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CMC fired over medals

Unearned-honors inquiry could end 29-year career

Jul. 15, 2011 - 01:04PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 15, 2011 - 01:04PM  |  
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2011 firings

The list: Commanding and executive officers and command master chiefs fired this year

About Mobley

Roy Mobley, 47, is originally from Miami. He enlisted in the Navy in July 1982 and trained as a disbursing clerk. He reported to the Hunley, a submarine tender, in December 1982 and stayed there until May 1984.
He worked at personnel support detachments and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6 in San Diego, deploying on multiple carriers to the Persian Gulf.
His next tour as ship’s company was on the amphibious transport dock Ogden, and he also did a tour on the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis.
He was selected for command master chief in 2009, attending the Senior Enlisted Academy before reporting to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121 in July 2009 for his first tour as a CMC.
After just seven months on the job, he transferred to the Philadelphia recruiting district in March 2010.

There was something not quite right about Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Roy Mobley.

For 10 months, his boss, Force Master Chief (SW/AW) Christopher Penton, had been hounding Mobley to post his biography and photo on Facebook. Penton, as the top sailor at Navy Recruiting Command, required the bios of all his CMCs on the social networking website as a way to connect with potential recruits, but Mobley always had an excuse for why his wasn't online.

"For the 10 months he was in the job, I'd bring it up whenever we talked or met face to face," Penton said. "Each time he'd have an excuse and tell me, ‘Master chief, I'm working on it.'"

Penton's attitude grew from annoyance to anger March 1. He received a tip from a senior sailor in Mobley's command — Navy Recruiting District Philadelphia — that Mobley had allegedly been spotted wearing a Meritorious Service Medal, an award he didn't rate.

Mobley allegedly had worn the medal and ribbon on several occasions, and there were photos to prove it.

For Penton, Mobley's elusive behavior now made perfect sense, and it triggered an investigation, Mobley's firing, possible charges and the likely end of a 29-year career.

Penton, in recounting the incident to Navy Times, said he called Mobley as soon as he got the tip about the unearned medals March 1.

"Master chief, are you wearing an MSM now?" Penton recalled asking Mobley. Mobley said he wasn't wearing one.

Penton rephrased his question.

"Master chief, tell me, have you ever worn an MSM?" According to Penton, Mobley replied that he may have ordered one by mistake, and it was on his desk.

Penton said he cut him off.

"I'll rephrase again," Penton pressed. "Have you ever been awarded an MSM?"

No.

"Shipmate," Penton said he replied, "stand by. We'll be talking again, soon."

Click.

Penton told his chain of command, kicking off an investigation. On April 5, Mobley was fired due to "loss of confidence" and is now assigned to a Navy operational support center near Philadelphia. He was officially detached for cause, setting in motion events that could lead to his discharge, possibly at a lower paygrade. A spokesman also said he could be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

What motivated the alleged acts remains a mystery. Navy Times, despite multiple attempts, could not reach Mobley for comment. His whereabouts and contact information couldn't be determined through public records, Pennsylvania property records, Pennsylvania court documents, directories, emails or social networks.

That fact doesn't surprise Penton.

"He was always tough to reach," Penton said. "In fact, I was usually only able to reach him on his command-issued cell phone. He was so secretive, like something you'd expect from a secret agent and not a command master chief."

Questionable awards

The command investigation — obtained by Navy Times through the Freedom of Information Act — accused Mobley of wearing seven awards he did not earn. Those ribbons would have connected Mobley to operations he apparently had little, if anything, to do with.

For example, he allegedly wore the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), but was on temporary duty at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., in January and February 1991, the eligibility window for the award, according to the report of the investigation.

The investigation also claimed that besides the MSM and Kuwait Liberation Medal, Mobley allegedly wore a Navy Unit Commendation, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with bronze service star, an Iraq Campaign Medal with bronze service star, an Armed Forces Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

One grainy, undated photo shows Mobley in his dinner dress blue uniform, hands folded, Meritorious Service Medal clearly hanging near his lapel. The investigation also references photos from the 2010 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, a recruiting district awards banquet and a chief petty officer pinning ceremony that allegedly depict Mobley wearing unearned medals.

The investigator — whose name was redacted from the report — said Mobley, in particular, should have known better.

"It does not go unnoticed that as a former personnel specialist master chief, he should be well-versed in the proper documentation and wearing of medals and ribbons and should have been more aware of the regulations. It is my opinion that he willfully disregarded the regulations and was fully aware that some of the medals and/or ribbons he was wearing were not authorized," the report says.

Mobley, the report says, tried to cover up his tracks after the investigation began. According to the report, he asked that all photos of him stored in the recruiting district's computers be removed, and he was also accused of creating an alternate official biography for the district's files that contained different dates and commands from his earlier biography. It is unclear whether the photos were actually removed.

The investigator brought Mobley in for an interview.

"Upon questioning, it was clear to me that he was fully aware he had worn inaccurate awards and commenced to make excuses," the investigator wrote. "I stopped the interview and on 8 March 2011 I advised him to seek counsel prior to making any statements."

Mobley, in the investigation, never argued that he deserved the awards. He said that he received the wrong order, that he was not aware of all the regulations, and that he took too much time taking care of other sailors' records instead of his own to explain why he wore the medals, the investigator wrote in the report.

Penton said assertions of false valor dishonor all who serve.

"This is an offense that we can absolutely and positively not tolerate," Penton told Navy Times. "We can't have that from anyone, let alone someone in such a position of leadership."

The investigator wrote that sailors like Mobley are held to a higher standard.

"In the position of a command master chief, his conduct on and off duty must be beyond reproach," the investigator wrote. "Wearing unearned medals and/or awards must be considered as ‘grave' and his complete disregard for the leadership position he holds within the command is detrimental to good order and discipline."

What's next

The investigator recommended that Mobley be detached for cause, which took place April 5, and receive nonjudicial punishment.

Mobley is still subject to further punishment, said Cmdr. Alvin Plexico, spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command.

That could take the form of NJP or court-martial.

"I think that's still open," Plexico said.

Recent cases involving active-duty service members who wore unearned ribbons include a Navy chief and an Army command sergeant major. They prove that claiming unearned awards carries consequences.

Chief Logistics Specialist Aubrey Barbour on Feb. 3 pleaded guilty during summary court-martial to making a false official statement and two counts of wrongfully wearing awards. Barbour, who was with Strike Fighter Squadron 106 out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., received a punitive letter of reprimand and was required to forfeit $2,200 of his pay, half a month's worth.

The Army case involved Sgt. Maj. Stoney Crump, former command sergeant major at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, who was convicted of wearing unearned medals and making false official statements and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and demotion to staff sergeant.

Detaching Mobley for cause sets in motion a process that could lead to discharge, including a board to determine the last paygrade at which he served honorably, meaning he could still be busted down before retiring.

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