hazing death of Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, but both Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews and Marine Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr. did not blame alcohol for their actions.
The Marine Corps' approach to the recent news out of Camp Pendleton shows that being open builds trust with the American public. Trust is exactly what the SEALs need a lot more of right now, and the best way to restore it is by looking to the other sea service's example.
SEE ALSO: Video from Eddie Gallagher trial shows Navy SEALs smoking and joking near alleged victim's body
WATCH NEXT: A Navy SEAL Is Accused Of Committing War Crimes In Iraq
Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.
The Air Force is investigating whether an airman smoked weed at a missile alert facility for nuclear Minuteman ICBMs
The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.