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Former USS Point Loma (AGDS-2) Crew Sound Off on Ship’s Problems
In the below email, retired Senior Chief Wellnitz details conditions he noticed soon after reporting in 1979. He claimed that the Commanding Officer, CDR Richard F. Grant (a diesel submarine officer), was having an affair with LT. Dorothy Nichols, the Operations Officer. Wellnitz describes in detail what he saw as incompetency by LT. Nichols, despite Officer of the Deck (OOD), Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualification, and assignment as Operations department head, all awarded by CDR Grant. LT. Nichols arrived for duty in 1979 as an 1160 SWO in training, with no previous experience at sea. The year 1979 was the first full year that the Navy assigned women to ships. Wellnitz’s statement corroborates what I’ve written so far about the corruption of the bridge and warfare qualifications on this ship. Arbitrary, lenient, and inconsistent standards allowed these awards based on personal relationships and politics rather than merit.
In the next email, former LT Glen Bruels served as Communications & Operations Officer between 1977-78. The Commanding Officer then was CDR Richard Waer, a diesel submarine officer. Bruels corroborates lack of knowledge of seamanship and surface warfare by the submarine officers assigned to command the ship.
Former MM1 (Machinist’s Mate) Phil Conner agrees with my accounts of the ship’s problems, including sexual misconduct, and loss of ship’s anchor and chain.
In the below email, former BT Michael Ross recalls his memory of collisions, lost anchor and chain.
In Facebook Messenger, former YN2 Barry Ford recalls his memories of CAPT. O’Shea and the climate of sexual misconduct.
USS Point Loma 1980s Hall of Shame
I have gone out of my way to inform the below former officers about this post, asking them to correct any inaccuracies. So far, they have remained silent. They are a host of immoral characters, and none of them will challenge me, even though I have invited them. I welcome their comments.
Then LT. Donna Hopkins arrived in 1980, as an 1160 SWO in training, and the USS Point Loma was her initial sea tour. She was assigned as Damage Control Assistant (DCA). Her underway time was minimal, considering that the ship underwent a major overhaul at Mare Island Shipyard between 1980-1982. Then Commanding Officer, R.F. Grant awarded her SWO qualification in 1982, soon after completion of the overhaul. Under the CO, DJ O’Shea, she was re-assigned as Navigator. In March 1983, she became the Senior Watch Officer. Hopkins met with each woman officer separately and attempted to persuade each of us to remain on shore duty after completion of our tour on the Point Loma, because “I do not want the competition.” She used her position to delay and deny SWO qualifications to other junior line officers, which made her assignment a conflict of interest. The strategy was intended to keep her peers off the selection list for SWO Department Head School at least until she was selected. LT Hopkins slandered and sabotaged me and others at every available opportunity, while currying favor with the Commanding Officer, Capt. D.J. O’Shea. By providing negative input to her peers’ performance evaluations, she secured her rank as #1 LT, with the highest grades. Hopkins bitterly resigned her active duty commission sometime after serving on the USS Cape Cod, and joined the Naval Reserve.
In May 1982, Donald J. O’Shea arrived to command the USS Point Loma. He relieved CDR Richard F. Grant. Both were submarine diesel boat officers, who were granted automatic SWO qualifications. It is not known whether either officer previously served on a surface ship. Rumor had it that O’Shea’s seniors told him to get married in an effort to erase his reputation as a “womanizer”, especially since he would be commanding a ship with women on it. Enroute from his previous tour, O’Shea quickly managed to find a fiancee, who he married in June 1982, and all of us attended the wedding. O’Shea abandoned 5 biological children from his first marriage. They rarely ever saw him, and none attended or even knew about the wedding, according to one of his granddaughters who said she met him only once. Three months after the wedding, he announced his filing for divorce, and remained a bachelor for the remainder of his tour. With 29 years of service, O’Shea was a burnout. Despite that, he was promoted to Captain in 1983. He never attended SWO boards, and never asked junior officers SWO related questions otherwise. He delegated the process to LT Hopkins, an inexperienced junior officer with an agenda to remove her competition. During O’Shea’s tenure, the ship experienced a collision at Port Hueneme harbor in 1983, resulting in about $70k in claims against the government. O’Shea was awarded a Punitive Letter of Admonition for negligent hazarding of a vessel which is a UCMJ violation. On another occasion while underway, the ship lost its port anchor and all 900 feet of chain, which was blamed on a faulty fathometer reading that caused the chief Boatswain’s Mate to “free-fall” the anchor in water he believed to be only 20 fathoms, but the actual depth was much deeper. The momentum of the fall caused the bitter end of the chain to break off, a potentially deadly situation. The ship’s Classified Material Custodian (CMC) lost classified material that was allegedly never recovered. The supply department experienced unaccounted for losses of ship’s store funds and inventory, more than once. That problem was blamed on an ensign who was removed “for cause”, and the Supply Officer was then rewarded with a Navy Achievement Medal in the same period. Sexual misconduct and harassment was frequent with no accountability. The Point Loma had the highest number of random drug test “positives” of any vessel in SUBPAC. All of his policies resulted in high turnover, causing unit cohesion to suffer. But hey, in the words of one adoring crewmember on the USS Point Loma’s Facebook page, “What a skipper”! After one additional tour of duty ashore, O’Shea retired in 1987. He died in 2006.
In 1981, LCDR Robert J. Tyler, a submarine officer, was the ship’s Executive Officer (XO), after having served previously as a weapons officer on a SSBN. It is not known whether he previously served on surface ship, but he was soon granted SWO qualification after arrival. Tyler once cautioned me to not speak openly about a married female crewmember’s pregnancy, even though it was no secret, and she would have to be transferred to shore duty. He said, “you never know who actually gets these women pregnant.” In 1982, Tyler asked for assistance from subordinate officers to help him move out of his San Diego home. As furniture was being loaded into LT Donald Price’s pickup truck, Mrs. Tyler arrived home in amazement and shock. That was when LCDR Tyler decided to tell her the marriage was over. The following year, Tyler was married for the third time. Captain O’Shea recommended LCDR Tyler for command at sea, and promotion to CDR. In 1983, he was selected for CDR and command of the USS Florikan, a diving ship assigned to the same squadron as the Point Loma. With no previous experience as a Navy diver, he was sent to Navy Diving School, where all of his classmates were junior officers. In December, 1984, a Florikan enlisted diver perished at sea during a routine underway mission. The ensuing investigation resulted in Tyler’s removal as CO, and letters of reprimand for him and at least 3 others. Tyler soon retired from the Navy.
LCDR Joseph W. Keegan, arrived in 1983 to replace LCDR Tyler (above) as Executive Officer. A submarine officer, he previously served as a weapons officer on a SSBN. It is not known whether Keegan served previously on a surface ship, but he was soon granted SWO qualification after arrival with no known testing prior to award. He never attended SWO boards, except for one occasion when Capt. O’Shea ordered him to attend one for LT. Laurie Cason (below). In 1984, several months after his SWO qualification, Keegan failed a written Rules of the Road exam, according to the ship’s navigator, LT Lewandowski. Keegan was my immediate superior. Less than 3 months prior to my first SWO board, Keegan wrote that my progress towards final qualification as OOD underway was satisfactory, no one disagreed. On the same day I was to appear before a SWO oral board, LCDR Keegan threatened me with a letter of reprimand that I never actually received. That threat affected my performance at the board. He attempted to blame me for classified material lost by the CMS Custodian. To my knowledge, he never took the ship’s conn while underway. Avatars will have to do until any photos become available.
LCDR Joseph Hansen was the ship’s Chief Engineer in 1983, and an LDO (Limited Duty Officer). He was a submarine officer, and a married father of 3 children. In 1984, Hansen assumed the duties of Senior Watch Officer, succeeding LT Hopkins after she completed her tour of duty. In 1984, I filed a complaint of “quid pro quo” sexual harassment against him, which occurred while the ship was moored at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. In sworn affidavits, I reported that he wanted an affair in exchange for professional help that I sought to prepare for an oral “do or die” board. He related details to me about his marital problems, saying he didn’t want anyone else to know about it. He admitted to encounters with other women I didn’t know. Hansen criticized the other women officers as unattractive and/or incompetent. As it turned out, he was assigned to be one of the members of the oral board I sought help for, held in April 1984 at the Commodore’s staff office. I was not allowed to question the composition of the panel. Hansen voted against me, which I saw as retaliation. Previously, in December 1983, Hansen evaluated me at an oral board to test knowledge for SWO qualification, and his comments then were far more positive. Hansen submitted two unsworn statements in response to my sexual harassment complaints. In his second statement, he changed his story, and investigators never challenged him.
In 1983/84, CDR Robert Killion, a diesel submarine officer, was the Commodore’s Chief of Staff at the squadron office, known as Commander, Submarine Development Group One, located in San Diego. It is not known whether Killion ever served on a surface ship prior to SWO qualification. One day, while in CDR Killion’s office, he told me “women are not expected to qualify (SWO), it’s just a decoration.” Then he showed me his SWO pin, which he kept in his desk drawer, not bothering to wear it on his uniform. He ignored the fact that navy policy requires all surface line (1160) officers to obtain this qualification during their initial sea tour, regardless of gender. Killion tried to deceive me into believing that I could continue my naval career ashore. When I called him out for lying, he became indignant, and never offered any facts to support his claims. He chaired an unnecessary, arbitrary “do or die” board to determine whether I should be reassigned to another surface ship after CAPT O’Shea denied SWO qualification to me. The “do or die” board may have been Killion’s idea to placate COMSUBPAC, who returned the denial of SWO letter “for reconsideration.” The navy refused to investigate my complaints of CDR Killion.
