NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — A Navy officer has been charged with hazing and maltreatment for engaging in a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse and taking reprisal against a sailor who asked to stop being called "Charlie Brown," according to court records.
The lieutenant commander is a reservist assigned to Lakehurst, N.J.-based Navy Cargo Handling Battalion Eight and is not identified in redacted military charge sheets. The battalion reports to a command based in Williamsburg, where it conducts much of its training.
The officer also is charged with willful dereliction of duty and making false official statements.
Hazing in the military has drawn extra scrutiny from the Defense Department and Congress in recent years after a series of high-profile cases. That includes hazing U.S. Rep. Judy Chu’s nephew, a 21-year-old Marine serving in Afghanistan. He fatally shot himself in 2011 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 armor.
The Government Accountability Office knocked the Defense Department last year for not sufficiently tracking incidents of hazing so it could address the problem. The Navy regularly conducts training to let sailors know hazing won't be tolerated, but incidents persist.
The officer in this latest case waived his right to the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing and will face a general court-martial, said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokeswoman for Virginia Beach-based Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.
The two counts of hazing the officer faces stem from a variety of occasions ranging from Aug. 30, 2015, to May 19, 2016. The charge sheets say hazing took place in Norfolk; Williamsburg; Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan; Al Udeid, Qatar; Sembach, Germany; and Baltimore.
The documents say the accused was the officer in charge of Logistics Task Force Eight and used his position to harm someone else's career.
The officer also has been charged with nine counts of making a false official statement.
The charge sheets indicate the officer told a sailor to carry a "Charlie Brown" cartoon figurine at all times, punched a chair next to a sailor at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and said "I can't believe that (expletive) idiot got an award."
The records also say the officer made a false statement when saying a sailor had asked for duty hours to be changed three times to accommodate civilian work assignments, and would work on civilian assignments while on military duty.
The charge sheets also indicate the officer yelled at someone in Norfolk for 30 minutes to an hour, despite saying he spoke to the person in a "calm, easy voice" for 10 minutes.
The officer also is charged with two counts of willful dereliction of duty for failing to promote the health, welfare and morale of all personnel and for failing to take correction action after being presented evidence of an unduly familiar relationship between two sailors in Afghanistan.
The court-martial, not yet scheduled, will be held at Naval Station Norfolk.
©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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