COO WRECKS HOME
Keelhaul the bastard! Just to start off on the right tack, I had to put my personal feelings toward the COO on the line, because I was a resident in the Armed Forces Retirement Home Gulfport from November 5, 2002 thru February 17, 2005. During that time the Home had gone from a utopia for most of us to a nondescript entity with no military tradition under the inept leadership of the COO personally appointed by Donald Rumsfeld, a civilian with no military experience named Timothy C. Cox, whose entire career dealt with Continued Care Retirement Homes in the civilian sector. I was one of about 545 former military retirees/veterans who were residents at the Gulfport, Mississippi beachfront facility. We had our own city within a city, with everything medical/dental/nutrition/recreation provided on-site for us. If we chose, we could stay within the compound (I never did like the word, 'campus') and never leave our property. We had our own two-lane bowling alley, museum, swimming pool, movie theatre, auditorium, recreation hall, library, computer room (recent addition due to my initial efforts), travel agent, chapel, Chaplain, Dining Area, 24-hour Coffee Room, and even a cabana and a Japanese garden! We had drivers and the opportunity to serve our little community and receive a stipend for our labor. I was the unpublished editor of the AFRH Gulfport official paper, trained by a former editor, (also a Parachute Rigger, coincidentally,) Marian Powers. We had a great first publication (with me as editor) going, but when 95% complete I was given an order to publish a badly-written 'poem' by one of the favored residents. I refused. I received an email from Mr. Cox to please reconsider my resignation but I refused to publish, and destroyed my three-month effort in one fell swoop. Since Mr. Cox dictated what I was to print, I wasn't about to be a lackey. My mama raised me better than that. That was the beginning of the end of my utopian existence...the COO's cost-cutting campaign permeated every aspect of our existence, which soon sickened even the most hardened combat veterans among us. Casualties were everywhere--in every department, confusion reigned, and the working atmosphere quickly changed from orderly to a hostile environment due to the COO's ax-wielding; Favorites were spared and promoted to secure positions; other dedicated, long-tenured employees were axed despite their job performance, like Chief Nurse Flor O'Blepias, whose 25-year career at the AFRH site meant nothing to the new Health Administrator. Let me tell you, the carnage was extensive and didn't even spare our Chaplain, Patrick Thompson, and even our Deputy Director, esteemed Air Force nurse, LtCol Wendy VanDyke. One of the worst parts was watching our Deputy Director agonize over what was happening to the AFRH. She was first and foremost a dedicated and competent military officer, with credentials which included serving on the staff of President William Jefferson Clinton for four years. She endured some of the worst torture ever inflicted upon a military member by this Chief Operating Officer and his willing crony, the Director---a Navy (MSC) Captain named Jerald A. Ulmer. It's my personal opinion, having served in the Navy for 20 years, that Captain Ulmer was the worst military officer I had ever encountered. He countermanded ever effort LtCol VanDyke made to improve the habitability and liveability for our residents. He did Cox's bidding without question; if Cox wanted to get rid of people, Ulmer got rid of them. He ridiculed and embarrassed and humiliated each one (and there were many)....including a revered staff physician, Dr. Clippinger. Without regard to the man's rights, he railroaded him out the gate, not allowing him to stop and clean out his desk, and instructed the gate guards to post his picture and not let him enter the compound ever again. We found more examples of Ulmer's thoughtless and ruthless actions when he got rid of the Chaplain, and finally, by his treatment of LtCol VanDyke. The details can be found online at the DOD IG reading room website (search for DOD IG COX and pick out H05L95546042 dated 26Sep05) in the investigation of the sacking of LtCol VanDyke by Mr. Cox and Captain Ulmer. As highly redacted as the 35-page document is, (think of what it covers up) it reveals a horrific callousness toward LtCol VanDyke that ignores her authority over the Health Administrator (he was the favored one) and her right to make a decision that countermanded his. She was set upon by both Mr. Brown (the newly hired health administrator Cox wanted as Director) and Captain Ulmer and charged with insubordination and subsequently placed on 'administrative leave.' (There is no such thing in the military)... When she disappeared from her office with no announcement, I wondered what happened to her. I went to her on-site home and learned that she had been placed on 'administrative leave' and was forbidden to interact with residents. She said she was protesting her treatment by filing an Article 138, Redress of wrong by a Commanding Officer, with the Navy JAG against Captain Ulmer. I went to Captain Ulmer and was told to butt out. I went instead to WLOX-TV and got a reporter, Marsha Hall, interested in the story. She came to the compound at my request and, although forbidden to enter the resident tower, conducted an interview at the flagpole. That ignited a flurry of protests, and over 200 complaints were received by Senator Trent Lott's Gulfport office. Still, LtCol VanDyke was not allowed to return. In fact, she was isolated (in total embarrassment, unable to say anything to the press, without due process) for a total of 60 days! She remained in her on-site home with her family during that entire time without contact with the people she loved and cared for: the staff, workers, and residents. She was slated to pick up the Directorship upon the retirement of Captain Ulmer...but he, and Cox, and Brown, had other ideas. H05L95546042 dated 26Sep05 was kept secret for six months. It was only when LtCol VanDyke received a letter from the Department of the Navy on 19 April 2006 that she learned that her article 138 had been disapproved and of the existence of the completed DOD IG investigation. Documentation exists that the position of Director was indeed a Naval Command--and the Command Insignia was authorized to wear on the Director's uniform--someone had decided to say it was not, denying LtCol VanDyke her military rights to due process.) So when someone said to me that it was never hidden, I challenge them to find a 'nonexistent' document. Here we go into many unanswered questions...who was behind the Chief Operating Officer? Hints in the document itself point to the culprit: the Secretary of Defense himself, Donald Rumsfeld. Other incriminating evidence includes a transcript of the off-camera interview WLOX reporter Marsha Hall conducted with Captain Jerald A. Ulmer. He indicated it was the Secretary of Defense who authorizaed LtCol VanDyke's reassignment. In the document, COO Timothy C. Cox stated to an investigator that he enjoyed a 'personal reporting status' to Donald Rumsfeld. If that doesn't indicate an ineffective chain of command, nothing does. In addition, the collusion between the PDUS (P&R) at the time, Charles Abell, and Mr. Cox, is also plainly indicated, as it was the PDUS who helped Cox in his quest to get rid of LtCol VanDyke, and also the one tasked by the DOD IG (first page memo was to the PDUS(P&R) to 'take appropriate action' against Mr. Cox. When I mailed the problem to Senator Boxer last year, she received an answer from Ms. Leslye Arsht, Abell's successor, who said she was 'satisfied wih the report.' I am not. Nothing was done. Nothing was heard. Nothing was printed...except underground. MORE to come....much more!