A punishing fitness report


The Naval Inspector General has determined that a junior officer who accused his command of giving him anti-gay call signs was improperly punished with a bad fitness report when he complained about the environment in his squadron. The Pentagon IG agreed.

The new findings substantiate Ensign Steve Crowston’s claim of reprisal by Cmdr. Liam Bruen, former commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 136 out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.

Bruen, who transferred last summer to the Bremerton, Wash.-based carrier John C. Stennis as its the operations officer, has been temporarily reassigned to the staff of Naval Air Force Pacific “pending the outcome of the investigation,” Navy spokesman Lt. Myers Vasquez told Navy Times. A copy of the reprisal investigation has been forwarded to his chain of command aboard Stennis “for corrective action as they deem appropriate,” Vasquez said.

Crowston told the IG that Bruen and the unit’s then-executive officer, Cmdr. Damien Christopher, were in the unit’s ready room during an August 2009 all-officer review of squadron call signs, when Crowston was presented with suggestions such as “Fagmeister,” “Gay Boy” and the group’s final choice, “Romo’s Bitch” — a reference to the quarterback of Crowston’s favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys. Crowston was the squadron’s administration/legal officer.

Christopher is now the now commanding officer of the unit, which flies F/A-18 Super Hornets and is deployed aboard the Norfolk-based carrier Enterprise. The Naval IG’s finding concerned only the officer who wrote the fitrep, Vasquez said.

Crowston, who is assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 at Little Creek, Va., will not disclose his sexuality, saying he feels it isn’t relevant and that his concerns are for what he considers to be inappropriate workplace harassment.

Two additional Naval IG investigations remain in progress, Vasquez said. One is looking at the original IG complaint Crowston filed with Naval Air Force Atlantic, which alleged open anti-gay bias and a hostile work environment at the squadron, as well as various administrative violations. The other is examining AIRLANT’s conduct of its investigation, which substantiated four of 19 allegations. Crowston claims that the AIRLANT IG, Beverly Bilger, told him that she knew Bruen and told Bruen he’d been named.


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  1. Ensign Steve Crowston sounds like a crybaby. You have to be able to “take and give” some kidding (like we all had to in the Navy). One of the first “tests” any junior officer is up against is holding his own in the wardroom, if he can’t, he immediately looses respect of his fellow officers and the “labels” then stick, he he throws it back at them then the “labels” don’t stick, everyone has a laugh and moves on. His actions only prove that his skin isn’t thick enough so maybe he should find employment at a nail spa or someplace like that, something more suitable for his character.

  2. Rick, I would agree with you if we were just talking about kidding among junior officers, but that’s not what this was. When the CO and XO are involved, it becomes something different. Besides, I think the CO’s actions in retaliating against Crowston demonstrated that he was at least as thin-skinned. And at the end of the day, I’m a lot less worried about a thin-skinned O-1 than I am a thin-skinned O-5 in command. I expect the O-5 to have better judgment.

  3. hey Chris, one doesn’t get to the rank of 0-5 by being stupid or having “poor judgment” as you infer. Perhaps the CO was correct all along. If this skipper tried to derails someone’s career for no good reason it wouldn’t come out earlier, there is a paper trail. Perhaps there is more to this ensign’s performance than we know or what they are telling us. A skipper can’t give someone a bad fit rep simply because he doesn’t like that person, it would show up (especially if the JO was a good performer prior). Secondly, the standards for judging an officer are much higher then judging an enlisted man, so comparing his enlisted fit reps to his officer fit reps isn’t a valid comparison, officers are held to much higher standards. The Ensign’s judgment is obviously very poor, instead of talking to the CO/XO about his fit rep and finding out what he needed to do to correct things, he went over his chain of command and went crying to the I.G. office. A real officer/man wouldn’t do that, he would take his lumps and “improve” his performance. Would you want this ensign serving under you if you were the CO? I didn’t think so.

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