By Capt. John Byron,
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Best Defense department of officers and gentlemen
It's a tough competition, the contest for the military's most
egregious example of conduct unbecoming. All fiction entries are likely to be rejected:
You just can't make up tales as lurid and stupid as we've seen in real life.
My list of the leading entries (some not widely known) is
included below, true tales that are the gold standard for abuse of privilege
and sexual misconduct by military men in leadership (and missionary?) positions.
I'm sure many other like these could come to mind and that
the future holds still more titillation and stupidity. But we now have before
us what seems to me the winner for the ages: The worst case of conduct unbecoming
an officer, of dishonorable behavior, of simple wrong behavior by an officer in
authority that ever we're likely to find. And the case illustrates not only how
far from honor an officer can move himself, but also how incredibly tone deaf is
the military system, unable to find the correct answer in situations where an
officer judged useful for professional skills is given a bye on a matter
directly challenging his honesty and trustworthiness in a position of authority
in our nation's military.
Here's the story. A civilian academic with a Ph.D. in
physical oceanography and a distinguished career falls in love with a senior
Navy officer holding command of a warship. Perhaps some naiveté involved, but
clearly an affair of the heart on the woman's side. It's permanent. They get
engaged. They will be married. He says his next duty station will be Guam and
so at his insistence she leaves the mainland and moves there for a life
together, taking an administrative post at the University of Guam.
Then, having turned her life upside down for this man, she
finds out that her hero has rejected her and hung her out to dry. Her soulmate
is not coming to Guam. He's dumping her. Too, it turns out: He's also got elsewhere
a second girlfriend he's been deeply entangled with (and engaged to), another
female he's deceived and he had just discarded her in the same disgraceful way.
In short, he is an equal-opportunity cad, dishonorable in his treatment of both
women and at the same time.
The first woman is devastated (the second, too, but this is
not her story). Right away she goes to the officer's chain of command and to
the DOD inspector general asking if this is approved conduct...and they gaff her
off. She then hires an attorney and they contact both the head of this coward's
warfare community and the chief of naval operations. And they gaff her off too.
And then she does something of incredible courage: She
documents the tale in a
lengthy letter published in the Spring 2013 issue of Naval War College Review on page 133. She and the editors take pains to avoid
disclosing the miscreant's name or even his warfare community, but the use of "boat"
to describe his command, the length of his command tour, and absence of any
senior jobs on Guam for aviators or surface warfare officers pretty much lets
the cat out of the sack: He serves in the submarine force (I have other
Is she credible? I've corresponded with her and find she is,
a tough, smart professional paying a personal price for falling in love and
trusting an officer to be a gentleman. The editors at the Review did their due diligence as well and they put their journal's
reputation behind this person's truthfulness.
The wronged woman claims she's not seeking revenge and the
facts bear this out. Instead, citing Captain Mark Light's great
study of the topic, she wonders if in matters of sexual conduct, the Navy even
cares about honor and honesty and proper ethical behavior, and if so, why does
the system have an officer of such low character still on active duty and
moving forward in his career.
I have the same questions, a challenge to the CNO and the secretary
of the Navy to answer why such a moral midget remains a commissioned officer in
good standing, and to the leaders of the submarine force on why it continues to
retain and advance officers like this dirtbag.
Fairness requires opportunity for the harming party to have
his say, to explain why he thinks it OK for a Navy officer to lie and cheat and
devastate two innocent women...and still wear a cover with a gold chinstrap. It's
open-mike time, buddy: Post here why you did what you did and why you're still
a wonderful guy.
A final note. Fellows, let's not screw this up with in-blog
towel-snapping that makes a joke of a sad situation. We habitués of this blog are
a great group, funny, clever, and deeply interested in our nation's defense.
But at times we do get a bit frisky in our comments. In this case I ask you to respect
the courage and honesty of our heroine and leave off attacking her or
commenting unfavorably on her conduct. Her personal and professional lives have
suffered great harm at the hands of a despicable officer -- she deserves
respect and praise for the classy way she found the high road to seek redress. Frankly,
I find her most admirable.
And I am appalled at her treatment by a fellow submariner.
This is a rare opportunity to look hard at how the military
services deal with matters of honor. It stands on its own and deserves direct
answer from the system. In the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 133
proscribes conduct unbecoming an officer
and a gentleman. If this ain't that, the law is meaningless.
Some goodies from the past:
The captain of a major surface
ship caught in his in-port cabin doing the deed with a junior enlisted female
The overseas rear admiral
dismissed from service for his weird and repeated stalking of an enlisted
dental tech he became fixated on after she'd cleaned his teeth.
The second admiral fired from
another high visibility overseas post for cavorting with a junior officer under
him (tee hee).
The chief petty officer
relieved of his duties after he drunkenly tried to grope a civilian stranger in
the seat next to him all the way across the Pacific on a commercial flight.
The flag-bound submariner of fantastic
promise who got off track after telling his immediate superior that he'd ended
his affair with the female lieutenant on their staff -- and then got caught by
that same senior canoodling with the lieutenant on the golf course.
The two captains stationed in
the Med who got sacked because of Navy's puritanical standards finding disfavor
with them for openly swapping wives.
The admiral in charge of Navy
recruiting fired when he was found boffing the wife of one of his
recruiter-of-the-year finalists in the hotel parking garage as the ceremony was
The flag-bound O-6 engineering-duty
officer with a Ph.D. arrested as the Burke Lake Flasher.
Moving to more recent times,
The submarine skipper who
lasted only seven days in command, fired for having a pregnant 23-year old
mistress who he misled with fantastic tales of daring-do on secret assignment and
then faking his own death.
The 33 Air Force drill
instructors undergoing courts martial for using their female recruits as sexual
The Air Force general in
trouble for mindlessly dismissing all charges against an officer convicted in
the military justice system of raw sexual harassment of a junior.
The other Air Force general
who downgraded a likewise valid sexual misconduct conviction after magically
determining on no apparent basis that the abused was less credible than the
accused and to hell with the due process that said otherwise.
Yet another submarine skipper
recently relieved for inappropriate intimate relations with a junior.
May 2013: the Air Force lieutenant
colonel in charge of that service's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit...until his
arrest for drunkenly groping a women -- total stranger -- in a parking lot
(see: you can't make this up).
this just in: The DOD study estimating that last year 26,000 service personnel
were victims of "unwanted sexual contact" from fellow servicemembers, a 35
percent increase from the year before and a situation egregious enough to infuriate
the Commander In Chief.