Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Update on my memoir “Broken Silence”



Weeks after I completed my manuscript last year, I was diagnosed with PTSD which is why I decided to postpone the release date of my book.  Yes, the manuscript is complete and is currently being reviewed and edited for final publication. 

While writing the final chapters about the horrific events that had taken place leading to my courts-martial conviction, I suffered severe panic attacks, insomnia and other ailments, all the while I continued to provide advocacy support to other active duty officers who are still experiencing military work place abuse.

Yesterday I received an email from a retired Chief Warrant officer and he mentioned something that, as an African American female officer I was never properly prepared for;  the 3Rs, “rank/race/relationships”.   As I continued to climb the ladder of success I was coming closer and closer to the proverbial glass ceiling.

In my story I describe how on the afternoon of my promotion ceremony to Lt. Commander, in the summer of 2006, I was told by a senior white commander, “Welcome to the “Big Boys Club”, it’s no longer what you know “kiddo” it’s who you know!” 

Wow, I was either blind or stupid to think that I would be fully accepted as an equal, which is definitely an obstacle any minority serving in our military is bound to face.  Furthermore, regardless of the branch of service or a person’s race, gender or sexual orientation once you go against the grain of their creed you will be permanently oust!

 In the meantime, I would like to share an excerpt from one of my chapters titled, "Unequal Employment Opportunity"...

“In the Navy there exist a barbaric culture which consists of a Good ol’ Boys or big brother mentality and includes groups that are divided between the “haves and the have not’s.” Those who speak out against wrongful acts being committed by their superiors are targeted and unlawfully abused.  The victim will then undergo a character assassination and his career will be destroyed. Once a service member becomes targeted, the systematic processes which are supposed to be in place to provide a remedy against workplace abuse - are used as a means to simply gather incriminating information. The information is later used against the person, to further abuse them for challenging the system.

This secondary abuse comes from those who were not initially involved in the wrongful act, but instead, their role is to cover-up the actions of those who committed the wrongs.  The secondary abuse usually comes from the seniors of the abusive person and is sometimes the most heinous. As a result, those who were deemed unworthy, have an additional risk of being continuously abused without any avenues for relief.  Once a service member attempts to utilize the military’s policies and procedures which are governed by law, designed to uphold our equal employment rights, they will eventually learn that such policies are just mere proposals of justices that are never enforced. 

Those who are in power and have the ability to prevent unlawful treatment and workplace abuse against military veterans will profess in public to have: “honor, courage and commitment”.  Yet behind the military’s iron curtain, they secretly hide and band together to protect and cover-up their dirty secrets of corruption and human rights violations.  This problem has become so systemic it is detrimental to the oaths of office we take.  Because punishment is rarely taken against the abuser it sends a false message that workplace abuse is condoned all throughout our military.

In President Johnson’s 1965 executive order, he laid out a policy for equal employment opportunities for all federal agencies.  It specified rules and penalties by stating: “The Secretary of Labor shall, in appropriate cases, notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, or other appropriate Federal agencies whenever it has reason to believe that the practices of any such labor organization or agency violate Title VI or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other provision of Federal law.”  

Unfortunately, the defense department’s equal opportunity policies currently mandate that a service member must first notify his immediate chain of command on all issues involving civil rights violations; this includes allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault.  These policies are designed as a means to camouflage unlawful practices of racism and sexism, which still exist in the military.   Senior Pentagon officials are given the authority to establish its own rules and regulations which has become a strategically designed weapon system used to quarantine all evidence of civil rights violations. 

While the average working American has the right to file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), military veterans are not afforded such luxury. The EEOC is an independent federal law enforcement agency that investigates complaints and enforces laws against discrimination in the workplace.  Unfortunately the EEOC has no jurisdiction over the military’s equal opportunity program.  The Secretary of Defense is responsible to the President and Congress for the overall management of the military’s equal opportunity program.  Yet management responsibility is later delegated to senior military officials who are left to manage and supervise themselves. 

