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Navy SEAL Chief Who Defied Trump Steps Down For New Assignment

Rear Adm. H. W. Howard III, center, assumes command of Naval Special Warfare ...

Credit: Department of Defense

Above: Rear Adm. H. W. Howard III, center, assumes command of Naval Special Warfare Command, saluting U.S. Army General Richard D. Clarke, commander, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), as Rear Adm. Collin P. Green, the outgoing NSWC commander, Sept. 11. 2020

The head of Naval Special Warfare has changed commanders. Rear Adm. Collin Green, who had been at the center of a confrontation between the White House and Navy, is changing posts.

Last fall, many thought Green’s career might be over when he supported a review board to remove Edward Gallagher from the Navy SEALs. Gallagher was convicted of a single count during his war crimes trial in July. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer eventually did resign after President Trump ordered the Navy to stop the removal process.

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“If Adm. Green had resigned, or been forced to resign, I think it would have sent a wrong message to the force and it might not have recovered from that,” said David Maxwell, a former special forces colonel and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Instead, Green is moving on to become chief of staff for U.S. Special Operations Command, or US SOCOM, in Florida, beginning Oct. 15.

“The fact that he's going to SOCOM I think is a statement by the Navy and US SOCOM that they want him to continue,” Maxwell said. “Which I think bodes well for what he’s done in terms of trying to right the ship in Naval Special Warfare.”

RELATED: SEAL Charged With War Crimes To Remain In Custody

Aside from Gallagher being accused of war crimes, a SEAL platoon was recalled last year from Iraq on sexual assault charges. And another SEAL was on trial for murder. As a result, Green ordered a series of reforms and removed the top leaders of San Diego-based SEAL Team 7.

In his Green’s final email to Naval Special Warfare — obtained by KPBS — Green says in part that he is “Proud of how our team has overcome adversity and faced challenges that we could not anticipate," including “the lessons we’ve learned through our own ruthless self-assessment.”

Green released a letter in July where he said “we have a problem” and ordered his commanders to take a number of steps to look at the way the SEALs were operating. The full text of the results were never released. Green did order the SEALs to get back to basics, returning to traditional Navy uniforms and hair cuts.

The reforms were designed to preserve order and discipline. One sign that they may be working is the constant drumbeat of negative headlines has subsided, Maxwell said.

In a private change of command ceremony on Coronado, Sept. 11, Green was replaced by Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III as head of Naval Special Warfare.


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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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