Navy SEALs used to be a low profile outfit. Now, some are exploiting the SEAL storyline to advance political and business careers, reports the New York Times.
This commercialism has met with criticism from the command that oversees the elite force and also from fellow comrades in arms.
The dispute lays bare a widening rift among Navy SEALs, provoked by what leaders and many in the ranks describe as rampant commercial and personal exploitation of a brotherhood that once prized discretion.
The brunt of this criticism has fallen on former SEAL Eric Greitens, Republican candidate for governor of Missouri. An anonymous group of former SEALs has produced a YouTube video claiming “Greitens exaggerated his service as a SEALs member in his books and TV appearances.”
Montana’s Rep. Ryan Zinke is also mentioned in the story:
Zinke, a Montana Republican and former Team 6 officer whose campaign bus is emblazoned with the SEAL Trident and six stars, is seeking re-election this year and has a political action committee called SEAL PAC supporting him.
SEAL Lieutenant Forrest S. Crowell wrote a critique on using the SEALs as a way to advance financial and political gain. He said it “erodes military effectiveness, damages national security, and undermines healthy civil-military relations.”
Crowell complained that (Butte native Robert) O’Neill, the self-professed Bin Laden shooter, had been sending “signed Navy SEAL flags” to SEAL PAC donors. “How can the symbol of an apolitical military unit be used in such a partisan way without any protest from society or the military?” he wrote.
In a statement, Mr. O’Neill said he supported Mr. Zinke, “because he believes as I do that having more of these quiet professionals in Congress would be a very good thing.”
O’Neill certainly can’t claim Zinke is “quiet,” at least when it comes to promoting the SEAL brand as he campaigns for a second term.