By Michael Swaney
New information about what led up to the sacking of a Naval commander last year has been released in an official Navy report.
Capt. Danielle DeFant was removed from command of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie in October for “loss of confidence in her ability to command.”
But the recently released command investigation report revealed details about a “culture of fear” created by her during her 14 months in command.
In one reported incident, Defant grabbed a conning officer by his collar after he responded to a question she asked the officer of the deck.
At the time, the ship was conducting a moor-to-buoy operation off the San Diego coast.
On the bridge, DeFant asked out loud “Do I have safe bearing?” and the ship’s conning officer responded that she did.
After grabbing his collar, she pulled him close and whispered, “was I talking to you … You’re not the [OOD] … I was talking to the OOD … don’t ever interrupt me again.”
Sailors told the Navy’s investigator they felt they had to “walk on eggshells” and described her yelling so loud it could be heard on the ship from behind closed doors.
“Captain DeFant’s behavior consisting of yelling, profanity, and public admonishments has contributed to a culture of fear onboard,” the investigation states.
In another reported incident, when a Sailor attempted to answer her question by first explaining the
situation, she said she didn’t need his “mansplaining.”
One officer told investigations she constantly bullied them with scoldings but the Navy found no paper trail of performance issues or suggested counseling for the officer.
“The excessive nature of Capt. DeFant’s reprimands exceeded a reasonable standard for correcting professional deficiencies or providing constructive feedback to improve performance,” the investigation notes. “In the opinion of the investigating officer, Capt. DeFant’s actions exceeded any proper military purpose and were belittling and humiliating.”
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