Hospital Ship XO/CM Take 2

This post is in reference to the following thread: US Navy hospital ship XO remove for sexual assault which discusses an article I wrote about assaults aboard the USNS Mercy.

Ok, I have to discuss the issue with a few of my most vocal critics privately so… let’s try this again.

  1. please note that while this may seem like just another issue, it is not, and the commets are causing a significant amount of personal stress on me and is causing us at gCaptain to spend a metric s ton of time and money based off one two letter word in a title.

  2. are you a vigilante DamnYankee? There are legal and ethical ways to hold the press accountable. Angry forum comments are not one of them.

  3. I have talked to a few of you privately. A few have suggested I add legal context. I have been reluctant to write about the legal aspects of this case because just telling you what I am about to write increases gCaptain’s liability.

What is different about the Hospital Ship article is that we broke the story and the charges involved are serious. Because of the severity of the charges we went through proper channels with USN Public Affairs Officers and US Government channels. We went through our own legal review process.

Changing an article after the fact based on “angry forum comments” sounds simple but opens us up to legal consequences.

The first amendment does not prevent us from being sued.

  1. what is most disturbing to me is the fact that after countless requests to treat each-other with respect some feel the need to continue to gang up on other members here.

I don’t agree with it but I understand that some feel the need to set the record straight because operating aboard ship is dangerous and if someone has the wrong information others maybe in peril for following it.

This is different however.

If you guys were upset about a mistake I made a aboard-ship then you have the professional knowledge and experience to call me out on the error.

But none of you are journalists and only a few of you are lawyers.

One of our very basic rules here on this forum is that you don’t step outside of your box of expertise and be vindictive towards another forum member about something you do not have the experience and training to criticize.

So if you are a lawyer or if you have knowledge and authority that surpasses that of an O6 or GS-15 public affairs officer then please PM me and our lawyer will consider your advice.

If YOU want to accept the legal liability of writing articles about allegations of very severe crimes then go write it elsewhere.

Otherwise note that several lives have been changed irrevocably by this tragic incident and comments posted on public forums are not free from liability.

Advice from Sea lawyers who are not real lawyers or journalists is no different from a small sailboat skipper trying to tell a master unlimited how to run his ship.

It’s not that the sailboat skipper can’t add value to the conversation. The problem is his advice is out of context. Similarly many of you do have the expertise to know the difference between an XO and Chief Mate BUT your knowledge of those jobs does not fit into the context of a libelous action suit.

If you want to continue to blast me in this thread and continue to create new threads after old ones were closed and you were asked to stop. Go ahead. Just note that lawyers are involved with this case and we can not protect you legally.

  1. this forum is operated at a financial loss. Your continued anger and insistence to rub my nose in the semantic error of this article’s title leads me to believe I have lost your trust.

If we at gCaptain have fundamentally lost your trust then this forum no longer can be managed effectively and should be closed.

I still believe there is a lot of excellent information and insight contained on this forum but I can not operate a business without customer trust or by spending inordinate amounts of time responding to a litany of angry posts, emails, PMs, text and social media messages scrutinizing two letters (XO vs CM) in one article title.

  1. If the US Navy does not have have a problem with our title, then I do not believe you have the right to be angry.

I will not open this site up to more liability by changing that article. If, however, you think there is some major problem that WAS OVERLOOKED (i.e. has not been mentioned already) then please PM me with your phone number and I will call yoi back.

  1. your right. Media needs to be held accountable. I hope and pray you are all yelling even louder at the NY TImes, CNN and Fox everytime they screw up a story about ships… which seems to be almost daily lately. @DamnYankee please post how you are holding these media outlets accountable so we can follow your lead.


There is great value in these forums. It would be a shame to see them closed.

As a forum of professional mariners I suspect most of us see it as our obligation to correct mistakes relating to our profession that we read on these forums. We respect the Navy and it sailors because many of us have worked with them for years. We also do not like it when we are confused with them. We take pride in how we are able to do our jobs in an extremely structured environment with naval traditions and at the same time preserving our status as civilians, not naval personnel. When you, someone we view as a mariner first, blurred those lines with a title we all know to be wrong……we get offended.

