A recently issued letter on ethics and conduct from the US Special Operations Forces (SOF) command has sent waves of discontent across SOF units, according to the Washington Examiner, with servicemen condemning the missive for being too vague in stating the problem and offering solutions, as well the overall approach to preventing scandals involving the US military in the future.
The letter in question indicated that despite the SOF handling its missions with "competence and character", "discipline issues" have jeopardised the "trust" in these units. At the same time, the letter fails to outline specific solutions to the existing problems with discipline, except for calling for more focus on "leadership", several SOF servicemen indicated in an interview with the media outlet.
"I am bugging my eyeballs over this letter. Talk about culture. This is the culture of what you expect from a REMF [Rear Echelon Mother F**ker; military slang]. It hints at all sorts of things, but it's so vague, you don't really know what it means", a US Air Force commando identified only as Bobby told the Washington Examiner.
In addition, neither of the SOF servicemen asked by the media outlet believed the approach taken by the US Special Operations Command will bear fruit as it basically tries to combine what cannot be combined – the units' ferociousness on the battlefield and the calmness of a clergyman.
"It's laughable. The whole thing is a joke. The military tells us to be savages, but now they want us to be choirboys", Bobby said.
Tim Parlatore, a lawyer for US serviceman, Eddie Gallagher, who was recently at the epicentre of a scandal involving military conduct, agreed with Bobby saying it's basically impossible to expect troops to act in such a manner.
"That's a great way to describe it. You ask these fighters to do all these things and then expect them to be able to turn it off", Parlatore said.
The US SOCOM letter stressed a probe into the issue revealed that the SOF's focus on "employment and mission accomplishment" coming at the expense of training was at the heart of the discipline issue, along with a lack of "leadership and accountability". An Army sergeant, identified by the media outlet as John, agreed saying that the SOF was "pushed hard […] to get in the fight". Parlatore in turn shared Gallagher's own relevant experience explaining why discipline among US troops might have deteriorated.
"They keep sending guys like Eddie out over and over on these missions, and it's going to cause problems. In Eddie's day, they used to do meetings every night to discuss the day’s ops and lessons learned. Quickly, that fell away, and they didn't have time", Parlatore said.
US SOF servicemen asked by the Washington Examiner specifically laughed off the ethics letter due to it not only being vague as to how solve the problem, but even at describing it in a direct manner. Some of them said the letter basically lauds SOF's success, but asks its members to "be nice".
"Don't send us some vague letter with sections in bold, telling us we're great but, damn it, we need to improve through some process we haven’t figured out", Bobby said.
One US Army special operations sergeant, going by the name Rick even opined that the letter was not intended to say something to the servicemen at all, but was rather written for political reasons.
"In our line of work, we're direct. Did they really write this for us or for some politician breathing down their necks?" Rick said.
The release of the letter comes at a troubling time for the US military as it struggles to save face after a series of scandals involving members, who were spotted not only acting improperly, but also sometimes committing crimes. The case of US Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher was brought to light last year after US President Donald Trump pardoned him and restored his rank despite being previously found guilty of misconduct for taking a selfie with a dead Daesh* soldier. Gallagher was pardoned along with Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn and Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who were convicted of committing war crimes during their service.
In defence of his decisions, Trump stated that it was improper to start such cases against US soldiers, who were trained "to be killing machines", in the first place.
Another scandal that hit headlines in 2019 was the case of the so-called "Mali Four", two US Navy members, Anthony DeDolph and Adam C. Matthews, and two Marine Raiders, Kevin Maxwell and Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez, who were accused of murdering US Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar during their deployment in the African country in 2017.
The four claimed to have tried to pull a prank on Melgar that went wrong and resulted in his death. According to Maxwell, the group was planning on knocking the US Army member unconscious to later film him being sexually assaulted by a Malian security guard, but the choke hold designed to do that led to asphyxiation. Melgar reportedly had a conflict with them over trying to report the four for inviting prostitutes to a US service compound.
The American military has also been riddled with internal issues, such as rampant rape rates within its own ranks. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of rape cases rose by 38% up to 20,500 per year despite measures to prevent that from happening, official reports say.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia