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    Senior Member BURAWSKI's Avatar
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    Chief season screwups: These 4 cases may have crossed the line

    I don't understand how this story is something Navy Times finds newsworthy. I remember when these matters where handled internally by the CPO Mess and not publicized by the media for public consumption/scrutiny. Yes, I understand this is the age of social media, something that was not available 30 years ago, but now everything associated with the CPO Mess is broadcasted for not only the entire Navy, but the general public as well. This is a mistake. These matters should be addressed WITHIN the CPO Community and should not be turned in to news stories that smack of sensationalism and hype. I understand when serious matters should be publicized concerning illegal acts or other misconduct, but this type of story doesn't come close to what I would consider something newsworthy. But boy it must be great to bash the CPO Mess every time Navy Times gets a chance. Hey Navy Times: Give it a rest. Let the CPO Mess deliberate internally on these matters and leave the media out of it. The entire Navy doesn't need a blow by blow description of every problem the CPO Mess has with regard to this issue. My opinion on all this type of reporting: What a croc!




    Chief season screwups: These 4 cases may have crossed the line
    As the focus on professionalism is refined, these four cases may have crossed the line
    Sep. 29, 2014 - 08:01AM |

    By Mark D. Faram
    Staff writer

    The Navy's top chief wants chief season training to be challenging and professionally rewarding, like this Aug. 20 training session for chief selects aboard USS Constitution. (MC2 John Benson / Navy)
    No more shenanigans. That was the bottom line of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens' controversial chief training overhaul two years ago, which ended decades of initiation rites.


    No more shenanigans. That was the bottom line of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens' controversial chief training overhaul two years ago, which ended decades of initiation rites.

    That was the bottom line of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens’ controversial chief training overhaul two years ago, which ended decades of initiation rites.

    Stevens said these age-old traditions needed to come in line with today’s professional chief’s mess — or be jettisoned.

    Induction, along with its gross-out pranks more akin to rush week at a frat house, was discontinued in favor of strenuous and professionally relevant training meant to push chief selects to the limit.

    “You can have tough, realistic and effective training and still keep it professional and totally in line with our core values,” Stevens told Navy Times Sept. 23.

    Still, each year, some chiefs aren’t getting the word.

    This year’s chief season has seen four incidents of exactly the type of shenanigans MCPON has been trying to stamp out, where his rules and quite possibly Navy regulations have been bent, if not broken.

    Two incidents occurred on board the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which the command has ruled as not misconduct. Two others elsewhere are under investigation.

    Stevens says these incidents also show that more chiefs — not just selectees — are coming forward to report their concerns.

    “It’s unfortunate that any of these incidents occurred,” Stevens said. “But what I have been impressed with during this year’s CPO-365 Phase II season is, in each case, it was genuine chief petty officers who came forward and took appropriate action either as an individual or collective mess. In the past, this hasn’t always been the case.”

    Inappropriate touching
    The Vinson’s first serious incident during chiefs season occurred Aug. 25 in the chief’s mess, nearly a month into Phase II training, which commences after the chief list was released in early August.

    It was around 9:30 p.m. that night, one of the ship’s first days of deployment. The chief selects were working in the mess and it was hot.

    A master chief aviation ordnanceman went into the unisex head. While he splashed water on his face, a female chief select entered the head’s open door, according to an official report.

    “There was no paper towel there and I said, ‘Oh my, you are as sweaty as we are,’ and I ran my hands down her face on the side, from her hairline to her chin,” the AOCM said in a Sept. 10 witness statement.

    The chief select, a culinary specialist 1st class whose name officials removed from the command report, was upset. Her master chief culinary specialist quickly spotted a change in her demeanor.

    “I asked her what was going on and she said she was touched on the face by another master chief ... after he came out of the head,” he wrote in a statement.

    She told the ship’s top enlisted, Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Marty Barnholtz, what happened and he confronted the AOCM from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 the next morning.

    “I explained to him that it was not acceptable or appropriate to touch another selectee,” Barnholtz reported to a force master chief in an email. “I also told him that he was done for the season.”

    Afterwards, the AOCM apologized to the chief select, who said she was satisfied.

    “ I don’t feel there was any ill intent,” she said. “It was just the grossness factor that bothered me. I was surprised that it went to the force master chief so fast. I am glad they took the incident seriously.”

