(WASHINGTON) — The commander and the senior enlisted officer of a SEAL Team currently deployed to Africa are being investigated for allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, officials said.
Both senior leaders have been sent back to the United States while the allegations are investigated.
“A commanding officer and command master chief assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit have been relieved of their duties overseas due to alleged misconduct,” said Lt. Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Group TWO.
“Naval Special Warfare and NCIS have initiated investigations as appropriate,” said Maxwell.
Two defense officials said one of the team leaders is being investigated for the alleged inappropriate touching of a female service member during the deployment. Both team leaders are being investigated for allegations of sexual harassment, said officials.
Both of the senior leaders were sent home by Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, said a third defense official. Hicks suspended the commanding officer’s overseas assignment as the head of SOC Forward East Africa, said the official.
While “pulled from deployment” both senior leaders have not been relieved of their duties as the commanding officer and command master chief of their SEAL Team. While stateside they will remain in those positions as the allegations are investigated.
SEAL Team units deployed to East Africa typically operate in Djibouti, where the United States has a base, and in Somalia, where they assist in an advisory capacity with the Somali military.
The Navy has eight SEAL team units, four odd numbered units stationed in Coronado, California and four even-numbered units stationed at Little Creek, Va.
A ninth SEAL Team is more commonly known as SEAL Team Six, though its official name is Special Warfare Development Group DEVGRU. That elite Special Missions unit best known for its role in the Osama bin Laden raid.
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