Canadian on Trial for Alleged RIMPAC Acts

Ships moored at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, display maritime signal pennants and flags from their masts during Rim of the Pacific 2016 on July 4, 2016. Jeff Troutman/U.S. Navy
Ships moored at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, display maritime signal pennants and flags from their masts during Rim of the Pacific 2016 on July 4, 2016. Jeff Troutman/U.S. Navy

The former second -in-command of the Canadian frigate Calgary stands accused at a court-martial in that country of drunkenly groping a female U.S. Coast Guard member aboard the warship during the early stages of Rim of the Pacific war games in Hawaii in 2014, the Times Colonist in British Columbia reported.

Canada announced in February 2015 that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service was charging Cmdr. Joshua Yanchus, the Calgary's former executive officer, with drunkenness and disobedience of a lawful command for offenses alleged to have occurred June 25, 2014, during RIMPAC.

The exercise, held in both Hawaii and Southern California in 2014, turned out to be more than one embarrassment for the Royal Canadian Navy. That, in turn, prompted an "Internal Review of Personal Conduct" within the sea service and restrictions on the consumption of alcohol aboard ships.

In early July of that year, Vice Adm. Mark Norman, head of the Royal Canadian Navy, ordered the coastal defense ship HMCS Whitehorse home from the Southern California portion of RIMPAC following three incidents involving allegations of drunkenness, shoplifting and sexual misconduct.

Those incidents happened just days after Yanchus' alleged actions in Hawaii.

"While the actions of a few sailors (on) Whitehorse was the trigger for my decision, I recalled her home because I am troubled that across the (Royal Canadian Navy) a small number of our personnel have fallen short" of the expectations of naval service "and in their roles as ambassadors of their navy and country," the Ottawa Citizen reported Norman saying.

The misuse of alcohol had been a growing concern for years, according to media reports.

Yanchus, on trial in Esquimalt, British Columbia, is alleged to have gone to the junior ranks mess on the Calgary during RIMPAC in Hawaii -- in violation of orders -- in the early stages of the exercise when personnel from other countries including the United States, Australia and Chile were visiting the ship, according to the Times Colonist.

The military prosecutor said Yanchus, then a lieutenant commander, was groping the buttocks of a female U.S. Coast Guard member, the newspaper said. Four Canadian sailors testified to a range of behavior including "necking," and a kiss on the cheek, to full-on groping. But absent from the proceedings was the U.S. Coast Guard member herself, according to the media report.

"Where is the American Coast Guard sailor?" said defense attorney David Bright. "Where is she to say that this is what happened?" A decision in the case is expected Monday.

Canada implemented recommendations from the Internal Review of Personal Conduct including banning the consumption of alcohol while ships are at sea, except in special circumstances. Beer had been available in vending machines on some vessels.

A July 2015 U.S. Navy instruction said the use of alcohol aboard ships is prohibited except for special circumstances. Commanders can allow up to two beers for each crew member in "arduous operations" after 45 days at sea and no liberty ports expected within five days during what's known as a "beer day."

Beer, wine and sherry also can be served in support of diplomatic and community relations in port, and some U.S. and foreign navy warships served alcohol during RIMPAC 2016 receptions, the U.S. Navy said. The big maritime interoperability exercise including 26 nations concluded earlier this month.

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