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Report: Sailor ring repeatedly filmed undressing women on sub

Submarine crews are so tight-knit that they're considered a family — part of what made the revelations of illicit filming on the ballistic missile sub Wyoming so troubling.

The filming wasn't a one-off or a prank. It was a sophisticated and repeated invasion of privacy, where male Wyoming sailors acted as lookouts while a friend filmed female shipmates undressing with cell phones or an iPod Touch — both of which are banned aboard the sub.

One sailor admitted that he and a male peer rushed to secretly record each female midshipman while she was in the shower changing room. They filmed every woman each time she took a shower during the three-month patrol, he said — several times a day, according to a new report.

Peer pressure allowed this ring to persist for 10 months on the Wyoming, recording and sharing videos of dozens of women they served alongside every day. The new details into the case, which the top submarine commander called a "breach of trust," come in a new command investigation, obtained by Navy Times via the Freedom of Information Act.

The scandal has dismayed the sub force and some of the trailblazing officers who made history as the first women submariners. One officer, among the first to earn her dolphins in 2012, told Navy Times she couldn't believe her peers had been betrayed that way.

"The thing with the Wyoming is, to me that was such a shocking event," said Lt. Jennifer Carroll, who served aboard the ballistic missile sub Maine and was never recorded by the Wyoming ring. "It was completely 180-degrees out from what my experience was. I couldn't really even fathom that one of our guys [would] do that to me."

The report provides new details on how the ring allegedly filmed women with cellphones through a hole between spaces and then shared them without detection for months. Investigators with Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Kings Bay, Georgia-based Submarine Squadron 20 interviewed more than 300 people and included statements from the 12 original suspects.

The interviews paint a picture of a few sailors eager to spy on off-limits young women and nearly a dozen who failed to report them for fear of breaching ties to their shipmates.

Of the 12 sailors who had known about the videos — filmed, distributed, watched or heard about them — eight were court-martialed (one was acquitted), three went to captain's mast, and one was released with no charges.

"The abhorrent behavior of this small number of personnel is not indicative of the superior sailors that comprise these crews and the submarine force," wrote Capt. William Houston, head of SUBRON 20, in his endorsement letter to the report.

Carroll, among the first women to join the sub force, said that she felt like a sister to her male shipmates on the Maine, and couldn't picture any of them betraying her trust.

"Most of the men in the submarine force reacted very, very strongly to that," she said. "I actually think that we got a stronger reaction in the submarine force than we would have in the other communities."

Filming begins

The filming had gone on for nearly a year, investigators would come to learn, with videos of up to four of the women assigned to the boat as well as midshipmen on cruise during two patrols with Wyoming, from August to November 2013 and March to June 2014. Three sailors filmed the women and distributed the short recordings; two admitted their guilt and one was implicated by another sailor.

The videos and images were recorded on two cellphones and one iPod Touch that were taken into outboard frame bays or unmanned spaces, according to the report, where "these areas provided the perpetrators a limited viewing area of the bathrooms/heads via piping penetration air gaps in the bulkheads."

The submarine force allows commanding officers to determine what types of devices are allowed on board, and when or where sailors can use them.

The CO of the Wyoming Gold crew of about 160 sailors banned all devices with screens under 7 inches from secret spaces like control and engineering rooms. That move effectively prohibited all cell phones and iPods.

NCIS recovered seven videos of women assigned to Wyoming. Everything else had been deleted, including videos of female midshipmen on cruise with Wyoming.

Redacted lists of ship riders from the 2014 cruise, included in the investigation, show more than 130 names, but don't specify genders of the Naval Academy students.

The recording ring continued until November 2014, when rumors about the videos spread to another submarine. An electronics technician 3rd class from the ballistic missile submarine West Virginia in Kings Bay, told his chief of the boat he had heard about the lewd videos on Wyoming, based nearby. That prompted the investigation.

The report reads like a he-said, she-said of denials, implications and confessions, with some sailors coming clean and naming names while others at first refused to admit that they even knew about the videos. The questioning began on Nov. 14 with Electronics Technician 2nd Class Joseph Bradley, from the Blue crew..

"After a patrol last November, me and ET2 [redacted] were discussing fantasies of [name redacted]," he wrote. "And he mentioned to me of a possible video of her in the shower, so later that day after leaving work, he offered to give me the video."

He told investigators that the videos were taken by Gold crew's Missile Technician 2nd Class Charles Greaves.

He said he passed them onto a Gold crew ET2, though both the sailor who sent Bradley the videos and the one he sent them to were not implicated, according to statements and charge sheets.