    The report says the AOCM apologized on his own volition. However, he felt treated unfairly.

    “I was appalled that I was removed from the process for something so trivial as a touch to remove sweat from the side of her head/face,” the AOCM said in his statement, comparing his questioning to “the Spanish Inquisition.”

    Barnholtz, with the OK from then-commanding officer, Capt. Kent Whalen, ordered a 24-hour chiefs season standdown to reiterate the rules to his mess. Barnholtz also ordered everyone to re-read MCPON’s guidance.

    Many selectees and chiefs aboard Vinson weren’t even aware of the incident that led to this standdown, sources told Navy Times.

    Barnholtz wrapped up his comments to the mess by saying, “We are here to train, guide and lead our selectees and our sailors, and we are not here to belittle, demean or touch them — other than a handshake.”

    The command ruled that this touching did not constitute misconduct or hazing.

    “I believe that the incident on 25 August 2014 demonstrated poor taste and was not appropriate,” concluded Capt. Karl Thomas, who took command of the Vinson from Whalen on Sept. 2.

    AOCM was banned from further chief season training and the command ruled the case closed. But it was not to be the last incident.
    guidance.

    A chief who walked in during the spoon-feeding said he was offended and tried to stop it, but was ignored.

    “I tried to voice my opinion but was disregard[ed] by my fellow chiefs,” the chief, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for his career, told Navy Times in an email afterwards. He said most witnesses felt it was “inappropriate and disrespectful” to the selectee.

    “Keep in mind that the true principle of CPO-365 is a process to train, develop and challenge selectees to become Chief Petty Officer[s] in the same way we treat each other with dignity and respect,” the chief wrote.

    In the end, the command ruled that the spoon-feeding was in keeping with MCPON’s guidance for CPO-365 and neither Yaich nor Nowak were disciplined or counseled.

    Neither the spoon-feeding or the touching incident six days earlier crossed “the line into hazing or misconduct,” Thomas wrote in his conclusion.

    However, Thomas put the kibosh on further CPO-365 antics. “Due to the sensitivity surrounding the event, I have suspended all further CPO 365 Phase II activities.”


    MCPON's take
    Under pressure from lawmakers, the military has gotten tougher on hazing. The Navy established the Office of Hazing Prevention in early 2013 to track cases and set rules.

    Hazing involves subjecting any service member to “ any activity which is cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning or harmful,” according to the Navy. It can be verbal or psychological. Consenting to this treatment is still hazing, the Navy says.

    MCPON Stevens has taken steps to professionalize chief season training. His guidance has a list of “do nots” — alcohol consumption, forced eating or drinking, physical abuse, degrading language or profanity, cross-dressing. But professionalism depends on the judgment of the chiefs and master chiefs who lead it, Stevens’ guidance states.

    In a Sept. 23 interview, Stevens said there are lessons to be heeded in the incidents, after examining the Vinson’s report.

    “After reviewing all the information, I don’t believe there was any malice of intent and that neither member believed what was occurring was hazing,” Stevens said. “However, if it’s not professional and doesn’t have a professional purpose, then it doesn’t have a place in professional training — CPO 365 is professional training.”
    Last edited by BURAWSKI; 09-29-2014 at 04:41 PM.

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    The problem is the sexual assault or sexual harassment incident. That's not something that simply "stays in the mess" - that's something that goes up to the TYCOM level, so yes, if someone as high as a Master Chief was the perpetrator, everyone is going to know. And that's been the case long before facebook.
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    Senior Member Stalwart's Avatar
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    A sign of the times is that fewer and fewer things are going to stay behind the curtain of the Mess or the Wardroom. Navy Times is in the business of selling newspapers; they are not in business to do anything else. They simply are not vested in maintaining the status of the Mess, Wardroom or the Navy for that matter … that is for All Hands or some other PAO product. I don’t think they have it out for the Mess in particular, they are just going to make a headline out of what is going to attract attention and a topic that gets people talking (and buying papers) is senior enlisted and officers doing things that get them in trouble.

