Navy SEALs conduct close-quarters combat training in a simulated home at U.S. Training Center Moyock in North Carolina. Eddie Harrison / U.S. Navy via Getty Images
The Navy announced it was considering kicking Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher out of the SEALs Wednesday even though President Donald Trump had recently reversed his demotion. It was a stunning move.
Trump clearly seemed outraged by the prospect. He tweeted in response Thursday morning that “the Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin” (the official sign of membership in the SEALs), though whether that will lead to the cancellation of the Navy’s review remains unclear.
The Navy’s willingness to try to discipline a rogue SEAL despite him having received presidential clemency demonstrates the depths of the military’s understanding that it needs to get this and other elite units in order. After years of demanding more of its special ops forces while dismissing worrying reports from their ranks, the Pentagon can no longer deny it has a major problem on its hands — and that it must take steps to curb out-of-control behaviors it’s long preferred to overlook.
The example of Gallagher is instructive. He is a decorated member of SEAL Team 7 even though he has a long list of allegations and attempted prosecutions for various misconduct. While members of the unit repeatedly reported concerns about Gallagher, such as accusations he was randomly shooting at unarmed civilians and boasting about it to their superiors, those complaints were long suppressed.
It might have taken Pentagon leaders too long to to acknowledge the bad behavior in their ranks, but they now realize they need to take action to protect their institutional integrity, and protect the lives of American soldiers and civilians abroad.
Unfortunately, Trump’s continuing intervention in the case only serves to undermine that effort.