Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Charges In USS Columbus Hazing Incident

Cross-posting, with all updates, of an entry originally published on 14 April 06 at The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

The "Military Life" blog for the Kitsap Sun is reporting that several Sailors from USS Columbus (SSN 762) have been brought up on charges stemming from an alleged case of continual hazing directed against other crewmen:

"Seven sailors from the submarine USS Columbus face special courts martial in connection with alleged hazing of two fellow crew members.
"One victim allegedly was attacked over a seven-month period ending in March, when he reported the incidents to Naval Base Kitsap security and Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
"The alleged assailants, including a senior chief petty officer, are charged with various offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The charges include assault, hazing and dereliction of duty, according to Lt. Herlinda Rojas, a Navy spokeswoman."

As I mentioned earlier, I'm really not in a position to add any specifics, but if the hazing was as prolonged as reported, I really wonder if the senior leadership of the boat will, or should, keep their jobs.

Update 0855 15 April: The journalist who wrote the blog post linked above also has a story out in "hard-copy" (the actual print edition of her paper; annoying free registration required) as well as another blog entry:

"The five sailors range in rank from third to first class petty officer. A sixth sailor, a senior chief petty officer, allegedly failed to report the abuse, Rojas said.
"All of the sailors involved are electronics technicians or machinists mates who shared a workspace at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Columbus, a fast-attack submarine based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, has been at PSNS for maintenance since September 2004...
"...The original NCIS investigation focused on the first victim, a petty officer third class, Rojas said.
"During that investigation, NCIS officers uncovered a separate alleged assault involving a second victim, she said. A seventh sailor, a petty officer third class, is charged in that case."

Reading into this, and knowing that Columbus was in DMP, one can try to figure out what flavor of ETs and MMs would share a workspace in the shipyard. Since you normally wouldn't see torpedomen and A-gangers sharing a space with coner ETs, this could lead one to assume that the alleged perps were nukes.

Update 1716 15 April: Welcome Free Republic readers. From what I've heard via back channels, this is not a case of the "sissification of the Navy"; this was a really bad case of continual inappropriate "picking on" a new guy that showed a complete lack of military discipline by all involved. I'm not going to put out any specifics until the Navy does, but this is more than "tacking on a crow" or "drinking your dolphins".

And for those who might say I'm a hypocrite for welcoming Free Republic readers after all the times I've called that site the "Democratic Underground of the Right", I'd also welcome DUmmies if they showed up after I was linked in a thread there. I'd probably be much snarkier to them, though...

Update 2109 15 April: The reporter for the Kitsap Sun that's been working on the story got the charge sheets from the Navy; the specifics she provides pretty much match what I've heard. Excerpts:

"Kidder allegedly poured alcohol on the victim’s clothes and set fire to them, put the victim in a headlock, held his hands behind his back and hit him in the groin with his hand.
"The fourth accused conspirator, Bruce, allegedly hit the victim in the face and groin with his hand.
"Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Isham, a 27-year-old machinist’s mate, is charged with dereliction of duties, aggravated assault and communicating a threat. Isham is accused of pointing a loaded gun at the victim multiple times and threatening to shoot him if he didn’t show Isham a specific photo.
"In the case of the second victim, only one sailor faces charges. Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Tibbs, 21, allegedly pointed a loaded gun at the victim multiple times between October 2005 and December 2005.
"Tibbs lied to an investigator about the incidents, according to Navy documents. He said he had pointed a toy gun at the victim during sentry duty as a joke. Tibbs also is accused of faking evidence by giving the investigator a toy gun he supposedly used."

I'm sorry, but "ball-checking", playing with fire, and misuse of firearms aren't "good-natured ribbing" -- they're examples of criminal behavior, if the accusations are true. The shipyard is a tough place to build or maintain unit cohesion, so it's imperative that the ship's leadership step up to the plate and head off incidents like this as soon as they start. (I had almost 4 years in the shipyard as Eng under my belt, so I know whereof I speak.) It looks to me like the leadership on Columbus either wasn't willing to do what they needed to do as soon as they started hearing rumors about it, or didn't spend enough time on the boat to find out what was really going on.

Update 0048 18 April: A commenter points out, and the reporter at the Kitsap Sun who's been breaking the story allows, that there's more than one side to the story. That's true, but those who've been reading my blog for a while know that I'm willing to call out Big Navy if I think they're trying to selectively release information about something that might make them look bad, as I think they did during the San Francisco grounding investigation. In this case, however, since the story wasn't going to be made public unless the Navy released it, I'm not sure why they'd want to "frame" the alleged attackers. It would be in the Navy's best interest not to release information about the case unless they were pretty sure it was true; therefore, I would guess that there's more here than circumstantial evidence or a "he said, he said" situation. I would certainly hope that submariners wouldn't do the things that are alleged, but all the information I'm getting indicates that something bad did happen on that boat.

Update 2256 18 April: Someone claiming to be the cousin of one of the alleged victims is posting over at The Knot Boards with some background information, and there's another story in the Kitsap Sun.


At 2:23 PM, Blogger jeff said...

Somebody over at the Kitsap Sun (last link) should be informed as to exactly what a dishonorable discharge means - it's not exactly a slap on the wrist after all.


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