A Navy officer is facing several charges, including hazing and maltreatment, after verbally and emotionally abusing and taking reprisal against a sailor who asked to stop being called “Charlie Brown,” the Virginian-Pilot reported Tuesday.
The unnamed lieutenant commander, a reservist assigned to the Lakehurst, New Jersey-based Navy Cargo Handling Battalion Eight, was also charged with making false statements and willful dereliction of duty for failing to promote the health, welfare and morale of all personnel.
He was further charged with failing to take correction action after being presented evidence of an unduly familiar relationship between two sailors in Afghanistan.
According to the charges, the officer forced a sailor to carry a Charlie Brown figurine at all times, and punched a chair next to a sailor at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport before saying “I can’t believe that [expletive] idiot got an award.”
The lieutenant allegedly yelled at someone for 30 minutes to an hour, even though he said he spoke to the person in a “calm, easy voice” for 10 minutes.
The officer is accused of making false statements by saying a sailor had asked for duty hours to be changed to accommodate civilian work assignments, and would work on civilian assignments while on military duty.
Congress and the Defence Department have attempted to crack down on military hazing in recent years after a series of high-profile cases.
In 2011, Congresswoman Judy Chu’s nephew, a 21-year-old Marine serving in Afghanistan, fatally shot himself after his fellow Marines stomped on his back, kicked him, poured a sandbag onto his face and into his mouth, and forced him to exercise more than three hours in full body armour.
In 2016, three Marines were charged after an investigation revealed that they engaged in a pattern of hazing and abuse at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, which led to the suicide death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui. One of the instructors slapped and berated Siddiqui before he jumped over a stairwell railing to his death.
The same instructor was also charged with hazing another Muslim recruit by throwing him into an industrial dryer and turning it on.
The Government Accountability Office criticised the Defence Department in 2016 for not sufficiently tracking incidents of hazing. The Navy regulary trains sailors to know that hazing won’t be tolerated, but incidents persist.
The officer in this latest case waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will face a general court-martial, Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokeswoman for Virginia Beach-based Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said.
The court-martial will be held at Naval Station Norfolk, but has yet to be scheduled.
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