By lex, on July 24th, 2011
SecNav reaches into a former FA-18 CO’s retirement to issue a letter of censure:
His actions – or more precisely, his inactions – in August 2009 as skipper of the Knighthawks came back to haunt him this week. After almost 18 months and multiple investigations, Ray Mabus, the Navy’s top civilian, found Bruen “failed to exercise appropriate leadership and demonstrated a profound lack of judgment” during an informal meeting to choose call signs for new officers.
Used to be there was no slack in light attack. Thick skin was required. If your feelings were easily hurt, maybe you were in the wrong business.
Used to be.
Now we spend 18 months of the bureaucracy’s time investigating hurt feelings.
That day, Ensign Steve Crowston – the squadron’s administrative officer and an ardent Dallas Cowboys fan – was given the call sign “Romo’s Bitch,” a reference to Cowboy’s quarterback Tony Romo. Also under consideration for Crowston were the monikers “Fagmeister” and “Gay boy.”
According to 190 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Crowston, a former chief petty officer, quickly notified his chain of command that he found the names offensive and humiliating. And shortly afterward, the squadron’s second-in-command, Cmdr. Damien Christopher, told Bruen he thought the names were problematic.
A few days later, Bruen called an all-officers meeting. According to his notes from the meeting, he told the group “derogatory references of a homosexual nature” would not be tolerated.
Crowston wasn’t satisfied. Six months later, he filed a complaint with the inspector general for Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Six. Months. Later.
An initial investigation dismissed most of Crowston’s complaints. The Naval Inspector General then conducted its own inquiry and found what happened at the call sign meeting constituted hazing, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
The investigations will continue until the proper result is returned. And once the door is open to discovery, you’d better hope that you’ve lived a sainted life:
In February, Bruen was removed from his position as operations officer on the Stennis. In late May, Bruen’s chain of command took the additional step of recommending that he be “detached for cause” for a number of violations, including failing to act on reports that squadron members had emailed offensive material on government computers and approving improper use of rental cars by command members. A detachment for cause often marks the end of an officer’s advancement.
Days later, Bruen retired.
According to Cmdr. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, the circumstances of Bruen’s retirement are under investigation.
People sent offensive emails, and rental cars were authorized. Now you’re getting letters of censure in your retirement, payment for which may or may not continue, thanks for your two decades of service.
Crowston said Friday that he believes “justice is served” with Bruen, though he questioned the decision to allow Christopher to continue leading the squadron. The unfavorable fitness report Bruen gave Crowston last year has been removed from his file. He has since been promoted to lieutenant junior grade and works for a different command at the Dam Neck annex of Oceana.
Lieutenants junior grade are now in a position to criticize the continued service of commanders in command, and the flag officers who permit them to remain there. Even COs who have, per Admiral Harvey, “turned around the command climate in the squadron, performed superbly leading it in combat operations.” Because LTJGs have a better perspective on the big picture.
He noted that the results of his case were announced on the same day the military certified it is ready to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly.
“It’s a big victory today for me, for gays, lesbians and bisexual members,” he said, declining to specify his own sexual orientation.
He hopes the long-awaited conclusion to his complaint serves as inspiration for other service members subject to offensive comments.
“Fight the homophobic bigotry anywhere and anytime,” he said.
Because that’s what Navy exists to do,
fight and win the nation’s wars fight the homophobic bigotry. Anywhere, anytime.
It’s a proud day.