Having federal authority to manage a problem that has become so systemic in abusing its workers could only be remedied by one cure; strict enforcement of the recommendations outlined in the Congressional diversity report,  or amend the CRA altogether.  In the interim, once a service member reports a violation of his civil rights, it is immediately reported directly to the Pentagon.  Depending on the severity of the violation, the Pentagon will appoint a military lawyer to investigate the allegations. The case is then managed by several layers of the complainant’s chain of command and the final investigation report is typically “watered down” before it reaches the desk of the applicable service secretary, in my case the Secretary of the Navy.  If a complaint ever makes it to the desk of the Secretary of Defense, the findings are watered down even more. I’ve never heard of a complaint ever reaching that level.

Although I was never physically raped in the legal definition of the word, I feel as though I’d been mentally raped by my military superiors.  Because of the 1950s Feres Doctrine, military rape victims are not able to sue the government for monetary compensation, or anyone else for that matter. For two years I was denied my right to equal employment opportunities and my military superiors had forced me to stay at home.  I was unlawfully directed to call to report in each morning no later than 07:30 a.m.  This was the extent of my so-called military duties.  Each time I requested to be gainfully employed, to be allowed to work in my chosen field, my requests were denied. I encountered additional threats.  The abusive treatment was later reported in my second reprisal complaint. 

On several occasions, I requested a permanent transfer to a different command just to avoid additional abuse. My commanding officer refused to transfer me because it would relinquish his legal jurisdiction over me. Throughout my case, I encountered a significant number of senior white officers who would say to me, “You need to be punished for what you did!” The first ones to openly express their racist opinion were..... 

 Each of them wanted to let me know of their disapproval of what they perceived as a black officer being disobedient towards them.  As fellow military officers, they never stopped to consider they were violating my constitutional rights.They had a professional and legal responsibility to protect and uphold my rights, not violate them.  But who was I to think my rights would ever be upheld in the military?  What I was sadly experiencing was the same racism and inhumane treatment that was inflicted upon my dad, my uncle, and other black veterans and minorities who served in the U.S. military before, during and after the Vietnam War era. Unfortunately, military members have limited opportunities to exercise their constitutional rights and they are treated as if they are government property.

As much as my military superiors hated me and were salivating to strip me of my officer uniform, days had longed past when blacks were considered as property.  When whipping and lynching disobedient black folks was considered constitutional. Because the military has its own investigative and judicial system which is comprised of military lawyers, courts and prisons, if an active duty person steps too far out of line – like I did - they can be targeted to be punished and sent to prison. 

After I blew the whistle on their military corruption (fraud activity) I never received whistle blower protection and was later selectively prosecuted for minor offenses which certainly didn’t warrant a trial by military courts-martial.  My superiors felt that they could operate above constitutional law and made a mockery of the federal judicial system.   I was denied my 5th and 14th amendment rights to due process of the law.  Throughout my case, I was also denied my 6th amendment right to a speedy trial, or fair trial by a jury of my (minority) peers. When I was subsequently discharged from the Navy without my retirement pension, I was furthered denied my 8th amendment right and was subjected to excessive cruel and unusual punishment.

For years I never wanted to view my situation as a black or white issue because I was simply trying to uphold my fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayers. But once I uncovered evidence of my superior’s criminal activity I was no longer viewed as a fellow Naval officer.  I was labeled as an “angry black women” who needed to be reminded of my place, in their Navy. Behind closed doors they most likely said, “Who in the hell does this black bitch think she is?  She must’ve forgotten that we make the rules, which are designed for us to break them.  And it’s high time we teach her black ass a lesson!” 
                                               
No one wants to believe a story like mine or any other story regarding the struggles of African Americans being denied their equal employment opportunity rights.  If I hadn't found myself walking in the same shoes or along the same path of the untold stories of historic civil rights activists, it would be difficult for me to believe my own story. The courageous pioneers of the civil rights movement sacrificed their lives every day during the movement, demanding fair and equality of all African Americans, even while their own human rights were being violated…"


Thought for the day...



It has been said that the greatest souls awaken through suffering.  Suffering is not always a curse.  Darkness shows us aspects of ourselves that need work which may not have been exposed to us if the Universe had not sent this suffering in the first place. 

The greatest prayer you could make would to not ask the Source or God or the Universe to take the suffering away from you, but to instead have faith that everything that happens in your life is only happening to stimulate your spiritual evolution. 

