Destroyer CO, master chief removed over fraternization cases
By Kate Wiltrout
Hampton Roads, Virginia
December 6, 2009
The commanding officer and highest-ranking enlisted sailor aboard the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams were removed Friday in the wake of a fraternization scandal that erupted on a recent deployment.
The guided-missile destroyer and its crew of about 300 sailors left Norfolk in April for a six-month cruise to the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. They returned Oct. 19.
At the helm was Cmdr. Paul Marquis, whose career includes service at the Pentagon, the Naval Academy and Joint Forces Command. The top enlisted sailor was Command Master Chief Timothy Youell, a 25-year Navy veteran.
Both were reassigned Friday to administrative jobs by Capt. Robert C. Barwis, commander of Destroyer Squadron 26, according to a Navy spokesman. The fallout doesn't end there, Senior enlisted sailors punished for fraternizing with junior shipmates will likely see themselves out of the Navy for good.
Lt. Cmdr. Phil Rosi, a spokesman for the Navy's Fleet Forces Command, said at least one crew member is facing criminal charges for an alleged sexual assault reported while the ship was in the Mediterranean. A second sexual assault, reported five days later, is still being investigated, Rosi said.
Nine Williams crew members were punished last month for fraternization, a military term for relationships that do not respect differences in rank.
The military forbids "unduly familiar" relationships between officers and enlisted sailors, as well as between junior and senior enlisted personnel. The relationships do not have to be romantic: Navy policy also forbids living together, having private business partnerships, and loaning one another money.
Rosi would not comment on the nature of the Williams' fraternization cases, but said that nine sailors received non-judicial punishment for fraternization. Five were male chief petty officers, he said, and four were female junior enlisted sailors: one first class petty officer, two second class petty officers and one third class petty officer.
Reports of the fraternization surfaced in October a few weeks before the ship returned.
The chiefs involved are being processed for separation from the Navy, Rosi said.
Admiral J.C. Harvey Jr., a four-star admiral who leads Fleet Forces Command, issued a statement about the firings - an indication of how seriously the service takes the problem.
"Such a large number of fraternization cases in one command is a clear indication of a leadership failure," Harvey said. "The responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command is absolute. It is our tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."
The Navy typically offers few details when a commanding officer is relieved for loss of confidence in his or her ability to command; the shortcomings are considered a personnel matter.
Neither Marquis nor Youell was implicated in the fraternization cases or alleged sexual assaults. Their failures were ones of leadership, Rosi said.
Marquis' second-in-command was not implicated in the problems. But Cmdr. Daniel Sunvold, who was serving as executive officer on the Williams, has been reassigned to the same position on the destroyer Bainbridge.
The move, Rosi said, will give both Sunvold and the Williams' crew "the opportunity for a fresh start, with a new leadership team."
Cmdr. Anthony J. Linardi is the new commanding officer of the Williams, Rosi said, while Master Chief James Stuart is the prospective command master chief.