A chief in the Navy’s secretive world of signals intelligence and cyber operations is facing a court-martial trial over allegations that he faked a cancer diagnosis to skip work for nearly two years.
Military prosecutors say Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) John R. Errol feigned stomach cancer from March 2016 to February 2018 to avoid his job.
He also allegedly took an unauthorized absence from Cryptologic Warfare Group 6, a cyber unit based out of Fort Meade, Maryland, from March 29, 2016 to June 12, 2018, according to charge sheets provided to Navy Times.
In the Army, that’s called going “AWOL” — absent without leave — but in the Navy and Marine Corps it’s usually shortened to just “UA,” unauthorized absence. Despite the allegedly long absence, however, he was not charged with desertion.
Errol, 50, told officers and senior chiefs he was terminally ill and had cancer on several occasions in 2017, claims that were “totally false,” according to the charge sheets.
He told an unnamed senior chief on July 23, 2017, that he “was going to a breathing treatment at John (sic) Hopkins,” charge sheets state.
“Sir, for the period requested I have been seeking private treatment,” prosecutors allege he told a lieutenant. “I had frequent [appointments] for smoking, breathing treatment, and private issues."
But Errol "was not receiving breathing treatment at a private hospital,” the charge sheets state.
That same day, a senior chief told Errol to provide his civilian medical records so they could be entered into the Navy’s medical system, but he did not do so, according to charge sheets.
Errol did not return a call seeking comment.
Requests for comment from Errol’s attorney submitted through public affairs officials were not answered.
The commander was relieved last month after an investigation raised questions about his "integrity and leadership," Navy officials said.
Errol’s trial on malingering, absence without leave, insubordinate conduct and false official statements charges is slated to begin in May.
Originally from Maryland, Errol enlisted in 1999 and made chief in 2012, according to Navy records.
He reported to Cryptologic Warfare Group 6 in 2016 and served with Navy Information Operations Command Hawaii before that.
Errol served on board the guided-missile destroyers Howard and Spruance earlier in his career and was also stationed with the Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group.
His rating involves collecting, analyzing and reporting signals data to provide critical intelligence, according to the Navy. That’s why these sailors also must attain Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance.
Officials with U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, declined to say whether Errol was accounted for during his absence from duty or how officials caught on to the alleged chicanery, citing the ongoing nature of the proceedings.
“He remains on active duty in the U.S. Navy,” Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale said.