Friday, August 2, 2013

Another Captain's Mast Story - Compassion?

Another story about Captain's Mast from U.S. NSGA Yokosuka circa 1997-2000.

We had a young female Sailor who was troubled.  From my previous post about Captain's Mast (Redemption through remediation), readers understand my sensitivity to being on time for work.

This young Sailor was late for work one particular morning and was reported as Unauthorized Absence (U/A) from morning muster.  That was as far as the Leading Petty Officer (LPO) went: he reported her as U/A.

Understand that our Sailors were just becoming accustomed to a Commanding Officer (me) who actually required a daily muster report. 

I inquired about the whereabouts of the Sailor.  The XO, division officer, division Chief and LPO reported that her whereabouts were unknown.  I asked if anyone had checked for her in her barracks room.  They had not.  The Command Duty Officer (CDO), a Senior Chief, was dispatched to the barracks to try to locate her.

As it turned out, she had over-medicated herself and the Senior Chief found her semi-conscious in her rack (bed).  An ambulance was called and she was transported to the base hospital a few blocks away.  This was apparently a suicide attempt/ideation.  Lots of baggage here that I won't go into but a Captain's Mast was pending for previous offenses.  Of course, she was administratively debriefed and lost her clearance.  Bottom line:  she was fortunate to have someone concerned enough about her whereabouts to physically check on her and verify she was okay.  The Senior Chief may have saved her life that day.

((NOTE: A HOTLINE call was made by a command member to the Commander, Naval Security Group Inspector General (IG) about the Commanding Officer (me) concealing and failing to report a suicide attempt.  Of course the Sailor was not aware of our various messages and phone calls to our Immediate Superior In Command (ISIC) and other links in the chain of command within 30 minutes of our learning of the suicide attempt from the hospital.))  For your edification, the previous CO was removed from command by the CNSG IG after failing two successive IG inspections.  I fielded more than my share of IG Hotline Complaints, Article 38 Grievances and Congressional Inquiries early in my command tour.  Sailors (at all paygrades through E-8) had become accustomed to trying to solve their problems through anonymous complaints to various IG and Congressional offices.  It took nearly two years to regain their trust and confidence.  We worked hard and got there together.  It was a painful process.  Not for the faint of heart.

I was in the habit of being in contact with the loved ones and parents of our Sailors.  This Sailor was no different.  I called her mother and let her know what was happening and that her daughter was safe and sound.  This was right around Thanksgiving and the mother had already purchased a plane ticket to Japan at considerable expense.  She feared she would not be able to make the trip to see her daughter due to the pending Captain's Mast and the punishment that was sure to be imposed.  I assured her that I would postpone the Captain's Mast until after her trip to Japan.  She came to Japan, had a wonderful time with her daughter and provided the soothing guidance that only a mother can provide.  Following Captain's Mast, the Sailor was separated from the Navy for reasons that should be clear to everyone.  Not everyone is meant to spend a career in the Navy.

Like other Sailors who went to Mast, she made a complete recovery.  It seemed to get her to pay attention to the problems she needed to face and modify the behaviors she needed to correct.  I am happy to say that she served our country again in Iraq in a different capacity and served with pride and distinction under hostile conditions.  She'd grown up.  The Navy helped her do that.

Some may think this is airing dirty laundry.  It's not.  It's  matter of record, if you know how to check the record.  There are so many lessons in this one experience with this one Sailor that I could write a short book on the many leadership lessons learned.

Zero defects Navy?  I don't think so.  This Sailors had MANY chances to correct her behavior before being separated from the Navy.  She made many choices not too.  No doubt she'd make different choices today.

2 comments:

Stephen Gray said...

Thanks for this post sir! It is sparking a good conversation about maintaining a command climate that is condusive to compassion and reducing IG complaints. Appreciate it!

Stephen Gray said...

Thanks for the post sir! It is sparking a good conversation about compassion and it's effect on command climate and reducing IG complaints. Appreciate it!