Special Operator Vriens told investigators he had wanted to confront the chief in Iraq but had worried that if he did, he would be cut from missions and no longer be present to protect other SEALs from the chief. As he spoke, he struggled to keep his composure.
“I can speak up, stand my ground,” he said in the interview. “He’s just going to do this to a new guy who he can manipulate. So I was like, I’m going to be his right-hand man, so — so no one else got hurt.”
He pressed his forehead into his fists and started to cry. Then he took several deep breaths, rubbed his hands together and tried to continue.
“So I worked for him and I kept my mouth shut,” he said.
The platoon members told investigators that they tried repeatedly to report what they saw, but that the chain of command above them was friendly toward Chief Gallagher and took no action. Finally, in April 2018, they went outside the SEALs to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Chief Gallagher was arrested a few months later.
The SEALs in the platoon were scattered to new assignments. They tried to keep tabs on the case, texting one another and commiserating over a series of setbacks, including accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, the removal of the lead prosecutor and reports that the judge overseeing the case was being investigated on suspicion of lying under oath.
“This stuff is frustrating to read and makes it seem like Eddie will possibly get away with murder (literally),” Special Operator First Class Dylan Dille texted the group. “Let’s not forget there are 7-12 of us in here who had the balls to tell the truth about what Eddie has done.”
He said he thought the case against Chief Gallagher was strong despite the procedural setbacks. “I am also convinced that we are gonna answer to a higher power someday, and everything happens for a reason,” wrote Special Operator Dille, who has since left the Navy. “Not compromising our integrity and keeping right on our side is all we can do.”