Thank the Universe for sending you that suffering to help you grow and evolve, both spiritually and emotionally. All experience is a blessing and happens for a reason, so don't be afraid to feel it and learn from it what it has to show you about yourself.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Once again, Blatant Racism in the Military!!



After reading a recent article on the Pentagon’s most watched website, militarycorrptuon.com, it appears that I remain the only person in the military to "go to prison and lose my pension" on specious grounds of committing adultery.  

In his most recent article, Major MacDonald reports how a married enlisted person received a slap on the wrist for her infidelity.   Similar to most cases involving sex in the military, there’s probably a lot more to this story.

To sentence me prison and not others, and to uphold my conviction yet not use my case as grounds to prosecute others, only proves one thing…

In the meantime, senior military officials shouldn’t make it so obvious that they still condone racism in the military, especially with an African American serving as their Commander in Chief!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thought for the day...


When you learn how to balance your "Yin and Yang" is when you'll become centered with the universe.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova


I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Food for thought...


After reading this, I had to share...

"The incident apparently occurred in the Indian state of Punjab. Two puppies fell into a well. Their mother ran near the well and started barking, and attracted the attention of the owner, who looked inside and to his surprise there was a king cobra at the bottom, which didn't pose any threat to the puppies. Moreover, the reptile, looked after the puppies, by not allowing them to cross to the other side, where they could possibly drown, when the well is filled with water.

In general, they spent around 48 hours together at the bottom and in these 48 hours the cobra sat quietly next to them. When help finally arrived from the forest department, the cobra slithered to the other end of the well. The puppies were not injured at all and the reptile was immediately taken into the woods and was released into the wild.

Even the most deadly and dangerous creatures on earth know what Co-existence and mutual assistance is.   
The human race is in this respect far behind."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thought for the day...


If there is something you know, communicate it.  
If there is something you don't know, search for it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How the VA Got This Bad!




Pogo.com reports--"The spotlight of public scrutiny has turned to the staggering backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but how did the backlog get this big?
Kayla Williams at TIME is writing a three-part series on how the backlog got this bad, exactly how bad it is, and what can be done about it.
In the first part of her series, Williams puts part of the backlog blame on a substantial increase in claims while the VA was going through a transition in the system it uses to process veterans’ claims.
[I]magine a kitchen remodel – in the midst of it, with no appliances, countertops, or cupboards, it’s a disaster. But the investment should pay off when complete with a more functional space, more energy efficient appliances, and so forth.
During the remodel, however, you may only be able to eat frozen dinners microwaved in the garage, and anyone seeing this from the outside would only notice a destroyed space and terrible functionality.
In part two, Williams digs into the exact numbers of the backlog and how part of the blame should be aimed at the Department of Defense (DoD).
While awaiting processing, “the veteran’s claim sits stagnant for up to 175 days as VA awaits transfer of complete (service treatment records) from DoD,” the report notes.
After years of work to move toward integrated electronic records that would eliminate this sort of delay, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently conceded that the Defense Department is not holding up its end of the bargain to improve the disability process.
“I didn’t think,” he said flatly, “we knew what the hell we were doing.”
A recent report also found that the VA was hiding excessive wait time for appointments by altering appointment data.

Thought for the day…


Romans 13:8-- Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Thought for the day…



Who Am I?

The right answer is, “Who do you want to be”? 

For almost two years I have experienced what some would describe as a “spiritual awakening”, I like to describe it as “finding my way to the path of enlightenment”.

I woke up this morning and wanted to share with my readers what my journey has been like. So far the only audio book I found that remotely comes close to describing, in layman's terms a portion of my experience is titled: “Conversations with God”, written by Neale Donald Walsh. 

By no means does this book contradict what remains of the teachings of my Native Indian and African ancestors, but the book has enabled me to understand that there is "good and bad" in each and every situation; "one" has no greater relevance over the "other" and neither does "one" cancels out the "other", its simply how "one" chooses to observe or deal with the situation at hand.

The purpose of this post is not to offer you what God has revealed to me, but to let you know that each and every one of our lives has a purposeful meaning and when you are ready to ascend to a higher place, God will tap you to come forth to accept your calling, which is to always serve his/her purpose, not man or woman.

