Sub commander violated military's criminal code, Navy says
The Day, New London, Conn.
Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II violated the military's criminal code by having an eight-month affair with a 23-year-old Virginia woman and faking his death as a means of ending it, the Navy said today.
Ward, who led the Groton-based USS Pittsburgh for one week, violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice articles on dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming of an officer and adultery, Rear Admiral Richard P. Breckenridge, commander of Submarine Group Two, determined at an admiral's mast.
Ward received a punitive letter of reprimand. He is assigned to administrative duties at the submarine group.
Ward's deception and dishonesty in developing, maintaining and attempting to end the relationship were "egregious" and inconsistent with the Navy's expectations of an officer, especially one entrusted with command of a naval warship and its crew, Capt. Vernon Parks, commander of Submarine Development Squadron 12 in Groton, wrote in a memo concurring with the findings of the command's investigation into Ward's personal misconduct.
A copy of the investigation was obtained by The Day today following a Freedom of Information Act request. Both Ward and the woman gave similar accounts of their relationship to investigators, the report said.
The woman spoke with The Day when Ward was relieved of command of the Pittsburgh and provided copies of text messages and emails from Ward, as well as photos. She said "wow" several times as a reporter told her the contents of the report Tuesday. She had not yet seen it.
"What a mess. I'm glad the report doesn't have my name in it and that he, at least, owned up to everything, but wow," said the Chesapeake, Va., woman, who does not want to be identified because she does not want to jeopardize her career in the banking industry.
She said she has not had any contact with Ward since immediately after he was relieved. Ward waived his rights prior to his interview and submitted a written statement.
They met on a dating website in October. Ward, 43, who is married with children, told her he was separated and that he worked in "special ops," she said.
They saw each other during the week while he attended the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk and spent a weekend together in Williamsburg, Va., in November, the report said. They spoke over the phone and emailed through June.
On July 6, in an effort to end the relationship, Ward sent an email from a fictitious co-worker, Bob, who claimed that Ward unexpectedly died.
"He asked me to contact you if this ever happened," the email says. "I am extremely sorry to tell you that he is gone. We tried everything we could to save him. I cannot say more. I am sorry it has to be this way."
The email goes on to say, "He loved you very much."
She drove with her sister and mother to Ward's house in Burke, Va., three days later to pay her respects and learned from the new owner that Ward was alive and had moved to Connecticut to take command of a submarine.
She became ill, was hospitalized, and learned she was pregnant, the report said. Ward met with her in late July when he was in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to handle the pregnancy.
She later lost the baby and the relationship ended in July, it said.
At the admiral's mast, Ward received nonjudicial punishment, which is a disciplinary measure more serious than administrative corrective measures but less serious than a trial by court martial.
Cmdr. Michael Savageaux, who led the submarine before Ward assumed command Aug. 3, is in charge of the submarine until a permanent relief can be found. Ward, who lives in Gales Ferry, could not be reached for comment today on his cell phone. He previously declined to comment on the matter.
The woman said she is moving on, but will be much more cautious in choosing who she dates next.
"I feel better. Things have been really good for me at work and my family has been very supportive," she said. "I'm trying to just get over him and what happened. It's not going to happen overnight by any means."