Navy dismisses SEAL team leaders, cites discipline failures

In a highly unusual move, three senior leaders of a SEAL team were dismissed Friday due to a loss of confidence in their leadership skills only weeks after a unit in Iraq was sent home accused of sexual assault and the platoon chief of another unit was convicted for posing with a casualty.

Naval Special Warfare Command said Rear Adm. Collin Green relieved them because their leadership failures caused a breakdown of order and discipline within two units while deployed to combat zones.

The men will remain in the Navy and they are not accused of any misconduct themselves.

The Navy did not make clear which two units it was referring to, but it named the team leaders who were relieved. They are the unit's commanding officer, Cdr. Edward Mason; executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Luke Im; and the team's top enlisted leader, Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler.

The Navy did not respond to requests asking to reach the men, and The Associated Press was unable to contact them for comment.

The firings come only weeks after Green ordered new rules to crack down the elite force and told commanders "that a portion of this force is ethically misaligned with our culture."

SEAL Team 7 has faced several misconduct accusations in recent months.

In July, a SEAL unit was sent home from Iraq amid allegations its members were drinking and a female service member attached to the unit there had been sexually assaulted.

The same month, a military jury in San Diego acquitted a Navy SEAL of murder charges involving the death of a wounded prisoner in Iraq in 2017.

Chief Edward Gallagher was found guilty of posing for a picture with the corpse and recommended for a demotion, which will affect his pay and benefits. The sentence must still be approved by a higher authority under the military justice system before it goes into effect. Gallagher's lawyers are appealing.

During that hearing the platoon's members acknowledged they had set up a rooftop bar at the house where the SEALs were staying outside Mosul, Iraq. Others admitted to also posing with the casualty.

After Green announced he was looking into the problems, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command last month ordered an ethics review of his commando forces.

Army Gen. Richard Clarke said the review will focus on how the command recruits special operators, how it educates and trains the force and how it addresses ethical failures when they occur.

Green has ordered a tracking system in which leaders will be asked to air bad behavior on an internal portal of the Naval Special Warfare Command as a way to keep things in check. He also ordered any allegations of misconduct against chief petty officers and anyone higher in rank to be reported directly to him.

"The root of our problem begins with members who fail to correct this behavior within their sphere of leadership and prioritize this misalignment over the loyalty to Navy and nation," Green wrote in his memorandum.