A chief master at arms is charged with mistreating five sailors on deployment, denying them food, water and bathroom breaks for up to 11 hours at a stretch over a three-day period in March, allegations that have exposed turmoil at his command, the Virginia Beach-based Coastal Riverine Squadron 2. A second sailor implicated in the unlawful detentions is suspected of committing suicide last week, the 3rd suicide at CRS 2 this year.
Chief Master-at-Arms Thomas Lillis allegedly punished the sailors in Rota, Spain after they had a liberty incident while on an aviation security mission to Sigonella, Italy. Over the next few weeks, Lillis allegedly impeded the investigation, shredding the sailors’ statements and rights advisement forms and denying them access to a lawyer, according to charge sheets released by Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, which oversees CRS 2.
The charges, first reported by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, came to light after Lillis’ arraignment on Monday at Naval Station Norfolk.
The allegations and suicides have revealed considerable issues at CRS 2, a command that has approximately 500 sailors. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is examining the three apparent suicides, including that of MA1 (SW/AW) Doug Spiewak, who was accused of mistreating the five sailors along with Lillis. A whistleblower complaint launched an inspector general probe. And NECC has begun a command climate investigation.