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NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The base commander in Rota has taken administrative action against sailors involved in a skit performed during a chief petty officer initiation function that included a phallic-shaped device.

Capt. John Orem, commander of U.S. forces at the Spanish base, called the incident “an error in judgment.”

“Shortly after it happened, it became painfully obvious to those in attendance that this was inappropriate and we needed to take corrective action, and that was done,” he said.

He would not say whom he took action against, what type of action he took or how many sailors received blame for the Sept. 9 incident. Administrative action is considered nonpunitive and can include such measures as counseling or a written reprimand.

The incident happened during an initiation, or “transition,” event for the dozen first-class petty officers on base selected for promotion to chief. Many chief petty officers from commands around the base attended.

The device was shown at the beginning and end of one of the skits, according to a Navy source familiar with the investigation.

Master Chief Petty Officer Dave Zegers, the base’s command master chief, told Orem what happened shortly after the function. Orem ordered an investigation and postponed the Sept. 15 pinning ceremony until its completion.

The sailors were to be symbolically promoted Wednesday evening at the base theater. The official promotion will happen later.

“It was inappropriate,” Orem said of the incident. “It was not something we would expect to see at a school play. It was not something we would expect to see with your mother in the audience. It is not something that is acceptable in any public or professional forum and it occurred.”

First-class petty officers selected to the rank of chief volunteer to go through the traditional initiation process. The weeks leading to the emotional pinning ceremony is intended to educate chief-selects on teamwork, leadership and Navy values. Over the years, the once-raucous initiation process has become more structured and education oriented.

Ironically, the incident in Rota this month might help the chiefs “understand adversity a little bit better,” Orem said.

“The point that when they became chief petty officers tonight, they will better understand how to deal with adversity and how to be more effective and stronger chief petty officers as they lead their people and develop the chief petty officers behind them,” he said.

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