US Military’s Special Operations Command Says Newest Recruits May Have an ‘Unhealthy Sense of Entitlement’
David Choi / The Business Insider
(January 28, 2020,) — A new internal review by US Special Operations Command says an “unhealthy sense of entitlement” was fostered among its newest candidates during their training process.
The unclassified report, titled “Comprehensive Review of Special Operations Forces,” focused on the culture and ethics in the special-operations community, which includes Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force, Marine Corps Raiders, and Air Force Pararescue specialists.
The review of the community was done after lawmakers called for investigations into the “misconduct and unethical behavior” by its service members, which “threatened public trust,” the report said.
The review also comes amid numerous reports of misconduct within the elite communities in recent months. In one instance in September, three senior leaders from a Navy SEAL Team were fired after “leadership failure,” including sexual assault and drinking alcohol during a deployment to Iraq.
Despite the examples of misconduct, the review found that SOCOM did not have “a systemic ethics problem” and that a “cultural focus” on recruitment and “mission accomplishment” negatively affected “leadership, discipline, and accountability.”
One of the provided examples included the initial training process for new recruits for special-operations forces, or SOF, who are often “segregated” from other service members undergoing conventional training. The report found that there was an “overemphasis on physical training” and questioned whether the recruits demonstrated a “balance of character and competence.”
“Negative aspects of [special-operations forces] segregation and entitlement were identified in certain Component recruiting, preparatory courses and early entry training,” the report said. “Overemphasis on physical training often comes at the expense of Service-specific professional development and acculturation.”
While SOCOM deemed the current curriculum for new recruits “mostly appropriate,” it added that the “lack of exposure” to the military’s “foundation and culture” created “a sense of entitlement.”
Special-operations troops typically receive unique funding and gear for their missions, which are outside the scope of conventional units. SOCOM’s budget requests to Congress have increased steadily in recent years, from $11.8 billion in 2007, to $13.6 billion in 2019.
“It didn’t happen during our period,” a former Delta Force commander told Business Insider, referring to misconduct allegations within the community. “We really were severe about policing ourselves. If you have a guy on your team that even had an inkling of being out of hand, he’s gone.”
“The misbehavior comes in waves, and please believe me I’m not being partisan when I say this, [but] the SEALs have a tough time with it,” the commander added. “It always happens in warfare. You always have some of those guys who [have been] waiting all their life to show that they’re a psychopath or they’re trying to impress one another — it’s juvenile that they’re trying to show how tough they are in a perverted manner.”
In a letter to SOCOM members following the report, the command’s senior leaders stressed that there were areas where improvement was needed.
“We have an incredible force, and the vast majority of you demonstrate that every day,” US Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of SOCOM, and US Navy Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Smith, the command’s senior enlisted adviser, said in the signed letter.
“The bottom line is that we have disproportionately focused on SOF employment and mission accomplishment at the expense of the training and development of our force,” the leaders added. “In some cases, this imbalance has set conditions for unacceptable conduct to occur due to a lack of leadership, discipline, and accountability.”
Navy SEAL Promoted After Choking Green Beret to Death
Kevin Maurer / The Daily Beast
(January 28, 2020) — The US Navy promoted Chief Petty Officer Tony DeDolph four months after he admitted to choking a Green Beret to death.
DeDolph—who will be back in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing—was formally charged in November 2018 with felony murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, burglary, hazing, and involuntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Special Forces soldier assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group.
Melgar was nearing the end of his deployment when he was killed in the West African nation of Mali in June 2017. He was part of an intelligence operation in Mali supporting counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda’s local affiliate, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Days after Melgar was strangled, DeDolph, at the time a petty officer first class, was sent back to his base in Virginia Beach under suspicion of murder. Despite that, DeDolph found himself on the promotion list for chief petty officer in August 2017; he was “frocked”—meaning he began wearing the insignia of the higher rank—on Sept. 15, 2017, according to defense officials. He didn’t start drawing chief’s pay until December.
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Three days before DeDolph’s promotion, the medical examiner’s report was signed. It concluded, based on a June 8, 2017, autopsy at Dover Air Force Base, that Melgar’s cause of death was asphyxiation and the manner of death was homicide, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.
