The commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer Hopper was fired last year after his shipboard romance with a petty officer was revealed, according to an internal investigation obtained by Navy Times.
Cmdr. Jeffrey S. Tamulevich was removed from his post on May 21, 2018.
In the months before his relief, Tamulevich hosted a series of sexual liaisons with a second class petty officer, showing her favoritism that troubled other leaders on board the Hawaii-based ship, the probe determined.
Her name is redacted in the copy of the internal investigation provided to Navy Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but it indicates she spent many nights in the captain’s quarters.
Tamulevich would peek into the P-way each morning to make sure the coast was clear before she headed to her 6 a.m. watch shift, according to the report.
The investigating officer — whose name also was removed in the report — recommended Tamulevich, a married father, go to admiral’s mast for his conduct, plus “appropriate administrative action, including detachment for cause and a recommendation that he be required to show cause for retention.”
It remains unclear what discipline Tamulevich faced for his affair with the unmarried shipmate, beyond his removal from command.
Tamulevich declined comment through Lt. Cmdr. Megan Jackler, a military attorney who once represented him.
His LinkedIn profile states he’s been the deputy director of training for the Aegis Readiness and Training Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, since late 2018.
From the time of his firing to November of that year, Tamulevich served at Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific in Hawaii but he’s now “transitioning to the private sector,” his LinkedIn page states.
Before they struck up a romance, the petty officer had a request.
In late 2017, she asked Tamulevich to reverse a disciplinary action taken by the previous Hopper CO, according to the report.
The Honolulu Police Department nabbed her for drunk driving in 2016, when Tamulevich was serving as the warship’s executive officer, the investigator wrote.
She’d received non-judicial punishment for the incident, but she presented Tamulevich with a civilian expungement order removing her DUI arrest in Honolulu.
Although “the notice contained no explanation for why the case had been dismissed or the record expunged,” Tamulevich reversed her NJP on New Year’s Eve in 2017, the investigator wrote.
He then began helping her with an application to become a commissioned officer. And the report indicates the work took place in his cabin.
“The meetings in the CO’s cabin usually occurred in the evening after (the sailor) got off watch and increased in frequency until, eventually, they were occurring nearly every night,” according to the report’s findings.
The report doesn’t portray the initial sessions as romantic, but that suddenly changed in early February of 2018.
“I was sitting on the couch and he put his chair next to me and said, ‘I really want to kiss you right now,’ and I didn’t object,” she said.
“After that first romantic encounter, (the woman) slept in the CO’s cabin almost every night,” the investigator wrote.
Emails gleaned from their Navy accounts show Tamulevich would ask her about “executing the plan,” his secret code for her visiting his room.
The CO would leave his door unlocked so she could slip in after her watch shift ended at 9 p.m., according to the report.
“I’m taking a quick shower, then probably heading up to the bridge for a bit,” Tamulevich emailed her on May 7, 2018, two weeks before he was fired.
“You are more than welcome to execute the plan…and I hope you do. And I am expecting you will :).”
“I plan to execute!” the woman answered a few minutes later.
“I am so glad you executed last night!” the CO wrote to his sailor the next day. “I am already looking forward to 2100ish!”
The duo also had sex several times at the woman’s apartment in town, she told the investigator.
Although the investigator determined Hopper’s XO and the warship’s command master chief never became "aware of the romantic relationship or nightly encounters,” they had discussed the appearance of Tamulevich favoring the petty officer.
For example, Tamulevich let her “drive” the ship, a duty usually reserved for junior officers or senior enlisted sailors, according to the report.
Two days after they returned to Hawaii, he emailed the woman photos of her “conning” Hopper.
The affair was exposed in the spring of 2018, while the warship was underway in the Pacific Ocean, the investigator concluded.
The petty officer had been logged on to a shipboard computer. Another sailor started using it and “unduly familiar” emails from Tamulevich began popping up on the screen.
The shipmate took snapshots of the messages and alerted a mentor on board the vessel, who reported it up the chain of command.
At the same time, Tamulevich and the petty officer seemed oblivious to his looming downfall.
On May 13, 2018, he emailed her about a final rendezvous in his cabin before the ship returned to Hawaii the following day.
“Are you planning on stopping by this evening to hang out for a bit?” he asked. “I am assuming and hoping yes.”
“Of course I was always planning to come by it is our last night underway ever together!” she replied.
Hopper returned to Hawaii on May 14, 2018.
Tamulevich was fired a week later.
In a transcript of the investigator’s interview with the CO, Tamulevich called the woman a “phenomenal sailor” and “trusted agent” who would bring him rumors about morale and other deck plate issues swirling through the crew.
The investigator pressed Tamulevich on why he reversed the DUI punishment.
“Just because (Honolulu Police Department) wrote that letter doesn’t mean she wasn’t driving under the influence,” the investigator noted. “Did she admit to being drunk?”
“She admitted to sorrow and sadness but I don’t remember exactly what she admitted,” Tamulevich said.
The investigator then grilled him on the details of their affair.
“Is it normal to email a PO2?” the investigator asked.
“Not typically,” Tamulevich admitted.
“How many emails do you think you sent her?”
Tamulevich repeatedly declined to answer certain questions about those messages.
“So what does ‘having you on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning’ mean?” the investigator continued.
“I am not going to answer that.”
“(Starts reading email) ‘I saw you in your tight workout pants and a tank top…’”
“Stop,” Tamulevich answered. “I know what I wrote.”
Later in the interview, Tamulevich admitted hosting the petty officer in his cabin and having sex with her.
Tamulevich said they both “kind of agreed to stop” the affair a few days earlier, before the ship tied back up in Hawaii.
“She made the decision but I knew it was coming,” he said.
“Did you feel this close to anyone else?”
“Not this close.”
“So she came by your cabin every night?”
“Towards the end, yes.”
“Discussions were mostly intimate?” the investigator asked. “It wasn’t just an hour of sex?”
“We ate a snack and occasionally had sex.”
“Any reason you fell for her?”
“Smart, attractive, easy to talk to,” Tamulevich said. “It accidentally happened.”
When contacted by the investigator, the female petty officer initially denied any sexual involvement with Tamulevich.
“Why did he have such a strong interest in you?” the investigator asked.
“I think after setting aside the NJP and then working together for the commissioning package, he saw that I would make a strong officer,” she said.
During a second interview, after the investigator told her that Tamulevich “just admitted to everything,” the petty officer came clean, saying she’d ended the affair because of guilt.
“He has a family and I didn’t want to be the cause of the divorce,” she said.
The investigator asked her if she felt relieved it had ended.
“I know I made a mistake, but I still did it, consciously, and there was never any alcohol involved so I feel like an idiot,” she said.
“Do you think he understands that he was in love with you?” the investigator asked.
“I think he was but I think he knew I wasn’t in love with him,” she replied.
Shipmates were never suspicious because “no one else stood watch in my berthing so no one really noticed or cared where I was,” she said.
In between the sex, movies, Cheez-Its, pizza and cuddling in Tamulevich’s cabin, they would occasionally turn to their future, she said.
“He talked about when he got out of the Navy that he wanted to open up a bar and then he wanted me to help him run the bar and work there,” the petty officer said.
“But that was about it. I made it very clear that I did not want him to leave his wife or try to be with me, that was not okay.”
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.