In the military, it is has always ben understood that discipline is critical. But, what does that mean in actual practice? Proper discipline starts with the small things. Commanders eat last. Officers do not leave the bivouac area to go into town for a shower and a nice meal. Those small things matter. They create a climate in which the rules are observed and in which enlisted soldiers see value in following the rules.

When I deployed to Iraq in 2005, we replaced a civil affairs battalion headquarters that was completely ineffective. The staff members had all sorts of ongoing feuds among themselves. They had so many IG investigations, so many EEO complaints filed. For the two weeks we had to spend with those men and women, I found them to be completely unprofessional and petty. Not surprisingly, they were said to be largely absent from the civil affairs battlefield in their corner of Iraq during their time in country. A critical military asset was absent for 12 months.

So, it is perhaps not surprising that the SEAL Team which admitted it posed with dead Taliban, a clear violation of the rules of war, contineus to have issues. Eddie Gallagher was acquitted of the charge of killing a wounded Taliban prisoner, but he was found guilty of using with dead Taliban. He could hardly be acquitted of that charge, since the pictures were admitted as evidence.

And, now that same SEAL Team was kicked out of Iraq due to drinking and possible rape at Fourth of July party. Drinking alchohol is forbidden in Iraq. We show respect for the Moslem faith by not drinking alcohol. SEAL Team 7, it was revealed at Gallagher’s trial, also drank in country. Other Team members posed with dead Taliban. These are clear violations of long-time general orders.  See Navy Times report.

Command relationships in Special Operations forces are complicated. They tend to operate on a first-name basis, despite different ranks. But, we must wonder if allowing alcohol, allowing picture of dead Taliban will not lead to more serious allegations, such as rape.

SEAL Team 7 was sent home from Iraq. That is a big deal. Being redeployed means the leadership has lost all faith in your abilities. You have become so unreliable that you are seen as more trouble than benefit to the war effort.

Yet, Special Operations teams are absolutely critical in a counter-insurgencies, like the war in Iraq. The Navy sent them home, because the team would not cooperate in an investigation of the rape and the drinking. It is a pretty flagrant breach of discipline, when sailors will not cooperate with an NCIS investigation. Military discipline can slip away so easily. I fully support killing Taliban fighters. But, mugging in front of the camera: officers and Non-Commissioned officers saw that and looked the other way. It is an appalling lack of discipline.