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No Accountability

Throughout my Coast Guard career, I observed a number of cases where no accountability caused me and my unit a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress and general bother.  For some reason, there are people who believe that the best way to deal with a problem is to transfer it away.  I am quite proud to say that I was never stationed at such a unit.  At every unit I was at, when someone became a problem, we addressed it.

Since these were personnel matters, I can’t use real names, but if anything, I am “watering down” the effect that these people had on my unit at the time.  The worst part of each case was that someone at a previous unit knew the person was a problem yet instead of addressing the issue, transferred the problem to me.  In each case, the people responsible were never held accountable for their actions.

One of the things that I am most proud of regarding my career is that I never transferred a problem away, I dealt with it; that is, I finished the job.  When I took over at MSO Huntington, my predecessor was actually quite distraught that he was leaving me with a reservist that he and the Executive Officer were in the process of removing from the Coast Guard for fraud.  I understood his concerns as I didn’t like leaving things hanging either, but as I got more involved I came to understand that sometime the entire system encourages this behavior.  I will go into more detail later.  I credit that to my time on the Ironwood and especially to my first Executive Officer, Bill Weidenhoft.  While Bill and I might not have seen eye to eye on some things, he impressed upon me the importance of taking care of this type of issue.  We never transferred a problem away on the Ironwood.

My first experience with this was with a Third Class Quartermaster on the USCGC Ironwood.  He had spent several years in the Navy as a Quartermaster and left the Navy as a QM2.  He was a great guy but had no business on a cutter like the Ironwood.  I almost felt bad about busting him.  We found out that he had been stationed on a carrier and his billet for the entire time was after steering.

At one unit, we got a Petty Officer that had pulled on gun on another crewmember at a previous unit.  Nothing was done at the unit level and they just passed him along to us.  Needless to say it put us in a difficult position as the guy was very close to retirement.  I am happy to report that we found a place for him to get him to the finish.  Sadly, we (the Coast Guard) let him go so long without getting the help he really needed.

At another unit, I had to deal with a Petty Officer that we really did a job on. The whole story makes me want to puke.  The guy had been a Second Class Photojournalists Mate in the Navy.  He got out and sold cars for a while before coming back into the Coast Guard.  We must have been hard up in those days to take in a guy like him.  Of course, he had to take a reduction to E-3 to join the Coast Guard.  He was initially assigned to a Medium Endurance Cutter in Virginia where the best I can tell was completely worthless.  Here’s where the puking part comes in; in order to get rid of the guy some of the people on the cutter decided that the best way was to promote him to E-4.  Based on the very positive (and completely false) evaluations they did on the guy he was able to get an assignment as a BM3 on an inland buoy tender.  Well, the guy was totally lost on a buoy deck.  The Officer in Charge of the cutter thought he just needed some time.  After some time it became evident that he was really clueless.  As I can attest from personal experience there is absolutely no slack cut on buoy tenders.  The guy was at his wits end when he started to have some suicidal ideation.  The cutter did the right thing and got him into a facility for evaluation.  While he was in the facility he “documented” everything that was wrong with the cutter.  For whatever reason, the Group Commander sided with the BM3 and made life miserable for cutter command.  He ended up at my unit.  I took an instant disliking to the guy.  When I found out about his background I was furious.  Of course the guy was a complete faker but I had to put him through “the system” including having him evaluated at a Naval Hospital.  Here’s where it really gets bad.  While the Coast Guard dicked around the guy genuinely developed a legitimate problem with his feet.  To make it worse, he had surgery at a military hospital and they botched the procedure leaving him genuinely disabled.  The bottom line is that he received a disability rating not for his fake mental problems but for his foot issues.

Of course, the guy should have never even made it to the buoy tender. 

At another unit, I dealt with a couple problem people, Petty Officer and a Reservist whose name escapes me.  The Petty Officer suffered from a disease that should have precluded him from even enlisting.  As soon as it was discovered he should have been discharged no questions asked.  What happened instead is that he was transferred to my unit.  We were very generous with the guy and cut him a ton of slack.  Of course we did have to discharge him.

All of these cases shouldn’t have ever happened.  They only happened because someone further back dropped the ball.  Of course who was left holding the bag – the next unit.

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