Then LT Constance “Connie” Harris, arrived as an 1160 SWO in training in 1981. The Point Loma was her initial sea tour. She was assigned first to the Engineering Department as “A” division officer, which was responsible for the ship’s auxiliary topside equipment. Harris did not appreciate professional criticism from anyone, and sought retaliation at every occurrence. Her greatest skill was in rallying the lesbian mafia and the most junior crewmembers to turn against other officers that rubbed her the wrong way. Once, she threatened to “beat my ass” in front of enlisted men, and after I reported it, the CO ordered her to apologize. In June/July 1983, she was ordered to relieve me as Operations Officer as part of a normal assignment rotation. Harris suddenly came down with a mysterious illness that resulted in her being absent on sick leave for at least 45 days, missing the first Trident Missile test launch in July, 1983. During that absence, she called the XO from a Las Vegas casino, updating him on her recovery. No one noticed the problem. After returning, she remained hostile to me throughout the entire department head relieving process, making communication difficult. She was granted SWO qualification in late 1983, and relieved me as Operations Officer with even less experience than me in telecommunications. Her active duty service ended just short of 18 years (including about 2 years enlisted time). That is only two years before retirement eligibility. Who does that, unless they have to? She was likely passed over for Commander, and had to leave because of the Navy’s “up or out” promotion system.
LT. Laurie Cason arrived as an 1160 SWO in training in early 1982. She failed to qualify SWO during her previous shipboard assignment (USS Orion? (AS-18)), a submarine tender. The alleged reason was that the ship failed to afford enough underway time to qualify as OOD underway. Cason admitted that the only other female officer assigned to the ship with her was awarded SWO qualification, but reasons were unclear. She referred to her previous ship as “the ship that hated women”, because of repeated insulting comments by seniors. She and LT Harris (above) became a known couple, at a time when the navy’s policy on gays in the military was that it was “incompatible with military service.” In the 1980s, senior officers became reticent to take action on this matter because of bad publicity by the news media which shamed military leaders into avoiding the issue. In 1983, Cason appeared before 3 SWO boards before finally being granted qualification. Each of those boards was chaired by LT Hopkins (above). For the 3rd board, Capt. O’Shea ordered the XO, LCDR Keegan, to attend. By this action, Capt O’Shea showed sufficient skepticism of LT Hopkins in chairing these SWO boards fairly. For some reason, LT Hopkins later removed and replaced the original board member comments, with comments in her own handwriting, effectively whitewashing any criticism of Cason’s responses to questions. One has to wonder why this was done, and on whose order. After completing her TOD on the Point Loma, Cason voluntarily changed her designator to 1100, General Unrestricted Line, and continued her career ashore until she retired at the rank of Captain.
LTJG Diane Lane arrived as an Ensign, 1160 SWO in training in 1982. The Point Loma was her initial sea tour. She was assigned to be Communications Officer, as part of the Operations Department. That meant she was my subordinate while I was assigned Operations Officer. LTJG Lane was also assigned as the ship’s Classified Material Custodian (CMC). It was a collateral duty that made her directly accountable to the Commanding Officer. She lost classified material that was allegedly never recovered, and she was signed as having sole custody. In a memo, LT Hopkins described Lane as “utterly floundering” as Communications division officer, attempting to blame me for her failures. Nevertheless, Lane was awarded a SWO qualification despite oral board comments that she “lacked maturity, judgment, assessment of priorities, depth of knowledge requires more effort before qualification.” Nevertheless, a very lenient standard for Officer of the Deck (OOD) and SWO qualification was allowed for her to qualify. In early 1984, LCDR Hansen admitted to me that he had numerous personal discussions with LTJG Lane, encouraging her to leave the Navy. At the end of LTJG Lane’s tour of duty on the Point Loma in 1985, she resigned from the Navy. Coincidence?
LCDR D.R. Switzer, JAG Corps, USN, was assigned to do the sham investigation into my sexual harassment complaint, which was included into my Article 138 Complaint of Wrong. Switzer never interviewed me, believing that my written complaint was enough. All statements he obtained were unsworn, and no one knows what questions he asked of other officers he interviewed. He simply allowed them to say whatever defamatory comments they wanted to make about my job performance, even though they had no knowledge of the sexual harassment complaint. He could have asked them about ship’s history of undisciplined sexual misconduct and harassment and its effect on morale, but he didn’t. Even though LCDR Hansen (above) submitted a statement that contradicted a previous statement, Switzer never challenged him. Switzer did not interview Capt. O’Shea, who saw me approach LCDR Hansen’s BOQ room one night at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Switzer quickly concluded that my claims could not be substantiated. Must be good enough for government work. He probably got another promotion out of it.
I met then ENS James Coltellaro in 1981, before I actually reported aboard. On the weekend, I was invited to meet him and the XO, LCDR Tyler (above) and some others for a day of water-skiing on Lake Berryessa, a few miles away from Mare Island Naval Shipyard in northern California. Coltellaro admitted to me that he smoked weed with the troops, fraternized with enlisted crewmembers, and the worst grade he received on a performance evaluation was a C for military bearing. He claimed that then Commanding Officer (Richard F. Grant) was having an affair with the Operations Officer (LT Dorothy Nichols). Coltellaro claimed to have had a sexual encounter with LT. Catherine Leahey, who was his superior officer at the time. After CDR DJ O’Shea became CO in 1982, Coltellaro pursued a relationship with an enlisted crewmember, Seamen Apprentice Naomi O’Brien, assigned to the Supply department, in the ship’s laundry. One day, O’Brien went AWOL. After 2 weeks, she decided to call the ship and Ensign Martha Patton (Assistant Supply Officer) took the call. The phone number she called from was traced to Coltellaro’s apartment. Coltellaro was confronted with this fact, and he admitted that O’Brien was staying with him. He knowingly kept an AWOL crewmember, which could have sent him to a court martial. After O’Brien returned to the ship, she received Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) for the absence. However, there was no discipline for Coltellaro. About a month later, Coltellaro was awarded SWO qualification and a performance evaluation with the highest grades and comments. O’Shea said to him (allegedly), “We don’t f*** the help.” Coltellaro’s career continued as if nothing had happened.
Everyone Says They Hate a Liar. Try Being the One Who Tells the Truth.
In the US Navy, there is no better way to become unpopular than to report the truth when everyone else is lying “for the good of the service”. Evidently, the navy believes that truthtellers need to be punished, and the evidence is substantial that I was retaliated against. I was blacklisted for what I reported, denied promotion and retention despite receiving receiving excellent performance evaluations at my following assignment. The navy’s propaganda about these gender-integrated non-combatant ships is ridiculous by stunning omissions of fact. Someone has to tell the truth about it. The navy had every incentive to smear me and cover up the truth, and that is just what they did.
Fake SWO Qualifications and a Coverup
Fake warfare qualifications have no value to me, other than to expose it for what it is. The SWO qualification was mandatory for all 1160 surface line officers. No one in the USS Point Loma’s chain of command cared about the fraud, waste and abuse, but I do. No one in the chain of command monitored the integrity of the SWO and ESWS qualification program, but I did. Was this dereliction of duty? Negligence? The warfare qualification program on the USS Point Loma was fake and corrupt for the following reasons:
- It was a surface ship assigned to a submarine chain of command that clearly had greater priorities
- It was a non-combatant ship unable to provide real SWO experience of a warship. No installed weapons systems, no steaming in formation with other vessels, no underway replenishment capability, no aircraft landing capability, no tactical maneuvering. Anyone with a SWO qualification from the USS Point Loma and no other surface ship experience would be at a distinct disadvantage anywhere else in the surface navy.
- No minimum knowledge standards were ever promulgated, leading to arbitrary standards which allowed leniency for some officers based on politics, not merit.
- There was no organized bridge watchstander training or mentorship.
- The commanding officer D.J. O’Shea never attended SWO boards, or asked SWO related questions of candidates at any other time. He delegated that task to an inexperienced LT (Hopkins) with an agenda to hurt her competition, whom she was allowed to evaluate. He simply lent his signatures based on tainted opinions.
- Senior submarine officers who were granted SWO qualifications had no known prior experience on a surface ship, not all were tested prior to award. For example, LCDR J.W. Keegan, the ship’s XO, was awarded SWO qualification soon after arriving for duty. He was not tested prior to award. Months later, Keegan failed a written Rules of the Road test, according to the ship’s navigator, LT Lewandowski.
My Fair Weather Friends
This is Kathleen Dussault, who was a LT Supply Officer on the USS Point Loma from 1981-1983. Some miracle resulted in her being promoted to Rear Admiral, and she retired in 2009 after about 30 years active duty. She is the only officer who served on the USS Point Loma to reach flag rank. When Kathleen reported aboard in 1981 and needed a place to stay, I had an extra bedroom available at my rented apartment in Vallejo, CA and we shared that apartment until the overhaul at Mare Island shipyard was completed in April 1982. As Supply Department Head, Dussault was maligned by other officers every bit as much as I was as Operations Officer. But, when others attacked her, I defended her. She and I spoke often about the ship’s problems. When her tour of duty completed in late 1983, I helped her with moving to her next duty station in Torrance, CA. Maybe she forgot about all that. When I reported the sexual harassment, she provided an unsworn statement that took irrelevant, unqualified cheap shots at my job performance. Years later, we chatted online a few times. When I made her aware of this website, she refused any further correspondence. She is safely retired, but has nothing to say about her tour of duty on the USS Point Loma, or this website.
This is Donald R. Price, who was a LT, in charge of the Deck Department while on the USS Point Loma, from 1980-1983. Price was former enlisted, with extensive prior experience at sea, and a great shiphandler. He was one of the most admired officers on the ship, and many SWO candidates, including me, wanted him to be our mentor. After completing his tour of duty on the Point Loma, he went to a shore command in the San Diego area. We spoke often about the ship’s problems. After relating to him what DJ O’Shea had done to me, he said “The Navy doesn’t know what they are looking for..(in SWO officers)”. He related stories of other officers he knew who were arbitrarily attacked and destroyed based on nothing. To some extent, I would agree with Price, except that I think the navy knows what they want in SWOs, they don’t dare say it out loud. When you are a navy officer, honesty is not the best policy. Price retired from the navy many years ago as a Captain. He will not respond or make any comments about this website.
This is then LTJG Linda M. Lewandowski. She came to the USS Point Loma in 1983, after being SWO qualified at her previous ship, USS Dixon, a destroyer tender, also homeported in San Diego. She was assigned to relieve LT Donna Hopkins as Navigator. We spoke often about the ship’s problems. She acknowledged in a letter that the Point Loma did not have “organized bridge watchstander training”. She also admitted that LCDR Keegan, XO, failed a Rules of the Road exam in spring of 1984, several months after he was granted SWO qualification. Linda also told me that in spring 1984, LTJG Diane Lane (SWO qualified) failed to respond to a bonafide steering casualty, which caused the ship to move around in circles for several minutes, without the CO’s knowledge. Of course, no one was interested in investigating. Linda retired as a Captain, after a very successful career in the SWO community. Linda refuses to acknowledge this website or provide any comments.
This is LT Melanie Collins, back in the day. When I reported to the USS Point Loma in July, 1981, the ship was in overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, and in drydock. I was first assigned as “E” (Electrical) Division Officer for a few months, then reassigned as Communications Officer, based on my previous experience as Comm Officer ashore. The overhaul was completed in April 1982, and the ship returned to its San Diego homeport. In June 1982, I relieved LT Catherine Leahey as Operations Officer, after completion of her TOD. With less than 2 months underway time, 1 year as a shipboard division officer, non-SWO qualified, and not eligible for SWO department head school (SWO qualification was required to attend), there I was. That’s like putting someone into a locked closet, with the key on the other side of the door. Yes, I was expected to rise to the challenge of underway department head excellence despite lack of experience and training. If I failed, the Navy would blame it all on me. Despite these handicaps, the Operations Department was filled with many experienced crewmen/women who performed their tasks well and achieved many successes, including completion of the ship’s new mission as Launch Area Support Ship for the Trident Missile Testing Program in the Pacific. One thing stood in my way: LT Donna Hopkins, the navigator and Senior Watch Officer, who slandered and sabotaged me, and excluded me from various ship activities. She saw me as a threat to her success, and I needed to be “taken out.” By November 1983, I met all requirements to appear before a SWO board. But, each time, some form of unprecedented punishment followed. After board #1 (CO/XO absent), I was demoted to Junior OOD underway. Three weeks later, after much improved performance at board #2 (CO/XO absent), I was denied SWO qualification, then removed two months later to an ashore command to prepare for board #3: a “do or die” board conducted by submarine officers with little to no surface warfare experience. The fix was in, and I was prevented from serving on another ship to complete qualification. It didn’t matter that board members acknowledged I answered the majority of answers correctly. Despite excellent performance at my next duty station ashore, I was denied promotion to LCDR twice and then forced to leave active duty because of the navy’s “up or out” promotion system. It is beyond me that anyone could think this was fair treatment.
THEY CALLED THEMSELVES WARRIORS
What did it mean to have a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualification that was issued from a non-combatant (no weapons systems) navy ship? Answer: nothing. It meant nothing to 99% of the surface ship navy.
Starting in the 1980s and beyond, approximately 40 of these so-called designated non-combatants issued SWO pins soon after Congress changed a law which previously prevented women from being assigned to navy ships. All of these ships had very limited underway schedules. It’s hard to believe that officers who received qualifications from any non-combatant ship were actually qualified to move up to combatant ships as their careers progressed and the navy was opening up more ships to women in the 1990s. There were very few exceptional women, depending on the quality of the training they received, and the type of ships they were later assigned to.
One example was the USS Point Loma (AGDS-2), which had no installed weapons systems, no underway fueling ability, and no flight deck/air operations ability. The Point Loma was originally called the Point Barrow, a civilian ship built to civilian standards before the navy purchased it in the 1970s and changed its name. Before the navy bought it, the ship was used on the east coast to haul Saturn rocket boosters to Cape Canaveral. After the navy purchase, it’s mission was to haul the submarine force’s deep submergence vehicles, such as Trieste, wherever needed. Unlike most warships, the Point Loma never operated in formation with other vessels, the only exception: a garbage scout called the Egabrag (read it backwards). The Egabrag was used to pull/tow a transducer to test the Point Loma’s contractor owned/operated sonar equipment. Compared to a warship, the Point Loma was not required go out on extended (6+ months) deployments. A typical week was going out on Monday morning, and returning Friday afternoon.
The USS Point Loma’s mission, at the time I was assigned to it, was to provide support to the submarine navy’s Trident missile testing program in the Pacific. The specially installed equipment was owned and operated by private contractors to track missile flight trajectory, and sonar equipment to detect a Trident sub’s position. The ship merely provided the platform for the contractors’ use. Other than that, SUBPAC (US Submarine Force Pacific Fleet) and the surface ship navy didn’t give a flying s#!t about the Point Loma, for a number of reasons as I’ll explain.
Until recently, the navy allowed each ship to set their own standards and criteria for warfare qualifications. It was claimed that because many ships have different capabilities and designs, it wouldn’t be fair or practical to have one standard for all ships currently in service. After the well-publicized 2017 fatal collisions that occurred in the Pacific, the navy is now re-evaluating its training and education for SWO officers, and is reportedly struggling with identifying adequate navy-wide standards and criteria for bridge watchstanders. In my opinion, the surface navy has more problems than it wants to admit and resolve. After the 2017 collisions, the surface navy had to be shamed into changing its long standing attitude about crew sleep deprivation. After all this time, leadership is finally taking into account sleep cycles when developing watchbill assignments.
In the case of the USS Point Loma, the SWO qualification process was fake and corrupt, in a large part because no one in the chain of command cared to monitor program quality. Assigned to a submarine squadron, the Point Loma was viewed as stepchild, frequently escaping standards that were held for other vessels. Without proper oversight, it was easy to grant qualifications based on politics rather than merit. On the Point Loma, the process was also used punitively to punish and ruin some officers’ careers without just cause. The ship’s captain (CO) and executive officer (XO) were both submarine officers. Senior submarine officers were allowed to award SWO pins automatically to each other without testing knowledge. Some of them didn’t even bother to wear the pin, keeping it in a box in their desk drawer. Unless there was a collision or a ship ran aground, SWO officers could get away with a lot, depending on how well they played the political game. The Point Loma’s Captain O’Shea, who did not bother to attend SWO oral boards, placed more emphasis on style (i.e., confidence) rather than substance and knowledge. Style and confidence are nebulous, unmeasurable qualities that can only come with good training and a lot of experience which cannot be learned in one tour at sea on a ship with a limited underway schedule. Confidence on the bridge was not enough to stop a collision in Port Hueneme harbor in 1983 between the Point Loma and a moored fishing vessel and pier, which resulted in $75,000 in damage claims against the government. Captain O’Shea was later held accountable with a punitive letter for negligent hazarding of a vessel.
Surface ship commanders need to get wise about human behavior in a shipboard environment. Turning a blind eye to toxic work climates, allowing sexual misconduct, assault and harassment to go undisciplined, abusing and persecuting subordinates, allowing competitive peers to target each other for destruction, favoritism, scapegoating, and high drug abuse rates are no way to build crew morale, mutual trust and performance. Why would anyone want to harass and persecute bridge watchstanders, for example? How does messing with the minds of these people enhance ship and crew safety while underway? In the military, there is good abuse and bad abuse. Good abuse is a training method intended to help people to survive in combat. Bad abuse is used to destroy and eliminate competitors and people that one doesn’t like, especially if they have less power.
