Navy SEAL Leaders Claim They Were Wrongfully Fired, File IG Complaint

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U.S. Navy SEAL members conduct military field operations during exercise TRIDENT 18-4 at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on July 11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)
U.S. Navy SEAL members conduct military field operations during exercise TRIDENT 18-4 at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on July 11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

The two former leaders with a Navy SEAL team have filed a complaint with the Pentagon's top watchdog agency, claiming their flag officer abused his power when he fired them earlier this month.

Cmdr. Edward Mason, SEAL Team 7's former commanding officer, and Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler, who served as the team's senior enlisted leader, filed a complaint with the Defense Department Inspector General on Tuesday, about two and a half weeks after they were removed from their jobs.

The complaint, according to media reports, alleges they were unfairly targeted when Rear Adm. Collin Green, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, relieved them of their duties Sept. 6. The move followed the team's removal from the war zone over an alleged crime and misbehavior there.

"Green's abuse of power destroyed their reputations," Jeremiah Sullivan, who represents Mason and Spangler, wrote in the complaint, according to Task & Purpose. Navy Times first reported on the IG complaint.

Related: SEAL Team 7 Leaders Fired After Unit's War Zone Misbehavior

Navy officials declined to comment on the complaint, referring questions to the Defense Department. Officials there referred questions to the Pentagon's inspector general's office, which did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Mason, Spangler and Lt. Cmdr. Luke Im, SEAL Team 7's former executive officer, were relieved "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," Navy officials said earlier this month.

Members of SEAL Team 7 had been booted out of Iraq the month prior over allegations that a senior enlisted member raped a female comrade. There were also reports of alcohol use in the war zone.

But Sullivan, Task & Purpose reported, said Green only fired the leaders "to salvage the remains of his own career."

According to the complaint, the outlet reported, Green's decision to relieve the SEAL Team 7 leadership team went against an Army three-star's endorsement. The general, who is second-in-command of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria, wrote that he had "complete trust and confidence" in the team and Mason's ability to lead, according to Task & Purpose.

Green was trying to appease then-Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson when he fired the trio, the complaint alleges, after he'd been yelled at by the service's top officer over ongoing problems in the SEAL community.

Related: Navy SEAL Platoon Removed from Iraq over Reports of Sexual Assault, Alcohol Use

Aside from the SEAL Team 7 platoon being removed from the war zone, SEALs were recently caught up in several high-profile legal battles, including one that's still ongoing surrounding a hazing attempt-gone-bad that led to the death of a soldier. Several operators were also booted from the service for using cocaine, Navy Times reported.

Green responded with a series of disciplinary crackdowns, including strict enforcement of all Navy grooming and uniform standards.

Naval Special Warfare Command had drifted from its core values of honor, courage and commitment, he wrote in a memo to his commanders, due to a lack of action at all levels of leadership.

"All Hands will address this issue with urgent, effective, and active leadership," he added. "This drift ends now."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the context of statements made by Jeremiah Sullivan.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Head of Navy SEALs Says 'We Have a Problem' Following High-Profile Scandals

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