Japanese authorities on the island of Okinawa busted four sailors late Sunday for allegedly boozy and boorish behavior, the latest scandal to roil California-based Naval Special Warfare Command.
“Four Naval Special Warfare Command service members were arrested in Okinawa and are being detained for various charges. The incident is still under investigation," said command spokesman Lt. Matthew Stroup in an email to Navy Times.
According to the Okinawa Times on Tuesday, at least three sailors — one of them shirtless — entered a tavern in the coastal resort village of Onna around 9 p.m. local time Sunday and demanded info about a “strip bar.”
The service members were “out of control” and threw things around the restaurant before fleeing when they heard a police siren, a 25-year-old manager told the newspaper.
A police officer chased down one sailor who was accused of trespassing on private property and by 11:30 p.m. three other service members were apprehended and charged with obstructing police duties because they allegedly began pounding on a patrol car, according to Okinawa Times.
In the wake of the arrests, Fleet Activities Okinawa spokesman Robert Purdy referred Navy Times to Japanese police, who could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night local time.
“The Navy is cooperating fully with the Japanese investigation,” Purdy added in an email.
It was not immediately clear if the sailor allegedly engaged in what the Okinawa newspaper called a home invasion was tied to the incident involving the other three personnel but it reported that they all were from a Hawaii-based Navy command.
Naval Special Warfare Group 3 is a tenant at Naval Station Pearl Harbor and it includes SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1.
SEAL delivery teams operate from small submerged vehicles launched from special platforms mounted on submarines called dry deck shelters. Navy divers help deploy and recover the vehicles from the subs.
Naval Special Warfare’s Stroup declined to elaborate on the incident or reveal the duties of the arrested sailors, except to say that the command would not name the suspects.
"We do not publicly identify our personnel due to the sensitive nature of their work, and for the protection of current and future missions, their teammates, and their families,” he wrote.
But Okinawa police already had released a statement identifying the alleged trespasser as Desmond Ruffin, 23; and Mark Elam, 30; Colter Krebill, 21; and Todd Casselman, 23, as the sailors collared for clobbering the police cruiser, Stars and Stripes reported.
The Tuesday reports about the four sailors came hours before the Pentagon announced that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday decided to demote Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher to petty officer first class for posing for a photo next to a dead Iraqi detainee in 2017.
Facing an automatic reduction to the pay grade of E-1, the former chief of SEAL Team 7′s Alpha Platoon had sought clemency from Gilday, and he partly granted it.
Acquitted of all serious charges by a panel of his peers on July 3 in San Diego, Gallagher’s case had been dogged by allegations of misconduct by prosecutors, Naval Criminal Investigate Service agents and superiors at Naval Special Warfare, which has been embroiled in a string of SEAL scandals for more than a year.
Shortly after a boozy July 4 party in Iraq, all members of SEAL Team 7′s Foxtrot Platoon were booted from Iraq and sent home to Coronado, with allegations of sexual assault, fraternization and other complaints trailing in their wake.
Their eviction and another scandal in Yemen triggered the firings of SEAL Team 7′s command triad on Sept. 6, but a pair of complaints filed with the Department of Defense Inspector General accused Naval Special Warfare commander Rear Adm. Collin Green of “duplicitous actions" that were "done in an attempt to bolster his own reputation and protect his own career” while a string of public scandals involving SEALs played out.
They included a SEAL Team 6 petty officer accused of going online to catfish a trio of women, who sent him racy photos; an internal SEAL probe that uncovered cocaine abuse and lax drug testing at SEAL Team 10; and the ongoing prosecution of another SEAL for his role in the homicide of a Green Beret in Mali.
On Aug. 20, Green issued a four-page “back to basics” directive designed to shore up shoddy conduct, restore moral accountability and create better leaders in his ranks of special operators.
In that “Call to Action” memo, Green conceded that a portion of his force was “ethically misaligned” with traditional SEAL discipline and also had "drifted from our Navy core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment” partly “due to a lack of action at all levels of Leadership.”
Courtney Mabeus is a senior writer at Navy Times. Mabeus previously covered the military for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier.