WASHINGTON — Navy criminal authorities are investigating whether two members of the elite SEAL Team 6 strangled an Army Green Beret in June while they were in Mali on a secret assignment, military officials say.

Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar, a 34-year-old veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, was found dead on June 4 in the embassy housing he shared in the Malian capital, Bamako, with a few other Special Operations forces assigned to the West African nation to help with training and counterterrorism missions.

His killing is the latest violent death under mysterious circumstances for American troops on little-known missions in that region of Africa. Four American soldiers were killed in an ambush this month in neighboring Niger while conducting what was initially described as a reconnaissance patrol but was later changed to supporting a much more dangerous counterterrorism mission against Islamic militants in the area.

The Navy SEALs’ potential involvement also raised the prospect of a highly unusual killing of an American soldier by fellow troops, and threatened to stain SEAL Team 6, the famed counterterrorism unit that carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Sergeant Melgar’s superiors in Stuttgart, Germany, almost immediately suspected foul play, and dispatched an investigating officer to the scene within 24 hours, military officials said. Agents from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command arrived soon after and spent months on the case before handing it off last month to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

No one has been charged in Sergeant Melgar’s death, which a military medical examiner ruled to be “a homicide by asphyxiation,” or strangulation, said three military officials briefed on the autopsy results. The two Navy SEALs, who have not been identified, were flown out of Mali shortly after the episode and were placed on administrative leave.

The biggest unanswered question is why Sergeant Melgar was killed. “N.C.I.S. does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations,” Ed Buice, the agency’s spokesman, said in an email, confirming that his service had taken over the case on Sept. 25.

Neither the Army nor the military’s Africa Command issued a statement about Sergeant Melgar’s death, not even after investigators changed their description of the two SEALs from “witnesses” to “persons of interest,” meaning the authorities were trying to determine what the commandos knew about the death and if they were involved.

The uncertainty has left soldiers in the tight-knit Green Beret community to speculate wildly about any number of possible motives, from whether it was a personal dispute among housemates gone horribly wrong to whether Sergeant Melgar had stumbled upon some illicit activity the SEALs were involved in, and they silenced him, according to interviews with troops and their families. Other officials briefed on the inquiry said they had heard no suggestion that the Navy commandos had been doing anything illegal.

When contacted separately by telephone on Saturday, Sergeant Melgar’s widow, Michelle, and his brother, Shawn, declined to comment.

Lawmakers have criticized top officers and Pentagon officials for offering a shifting timeline of the events in the Niger attack, and for failing to respond with timely, accurate information about the American military’s role on the continent at a time when President Trump has loosened restrictions on the armed forces to intensify attacks against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda around the world.

Sergeant Melgar, a graduate of Texas Tech University who joined the Army in 2012, was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., the same unit whose soldiers were attacked by a much larger and heavily armed group of Islamic State fighters near the border between Niger and Mali on Oct. 4.

According to military officials, Sergeant Melgar was part of a small team in Bamako assigned to help provide intelligence about Islamic militancies in Mali to the United States ambassador there, Paul A. Folmsbee, to protect American personnel against attacks. The sergeant also helped assess which Malian Army troops might be trained and equipped to build a counterterrorism force.

Sergeant Melgar, a native of Lubbock, Tex., was about four months into what military officials said was a six-month tour in Mali, and was living with three other American Special Operations troops in a house provided by the American Embassy.

Two of those housemates were members of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, which has over the past decade carried out kill-or-capture missions in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, as well as the one that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.

According to two senior American military officials, the two SEAL commandos were in Mali with the approval of Mr. Folmsbee in a previously undisclosed and unusual clandestine mission to support French and Malian counterterrorism forces battling Al Qaeda’s branch in North and West Africa, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as smaller cells aligned with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. The Americans helped provide intelligence for missions, and had participated in at least two such operations in Mali this year before Sergeant Melgar’s death.

Much is unknown about what happened around 5 a.m. on June 4 in the team house. The initial reports to Sergeant Melgar’s superiors in Germany said he had been injured while wrestling or grappling with the two Navy commandos, according to three officials who have been briefed on the investigation.

By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: November 29, 2017

After Maj. David Jerkins was convicted at court-martial for severely beating his toddler stepson with a belt, two Army colonels and two major generals testified to Jerkins’ sterling military qualities.

The senior officers described Jerkins as a fine leader, “bright,” “passionate,” and a man they’d be pleased to serve with again. The jury at the 2014 court-martial in Fort Hood, Texas, later sentenced him to dismissal from the service and six months in jail.

This week, Jerkins’ lawyers asked the military’s highest court to overturn his sentence. They argued that critical remarks by a third general about Jerkins’ military character — in a reprimand for fraternization — improperly influenced the jury.

The General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand issued shortly before Jerkins’ trial reprimanded him for his premarital relationship with the toddler’s mother. She was a junior enlisted woman when Jerkins married her in March 2011, according to court documents, and was separated from the Army nine months later.

“You have failed to live up to the Army values and you have betrayed our trust,” Maj. Gen. Warren Phipps, commander of 1st Army Division West, said in the reprimand. “I have serious doubts regarding your ability for continued service in the United States Army … your actions have brought discredit upon you, your unit, and the United States Army.”

The reprimand prejudiced the jury against Jerkins and should not have been allowed as evidence for numerous reasons, according to defense briefs filed in the case. The reprimand wasn’t final — Jerkins had not submitted his response — and so wasn’t admissible, they argued.

It was also inaccurate, they argued, because it said that Jerkins’ wife left the Army, according to discharge papers, because of “pregnancy or childbirth.”

Since she gave birth two months later, 11 months after their marriage, the reprimand “references conduct that occurred within the sanctity of marriage,” the defense brief said.

The defense also argued that allowing a reprimand issued two weeks before trial and shortly before jury sentence deliberations was akin to bringing “the commander into the deliberation room.”

“Such a practice invades the province of the sentencing authority by raising the specter of command influence,” they argued.

At his 2014 court-martial, Jerkins’ defense was that the beating, which left injuries he and his wife initially explained to authorities as the result of a fall or “dog bites,” was non-criminal parental discipline.

The assault on the child was first reported by neighbors who’d noticed welts and cuts on the 3-year-old, asked him what had happened and were told that his stepfather had beaten him with a belt.

The Army’s appellate lawyers said in their briefs that the reprimand was proper evidence as a rebuttal to the senior officers who had praised Jerkins.

They also argued that the boy’s injuries, displayed in photographs at the trial, along with testimony — the boy’s father testified about the psychological impacts the beating had on his son — and Jerkins’ poor rating in his most recent evaluation were the reasons for Jerkins’ sentence.

Prosecutors had asked for a 10-month jail sentence, 14 months less than the maximum punishment allowed.

Even if the appellate judges were to find that the trial judge erred by admitting the reprimand as evidence, it didn’t matter, the Army argued, because the outcome would have been the same.

“Any error was harmless,” the lawyers said. “(T)here was no significant impact on the sentence … for beating a toddler with a belt to the point of causing substantial, visible injuries.”

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces takes on average about four months before handing down a decision.

Two Royal Marine corporals played a Deal or No Deal-style game handing out degrading and painful punishments to junior comrades, a court martial has heard.

Cpl Philip Beer and Cpl Danny Foster oversaw a nightly gathering of their 43 Commando troop called “family time”, during which they punished “professional failings”.

Punishments included being hung upside down and whipped, being shaved naked and being forced to commit sex acts to gay pornography.

Portsmouth Military Court, heard the method of deciding punishment was based on the Noel Edmonds’ television game show, with members of the troop forced to pick box numbers, with each containing a punishment.

One of the troop would then play ‘The Banker’, offering alternative forfeits to the marines which they could swap for the ones they had chosen.

The punishments included one named ‘Django,’ after Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning film about slavery ‘Django Unchained’,and required victims to be hung upside down and whipped.

Another, named ‘new born baby’, which involved making a marine shave all the hair from their body, was also handed out.

The hearing was told the “kangaroo court” took place while the marines were guarding high security bases including Falsane and Coulport where the nation’s nuclear deterrent submarines and warheads are kept.

I felt disgusted and degraded having to do it, it was massively degrading, I had no power against it; I could not say noUnnamed marine

Lt Col Graham Coombes, prosecuting, said “family time” had acted as “an unofficial way of dealing with any professional failings that may have happened, ranging from not wiping up a coffee stain to not looking after troop equipment properly”.

One charge related to a group of marines forced to commit a sex act to gay pornography shown to them on a laptop.

One of the marines given the punishment said: “I felt disgusted and degraded having to do it, it was massively degrading, I had no power against it; I could not say no.”

The marine said he had developed post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his treatment.

He told the court: “That does affect my memory and I try to put what went on out of my mind, but I do remember what happened.”

Lt Col Coombes said a second charge involved “a further punishment called Django, which involved a victim having to hang upside down from a bar and be reefed, otherwise known as being whipped, with a rubber gym mat.”

A third charge involved the meting out of the “new born baby” bodily shaving punishment.

The court heard that when the victim of the shaving task did not complete it to Beer’s satisfaction, he was given another 15 minutes to complete it. He refused, so was given a “thrashing” which involved him running up and down a hill in full weapons gear and carrying 20 large water bottles both up and down.

Foster denies three counts of ill treatment of a subordinate, while Beer denies two counts of the same charge.

The trial continues.

HMS Vigilant

Nine service personnel on a nuclear submarine have been discharged from the Royal Navy after testing positive for drugs.

Compulsory drugs tests on HMS Vigilant produced nine positive results, leading to all nine individuals being discharged.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: “We do not tolerate drugs misuse by service personnel.

“Those found to have fallen short of our high standards face being discharged from service.”

HMS Vigilant is one of four Vanguard Class submarines which maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

The Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, has ordered the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, to carry out compulsory drug testing of the crew of all Royal Navy submarines.

Mr Fallon is said to have given the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, a “roasting” over the incident.

The Daily Mail reported that the drug detected by the tests was cocaine.

View image on Twitter

The submarine was involved in another controversy earlier this month over allegations of an onboard relationship between a male and female.

The MoD said it was probing an “inappropriate relationship” between crew members and that the captain of the vessel had been relieved of his duties pending the outcome.

A Royal Navy spokesman said at the time: “We can confirm an investigation is underway, but it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage. Any allegations of wrongdoing are taken very seriously and will be dealt with appropriately.”

There are strict Royal Navy rules about relationships on board vessels.

In 2014, the first female commander of a frontline Royal Navy warship left her vessel due to claims that she had an affair with a shipmate.

She was “removed from command” of the Type 23 frigate and appointed to another position.

Commander Sarah West, who denied the relationship, was “removed from command” of the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland and re-appointed to another post.

Commenting on the case in 2014, a spokesperson for the MoD said:

 “Social misconduct has the potential to break down trust within military units which depend upon respect, loyalty and discipline to retain their close-knit structure and capability.”

Japan has reportedly confined all U.S. troops in Okinawa to their base and off-base residences in addition to prohibiting them from purchasing or consuming alcohol after one of their fellow Marines allegedly killed a local man while believed to be intoxicated.

“When our service members fail to live up to the high standards we set for them, it damages the bonds between bases and local communities and makes it harder for us to accomplish our mission,” declared U.S. Forces Japan in a statement Sunday. “We are committed to being good neighbors with our host communities.”

Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Forces Japan, expressedhis “deepest regret and sincere condolences” to the Okinawan victim’s family, noting that the Marine Corps was cooperating fully with local law enforcement and would “take every possible step to keep this from happening again.

Military punishment for a DUI can range from “a court-martial” to “a letter of reprimand,” among other forms of reprimands, according to legal experts.