Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Story

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

Muster aboard ship is taken very seriously aboard ship.  It should be taken equally seriously ashore.

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.  Nothing more was done by her division, even though the barracks was about a 1/2 mile away..

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).  What might have happened to her if we had not checked on her?  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. I think that he did. Some would call this 'intrusive leadership'; I call it servant leadership and caring about your Shipmates.

((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 this episode and failing to properly report a suicide attempt.  Of course the complaining 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 - the previous CO had crushed their trust and confidence and was relieved for cause.  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'd written her mother on several occasions so she knew who I was and we at least had that connection. I called her mother and let her know what was happening and that her daughter was safe and sound.  This was right before Thanksgiving and her 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 restrictive 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 Sailor 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. 


Anonymous said...

No doubt?

Mike Lambert said...

None whatsoever. She's a far more mature and thoughtful person.

Anonymous said...

After you identified her as a troubled sailor you naturally pulled her clearances, right?

Anonymous said...

@Anon/4:46AM -- From his post, "Of course, she was administratively debriefed and lost her clearance."

Anonymous said...

@Anon/4:46 -- From the blog post, "Of course, she was administratively debriefed and lost her clearance."

HMS Defiant said...

of course?

is that how you guys roll these days.

you just assume shit?