Chief, Navy SEALS
WHO IS DAVE SWARTS?
Chief Dave Swarts is a Navy SEAL, currently stationed at Coronado, California. He has served in the Navy for 16 years. He is married to Samantha Swarts and they have a young daughter and son.
This case stems from an incident during a deployment for Seal Team 2 in Afghanistan during 2011-12 at Village Stability Platform (VSP) Kalach, Urozgan Province in South Central Afghanistan. VSP Kalach was occupied first by Army Green Berets and then by members of Seal Team 2. The mission of VSP Kalach was stabilization of the area and the training of local Afghan Local Police (ALP). U.S. personnel left VSP Kalach on 2 June 2012, leaving behind an ALP force which was, in theory, supposed to protect the area from Taliban and continue law enforcement activities. Three days before the American team left the VSP, there was an incident in the nearby bazaar. Taliban insurgents detonated an IED, killing one of the ALP men. This upset the locals and ALP quite a bit. The ALP captured three non-locals, dressed in black, who were fleeing the area. They also apprehended a few local men who they believed helped the Taliban bombers. The ALP then brought their detainees to VSP Kalach.
The SEALs and other US personnel met the ALP as they approached the VSP. However, as the mission for detaining suspects had been turned over to the ALP and because they had already retrograded much of their equipment, the SEALs only provided expertise and support in the interrogation of these suspects.
About 40 very angry and upset ALP members arrived in the area with their detainees. The SEALs assisted in separating the suspects and also caring for the dead ALP member. The suspects were separated and subjected to tactical questioning. SEALs present in the area in front of the VSP were Chief Swarts, Petty Officer D”Ambrosio, Petty officer Silva, Petty Officer Monatanez and Petty Officer Patterson. Also present were a Navy Corpsman, an Intel Specialist, and an interpreter. LT Jason Webb, OIC of VSP Kalach at the time, also came out of the operations center several times to observe what was happening but did not participate.
The scene became chaotic at times. The ALP were very upset and many of them began to abuse these persons of interest by hitting, kicking, beating with antennas and hoses, and dropping rocks on them. The SEALs did their best to intervene and stop this abuse. At one point, Chief Swarts fired his weapon in the air to get the abuse to stop. Petty Officer D’Ambrosio did the same. Petty Officer Silva and the Intel Specialist conducted questioning. In the end, they determined that the 3 persons of interest (in black) were Taliban and responsible for the IED blast. The SEALs recommended to the ALP that the suspected Taliban detainees be transported to the town of Chora for further handling and processing. However, the decision as to what to do with them was up to the ALP commander. After a discussion amongst the US and ALP leaders, the ALP commander decided to just let them go. Witnesses would later see the previously detained suspects walking away. After the end of this incident, LT Webb, after consultation from Chief Swarts, sent a report about the IED. But since these were ALP detainees and no US detainees, the report did not contain any information about the interrogation or abuse by ALP.
While these suspects were being detained and questioned, several non-special forces Army soldiers, attached to VSP Kalach, stood post on top of different buildings within the VSP. It is these 4 soldiers who would make the allegations against the SEALs. The day after the incident, on 1 June 2012, rumors from the local Afghans spread that one of the detainees from the previous day had been killed. When the senior Army soldier, SSG Roschak, heard this rumor he became worried that he and his soldiers would somehow be blamed for this death. The 4 came together and discussed what they wanted to allege. After reporting to their Army superiors, an investigation was begun by NCIS. The soldiers had accused SOC Swarts, SO1 D’Ambrosio and SO1 Silva of abusing the Taliban detainees by striking them, kicking them, throwing rocks on them, firing pistols next to their heads, and other similar accusations. Army SSG Roschak also accused LT Webb and SOC Swarts of conspiring to send a false report about the incident and trying to obstruct justice.
The result of the 2012 NCIS investigation revealed conflicting stories about what happened on 31 May. In the end, they believed there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges against anyone. The Navy, however, continued to pursue the matter. They conducted a Trident Review Board, a Disciplinary Review Board, and Non-Judicial Punishment for the SEALs. During all of these hearings, testimony was taken of the Army complainants and other witnesses. These hearings also considered the NCIS investigation and statements obtained. Despite the presumption at the start that the SEALs were guilty of the allegations, all of these boards/hearings determined that the SEALs had not done anything wrong. In fact, they determined that the SEALs’ actions settled a difficult situation and prevented further abuse of the Taliban detainees by the ALP. The Commodore, Captain Smith, found the SEALs not guilty at NJP in November 2012 but provided informal counseling to LT Webb and SOC Swarts on provided more clear communications and reporting. Everyone thought the issue was closed.
In December 2015, the New York Times heard about the allegations and printed a story alleging abuse, cover-up and possibly murder. Several Afghans (possibly Taliban) were interviewed for the story. This story energized the Navy and NCIS to re-open the matter. NCIS conducted more questioning and gathered more statements. The U.S. Attorney office in San Diego also opened a case and convened a federal grand jury, forcing several servicemembers to testify.
Ever since these outrageous allegations were first raised in 2012, the four accused SEALs (Webb, Swarts, D’Ambrosio and Silva) have been treated poorly and their careers have been put on hold. All have promotions that have been delayed. Necessary leadership billets for promotion have been withheld. On 11 January 2017, the four SEALs were formally charged with various offenses. Dave Swarts was charges with conspiracy to make a false statement, assault with a deadly weapon, assault by throwing a rock, obstruction of justice, and wrongfully discharging a firearm.
The charges against these men are offensive and false. Chief Dave Swarts is one of the finest warriors I have ever met. His courage and bravery have been evident throughout his career but are highlighted in his one formal award for bravery, the Bronze Star with Combat V. We must do everything we can to defend Dave and his teammates so they can get back to doing what they do best – defending our country.