A defense official familiar with the case said Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as Seal Team 6, didn’t flag DeDolph because he was not formally charged or a person of interest in an ongoing investigation. He was a participant in the investigation but no charges were filed until November 2018.
Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, the former commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, told The Daily Beast this week that he authorized an investigation after he learned of Melgar’s death. Bolduc alerted Army Criminal Investigation Command and told commanders in Mali to preserve evidence. He didn’t understand why DeDolph was promoted when he returned to his unit in Virginia Beach.
“It is another failure of leadership,” Bolduc said. “I mean senior leadership. It’s unfortunate. He should have never been promoted. The investigation was started right away. They whisked them out of there as fast as they could.”
When asked if he was surprised by the news, Bolduc said no. “I’m disappointed,” he said. “But not surprised. It’s utter bullshit.”
Navy prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Garcia declined to comment on the promotion because DeDolph is part of an ongoing investigation.
“DeDolph has remained a member of Naval Special Warfare throughout this process,” said Navy Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare. “It is paramount that the rights of the service member are protected, thus any additional information regarding this case will not be discussed.”
Phil Stackhouse, DeDolph’s civilian attorney, did not return calls or text messages seeking comment. Melgar’s widow, Michelle, declined to comment on the story.
DeDolph’s case is just one of several high-profile incidents that have exposed issues in the SEAL culture. Members of SEAL Team 7 were expelled from Iraq in 2019 after allegations of drinking and sexual assault. Six SEALs tested positive for cocaine last year. Then there’s the case of Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher, a former member of SEAL Team 7, who faced a court martial for war crimes charges including murder, but was convicted of posing for a picture with a dead body and granted clemency by President Trump in November 2019.
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Some of the same issues were present in Mali, where there was widespread alcohol use, partying, and prostitutes at the safehouse, according to sources familiar with the investigation. “It was like a frat house,” one source said, when asked to describe what the safe house in Bamako was like.
In response to the recent incidents, Rear Adm. Collin Green, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, sent a memo last year to his subordinate units declaring the whole SEAL community has a problem.
“Some of our subordinate formations have failed to maintain good order and discipline and as a result and for good reason, our NSW culture is being questioned,” Green wrote in the July 2019 memo. “I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately.”
Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of Special Operations Command, ordered an ethics review last August following several high-profile incidents. He acknowledged in a memo to service members on Tuesday that “unacceptable conduct” had been allowed to occur as a result of “lack of leadership, discipline and accountability.” The 71-page report summing up the ethics review warned of what Clarke described as an emphasis on “force employment and mission accomplishment over the routine activities that ensure leadership, accountability, and discipline.”
Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews, who was in Mali doing an assessment of the mission there, testified in August he felt it was his duty to haze Melgar—on DeDolph’s recommendation—to teach him a lesson after Melgar “ditched” the team in Mali’s capital city of Bamako on his way to a party at the French embassy.
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DeDolph, Matthews and two Marine Raiders—Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell—spent the rest of the night plotting to choke Melgar into unconsciousness, pull his pants down and videotape the incident and then show it to him later to embarrass him. When Melgar became unresponsive, Matthews and DeDolph tried to resuscitate Melgar with CPR and opened a hole in his throat.
The SEALS with Sergeant First Class James Morris, Melgar’s supervisor, then rushed Melgar to a French medical facility, where he was pronounced dead. At the clinic, DeDolph admitted to an embassy official he choked Melgar, according to NBC News and subsequent reports.
Maxwell and Matthews have already pleaded guilty in exchange for plea agreements with prosecutors. Matthews, 33, pleaded guilty to hazing and assault charges and attempts to cover up what happened to Melgar. He was sentenced in May 2019 to one year in military prison. Maxwell, 29, was sentenced to four years of confinement after pleading guilty in connection with Melgar’s death in June 2019.
DeDolph and Madera-Rodriguez are the last of the four men who carried out the attack to stand trial. Both men are expected to face courts martial this spring. An exact date has not been selected, according to Navy officials.
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