The three senior leaders of a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL Team have been fired from their positions by the admiral overseeing the Navy's elite special operations forces "due to a loss of confidence that resulted from leadership failures," after members of their team were accused of serious discipline breaches, including an alleged sexual assault and drinking while deployed to Iraq.
"Commander, Navy Special Warfare Command Read Adm. Collin Green relieved the three senior leaders of SEAL Team 7 from their positions Sept. 6.," US Navy Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Command, told CNN in a statement explaining the rare move.
"Green relieved 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 due to a loss of confidence that resulted from leadership failures that caused a breakdown of good order and discipline within two subordinate units while deployed to combat zones," Lawrence added.
While the team's leadership has been removed from their positions, they remain in the Navy and no additional punishments or disciplinary action has taken place at this time.
The Navy SEAL officers are not being accused of engaging in the alleged behavior that got the team sent home from Iraq, the Navy is holding them responsible for the behavior of their subordinates and the command climate they oversaw.
Navy officials said they could not recall a similar time when the leadership of a SEAL team was similarly fired from their positions.
A platoon from the SEAL team they led, SEAL Team 7, was sent home early from Iraq in July due to "a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline" that caused a military commander to lose "confidence in the team's ability to accomplish the mission."
US Defense Department officials familiar with the situation told CNN that the unusual step of sending the team home was due to allegations regarding an alleged sexual assault and the consumption of alcohol during their downtime, which is a violation of general orders issued to troops participating in overseas campaigns.
Recent SEAL discipline problems
Another recent case of ill discipline prompted an internal Navy investigation that found members of SEAL Team 10 allegedly abused cocaine and other illicit substances while they were stationed in Virginia last year. The members were subsequently disciplined.
In early July, a military court decided Navy SEAL team leader Eddie Gallagher, a one-time member of SEAL Team 7, would be demoted in rank and have his pay reduced for posing for a photo with a dead ISIS prisoner while he was serving in Iraq. Another SEAL was sentenced in June for his role in the 2017 death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Green Beret, in Bamako, Mali.
In the wake of the recent scandals last month Green ordered a series of immediate changes to address what he calls a drift from "Navy core values of Honor Courage, and Commitment."
"Our Force has drifted from our Navy core values of Honor Courage, and Commitment and the tenets of our Naval Special Warfare Ethos due to a lack of action at all levels of Leadership," Green wrote in a memo to major subordinate commanders.
Green said that a "portion" of Navy SEALS are "ethically misaligned with our Culture," saying "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."