Thursday, July 9, 2020


During my military career I found myself as the judge, jury, executioner a little too often for comfort. I was the ship's legal officer on first ship and would sit in the CO's cabin watching him stomp around shouting and working himself up to a semblance of rage and then shouting for me to bring in the accused along with the Master at Arms and other denizens of the deep justice. Once the accused was squared away and confronted with the tiny CO, justice happened. This was long ago and very far away and justice was mostly doled out for drug using. What we had in our justice 'tool bag' was the drug detector dogs flown in from 6th Fleet specially for us and the urinalysis wizz quiz. I was involved in perhaps a dozen such cases. Didn't enjoy them at all and, oddly, none of the defaulters were mine. A couple were the Main Propulsion Assistants and the CHENG allowed as how he couldn't use them anymore for watchstanding purposes because of a complete failure of trust. We were hovering at 50% manning and hadn't gone cold iron in over a year because we always needed at least one boiler online and two SSTG rolling for ship's power.

The trust thing was germane and interesting to me later on as senior watch officer on a far different ship but still sailing the same waters. The CO had busted a man a rank and docked his pay for 3 months because a couple of staff officers accused him of being asleep on a bs watch, which meant that in order to get into the Bahraini shipyard, owned by Bahrainis, managed by a Scottish engineer and employing scores of Pakistanis, Iranian, Beloots, etc, he had to be honked at by staff in order to open the huge antipersonnel barrier which is to say, a bar across the causeway granting access to cars, buses, truck bombs etc. Most people just walked around it.

A day after his Mast appearance the Captain came to me, white faced and shaking and asked me wtf?!!!!! I looked at him like I do and he said, I just bumped into Petty Officer '******stick and he was carrying a shotgun. I figured out then that he'd bumped into pointless meaningless topside security roving patrol that MIDEASTFOR also mandated for its ships pierside although it seemed totally redundant given the two guys manning the 50 calibre machine guns port and starboard. It was a very small ship. You'd think a machine gun guy, much less two, would intimidate the fu#k out of anybody.

So, back to the issue which was a court decision about Oberlin and their idiotic policy. The court found for the man. But the thing I started out writing was about the nature of the thing and that is pretty crucial. As a CO one of the things I hated and I'm sure many others hated was the entire nature of the nature of the "crime." If it boils down to 'he said/she said' you are left with a judgement call for there is no evidence at all. Who do you trust more is basically what it boils down to. Sometimes it's like, who is more important/essential?

It took me a couple of months to move on Chief Patty's request for judgement and execution. She wanted the 3 male petty officers that disrespected her during the change of command a lot. to suffer justice a lot.

I finally had to take my outstanding XO to the side and ask him wft was going on with executive officer's investigation that was throwing up a Hoover Dam sized roadblock in the path of swift justice and he showed me the charge sheet. Disrespect is a violation of the UCMJ but that's not what was written there. The guys were not forthcoming and signing the necessary article 31 paperwork because she'd written in the death penalty violations of the UCMJ, mutiny, assault, etc. They had all told her that as senior petty officers it was beneath their dignity to stow away folding chairs. It didn't warrant death penalty and the whole thing was a farce. They could not, as rational beings, accept no legal rights in the face of such dire claims and penalties. It was an easy fix.

I faced the other justice a few times when it really did amount to he said/she said. It did not end well. I remember sitting as judge a few times in Summary courts martial and as a review board member where all 3 of us on the panel tried mightily to get the accused idiot to reconsider and say......'oh, yea, now I remember, the wife and I did attend a potluck party and maybe there was something odd about the brownies I ate.' All of us wanted to keep him in but there was a zero tolerance craze on at the time and we could not get him to give us any wriggle room. He and his lawyer kept doing the impossible and trying to say that the scientific evidence of his crime was wrong. The thing is? Sometimes the actual science of the thing is irrefutable and we know it.

I hated he said she said cases. Absent evidence, where is the crime?

I really dislike the mockery of justice the schools have played on their students for the last generation. I know where my justice came from. It came from the UCMJ which is an implement of the U.S. Congress and President. How Title 9 turned into the antichrist of justice was eye-opening. As in having your eyes ripped open.


OldAFSarge said...

The institutions of indoctrination, er, "higher learning" have gotten out of control. I say we cut all Federal funding to all of the various universities, colleges, institutes, and what have you (save four and those require some modification to put the emphasis on being a good officer) and then see how many of 'em are still afloat after a few years. I see where Harvard wanted to go completely "online" for its students in the upcoming school year, and still charge 50 grand for the privilege of saying "I go to Harvard." My sources indicate that they've dialed that back to allowing 40% of the students to be on campus. Does anyone get a discount?

As to military justice, I've seen actual criminals (selling Air Force MWR stuff on the black market) skate while someone with a marijuana problem gets tossed. Sometimes we get it right, often it was one of those compromises which left everyone unhappy.

At least the UCMJ was consistent.

HMS Defiant said...

I finally went to a staff job and was made Weapons Officer in addition to my other 37 duties. The petty officer brought in the books and showed me where to sign for all the weapons, night vision goggles, etc. I said no. The major lesson I took from my dad was his absolute demand that one sight everything before signing for it. He still had classmates paying for things that weren't there but they signed for anyway. We were in the midst of the Hanta Virus scare and all our gear-minus the actual guns were in a warehouse on Camp Elliot at the impact end of Miramar NAS. I told him that irregardless of the virus, I would see the gear first and then sign. Turns out 17 pair of $7000 NVG were not there. The cases were but they were empty. The subsequent investigation turned up that they never made it home from Desert Storm. That staff was always a weird place.