So, they called themselves “warriors”, when the only enemies were each other. At SWO school, which I attended in Coronado, CA, we were taught naval warfare, but that was the last time it was ever mentioned or tested. On the Point Loma, the SWO oral boards I participated in asked me no questions about warfare. All the emphasis was on engineering and Officer of the Deck (for bridge watchstanding). I will bet that these same SWO officers don’t have the courage to use their own names on social media. Did these officers really think they were great shipdrivers? How would they have managed to develop that in one tour of duty on a ship with a limited underway schedule and no organized training, the program being managed by a female lieutenant with a conflict of interest against the peers she was allowed to evaluate? Even O’Shea received a Punitive Letter of Admonition for negligent hazarding of a vessel after the Port Hueneme collision. One female officer went on to the USS Cape Cod, and was Officer of the Deck (OOD) when the ship collided with a pier in Vancouver, BC., according to a social media exchange between two former crew members. Her career didn’t last much longer.
THE LEGALLY BLIND CAN BE NAVY SHIPDRIVERS!
The Point Loma was not the only ship with silly, inconsistent standards and criteria for SWO qualification. In 1983, the USS McKee (AD-43) issued a SWO pin to a female lieutenant who was legally blind, by her own admission. This officer had to have a waiver just to get in the navy to serve on shore duty. She wore glasses as thick as coke bottles, which could not correct her vision to 20/20. I was acquainted with her while we attended SWO school in Coronado. I once sat about six feet away from her at a meeting, and she couldn’t recognize me until I moved up into her face.
When SWO officers are assigned to the watchbill as OOD underway, they are in charge of a bridge watch team. In addition to checking the radar screen, the OOD is expected to be able to see out the window in case of anything big coming at them. Except in the case of the USS McKee, where it must have been OK to squint a lot and sort of feel their way around. Again, how does allowing these exceptions enhance ship and crew safety?
CAPTAIN DONALD J. O’SHEA (1936-2006): THE FINAL EVALUATION
I knew Capt. O’Shea while he commanded the USS Point Loma, a non-combatant (no weapons systems) surface ship in the 1980s. Since 1981, I served as the Communications division officer under the previous CO, who then moved me up to Operations Officer in 1982. I was one of several female officers here, most of us Lieutenants serving our first tour at sea (approx. 50% of this ship). The navy’s women at sea program was still a new concept, since the Women at Sea program began in 1979.
According to Ancestry.com family tree records, O’Shea’s triple whammy cause of death at age 70 was identified as: hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, and pancreatic cancer. This could have been attributed to a lifetime of cigarette smoking, too many tattoos with dirty needles, and alcohol abuse. Seems like it could have been preventable. He had five biological children that he never spoke to us about, and two adopted children from his most recent marriage. One of his granddaughters said she only met him once, and her mother only saw him a handful of times.
Whatever good works O’Shea may have done in past assignments, it seemed to all fall apart for him on the USS Point Loma. He came to the ship as a burnout, after serving virtually all of his career in the submarine navy on diesel boats that the navy was phasing out of service. He had little experience on surface ships and working with women prior to this tour. In my opinion, the submarine navy had no respect for the surface navy, because senior submarine officers were allowed to award Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualification pins automatically to each other. This meant that their knowledge was not tested prior to award, because it was assumed that they knew it all. These senior officers were of no help to junior officers attempting to qualify SWO.
It was rumored that O’Shea made a deal with his seniors to give him command of the Point Loma (knowing that women were part of the crew) if he would agree to get married to erase his previous reputation as a “womanizer” and “party guy”. In May/June 1982, O’Shea arrived with his new fiancée, whom he met about 6 weeks before while enroute from his previous assignment. All of the ship’s officers attended his wedding soon after the change of command ceremony. Approximately three months after the wedding, O’Shea announced he was filing for divorce. Coincidence? Maybe the wife was in on the deal. Considering how he used and discarded women and subordinates at such a dizzying pace, I’m sure his honor and integrity was boundless. Leave it to the navy to make a mockery of marriage for the sake of a job.
Who was the moron who taught O’Shea that it was OK to make enemies out of subordinates? Or did he think of that one all by himself? Good leaders will teach, motivate and provide encouragement, and O’Shea did none of this. Any leader who believes they need to fire someone needs to have good cause, and it does not need to be done with malice. No one ”deserves” to be abused and slandered to achieve that end. Most people want to believe that the workplace is always just, and if someone is abused, they must have done something to bring it on. If anyone reading this believes that, I’d like to hear from you, and so would every sexual assault/harassment/workplace bullying targets out there. I’m sure it will go over great with the MeToo crowd. So go ahead, give it your best shot.
The facts below are from my personal, first hand observations and experiences. Written evidence is available and much of it has already been made public record. Remember, it’s not slander if it’s true.
THE USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2): A NAVY SHIP DISASTER (1981-1985)
A TOXIC WORK CLIMATE: misogynistic, rampant, undisciplined sexual misconduct and harassment abounded. Slander, backstabbing, mob-like behavior among officers who viewed each other as competitors to be eliminated. Extremely low morale and trust. This climate began under the previous CO, and became progressively worse under O’Shea.
SURFACE WARFARE (SWO) QUALIFICATIONS WERE FAKE AND THE PROCESS WAS CORRUPT: No organized training, no consistent standards. O’Shea and XO were apathetic and uninvolved, delegated too much to an inexperienced lieutenant with conflicts of interest against the peers she was allowed to evaluate. Oral boards consisted only of peers evaluating peers. These boards were used punitively to ruin competitors’ careers. Seniors provided no oversight to ensure integrity. O’Shea and XO did not attend qualification boards as a rule. Politics generated awards.
INCOMPETENCE: accidents, collisions, loss of classified material, loss of ship’s anchor and chain at sea, loss of ship’s store funds & inventory. Either no accountability, or the wrong people were scapegoated with removal. O’Shea himself was awarded a Punitive Letter of Admonition for negligent hazarding of a vessel after a collision that occurred in 1983 at Port Hueneme harbor.
LACK OF GOOD ORDER AND DISCIPLINE: Serious improper fraternizations, known by O’Shea. In one case, the Command Master Chief was removed. Other guilty subordinates were rewarded with warfare qualifications and promotions. Numerous pregnancies, high drug abuse rates and numerous firings resulted in high crew turnover, and contributed to a lack of unit cohesion
HIGHEST DRUG ABUSE RATES IN SUBPAC (SUBMARINE FORCE PACIFIC FLEET) 1983: Random urinalysis drug tests identified USS Point Loma with highest “positive” drug test results of all vessels/commands in SUBPAC. SUBPAC initiated an unofficial investigation, discovering that the ship’s non-combatant mission and limited underway schedule contributed to crew boredom and increased opportunity for misconduct and drug abuse. About 40 naval ships were designated “non-combatant” with similar limited missions & underway schedules, yet none achieved this dubious distinction.
ABUSE OF POWER AND PERSECUTION OF SUBORDINATES: O’Shea preferred to delegate counseling of subordinates to the Executive Officer, who was frequently derelict and ineffective. O’Shea acted on the slander of subordinates, failing to recognize their agendas to eliminate peer competition. He removed the targets of this slander, believing that the targets were the problem. SWO oral boards were used punitively to reprimand those who allegedly did not achieve arbitrary and changing criteria for qualification. He targeted subordinates in “paperwork lynchings”, such as Removal for Cause, Revocation of Officer of the Deck qualification, and denial of SWO qualification. He relied on female evaluations of female targets to keep his hands clean of gender discrimination complaints, while ignoring clear conflicts of interest. Peers have no business evaluating peers because the competitiveness of evaluations corrupts the process. Documents that O’Shea submitted to SUBPAC included slanderous accusations and opinions, unsupported by fact, laced with profanities and irrational emotional statements. When O’Shea didn’t have evidence, he simply made it up with deliberate misstatements of fact. Reviewers were unimpressed, and returned them for “reconsideration”. O’Shea had no intention of reconsidering and found other ways to remove the target with the aid of the Commodore’s staff.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS WERE DISMISSED WITHOUT PROPER INVESTIGATIONS: In 1984, a written complaint of quid pro quo sexual harassment and discrimination was submitted against one of the ship’s male officers, and one male officer on the Commodore’s staff. O’Shea assigned the ship’s XO to do the investigation. Incomplete results prompted the accuser to insist on a fair and proper investigation. After a non-Point Loma officer was assigned, another sham investigation resulted. The investigator never contacted the accuser. Other female officers provided unsworn statements, but no one knows what questions were asked. Female officers were allowed to say anything they wanted, taking cheap shots at the accuser’s job performance, designed to discredit. These officers knew about the ship’s history of undisciplined sexual misconduct, harassment, and negative work climate, yet said nothing about it. Two unsworn statements from the accused officer were obtained, and each statement told a different story. The complaint was then dismissed as “uncorroborated”.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT CONTINUED DESPITE COMPLAINTS: O’Shea himself was reported to have made sexual advances (allegedly) to two female subordinates between 1984-1985, one officer and one enlisted. No known complaints were filed, but the females in question allegedly told other crew members.
Military Veterans Without Rights
This is Judge Marian Blank Horn of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Everyone associated with #MeToo and #MeTooMilitary should know who she is. She is no friend of military sexual assault and harassment survivors.
