Sunday, December 4, 2011

Findings of fact from the USS PONCE Hotline Complaint Investigation

The news media requested (via FOIA) the reports of investigation behind the firing of Commander Etta Jones, Commanding Officer of USS PONCE.  There are plenty of 'lessons learned' in the report and its endorsement by the ISIC and in the legal review.

This activity sounded inappropriate to me.

While the ship was in port Bahrain, RDML Klein (Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Five) requested an "all girls" photo and invited all of the female officers to dinner at her home.
(Encl 8, 15, 17, 18, 39)

The male officers were not invited to the dinner at RDML Klein's residence and several felt this to be a distinct professional disadvantage. (Encl 15, 18)

I doubt that RDML Meg Klein intended for this dinner to look the way it looks.  The Navy actively encourages Flag officer mentoring for various affinity groups and this probably falls into that category.

You can find the reports HERE and HERE.


CWO4 Brian L. Ashpole, USN- Retired said...

Captain Lambert,

This is one that I have to disagree with you on. An "all girls" get together doesn't really pass the "smell test."

I understand that the "affinity group" method of mentoring is encouraged, however, in this type of professional setting I would say no.

This setting sets the women apart and identifies them as being "special" in the eyes of the excluded group. It was a dinner, not a professional conference or meeting.
Just think what would happen if it was an "all boys" picture and dinner. There would be news reporters and other "affinity groups" all over it.

But then again, I guess men don't need an "affinity group" of their own as they have all of the advantages.

I realize the fair only counts for five year olds, but this is just plain wrong and can't be justified nor rationalized.

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

The situation and intentions become clear with your last sentence, Captain Lambert. We must remember that not all facts are known to everyone involved in a particular situation at the same time. The apparent fraternization that was going on within the crew is not related to RDML Klein’s dinner.

We also won’t be getting VADM Hunt’s idea of bold leadership if we do not have that bias for action. RDML Klein was trying to mentor other female subordinates and I do not see anything wrong with this. On a separate note, I am overly IMPRESSED with the quality of female 1170’s in my Power School classes. Someone once told me that diversity is the spice of life and I wholeheartedly agree!

Anonymous said...

In the military, diversity for diversity's sake is a fool's errand.
In the military, diversity for diversity's sake places the entire nation at risk.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

ENS Rogers

RDML Klein's mentorship of the female officer affinity group to the exclusion of males gives the very strong impression of preferential treatment. Diversity is a wonderful thing but when it's looked at from the perspective of skin color, race, ethnicity and other limiting factors - it becomes problematic. I think the CNO's de-emphasis in this area is a good thing. He appears to focus a bit more on the value of diversity of thought. Bringing people to the table with a broad spectrum of viewpoints and life experiences is more valuable than ensuring a mix of colors, races, ethnicity and sex (or sexual preference).

CWO4 Brian L. Ashpole, USN-Retired said...

Good and open discourse and debate here.
In the words of my former Commodore, Captain Pete Frothingham, USN-Retired: "I love it!"

Anonymous said...

Was the refernce to RDML Meg Klein a typo? There is a RDML Peg Klein, and I could believe this could happen with her in the picture...few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Meg and Peg are one in the same. She refers to herself as "Peg" in her official Navy bio.

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

I find it disappointing to still find people complaining about RDML Peg Klein, even after I've left the Academy and am now in the fleet. While I was a mid at the Academy and when she was the Commandant(where she was the first female DANT), I found her to be focused, disciplined, and professional. She even held an all hands call to apologize for a remark she had made. And I seriously doubt that GEN Alexander would hire "a few sandwiches short of a picnic" as his COS. At times I feel that some are quick to criticize in part simply because the member happens to be a woman. Let's continue this open and robust dialogue, shall we...?!

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Ensign Rogers,

WRT comments like anon @ 0828, it's easy for them to comment without owning their comment. I don't like anonymous comments but the nature of the blog is such that I'd like to offer free expression of ideas.

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Captain Lambert,

Thank you for the meaningful feedback! My friends tell me that I need not come across so antagonizing/condescending when we have our own discussions about these topics. They will enjoy hearing that another person agrees (I guess)!! I look forward to more good discussions in your upcoming posts.

Anonymous said...

We are waiting for the media to pick this up. Cross posting in various forums. Asking IG to take another look at the Admiral's behavior. Some PONCE JOs are asking for an apology. Meg owes them that.

