Monday, May 15, 2017

How Often Do Regrets Bring Action?

We all know a few givens in our Navy that we accept as part of the landscape. One is that the military justice system, as any human institution, is imperfect. It is only as fair and impartial as the people who hold the levers of power.

As we all wear the uniform - judge, jury, & defendant - we hope that in the end the right thing will be done for the right reasons.

Along the lines of the saying, "Ship, Shipmate, Self" we know that often we have to put ourselves, or others in the service, second to the mission. This mindset, by accident or intention, can and is abused. It should apply to the operational side of the house. Going to sea to do the nations bidding, etc. Like the abuse of "personal loyalty to the commander" it can be used at inappropriate times by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. It is rare, but it happens and you have to keep an eye out for such possible instances.  

When it comes to putting the "ship" and mission first, who decides what the "mission" is? Was it a necessary sacrifice, and when does it become a waste of human life or a career for base or selfish reasons that have questionable operational gains?

When do we tilt towards our Sailors vs. the service? What is motivating our decisions? The mission, justice, or something else?

It is a gift when answers are clear in black and white. More often than not, you are somewhere in between.

Nowhere is this quandary so acute than for those in command. I know of no one who has had significant positions of responsibility who does not, in one way or another, live under a shadow of regret for one decision or another. It is just one of the things that comes with the job.

Different people deal with regret in different ways. Those on the far end of the sociopathic scale have no regrets, others on the far end of the empathetic scale are haunted day and night by regret and the ghosts it brings with it.

Most just live with it. What you don't see as often is the exceptional act of moral courage to try to take action on a regret while there is still some time to do something about it and make amends in some way.

It is easy if that act goes along with the flow of the zeitgeist or popular opinion at the now - but what if your actions to address your regret go in the face of all currents? If it goes against your own self interest?

All weekend I have been thinking about Rowan Scarborough's article that came out Friday. I'd like to know more, but right now we should be of two minds; one of admiration to RADM Patrick J. Lorge, USN (Ret.) for taking action on a regret, and second an unsettled rage at the apparent politicization of our criminal justice system.

Any criminal record is a life changing event - but being convicted of sexual assault marks you more than anything but murder or rape.

You better get it right.

I'll let you read the full article for the details, but ... wow ...
A retired admiral is accusing the highest levels of the Navy legal corps at the Pentagon of improperly interfering in the case of a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of sexual assault. 
Retired Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge charges in a May 5 signed affidavit that the then-judge advocate general of the Navy and her deputy tried to persuade him not to exonerate the sailor because it would be bad public relations for the Navy and hurt Mr. Lorge’s career. 
The extraordinary charges from Mr. Lorge go to the very top of the Navy legal system and throw into question whether a sailor can get a fair trial in the politically charged atmosphere of military sex assault cases.
Mr. Lorge’s May 5 affidavit says he served as convening authority overseeing Chief Barry’s court-marital. A military judge — Capt. Bethany L. Payton-O’Brien — convicted Chief Barry in October 2014 of a sexual assault charge and sentenced him to a dishonorable discharge and three years in prison. Mr. Lorge reviewed the verdict in 2015 during the clemency phase.

Mr. Lorge said he came to believe that there was insufficient evidence to convict and wanted to overturn the verdict. His staff judge advocate advisers tried to talk him out of it. Failing, they then brought in the Navy’s powerhouse admirals to talk him out of it.

Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, then judge advocate general of the Navy, talked to him in his office.

“She conveyed the importance that the convening authorities held and how tenuous the ability of an operational commander to act as a covering authority had become, especially in findings or sentences in sexual assault cases due to the intense pressure on the military at the time,” Mr. Lorge recalls. “She mentioned that every three or four months military commanders were making court-martial decisions that got questioned by Congress and other political and military leaders, including the president. This conversation reinforced my perception of the political pressures the Navy faced at the time.”

He then spoke by telephone with Vice Adm. James Crawford III, then Adm. DeRenzi’s deputy and the current judge advocate general of the Navy.

He did not recall the specifics, but a defense attorney who was apparently present said Adm. Crawford told Mr. Lorge that overturning the conviction would end Mr. Lorge’s career.

Mr. Lorge retired later that year, as scheduled.
This is powerful action on regret.
“Upon my review of the record of trial from this case, I did not find that the government proved the allegation against Senior Chief Barry beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Lorge wrote. “Absent the pressures described above, I would have disapproved the findings in this case.”

In a direct message to the appellate judges, Mr. Lorge said: “On a personal note, I would ask you to forgive my failure in leadership and right the wrong that I committed in this case against Senior Chief Barry; ensure justice prevails and when doubt exists, allow a man to remain innocent.”
Again, read it all.

You may also recognize the name DeRenzi. We've seen her here before.

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