The seven videos ranged in length from 10 seconds to two minutes, Bradley said, but he had since deleted them. He also denied encouraging anyone to take more videos, which other sailors had alleged.

MT2 Jonathan Ashby also met with an investigator on Nov. 14. He told the officer that the previous November, Greaves had "approached myself and informed me that he had 'captured some Pokemon.' "

That line came to characterize the whole case.

Greaves transferred the videos to Ashby after work, who said in his official statement that he didn't know what he was receiving at the time.

"I selected the first video, and once I had realized that it was a female officers in the shower, I immediately stopped the video and proceeded to delete them, telling him that I did not want them, and that he too should delete them," Ashby wrote.

He was too embarrassed to tell anyone else, he wrote, and kept it from his command for fear of punishment.

MT3 Samuel Buchner said he also received the videos during a post-deployment maintenance period , but claimed he didn't recognize any of the officers and deleted the videos.

"Upon knowing about who the videos were of, I kept silent," Buchner said, according to the report.

Breaking the silence

MT3 Brandon McGarity provided some insight about where the videos were filmed and dropped a bombshell: Wyoming women weren't the only ones filmed.

McGarity learned about the videos from MT2 Ryan Secrest, he said, whom he overheard talking about a "secret hole in the back of [missile control center]."

"Also during Patrol 52, during midshipmen ops, MT2 [redacted] and MT3 [redacted] would slide down the outboards of T/N 3 in [missile compartment upper level] to get on top of the san tank to observe the female midshipmen during their shower time."

Secrest and MT3 Cody Shoemaker were encouraged by two other MT2s, McGarity added.

"From my knowledge, I can say they observed all groups of midshipmen that came on board."

When asked to explain why he didn't report what was going on, McGarity got emotional.

"I was still somewhat new to the division and so I didn't want to say anything because the higher ranking MTs would always treat the lower ranks like trash and would always try to put them down," he wrote. "So I didn't want to worsen my life more than it already was, so I tried to ignore it and stay out of it for fear of being disowned by the division."

Secrest and Shoemaker were both convicted at court-martial of viewing and filming midshipmen.

Secrest gave a statement the following week, but he flatly denied any knowledge of the situation. Shoemaker also told investigators a different story, though they ultimately chose to believe McGarity.

When Shoemaker was interviewed on Nov. 19, he wrote that McGarity had shown him videos of the mids on his iPod touch. McGarity, however, swore that he had lent Shoemaker the iPod, that Shoemaker had taken the videos and that when McGarity had realized they were on his device, he deleted them.

The investigators also interviewed a culinary specialist seaman that day, who said he'd heard two petty officers talking about the "wine cellar" but never saw the viewing hole when he was cleaning the head. He was dropped as a suspect.

A week into the investigation, officials sat down with Greaves, who they came to regard as the ringleader. He refused to make a statement at the time, but once he had hired a defense attorney, he agreed to give as much information as he knew about the other sailors as part of an eventual plea deal at court-martial.

His attorney, however, accused the Navy of cherry-picking evidence to build its case, and ignoring information about several other sailors who knew about the videos, including two chiefs.

The investigation ruled that the 12th original suspect, an MT1, couldn't be charged because the only evidence against him was the statement of one other sailor.

Houston, the SUBRON 20 boss, recommended seven sailors for Article 32, one for nonjudicial punishment, a command transfer for the exonerated MT1 and that two other sailors' cases be forwarded to their new skippers at Trident Training Facility Kings Bay and the ballistic missile sub Michigan in Bangor, Washington.

In the end, 10 sailors faced punishment, ranging from dishonorable discharge and prison time to reduction in rank and pay forfeiture at captain's mast.

"This was a deliberate criminal activity taken by a handful of sailors and I find no indication that the leadership environment of either command was culpable in creating an environment that contributed to this insidious incident," Houston wrote.

Houston, however, ordered both Wyoming crews to carry out a command-climate survey and submarine-culture workshop in early 2015.

Submarine sailors are still grappling with the sense of betrayal as more details emerged during courts-martial in 2015. Some women feel reluctant to continue serving alongside crewmembers who might have seen the videos. But others are hopeful that, with the surveys and prosecutions, the sub force has turned a page.

"I really do think the submarine community is special; members of your crew become like family," Carroll said. "In my experience relationships with members of my crew were founded on trust and mutual respect. This event contradicted what I thought was a universal sense of camaraderie among submariners."

Now on shore duty, Carroll is a coordinator at Submarine Force Atlantic's women submarine's program. She's optimistic, she said, that the undersea force is on the right path as it works toward its next goal: integrating enlisted women.

The submarine family's next test will come in 2016, when enlisted women report to the guided-missile submarine Michigan.

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