Ousted SEAL's Wife Says Navy Put Her Family at Risk with Public Firing

Navy SEAL reviews a map Kandahar province, Afghanistan
A U.S. Navy SEAL team member, with Special Operations Task Force – South, reviews a map of the objective area during the early morning hours of a village clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot District, June 25, 2011, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan/Daniel P. Shook)

Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Hugh Chance Spangler and his wife Amanda have worked hard to keep a low profile.

Spangler has served more than two decades as a Navy SEAL , so he and his wife stay off social media, don't hang out in bars frequented by special operators, and generally live a quiet life, Amanda Spangler told Military.com.

But in September, Spangler's name made national news when he and two officers, Cmdr. Edward Mason and Lt. Cmdr. Luke Im, were removed from their SEAL Team 7 leadership positions after a high-profile incident caused a platoon to be booted out of Iraq. The Navy issued a public statement naming the three leaders, who were relieved by Rear Adm. Collin Green, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command.

Spangler served as the team's top enlisted leader. Mason was the team's commanding officer and Im, the executive officer.

Related: Head of Navy SEALs Says 'We Have a Problem' Following High-Profile Scandals

"This is a safety issue," Amanda Spangler said of the Navy releasing an enlisted SEAL's name to the public. "I just can't believe they did that."

She shared those concerns last month with top Pentagon leaders. Three seven-page letters were sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday on Jan. 10.

Her concerns echoed a point raised in a September complaint Spangler and Mason filed with the Pentagon's top watchdog office. In that complaint, the SEAL leaders said they were not only unjustly removed from their positions, but that the public manner in which it was done left their families at risk.

The situation has caused the SEAL leaders' families "undo stress on top of an already troublesome situation," Amanda Spangler wrote. She noted in the letter that her husband's command declined to name the leaders who replaced them, citing the sensitive nature of their work.

"Chance is still active-duty," Amanda Spangler said. "And everybody knows his name now. You don't have Bronze Stars without doing things to earn them, and I don't think the enemy appreciates that. It's a concern."

Naval Special Warfare Command referred questions about Amanda Spangler's letter, including whether it has reviewed or changed any policies as a result of the family's security concerns, back to the Pentagon.

Esper's and Modly's offices did not respond to questions about whether the secretaries received the letters and if any action was taken as a result. Amanda Spangler received a notice Jan. 16 that her letter to Esper was referred to the naval inspector general's office.

Gilday's office confirmed receipt and said a response on behalf of the CNO was sent to Amanda Spangler.

"We appreciate her concerns regarding this issue," Cmdr. Nate Christensen, Gilday's spokesman, told Military.com. Amanda Spangler said she has not yet received that response.

The Navy spouse said she didn't discuss her letter with her husband before sending it last month.

"He should never have lost his job," she said. "I'm not going to stand up for him, who will?"

It has been about five months since her husband was relieved from his SEAL Team 7 position, but he hasn't been reassigned. Spangler is required to conduct a daily phone-in muster, but Amanda Spangler called the decision to sideline a SEAL with a Purple Heart and almost 10 awards for combat valor "a betrayal."

"They've invested a lot of money in this guy to just throw him away," she said. "He has had a record-breaking amount of combat deployments. He has so much knowledge. He should be mentoring; he should be down at [Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in California] doing what he loves to do."

In her letter, Amanda Spangler stressed that she feels it's important that the Defense Department take a close look at her husband's relief, or risk America's most elite force being permanently weakened by a lack of action.

Dwrena Allen with the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General would neither confirm nor deny whether Spangler's and Mason's complaint is being investigated, citing agency policy. Amanda Spangler said their lawyer, who filed the complaint, has been told the investigation remains ongoing.

U.S. Special Operations Command has faced a host of attention over a string of recent scandals, in addition to allegations of wrongdoing in the warzone from the SEAL Team 7 platoon.

The 2017 hazing death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar led to murder charges and courts-martial for some comrades. And the high-profile legal battle former SEAL Eddie Gallagher faced caught the attention of President Donald Trump and prompted a Navy- and Marine Corps-wide legal review after the lead prosecutor in that case admitted to wrongdoing.

The day after the SEAL platoon was kicked out of Iraq, Green, the NSW commander, wrote a letter to his force calling on them to clean up their behavior and ordering commanders to come up with a plan to restore discipline. SOCOM's chief also ordered a full ethics review across the special operations forces following the scandals. That review determined a special operations culture that valued combat missions over leadership development and training -- conditions "favorable for inappropriate behavior," the review found.

Amanda Spangler said the attention the Gallagher case brought to Naval Special Warfare Command contributed to the SEAL Team 7 leaders' reliefs.

"With absolute confidence, I know they were fired because RADM Green wanted someone to publicly chastise for the 'Gallagher effect' swirling around Coronado," she wrote in her letter. "... At this point, the public has a right to know that there are power abusers hiding behind their tridents."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Spec Ops Culture Sets Conditions 'Favorable for Inappropriate Behavior,' 4-Star Says

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