    Some things the Mess should be allowed to handle internally; but the fact is that once word (even partial information) gets out trying to hide it or pretend nothing happened leads to speculation which is (in the long run) probably worse than openly discussing what is going on. We can tell people to “shut up and color” all we want but that doesn’t mean they will oblige. I have yet to see a public (all-hands) Captain’s Mast for a Chief or Officer – but the times I have seen a khaki go to Mast, the Chiefs and Officers were all there – but no junior personnel; so I don’t think there is a concerted effort to denigrate the Mess in particular. We should realize however, that the extra privileges of our positions in the Mess or Wardroom come with a higher expectation of our decision making and the higher we go, the higher we could potentially fall. If anything, we should do our best to avoid being a case study in the future.

    I am not in any way arguing for a full and open disclosure policy on the goings on of the Mess or Wardroom; but we need to also operate in the ‘battlefield’ we have and that ‘battlefield’ today allows for something that you or I would consider mundane or a non-event to circle the world at the speed of light, to an audience that doesn’t understand the military and if there is a recording of something … all the worse. We should not underestimate the impact a story of harassment or assault in places like Capitol Hill where like it or not, they tell us what is a big deal and what isn’t; to them … these issues are a big deal which means, to us … it is a big deal. I understand the concern / feel your pain; but at this point & after several years of the guidance being put out that things have changed and what the new ROE is I will say that there are going to be some things that are questionable but anyone clearly violating the rules is likely guilty of a lack of common sense or a plain disregard for the changes. At this point, as much as you don’t like the negative attention that reporting such as this brings to the organization you obviously love, do you also have the same concern in the decision making by the Chiefs that committed the actions that were reported?
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    Senior Member BURAWSKI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalwart View Post
    A sign of the times is that fewer and fewer things are going to stay behind the curtain of the Mess or the Wardroom. Navy Times is in the business of selling newspapers; they are not in business to do anything else. They simply are not vested in maintaining the status of the Mess, Wardroom or the Navy for that matter … that is for All Hands or some other PAO product. I don’t think they have it out for the Mess in particular, they are just going to make a headline out of what is going to attract attention and a topic that gets people talking (and buying papers) is senior enlisted and officers doing things that get them in trouble.

    Some things the Mess should be allowed to handle internally; but the fact is that once word (even partial information) gets out trying to hide it or pretend nothing happened leads to speculation which is (in the long run) probably worse than openly discussing what is going on. We can tell people to “shut up and color” all we want but that doesn’t mean they will oblige. I have yet to see a public (all-hands) Captain’s Mast for a Chief or Officer – but the times I have seen a khaki go to Mast, the Chiefs and Officers were all there – but no junior personnel; so I don’t think there is a concerted effort to denigrate the Mess in particular. We should realize however, that the extra privileges of our positions in the Mess or Wardroom come with a higher expectation of our decision making and the higher we go, the higher we could potentially fall. If anything, we should do our best to avoid being a case study in the future.

    I am not in any way arguing for a full and open disclosure policy on the goings on of the Mess or Wardroom; but we need to also operate in the ‘battlefield’ we have and that ‘battlefield’ today allows for something that you or I would consider mundane or a non-event to circle the world at the speed of light, to an audience that doesn’t understand the military and if there is a recording of something … all the worse. We should not underestimate the impact a story of harassment or assault in places like Capitol Hill where like it or not, they tell us what is a big deal and what isn’t; to them … these issues are a big deal which means, to us … it is a big deal. I understand the concern / feel your pain; but at this point & after several years of the guidance being put out that things have changed and what the new ROE is I will say that there are going to be some things that are questionable but anyone clearly violating the rules is likely guilty of a lack of common sense or a plain disregard for the changes. At this point, as much as you don’t like the negative attention that reporting such as this brings to the organization you obviously love, do you also have the same concern in the decision making by the Chiefs that committed the actions that were reported?

    Well, yes times have changed. I understand that you can't live in the past, and obviously I was in a different Navy, not saying it was necessarily better or worse, but it was different. And what I mean by that is there are some things that were worse 30 years ago and others were for the better. But how about some responsible reporting? There are ethics with regard to journalism. Today the media (across the board for the most part) just goes for the jugular at the expense of real facts and truth. Sure, some half-truths thrown in but there is a problem today with news reporting that I didn't necessarily see 30 years ago. I still think the publicity on the CPO Mess training has been over-extended to the point where it has undermined the CPO Mess, because it certainly doesn't support or help the situation. I compare it to fanning the flames of a bad situation made worse by all of the publicity. There is plenty of blame to go around as I am aware that some of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the CPO Mess itself.

