Gitmo Commander Sacked After Dead Body Found
The officer running the American naval base in Cuba is gone. And U.S. officials are telling the Associated Press that he’s under investigation in connection with another sailor’s death.
On January 11, the body of Christopher Tur, was found in the waters off of Cuba. A subsequent investigation uncovered an alleged affair between Tur’s wife and Capt John R. Nettleton, the commander of the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.
On January 21, the Navy publicly announced that Nettleton has been relieved of command.
The decision to relieve Nettleton was made by his boss “Commander, Navy Region Southeast, Rear Adm. Mary M. Jackson due to loss of confidence in Nettleton’s ability to command,” according to a statement from Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs.
Following his dismissal from Guantanamo, Nettleton was moved to Florida, where he is assigned to Jackson’s staff.
There is no official mention of specific charges or allegations against Nettleton but the Navy’s statement adds, “due to an ongoing NCIS investigation, it is not appropriate for the Navy to provide additional details concerning the relief.”
Additional details came from anonymous U.S. officials who told the Associated Press that Nettleton’s alleged affair was discovered during the investigation into Tur’s death. Under military law, known as the uniform code of military justice, adultery is a crime.
The same U.S. officials also said, “Nettleton is under investigation in connection with the death of Christopher Tur.”
Netlleton’s military service goes back more than thirty years. He enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman in 1984. After serving three years joined commissioned as an officer in the Navy, and served as a pilot. In 2012 he became the base commander at Guantanamo.
Tur, 42, was originally from Philadelphia and joined the Marine Corps out of high school, according to an obituary published in the base newsletter. After leaving the military he started working for the Navy Exchange Command, the military’s network of department stores. His wife Lara, with whom he had two children, also worked for the Navy as a civilian.
Base spokesperson Kelly Wirfel said that Tur moved to Guantanamo with his family in 2011 and worked at the base commissary. Tur’s obituary lists his job as a loss prevention officer, a title that typically means someone who prevents theft and shoplifting.. Tur’s widow, Lara, who is alleged to have carried on an affair with Capt. Nettleton, works as the director of the base’s Fleet and Family Services. That position would have her overseeing a variety of support programs for military families ranging from counseling services to financial assistance.
Lara reported her husband missing on January 10, a day before the Coast Guard discovered his body.
A request for comment from Wirfel was forwarded to a Navy Public Affairs office, which did not respond to The Daily Beast’s inquiries.
Guantanamo’s Naval base is more than a century old but has become closely and controversially identified since 2001 with its military prisons for accused terrorists.
Nettleton had no control over the notorious detention facilities that are located on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which is overseen by a separate command. Instead, Nettleton was in charge of the operations of the naval base itself, known as Gitmo by the people who live and work there, which long predates the ‘Global War on Terror’ and the prisoners brought to the island.
The base commander functions much like a mayor of the base. Guantanamo Bay, with its drive-through McDonalds, a Navy Exchange supermarket and a Subway franchise, has a distinctly small-town Americana feel to it. Tur, the deceased man, managed loss prevention at the Navy Exchange, where you can get everything from uniforms to cigarettes to discounted frozen pizzas.
During the Christmas season, lit ornaments hang from the street lamps flanking the main road through the base. Locals play paintball, where the objective is to find and shoot Santa. Gitmo authorities conduct sobriety checkpoints near the Caribbean grill with jerk chicken.
Nettleton’s dismissal from Gitmo, given his role, would be more likely to impact the base housing and logistical operations than the business going on in its detention facilities.
The official statement announcing Nettleton’s firing describes the base as supporting “the ability of U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and allied ships to operate in the Caribbean area by providing contingency and quality logistical support with superior services and facilities.”
According to Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman, “the change in leadership at Naval Station Guantanamo does not impact our detainee operations.”
For the time being the base is being run by Capt. Scott Gray, chief of staff to Nettleton’s boss, Rear Adm. Jackson.
Nettleton is the second Guantanamo base commander to be relieved in the last ten years. In the same language applied last week to Nettleton, Navy Capt. Leslie McCoy lost his job in 2005 after his boss, Rear Adm. Annette E. Brown, “lost confidence in his ability to effectively lead.”