Navy to oust chief petty officer involved in Bahrain hazing scandal

Print Date: 
October 21, 2009
The Virginia-Pilot Online
Kate Wiltrout
The senior chief petty officer at the center of a scandal over sexually provocative hazing and abuse of junior sailors in Bahrain will be forced to retire in January, a Navy official said today.

Senior Chief Michael Toussaint, a dog handler assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 in Virginia Beach, has also received a letter of censure from the Secretary of the Navy. The letter will become part of his permanent military record, said Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

Smith said Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, canceled Toussaint’s enlistment extension, which will force him to leave active duty and retire in January. He won’t necessarily be able to retire as a senior chief: Navy officials ordered that he be subject to “retirement pay grade determination,” in which the secretary of the Navy will decide at what pay grade he may retire. Smith could not speculate on what that might mean, except to say that it “has the potential to significantly impact Senior Chief Toussaint's retirement pay.”

The announcement follows Roughead’s decision last month to re-examine the handling of an investigation into hazing and abusive behavior at a Navy dog-handling unit in Bahrain in 2005 and 2006. Toussaint commanded the dog handlers and kennel until March 2006.

A command investigation completed in January 2007 substantiated more than 90 instances of abuse, including sailors being forcing to simulate homosexual oral sex in training videos, being force-fed dog treats and being locked in a kennel. Toussaint, who sailors said ordered many of the actions, had already transferred to another job and subsequently was promoted.

The woman who took his place, Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Valdivia, took her own life in Bahrain after she was notified that she had been implicated in the investigation.

The earlier investigation and Toussaint’s subsequent promotion came to light this summer. Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha, one of the sailors subjected to the abuse, later left the Navy after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder related to the hazing. Rocha said he was often singled out for being gay after refusing to hire prostitutes.

He eventually acknowledged being gay and left the Navy. He is now using his story to advocate for the repeal of the so-called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military.