In this You Tube video entitled “Family Remembrences”, Judge Horn was speaking for a group known as “Lawyers Without Rights”. She recounted a story about her father, who was a Jew in WWII Nazi Germany, whose livelihood as a lawyer was terminated because of his ethnicity. She lamented about this injustice, yet ironically, that concern never translated to the injustices suffered daily by military members and veterans, who apparently don’t deserve the same consideration. At least not by her.
My case was only one of dozens of lawsuits filed by military veterans in various U.S. federal courts whose livelihoods were unjustly terminated by abuses of military authority. Judge Horn refused to independently review the facts of my case against the US Navy, involving wrongful termination, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation by seniors for reporting numerous wrongs that no one in the navy chain of command tried to correct or properly investigate. Her decision deferred to “military authority” instead, dismissing the case without depositions, a hearing or trial. I never physically appeared in her court, she never saw me. I was nothing but another stack of papers to her.
The details of my case can be found in Collins v. United States, filed with the US Court of Federal Claims in 1987, Case No 521-87C. Also, my initial post on this site recounts what happened in my own words. This case sat with the court for 4 years, with oral arguments heard in 1988. A decision was issued in 1991. Her condescending tone was consistent with the navy’s biased position, designed to destroy my character and job performance after 10 years of honorable service as an officer with numerous security clearances. Her decision displayed total ignorance and an elitist indifference to military service and culture, which has resulted in an astounding increase of sexual assaults, harassment and retaliation for reporting. I filed an appeal soon after, and that court affirmed the Claims Court decision a year later without explanation. Appeals courts, however, do not review the facts of the case, but rather consider only alleged errors in application of the law. I’m no lawyer, but among other issues, Horn bought the Navy’s argument that I needed to show “clear and convincing evidence” when a “preponderance of evidence” (a lower standard) is all that should be necessary to move forward. My substantial evidence was ignored, and Horn didn’t know how to interpret it anyway because she didn’t understand what she was looking at.
So rather than admit ignorance, it was easier to get rid of the case by summary judgment without trying to understand any of it. And that goes for the appeals court judges as well. At least I was able to have standing to sue, because my cause of action was civil. The Feres Doctrine prevents military members and veterans from having standing to sue if the cause of action is criminal, such as sexual assault and rape. Needless to say, I am totally in favor of removing the Feres Doctrine. But that still doesn’t solve of problem of elitism in the courts. So veterans, when it comes to YOUR rights, just remember, nobody gives a damn, especially in the federal court system. Expect to be slandered and defamed with no recourse.
Military Veterans, Don’t Count On Federal Civil Courts For Justice
No thanks to elitist judges like Marian Blank Horn of the US Federal Claims Court, military sexual harassment is at least as bad or worse today than it was back in 1987. I filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the US navy at the time, due to sexual harassment, retaliation, slander and sabotage while assigned to the USS Point Loma in the 1980s. I was denied promotion to lieutenant commander and retention on active duty after 10 years of service. What I sought was reinstatement with back pay and correction and/or removal of naval records.
This case sat in Judge Horn’s court for 4 years before a decision. No hearing, no trial, no deposition. Oral arguments were heard between lawyers, and I was not invited to attend. The case was dismissed on summary judgment in 1991, citing deference to military authority. It was a 28(!) page decision, which attempted to defend the indefensible, falling way short of the mark. Yet, the handling of this case is typical of the way other military veteran cases are handled by the federal court system. The term “deference to military authority” is a well used term used by many courts. The judge stated that I failed to prove my case before the court, suggesting that it is impossible to prove a “he said, she said” encounter with no witnesses. But, the case was about more than that.
Judge Horn, since I never got to see or speak to you personally, the whole point of filing suit was to get a hearing, a trial, a deposition, or maybe even a real investigation to determine that. What the navy did was a sham and a coverup designed to discredit me, and there was plenty of evidence to show that. The navy’s sham investigation revealed the harassing officer changed his story at least twice, other officers were allowed to state any irrelevant, discrediting, dishonest thing they wanted about me, while admitting they knew nothing about the incident. From the first time I reported for duty on the ship, there was a climate of repeated sexual misconduct that was condoned and covered up. I was also slandered and sabotaged by another female officer trying to eliminate her competition. There was plenty of evidence to support that as well. I suffered damages, and I deserved due process to seek redress. But, it’s all too late for that now, isn’t it?
Judge Horn, your failure to recognize what has become a widespread problem in the military today ought to make you regret your decision. Not only is sexual harassment a problem, but sexual assaults and rape are on the rise, and these victims have suffered the same outcomes. Military commanders will side with the perpetrators in most cases, those that are favored by the CO. The military still won’t police itself, but you would rather look down your nose at us veterans as if we don’t deserve justice. Thanks for nothing.
On The Death of Donald J. O’Shea, Capt, US Navy (1936-2006)
This man stood out as the most dishonest man I have ever known in my life. The details can be found in my lawsuit, Collins v. United States, filed in US Federal Claims Court in 1987, which makes it public record. May justice find him in the afterlife.
Is this what I get for wearing the (military) uniform?
I am appalled and disgusted with the recent scandal about the Veterans Administration, and its dereliction of duty in taking care of veterans’ health care. I support the whistleblowers who are speaking out about the problem and the coverup. I’ve gotten whistleblower treatment myself, so I can relate. This is a time when veterans need to stick together.
Regarding my previous post about the USS Point Loma (Naval Institute Article Distorts Truth About Women at Sea History): With abuse of authority and sabotage, dereliction of duty, sexual harassment and discrimination, sham investigations and a coverup into these complaints, the U.S. Federal Claims Court was unwilling to allow an independent investigation and hearing into my complaints, and dismissed case without depositions, hearing or trial: so I ask –
Is this what military people deserve? The civil courts have a history of treating military plaintiffs like dirt, and I believe it is because the judges are elitist, and look down their noses at military people as savages who get whatever they deserve. They have no incentive or interest in holding the military accountable for injustice, and in most cases, it is because they do not understand military culture. That may be understandable, but what makes it worse is that they don’t WANT to understand the cases that come before them. Their job is to administer justice to all Americans. Just because they weren’t raised in a particular culture, why should that absolve them from doing their due diligence?
Just how much are military veterans supposed to take? Anyone who speaks out about wrongdoing within the Dept of Defense or Veterans Administration is treated like an enemy that needs to be discredited. There is no accountability for the people who actually harm others, but plenty of “accountability” for those who expose the truth about incompetence and dereliction of duty. Veterans need to stand up and speak out about all abuses against veterans.
Naval Institute Article Distorts Truth About Women at Sea History
Military.com posted an article from Naval Institute Proceedings about a 2003 symposium in Washington, DC for navy women entitled “Women at Sea, 25 Years and Counting.”. Active duty, retired, and reservist officers showed up to speak about their experiences, which supported a clear agenda: the men were evil, and the women were pure as the wind driven snow. Look at how bad it was for us then, and how great it is now. It was Women’s History Month, after all. A lot of platitudes about leadership were thrown around. I’ve learned that when it comes to the subject of women in the military, media coverage always seems to be shrouded in lies, distortions and half-truths. This is the Washington, DC media bubble, and the media sets the template once again. Naval historians were present and spoke at the symposium, apparently believing the accuracy of what they heard.
So it’s time to pick this one apart. Truth and fairness are sorely needed here.
In the section entitled “From the Deckplates”, two women from the USS Point Loma (AGDS-2) attempted to recapture some relevancy with their recollections of sea duty during the early 1980s. These women made an issue of the negative climate they encountered when they first arrived. While pandering to this politically correct crowd, they took shots at an unnamed Commanding Officer (CO). They blamed him and other men for the negative reception they received, but left out a few interesting facts, as explained below.
In the same Proceedings article, one reservist officer who served on the Point Loma said she visited the USS Stennis on one recent occasion, and marveled at how well the women were now integrated and treated. (Author Stephanie Gutmann also visited the Stennis and had a different view. ) That is like saying she visited, looked around, didn’t see any evidence of sexual harassment or misconduct, so therefore it didn’t exist. The reservist went on to say she waited 20 years to see women being treated with respect onboard ship. Really? That is not how I remembered the USS Point Loma.
This is a true story. Names are changed to protect the guilty.
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
Commander James Smith* was CO of the USS Point Loma. He was married, and alleged to be having an affair with one of his female lieutenants, LT Linda Jones*. It was a common topic of conversation among the officers and crew. One night while underway, LT Jones was seen by crewmembers leaving the CO’s cabin wearing a nightgown. While ashore, they were seen alone together socializing and showing affections. The officers and crew expressed much anger and frustration that nothing would be done to remove them. Approximately 100 sailors sent anonymous letters exposing the affair, sending them to the CO’s wife. After all these years, sexual misconduct remains a huge problem for today’s navy. The-Navy-s-Moral-Compass–Commanding-Officers. Recent list of navy Commanding Officers, Executive Officers and senior enlisted firings.
THE MOB MENTALITY
Some of the ship’s officers fomented a lot of the hate and discontent with their constant badmouthing of the CO and the lieutenant, trying to rally others to take sides against them. They said Smith and Jones were exceptions to the professionalism of the officers. The wardroom would become “tight” again once they were gone. That sounded good, but it didn’t happen. Other officers and crew joined in, and the workplace descended into a very dysfunctional, distrustful group. The wardroom always had a scapegoat. When one officer left, another was created. Officers were at each others’ throats with daily confrontations, and retaliations occurred at any perceived slight to their egos. Some junior officers did not take well to professional criticism.
