Naval Officer Reassigned After Failing To Stop Anti-Gay Harassment Aboard Nuclear Submarine

After a sailor aboard a nuclear submarine confided to  that he been the victim of an attempted rape by another man, he was subject to anti-gay taunts and harassment by his shipmates.

The attacks became so severe that the sailor began to have suicidal thoughts and admitted he was worried he might hurt himself or someone else.

The resulting investigation into the hazing, aboard the USS Florida, resulted in the reassignment of the vessel’s top enlisted officer, Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry, who was serving as  chief of the guided-missile submarine.

The Navy announced March 30 that Capt. Stephen Gillespie had relieved Berry as chief, due to dereliction of duty. Aboard a submarine, the chief of the boat advises the commanding officer of issues involving enlisted sailors.

The Navy’s announcement said the case involved allegations of hazing aboard Florida, but gave no details. It said Berry was not involved in the hazing, but had knowledge of it and failed to inform his chain of command.

The AP, which obtained the Navy’s investigative file through a Freedom of Information Act request, reported that the victim endured harassment for months, including being referred to as “Brokeback” and other anti-gay slurs, and being given a crude drawing of stick figure being sexually assaulted.

Before a group training session on the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the sailor was subjected to comments about coming out of the closet and asked when other sailors could meet his boyfriend and whether his boyfriend was Filipino, the nationality of the person he said tried to rape him.

Let’s not forget that these people work on a nuclear submarine, not the grill line at Denny’s. It’s got all kinds of serious weaponry—not to mention that nuclear reactor—but these saliors have the maturity and sensitivity of a hyperactive eighth-grader.

Thankfully several sailors who participated in the harassment were disciplined, including loss of rank and pay. We think that will send a stronger message than the sensitivity training that was ordered for the entire crew of the Florida.

Photo: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Lynn Friant/U.S. Navy

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