Human "beings" have finally arrived to a unique place along our "human" evolutionary process.  Unfortunately mankind has yet to fully comprehend the driving force that’s kept him away from seeking true “spiritual” guidance from the highest source of our existence.


It is said, “What once was, will always be”.  My take away from this proverb is my belief that we are all connected to the same "life source", some more so than others.  Medical studies have shown that the average human accesses only 5% of the human brain while the rest of their brain lies dormant.   It’s like using only half of one of your lungs to breathe. 

If we, as a human race, truly want to achieve Peace on Earth, then we will have to believe it in our souls that God will rescue us from our own pain and suffering.  It’s that simple, just “believe” and God will do the rest! 

By the way, my calling is not to minister, “why would I want to do that?!”  We are all given a choice of free will and God will allow you to fulfill your ultimate purpose in life as long as you're willing to come forth to “rise to the occasion”.

Good luck on your journey!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

This poem is dedicated to those who seek revenge for the evil acts of others...


Forgiveness
© 2012 Syneeda Penland

Hidden behind a mask
your face I dare reveal,
will you tear my heart into pieces,
my identity will you steal?!

To practice you is an art
one I've yet to master,
the wrath your kin left behind
was an emotional disaster.

Hate is your brother
human kind he does not pity,
he dwells within each of us
his nickname is misery.

He's afraid the be alone
afraid he'll be forgotten,
his stench is so foul
his soul is dead and rotten.

Peace is your sister
she forgives and shines her light,
if your look up at the stars at night
her heart shines so bright.

Protected by her mother,
love is her name,
embarrassed by hate
she lives quietly in shame.

Forgivess,
Oh Father God, I cry out to you
I beg of you, to rescue us from pain,
deliver us from hate,
embrace us with your name!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

'War on Whistleblowers' Shows Heroes Pay Heavy Price"


Project on Government Oversight recently reported--"In Robert Greenwald’s new documentary, War on Whistleblowers, Marine Corps senior science advisor Franz Gayl says his decision to speak out in 2007 came down to a simple question:
“I had to do something. If not me, then who?”
Thanks to Gayl’s decision to expose the Pentagon’s delays in getting armored vehicles to troops in Iraq, the Pentagon sped up the production and delivery of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) and the lives of thousands of troops were saved.
But Gayl and three other whistleblowers featured in Greenwald’s film paid a stiff price for their decision to speak out about the abuses they saw. All four men faced retaliation from supervisors.
  • Gayl lost his security clearance, which effectively kept him from working.  A federal board later found in favor of Gayl and blocked the Marine Corps’ attempt to put him on an “indefinite suspension.”
  • Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency official who exposed waste and abuse within the agency, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act. He was later vindicated when the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.
  • Michael DeKort, a project manager for Lockheed Martin, lost his job (he’s now facing foreclosure of his home) for exposing flaws in the ships the contractor was building for the U.S. Coast Guard.  
  • Thomas Tamm, a Department of Justice lawyer who blew the whistle on warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration, also lost his job. Tamm was investigated for violating the Espionage Act, though he was never charged.
Unfortunately, what happened to these whistleblowers underscores the growing secrecy in America’s national security state.  Nowhere is that more evident than the Obama administration’s unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act.
It’s a paradox of sorts. Because on one hand, President Obama last year signed an executive order that strengthened protections for national security and intelligence whistleblowers but on the other hand has prosecuted more media "leakers" under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined.
This week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and other whistleblower advocates launched petitions asking President Obama to do more to protect whistleblowers. The petitions, which were timed with the documentary’s premiere, tell President Obama:
“Your administration is at odds with itself on whistleblowers. You must shrink the growing secrecy in the national security state, end the prosecutions of so- called leakers, and end the pursuit of a national security loophole to whistleblower rights and the rule of law in the federal civil service.  Without these steps, your promises to have an open and accountable government will not have credibility. “
POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian, who appears in the movie, says whistleblowers are heroes.
“And we need to be doing everything we can to protect them, to make sure they have what it takes to protect our safety and our freedom,” Brian says in the film.” We can’t let them fight this fight alone.”
Hopefully, the War on Whistleblowers will draw attention to what’s at stake.
WOW Panel
From left to right, moderator Abbe Lowell, former DOJ attorney and whistleblower Thomas Tamm, former acting general counsel for the CIA John Rizzo, USA Today reporter Tom Vanden Brook and Project On Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian.
After the Washington, D.C. screening at the Newseum, a panel discussed some of the issues raised by the movie. One of the panelists, John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, said the documentary even made him question why some of the whistleblowers were treated the way the were.
But while all four men featured in the documentary suffered personally and professionally, they say the price for staying silent would have been far worse.
“It’s not like I didn’t think about that, it’s not like I didn’t understand it. I just decided that I didn’t want a guilty conscience,” DeKort says in the film.
The documentary premiered this week in Washington and New York and will be shown in Los Angeles next week. And while it’s only scheduled for brief theatrical releases in New York and Los Angeles, a free DVD of the film is available to people who commit to hosting a home screening for friends and families."
Images courtesy of Brave New Films and Joe Newman.
Food for thought:  Not matter the sin, the truth will eventually unfold!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Demand Sec. Hagel remove 2 Air Force pilots following Aviano sexual assault scandal