FRATERNIZATION, HARASSMENT CONDONED
Almost half of the Point Loma’s officers were female, inexperienced, and there was little mutual respect. Most of the women were single, and most of the men were married. That led to a number of affairs, sexual encounters and harassment. Pregnancies leading to unwed motherhood among the enlisted female crew were on the rise. It was a libertine environment.
After Commander Smith finally completed his tour of duty, he divorced his wife and married LT Jones, who also moved on to another assignment. Commander Ronald “King” Neptune* arrived to take command of the USS Point Loma. During Neptune’s tenure as CO (also known as “the Captain”), the following incidents occurred:
- a male Lieutenant JG (junior grade), admitted to being “shacked up” with a female crewmember when the woman decided to be AWOL (Absent Without Leave) for approx. 2 weeks. In the navy, that is known as UA (Unauthorized Absence). Clearly a Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 32 violation, (Conduct Unbecoming), the LTJG was never disciplined for this. He admitted to knowing that the woman was UA while she stayed with him at his apartment. The CO and Executive Officer (XO) and other officers had full knowledge of the situation. When the woman returned to the ship, she was disciplined at Captain’s Mast for the absence, fined and demoted. The LTJG was rewarded with a glowing performance evaluation and a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualification.
- The Command Master Chief, a married “geographical bachelor”, openly dated female crewmembers for approximately two years, also with CO and XO having full knowledge. One day, he was caught by the crew escorting a civilian female off the ship at about 4 AM. The next day, he was relieved of his position, and disciplined at Captain’s Mast. The Master Chief retired after a 26-year career that was apparently unblemished until this.
- An affair between a married Chief Warrant Officer and an enlisted woman, resulting in her pregnancy and his divorce. With this knowledge, the CO awarded an ESWS (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) qualification pin to the enlisted woman, even after she was reassigned to shore duty due to her pregnancy. Her knowledge of surface warfare was not tested. The award was made in the CO’s office, without announcing it to the crew.
- The CO’s own policies increased expendability of the officers and crew, contributing to the high turnover rate. This was compounded by navy-wide policies which required pregnant female sailors to be reassigned to shore duty, along with a trend towards zero tolerance of drug abuse, and enforcement of new weight standards:
- The CO had no interest in organized training for bridge watchstanders. He brought officers in who were qualified on other ships, while damaging and removing certain inexperienced officers, who showed effort but lacked proper training that was not provided.
- The CO completely delegated responsibility for administration of the SWO program to Lt. Hillary Mermaid*, an inexperienced, first sea-tour lieutenant who had an agenda to eliminate other female officers from competition. The Captain was apparently unaware that some officers had agendas to see other officers fail.
- The CO enacted degrading urinalysis testing procedures, after 3 sailors were caught tampering with their urinalysis samples (navy-wide policy of random testing was done regularly to test for drug abuse), to prevent sailors from placing any neutralizing substances into their sample to avoid THC detection. This involved observing the testees at close range, in embarrassing positions while half naked. Many officers refused to enforce the policy. Some people wrote letters of complaint to their Congressmen. These testing procedures increased paranoia and were offensive to everyone. Zero tolerance was enforced on sailors testing positive for the first time, increasing the rate of discharges, but having little effect on the rate of “positive” test results.
- Alcohol-addicted sailors were automatically sent to the Navy’s Rehab program. This removed them from the ship for several weeks. On completion of the program, the sailors were returned to the same ship. When any of the sailors fell into a relapse, they were immediately involuntarily discharged. If the Navy really wanted their alcoholics to recover, why would these sailors be returned to the same environment where their alcoholic condition worsened to the point of needing treatment?
- The CO was unwilling to enforce some navy policies for fear of bad publicity. This included fraternization, homosexuality, and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment complaints were improperly investigated and swept under the rug. The old boys investigated the old boys and circled the wagons to protect each other. One sexual harassment complainant was discredited with irrelevant attacks on her job performance, by others who were not qualified to evaluate her.
- Sailors were routinely threatened with involuntary discharges over the new navy weight control standards, regardless of excellent work performance. Everyone was subjected to weigh-ins and body-fat measurements, taken by inexperienced people with little training, using inaccurate methods by today’s standards. The ship’s food service division did nothing to improve the menu, or to provide healthy eating choices. Sugary sodas and high fat desserts were constantly on display, while the real food was kept hidden behind the counters. While underway, there was no exercise program or equipment available. I take that back. One exercise machine was brought aboard for 250 people.
This was not a good track record for improving the atmosphere. People clearly felt they had a “green light” to engage in fraternization, harassment, and other abusive behavior. Many others felt paranoid and uneasy about their jobs.
WOMEN SABOTAGING WOMEN: THE QUEEN BEE SYNDROME
Because of the women at sea program, the USS Point Loma had officers assigned in excess of its manpower authorization. Not every officer had enough work to keep them busy, including LT Mermaid, as Navigator. She was an annoying, condescending, meddling busybody (re: a pain in the ass), and eager to take over the XO and CO’s responsibilities. The administration of Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualifications was completely delegated to Mermaid, a first-sea tour lieutenant. SWO qualification was required for advancement within this field. The Senior Watch Officer position held more power than Mermaid was entitled to have over other lieutenants.
There were no sorority sisters in this bunch. Bullying and intimidation tactics were common. Physical threats were made over minor altercations, in front of enlisted men. The women were often critical and jealous of each other. Short and squatty LT Mermaid often commented on LT Melanie Collins’ tall and slim figure, always looking for ways to pick at her. At informal social gatherings, LT Collins was always the best dressed. Being single, she received plenty of male attention, while Mermaid was married. While CDR Smith was CO, Collins received excellent evaluations as a division officer, leading Smith to assign her as Operations Officer, a job of greater responsibility that Mermaid would have preferred.
Some women were lesbians, at a time when the navy’s policy on homosexuality was to discharge them upon discovery or admission. The CO tacitly refused to enforce the policy, fearing the bad publicity that was happening to other ships. But, tensions were high due to all kinds of personality/sexual orientation differences, which the leadership ignored. The contrasts between the women were stark: very mannish-looking lesbians who behaved more like men than men, the straight women, distinctly feminine with their hair, clothing and cosmetics; and another type of woman emerged – an almost asexual third gender: the plain jane workaholic, with the “act like a man and think like a man” attitude that was being rewarded so much. With no burning desire for marriage or family, they were married to the Navy. Some would eventually marry some guy to be their “satellite” or “beard”. Having children was out of the question, it might slow them down. A man who already has children: problem solved.
For women, advancement within this field was also “bottlenecked”. Women were being front-loaded into the program, but very few assignments were available after the initial tour. LT Mermaid once met with each woman officer separately to talk them out of pursuing a surface warfare career, to make it easier for her to advance. Some women agreed to it to get Mermaid off their back. For those that didn’t agree, she delayed and denied qualifications. At oral panels that she chaired, she asked meaningless, hypothetical questions intended to cause failure. She acted unilaterally against LT Collins in a punitive way, by revoking a provisional OOD qualification, and applied inconsistent and arbitrary standards to deny SWO qualification. LT Mermaid wrote highly emotional, defamatory comments to the CO about LT Collins, intending to cause harm. The CO relied on these comments, by writing negative performance evaluations, which damaged LT Collins and caused her to be marginalized.
A CASE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Two months later, and still assigned to the ship, LT Collins was sexually harassed by a married, male officer, LCDR Spongebob* whose help she sought to prepare for another, unnecessary oral board. This one was to determine whether she should be reassigned to another ship (Bureau of Naval Personnel required only a phone call from the CO). Spongebob said he was having marital problems, and wanted an affair in exchange for assistance in preparing for the board. LT Collins knew that if she failed, she would never have another chance at qualification, and it would be held against her. She was likely to never get another promotion, and be forced to leave the navy. Several officers, including one woman who was added as a panel member, either stated or implied that being denied SWO qualification was not a big deal: “women were not expected to qualify” – she could continue her naval career without consequence. She didn’t believe them, because her career was being damaged by negative performance evaluations, related to the qualification. LT Collins refused the affair, but made 3 attempts to persuade Spongebob to help her anyway, to no avail. LT Collins’s options for seeking help were drying up. On the day the board met, Collins learned that Spongebob was one of the panel members. She was not allowed to challenge the board’s composition, even though the panel members were pre-disposed to vote against her anyway. One panel member called her a troublemaker – it was her fault for being in this situation in the first place. The panel members agreed that she possessed the adequate general knowledge, but they voted 3-2 against her for extraneous reasons.
The sham investigation into the sexual harassment complaint amounted to old boys investigating old boys, who went into full protection mode. They obtained irrelevant statements from the other women officers, who were allowed to say anything they wanted, and they were critical of Collins’s job performance. With a typical discrediting tactic, the navy used these women to discredit a quid pro quo sexual harassment complaint that the women knew nothing about. The women stated unqualified, emotionally biased opinions as if they were fact, with no specifics. These women knew they could either agree with their CO or risk retaliation. Everyone lived in fear of the CO’s wrath, and they saw what was happening to LT Collins.
