GROTON, Conn. (AP) — A newly appointed nuclear attack submarine commander who went to extreme lengths to end an extramarital affair thought the issue was behind him — until the family of his ex-girlfriend got in touch with the Navy.
Now the military career of Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II, who faked his death to end the eight-month affair, appears to be over. A panel of officers recommended Friday that Ward be ousted from the Navy with an honorable discharge.
Ward apologized during the hearing to the Navy, his sailors and his wife in the hearing at Naval Submarine Base and said he took full responsibility for his actions, including the email he sent to his mistress posing as a fictitious co-worker named Bob and saying Ward had died unexpectedly.
“The reason I did it was to sever the relationship,” he said, “but the choice was ridiculous.”
Ward, who was relieved of his duties aboard the USS Pittsburgh in August only a week after taking command, already has received a letter of reprimand for adultery and other military violations. The three-officer board of inquiry recommended he retain his rank upon being discharged. Its decision goes to the secretary of the Navy for approval within 90 days.
Ward asked to remain in the service during the hearing, and his lawyers argued that despite his mistakes, the case came down to personal misconduct that should not destroy what had been a highly distinguished career. But attorneys for the government countered that Ward discredited the Navy and that his removal put a strain on the fleet because officers had to be shuffled around to cover his removal.
“This is not a case of lapsed judgment, this is case of no judgment,” said Navy Lt. Griffin Farris, acting as prosecutor at the hearing.
Wearing dress blues and surrounded by his military lawyers on either side, Ward said in an unsworn statement he would regret his mistakes his life, adding that he was grateful to his wife for standing by him.
“I want to apologize directly to my wife for the hurt and harm and humiliation I have caused her,” he said as she sat in the front row, her eyes red.
Still, the Navy shouldn’t throw away his talent and training, said high-ranking officers with whom Ward has served. They said he made an awful mistake and that he was a fast-rising, hard-working officer.
Before moving to Connecticut Ward served the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he used his nuclear expertise to provide daily briefings to the chairman as the Fukushima disaster unfolded following the earthquake in Japan. Navy Capt. Lawrence Vincent, who worked with Ward in Washington, said he would serve with again and the handling of the affair struck him as out of character.