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

I can see how this incident with the girls on PONCE and RDML Klein may have been slightly inappropriate of an action, but I think we're way overreacting here (with regard to calling the IG because ones feel entitled to an apology, etc.). And maybe myself included...! I'm sure she was only trying to share her perspective with a specific audience, and did not give any preferential treatment. Do these male JO's think that whatever good things the Admiral thought about these girls was going to show up in their FITREPSs??! To highlight some of RDML Klein's recent accomplishments, I mean, she's pretty damn good. Helping to lead the NATO airstrikes over Libya AS WELL AS now driving our Joint Force forward in the IO, EW, Cyber domain!! Because when MIT publishes a paper about how vulnerable our power grid is, why are we wasting our time with this stuff about whether or not people are getting preferential treatment and from whom and how much and in what setting?

James Hammersla (1810) said...

Absolutely an all-female dinner could be considered to be preferential. Ask yourself if this was a male flag officer who conducted a dinner at his private residence that was directed to exclude the females. While this is not the most egregious of EO violations, the perception of favoritism is there and should be addressed.

Ens Rogers,
To answer your question "why are we wasting our time with this stuff ...", it is not a waste of our time to ensure that all Sailors are treated equally based on their qualifications and merits and not on rank, gender, skin tone etc. This incident does not require congressional hearings and the like, but at the same time we all have to remember that our primary mission of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas is done via hard working Sailors who ask for very little beyond their honest wage and the respect they have earned in a professionally led organization. If we lose sight of the people we are missing the forest because of the trees.

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Mr. Hammersla,

I have to completely agree with your second paragraph. By and large, we MUST be focused on mission accomplishment, leading professional teams and treating every sailor with human dignity and respect.

I don't view a situation like this in terms of preferential treatment, only perhaps an emphasis on a particular value. To me, there is nothing wrong with emphasizing values. All of us possess prejudice or biases of some kind. That's the mechanism that allows humans to make decisions. So when it comes to careers and advancement within the Officer ranks, my guess is that the Navy (even between two white males) decides at some point that it values X in this candidate over value Y in the other.

And to respond to the people who point to a situation involving a male Flag inviting all males over to his house, of course that should merit press attention. That's not a value we cherish here in American society at large right now.

Roger said...

Ensign Rogers,

Your comment strikes me as shocking and totally inappropriate for a serving line officer of the United States Navy- or any other putative leader interested in fairness or justice.

You are tacitly admitting that these officers were favored by Admiral Klein (and other officers were deliberately excluded) simply [b][i]because of their genitalia[/i][/b].

[b][u]Not[/u][/b] because of their qualifications.
[b][u]Not[/u][/b] because of their potential as the future leaders of the Navy.
[b][u]Not[/u][/b] because of their goals, ambitions, or capabilties.

But solely because of their "plumbing".

You are implying that preferential treatment is perfectly acceptable so long as it favors a specific group whom you favor.

And [b]THAT[/b] is not a "value" we need in our Navy.

"And to respond to the people who point to a situation involving a male Flag inviting all males over to his house, of course that should merit press attention. That's not a value we cherish here in American society at large right now."

Sexism- even "reverse sexism" is still prejudicial conduct and inimicable to good order and the
needs of the Service.

Roger Taylor, Engineman Third,
Aux Division, USS Ponce LPD-15 (1989-1995)

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Released today, the Order Convening the FY 13 Promotion Selection Boards to the Grade of Rear Admiral Lower Half states the following in paragraph 3.a.3:

"Fully qualified Officers must have shown the ability to successfully lead and mentor a diverse workforce, while executing the Navy's strategic diversity iniatives and effectively retaining the right quality and quantity of performance personnel."

The perceived special treatment of certain folks whether real or not will certainly and rightfully so manifest itself with written policy like shown above. As I see it, RDML Peg Klein was simply mentoring our diverse workforce.

Anonymous said...

@ Rogers

Were Peg mentoring across the spectrum of diversity, you'd have an argument. She isn't; you don't.

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Just because there is one noted instance of her mentoring one specific slice of diversity, does not mean that she is ignoring other slices. Let's be at least a little forgiving. It's good to be perceptive, but X doesn't have to equal Y.

Anonymous said...

@ Rogers

Shipmate, don't take too long to learn that one "aw shit" wipes out a career's worth of good work. Check with the CO of VAQ-134 for additional details. If the admiral were a man and the incident had been reported the same way, heads (at least one) would roll.