Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cadet vs Captain. No More Court-Martials at CGA.

(8/22/2009) New London - Nine 3/C cadets have been expelled from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for using or possessing cocaine or marijuana.

Drug use was the most serious offense, but several of the nine third-class cadets also broke academy rules prohibiting underage drinking, fraternizing and stealing.

The academy's leadership decided not to court-martial the eight male cadets and one female cadet because the drug use was “personal use,” said Capt. John Fitzgerald, commandant of cadets.

”Some of it was one time, and I think we had one cadet that used it up to three times,” Fitzgerald said Friday. “In the Coast Guard, if we have someone who tests positive for drugs in a urinalysis or admits to personal drug use, it is handled in the same way. They are administratively separated” from the service.

Eight of the cadets admitted to the allegations against them. Fitzgerald found the ninth cadet guilty based on other evidence, including eyewitness statements. The academy did not release the names of the cadets because of federal privacy laws.

The investigation began June 29 after academy staff heard rumors about drug use. Fitzgerald asked the Coast Guard Investigative Service to look into the matter and a drug-sniffing dog was brought into the Chase Hall barracks. No drugs were found, but investigators determined that nine cadets used or possessed cocaine and/or marijuana during the 2008-09 school year while on leave and once on academy grounds, as well as this summer when the academy's training vessel, the Coast Guard barque Eagle, stopped for a port call in Charleston, S.C.

Seven of the nine also got into trouble for underage drinking, and two of the nine were found guilty for fraternizing with an enlisted female on the Eagle, Fitzgerald said. One of the male cadets had a sexual relationship with the enlisted female while the other male cadet went on liberty with them, he added. The enlisted female was restricted to the ship for a month and is still a part of the crew, according to a crewmember.

Some of the cadets were caught stealing liquor from the exchange store on campus, Fitzgerald said. They were also accused of taking over-the-counter drugs from the store, but that charge was not proven, he added.

Hearings for seven of the cadets were held July 30. The other two hearings, or “captain's masts,” were held Aug. 12.

Two cadets were considering whether to appeal their disenrollment to Coast Guard Headquarters. Six have already left the academy, and the other was expected to leave soon, Fitzgerald said.

They have been given general discharges from the Coast Guard, which means they will not be eligible for most veterans' benefits, including tuition assistance or voluntary military service in the future. They also have been barred from academy grounds.

One of the Coast Guard's core missions is to stop illegal drugs from entering the country through maritime routes. To have future Coast Guard officers using drugs, Fitzgerald said, is “inconsistent with everything we stand for.”

The investigation revealed other acts of misconduct by cadets. One had a relationship with a subordinate cadet, which is against academy rules, and knew about the nine cadets' misbehavior but did nothing to address it, Fitzgerald said. That cadet was disenrolled as well.

Two cadets were accused of cheating in summer school and one was accused of lying while training on the Eagle. All are third-class cadets, and their cases have not yet been adjudicated, Fitzgerald said.

Earlier this week, Fitzgerald took away all of the third-class cadets' Friday-night liberty privileges for two weeks and their casual recreation gear - khakis with a polo shirt - which means they have to wear uniforms until at least Thanksgiving.

”We had some honor offenses with this class, the drug incidences were primarily in this class, and there was not a good attitude by some members of the class in summer school,” he said. “I wanted to re-emphasize that they need to work together as team to be a credit to the academy.”

The CGIS investigation has concluded, but an internal investigation into the more minor acts of misconduct is ongoing.

The academy conducts random urinalysis during the year.

The Class of 2012 started with 295 members but has dropped to 254 because of cadets not meeting academic or physical requirements, violating academy rules or choosing to leave. An average class size at graduation is 220.

”I wouldn't want these incidents to characterize the academy or that class,” Fitzgerald said. “I'm disappointed by what happened, both as commandant of cadets and as a Coast Guard officer, but most cadets are doing well. What I want is for the ones who are doing really well to ensure that the ones who are bringing them down come back up to standard.”

THE DAY newspaper had a follow on story that gives greater details on the nine Third Class Cadets booted for drug use that included cocaine. Captain John Fitzgerald told The Day that the Academy decided not to Court Martial the nine Cadets since drug usage was “personal usage.” What? All nine individually bought their cocaine from a dealer and then used it for “personal use?” Fitzgerald is apparently saying that the Academy believes all nine lined up like kids in a candy store and made individual purchases of their drug of choice.

The cocaine that Captain Sullivan used was for personal use as well and went to a General Court Martial. Before the pundits chime in we do recognize that there is a difference between the accountability of a Cadet and a Captain. But I would remind you that Cadet’s become Captain’s and sending the message that drug use at CGA can result in Brig time or a federal conviction has much greater impact. These nine Cadets are eligible to attend a state college in Connecticut for free.

Imagine that, 9 kids on full free rides at CGA that would have accrued them an active duty service commitment, can now get a free ride on the state and then go on with their lives.

ALAMEDA, Calif.(8/20/08) - CAPT Mike Sullivan, a senior officer on the Coast
Guard's Pacific Area staff has been charged with
wrongfully using cocaine
and has been temporarily
reassigned to a non-supervisory position.

CAPT Michael Sullivan, who had been serving as
Pacific Area's Chief of Response, was charged with one
specification of wrongful use of cocaine under Article
112(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)
and one
charge of obstruction of justice under Article 133 of
the UCMJ.

