The command master chief of the Camp Pendleton-based Assault Craft Unit 5 was fired on Oct. 19 amid allegations of misconduct during his command’s chief initiation season in August.
Command Master Chief (SS) Richard W. Penny was fired as a result of initial findings of multiple investigations currently being reviewed by senior Navy officials.
Penny’s departure comes after the alleged misconduct in August prompted the command to halt the chiefs initiation season and cancel the pinning of 11 chief petty officer selects.
Navy officials recently told Navy Times that the chief selects, after months in limbo and wondering when they would advance, will be pinned with their chief’s anchors in a group pinning ceremony on Oct. 27. The chief selects were cleared of any allegations of misconduct.
The investigation centered around allegations that sailors who were already in the chiefs mess — known as “genuine chief petty officers” —and who were leading the initiation season activities damaged a golf course‘s greens by spraying the grounds with silly string and filling the holes with shaving cream, a senior Navy source familiar with the matter told Navy Times.
The hijinks may have killed some of the grass, so the golf course manager reported the incident to the Navy command, according to the Navy source familiar with the incident who spoke to Navy Times on condition of anonymity.
Penny was present briefly at the start of the event but was not there when the alleged misconduct occurred, according to Lt. Laura Price, a spokesperson for Expeditionary Strike Group 3, the command conducting the investigations.
The Navy didn’t announce Penny’s firing when it happened, and officials confirmed Penny’s relief only after questioning from Navy Times.
Penny, a 27-year Navy veteran from Deer Park, Texas, has spent most of his career in the submarine community.
Before reporting to ACU-5, Penny served as the chief of the boat of the fast-attack submarine Albuquerque, and as the command master chief of Navy Recruiting District, Los Angeles. He reported to ACU-5 in August 2016.
For now, Penny has been reassigned to Naval Surface Force in Coronado, California.
Penny has been replaced by Command Master Chief (SW) Joshua Gabriel, currently the CMC of Naval Beach Group One, until the Navy finds a permanent replacement.
Navy officials told Navy Times that additional disciplinary action against other sailors is still a possibility. Senior officers up the chain of command from ESG-3 are still reviewing the investigations.
Meanwhile, the decision to have a pinning ceremony for the 11 chief selects on Friday is a reversal of the command’s stance just a week ago.
The Navy spokesperson initially told Navy Times that no pinning was planned and that the selects would put on their new rank on the same day they are officially advanced, meaning when they actually start getting paid as E-7s. They would also be frocked if they had orders to leave the command.
A long-standing Navy tradition, “frocking” is when a sailor who has been selected for advancement to a higher grade is allowed to wear the rank and uniform of the paygrade. The frocked sailor is still paid at the lower paygrade, however, until their official advancement date arrives.
Normally, all new chief selects put on the uniform and rank of their new position on the same day in September. This year’s date fell on Sept. 15.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.