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin (left) ignored the facts and overturned fellow Air Force pilot Lt. Col. James Wilkerson's (right) aggravated sexual assault conviction at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Causes.com needs your help on the following petition...


To: Chuck Hagel, United States Secretary of Defense

Last month with a flick of his pen, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin set justice aside and overruled a jury’s verdict convicting Lt. Col. James Wilkerson of aggravated sexual assault of a civilian contractor at Aviano Air Base. As his punishment, Wilkerson was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in jail. Franklin's reversal freed his fellow fighter pilot and reinstated him back into the Air Force, in part because he was described by friends and family as  a “doting father and husband.”

To General Franklin, it didn’t matter that Wilkerson had failed a lie-detector test or that his own legal counsel recommended against overruling the verdict. Instead, Franklin claimed that Wilkerson’s conviction and punishment should be overturned because he was a “doting father and husband.”
Franklin failed to mention that Wilkerson had a long history of misconduct.  He had already been caught peeking over a bathroom stall while a subordinate's wife urinated. Wilkerson egregiously violated safety standards, pulled rank to fend off law enforcement officials, was abusive to fellow military officials -- and that’s just what we know so far.
Despite strong corroborating testimony from independent witnesses and clear supporting facts on the record, Franklin, who did not attend the trial, decided that he did not believe the victim. Heard that before?

Unless Franklin is dismissed from the service for his biased and unfounded reversal of Wilkerson’s conviction, Franklin’s actions will have a chilling effect on victims who might otherwise report being sexually assaulted. It sends exactly the wrong message to bystanders, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and juries who otherwise might try to do the right thing. It confirms to sexual predators that they face little risk of being punished.

The attack at Aviano is just one of almost twenty thousand similar incidents occurring every year throughout the military. Eighty-five percent of victims do not report the crime, mainly out of fear of retaliation, and not being believed. Most disturbing of all, out of the 3,200 cases reported in 2010, less than 190 reports of sexual assault in the military actually ended in a conviction. Wilkerson’s conviction was one of those rare instances where justice was served -- or so it seemed.

Secretary Hagel, you must remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson for failing our country, and for failing our young service members and civilians who work on our bases around the world. You cannot allow this subversion of justice to stand.

Please join us: Tell Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect our service members from rape and sexual assault! Remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson from the United States Air Force. The only way to end the epidemic of sexual assault in the military is to hold leaders, like Franklin, who cover up and condone these crimes and those who commit the crimes, like Wilkerson, accountable. Our service members deserve better. Our country deserves better.

The crisis of rape and sexual abuse in the military threatens good order and discipline within the ranks of the armed services. It threatens the safety and livelihood of our men and women in uniform, and their families. And it threatens the national security of the United States.

Franklin's subsequent explanation showed no valid basis to overturn the conviction, decided by a jury comprised of senior military officers, that he selected.  What mattered to Franklin was that Wilkerson like himself was a senior officer and fighter pilot. They served together in Iraq and had many mutual friends. What mattered was the "good ol' boys" network.

Leaders who fail to prosecute and punish the sexual predators in our military services must face consequences, or the culture that fosters this epidemic will never end.  Survivors of military sexual assault are calling on Defense Sec. Hagel to discharge Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson. Please help Protect Our Defenders and sign their petition!

