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Former Navy SEAL’s Open Letter to Navy Command: ‘SEALs Aren’t the Problem, it’s the Leadership’

The fighting men and women of the United States Armed Forces aren't the problem—it's the career-centric commanders.

Image Credit: Courtsey, US Navy

The top US Navy SEAL, Rear Adm. Collin Green just sent a message to the Teams that was titled “We have a problem”, and he’s not wrong. But I would argue that the problem most of the men see is not what the admiral has in mind.

This comes on the back of the Eddie Gallagher debacle, Team 7 having an entire platoon sent home from Iraq for drinking and several other incidents dating back to when my team was courts martialed for prisoner abuse in 2009.

An observer might look at this as “what is wrong with the SEAL Teams” but the real question is; what is wrong with the leadership that has taken the word of terrorists, politicians and over zealous Navy attorneys or investigators that are selling our brave soldiers out?

I speak from personal experience. In 2009 my platoon captured the infamous ‘butcher of Fallujah’, so well featured in Chris Kyle’s America Sniper movie. We were subsequently Courts martialed by fellow commanding SEALs; Wilske and Richards. 3 of the 8 of us initially charged stood a full courts martials. Everyone was acquitted as we knew we would be, however the damage was done.

Same with Eddie Gallagher. While the Navy said “the system worked and you were acquitted” the process became the punishment. It destroyed careers, separated families and cost too good loyal soldiers tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Is that justice… or fair for someone willing to die for their country who makes less than 60,000 dollars a year?

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The system is broken, I wrote about this in all three of my books. Many commanders become bureaucratic monsters with their career in their front sights and not the mission or the men, they forget. Do SEALs get a wrap for being cowboys? Hell yes we do, and that’s because we are the ones that raised our hands to do the job that most don’t want to do and even more can’t do, so cut us some slack if we want to have a few beers in Iraq in between gun fights. I did, and I know a bunch of now high-ranking brass that did because they were right next to me doing it in Baghdad in 2007.

Former Navy Seal Carl Higbie
Former Navy Seal Carl Higbie

The SEAL teams have not changed much, the two things that have changed are the political climate around us and the fact that everyone has an iPhone that records every minute of our life. I certainly don’t condone things like sexual assault or criminal behavior and agree those things should be prosecuted, if there is evidence.

But when it comes to the battlefield, cut us. and quite frankly any other solider who is willing to die for their country some slack. Every troop should go into battle knowing that no matter what, their commander is behind them if they have to pull that trigger. That is not the case now and it is destroying the military.

Related: Department of Defense Delays Release of Ex-Navy SEAL’s Book

The brass of today has forgotten that they trained us to be war fighters not politicians. We are rough around the edges, scrappy, many of us love to party, sometimes arrogant and occasionally impulsive but we get the damn job done and that should be the most important thing. So, Admiral Green, the way you and your commanders have “made an example” out of good men who serve honorably is the real problem. You treat allegations as convictions WITHOUT evidence.

You want recommendations on how to address the problem? Stop giving medals to a Navy JAG officers that prosecute your own men. The embarrassment of the President of the United States rescinding a medal should contrast YOUR culture problem. Get the lawyers off the battlefield and if you unleash the dogs of war do not be surprised if we bite.

America, would you rather have an inspection ready, rule abiding unit or a rough bunch of men ready to kill bad guys to protect our freedoms? I know where I stand, let’s cut our guys some slack.

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