A dozen male sailors aboard the submarine USS Wyoming are under investigation for sharing secretly recorded videos of three female officers as they undressed to enter the submarine’s showers. One of the sailors is believed to have used a cellphone to record seven videos that he shared with 11 others aboard the submarine.
A senior defense official says it is believed that three of the four female officers assigned to the ballistic missile submarine were secretly recorded by one male sailor as they undressed in a shower changing area.
The official says that seven videos were recorded on a cellphone and distributed via text among 11 other sailors, all of them petty officers. It is believed that the videos were not posted on social media sites or the internet.
The recordings were made during the submarine’s deployments in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. The use of personal communications devices in classified spaces is also being investigated as they are not allowed on board during submarines deployments, which are classified.
The investigation into the recordings and their distribution was launched in November when another sailor temporarily assigned to the USS Wyoming returned to his unit and informed his commanders of what he had seen.
“If proven true, it's certainly inappropriate sexual harassment conduct,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said today. “There's no question about that.”
He added that the alleged misconduct “runs counter to every value that we stand for in uniform.” Kirby confirmed that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was informed of the investigation as soon as it was launched.
As soon as that investigation began in November, the 12 sailors were immediately reassigned to shore duties at their home base in Kings Bay, Georgia, pending the results of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. An earlier command investigation has already concluded.
Submarines were the last of the Navy’s ships to be integrated by women mainly because of the privacy concerns that arise in tight quarters aboard the vessels which can remain submerged for months at a time.
In 2011, the Navy began a methodical process of training female officers for duty aboard submarines. Plans call for female enlisted sailors to begin serving in the submarine force by 2020.
There are currently 59 women assigned to seven submarines, 45 of whom are nuclear trained officers. They have separate berthing quarters, but share the same bathroom facilities as male officers. They post signs outside the door to indicate the showers are being used by a female officer.
“Incidents that violate the trust of our sailors go against every core value we hold sacred in our naval service,” wrote Vice Admiral Michael Conor, the commander of Submarine Forces in a Dec. 4 letter to commanders.
He wrote that they are “incredibly humiliating” to victims and break “a sacred bond between shipmates: we go to war together with the confidence that we can rely on each in ALL circumstances... and incidents of sailors victimizing other sailors represent an extreme breach of that trust!”
Conor restated the Navy’s commitment to the integration of women aboard submarines noting that it “has gone remarkably well” with the performance of all involved having been “overwhelmingly successful.”