COLLISIONS, ACCIDENTS, MISSING FUNDS & DOCUMENTS
Between 1982-1984, there were several JAG (Judge Advocate General) Manual investigations and other informal investigations involving the USS Point Loma:
- a collision while entering Port Hueneme harbor causing damages and claims against the government for thousands of dollars. LT Hillary Mermaid was Officer of the Deck on watch. A harbor pilot was onboard, ordering direction and speed changes. The ship was coming in to the harbor too fast, and crashed into one of the piers, where a commercial fishing vessel was moored. In the JAG report, LT Mermaid claimed Captain Neptune had a policy for the OOD to give no guidance to the harbor pilot. She was exonerated on that basis, and played no role in the collision. The Captain’s statement made no mention of this policy, but described all communications were between him and the harbor pilot. Captain Neptune was issued a punitive letter of admonition under Article 92, Dereliction of Duty, and under Article 110, for negligent hazarding of a vessel.
- A 1982 collision with a sailboat in San Diego harbor. The outcome of this incident was minor in comparison. While heading out to sea, Captain Neptune used a megaphone to warn the sailboat to stay away, but the young tillerman freaked out and turned the bow of the boat into the ship, capsizing the sailboat and causing everyone aboard to fall overboard into the bay. The ship’s crew recovered everyone, without serious injuries, and brought them aboard the ship.
- loss of classified material. A female LT (junior grade), was the ship’s Classified Material Custodian, who lost a document that she signed for custody. She was granted SWO qualification anyway, after the loss was discovered. The lost material was a book of communications codes for encryption of the submarine broadcast. The document was never recovered. The LTJG was issued a non-punitive Letter of Caution. On completion of her tour, she resigned from the navy.
- missing ship’s store inventory and funds (twice). Restricted men were being used to haul inventory onto the ship, and eventually, items including cartons of cigarettes turned up missing. Soon after, an unaccounted for loss of ship store funds was discovered. A female boot ensign was held responsible, and was reassigned to another ship, after the first report’s findings. The female Supply department head was rewarded with a Navy Achievement Medal. No one was held accountable after the second loss of funds was discovered.
- loss of the port-side anchor and chain at sea. In April, 1983, while operating off the coast of San Clemente Island, a bad fathometer reading (presumably by the Navigator, Mermaid) led to an order to freefall the anchor in water that was far too deep, causing the 8-ton anchor and the end of the 900 ft chain to shear off and fall to the bottom of the ocean. Replacing it cost about $125,000. No one was held accountable. No known investigation was done in this case.
In 1983, The USS Point Loma had the distinction of having the highest number of random urinalysis drug screenings turn up “positive” for illegal substances, mostly THC, throughout SUBPAC (Submarine Force, Pacific). Their officers visited the ship to investigate. The reasons were tied to the ship’s mission and underway schedule. Compared to most navy ships, the Point Loma did not get underway as often. The statistics showed that the more time sailors spent in port, the more opportunities they had to get into trouble, mostly over drug and alcohol abuse. Point Loma sailors were being disciplined at Captain’s Mast and granted “other than honorable” discharges, almost weekly. Alcoholics who relapsed after rehab were immediately discharged. Compounding that was the growing number of enlisted female pregnancies, which required reassignment to shore duty –all producing a high turnover rate for crewmembers.
DUBIOUS SWO QUALIFICATIONS AWARDED
The SWO program as it was administered on the USS Point Loma in the 1980s was plagued with major problems:
- The inexperienced Senior Watch Officer displayed emotional bias towards other women officers she sought to eliminate from competition. She displayed her emotional biases in written memos to the Captain. She delayed and denied qualifications of other lieutenants who appeared before oral boards that she chaired.
- Deficient oral board examinations were used to punish an officer who met all previous requirements to be considered. Other officers who were deficient after an initial board were simply told to study and prepare for the next one. But, one officer (Collins) was punished by revoking her provisional OOD qualification, even though she stood all of her watches without incident, and showed effort towards qualifying. After showing significant improvement after a second board, the officer was denied qualification.
- At least three women officers made under the table agreements with the Senior Watch Officer to not pursue a career in surface warfare in exchange for the SWO qualification. This was revealed in personal conversations with the women, including the senior watch officer, who admitted approaching other women for this purpose.
- Women were not expected to qualify, according to at least three evaluating officers, who believed that women who did not qualify could simply return to shore duty and continue their careers without any consequence. This is not true. The consequences were the same regardless of gender. One officer was denied promotion to LCDR and retention because of the negative evaluations she received from the Point Loma for this reason.
- Senior officer (CO and XO) SWO qualifications were automatic. They did not attend SWO school, as subordinate officers were required to do. As submariners, they were inexperienced in the topics that subordinates were expected to know about surface ships. They weren’t able to assist their own subordinates in several key areas. Neither one attended subordinates’ oral boards.
- Non-existent organized training for bridge watchstanders, according to USS Point Loma written correspondence.
- The oral panels consisted of inexperienced officers, asking inappropriate questions not covered by the SWO PQS (Personnel Qualification Standards). The senior watch officer asked one testee (Collins) a hypothetical on what to do about a bubonic plague breakout, wiping out the entire crew. The question was presented to the testee as a “do or die”; if she didn’t answer it seriously, she would fail.
- Evaluations were arbitrary and inconsistent showing improper bias and improper testing standards that differed with each individual. An OPNAV instruction existed to provide guidance and clearly identified criteria, which these officers ignored. One officer was punished for “lack of confidence”, and “unable to see the big picture”, despite acknowledging she had the adequate general knowledge required. Another officer was granted qualification despite numerous deficiencies in “judgment”, “maturity”, “assessment of priorities”, “conning considerations”, “engineering casualty control”, “supervising JOOD”, “search and rescue”, “knowledge of publications”, and “underway operations” with helicopters and submarines, and more.
- If they were tested at all, officers were questioned on only two of the five major SWO categories: Officer of the Deck (underway) and Engineering. Officers were not questioned on warfare fundamentals, Combat Information Center Watch Officer (CICWO) operations, or Division Officer duties. The Point Loma was not equipped to provide officers with real experience as CICWO, or with some underway maneuvers. Women were not allowed at the time to board combatant ships for underway training.
- The evaluation forms did not show what hypothetical questions were asked. Topics for questions were handwritten in, followed by arrows going in all directions, and no explanation of what it meant. Since the Captain did not attend the boards, these forms were all he had to review to determine final qualification.
- No moral integrity and poor personal judgment applying to several qualified officers. These standards of behavior are included in the OPNAV instruction guiding the SWO program. They were given zero weight in determining SWO qualification and retention.
On another nearby ship, one woman from the USS McKee (AS-41), a submarine tender, was granted SWO qualification even though she was legally blind. She wore thick, coke bottle glasses, which did not correct her vision to 20-20. This is by her own admission. She was admitted to the Unrestricted Line on a waiver, because of her eyesight. One cannot obtain an automobile driver’s license in the U.S. without 20-20 correctible vision. Why did this ship qualify a legally blind woman to be an Officer of the Deck on a large ship like the USS McKee? An OOD’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the ship and her crew.
OLD BOYS’ CLUB CRONYISM AT WORK
Captain “King” Neptune (now deceased) came to the USS Point Loma as a tired, burned out diesel boat sub-mariner (pun-intended), with almost 30 years already under his belt. Most diesel boat sailors were retiring. By the 1980s, the navy was phasing out diesel boats, and had virtually no vessels left for these men to take command at sea. The non-combatant (no installed weapon systems) surface ships came in handy to take care of that problem. These ships, which supported the submarine fleet, were assigned to submarine squadrons, where Commodores treated them like stepchildren: ignored, for the most part.
Rumor had it that Captain Neptune was offered command of the Point Loma if he promised to get married. It was alleged that he was divorced multiple times and had a long-time reputation for being a party guy and a womanizer. It could have been trouble, going to a ship with women on it. By an amazing coincidence, Neptune got engaged to a divorcee with 3 children, whom he met while enroute from Europe to Southern California, (with a stop for some training), to meet the ship for the first time. Officers and crew attended his wedding about one month after the change of command. He filed for divorce three months later.
Neptune was a politician who never said what he meant or meant what he said. Aloof and arrogant, with a nothing more than a high school diploma, and surrounded by younger college educated officers, he was an insecure man. He embraced the bootlickers, like LT Mermaid, with their offers of favors and compliments, always telling him what he wanted to hear. Mermaid took advantage, offering to babysit his stepchildren, entertaining him with exclusive dinner invitations at her (and spouse’s) home, moving his furniture across town.
The executive officer was Lieutenant Commander William Wavecrest*, whose previous tour was on a nuclear submarine as a weapons officer. Neptune recommended him for command at sea, after achieving his guaranteed automatic SWO qualification. Wavecrest was then selected to command the USS Florikan, a diving ship assigned to the same squadron as the USS Point Loma. But, he had no experience as a navy diver. So, he was sent to Navy Diving School, where he trained with a class full of ensigns. He was promoted to full Commander, dumped wife number 2, married wife number 3, and took command of the Florikan in 1983. In 1984, he was relieved of command after an accident where a diver was lost at sea during underway operations. He and several others were issued career-ending letters of reprimand. One of the causes of the accident, cited in the JAG Manual investigation report, was lack of training.
