Sound Off: Should SEALs Stay Out of Politics?

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Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens is running for governor of Missouri and he’s making his service experience the centerpiece of his campaign. Greitens inspired the New York Times to publish an article this past weekend that revisits tensions between SEAL factions over what many believe is exploitation of the SEAL “brand” for personal gain.

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A group of former SEALs has produced a video that claims that Greitens has exaggerated his service record and posted it on YouTube.

Lt. Forrest S. Crowell, a SEAL, wrote a master’s thesis for the Naval Postgraduate School “Navy SEALs Gone Wild: Publicity, Fame, and the Loss of the Quiet Professional” that doesn’t mince words. He wrote, “The raising of Navy SEALs to celebrity status through media exploitation and publicity stunts has corrupted the culture of the SEAL community by incentivizing narcissistic and profit-oriented behavior.” Crowell questions former SEALs who exploit their service records in partisan politics and asserts that public disclosure of SEAL tactics “erodes military effectiveness, damages national security, and undermines healthy civil-military relations.”

Greitens is not the only former SEAL involved in politics. Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, a former SEAL Team 6 member is running for reelection this fall. We interviewed former SEAL Kristin Beck in 2014 about her gender transition and now she’s running for Congress in Maryland and making her service record the centerpiece of her campaign.

Crowell takes particular issue with SEAL PAC, a political action committee that supporting Zinke. Robert O’Neill, the former SEAL Team 6 member who’s gone on TV to declare himself the Osama Bin Laden shooter, has been autographing SEAL flags that are sent to PAC donors. Crowell writes, “How can the symbol of an apolitical military unit be used in such a partisan way without any protest from society or the military?”

What’s your take? Should former SEALs use their service records in political campaigns? Do you want to see the SEAL brand connected to positions you don’t agree with, whether those positions are liberal or conservative? Let us know what you think and sound off!