Members of Congress, from both parties, have condemned Franklin's egregious action.  "Franklin clearly substituted his own independent judgment for that of the convened fact-finding panel," said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"This [Franklin's explanation] letter, is filled with selective reasoning and assumptions from someone with no legal training, and it's appalling that the reasoning spelled out in the letter served as the basis to overturn a jury verdict in this case," said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) – Wall Street Journal.  The Senator went on to say, according to the Washington Post, parts of Franklin's letter explaining his actions, "just set my teeth on edge." 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blatant Racism in the U.S. Navy...

Rear Adm. Chuck Gaouette


Navy Times recently reported--- "Fired 1-star sent racially offensive emails"

"Exemplary conduct" is the expected standard for the Navy's commanding officers, and there Rear Adm. Chuck Gaouette fell far short.

A Navy investigation has found that Gaouette, ousted from command of the Stennis Carrier Strike Group in October, made a host of potentially offensive comments that his rivals in the deployed strike group pounced on to get him relieved: He swore profusely, flipping off lieutenants, speculated that black admirals were chosen because of their race and sent six white officers a racially tinged email about a black sailor.

Interviews with strike group sailors and leaders "left little doubt they would not choose to behave in the same manner as did their commander," the Naval Inspector General concluded in its Feb. 8 report, which ruled that Gaouette's offensive email and racial comments each violated Navy policy.

 Adm. Jon Richardson reprimanded Gaouette on March 25 and ordered that the investigation be attached to his service record. Reached at his home in Bremerton, Wash., Gaouette declined to comment on the release of the report or say what he plans to do next.

With the release of the report Friday, the Navy hopes to close the chapter on the unsightly spectacle of strike group leaders feuding on a deployment to the Persian Gulf over allegations that turn on erratic ship-driving through a strait, private conversations about race between senior officers, a "Foc'sle Follies" skit, and lines from the 1974 Mel Brooks movie "Blazing Saddles."

The IG report referenced that comedy to assess the email Gaouette sent Oct. 5 to "six white senior members of strike group leadership," it said. Gaouette took a photo of a black flight deck sailor with a refueling probe between his legs.

"I believe this speaks for itself," Gaouette wrote in the email, insinuating that the "refueling probe was a giant penis emanating from the sailor," as the report put it.

"I see a photo contest. First up: It's twoo, its twoo," Gaouette wrote in a follow-up. Those lines reference a scene in "Blazing Saddles" when a white woman with a German accent exclaims, "Oh, it's twoo" after a black character reveals in a dark room that he has a large penis.

Gaouette also allegedly expressed racial views that weren't intended to be funny. He told the complainant -- a senior naval aviator who is reported to be Capt. Ronald Reis, the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis CO -- that minority officers were "bringing down" the quality of the surface Navy's admirals and had been selected largely on the basis of their skin color. This isn't a problem with pilots and naval flight officer flags, Gaouette continued, "because the aviation community takes care of that. They either can't get in or they're not getting through the flight school."

Gaouette also singled out Vice Adm. Michelle Howard, the deputy commander of Fleet Forces Command who is the first black woman promoted to three-star rank, criticizing her for saying in a news article that she had been promoted despite barriers. Gaouette speculated that her race may have aided "in her speed of selection" to vice admiral.

When investigators asked, Gaouette denied making statements that were racially based about any admirals but admitted that his comments about Howard were "petty." He mentioned that he believed Howard had ended the careers of two of his friends, who he considered to be fine officers. Gaouette told investigators he would personally apologize to her.

Tensions arose between the carrier skipper, an EA-6B pilot, and Gaouette, a former destroyer skipper who felt he could drive the ship better. That animosity boiled over on the navigation bridge Oct. 6, while the ship was moving at nearly 25 knots through the Strait of Malacca. One officer on the flag bridge saw the ship's track cross the lane for ships going the other direction to maneuver around slower traffic. Gaouette was unsettled. He rushed up from the flag bridge to confront Reis; the name of this officer has been redacted from the report, but a Navy official familiar with the report confirmed it was Reis.

"Slow the [expletive] down," Gaouette told the carrier skipper.

Witnesses recalled seeing a look of shock spread across Reis' face.