My advice to you would be to get over it and move on like a sailor would. Your posting above comes off as wining.


We did not confuse them. As mentioned we needed to run this article by navy sources and they were confused.

When you work with the navy, do you like all their dumb rules? No. Do you follow them? Yep. Why should we be any different?

Why is it OK for you guys to follow dumb navy rules that disrespect Merchant Mariners and not us?

Believe me I have tried.

You guys just keep texting and the emailing and me.

This job gets harder every year. Two years ago was all the Trump people yelling at us for being a crazy liberal. This year it’s all the bottom people yelling at us for being a raging conservative. The Navy is mad at us constantly. You guys send us grammatical mistakes every single day.

I’m not whining. I asked you to stop and move on but dozens of you didn’t. YOU keep pressing. You keep reopening threads.

I do want to stop and move on but the only way I can think to do it right now is to close the forum.

So only journalists can criticize the news? Even the letters to the editor section of my local paper knows better than that.

Simple solution, next time this comes up, just say “sorry, our legal team doesn’t recommend making that change, but thank you for your input” and move on with your life.

We’ve seen this before. You get pushback on something that you said and you claim that we’re all personally attacking you and low-key threaten to ban people for violating forum rules. This is the first time I’ve seen you threaten to ban the whole forum though :joy:


You guys criticize us every week. We publish all your criticisms. Every single one. Dozens upon dozens of criticisms. The Facebook and Twitter comments are even worse. A very small percentage of the criticisms has been deleted but each comment takes a small emotional toll that adds up over 15 years.

But there a difference between criticism and personal attack.

Yeah well hindsight is 2020

Ok, that’s one vote of no trust.

I’m obviously in favor of the forum, if perhaps not what the discourse frequently devolves to.

Out of curiosity, and I’m genuinely asking, is the forum operator liable for what it and it’s moderators permit it’s members to post?

When we started, no, but now the laws are changing rapidly because Congress and the courts want to punish Facebook.

But it doesn’t matter. The legal system is broken. If someone wants to throw away money they can sue even if they’re wrong and most judges today will try to force you into taking a plea deal.

This doesn’t just pretend to forums, it pertains to anything in life. If someone - a cop or attorney - brings you to court you must plea guilty even if you are innocent or spend big $$$ and/or time defending yourself.


Great question.

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Just for Clarification to clear up some arguments:

This is from someone who is actually aboard the Mercy and have been aboard for several months.

That would be “Me”…the Dirty Bird.

The Navy and CIVMARs calls the MSC Master, “Captain”.
The Navy and CIVMARs calls/speaks to the Navy Captain as…”Captain”
The Navy and CIVMARs calls/speaks to the Navy XO as…”Captain”
The CIVMARS refers to the Chief Mate as Chief Mate or Chief for short.
Most of the Navy calls/refers to the MSC Chief Mate as ……”XO”

May not be correct, but it is what it is. Please remember that most of the ship’s naval personnel have never been on a ship until now. They are mostly Hospital bound and because they are Surgeons, Doctors, Dentists (Also a Doctor), Optometrist ophthalmologist etc., PAs, Nurses and specialty technicians they do not act nor carry themselves as Military Personnel.

They are more like hospital civilians in uniform. Unlike on other Hybrid ship, you wouldn’t know they were in the Military if not for the uniform. But you do have a couple of Navy Chiefs that act like the typical…”Navy Chief”.


Case in point, the Plimsol mark design that was in the store that gCaptain got hit with a C&D order on.

I’m going to point out to the vocal members of the forum something that I’m betting John and the legal side of things probably can’t (or may want to avoid mentioning, and if so, I’m sorry John).

There was a situation in the not so distant past with another regular author to gCaptain in which they got things substantially incorrect in an article… I don’t know all the details, but I do know that he, after being one of the founding writers (as I recall), had to step away from gCaptain permanently because of it. I for one do not want to see John have to go in the same manner.

