His boss forced to resign after Pentagon leaders exposed a botched backdoor deal with the White House to cook the results of a sham administrative hearing, the Navy’s top officer wants all sailors to “hold ourselves to high ideals of integrity and service” and do so at “a flank bell.”
Reflecting his thoughts after three months as chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday’s brief broadside fired Monday at the fleet asked sailors "to think about who we are as a Navy and the constitutional oath we commit ourselves to.
“That oath is what binds us together. It is the foundation of our profession. It is our north star. It defines us.”
Deep-selected by ex-Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, Gilday became CNO after the resignation of Adm. Bill Moran, who was facing a probe into his ties to a public affairs officer accused of sexually harassing women during a boozy 2016 holiday party at the Pentagon — what became known in the Navy as the “Bad Santa” scandal.
Spencer himself got the boot on Nov. 24 after Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper became concerned about his “lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher,” who was being forced to undergo a Trident Review Board widely seen as a merely punitive bureaucratic exercise by embattled Naval Special Warfare commander Rear Adm. Collin Green.
Green is the subject of multiple ongoing Inspector General probes into what his accusers say are underhanded efforts to humiliate them in order to save his own career while he abuses the constitutional rights of junior personnel.
One of the complaints was filed by Special Warfare Operator Chief Gallagher, the others by former SEAL Team 7 leaders.
As for Gallagher, he was arrested on Sept. 11, 2018 and stood trial by court-martial for a string of alleged war crimes committed in Iraq a year earlier.
But the case against him collapsed, with a fellow SEAL admitting on the stand he killed a wounded Islamic State prisoner of war so Iraqi security forces wouldn’t rape and torture the detainee to death.
Before the trial even kicked off, however, a military judge sanctioned the prosecution for a bungled warrantless spying program that used email tracking beacons to eavesdrop on defense attorneys and Navy Times.
Prosecutors and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents also were accused of manipulating witness statements; using immunity grants and a bogus “target letter” in a crude attempt to keep pro-Gallagher witnesses from testifying; illegally leaking documents to the media to taint the military jury pool; and then trying to cover it all up when they got caught.
A probe ordered by Spencer into possible ethical and professional failures by the Judge Advocate General’s Corps was due on his desk two days before he was forced out for what his boss Esper seems to believe were ethical and professional failures as the Secretary of the Navy.
“To be clear, we must be men and women of integrity,” Gilday wrote in his Monday message to the fleet.
“We must be honorable. We must be standard-bearers. We must be above reproach. And we must not give anyone cause to question our fundamental values. That is what sets us apart as a fighting force.”
Gilday reserved a special word for commanders, telling them that they must “epitomize integrity and exemplify our course values at all times.”
Gilday’s words arrived as criminal trials loom in California Southern District Court for now-retired officers Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, Capt. David “Newly" Newland, Capt. James “JD” Dolan, Capt. David A. “Too Tall” Lausman, Cmdr. Donald “Bubbles” Hornbeck, Cmdr. Stephen Shedd, Cmdr. Mario “Choke” Herrera and Marine Col. Enrico “Rick” de Guzman for alleged public corruption tied to convicted contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis.
Francis routinely plied senior commissioned and enlisted Navy leaders in the 7th Fleet area of operations with bribes of cash, sessions with prostitutes and luxury resort stays to beat out competitors for lucrative ship husbanding and port services contracts.
Since Gilday became CNO, the Navy has stopped releasing public information about executive officers and senior enlisted leaders who are relieved following allegations that they committed criminal or ethical violations or were professionally incompetent at their jobs.
“The responsibility for ethical and professional behavior must be taken seriously — and we must own it at every level. We must be protectors and exemplify our values,” Gilday wrote on Monday.
“I’m counting on each of you to set a strong personal example of responsible behavior, both on and off duty.”
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.