It was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time.
Anybody, who has worked in any job, for any length of time, knows that bad news, or “catching hell,” always flows downhill.
And no one, not even special operations commandos, are immune.
Case in point — the following high-profile cases involving war fighters in the dock.
These include Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, acquitted of war crimes, Army Green Beret Maj. Matt Golsteyn, accused and pardoned of killing an alleged Afghan bomb-maker, and two SEALS and two Marine Raiders known around Tampa as the “Mali Four,” accused of multiple crimes connected to killing a Green Beret in West Africa.
According to a special report from Susan Katz Keating in the Washington Examiner, a letter from commanders was released along with the results of a study into why elite war fighters sometimes get into trouble over matters, including war crimes or murder.
The letter lamented the threat to public trust and cited shortcomings in leadership, discipline, and accountability. It conveyed a mix of gratitude, encouragement, and somber admission but cited no direct plan to set things aright, the report said.
It was signed by a who’s who of special operations leaders, including the commander of the entire US Special Operations, four-star Gen. Richard Clarke, the report said.
“I am bugging my eyeballs over this letter,” said Bobby, 35, an Air Force commando. “Talk about culture. This is the culture of what you expect from a REMF [Rear Echelon Mother F—-r]. It hints at all sorts of things, but it’s so vague, you don’t really know what it means.”
Rick, 37, an Army special operations sergeant, said: “In our line of work, we’re direct. Did they really write this for us or for some politician breathing down their necks?”
Bobby, Rick, and their companions are on active duty and are not authorized to speak to the press. As such, they agreed to talk to the Washington Examiner but asked to withhold their full names from publication, the report said.
“Did they really pay people to come up with this stuff?” said John, 32, another Army sergeant. “It even says there isn’t an ethics problem in the force, but there might be. Basically, it says, ‘Be nice.’”
“It’s laughable,” said Bobby. “The whole thing is a joke. The military tells us to be savages, but now they want us to be choirboys.”
But not everyone views the documents with skepticism, the report said.
Tim Parlatore, lawyer for Eddie Gallagher, agreed with the observation about savages and choirboys. “That’s a great way to describe it,” he told the Washington Examiner. “You ask these fighters to do all these things and then expect them to be able to turn it off.”
The French Foreign Legion, for example, known for bravery against superior forces, is also known for downing a glass of wine now and then, to put it nicely.
Soldiers of all rank who face death in their line of work, have been generally allowed to blow off steam, and officials have normally looked the other way.
The situation will self-correct, Parlatore insisted, when the current batch of younger war fighters rises up through the ranks, the report said.
There, they will lead both from doctrine and from experience, he said.
The solution? “They need to adjust the op tempos to allow for the debriefings and giving the leadership time to lead,” Parlatore said.
“They keep sending guys like Eddie out over and over on these missions, and it’s going to cause problems,” he said. “In Eddie’s day, they used to do meetings every night to discuss the day’s ops and lessons learned. Quickly, that fell away, and they didn’t have time.”