Vice Adm. David Pekoske, the Coast Guard Pacific Area
Commander, has directed that the charges against
Sullivan be investigated in accordance with Article 32
of the UCMJ. Such an investigation is required before
charges could be referred for trial to a general

An Article 32 hearing is a preliminary hearing in
which an investigating officer inquires into the truth
of the matters set forth in the charges and recommends
disposition of the charges. The accused member and his
counsel are present and have the right to question
witnesses at such a proceeding. A date has not yet
been set for the Article 32 hearing.

If found guilty of both charges, Sullivan faces a
potential maximum sentence of a dismissal from the
Coast Guard, 10 years confinement and forfeiture of
all pay and allowances.

Capt. Michael Sullivan, formerly commanding officer of the USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC), has 26 years of service in the Coast Guard.

CAPT Sullivan, the Pacific area's Chief of Response since May 2007, supervised the operation of 20 major Coast Guard cutters and directed law enforcement units that protect ports and fisheries and fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

CAPT Sullivan earlier commanded three cutters, and his assignments have included acting as the Coast Guard's liaison to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.

The Coast Guard's Pacific area, based in Alameda, extends from South America to the Arctic Circle and west to the Far East.

Are we comparing apples to oranges? Did the Commandant of Cadets exercise sound judgement? In the post-Webster Smith court-martial environment, was this a good decision, or a politically correct decision? Or was this a practical decision. After a cost-benefit analysis, would it have been worth the time and the money to convene another General Court-martial at the Coast Guard Academy? The court-martial of Webster Smith drained the coffers and took all the wind out of their sails. It also consumed a considerable number of man-hours, with the investigation, trial, appeal, and press conferences.

Or, perhaps, the Coast Guard has lost faith in its Law Specialists. Perhaps, the Operators and Line Officers can no longer rely with confidence on the advice they receive from their Law Specialists. If CDR Sean Gill had been advising the Commandant of Cadets and the Academy Superintendent, what do you suppose he would have recommended?

A writer at the Blog Coast Guard Report made a piercing analysis. I agree with him.
My only concern is that there seems to be a disconnect between what the Coast Guard sees as serious enough to take someone to Court Martial as opposed to NJP. My thought is that someone who does drugs has no place in my service or any service. They should be hammered home via Court Martial. Those who do drugs endanger their shipmates lives, no doubt about it. Someone who is willing to do a line of cocaine as a recreational drug “for personal” use, certainly has little concern for their own safety let alone their shipmates. They are the definition of unsafe. According to the reports I read this weekend, at least one Cadets took his drug of personal choice on board the Barque Eagle. No doubt that Cadet endangered lives by doing so.

Now lets compare your position that sending these Cadets out the door at NJP vice Court Martial is in keeping with fleet practices, which I agree it is. But in my mind a sailor who does drugs and risks the safety of their crew has no place in the service and we can’t and shouldn’t take the chance on rehabilitating them and returning them to service. On the other hand, we have seen an incredible number of Coasties go to Court Martial for misuse of their Government Travel Card. In one case I reported on several years ago, a Black Chief Petty Officer with over 20 years of untarnished service was taken to Court Martial for 3K in unauthorized charges which he immediately paid back. He drummed down to First Class and sent packing out the door.

This is not an isolated case, I have been contacted by numerous Coasties in similar scenarios. A Coastie or member of any branch of the service who’s only crime against humanity is misuse of a government travel card may be worth trying to salvage. NJP may be the more appropriate route. Certainly I’m aware of cases where the member involved used the travel card to procure services that went beyond accidental or emergent self need. Summarily drumming every Coastie who misuses a travel card out by Court Martial while sending those who procured, used and stored cocaine on a naval vessel does not compute.

Now before any of you start casting stones about my mention of the Chief being Black, I did that for a reason. His command in Elizabeth City, NC at the time only held Black Coasties to the standard of NPJ and Court Martial. Whites who committed more serious infractions were summarily left alone. The Command Climate was one of fear and retaliation which later landed this unit in the spot-lite on Civil Rights violations. Tenant commands at the base had long given up on working with the leadership at the base.

The current Commanding Officer of this unit spent the first year of her tour repairing not only the damaged command climate, but rebuilding bridges with other tenant commands. First hand reports confirm that the command has been healed, and bridges rebuilt.

Judge London Steverson
London Eugene Livingston Steverson
 (born March 13, 1947) was one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1968. Later, as chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), he was charged with desegregating the Coast Guard Academy by recruiting minority candidates. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and in 1990 was appointed to the bench as a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration.

Early Life and Education
Steverson was born and raised in Millington, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Ruby Steverson. At the age of 5 he was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold elementary school in a segregated school system. He later attended the all black Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating valedictorian.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948,[1] but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President Kennedy specifically challenged the United States Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students. London Steverson was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment, and when he accepted the opportunity to be part of the class of 1968, he became the second African American to enter the previously all-white military academy. On June 4, 1968 Steverson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a BS degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1974, while still a member of the Coast Guard, Steverson entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University and graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.

USCG Assignments.
Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [2] (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy, and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker General SanMartin, which they freed.
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in Juneau, Alaska as a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands.[3]
Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was en route to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people on board and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast.[4]. Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure.[5]
Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the Kolevan and the Lamut for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States territorial waters. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian MIG fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from Elmendorf Air Force Base before the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back

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