Navy report finds preferential treatment on Ponce


The Navy commander who was fired in April from her position as skipper of the Norfolk-based amphibious ship Ponce gave preferential treatment to female officers and repeatedly put her crew's safety at risk, according to an investigation report released Wednesday.

Cmdr. Etta Jones, who took command of the transport dock in October 2010, was removed while the ship was on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea. The Navy took action after a member of the crew submitted an anonymous complaint alleging that Jones also verbally abused and demeaned subordinates, failed to report incidents of hazing, and mishandled the ship, various safety procedures and a loaded weapon.

The investigation report, obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act, says all of those allegations were found to be true.

It says there was a widespread perception among the Ponce's officers that Jones favored women. She gave certain female officers better watch schedules, allowed them to miss watches, failed to reprimand them for violations, invited them to her stateroom for special meetings and movie nights, allowed them to use her car while in port, and bought them gifts, the report says.

"Her preferential treatment caused the recipients to be uncomfortable and created a divide in the wardroom between those favored and those who were not," the report says.

It says she verbally abused and degraded other officers by calling them names, sometimes in front of enlisted sailors. Male officers told investigators that Jones threatened to defecate on them or tie their testicles in knots if they failed to perform according to her standards.

On numerous occasions, the report says, Jones directed sailors to engage in unsafe ship-handling procedures that clearly went against standards. Other times, she distracted officers at critical times.

The report offers an example: "While navigating the Suez Canal at night with heavy shipping traffic, the C.O. came to the bridge and ordered the [officer of the deck] to explain why her laptop computer had been closed."

The report states that when officers tried to explain that Jones' directions weren't safe, she "would ignore the advice and direct that her orders be carried out."

The report details one especially egregious incident that took place on April 13, after a member of the crew reported a suspicious package that was quickly determined to be a harmless training aid. Though Jones knew it was a false alarm, the report says, she was angry she hadn't been notified of the training, so she ordered the ship to remain at a heightened state of alert with weapons at the ready.

She went to her stateroom to retrieve her 9 mm sidearm from its safe. When two sailors reported to her stateroom, she pointed the gun at them and then gestured with it in her hand. "The C.O. then set the weapon on her desk and told [the sailors] that she is 'old school' and wanted to keep the gun 'locked and ready to go.' "

She told the sailors to take her gun to the armory to clear it, and when one of them picked it up, he realized that the safety had been off the whole time.

The Ponce's then-executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Boenisch, was also removed from the ship in April. The investigation found that he failed to correct or report Jones' misbehavior and also failed to thoroughly investigate allegations of misconduct by other officers aboard.

Jones directed questions to her attorney, Grover Baxley, who did not return a phone call Wednesday night.

Corinne Reilly, (757) 446-2949, corinne.reilly@pilotonline.com


Ponce (2) FOIA 12-015[1] Ponce (3) FOIA 12-015

Posted to: Military Norfolk

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"Old School"? Hardly

I observed this type of thing happening back in the 80's and 90's at Naval Station Norfolk. The "Political Correctness" environment in the military precludes people like this froom being reported, and when they are reported, it is often ignored or covered up. For example: the Fort Hood shooter. Political Correctness is a dangerous ideology.

Psychological Profile

I have not been in the Navy, but wonder, do they check how a prospective Captain's brain ticks before they turn over a ship of war to them? Maybe the Navy did its best, and caught this before someone was injured. But, if she had a track record of this kind of behavior, how did she move forward. The story doesn't say, but why is she having movie nights with other females that made them uncomfortable? Is she soliciting homosexual encounters? That is just wrong on many levels...don't ask, don't tell, right?


I agree. This is the EXACT same question I asked my husband. HOW did she get to be put in command of a ship when it was just an accident waiting to happen. In this case, it is obvious that the "don't ask" wouldn't be necessary. I guess she had good paper yet the boards for command didn't consider much more than that. I believe that everyone should have a fair shake but when it is blatantly obvious that with her being given command of a ship, her superiors needed to be excessively diligent about watching the goings on onboard and assessing them regularly. Does ANYONE ever consider the crew that these prospective CO's are going to be leading? PCO's will be responsible for every aspect of the lives of their crew. This type of behavior shoots the

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I just can't figure out why

I just can't figure out why she would give females preferential treatment.(:


I was wondering the same thing. Bewildering isnt it?

read the enclosures and am flabbergasted that this

happened by a CO. Is this an April Fool's joke? Or maybe the script for a second Caine Mutiny movie? Wish I did not read it.

I have had similar exp like the wrestling events, heck my shop, we would have royal rumbles with upwards of 8 guys jumping on each other. We thought it was fun. Hazing, never a thought. Based on this, my whole workcenter would have been to mast and my divo reprimanded cause he never stopped it.