IN MY OPINION:
FROM ZERO TOLERANCE TO ZERO INTELLIGENCE
Group behavior and unit cohesion, essential to military readiness, were seriously eroded.
- No one saw the connection between bad morale, poor training and inconsistent performance. The collisions, accidents, loss of funds, loss of materials shows inconsistent performance due to lack of experience, training, harassment and bad morale. The leadership vacuum provided fertile ground for bullying and moblike behavior, leading to a hostile work environment. See Navy Times article on broken command structure.
- Senior officers avoided the negative publicity they believed they would get if they followed navy policy on fraternization, homosexuality, and sexual harassment. Negative publicity has cut short many careers. The navy has/had policies that officers were conflicted about enforcing, because they worried about their own careers more. So the ship’s morale was damned, and everyone else paid the price.
- Moral bankruptcy was considered acceptable. Several SWO qualified officers exhibited behavior in violation of UCMJ codes of conduct. Navy rules and regulations existed only to go after the people that the leadership either didn’t like or didn’t want. The rest got away scot-free. That was noticeable to the entire crew. These days, any discussion of morality is usually met with ridicule and derision. Maybe the navy will just get rid of this requirement, since morality is now irrelevant.
- The CO’s own policies enhanced the breakdown of unit cohesion by increasing expendability of officers and crew with enhanced zero tolerance policies, and by removing inexperienced junior officers who showed effort, but lacked training that was not provided to them. Navy-wide policy of removing female pregnant sailors, although understandable and necessary, compounded the problem. The higher the turnover rate, the less unit cohesion, the less experience, a greater need for training.
THE HYPOCRISY OVER “SAFETY”
The OOD/SWO qualifications issued on the USS Point Loma were fake. The ship’s officers and the Commodore claimed to apply standards that were based on safety considerations. But, their actions and words were a contradiction in the following ways:
- Two senior officers who were granted automatic SWO qualifications based on their previous sea duty experience were each awarded punitive letters for the negligent/derelict handling of their respective ships. They were both assigned to the same squadron:
- The CO of the USS Point Loma, who received a punitive letter of admonition for the collision in Port Hueneme harbor
- The CO of the USS Florikan (former XO, USS Point Loma), who received a punitive letter of reprimand for the accident at sea that led to the death of a diver
- Much deference was granted to other Point Loma officers with previous sea duty experience, and excuses were made for their deficiencies, as noted in oral board evaluations. But what good was prior experience when knowledge and skills were deficient? Automatic qualification presumed that no additional training was needed.
- Lack of organized training for bridge watchstanders was acknowledged in USS Point Loma correspondence. Lack of training was also a factor cited in the investigative report of the accident on the USS Florikan, as stated in the Navy Times article. Point Loma officers often disagreed with one another about the proper responses to underway casualties. Some of the ship’s officers were more concerned about controlling access to information, because of their personal agendas to see other officers fail.
- “Lack of confidence” as a reason to deny OOD/SWO qualification is improper and too subjective to be useful. The navy is full of people who have more confidence than ability or talent. A deficient oral board performance, assumed to be due to lack of “confidence” is not a proper way to evaluate an officer’s performance on watch. Confidence on the bridge did not prevent the collision at Port Hueneme harbor.
- Advocation of sleep deprivation – also noted in USS Point Loma correspondence. The senior watch officer promoted sleep deprivation and criticized one officer for “getting plenty of sleep” while “no one got any sleep until the PQS got done”. That statement alone is irrational. The officer who was criticized did complete PQS within the allowed timeframe.
- Being legally blind was not an impediment to OOD/SWO qualification, regarding one female officer assigned to the USS McKee (AS-41). This one defies logic, since there are vision requirements for Unrestricted Line Officers. If this officer had a waiver, then what were the restrictions, and what was the point of having a waiver?
- Evaluators lowered the standards for the officers they wanted to qualify, and they raised the standards through the roof for those they did not want to qualify, based on extraneous and improper reasons. That was discrimination under the navy’s own EEO policy. Oral boards to determine qualification were not designed to punish officers who showed effort, despite non-existent organized training. You might as well call this an SPO qualification: Surface Peacetime Officer would be a more accurate description. Or maybe STO: Surface Technocrat Officer.
The opportunities for women at sea today are no doubt better than they were 30 years ago, now that they can serve on a greater variety of ships. But, nothing has changed much with shipboard culture. The surface warfare community still eats its own young. Check out comments from recent SWO officers. Jealousy, power seeking, and personality/sexual orientation differences were heightened by the destructively competitive atmosphere that senior officers pretended not to see. It has been this way long before women began serving on ships. Retention remains relatively poor compared to other fields.
DO MILITARY PERSONNEL DESERVE WHATEVER HAPPENS TO THEM?
Those who want to dispute this story or disagree with my opinions may try to characterize this article as a vendetta against the navy. Does the taxpayer supported navy deserve protection from public disclosure here? Do the people have a right to know about abuses and coverups that they paid for? If the story is seen as an aberration, then that is because stories like this are underreported, and most people do not speak out about their bad experiences in the military. The code of silence still exists, and most people don’t want the hassle that comes with exposure.
Of course, there are individual women who have succeeded despite all of the bad behavior. But, some things do not change. Sexual misconduct scandals, sexual harassment, discrimination, assaults, and workplace harassment like the Queen Bee syndrome continue, along with its adverse effects on cohesion, morale and performance, and the surface warfare community continues to suffer from a pathology of narcissism and destructive competition that is anything but productive or promoting team building.
The navy has become a jobs program for self-centered narcissists pursuing their own self-interest. The concept of the navy as a tight-knit organization of people who actually work together as a team forming close bonds has eroded into some civilian, backstabbing corporate model. The navy hasn’t fought a war at sea since World War II, so the arguments pointing to devastating effects of lack of cohesion from within are seen as academic. Real time problems with women in warfare are being experienced in Afghanistan within the Army and Marine Corps. Shouldn’t the navy try to learn something from them?
EPILOGUE: MY CASE IN FEDERAL COURT
I was LT Collins. The story was easier to write in the 3rd person. Following my tour on the USS Point Loma, I was reassigned to shore duty. I filled a Lieutenant Commander’s position. During that time, I received outstanding evaluations, and was recommended for early promotion. Despite this, I was twice passed over for promotion, and was honorably discharged after 10 years of active duty.
Soon after, I filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Claims Court in Washington, DC for wrongful termination, seeking reinstatement, back pay, removal of adverse performance evaluations (I had one removed while still assigned to the ship) and other benefits. I was offered a commission in the Naval Reserve, but turned it down. The case dragged on for four years. It was finally decided by summary judgment, citing “deference to military authority”. The judge accepted the navy’s claim that I did not meet the heavy burden of proof, which they called “clear and convincing”. Decisions like this are typical of the way military personnel cases are handled in the civil court system.
I’m not a lawyer, but I can explain the decision in plain language. In my opinion, deference to military authority means that the judge did not actually rule on the merits of the evidence presented. Most judges are elitists who do not understand the military, its culture, or the problems that military women face. They look down their noses at military personnel as savages who deserve whatever happens to them. They did not understand the significance of the evidence. They aren’t going to say that, so they cover themselves in lofty legal language to sound professional. Deference in this case amounted to nothing more than a cop out. That is the luck of the draw when filing a lawsuit like this in a civil court. Clear and convincing evidence means that as the plaintiff, I was expected to have proven my case at the time the lawsuit was filed. The whole point of filing the lawsuit was to trigger court procedures, such as depositions, hearings, and/or trial, so that I could prove my case. For a case that includes a quid pro quo harassment allegation, this should have been understandable, given that the navy’s investigation was inadequate and a sham. But here, no such procedures were ever called into play. In this case, the only procedure was for attorneys on each side to appear in court once for oral arguments. I was never called to make an appearance. After waiting four years, the judge finally issued a decision, probably written by clerks, torturing everyone with a lengthy, 28 page document which said I had no case. The tone was condescending. If there was no case, then why the 28 pages, Judge? Why did it take four years to write?
The case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, and it was affirmed, without a written opinion. My characterization of the judges is no different here.
WHO HOLDS THE NAVY ACCOUNTABLE?
If not the courts, then who will hold the navy accountable when they abuse their authority and engage in coverups? The only time I have seen beaurocracies take action is when there is negative publicity that is driven by the media. The problem with that is, the media has its own agendas, and they decide what they want to cover – or not.
 Collins v. U.S., 24 Cl. Ct., 32, 38 (1991) Defendant’s Appendix, Vol. I, II, and III (aff’d. 975 F.2d 869 (1992))
 Investigation to Inquire into the Circumstances Surrounding the Collision Between USS Point Loma (AGDS-2) and M/V Halliburton 222, 5 August 1983 at Port Hueneme, California harbor, dated 13 June 1984. Obtained by FOIA.
 Collins v. U.S.,24 Cl. Ct. 32,38 Defendants’ Appendix Vol II.
 “Commander Loses Post After Diver Dies”, Navy Times, May 20, 1985, p. 11