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Posts for October, 2009

Officer Responsible For Anti-Gay Harassment To Retire Early

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2009
Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint

Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint

The Navy announced yesterday that the chief petty officer responsible for sexually provocative hazings of junior sailors in Bahrain will be forced to retire in January, two years earlier than planned. He will also receive a letter of censure from the Secretary of the Navy, which the Virginia Pilot describes as “the harshest administrative action that can be taken against a sailor.”

Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, opted to cancel Toussaint’s final years of service. Roughead “found that the incidents were not in keeping with Navy values and standards and violated the Navy’s longstanding prohibition against hazing,” according to Smith. “Our sailors are to be treated with dignity and respect in a healthy and positive working environment.”

One victim, former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha, said he was subjected to repeated slurs about his sexuality after he refused to have sex with female prostitutes.

Petty Officer 1st Class Shaun Hogan submitted detailed notes about Toussaint’s abuse during more than two years under his command. Hogan told the Navy lawyer who originally handled the case that Toussaint routinely made inappropriate comments about and inquiries into sailors’ sex lives, and threatened to revoke sailors’ dog-handling credentials if they crossed him.

Hogan also described Toussaint’s directing the filming of training videos that required some sailors to act out lesbian love scenes, others to simulate gay male sex and one to have rubber balls thrown at his crotch, all in a guise of running the dogs – trained to sniff out explosives – through various “real life” scenarios.

Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha

Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha

With this move, Toussaint avoids a court martial. Joseph Rocha reacts:

“A lot of us are disappointed in that Toussaint won’t see his day at a military court martial,” Rocha said. “But overall, I commend the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy for a wanting to look further into this, to see how widespread the corruption was.”

An unnamed commanding officer originally decided to handle the situation by issuing Toussaint a nonpunitive letter of reprimand. Rocha, who is gay went on to officer training, but left the Navy with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder over the harassment. Later, he met a reporter with Youth Radio and told his story. Youth Radio broadcast a powerful series of investigative reports into the incidents, many of which were picked up on National Public Radio.

New Investigations Into Navy Abuse

Timothy Kincaid

September 24th, 2009
Former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha

Former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha

Youth Radio, which first reported the story of the abuse of Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha (who was expelled from the Navy) at the hands of Master-at-Arms Michael Toussaint (who was promoted), has a follow-up on the results of their report.

Since Youth Radio began reporting the story, Rear Admiral David Mercer has ordered a review of the outcomes of the investigation at the Bahrain Kennel. He’s in charge of naval installations in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.

A Navy spokesman issued this statement:

“The incidents that occurred within the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Support Activity Bahrain do not reflect who we are as a navy. They are considered an anomaly based on sailors who were inproperly led.”

And yesterday, we learned yet another higher level review of the investigation has been ordered, this time by the Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s highest ranking officer and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The deadline for that report is October sixth.

Congressman Calls for Explanation of Navy Abuse

Timothy Kincaid

September 22nd, 2009
Former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha

Former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha

Earlier this month we told you of Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha who was abused and harassed by his officers because he didn’t visit prostitutes and thus must be gay.

At one point, the documents show, Rocha was hog-tied, fed dog food and tossed into a dog kennel full of feces. Commanders also openly questioned his sexuality and forced him to simulate oral sex on other men.

When Rocha finally did come out, he was tossed out of the military as being unfit and his tormentor was promoted.

While this sort of behavior might fit right in with the attitudes of some of the upper brass in the Pentagon, those who answer to the American people are a bit more inclined to find it abhorrent. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pennsylvania, a former Navy rear admiral and the highest ranking officer ever to serve in Congress, wrote to Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus to inquire about the circumstances.

And it turns out that once the spotlight is shining on particularly egregious behavior, the Navy isn’t quite as proud of its bullies and bigots. (SunNews)

“The incidents that occurred within the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Support Activity Bahrain do not reflect who we are as a Navy,” said Cmdr. Cappy Surette, a Navy spokesman. “The Navy is now looking into the handling of this situation more carefully.”

And indeed care should be taken. Sestak is being specific.

Sestak also is requesting information regarding Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint, who was responsible for the unit and was later promoted to senior chief.

“It would astound me if he was promoted if these allegations are true,” Sestak said in an interview. “What kind of a command climate is that?”

Rocha’s circumstances are certainly not unique. But his is but one more story that is reaching the American public and illustrating that gay people are not the problem with the military and its culture.

I suspect that Sestak will get the cooperation he has requested. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Military Response to Hazing and Abuse: Promote the Perpetrator and Kick Out the Victim

Timothy Kincaid

September 3rd, 2009

One of the most egregious injustices of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell is that it invites bullies and bigots to wreak havoc on the lives of gay servicemen without allowing any recourse.

We learned last week of how Air Force Lt. Col Victor Fehrenbach’s 18 year career was destroyed by the false accusation of a mentally damaged citizen. Now we learn that Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha was put through hell only to be thrown out like the trash and his tormentor rewarded as a result of investigations. (Stars and Stripes)

According to documents released by Youth Radio this week, Navy investigators found dozens of hazing incidents over a two-year span at the Military Working Dog unit in Naval Support Activity-Bahrain. At one point, the documents show, Rocha was hog-tied, fed dog food and tossed into a dog kennel full of feces. Commanders also openly questioned his sexuality and forced him to simulate oral sex on other men.

Following the investigation, Rocha sought treatment for PTSD and later admitted he is gay, the news outlet reported. Shortly thereafter, he was discharged under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibits homosexual troops from serving openly in the ranks.

However, the commander in charge of the unit at the time of the hazing did not lose his job, and was recently promoted to senior chief, documents show.

This is unconscionable. And if the Commander in Chief has any sense of outrage that a voting block which supported him in huge numbers and whom he courted is so mistreated, this will not be swept under the rug.

President Obama may not be able singlehandedly reverse DADT. But he certainly can see to it that rewards for bigots and bullies are revoked and that punishment is meted out. And failure to act only feeds fuel to the growing suspicion that his promises were hollow and his concern about our community is insincere.

I hope he proves such suspicions false.

None of the alleged abusers was punished, according to the report.