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Navy probe: Fired commanding officer belittled sailors

NORFOLK, Va. — A Navy commanding officer was divisive, belittled his officers – often in public –and disregarded the rules when it came to himself and his command, all part of the reason he was fired earlier this year, according to a Navy investigation.

Capt. David Hunter led Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 12, a reserve unit out of Williamsburg, when it deployed to the United Arab Emirates in December. Command climate was so bad that sailors compiled a list of grievances and alerted an inspector general in January. In mid-February, Hunter and the unit’s command master chief were fired and sent back to the U.S.

An investigation into Hunter’s leadership, recently obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, did not substantiate all of the complaints against Hunter and Command Master Chief Gregory Krumholz. But it found that Hunter failed to investigate criminal or inappropriate actions – among them the solicitation of prostitutes by two married sailors in his command – publicly berated his junior officers and one time, threw command coins at his executive officer in a fit of rage.

“Capt Hunter has yelled, contradicted, belittled and humiliated many of his officers, often publicly and in front of junior personnel,” the investigating officer wrote in his report.

The report included statements indicating that at least some of his sailors had lost complete confidence in his leadership. “You do not succeed in Capt. Hunter’s world,” said one. “You survive.”

Statements described Hunter as condescending and undermining toward his sailors, and often playing his junior officers against each other: “Capt. Hunter’s style of leadership: if you pit people against each other, the harder they will work,” one statement said. “When he talks about officers, he will go through every one and tell them why they suck.”

The report found that the leadership triad – the commanding officer and his executive officer and command master chief – “do not trust, confide or work with each other.”

The investigator also substantiated other violations: Hunter failed to submit evaluations for mid-level enlisted, delaying possible promotions. He also failed to ensure that sailors had properly passed physical fitness assessments before they deployed, and the report found that a number of people should not have deployed.

Regarding his own weigh-in, the report said Hunter refused to allow the required witnesses, and when he was over by two pounds, insisted on a do-over a few days later, which he passed.

As a result of the investigation, Capt. James Hamblet, commander of Coastal Riverines Group 2, relieved Hunter of his command on Feb. 15. Hunter was found guilty of misconduct in a nonjudicial punishment hearing on March 4 and received a punitive letter of reprimand. 

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