Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar, a Green Beret with the 3rd Special Forces Group, was pronounced dead on arrival on June 4th at a French clinic in Bamako, Mali. Melgar had been posted to the West African nation as part of a secret mission to train local troops and carry out counter terrorism operations against groups affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS). He was 34-years-old.
According to the New York Times Melgar’s death occurred around 5 a.m. and was first reported to superiors as an accidental death resulting from Melgar wrestling or grappling with a pair of SEALs. NYT also reported that superiors were originally told that Melgar had been put in a chokehold until he passed out and that members of the SEAL team tried to revive him, but were unsuccessful.
NYT stated that Melgar had been living in U.S Embassy housing alongside two SEALs at the time of his death. Those SEALs had been deployed to Mali to assist French and Malian forces in battles against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as cells connected to IS.
The Intercept has revealed that those SEALs are now under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). That outlet claimed that one of the SEALs is Petty Officer Anthony E. DeDolph, a member of SEAL Team 6. The ‘Team 6’ unit is famed for its fatal take down of Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in 2011. It has also drawn criticism for its alleged practice of ‘revenge ops.’ A special investigation into SEAL Team 6 was published by The Intercept in January. That report included allegations that massacres and mutilations carried out by SEALs had been covered up by command leadership.
DeDolph and his teammate were removed from their assignment in Mali and put on administrative leave soon after the discovery of Melgar’s body. A few months later, a medical examiner determined that Melgar’s death was a homicide via asphyxiation.
Neither DeDolph nor his teammate have been charged in the death of Melgar. However, reports state that the NCIS considers the two SEALs “persons of interest.”
According to The Daily Beast – citing officials familiar with the case – Melgar had previously told his wife that he had a ‘bad feeling’ about his two Navy SEAL housemates. That outlet also states, according to two special operations sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, that Melgar had discovered that the SEALs were stealing money from a fund that had been set up to pay informants.
The Daily Beast’s sources also allege that the SEALs offered to cut Melgar in on their scheme, but that the Green Beret declined their offer. According to military sources, the SEALs initially claimed that Melgar had been drunk when they had been grappling. However, a source connected to United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) told The Daily Beast that an autopsy report showed no sign of drugs or alcohol in Melgar’s system.
According to The Intercept, DeDolph is the same Tony DeDolph who has an MMA record posted to Sherdog.com. In that record DeDolph is shown as having an undefeated amateur career over five fights in 1999. DeDolph’s pro career lasted from 1999 to 2001. As a pro he went 1-5 (1 NC), with appearances in the HOOKnSHOOT, Extreme Challenge, and Shooto organizations. One of DeDolph’s losses came to WEC, Strikeforce, Bellator and UFC veteran Jeff Curran.
Mixed martial arts training is popular within the Navy SEAL community. As reported by Bloody Elbow in 2016, MMA has grown so popular among SEALs – and other special forces commandos – that it has started replacing traditional combative systems that had been specifically designed for the military.
The SEAL communities ties to MMA caused concern in 2010, when Congressman Duncan Hunter [R-CA] asked for an investigation into whether there was a conflict of interest in allowing SEALs to train in MMA. Rep. Hunter’s concern was that military contracts to train SEALs would be handed to MMA gyms, which were themselves owned by SEALs. A subsequent report by the Navy showed that there were instances of illegal fraternization regarding the ownership of private MMA gyms. That report resulted in a new round of ethics training for SEALs.
Despite the findings of that report, in 2011 the Navy SEALs dropped their previously used combative system – known as Close Quarter Defense (CQD) – in favour of allowing SEALs to train in MMA; both in-house and at MMA gyms across the U.S. The decision came after an internal report by MMA advocate Rear Admiral Timothy Szymanski. This shift has caused a split in the SEAL community, with some commanders calling CQD the ‘bedrock’ of SEAL training, whereas others agreed with Szymanski; that CQD was inferior to the training of modern UFC fighters when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
In April, 2016 CQD inventor Duane Dieter told The San Diego Union-Tribune that Szymanski’s report on MMA and CQD was skewed by a personal conflict of interest. He claimed that Szymanski wanted to steer SEAL training away from CQD so contracts could be awarded to Linxx Gobal Solutions, a company that provides MMA training and is founded by former SEAL Frank Cucci.
Dieter also alleged that Szymanski once tried to solicit a bribe from him to ensure that CQD remained part of the SEAL training syllabus. On August 3rd, 2016 Szymanski, who was once a member of SEAL Team 6, was promoted to overall Commander of NSW.
In their report on the investigation into Melgar’s death, The Intercept quoted a SEAL commander who was critical of MMA and its application by SEALs. “MMA is totally separate from what we do operationally. It’s designed for sport, and you can’t do it with equipment on. MMA doesn’t make any sense in a gun fight.”
Staff Sgt. Melgar’s 3rd Special Forces Group suffered three more casualties four months after his death. On October 4th, Green Berets Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright were killed in an ambush by IS-linked militants in Niger.
The Niger ambush created a political firestorm in the United States on the heels of a much criticized phone call made by U.S President Donald Trump to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson. Investigations into both that ambush and the killing of Staff Sgt. Melgar are ongoing.