(U.S. Navy/Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jayme Pastoric)
A member of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6 who was named its Sailor of the Year in 2016 has been charged with pretending to be someone else over text messages so he could get nude photographs from women.
Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Howard faces a general court-martial at Naval Station Norfolk, although his civilian defense attorney is seeking to have the case dismissed during a hearing next week.
The case is thrusting the ordinarily secretive naval special warfare community into an uncomfortable spotlight once again.
On Wednesday, a platoon of San Diego-based SEALs was sent home early from Iraq "due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods." And earlier this week, Navy Times reported that members of Virginia Beach-based SEAL Team 10 routinely used cocaine and were able to cheat drug tests before they were caught last year.
SEALs were walking on water as the best military force in the world a decade ago. They killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. They rescued Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. No one seemed more professional or capable than they were.
The only thing more remarkable about how much esteem the SEALs had is how far they've fallen since then. In the latest disgrace, the special operations commander in Iraq just unceremoniously kicked out a SEAL platoon, "Due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods," U.S. Special Operations Command has announced.
"The Commander lost confidence in the team's ability to accomplish the mission," A SOCOM news release said.