U.S. Army photo by Spc. Peter Seidler
- Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of US Special Operations Command, has ordered a sweeping ethics and culture review of the special operations community in the wake of high-profile scandals.
- In recent years, special operators have faced a number of serious misconduct allegations, including war crimes, alcohol and drug abuse, murder, drug smuggling, and rape.
- "Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us," Clarke wrote in a recent memo. "The American people must trust those who protect them."
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A Navy SEAL platoon was kicked out of Iraq for alcohol abuse. A Marine Raider and a Navy SEAL pleaded guilty in the death of an Army Green Beret, who was strangled on a deployment to Mali. Two Army Green Berets pleaded guilty of an attempt to smuggle 90 pounds of cocaine out of Colombia on a military plane.
In the wake of high profile scandals like these, the head of US Special Operations Command has ordered a comprehensive culture and ethics review of the special operations community.
"Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us," Gen. Richard Clarke wrote in a recent memo to commanders. "The American people must trust those who protect them … This is about making us better."
The review will begin immediately and cover how special operations troops are selected and trained, how they are educated on ethics, and how ethical failures are handled.
In recent years, special operators have faced a number of serious misconduct allegations, including war crimes, alcohol and drug abuse, murder, drug smuggling, rape, and even an unwillingness of individuals in leadership positions to report improper behavior.
Responding to INSIDER’s queries about a culture of lawlessness spreading through the ranks of the special operations community at a Pentagon press briefing last month, Chief Master Sergeant Gregory A. Smith argued that the command is not suffering from a systemic problem.
"Do we have an issue? No," said Smith, who is SOCOM’s top enlisted leader. "We have challenges. We have fraying. But, are these things systemic? No. Is there room for improvement? Is any one ethical breach too much? Yes."
The same day Smith denied the existence of an "issue," a deployed Navy SEAL platoon, part of SEAL Team 7, was kicked out of Iraq and sent home early for alleged alcohol abuse and a failure to cooperate in a sexual assault investigation.
That incident was preceded by reports of cocaine abuse by members of SEAL Team 10 and followed by reports that a member of SEAL Team 6 had created false identities using military systems to solicit nude photos.
The SOCOM review will review all of the military’s most elite and secretive forces, including Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders and Air Force Special Tactics squadrons.
Naval Special Warfare Command leader Rear Adm. Collin Green wrote a scathing letter at the start of this month, telling commanders that "we have a problem." He wrote, "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."
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