Two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders face murder charges in the death of Fort Bragg Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar last year in West Africa. Another Navy SEAL is under investigation for murdering an Iraqi detainee.
Preliminary hearings for the Virginia Beach-based Navy SEAL Team 6 sailors and the Marines have been pushed to 2019. The Marines are. assigned to Marine Corps Special Operations Command based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Article 32 hearings, the military’s equivalent to a civilian preliminary hearing, were initially scheduled for Dec. 10 at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The Navy did not say why the hearings were pushed back but indicated it expects to hear the case in March.
The U.S. Special Operations Command has been embedded in global conflict for nearly two decades. Congress is calling for a Defense Department review of the entire organization, to include the state of its professionalism and ethics programs. The most recent National Defense Authorization Act points to “growing congressional concern with misconduct, ethics and professionalism.”
“That review is ongoing right now,” a defense official told Army Times.
Senior leaders in the Army have also taken notice. “Recent incidents in our formation have called our ethics and professionalism into question and threaten to undermine the trust bestowed on us by the American people and our senior leadership,” said the commander of Fort Bragg’s Army Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, in a memo to the force.
“If we fail to meet the high standards expected of us, we fail in our duty to the nation,” he wrote. Blockbuster stories like murder and corruption abroad have gotten significant press attention, but there are= also stories of individual misconduct in operators’ personal lives.
Just this year, Army Special Forces soldiers have been charged with an attempt to smuggle cocaine back from Colombia, the murder of an estranged wife, the sexual assault of a family friend and the rape of two young girls.
None of those cases came out of Fort Bragg. The National Defense Authorization Act directs the Secretary of Defense to study ethical standards for SOCOM and its component commands.
There is also a positive side of special ops. Two Army Special Operations soldiers claimed the titles of Army Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Twenty-two of the Army’s top soldiers gathered at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, to participate in the 2018 Best Warrior Competition. The competitors for the premier event represented 11 commands competing for top honors.
Earning the title of U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, 34, is a Civil Affairs specialist assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg. A native of Florida, Acosta is an instructor in the Civil Affairs Qualification Course. He has been in the Army for 12 years.
Sgt. Matthew Hagensick, the Army’s Soldier of the Year, is a Ranger Team Leader, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia.