Homophobic Bullying On Nuclear Sub Led To Top Non-Com’s Dismissal

395px-SSBN-728_insigniaIn March, the top enlisted man aboard an American nuclear submarine was reassigned to a new vessel, after failing to keep one of his subordinates safe from a prolonged and brutal "hazing." The Associated Press has now learned the nature of the "hazing," which doesn't sound like anything of the sort: It was, in fact, incessant homophobic bullying.

The AP doesn't mention if the bullying victim is actually gay. It seems the victim was singled out because of an assault he allegedly endured while his vessel, the USS Florida, was docked in a foreign port. There, he said, a man tried to rape him. From the AP:

… the hazing was directed at a sailor who had reported that another man pulled a knife and tried to rape him while in the port at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

All names in the documents provided to The Associated Press were redacted.

The report says the sailor was generally well-liked on the ship and endured the torment for months because he thought it would eventually stop. Among other things, he was called a derogatory term for a gay person and referred to as "Brokeback," a reference to the gay-themed movie "Brokeback Mountain." In addition, someone posted a drawing of a 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.

The report says the sailors who made the derogatory comments didn't realize their shipmate had a knife pulled on him or the psychological toll the comments were taking on him. After eight months of harassment in 2011, the sailor eventually wrote a note saying he had suicidal thoughts and that he could snap and hurt himself or someone else.

According to the AP's report, sexual harrassment and bullying were common onboard the USS Florida. Naval leadership has ordered additional "counseling and training" "at all levels" to prevent future incidents.  


  1. Francis says

    This story almost makes me want to cry. Because I cannot imagine how alone this sailor must have felt, how violated he must have been. Such a horrible story, but it also highlights the obvious fact that even with DADT repealed, homophobia is still a major problem in our military. I also find it hard to believe that the other sailors couldn’t imagine that constantly teasing and bullying a man who was SEXUALLY ASSAULTED wouldn’t end up with that individual becoming depressed, angry and a potential danger to himself or others. I find that hard to believe they didn’t realize what they were doing is cruel. No, they simply didn’t care, Chief Berry didn’t care, no-one cared.

    I just hope the sailor who had to endure this horrific treatment is being looked after in the aftermath.

  2. miKem says

    I am glad to read that the USN has charged the Chief of the Boat with Dereliction of Duty – a very severe charge in the military world. I expect this will not be a slap on the wrist, although it is worth watching further on what the USN rules.

  3. says

    @Francis – The repeal of DADT was never meant to address bullying in our military. All the repeal did was allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in our military.


    I think this issue highlights the military’s problem with dealing with rape. We have read countless reports of women who were raped, reported it and then were “discharged” under a “pre-existing before unknown psychological disorder”. There is also this misnomer based on the stereotype that men never say no to sex, that we somehow give permanent implied consent.

    Until the greater issue of rape is dealt with decisively, this type of bullying will continue.

  4. Ricco says

    I remember how happy I was to finally get out of high school, to escape my tormentors, how excited I was when I joined the military. While I was scared as a gay man to be around an all-male environment, I thought if I remained discreet, as I had all my life, that at least now I was in a world of adults.

    Things were different.

    One cannot imagine, unless they have been through it themselves, how sophomoric, cruel, and dishonorable our military is until they have served as a gay man trying to keep his secret, or a woman, how exactly like high school the military is . . . but to the 10th power.

  5. mikenola says

    Don’t misread this as being supportive of bullying or hazing in any way, but the AP story creates a couple of questions.

    As a Retired Navy Chief, I am personally familiar with Diego Garcia, or Dodge as it is called.

    The Atoll is about 2000 miles from Africa, 1300 miles from India and about 4000 miles from Australia.

    The Atoll has lots of beach, a lot of Donkeys left over from the British, and sand crabs….millions of them even. and not much else. Its’ just not that big.

    Its one “benefit” was nickel beer, cold beer at that.

    The place has about 4000 people stationed there. Not a lot by any stretch.

    The hazing aside for a second, the Filipino population is really pretty small, mostly civilian workers hired to cook, clean, etc.

    not to sound xenophobic or anti-Filipino but they tend to be really short people. Those with a Caucasian parent can be of average Caucasian height, but generally speaking they are in the 5 ft to 5ft 5ish range. 6 ft tall Filipinos are unusual in the general population.

    So in the scheme of things what is up with this Knife backed rape attempt?

    The AP story glosses past that.

    More interesting is the “knowledge” of the rape by this guys shipmates. The story implies that they knew something about the sexual assault but not the knife.

    Subs are really small communities and frankly chatter and gossip happen, but why did the Navy leave this man on board that boat? If the man reported the assault to the Shore Patrol on Dodge, it is would have been Navy policy for the skipper, the chaplain and the doctor be notified.

    Generally speaking a rape victim (during isolated duty particularly) is removed from the duty station. This is to make sure they get counseling and are not subject to retribution for ratting out the rapist by anyone in the crew/company who might be a friend of the rapist.

    So if the guy filed a report, how did the crew get informed of the assault? did he tell them or did the Chief or someone else gossip about it?

    why were the Skipper and Doc not up this guys ass to make sure things were okay? again Subs are small places, any gossip is not limited to the enlisted ranks or officer ranks, literally everyone knows everything about everyone and everything that happens.

    If the guy didn’t file a report, how the hell did they know anything at all? he would not likely talk about it at chow if he didn’t file a report.

    here is something else to think about, and frankly where some of you might misinterpret what I am saying.

    For hundreds of years, teasing (and yes incessant teasing) about some squids “boyfriend” has been part of the Navy life. With the inclusion of women on most ships, the female equivalent was smoothly incorporated into that teasing.

    the old joke about carriers was the 5000 men went to sea, and 2500 couples came back. Tales of snipe hunts and graphite grease guns abounded on all ships to torture newbies. You never wanted to get near the bilge rats.

    Going to Dodge means crossing the equator, which earns you your Shellback designation. Among other things that entails lots of gross liquids and food stuffs and kissing the belly of King Neptune, whom in my day was the oldest, fattest, hairiest Chief on the boat covered in sweat, oil and grease.

    Everyone on their first trip across the equator went through this initiation. The jokes, teasing, and insults after that were legendary.

    Submarine duty is close quarter living, and very personal duty. You have to get along with your shipmates in a way most civilians cannot grasp. Imagine it to being in a prison cell 24/7 but without the shanks, and you can get close to the idea.

    where were the other officers and senior enlisted while all this was happening? did not the Chaplain get involved? how about the XO or the guys watch commander? out of 100 people there will be 20ish officers and the rest chiefs and lower enlisted. do the math, how many ignored what was happening?

    There is also an alternative (which most people will not like me pointing out) scenario, and that is the report cited by the AP was a reaction to policy changes and an over zealous attempt to not ‘ignore’ the new reality of the repeal of DADT.

    Under that scenario the disciplined Chief of the Boat was scapegoated to keep up with the policy change. I am not sure I buy that as the 100% reason for the transfer (the guy may have had other challenges or enemies and this was a convenient way to get rid of him) but it might be part of it.

    All in all, hazing and teasing are part of the communal culture of the Navy ships and squadrons. It is not all bad, but can certainly go way beyond reasonable behavior and has at times gone on to physical violations of the victim.

  6. Dave says

    This is proof that anit-gay Christians are using psychological warfare against other Americans. The majority of Americans call themselves Christians and they train the military in psychological warfare.

  7. JJ says

    So Mikenola, let me see if I have this. You weren’t there. Something you didn’t witness happened to someone you don’t know. Some incomplete version of the story got around to his shipmates by means you can’t explain, which led to months of hazing. The Navy investigated after the fact and the AP got a redacted copy of their after-the-fact report. The AP then wrote a one-page story mentioning some details from the redacted, after-the-fact report of the hazing that grew out of rumors and hearsay about something you didn’t see happen to someone you don’t know, and this is how you leaned of the story.

    Now, having been to Diego Garcia, you’ve deduced that everyone was pretty much innocent except probably the victim, whose story, as you know it, doesn’t add up, and the one thing you’re not 100% sure about is that the chief was a political scapegoat.

    K, thanks. I think I’ve got it.

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