Responding to North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting March 7, the top general for the U.S. Special Operations Command described recent crime cases at Fort Bragg as corrosive.
The U.S. Special Operations Command is the higher command for the Fort Bragg-based U.S. Army Special Operations Command and is led by Gen. Bryan Fenton.
Fenton was pressed by Budd to address “a series of concerning incidents,” which Budd identified as reports of “suicides, murders, overdoses, drug trafficking and arrests” involving the special operations community at Fort Bragg.
Last month, in a letter sent to concerned senators, the Department of Defense confirmed 31 fatal drug overdoses at Fort Bragg between 2017 and 2021.
In January, more than a dozen Special Operations Command soldiers were detained by the Army Criminal Investigation Division “as part of its ongoing efforts to identify and mitigate the use of illegal narcotics,” CID officials said.
Also, on Jan. 18, 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Jimmy Lee Smith III, a culinary specialist for the 3rd Special Forces Group, was shot and killed in Raeford.
Staff Sgt. Brandon A. Amos-Dixon, a culinary specialist under USASOC, was arrested in Virginia for allegedly shooting at his fiancé and fiancé's child Jan. 18 in Harnett County.
“We know that those reports, they’re not indicative of the thousands of incredible men and women at USASOC,” Budd told Fenton before asking what “SOCOM is doing to combat these challenges.”
Fenton said illegal, immoral and unethical behaviors are “atypical” for the 70,000 service members who “are doing the right thing.”
“These are corrosives toward the trust and confidence this committee, the secretary (of defense) and certainly the nation has in us, and we’re laser-focused on eradicating that from SOCOM enterprise,” he said during the meeting.
Fenton denounced what he said are unwelcome behaviors in the SOCOM formation.
“First and foremost, it disrespects that type of work that our SOCOM enterprise is known for,” Fenton said.
Fenton said one case of illegal, immoral or unethical behavior is “one too many.”
While leaders recognize the service members are not immune, Fenton said, it’s being looked at “through a number of lenses.”
Leaders, Fenton said, are asking the “whole formation” to point out behaviors that “disrespect” SOCOM’s “decades of successful operations.”
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said the “high profile misconduct cases have reflected poorly on the special operations community,” and merits building upon SOCOM’s 2020 comprehensive review of culture and ethics.
Fenton said reinforcement policies are in place to hold those with unacceptable behavior accountable.
“It’s been a top priority because of what it does, not only to the trust that this committee and the others have in the SOCOM team, but to our overall readiness, and that readiness is important because it needs to be a very lethal force each and every time the secretary puts us on the job,” Fenton said.
Editor’s Note: This article was published as part of content-sharing agreement between Army Times and The Fayetteville Observer.