He would also hit us with his ring. We looked at it as a badge of honor for him to hit us. It meant we were doing right. I know warped, but we wanted it from him. We did not see it as anything but pride as well. To report it, never. To fondly remember it, sure. Guess thats gone from the Navy now.


"we would have royal rumbles with upwards of 8 guys jumping on each other. We thought it was fun", "He would also hit us with his ring. We looked at it as a badge of honor for him to hit us."
I do not what ship you served on, but the homoerotic, sado-masochistic antics sounds kind of weird to me.

Since I have accused the pilot of not providing information

about a story that they had or write with a bias, I have to write that the Pilot did act in a journalistic manner with this story. You provided the facts and reported the incident. Thank you.

Make a movie

At least she didn't make a movie about it and run in on CCTV. Then she would have really been in deep do-do. I am surprised that the Navy actually fired her considering how PC the military has become but my guess is this story isn't over and some org. like GLAAD or the ACLU will step in to carry the gay flag of fairness.

Make a movie

At least she didn't make a movie about it and run in on CCTV. Then she would have really been in deep do-do. I am surprised that the Navy actually fired her considering how PC the military has become but my guess is this story isn't over and some org. like GLAAD or the ACLU will step in to carry the gay flag of fairness.

My question is:

How in the world did she ever make it to Commander in the US Navy in the first place. She should have had fitness reports on her from other commands that should have bought to light some of her tendencies.

Two Words

Political Correctness.

She did not develop these behaviors and attitudes on the day she took command. Bad behavior is swept under the rug for "some".

Considering how PC the military has become, she must have been particularly atrocious for this to have even come to light.

How did she get promoted? Easy

No CO wants to "Toast" another officers career, especially a female, over "Minor" leadership and judgement traits. It is far easier to inflate a fitness report and roll with the flow than to be the one to put a stop to a career. Multiply this navy wide and there you see the problem. Gone are the days of accurate reporting.

Don't ask, Don't tell

She was too busy,getting busy with the other ladies on the love boat to worry about Ship command stuff and safety.

Don't ask-Don't tell

That comment about Don't ask - Don't tell is way out of place, you are a narrow minded Bigot for even saying such a thing. This was a poor leader, a poor ship handler and a person who showed poor judgement. NOTHING suggests that she was involved in a relationship with ANY MEMBER of her crew. Your remark was way off base.

You gotta be kidding

You'll have to squeeze your eyelids real tight, scream la la la at the top of your lungs, and climb up to the top of your little PC precipice if you don't want to step in the homosexuality that's oozing from this story.


If that were a male skipper inviting all females to his stateroom for movie night, giving them gifts, letting them drive his car, just imagine what this story would be....lol


Thank you for a good chuckle this morning! You hit it right on the head! :o)

Please don't insult us ...

Please don't insult us with your "Don't Ask Don't Tell" rhetoric. You don't even have to try real hard with your eyes squeezed shut. This report is rampant with this behavior between the women; here are only a couple of examples:

Page 16 Line 111 ''Two female officers ... had been kissing on the pier."

Page 16 Line 114 ''The CO was present ... and was in the vicinity of the inappropriate behavior."

head in the sand

Anyone who says that wasn’t the first thought that came to their mind when they say her picture is lying. If they managed to PC that thought to the background, the article made it pop right back up.


It doesn't take a narrow-minded bigot to put 2 and 2 together here. I was active duty for 13 years and am married to an active-duty 30+ year Navy man. You are just not allowing yourself to view the reality here and are sitting on the throne of political correctness. Anyone who has any idea of true navy life knows what was happening here. I would bet if she was former enlisted she came from the security department!

Where was the Command Master Chief?

None of this would have happened if the chain of command operated correctly. Where was the CMC? Was he afraid the CO would give him a bad evaluation? What could she have done to the Master Chief for doing his job? It is his JOB to look after the crew. Why was this not reported to the ISIC. Something was wrong in the whole C-of-C to allow this to happen for as long as it did.

CMC was probobly with the XO.....Afraid

I would venture to the following guess based on what I've seen of the P.C. minefield the DoD has become:

The CMC and the XO have invested a lot of years in the navy and are close to retirement or not wanting to get passed over for promotion in an era of threatened military cutbacks.

An EO complaint (Equal Opportunity) would pretty much end their careers.

The CO is one of a few female Commanding Officers - a situation which includes an implied threat of an EO complaint for any criticism.

Do I need to connect the dots or can you see the picture?

Disabling the mechanism that protects crews from unqualified superiors is nothing new, as is the FEAR of talking about it.


