Was Ron DeSantis a U.S. Navy SEAL? That’s a question that frequently appears in the Soldier of Fortune inbox – so often, that we checked for answers. Here’s what we found.
A native Floridian, DeSantis graduated with honors from Yale University, and also with honors from Harvard Law School, according to the DeSantis campaign office. While at Harvard, he earned a commission in the U.S. Navy as a JAG officer. During his active duty service, he supported operations at the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also deployed to Iraq as an adviser to a U.S. Navy SEAL commander in support of the SEAL mission in Fallujah, Ramadi, and the rest of Al Anbar province.
DeSantis has written on social media about that deployment.
“When I served in Iraq in 2007, I saw firsthand just how nefarious and pervasive the Iranian influence in Iraq was,” he wrote on Facebook. “The Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps wreaks havoc across the Middle East and its Quds Force is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq.”
He introduced legislation that was rooted in things he encountered on deployment.
“When I served in Iraq, I saw firsthand how PTS affected the brave men and women serving,” he wrote on Twitter. “That’s why when I was in Congress, I introduced the PAWS Act, which was signed into law last week to help prevent dependence on opioids, reduce suicide & help get veterans back on their feet.”
While in Iraq, DeSantis was in charge of making sure that special operations missions in the Western Euphrates River Valley went by the rule of law, and that detainees were treated humanely, according to his then-commander.
“He did a phenomenal job,” said former Navy Capt. Dane Thorleifson, who commanded the SEAL Task Force West in Fallujah, in a Times/Herald interview. “It was a pretty complex time, with Iraqi sovereignty starting to take hold.”
DeSantis helped plan missions for SEALs and Green Berets to round up insurgents. During this period, the task force captured some 100 detainees, Thorleifson said. They were mostly military-aged males, some with suicide vests, and others who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It fell to DeSantis, the lone lawyer with the Judge Advocate General Corps., to make sure that the detainees were treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military regulations.
After active-duty service, DeSantis served as a federal prosecutor where he targeted and convicted child predators. He still serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He was first elected to Congress in 2012, where he fought for term limits, No Budget / No Pay, and to cut taxes. He refused his Congressional pension and health insurance plan because he is against special deals for politicians. He also sponsored legislation to make it easier for the military to prosecute sexual assault, and authored the bill the end the secret taxpayer-funded slush fund for members of Congress to make hush payoffs for sexual harassment.