By Morgan Phillips
Published November 27, 2019
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly on Wednesday directed Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday to terminate Navy SEAL Trident review boards for three officers connected to the Eddie Gallagher case.
“I have determined that any failures in conduct, performance, judgment or professionalism exhibited by these officers be addressed through other administrative measures as appropriate, such as letters of instruction or performance observations on their officer fitness reports," Modly said in a statement.
The Navy did not deserve the "continued distraction and negative attention that recent events have evoked," he added.
Gallagher, whose trial garnered international attention, was found not guilty of murder and attempted murder in July but was convicted of posing for a photo with the corpse of an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter.
One of the officers who could have possibly been stripped of his Trident was Lt. Jacob Portier, Gallagher’s platoon leader when they were deployed to Iraq in 2017. Portier was originally charged with covering up war crimes related to the case before the Navy dismissed the charges against him in August.
The other two officers facing review were Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch and Lt. Thomas MacNeil. All three were directly above Gallagher in the chain of command.
The move follows President Trump's request that Gallagher keeps his Trident and be allowed to "retire peacefully" with his honors. His directive received both support and criticism and ultimately resulted in Defense Secretary Mark Esper firing former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his handling of the case, citing lost trust and confidence over Spencer's lack of candor.
The president stepped in after restoring Gallagher’s rank to chief petty officer and granting clemency to two other U.S. military officers. Despite Trump's action, it was later reported that the Navy could strip Gallagher of his Trident.
Rear Adm. Collin Green, commander of Naval Special Warfare (NSW), had called for the Trident review board to decide whether Gallagher and three of his supervising officers were fit for duty. The board was set to convene as soon as next week, but President Trump called for an end to investigations into whether Gallagher should keep his Trident pin.
The Navy has revoked 154 Trident pins since 2011. The Trident is an iconic symbol that identifies a member of the elite SEAL force, someone who has completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
Esper fired Spencer over the weekend, accusing him of circumventing authority by engaging in direct negotiations with the White House to allow Gallagher to remain a SEAL. Meanwhile, Spencer was saying publicly that the Trident review board process should be allowed to play out.
Breisch testified in June that he noticed something was wrong with Gallagher’s SEALs six months after they returned home from the deployment to Iraq.
Over the course of the next five months, not one week went by that a SEAL did not come to him with a complaint or allegation against Gallagher, Breisch said -- but none of them were enough to warrant an investigation, according to Fox 5 San Diego.
MacNeil, who had roomed with Gallagher, posed with Gallagher and other platoon members in front of the ISIS militant’s body for the photo. MacNeil acknowledged that the platoon did not strictly follow the rules, particularly in regards to drinking while on duty, during that deployment.
MacNeil also testified in June that he heard Gallagher say of the then-wounded militant, “Lay off, he’s mine,” as reported by The Associated Press.
Fox News' Vandana Rambaran and Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.