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CO fired for poor judgment, XO deemed abusive

Jul. 17, 2012 - 05:47PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 17, 2012 - 05:47PM  |  
Cmdr. Jon Haydel, left, was fired as commanding officer of of the amphibious transport dock San Diego in March. Investigators cited Haydel's lack of engagement with the crew and were critical of the performance of Lt. Cmdr. Wes House, right, the ship's executive officer, in Haydel's absence.
Cmdr. Jon Haydel, left, was fired as commanding officer of of the amphibious transport dock San Diego in March. Investigators cited Haydel's lack of engagement with the crew and were critical of the performance of Lt. Cmdr. Wes House, right, the ship's executive officer, in Haydel's absence. (Navy)
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The skipper of the Navy's newest amphibious transport dock was fired in March for a series of errors, including storing pornography on his government computer and misusing the ship's duty driver, which called his judgment into question, according to the command investigation into his relief.

Navy investigators found that Cmdr. Jon Haydel, commanding officer of then-precommissioning unit San Diego, saved 10 pornographic images to his hard drive. He also ordered the duty driver to take him home twice and, on one occasion, asked the ship's doctor to come out to his residence to attend to his wife — all instances of Haydel misappropriating the ship's resources, the Navy said. The report documented Haydel's growing disengagement with the crew, even as the ship's trip to San Diego and its commissioning ceremony approached.

"While the CO's misconduct was not completely egregious, his demonstration of judgment lapses was a telling sign of his lack of overall control and leadership of San Diego," according to the April 25 command investigation into Haydel's relief, obtained by Navy Times through a Freedom of Information Act request. "The CO's lack of engagement was most likely caused by a combination of stress created by significant family issues and several ongoing investigations."

Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber, head of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, fired Haydel March 12, only a day before the ship was set to depart the shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., for San Diego. Haydel is the 5th of the 12 COs fired this year. San Diego was commissioned in her namesake city May 19.

The redacted report does not detail Haydel's family issues. But investigators concluded these had distracted him from command and forced the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Wes House, to step up. And that's where things ran into trouble.

House, a former sonar technician who earned his commission in 1996, was an ambitious and exacting force on the ship, directing and re-directing the management of 380 crewmembers to complete every task and evolution to the highest standards. When those efforts flagged, House resorted to threats and shouting, crewmembers told the investigators. He yelled at officers in front of their sailors, according to the report, and recalled crewmembers to the ship at all hours to complete routine tasks that could've been completed during working hours.

On Jan. 8, for example, he ordered a manager back to the ship at 12:30 a.m. to make a training record entry, according to the report. When this person was driving home at 3 a.m. after completing the mundane entry, he was almost struck by a drunk driver, the report said.

A number of crewmembers filed formal complaints against House, the report said. Many felt he was ruining the command's morale.

"As a prior enlisted member with 20 years of service, I have never seen a command climate with such a poor morale," one crewmember told the investigator. "I have never seen a climate in which the executive officer was allowed to scream, curse and ridicule personnel that worked for him."

The command investigation concluded that the XO was partially at fault for the command's awful morale. "Overall, it appears that the XO was unable to handle the stress of stepping into the lead position, ignored the counsel of the CO to improve his leadership techniques and stop abusive behavior and continued to create a hostile environment," the report said. "Therefore, it is the investigator's opinion that the XO showed poor judgment and character.

As of July 17, House remains the XO. He did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Haydel, a 1991 Louisiana State University graduate commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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