SEAL Team Leaders Relieved of Duty After Sexual Assault Investigation

U.S. sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two use a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System in a training exercise in the Boeblingen Local Training Area, Germany, on April 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)
U.S. sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two use a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System in a training exercise in the Boeblingen Local Training Area, Germany, on April 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Cmdr. Jarrod Donaldson and Master Chief Jon Franklin, the commander and senior enlisted officer of a U.S. Navy SEAL team, have been relieved of duty after an investigation into sexual assault and sexual harassment, officials told ABC News.

Donaldson and Franklin were relieved on July 9 by Capt. Jamie Sands, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group Two, a spokesperson for the unit said.

The allegations were made while the two Virginia Beach-based SEALs were deployed to East Africa. Defense officials told ABC News that one was investigated for alleged inappropriate touching of a female service member during that deployment, and both faced investigations into sexual harassment allegations.

Donaldson and Franklin were "pulled from deployment" in early May after the allegations were made. They retained their positions within the unit while they were in the U.S. and the investigation was being carried out.

They were relieved after the investigations were finished and could still face administrative punishments.

"The Navy will follow due process," the spokesperson said.

Navy SEAL units -- including four California-based teams, four Virginia-based teams, and the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team Six -- have faced increased scrutiny for misconduct in recent years.

A few days prior to Donaldson and Franklin's return to the U.S., 11 Naval Special Warfare personnel, including 10 SEALs, were administratively discharged from the service after testing positive for cocaine or methamphetamines between March and April.

That incident came less than two years after East Coast SEAL units took an operational pause to investigate drug usage and a little over a year after three current and former SEALS told CBS News that SEAL units had a "growing" problem with drug use.

"People that we know of, that we hear about, have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy," one of the SEALs told CBS News. "That's a problem."

Some have attributed recent disciplinary and conduct issues with the SEALs to the drawdown of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though the U.S. military's special-operations community continues to face a high operational tempo in relation to the ongoing war on terror and campaigns elsewhere.

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