Firefighters and emergency medical staff at Newport’s Naval Station regularly lied about training they never received. The revelations come from a newly completed investigation by the Navy Inspector General.
The Navy Inspector General began investigating after a whistleblower issued a complaint that he was marked as having completed training he’d never attended. Upon deeper investigation, the Inspector General found emergency management staff at the station routinely falsified such medical and safety trainings.
The review found more than 100 instances during the last two years, in which personnel were on leave or off duty when they had supposedly attended trainings. Additionally investigators found numerous trainings listed on Sundays, despite the fact that trainings were not, as a rule, conducted on those days.
Some 500 records indicated employees had received shipyard training with “dry dock” exercises. However the report indicates Naval Station Newport is not a shipyard, and has no dry dock where the classes could have happened.
Out of nearly 9,000 documented training, more than 7,000 had no listed instructor. One firefighter testified that, when he led trainings, he relied on his memory to record the list of attendees.
“It had appeared to be standard practice,” said the Union President of the Naval Station firefighters, when asked his reaction to the discrepancies. “Everybody was doing it.”
One employee said he would be yelled at, belittled, and threatened with transfer by the Fire Chief if he refused to sign off of falsified records.
The report said the whistleblower, a firefighter named George Haywood, believed documents were falsified so the Naval Station’s emergency medical staff could qualify for national accreditation. Haywood also believed that work by the staff was compromised due to lack of training. He highlighted one example in which staff dropped a man experiencing chest pain, while he was in a stretcher. Haywood believed this was because they had not been properly trained to use the stretcher.
Navy spokeswoman Elizabeth Baker responded to the investigation.
“The problems noted by the Navy Inspector General and Office of Special Counsel were promptly corrected and additional training-records oversight was implemented immediately.”
The Fire Chief at Naval Station Newport retired in April of 2017. The station’s fire training officer “separated” from the station in March 2017.