This was a seemingly minor story that hit the newswire, but for obvious reasons, it caught my attention: U.S. Navy SEALs, who were acting as paid consultants on Medal of Honor: Warfighter, have been disciplined, including being docked half pay for 60 days, for divulging classified information to the developers. It didn’t seem to help any; MOH: Warfighter has a 56 Metascore which, in today’s press, means the game is total dog shit.
What strikes me from reading comments – the few there have been – is that no one has any clue of what they’re talking about, and yet they spout their mouths anyway. One Gamasutra commenter wonders if they were “bribed”. Another said, basically, “oh, they only lost a total of a month’s pay, no big”. Alex Rubens was the only one who did a good job, writing a great blog post that got better information out of other military people who also worked on the game.
First off, let me explain what these SEALs went through. Most civilians know what a Court Martial is; it’s a criminal case in a military court, with (usually) military lawyers. What happened here was called Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP); in the Navy, it would be referred to as a Captain’s Mast. To put that in perspective, think of a child being sent to see the principal at school, only in this case the principal can reduce rank, take pay, and take your freedom for months. Speaking only as a Navy veteran, NJP is not good news for anyone, but it, along with that letter of reprimand, are ESPECIALLY bad news for senior enlisted (likely E-6, or Petty Officer First Class, and up); if their rank is taken away, they might not get the chance of getting it back, it will absolutely hurt their chances of putting on a Chief’s anchor (the ultimate goal of any career man), and ultimately, could lead to the men in question not being allowed to reenlist in the Navy, costing them their career and – worst of all – their pension. The sailors could have demanded a court-martial, which has a burden of proof (think of NJP as a civil trial without a jury), but almost no one takes that as the risks are far more pronounced.
What really got these guys in trouble is not that they were consulting; that is a common occurrence, and if the military was going to crack down on people using their military exploits to make a few extra bucks, there wouldn’t be any Middle East pundits on CNN or Fox News, ever. I think what galled people most of all was that these guys were active duty. The military can’t do much about people who have left the military unless they disseminate enough information to potentially be put into jail (see: Matt Bissonnette, who wrote “No Easy Day”). I agree with Alex, and the people he spoke to, that this was a way to smack down a few sailors and make anyone thinking of working with the entertainment industry, for their own dime, think twice before toeing the company line. If a few squids have to have their careers ruined, so be it.
People are talking about how the sailors were either “bribed”, or were just undisciplined. This is bullshit; that just doesn’t happen, and a sailor’s non-disclosure agreement is very clear – and very broad – as to just what they can and can’t talk about. Furthermore, the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes it abundantly clear that the rights afforded to citizens in America’s court of law do not apply to them; Article 134 makes it very clear that the military can charge people for anything not already covered by prior, more specific articles. In other words, the sailors knew that saying the wrong thing could land them in hot water, and almost certainly didn’t violate this. But since NJP doesn’t have the weight of the burden of proof – it’s just the Captain vs. his sailors – that doesn’t matter.
It sucks to see sailors, grossly underpaid in the context of the work they do, being stomped by the system for doing nothing more than just telling it how it is, and trying to broadcast the military in a positive light.