I hear what you are saying but I disagree. The Command Master Chief has reached his pinnacle of success. He was put into that position based on his years of experience in leadership and education. He cannot be fired for doing his sworn job of advising the CO of crew matters. If he and the XO were afraid of PC fallout then both of them needed replacing. Anyway you cut it the CMC let the command down.

Here We Go Again

More navy scandal.

What she did was appalling and I'm glad they've taken action but it seems, at least to me, that what she did isn't much different than what has always taken place in the navy. Arrogance and mistreatment seems to be tradition.

The navy has much to be proud of but unfortunately the 'I'm a higher rank than you so I get to mistreat and kick you around' mentality is bringing them down.

I Thought I Was Reading A Chapter

of the Caine Mutiny (as a previous writer alluded). Very bizarre behavior for a senior officer screened for command at sea. This is a very rigorious process...you just don't do the things the CO is alledged to have done...very strange! Her chain of command must have heard rumors on the waterfront; these things do get out - people talk.


What makes you think it's rigorious today? The navy is probably like local fire and police departments... Told to fill bodies with people of certain race and gender and to hell with their qualifications to be in that position. It's a shame what we have allowed this country to turn into.

This article is just one of many

that the VP has been uncovering. If not for their work, we would not be aware of these situations. The more they are publicized, the more awareness there will be for others to step up and advise of unsafe superiors when at sea. Thanks VP.

This is where the Navy is going

...and all other government agencies...all in the name of diversity. Promote the lesser qualified while suppressing those who are qualified.

Expect a lot more of this.

And EVERYWHERE!! Qualified

And EVERYWHERE!! Qualified has nothing to do with things anymore.

"The CO came to the bridge ... '

"While navigating the Suez Canal at night with heavy shipping traffic, the C.O. came to the bridge ... "

Unless it was for a very brief head call, the CO should not have been OFF the bridge under those circumstances.

exactly what I thought

Not on the bridge for a Suez canal transit? She should be fired for that alone! That is completely irresponsible for a CO.

True But....

From the sound of things the ship was probably in better hands without her. I'm sure glad I'm long retired and had Command before all this new and exciting stuff in our modern Navy.

Let's be clear...

If you're in the military or government, you're not allowed to file EO complaints against black people or any female. You will be charged with filing a false complaint. If you file an EO against a black female, you will be dismissed. Fact.

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She was showing more favor to her girlfriends...

It is a shame to ruin a career ...

Not that it really matters, but I think that it
is a shame she was messing around like that and
got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Girls will be
girls, but someone of her rank knows better. She had
everything going for her in a male dominated job, and has
ruined an otherwise good career and reputation.

I wonder....

….if this woman knows her conduct was wrong.

More info ?

What is her position now? Is she still a commissioned officer or did she give up her commission? If she is out of the Navy, will she still receive her pension?

Some people are not meant to be leaders

Unless you have served in the military you probably have no idea how much time is taking away from training to fight in order to deal with administrative and criminal handling of fraternization, sexual misconduct, and harassment.

I'm sorry to hear that

If you're right that doesn't say much for our military personnel.


An example of power abuse to where she thought she was untouchable. A CO who fails to treat all equal during peace time will fail during war time.
I prasie the crew for not putting up with it. I hope the memory for being relieved of command from a naval vessel will remain on her mind for the rest of her existance. It a once in a life time opportunity and she did not know how to handle it. She has committed the ultimate failure of a naval officer. ENC(SW) RETIRED 22 YEARS OF SERVICE.

Three questions

How many COs have been dismissed this year? How many commanding officers have been dismissed in other branches of the service this year? How in the world is our military allowing such people to become officers in the first place?

It is becoming more and more apparent that something is lacking in the way leadership training and evaluation is being done. This woman should never have obtained command and her XO shouldn't have been appointed to his position either.

Not surprising--the preferential treatment

Generally, women will favor women, men will favor men, blacks will favor blacks, Asians will favor Asians, whites will favor whites, Jews will favor Jews, evangelicals will favor evangelicals.

Specific exceptions occur, of course, among the fair-minded, or those threatened by competition from their own, but that's not keeping with human nature.

Those who are members of minorities (such as females in the military) can be worse b/c they are constantly told how they need "a little extra" to get ahead in the system run by their opposites. Affirmative action institutionalizes this discrimination.

Watch what happens (or is already happening) in a system where the former minority becomes the majority, with power. Equality goes out the window.

Somebody said that the CMC

Somebody said that the CMC didn't do his job in this case. But from what I have heard, in cases like this, the CMC is usually disciplined also, and since the CMC of this ship wasn't investigated, that tells me that he did his job the best he could under very difficult circumstances. The Navy is better off without her. Hopefully this matter can be a wakeup call to other women, if you want the job of CO, you have to be able to do the job without bullying and harrassing the men in your command. To avoid this kind of fallout, you need to work harder than the men and do the job twice as well, that will give you the respect of the crew you are in charge of.

