Two Top US Navy SEALs Dismissed from Duty After Sexual Assault Investigation

© AP PhotoThis is an aerial view of the five-sided Pentagon building, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va., in 1975
This is an aerial view of the five-sided Pentagon building, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va., in 1975 - Sputnik International
The US military has found itself again embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal, the latest in a string including the high-profile nude photo sharing ring busted in the Marine Corps last year. This time, two top Navy SEALs have been relieved of duty for sexual assault and harassment.

Commander Jarrod Donaldson and Master Chief Jon Franklin, the former the commander of one of nine US Navy SEAL units and the latter the force's highest-ranking enlisted officer, were administratively discharged on Tuesday after an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct. 

A picture released by the US Marines shows Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2) and Iraqi Special Forces patrolling a street in the city of Karabilah, near Iraq's northwestern border with Syria (file) - Sputnik International
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The two Virginia Beach-based Navy SEALS were deployed in East Africa in May when they were charged, but were called back to the US for an investigation after one was alleged to have inappropriately touched a female service member while deployed overseas. Both SEALs also faced allegations of sexual harassment.

The two service members kept their positions in the unit while the investigation was underway, and now could face administrative discipline, according to Business Insider.

"The Navy will follow due process," Lt. Jacqui Maxwell, spokesperson for the Naval Special Warfare Group Two, told ABC News in a story published on Monday.

The news follows the revelation that sexual assaults across the various US military branches saw an increase in 2017. "Both the US Navy and the Air Force saw increases greater than 9 percent in reported sexual assaults in 2017, while the Army saw an 8 percent rise. The overall surge of 10 percent is the biggest increase the Department of Defense has recorded since 2015," Sputnik News reported in April. 

Combat medic skills with tactical challenges Saturday  at the Wisconsin Military Academy at Fort McCoy - Sputnik International
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2017 was the same year a private Facebook group called Marines United was uncovered as a hub for sharing naked photographs of female service members. Some 131,000 nude photos were shared in the 30,000-person group, many apparently without the knowledge or consent of those depicted.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) found 700 active US Marines and 150 Marine reserves participating in the group.

About 32 percent, nearly one-third, of female US military members have reported being sexually assaulted and 80 percent say they have been sexually harassed.

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