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    Senior Member Stalwart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BURAWSKI View Post
    But how about some responsible reporting? There are ethics with regard to journalism. Today the media (across the board for the most part) just goes for the jugular at the expense of real facts and truth. Sure, some half-truths thrown in but there is a problem today with news reporting that I didn't necessarily see 30 years ago.
    I would agree, there is some sensationalism involved, was there anything in the story that didn't happen though? I think the story does get into what was substantiated and what was ruled "borderline" but I don't think anything in the story was entirely fiction or half truth.

    Now, the part of the story that involved the AOCM wiping this hands on the females face, there are two sides of the story (his and hers) his side is that he was wiping sweat from her face, her side is that he wiped his wet hands from her hairline to her chin. That part of the story I did find odd: i.e. bad judgement on the part of the AOCM on two parts.

    1. The direction is that no physical touching is to take place unless adjusting a uniform. So there is no need to run your hands down her face, period. At the least, ask her. I have been very sweaty and around very sweaty people many times in 24 years, I never felt compelled to wipe anyone else's face. This isn't egregious by any means, but to me is just ... odd.

    2. If the AOCM was wiping his wet hands across the face of a Chief selectee (male or female), how is he treating a 2d Class or AOSN that works for him? And like it or not, the fact that he is an AOCM and the selectee was a female add another level of questioning; if the AOCM doesn't understand that it may be time for him to retire because the incident obviously bothered the selectee and the CMC. He may be a great guy who displayed a momentary lack of judgement that was mostly harmless but just in reading about it sounds odd ... even kind of creepy.

    In both cases, I wasn't there and don't know specifics and am left to only make an opinion based on what I have read from Navy Times and the After Action Report ... it doesn't sound like it needs to be addressed at Captains Mast, but it just makes me wonder "WTF?"


    Quote Originally Posted by BURAWSKI View Post
    I still think the publicity on the CPO Mess training has been over-extended to the point where it has undermined the CPO Mess, because it certainly doesn't support or help the situation. I compare it to fanning the flames of a bad situation made worse by all of the publicity. There is plenty of blame to go around as I am aware that some of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the CPO Mess itself.
    I agree, the bad press/publicity does not help the institution, it hurts not just the Mess, but the Navy as a whole. On one hand I can be upset with the Navy Times or other news media, but again ... in many aspects they are doing their job -- at least the selling papers part. On the other hand (and to me this is more than 50% of the problem) I look to the Mess, to the Wardroom and to the various communities and subcultures of the Navy (i.e. the recent issues with the Blue Angels) and simply think they need to collectively clean up their acts. If we don't want the added scrutiny or publicity; we should avoid giving those on the outside from having a reason to look inside.

    We are going to have certain people who are offended by nearly anything, I get that. I also look back to my time as an infantryman and wonder why we didn't do the same 'sophomoric bullshit' that I read about in the daily SITREPS, and why don't we hear about this kind of stuff from NSW or EOD? They are pretty tough 'warrior-types' who don't seem to need to verify their manliness or effectiveness as a warrior, so why do we feel the need to act in a frat-house manner so many times in other areas of the Navy (& military). Basically, Some SITREPs etc. are people covering their own ass by not being the senior guy with the secret; most of the things that make it into the CNO SITREP/NAVY BLUE Update are things that really should not be going on ... it may not rise to the level of an NJP, Court Marital or relief ... but it definitely makes me question the decision making of the subjects of the reports.
    Last edited by Stalwart; 10-01-2014 at 09:49 AM.
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    Senior Member SeaLawyer's Avatar
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    Reflecting on my days of hardcore "Chief's Initiation", I must say: I learned more leadership tidbits throughout this seven-week process than one could possibly fathom; likewise, I learned the art of worldy agricultural dining and clothing attire which--in reality--probably had little educational value. Many years in hind-site, it's the latter of the two I will cherish most. I seem to miss the fish oil baths, scent of rotten mystery mixes, and the agononizing taste of balut over any lesson learned.

    Bottom line: Some of the initiation process was for entertianment purposes only; however, entertainment is a matter of personal opinion. Unfortunately, this is something that cannot be classified into standardized training and; therefore, has rightfully made it's way out the door.

    Given the recent trends of high-level conduct coupled with the wave of khaki firings, I think these issues should serve as a great integration into future CPO 365 Phase Training as an integrity refresher.

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