Defense officials are investigating videos that have surfaced of three undressed female officers assigned to the submarine USS Wyoming. It is believed one of the male sailors on board used a cellphone to capture the footage.
ABC News reported a dozen male sailors have been accused of secretly sharing the videos of the female officers undressing as they entered the submarine’s showers. The women were in the shower changing area when the recordings were taken.
The men, all petty officers, shared the seven videos via text messages on their cellphones. At this time, investigators do not think the recordings were posted on the Internet or any social media sites.
The investigation began in November after a sailor temporarily assigned to the submarine returned to his unit. He informed his superiors that he was aware of the videos and their distribution amongst the petty officers on the USS Wyoming.
Once the investigation launched, the twelve sailors were immediately reassigned to shore duties. They are currently working at their home base, awaiting the results of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“If proven true, it’s certainly inappropriate sexual harassment conduct,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. “There’s no question about that.” He added that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was made aware of the situation as soon the investigation started.
Four women officers are currently serving on the USS Wyoming. There are a total of 59 women presently assigned to seven submarines. In 2011, the Navy began training female officers to work aboard submarines, a move that had been previously dismissed due to the lack of privacy in the tight quarters of the vessel.
The women officers have separate quarters but have to share the same bathroom as male officers. When one of them are using the showers, a sign is posted outside the door letting male sailors know not to enter.
“Incidents that violate the trust of our sailors go against every core value we hold sacred in our naval services,” Vice Admiral Michael Conor, the commander of Submarine Forces, wrote in a December 4 letter. He restated the Navy’s commitment to the integration of women aboard submarines, noting that it “has gone remarkably well” with the performance of all involved having been “overwhelmingly successful.”
The recordings of the three female officers were taken during the USS Wyoming’s deployment in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2104. Besides the investigation into the videos, authorities are also looking into the use of the cellphones on board the submarine. Personal communication devices in classified spaces are a violation and they are not allowed on the submarine vessels during deployments.