Navy SEAL Leader Says Platoon Complained of War Crimes in Iraq

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, right, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher, as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in San Diego. More former SEALs have testified in the case against Gallagher, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder stemming from his 2017 tour of duty in Iraq. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A Navy SEAL master chief testified Wednesday that platoon members of Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward R. Gallagher complained about Gallagher allegedly stabbing a teenage Islamic State solider soon after returning from deployment to Iraq in 2017.

The revelation in the court-martial accusing Gallagher of war crimes, including premeditated murder, contradicts assertions by Gallagher’s defense attorneys that his teammates waited nearly a year after returning from deployment to report Gallagher’s behavior overseas.

Navy SEAL Master Chief Brian Alazzawi said Wednesday he first met Gallagher when he was finishing up his chief induction and the two leaders worked together with SEAL Team 7 in Mosul, Iraq.

Gallagher and Alazzawi came under fire together while in combat; Alazzawi said Wednesday he had confidence in Gallagher’s abilities.

“From what I saw in the time I spent with Chief Gallagher, nothing would lead me to believe he wasn’t tactically savvy,” Alazzawi said.

“I have nothing but confidence in Gallagher’s tactics.”

But following what was considered a “successful” deployment in Iraq, Alazzawi said he noticed teammates of Gallagher’s Alpha Platoon Navy SEAL Team 7 did not have “your typical demeanor” upon returning to San Diego in September 2017.

Alazzawi said Gallagher’s platoon had quibbled in Iraq over stolen care package items including beef jerky and power bars, but that Gallagher had “sat down with the guys” in Iraq to work things out.

Alazzawi said he approached Gallagher about his platoon’s dejected behavior, but when their mood didn’t lift he went to Chief Special Warfare Operator Craig Miller in October 2017 who told him the conditions under Gallagher’s leadership were “horrible.”

Miller first expressed concerns about questionable tactics and unnecessary risks taken by Gallagher, Alazzawi said Wednesday while being questioned by Gallagher’s defense attorney Timothy Parlatore.

Alazzawi said Miller was concerned with making sure “Gallagher was never in a position to influence or affect platoon guys again” and that he didn’t think Gallagher should receive the Silver Star he’d been nominated for or work as a SEAL instructor.

Eventually, Alazzawi testified, Miller said Gallagher had killed innocent civilians in Iraq before disclosing he saw Gallagher stab an IS fighter in the neck when the prisoner was receiving medical treatment at their compound.

Alazzawi, a senior enlisted adviser, told Miller to report the alleged war crimes to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, but he said it “was very clear” Miller “wasn’t ready for an investigation and didn’t want any other members to get reprimanded.”

Miller also said he didn’t want anyone to go to jail, according to Alazzawi, who said Wednesday he considered Miller’s complaint a “credible accusation.”

The two had conversations on and off for months after Gallagher’s SEAL Team 7 returned from deployment, Alazzawi said.

Alazzawi also said he reported what Miller told him to his superior but confirmed the information “never left” SEAL Team 7 when asked about it by Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Jeff Pietrzyk.

But when word spread Miller and some of his other teammates planned to go to the Navy commander to complain about Gallagher in January 2018, Alazzawi said he intervened so the SEALs couldn’t complain and told them “there’s a better way to do this.”

The court-martial against Gallagher wasn’t referred to NCIS investigators for another several months, with Special Agent Joe Warpinski testifying Tuesday he didn’t receive the case to investigate until April 2018.

The trial is expected to wrap up next week.

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