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Navy chief petty officer to face punishment in hazing
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Navy chief petty officer to face punishment in hazing

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

The former leader of a bomb-sniffing dog unit in Bahrain, Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint, has been removed from his current position and forced to retire after the Navy reviewed allegations of sexual harassment against a Gay sailor.

Additionally, the Navy announced Toussaint would receive a letter of censure and be subject to retirement pay-grade determinations, which, depending on severity, could greatly affect his retirement pay.

Last month, SGN reported the Navy decided to review its investigation of more than 90 hazing incidents that took place between 2004 and 2006 in a Military Working Dog Division at Naval Security Force, Bahrain.

Joseph Rocha said he left the Navy in 2007 by telling his commander he was Gay because he no longer wanted to endure the hazing. By telling his command of his sexuality, he was in direct violation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military's policy prohibiting Gays and Lesbians to serve in the armed forces. He was discharged thereafter.

According Rocha, he was tied to a chair and left in a dog kennel, hosed down while in uniform and forced to simulate oral sex on another sailor. Rocha said his sexuality came into question when he refused to sleep with prostitutes when other men in his unit did. Due to the hazing he endured, a Veteran Affairs doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

After Rocha shared his story with the media, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, directed the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to conduct additional interviews with Navy personnel who were in Bahrain. After reviewing the original investigation, Roughead "found that the incidents were not in keeping with Navy values and standards and violated the Navy's long-standing prohibition against hazing."

Rocha, now a student at the University of San Diego, said the Navy's actions towards Toussaint send a message that "this kind of leadership is not acceptable in our military."

"I think it's a phenomenal step in the right direction," Rocha said. "I think that it will have lasting implications, for sure, especially as we approach a vote on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

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