Women do not need to work twice as hard or twice as well

to get the respect of the crew. Any commander, regardless of gender, who works hard and looks out for the best interest of the ship and crew, will have the crew's respect.

reading the document it does look like the CMC was investigated

I see things in these reports that address the role of the CMC. The CMC did work to protect the crew and the ship. This was a no win situation for anyone on that ship.

I do not believe this is a woman thing. There have been male COs who went this way as well. A DE skipper off Nam acted like this, he lost his command in 100 days I think it was.

What this demonstrates is there is a lot of training happening in the Navy, but not a lot of learning for this to have happened at a CO level. I fear it will only get worse. Why? because the officer core is losing it and the Chief's mess has been PCed out of their job of training JO. Both groups are looking for the easy way out, and this is a result. Its gonna take 20 years to fix, if ever.

It is saying

that some people will put an adverse sexual connotation on anything involving women in authority.
That being said, I must agree that she should probably have been relieved earlier. As for the failure of the then XO to discipline her I can't believe that is factual. Report her, yes. Please explain how a subordinate can discipline a superior officer!


I have, on more than one occasion, "corrected" the CO; sometimes immediately, if not urgent in private. It is called "forceful backup" and is required of every subordinate by his supervisor and by the CO of his crew in writing (CO Standing Orders). The XO was either complicit, afraid or oblivious; none are acceptable in someone who is in line for command.

My bad

I stand corrected. I misread it as disciplined rather than corrected.
I still stand by the first part of my comment, however.

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Capt Queeg?

"There are four ways of doing things...the right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way. If they do things my way, we'll get along."

Great movie called "The Caine Mutiny" from 1954 with Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson and Fred McMurray playing the lead roles. Excellent flick for all generations to watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Anyway the lead character of this article could be called the female Queeg and the Ponce the modern Caine.

Bad Example

You must have turned off the film before the last few minutes. The defense attorney was sick that he had to do what he did - because while all the junior officers were teenagers and college students living it up, men like Queeg were making sacrifices to protect the freedoms we all enjoy and those sacrifices take their toll.

Better Example: Absolute Power corrupts absolutely!

Finally--someone else who saw the entire movie!

We do the fictional Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg a disservice in comparing him to Commander Etta Jones.

Risk-aversion + political correctness = poor leadership

Over-the-top risk-aversion throughout the Navy includes not only the fear of airplanes falling on Little League fields, but also evaluators not wanting to risk reprisals for submitting other-than-glowing fitness reports, especially for members of "special" groups.

It takes an extremely honest (and gutsy) superior to "tell it like it is" in a fitrep or an important shipboard inspection. The "shoot the messenger" mentality kicks in and the evaluator/inspector is put on the carpet, even when his or her ducks are in row to justify their report.

As a result, everyone is a superstar and every ship is in great shape.

Reports to the contrary are rare and usually unveil long-standing shortcomings.

The name of the game: Don't make waves.

Why is she still a CDR and not a seaman recruit in the brigg?

Why is she still a CDR and not a seaman recruit in the brigg?


since you can't spell "brig" you've never heard of due process.

Preferencial Treatment?

Maybe it was just a harmless tuperware party in her stateroom.

Why was this report not released in July?

The report is dated July 19, 2011.

The Navy never hesitates to release and publicize all its "Gee whiz!" "Golly!" "Aren't we wonderful?" news (as well it should), yet this report had to be pried out of them with a FOIA filing.


Failure at many levels

Lets cut through the BS here. If the Lt. Cmdr had gone against the Cmdr. in this case his career would more than likely have ended.

As it is simply by being assigned as XO to a ship with a " leader " such as the Cmdr. he was doomed the day he reported on board.

The legit question here is how does someone attain a leadership standing when it is clear the individual is not suited to lead. These type of issues do not crop up over night.

And as troubling what atmosphere has been created that causes others in leadership to turn a blind eye to this?

The answers seem to be clear. Leaders are promoted based on what is PC not based on ability to lead. And if someone runs afoul of the PC train they will be crushed.

Our Navy must have better


First...a disclaimer. I'm retired Navy and as a Mustang served both as an enlisted sailor and as an officer. I've had ALL kinds of C.O.s, both good and poor, on all kinds of ships, all over the world. Most were honorably and wonderful role models. More than most of us, Commanding Officers are given great authority. Along with this comes great responsibility. This Captain's disgraceful behavior deserves a jail sentence and more. This commander brought dishonor on a great organization and although she deserves to be "busted out" of the Navy will probably be, as usually happens with senior sailors, allowed to quietly retire. Shame once again on the powers that be! However, My Navy will survive this too. It's still full of wonderful, hard workin

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