WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Defense has issued a federally mandated report on ethics and professionalism programs in the U.S. military's Special Operations forces, which locally include the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Air Force Special Operations Command, headquartered at Hurlburt Field.

The report, required by this fiscal year's National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense spending and policy bill, was delivered to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees earlier this month. The seven-page document comes amid reports of serious misconduct among some Special Operations personnel, including two Green Beret soldiers and a support soldier assigned to the 7th Group, headquartered at a compound near Crestview as part of Eglin Air Force Base.

All three soldiers were separated from the Army in the wake of their alleged criminal activity, which occurred while they were part of 7th Group.

The separated soldiers are: former Sgt. 1st Class Derek McKinney, charged with unpremeditated murder in the shooting death of his estranged wife at their home in Crestview last year; former Green Beret Master Sgt. Daniel Gould, who is awaiting sentencing in federal court after pleading guilty to charges of smuggling cocaine from South America; and former Staff Sgt. William Thomas Mrozek, charged with sexual battery and child abuse in the alleged 2017 abuse of two young girls, ages 11 and 7.

Much of the DoD report focuses on current ethics and professionalism programs in the Special Operations community, and the document tells the congressional committees the department's review "did not identify any gaps in the administration, oversight, or management of ethics programs and professionalism programs."

Nonetheless, the report goes on to note that Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) — the umbrella command for each of the military services' special operations units — "has directed a 90-day focus period on core values" in special operations culture, including reviews of instructional programs, reviews of "command climate" surveys taken by troops within individual units, and personal engagement with troops by commanders and senior enlisted personnel on the cultural climate in Special Operations.

More specifically, according to USSOCOM Public Affairs Officer Ken McGraw, the command's review of command climate surveys will cover the last year, with an eye toward identifying "any trends across the force rooted or impacted by SOF (Special Operations Forces) culture." Also according to McGraw, the personal engagement with troops will be followed up with reports on what commanders and senior enlisted personnel observe along with "proposed corrective action plans to address deficiencies."

On a related point, the report indicates that USSOCOM "is undertaking an assessment of the cumulative effects of over seventeen years of continuous combat" on Special Operations personnel.

The report also notes that USSOCOM and the special operations components of the individual military services are looking into the role of "operational trauma" in grievous misconduct by Special Operations personnel. "Further research is required to determine if ... typical abnormalities associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI) adversely impact judgment, decision-making and behavior," according to the report.

Also despite the report's assertion that there are no problems in administration, oversight or management of ethics programs, the DoD goes on to tell the congressional committees that the department is exploring other changes in oversight and accountability, including the addition of more ethics, professionalism and leadership questions to command climate surveys, and use of a "moral disengagement survey" as part of psychological support services within units. Moral disengagement describes mental mechanisms that decouple moral standards from an individual's actions.

Capt. Amanda Farr,  an Air Force Special Operations Command spokeswoman at Hurlburt Field, referred questions on the DoD report to U.S. Special Operations Command.

A telephone call to the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command was not returned by deadline.

In closing his email, USSOCOM's McGraw wrote that "(w)ith respect to individual cases, if substantiated through the military justice system, the allegations represent a violation of the trust and standards required of all service members, but, especially Special Operations Forces, and will be dealt with appropriately.

"USSOCOM will not allow inexcusable and reprehensible violations of trust erode decades of honorable service, teamwork and progress by the members of the command," McGraw concluded.