Navy faults leadership in incomplete hazing probe
Leaders should have done more to investigate numerous hazing allegations against a gay sailor and others in a unit stationed in Bahrain several years ago, the Navy said Wednesday.
The Chief of Naval Operations has sent a letter of counseling to retired Vice Adm. Robert T. Conway, the former Commander, Naval Installations Command, who was the final endorser of a June 2007 investigation that has been criticized for failing to be thorough.
The letter notes that "more should have been done to determine what officers in the chain of command knew about allegations of hazing and what actions they took to address those allegations," said Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Elissa Smith.
In October, the Navy announced that the former leader of the bomb-sniffing dog unit would be removed and forced to retire after the Navy reviewed allegations of hazing and sexual harassment against the gay sailor and others.
One of the hazing victims, Joseph Rocha, said he decided to leave the Navy in 2007 by telling his commander he was gay, in violation of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. He had been attending the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island in hopes of attending the academy.
Rocha said he was tied to a chair and left in a dog kennel, hosed down while in uniform and forced to simulate oral sex on another sailor while in Bahrain.
The Navy in September was reviewing its investigation of more than 90 hazings between 2004 and 2006 in the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Security Force, Bahrain.
The former unit leader, Michael Toussaint, is scheduled to appear before a retirement grade determination board in Norfolk, Va., on Feb. 4, Smith said.
A letter of counseling also was issued to Capt. Gary Galloway, one of the unit’s former commanding officers.
"The letter of counseling reinforces that when senior officers observe conduct that is questionable, they must act quickly and firmly to verify the nature and purpose of the activity and ensure Navy policies prohibiting hazing are strictly enforced," Smith said.
The Chief of Naval Operations also has directed counseling for eight other personnel named in the investigation and has sent a message to all flag officers reinforcing their role in ensuring probes are thorough.
Rep. Joe Sestak, a Pennsylvania Democrat and retired three-star admiral, has pressed the Navy to explore lapses in accountability in the case. Sestak, who demanded to know why Toussaint was later promoted to senior chief after the reports, applauded the decision to expand the investigation.
"Only with the display of real accountability will the men and women serving believe in their leadership," Sestak said in a statement.