This article is one of those times, as so often happens, that the Navy doesn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to their own CIVMARs. It’s not John, it’s the Navy, and if you really want a correction on it that badly, talk to the PAO’s that John talked to. At this stage, they’re the only ones that can really initiate the correction.


Thank you and one of those is still costing gCaptain thousands a month in settlements. :sleepy:

[quote=“jbtam99, post:11, topic:63662”]
if you really want a correction on it that badly, talk to the Navy PAO’s [/quote]

I don’t mind the criticism if it’s fair. All I ask is that we all give the other journalists who screw up merchant marine related articles (and the US navy) half as much hell as ya’ll giving gCaptain.

You can contact the Navy Medicine
PAO at 757.953.0168, or by


That post was in response to SeaEagle posting his reopener that he was not a fan of all the “nitpicking” going on in the original thread. I simply wanted to voice my opinion that I did not agree with his take and to affirm my own personal stance that criticality of the press, media, and those in power is a good thing.

You may have noticed that I did not get involved with the aforementioned thread in any way besides reading it. It seamed to me that several other members were voicing their own opinions and I can’t say that I didn’t agree with them. I am certainly not a lawyer and was not about to weigh in on libel laws. There was and is no personal animosity towards you on my end.

If you want to take your ball and go home, I can’t stop you. I too find great value in this forum and would hate to see it go. It is a great place to exchange ideas and information regarding this industry.

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This is even more egregious than calling him XO :roll_eyes::man_facepalming:

For me it was always Chief Mate or The Mate.


Great! I love that. A big part of the reason I started gCaptain was to provide an alternative to the big media outlets that continuously get details about our industry wrong. A big reason we started this forum is so you could call media outlets (and other powerful individuals in the industry) out on mistakes.

So please tell me how we hold all media outlets responsible?

I think this entire matter has run its course. Wading thru the confusion of titles between Navy and CIVMAR is enough to cause Washington Post fact checkers headaches. There was no malicious intent and In the grand scheme of things if no one from the Mercy complained I certainly am not. I am still wrapping my head around GOM supply boats having 3 captains on board at the same time.
There are far more egregious examples of inaccurate and even false reporting to be concerned about in the journalism world if one is inclined to worry about journalistic integrity to nth degree.


This thread has been a great insight into how difficult it is to run a diligent, fact-based news outlet. You try to do everything right and still there is endless carping and accusations.

Here you have an expert on the merchant marine, John, doing his best to inform fellow experts, under the guidance of legal counsel. Moreover, he gives his fellow professionals a forum to express their opinions. And all of it for free. In fact, he is losing money on the business.

And what does John get for his troubles, from a subset of the users here? Endless nitpicking and disrespect. My God, so much grief over a generic term in a throwaway title. Really? So little goodwill to the man who tries to bring you the news? John has the patience of Job. If it was me, I would permanently block users when they run down a rabbit hole of nit-picking rants.

I comment on several other sites/forums on a variety of subjects and the moderators there block users all the time, and the sites go on thriving, with no harm to discourse.

I enjoy these forums, and I’d like to thank John for maintaining them, 24/7, free of charge. I’d hate to see them go. My suggestion to him, to save his time, energy and dollars, is to block users who abuse his hospitality.


I for one love gCaptains forums and have learned a lot over the years from it. Little things here and there that I would have never heard about otherwise.

John, just ban overly aggressive posters. No explanation needed. Please don’t close the forum. Thanks

And yes, the Chief Mate is “The Mate.”

“The Chief” is the the Chief Engineer, for pete’s sake!

All the confusion is easily eliminated by simply calling the Chief Mate the “First Officer” instead, like the rest of the merchant world does.


A lot of folks are hung up on titles. You’d think they yearn for the days of peerage and nobility. It was never that important to me. When applying to college my daughter asked me what my job was as she needed to put it on an application. She said,“It’s got to be specific. I can’t just put down you work on ships and in ship yards which is all you ever told me.”