Jason Mullaney is a friend of mine. He’s been in the news as “The Navy SEAL who swindled his brothers” and has been accused of stealing $1 million dollars from other SEALs and a family friend, but from the reporting I’ve seen no one has presented the other side of a man who has helped, encouraged, and supported hundreds of people as he catapulted to the top of a very unstable structure.
First, how do I know Jason? We served together in the Teams, and I’ve been friends with him ever since we met in 1999. He provided a tremendous example for me both physically and mentally, and served as a model character for me in that community.
Jason was the quintessential squared away Team guy. Physically strong and mentally sharp, he planned ahead for everything, was meticulous with his gear, followed the “2 is 1, 1 is none” rule, and was the guy you turned to if you needed to know how to do anything.
He’s quick to smile, and quicker to lend a helping hand the instant he sees you need it.
He isn’t your average one dimensional overly muscled knucklehead; behind the tattooed exterior he has one of the sharpest minds you’ll encounter, and he gleefully puts that mind to humor and pranks as quickly and easily as he put together polished ops in the Teams and solid deals in real estate.
Whether as a SEAL operator, instructor, or later on in the world of real estate and investing, Jason maintained those qualities. His paperwork was always in order, he worked exceptionally hard both for himself and others, he was ready with a joke or his unique barking laugh, and always had a ready solution for everything that came up.
When he was on top, when the real estate market was booming, damn near every SEAL on the West Coast seemed to turn to him for help with their real estate deals. He constantly guided his friends, helped them avoid the many pitfalls of buying a house, and helped more SEALs buy houses than anyone else I know.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Jason Mullaney created far more wealth for the men of the SEAL Teams than he’s ever been accused of scamming anyone out of.
Jason was also a model of the motto “Do the right thing always”. Let me give you an example.
We had swam in “over the beach” in the middle of winter on a training exercise. “Over the beach” is the classic frogman entrance; you roll off a boat in the dead of night a half mile off shore with your ruck & rifle and swim in. It’s not complicated, just cold and hard.
Usually when you go over the beach, you swim in wearing a wetsuit (or drysuit) and then change somewhere on land into the appropriate attire for patrolling; wetsuits are not designed to hike in. Once you’ve changed into your patrolling gear you stay as warm and dry as you can, something that is critically important if, like we were, you are going to hole up in a “hide site” and observe the enemy while remaining undetected.
A hide site is the smallest possible space you can fit yourself into and not be noticed by folks looking for you. You don’t want to move around too much in it since the human eye is attracted by movement. Hide sites are, as the name suggests, incredibly effective at hiding what you’re doing from people trying to find you, and usually incredibly uncomfortable. You sleep, eat, watch, and shit from the same little spot for 3 days straight.
Jason, myself, and a third team member had come over the beach, changed out of our wetsuits and were patrolling along the ocean’s edge up to the spot where we would penetrate inland. We were patrolling along the water for a good reason; no one would ever think to look there for us. It was 200 feet of steep rip-rap from the waterline up to a busy highway.
Rip-rap is loose stone used to armor a breakwater or shoreline from pounding surf, and aside from sunny days in the middle of summer, rip-rap is the one of the worst possible places to walk; the rocks are slippery, the gaps between them can be big & deep, and in the dark of night it’s awfully tough to keep your footing.
We slowly made our way along the rip-rap in the dark with Jason leading. We were being very careful to simultaneously stay far enough away from the crashing ocean to remain dry, but not get pushed up the slope so much that we would be silhouetted by the lights of cars driving along the coastal highway.
I heard Jason slip, then curse as his body thudded into the rocks. There was an awful squishing sound, then the even more horrid sound of suction being released. As we scrambled over to see what had happened, our noses gave us the first hint.
The smell of dead rotting flesh overpowered the fresh salty air of the sea as we came upon Jason, who was pulling his leg, from mid-hip down, out of the decomposing body of a big dead sea lion. Jason had seen it at the last minute, adjusted his step to miss it and ended up slipping and sliding right into (and through) the monster’s body.
The smell was revolting; our thoughts flew to the coming experience of living in a small space that smelt of dead sea lion for 3 days. Without waiting for us to say a word Jason waded into the frigid water to wash off the slime & smell as best he could.
There’s not much worse than wading into cold water at midnight when moments before you were warm and dry, but without a thought for any other course of action Jason did it right away. It was the right thing. That was enough.
Later that night, after we had located a good place to hole up and settled in, it was my turn to pull the first watch, the one that goes ’til dawn. I’d made the classic mistake of not checking my gear twice before leaving, and had forgotten to pack gloves.
It wasn’t an issue at first, but as the night wore on and got colder and colder, my fingers slowly stiffened. By the time my watch was up I could only jab Jason in the side with a board-stiff hand to wake him. Cheerful as a man can be who has slept in wet pants, he joked about having a nice clean bath before sliding into a stinky hide site with us two.
I told him my hands were chilly and I’d forgotten my gloves, and in classic Jason Mullaney fashion he instantly pulled out his extra pair, “Oh, you didn’t bring spares? Stupid new guy.” Quick with a joke, always prepared, always generous, always willing to do the right thing, that’s Jason Mullaney.
So what, you’re saying? Those are nothing, those are tiny acts. A SEAL is supposed to be able to handle the cold, and you’re stupid for forgetting your gloves. That doesn’t make Jason a hero.
It doesn’t, but every soldier knows it’s the small things a man does that show you how he’ll behave when everything is on the line.
I could tell you more Mullaney stories; about how the time my car broke down and went into the shop for a week. I was a mobile notary and my livelihood depended on being able to drive all over Southern California at a moment’s notice.
I didn’t have a lot at the time; I was busting my butt, slowly salting away money, but I didn’t have anywhere near enough to rent a car for two weeks. The first guy I called was Jason. He lent me his car without hesitation, without thought for the few thousand miles he knew I’d have to put on it, and without asking when I’d have it back to him.
Anyone who ever worked with Jason has at least a few stories like that; Jason doing the right thing no matter what, Jason being ultra prepared, Jason being instantly generous. Small stories or big, helping warm up chilly hands or helping someone keep their job or buy their first house, Jason was known for his generosity and for doing the right thing.
It’s a potent combination, and one that allowed him to help hundreds of people as his business grew.
Hopefully, you’re one of those many people he helped. Hopefully, you’re as grateful as I am to have had the good fortune of meeting and working with Jason Mullaney. Hopefully, you’ll reach out in support.
I’m not asking you to pass judgement on his case; that’s what the legal system is for, as slow, inefficient, and frustratingly uncaring as it may sometimes seem to be.
I’m asking you to tip the balance of stories told about a man just slightly in his favor.
For every time you slept on his couch, borrowed a few bucks from him, drove his car, had him help you with a real estate deal, had him toss you a spare mag when you were dry, or heard his exceptionally loud voice greeting you in his happy bulldog fashion, I ask that you repay him below with a few quick words of encouragement.
For every story written about him by someone who never met Jason, I ask that you write just a few words in support below in the comments section.
Update, May 6th 2015: In an emotionally charged court session with supportive statements from a wide cross section of his life including his sister, co-workers in the mortgage industry, former SEALs including investor/victims, Jason Mullaney was sentenced today to 6 years and 8 months. He should be out on parole in late 2015.
Update, May 24th, 2017: Jason is out after serving his time and is working hard in San Diego. One of his goals is to repay everyone he owed and I’m pretty sure he’ll achieve it.