Thoughts on the Navy’s ‘Sleeper-gate’ from a former Navy submariner

I’ve been thinking a lot about the trumped up controversy regarding the two sailors falling asleep in the same rack. There is more here:

It’s a pretty despicable story, and I’ve already talked to Servicemembers United and others about this case. It’s for real. The Navy has already found a way to kick out suspected gays, even without using the DADT policy. And the sailors in question have no choice but to hire civilian lawyers to defend them because sexual orientation isn’t included in the Pentagon’s non-discrimination policies, and won’t be even if DADT is fully repealed this year. This is why the President has to sign an executive order adding the military to federal government’s already-existing policies outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Washington Post does a good job of telling the tale, but in a nutshell, the Navy has suddenly decided that sailors aren’t permitted to fall asleep in a same-sex friend’s bed, even platonically, and especially while watching “The Vampire Diaries” – it was unclear whether the Navy felt vampires were gay, or diaries were gay, or whether it’s just the entire CW network that’s too queer for the Pentagon.

So, the Navy is charging the men with: “willful failure to exhibit professional conduct.” Because one fell asleep in the other guy’s room. (One guy copped a plea and got his pay docked, but he gets to stay in as a results – the other is being discharged because he wouldn’t admit to the charges.)

I’ve asked around and apparently there’s no way these guys would have gotten into trouble had someone found a girl asleep in some guy’s bed, but a guy – look out. And that is a prima facie a case of sexual orientation discrimination.

The Navy is desperately trying to spin this by claiming it has nothing to do with suspicion of the two sailors’ sexual orientation, and is some sort of subjective misconduct. Now, if the men were engaged in any kind of sexual activity then I would agree they deserve their punishment, but two sailors falling asleep in a bed together? Seriously?!!?

I graduated from the Naval Nuclear Power School before being assigned to my submarine, as well, and if falling asleep in the same rack was considered unprofessional in my Naval career on submarines and at the Naval Nuclear Power School then where would the whole “Blue Nose” and “Shellback” hazing celebrations fit in?

The two-day event (evening and day) is a ritual of reversal in which the older and experienced enlisted crew essentially takes over the ship from the officers.[citation needed] Physical assaults in keeping with the spirit of the initiation are tolerated, and even the inexperienced crew is given the opportunity to take over.[citation needed] The transition flows from established order to the controlled “chaos” of the Pollywog Revolt, the beginnings of re-order in the initiation rite as the fewer but experienced enlisted crew converts the Wogs through physical tests, then back to, and thereby affirming, the pre-established order of officers and enlisted.

The eve of the equatorial crossing is called Wog Day and, as with many other night-before rituals, is a mild type of reversal of the day to come. Wogs—all of the uninitiated—are allowed to capture and interrogate any shellbacks they can find (e.g., tying them up, cracking eggs or pouring aftershave lotion on their heads).[citation needed] The wogs are made very aware of the fact that it will be much harder on them if they do anything like this.

After crossing the line, Pollywogs receive subpoenas [2] to appear before King Neptune and his court (usually including his first assistant Davy Jones and her Highness Amphitrite and often various dignitaries, who are all represented by the highest ranking seamen), who officiate at the ceremony, which is often preceded by a beauty contest of men dressing up as women, each department of the ship being required to introduce one contestant in swimsuit drag. Afterwards, some wogs may be “interrogated” by King Neptune and his entourage, and the use of “truth serum” (hot sauce + after shave) and whole uncooked eggs put in the mouth. During the ceremony, the Pollywogs undergo a number of increasingly embarrassing ordeals (wearing clothing inside out and backwards; crawling on hands and knees on nonskid-coated decks; being swatted with short lengths of firehose; being locked in stocks and pillories and pelted with mushy fruit; being locked in a water coffin of salt-water and bright green sea dye (fluorescent sodium salt); crawling through chutes or large tubs of rotting garbage; kissing the Royal Baby’s belly coated with axle grease, hair chopping, etc.), largely for the entertainment of the Shellbacks.

Also, it was no secret pornography was passed around the submarine, but of course it was heterosexual porn so I guess that makes it “professional.” Even though I was the submarine’s Protestant Lay Reader, I figured the pornography was just part of a group of adults having to live in close quarters for a long period of time. I didn’t sweat it, and neither did anyone else.

Yes, that type of behavior is all part of being an adult sailor in the Navy, but you better NOT be caught sleeping in the same rack while watching the “Vampire Diaries,” by God! If the Navy is going to continue to try to play Nanny because they fear two gay men have fallen asleep in the same rack together then they need to stop their popular hazing rituals at sea and there needs to be zero tolerance of heterosexual pornography. Otherwise, they need to grow up, end “don’t ask don’t tell” and get back to training the sailors for service in the fleet, and stop the damned wasteful spending of tax dollars spent training valuable servicemen for the more difficult ratings then finding ridiculous reasons to punish them, or kick them out because of their ridiculous bigotry and homophobia.

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