According to a preliminary inquiry into the incident, Seaman Marquie Little first noticed that someone had ripped up his rack's curtains and cut its mattress around 8 p.m. Nov. 11. The report, released Tuesday to The Virginian-Pilot via the Freedom of Information Act, said Little returned on Nov. 15 and found trash on his mattress and racial slurs scrawled across his rack's interior walls. Little reported the vandalism again and also put pictures of it on his Facebook account, in a post that was shared more than 10,000 times, the report said.
"I am a United States sailor," Little, who is black, wrote in a post that has since been made private. "This has been happening to me for a while and I asked my chain of command for help and the only thing they did was switch my rack. So I'm asking for help. I proudly serve the Navy and this is what I'm receiving in return. #SailorAskingForHelp things are getting out of hand. Please share. Somebody knows something."
Little's name is redacted throughout the Navy's report but he confirmed the case Tuesday in a phone interview with The Pilot. He also denied that he staged the vandalism.
The incidents aboard the Bush occurred just weeks after five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy's preparatory school found racial slurs written on dorm room message boards in a case that made national headlines. One of those five students later admitted to writing the slurs; the Air Force Times reported last week that the cadet candidate blamed the incident on an untreated concussion.
Little, 27, checked in on the Bush on Dec. 22, 2016, according to the report. Investigators found he had been delinquent in completing his qualifications for his rate as an aviation's boatswains mate aircraft handler and that he had been counseled for failing to turn in a Family Care Plan -- which is required of all single parents within 60 days of reporting to a new command.
Little was given a deadline to turn in a plan by Nov. 17 or face punishment. He also told the Navy he had a custody court date involving his son in New York and needed to stay behind during a December underway but did not provide any documentation about the case, the report said. Instead, the Navy told him to seek a continuance.
"Servicemember was left behind last underway for the same reason in which the court set another date," someone wrote in a counseling record dated Nov. 9 included with the report.
Sailors interviewed in the case said they believed Little had vandalized his own rack. One said he saw Little moving items around on his mattress and taking photos of it. An investigator also wrote that Little gave conflicting statements about the incidents, including the timeline for when and to whom he reported them to.
An investigator wrote that in their opinion, the sailor "staged this incident in an attempt to avoid having to provide a Family Care Plan and to get off the ship before its next underway period." The investigator, whose name is redacted, recommended Little face military charges of making a false official statement and destruction of military property.
Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht said the sailor was separated about two weeks ago and received a general discharge.
"The Navy takes these types of incidents very seriously and the command actively investigated all possible suspects," Hecht said in an email. "The well-being and safety of our Sailors remains our top priority. We remain committed to a diverse work environment where all Sailors are treated with dignity and respect and our leadership maintain an open-door policy and encourage Sailors to step forward if they feel they are being discriminated against. That, however, was not the case in this incident."
But Little, who said he enlisted in the Navy a little more than three years ago to support his family, denied being the culprit and said investigators did not dig deep enough. He said he received conflicting information about the Family Care Plan and did not qualify in his rate because he was planning to switch. Little said he does not know who vandalized his rack.
"The only thing I want to do is get my name cleared and possibly join the Navy again," he said.
This article is written by Courtney Mabeus from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.