In the wake of a series of scandals dogging California-based SEAL Team 7, the entire senior leadership team was relieved of duty on Friday morning.
Rear Adm. Collin Green fired the team’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Edward James Mason, executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Luke Hong Il Im, and their top enlisted adviser, Command Master Chief Hugh Chance Spangler, due to what officials termed “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.”
WARCOM spokeswoman Capt. Tamara Lawrence told Navy Times that officials will not identify the triad who will replace the three leaders “due to the nature of their work, for their safety, for the safety of their teammates and families, and the safety of current and future missions.”
The statements by Lawrence and other SEAL officials to Navy Times never implicated the triad for any personal misconduct but instead point a spotlight at alleged wrongdoing by their subordinate units.
Lawrence won’t identify the two units tied to the alleged misbehavior, but they might be SEAL Team 7′s Foxtrot platoon and another detachment that was sent to Yemen.
Following a boozy July 4th party in Iraq, Special Operations Command superiors booted Foxtrot back to Naval Base Coronado, with ongoing investigations for sexual assault, fraternization and other allegations of misconduct trailing in their wake.
Citing the clandestine nature of the counter-terrorism work there, officials have been quieter about the Yemen unit.
Another master chief from that detachment was relieved of his position on the team but he won’t be named by WARCOM because he’s not in a leadership triad.
A highly decorated SEAL who is widely respected throughout the ranks of special operators, Mason did not return a text message left on a mobile phone registered to his name. Other lines were busy, too.
Originally from Minnesota and educated at the Naval Academy, he was commissioned in 1999 and pinned on his present rank 16 years later, according to military records released to Navy Times.
Contacted by phone, Im said, “no comment” and then hung up.
Also highly decorated for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Im has not responded to text messages placed by Navy Times since Aug. 13, when rumors about the triad’s firing first began percolating out of the Coronado, California-based team.
Originally from New York, Im graduated from the Naval Academy and was commissioned in 2005. He picked up lieutenant commander in 2014.
Messages left by Navy Times with Spangler were not returned.
A legend in the special warfare community, he enlisted in the Navy in 1987 out of Florida and rose to master chief/special operations in 2015, according to his military records.
Spangler didn’t become a SEAL until late 1996, following stints on board the guided-missile cruiser Biddle, the dock landing ship Pensacola and the medium auxiliary floating drydock Resolute.
His decorations include eight Bronze Star Medals with Valor, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with Valor, four Presidential Unit Citations and the Purple Heart.
The triad’s removal comes at an awkward time for SEAL Team 7 and the larger WARCOM.
The bulk of the team’s Foxtrot Platoon comes off leave on Sept. 11 and there’s a Disciplinary Review Board of chief petty officers slated to convene for them the following day at Group 1 to investigate and mete out justice for the alleged alcohol offenses in Iraq.
The reliefs and the DRB also are all playing out in the wake of Green’s Aug. 20 “back to basics” directive that warned leaders he’ll hold them “accountable for all substandard issues related to your personnel on and off duty.”
Saying “a portion of this Force is ethically misaligned” with traditional SEAL culture because of those “who fail to correct this behavior” and instead “prioritize this misalignment over the loyalty to Navy and Nation," Green’s four-page memo also ordered his special operators to get regulation haircuts, undergo uniform inspections and ditch unapproved patches and other insignia.
“This drift ends now,” Green wrote in his order.
Navy Times editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the real rank of the spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare. Capt. Tamara Lawrence was promoted on Thursday.