NORFOLK, VIRGINIA – According to reports from the Department of the Navy, a hazing case last spring that led to the dismissal of the top enlisted person aboard a nuclear submarine, was set into motion by homophobic jokes directed towards a sailor who claimed that he was sexually assaulted during a stop in a foreign port.
Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry, who served as Chief of the Boat on the nuclear submarine USS Florida, was relieved on March 30 by Captain Stephen Gillespie for dereliction of duty. The chief of the boat is the senior non-commissioned adviser to the commanding officer of a nuclear sub. According to Navy officials, the Berry case involved allegations of hazing aboard King’s Bay, Georgia-based USS Florida. Although officials say that Berry was not involved in the actual hazing incident, he did knowledge of it, and had failed to report it to superiors.
Documents indicate that the torment was directed at a sailor who reported that he was attacked by another man while in port at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The person allegedly pulled a knife and tried to rape the sailor, who afterwards endured hazing for months. Among other things, the sailor was referred to as “Brokeback”—a reference to “Brokeback Mountain”— and someone posted the drawing of a stick figure being sexually assaulted.
Prior to a group training session about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the sailor was asked when other sailors could meet his boyfriend, and whether his boyfriend was Filipino, the nationality of the person who tried to rape him.
In 2011, following eight months of harassment, the sailor wrote a note describing his suicidal thoughts, and warning that he could snap and hurt himself or others. Officials say there was a culture of hazing and sexual harassment aboard the sub, and inadequate knowledge about policies to stop the behavior.