Soldier washed out of BUD/S but wore Trident

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http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/08/navy_seal_faker_080910w/

Second Lt. Douglas Sofranko has spent the last year impressing his fellow soldiers in the Florida Army National Guard with stories of his days as a Navy SEAL, while proudly wearing the distinctive Trident insignia on his Army uniform. He even had the SEAL Creed hung on the wall of his office.

The problem is, it was all a lie.

The 33-year-old Army officer and former enlisted sailor, who works at the Ballard Armory in Miami as rear support for the Guard’s 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry, did attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, Calif., in 1996. But according to Naval Special Warfare Command, he washed out of training. His class graduated without him in February 1997.

“He did not complete training, and he is not authorized to wear the Trident insignia,” said Lt. Cate Wallace, spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Command.

Sofranko, who left the Navy in 1999, joined the Pennsylvania National Guard and later received his Army commission Aug. 17, 2009, has lived his SEAL lie for much of the last year, sources with his Army unit said. Recently, unit members became suspicious of his claims and started making inquiries.

Navy Times reached Sofranko by telephone at his Miami office Aug. 4. The officer initially denied wearing the SEAL insignia on his Army uniform.

“I do not,” he said when asked if he wears the SEAL Trident badge on his uniform.

But his story changed once he was told of a photograph showing him wearing the Trident on his Army combat uniform.

“OK, I have on occasion,” Sofranko said.

When asked when he last wore it, he said, “it was a few days ago.” However, sources in the office tell Navy Times he was wearing the insignia the day of the telephone interview.

Sofranko admitted he never graduated from BUD/S training and, when asked why he would wear a badge he did not rate, he answered: “No excuse, really. Just poor, poor judgment.”

He refuted co-workers’ claims that he told them he was a SEAL. “I stated that I had been to the training,” he said.
What price could he pay?

According to the Florida National Guard, Sofranko could face disciplinary action if found guilty of wearing the Trident.

Sofranko’s battalion, and the rest of the Florida-based 53rd Brigade Combat Team, is deployed with units in Kuwait and Iraq. Sofranko, who is working for the Guard on a yearlong recall, is part of the rear detachment handling pay, personnel and logistics issues.

Though Guardsmen on state duty aren’t subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they do fall under their state’s military codes, according to A.J. Artley, spokesman for the Florida National Guard, in a written response to questions.

Under Florida code, “Wearing an unauthorized award or insignia is a prohibited act,” he wrote.

“We are currently in the beginning stages of investigating what, if any, misconduct has been committed by this soldier,” Artley wrote. “If he is found guilty of misconduct, the unit commander would be the one to determine punishment.

“Punishment could range from making sure ... Sofranko doesn’t wear the award again and a written reprimand, to fines or any number of punishments.”

Sources said Sofranko began telling SEAL stories around the office about a year ago. He claimed to have been both an active and reserve SEAL who was called on “from time to time” to go on missions.

One soldier who declined to named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation said Sofranko told him such a story after he asked about the Trident insignia.

“He told me it was a naval special warfare device worn by qualified SEALs,” the source said. “He was very convincing and obviously knew a lot about the subject matter, especially the training.”

It was these types of stories to subordinates, peers and his superiors that initially prompted his leadership to encourage Sofranko to wear the SEAL insignia, the sources said. What’s unclear is how those leaders communicated this message, or whether they checked official records to verify Sofranko’s eligibility to wear the pin.

“After a review of his records, there does not appear to be any documentation or certificates of course completion of any kind for the prerequisite BUD/S [training],” Artley wrote. “However, we do not have complete copies of his prior service record with the Navy or the Pennsylvania National Guard, as this is not a requirement for enlistment.”
‘AWOL from the time he joined’

After washing out of BUD/S, according to his Navy records, Sofranko — then a radioman — spent three years at a radio station in Hawaii and was discharged in Oct. 24, 1999, as an RM3.

In June 2000, he enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard and was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry. Two years later, Sofranko received a general discharge under honorable conditions for unsatisfactory participation, meaning he missed too many drills and other training periods.

“He was basically AWOL from the time he joined,” said Sgt. Matt Jones, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania National Guard. “He never made an annual training period that we can see, and he was discharged as an E-3.”

But Sofranko was given another chance.

In April 2007, he got a waiver from the Florida National Guard despite his poor Pennsylvania service and was allowed to join in Florida as an E-4. Artley said waivers like this are common in the Guard and are based on a review of the member’s service record and personal interviews.

A year later, Sofranko entered the Florida National Guard Officer Candidate Program, graduating one year ago.

Sofranko, while talking to Navy Times, said he planned to confess to his fellow soldiers.

“I’ll make sure I relay to my co-workers that they know what happened,” he said. “It’s pretty stupid on my part. That’s all I can say.”

080910_sofranko1_800.JPG

Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Douglas Sofranko, a former sailor, is seen wearing a black SEAL Trident insignia on his Army combat uniform. Sofranko, who washed out of SEAL training, told Navy Times lying about his special warfare experience was due to "poor judgment."
 
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