JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens had committed to a four-year stint of regular drills in the Navy Reserve but quit just a few months later as he was ramping up his Republican campaign for Missouri governor, according to newly released records of Greteins’ military service.
Greitens has made his decorated military career and his charitable work with veterans a central theme in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election against Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster. The race is among the most closely contested in the nation.
When critics posted an online video in February suggesting Greitens had exaggerated his military service for self-promotion, Greitens responded by pledging to release his full military records, which he said included more than 200 pages. Until recently, Greitens had released only about half of those records, including ones detailing his awards, training courses and evaluations in which supervisors lauded him as an outstanding leader.
After requests from The Associated Press, Greitens’ campaign this month provided more than 225 pages of military records, including some previously unreleased documents describing his most recent time in the Navy Reserve.
Greitens’ active duty service included tours in Afghanistan, the Philippines and Kenya before he transferred to the Navy Reserve in 2005 and participated in a White House fellowship. He volunteered for deployment to Iraq in 2006-2007 and then remained in the Navy Reserve while simultaneously launching The Mission Continues, a St. Louis-based charity that sponsors community service projects and paid fellowships for military veterans.
Records show that Greitens transferred on Nov. 30, 2011, from the Selected Reserve — which requires regular drills and entails a greater chance of being deployed — to the Individual Ready Reserve, which does not. The move came shortly after Greitens got married to Sheena Chestnut and as The Mission Continues was experiencing significant growth.
Greitens resigned as CEO of the charity in July 2014, the same month his first son, Joshua, was born. That August, he visited a Navy recruiter and signed up to return to the Selected Reserve. Records indicate he received a bonus for doing so, though they don’t say how much. Navy policies in place at the time authorized bonuses of between $5,000 and $20,000, paid in installments, depending on a person’s prior military service and new length of commitment.
Greitens’ transfer took effect in December 2014, and records show he attended drills the following January and February. Other records seem to suggest Greitens was planning on a longer-term career in the Selected Reserve.
On Feb. 7, 2015, Greitens signed a form committing to serve four additional years in the Selected Reserve in exchange for being able to transfer his military education benefits to his children. On Feb. 10, 2015, Greitens sent Navy officials a packet of information supporting his application for a promotion.
Then his intentions appear to have changed.
Greitens said in an email to the AP that he “had hoped to continue to serve, but just found that I couldn’t be a great Navy officer in the reserves again and a great Dad at the same time. Weekends were incredibly precious, vacation time limited, and doing a great job in the reserves meant too much time away from Joshua and Sheena.”
Records show Greitens requested a transfer back to the Individual Ready Reserve on April 13, 2015. A handwritten note next to his signature explained: “I cannot meet the administrative and operational demands of the Selected Reserve given my current personal and professional obligations.”
By dropping out early, Greitens had to pay back his signing bonus and lost the ability for his children to use his military educational benefits.
The move came as Greitens was gearing up to run for governor. He formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee Feb. 24, 2015, and by mid-April already had raised more than $500,000. Greitens formally declared his candidacy in September 2015.
Military records show his transfer back to the Individual Ready Reserve was officially approved in November, though he had stopped participating in drills long before then.
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