Reis later recalled that Gaouette "blew up at me and launched into a tirade in front of my junior enlisted personnel. [It] was a clear attempt to debase me in front of my bridge team at a very critical time of the transit."

The IG disagreed. After interviewing Gaouette and other witnesses, they concluded that Gaouette had spoken in a quiet, measured tone after motioning others away.

It had been a "one-way, senior to subordinate, conversation," the IG concluded.

The strike group's top officer had a reputation for off-color language. He swore frequently to make points and dropped F-bombs occasionally. After being roasted at a "Foc'sle Follies" skit Oct. 16, Gaouette stood up and flicked off the aviators, which he said was done in jest.

"I don't know who I'm going to [expletive] more, [VFA-14 or VFA-41], but we've got eight months to figure it out," Gaouette recalled saying according to the IG report.

Most aviators didn't object to Gaouette's comments, which were made in the same vein as the skit. But one commander who was present later said that he still felt it was unbecoming of the strike group's senior leader.

"My sense was that he was trying to bring himself to the level of his lieutenants," the unnamed officer said in the report.

Gaouette also swore to motivate sailors about their mission. Not long after deploying, Gaouette told thousands of sailors mustered in the hangar bay that the strike group should be ready to "kick the living [expletive] out of the enemy."

After dozens of interviews, the IG determined Gaouette had not been an abusive leader but often was abrupt and abrasive and didn't make his goals clear to those who worked for him. A decade before, he won the Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership for his command of the destroyer Oldendorf.

Gaouette's style "is not the leadership style that the Navy currently preaches," one of Stennis' officers said. "But, I mean, if you fired everybody for being a jerk, we wouldn't have very many people in the Navy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham jail"

Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy (background) leave Birmingham City Jail following their release on April 20, 1963, after eight days of imprisonment. (Associated Press)


The Atlantic reports--Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King wrote this landmark missive. It was republished several months later in The Atlantic.

King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," published in The Atlantic as "The Negro Is Your Brother," was written in response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. It stands as one of the classic documents of the civil-rights movement.

"While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders coming in"

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here ...I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider ..."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Army General Fired Over Alcohol, Sex Charges


Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker
Last week military.com reported-- An Army major general with U.S. Africa Command has been relieved of his post in connection with alcohol and sexual misconduct charges, defense officials said Thursday.

Officials said Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, was fired from his command last Thursday and he was fined a portion of his pay by Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, after an administrative hearing and review. The officials said Ham lost confidence in Baker's ability to command.

Baker has appealed the administrative action to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. But since senior commanders such as Ham have broad latitude in decisions to relieve subordinates of command, Hagel's decision may focus more on the financial punishment doled out by Ham, officials said.

Details of how much his pay was docked were not released.

The allegations against Baker involve harassment and inappropriate contact, said the officials, who were not authorized to talk publicly about the case so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Baker took over the task force, based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, last May and was scheduled to leave the job in the near future.

He has returned to Washington and is temporarily serving as a special assistant to the director of the Army staff while he awaits Hagel's decision. Such special assistant posts are routinely used as way stations for general officers who are under investigation and awaiting their fate, or for others who have been promoted and are waiting for their new job to open up.

Ham is retiring and is scheduled to turn over his command to Army Gen. David Rodriguez in a ceremony Friday.

Ham's predecessor, Army Gen. William "Kip" Ward, was demoted in rank from four stars to three, and retired as a lieutenant general after investigators determined that he had misused government funds for lavish spending while heading U.S. Africa Command.

Baker is also one in a string of general officers who have been reprimanded or investigated for possible sexual misconduct.

The issue has raised the ire of Congress, where lawmakers have complained that military and defense leaders have not done enough to combat sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.

In particular, a recent decision by Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin to reverse the sexual assault conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, infuriated senators. And it triggered calls for a harder look at the military's justice system.

Hagel has ordered a review of Franklin's decision, but he has told members of Congress that neither he nor the Air Force secretary is empowered to overrule Franklin, who is the commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Food for thought:  Since my adultery conviction in 2008 why have so many senior white officers gotten a free pass when it comes to sexual misconduct?!    Was my case "selective prosecution" or does the military continue to show preferential treatment to the Gool ole' Boys?