In 2008, as a young second tour Naval officer, I deployed as AOIC of a security division securing the two Iraqi Oil Terminals (ABOT and KAAOT), inbound tankers and training for the Iraqi Marines. Through these two terminals flow over 80% of the Iraqi GDP; literal lifeblood to the Iraqi economy vital in the post-Saddam Hussein era.
Half-way through the seven month deployment to keep complacency at bay and provide variety to the mission set, “The LT,” myself, and about half of the teams swapped terminals. ABOT had more “action”: frequent security sweeps of inbound tankers and an urgent need to train the Iraqi Marines due to the turnover timeline at the time. KAAOT was a little closer to Iranian waters and had all the command and control for terminal security and ship sector coverage.
Within minutes after the swap, my senior enlisted pulled me aside. “Sir, we have a problem.” Of course we do, there’s always problems. “Not like this. ‘The LT’ rode the last security sweep. Once they moored, he decided he didn’t like how long it was taking for the brow to go down, so he placed his sidearm in condition 1 and pointed it at the line handler.” I’m sorry – did you just say he pointed a loaded weapon at an unarmed civilian? “Yes, sir.” A loaded weapon? At an unarmed oil terminal worker? “Yes, sir.”
‘At a loss’ barely scratches the surface of how unprepared I was for this situation. So I asked: Senior, what do you think we should do? “Get some statements, sir.” Great idea, let’s get a statement from everyone. I had a stack of statements by dinner. I read them all. Twice. Three times. A fourth. “The LT” routinely: placed his weapon in condition 1 when walking to the “Iraqi” side of the terminal. He was observed to have dropped ammo into the water without reporting it. The entire boarding team corroborated the story about pointing a loaded weapon at a civilian. Cursed at, spit on and generally harassed his (my!) Sailors. I wasn’t stunned; I was paralyzed. Not doing something wasn’t an option. But I had no idea what to do.
I emailed our XO, attaching the scanned statements. He wrote back quickly, directing me to board the next resupply tug to talk to the Commodore. Within 24 hrs, I was sitting in front of the Commodore. His Command Master Chief was walking around the room swearing violently, vocalizing the utter disbelief I felt when I read the statements. The Commodore asked for my version: I said, the statements stand for themselves. However, I had not seen “The LT” act like that at any point in our interactions. He asked me what he should do. I remember thinking: Why are you asking me?! I have no idea, that’s why I’m here! But what I said was: “I can’t have him on the terminals any more.” “Done.” the Commodore said. “XO, he’s on the next tug back.”
Just like that I fired “The LT”. Or, more correctly, I had him fired.
Objectively, his actions were wrong – criminal, even. I do not regret the outcome. The part that grates against my personal phronesis, which I didn’t do and that I reflect on to this day, is confront him personally. I remember thinking that I should, then I decided not to. A whole host of reasons spring to mind on why, then and now. The outcome would have been the same, because it must be: there is no place for that behavior. But there are three sides to every story: the two sides presented and the truth. I never heard his side.
 Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT), Khor al-Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT).
 Phronesis: Practical Wisdom. Originates from Ancient Greek philosophy and can be best summarized as: the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.
Bio: The author remains on active duty, recently surpassing the 15 year point. Apart from reading voraciously, they are fond of diving, hiking, and running – with a new found enjoyment of ultra-marathons. Their first ultra was completed using training plans from MTI.