On Sept. 5, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, dereliction of duty and adultery (a legal offense in the armed services) for actions he took in a romantic affair with a younger subordinate, not the least of which was faking his own death.
Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog reports that the 43-year-old officer may or may not be kicked out of the service altogether, but that his once-promising career is all but over. Ward, who was set to take command of the nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Pittsburgh, but has been reassigned to an administrative position at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut, home port of the Pittsburgh.
”Commander Ward’s dishonesty and deception in developing, maintaining, and attempting to end his inappropriate relationship … were egregious and are not consistent with our Navy’s expectations of a commissioned officer,” Capt. Vernon Parks, the head of Submarine Development Squadron 12, wrote in an internal report by the Navy (.pdf) investigating Ward’s affair with a 23-year-old Virginia woman which began in October of 2011.
Danger Room used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain access to the report, in which the woman’s name is redacted.
Ward met the woman through a dating website. Using the name “Tony Moore,” he never disclosed to her that he was married with children. At the time, he was working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and would visit the woman when he traveled to the Joint Chiefs of Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.
According to Connecticut newspaper The Day, which first broke the story, when Ward received his commission to take command of the Pittsburgh, he chose to end the affair by constructing another false identity, “Bob,” a friend of Tony Moore’s, who wrote to the younger woman explaining to her than Tony had died unexpectedly.
“He asked me to contact you if this ever happened,” the email says. “I am extremely sorry to tell you that he is gone. We tried everything we could to save him. I cannot say more. I am sorry it has to be this way. He loved you very much.”
Three days later, the woman drove with her mother and sister to Ward’s home in Burke, Virginia to pay their respects, only to find a new owner in the residence, who explained that the family had moved to Gales Ferry, Connecticut, near New London so that Ward could command a nuclear submarine.
Ward renewed contact with the woman when she revealed to him that she was pregnant. The two met in Washington, DC for medical appointments and to discuss how to handle the pregnancy.
The baby didn’t survive to term and shortly after, the relationship ended. It was only when a relative of the woman’s contacted the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), at which point Ward was removed from his post at the helm of the Pittsburgh, one week after taking over.
Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokesperson for the submarine group told Wired, “Cmdr. Ward’s actions directly contradict Navy standards, especially the high standards of conduct expected of our commanding officers. Leaders who fail to meet these standards, like Cmdr. Ward, are removed from leadership positions and referred for appropriate disciplinary or administrative action.”