I’ve got to ask about that headline. Is it intentionally ambiguous to generate clicks? I’m glad you broke the story, but that headline is going to give a lot of folks the wrong initial impression and frustrate both Navy and Merchant Mariners who read the article.
If anyone is wondering why I ask: XO isn’t a term I’ve ever heard used to refer to Chief Mates (First Officers) in MSC unless it’s specifically targeted at a USN audience who are confused by the title “Chief”.
At best the title is poorly worded and confusing. No one on the hospital ships addresses the chief mate as “XO.”
“who, as second in command is equivalent to the Executive Officer” - FALSE, the chief mate is not the equivalent of the executive officer. CM and XO are completely different positions. That’s like saying the first assistant engineer its equivalent to the chief mate. They three (XO, CM, 1AE) share the same rank but are not equivalent to each other.
“The hospital ship USNS Mercy (and her sister ship USNS Comfort) is unusual because it has two Commanding Officers (CO) and two XOs.” - FALSE, she does not have two COs and two XOs. She does have one Commanding Officer, one executive officer, one (Ship’s) Master and one Chief Mate.
“According to a source close to the victim, after the XO was removed, several more crew members reported being harassed or assaulted by the US Merchant Marine XO.” - FALSE, the XO was not removed. The chief mate was removed.
Forgivable. They call the Chief Mate Chief cuz he’s a boss as far as they’re concerned and that’s who they deal with. It’s common for workers to call the lead in any working environment “Chief”. Or maybe it’s just shorthand for Chief Mate.
Jeebus. Time to declare us Merchant Mariners a maritime nation that has nothing to do with the respective shit shows in the countries we nominally live in. The truth is that we live on the water, mostly, and, mostly, people who don’t, don’t have any idea what it’s like to do so. We shouldn’t have to pay taxes to the shitshow, and when somebody does something like rape or sexually assault one of our number—even though they be one of our number—we should all come together and agree on whether they should be keel-hauled or gutted and left to the fish. Kinda like Waterworld, but more cursing and drinking.
Problem is I interviewed a number of Sr Navy officers and only a few knew what a Chief Mate was. In the eyes of most of them it’s the equivalent of a senior chief.
Second problem is the Commanding office is Captain. Quast, a doctor who is not a ship captain and is not in command of the ship.
I agree the semantics are wrong but IMHO it’s the Navy that is in error.
But, holy hell, multiple accounts of rape aboard one of the most famous ships in the world and my inbox is filled with lots of semantic corrections and very little to suggestions for meaningful change.
P.S. I admit to the semantic confusion within the body of the article (under “connecting the dots”) and clearly state that “No naval officer has been accused of wrongdoing”.