A bisexual sailor who challenged the Pentagon's policy of banning homosexuals from active duty charged Wednesday that Navy officials have retaliated by harassing him and garnishing most of his pay, including his wife's monthly $700 housing allowance.
Petty Officer Third Class Gregg Monsma, a Persian Gulf War veteran trained as a nuclear technician, said he has endured constant harassment by Navy officers since March, when The Times reported that he was elected president of a veterans' group that lobbies for gay veterans and gays now in the military.
Since March, Monsma said, he has received a total of $85 pay from the Navy. The rest of his $1,400 monthly pay is going to repay a $16,000 re-enlistment bonus for nuclear proficiency that he lost because he is no longer working on ships' nuclear reactors, Monsma said.
His commanding officer, Cmdr. Fred Mallgrave, said Monsma is now receiving only minimum pay of about $23 per month to cover "health and comfort expenses."
After The Times article appeared in March, Monsma was pulled from his engineering job and put on mess duty, where his job is cleaning the ship's kitchen and feeding other crew members on the guided missile destroyer Berkeley. Mallgrave, who is the ship's skipper, said Monsma's mess duty was a routine assignment given to the lowest-ranking enlisted sailors for a period of 90 days.
Mallgrave acknowledged that sailors of Monsma's rank normally would not be required to pull mess duty. However, because the Berkeley's crew numbers only 350, most of the lower-ranking enlisted men have already pulled their mess duty stints, Mallgrave said. Two other sailors of Monsma's rank have also been assigned to mess duty, he added.
In March, Monsma, 23, declined to state his sexual preference. However, on Tuesday, he sent a letter to Mallgrave declaring he is bisexual and reiterating his opposition to the Defense Department's policy banning homosexuals.
He is the third Navy sailor in recent days to publicly disclose his homosexuality. The other two included a pilot and officer stationed in Virginia. Monsma told The Times he decided to go public with his sexual preference because "the Navy has pushed me into a corner where I can't do anything else."
"I intend to oppose the . . . ban on homosexuals serving in the military until the policy is overturned," Monsma wrote to Mallgrave.
In the letter, he accused Mallgrave of "continued harassment and blatant discrimination" against him. He expressed a desire to remain on active duty, but asked for an honorable discharge if the Navy sought to discharge him for homosexual activity.
In an interview, Monsma said Mallgrave had earlier called him a "faggot" and vowed to expel him from the Navy. Mallgrave denied using the epithet, but acknowledged that he told Monsma that he would try to get him discharged if an investigation by the Naval Investigative Service revealed that he was homosexual.
Mallgrave also denied harassing Monsma, but said he requested the NIS probe to look into the possibility that Monsma may have defrauded the Navy by drawing a housing allowance for a woman who was his wife in name only.
"As commander of this ship, I am the steward of the government's money. . . . There was a question in my mind whether he was in fact married and eligible for a married housing allowance. . . . I asked him to verify that he is in fact supporting this woman and what his housing costs are. He refused. At that point, I requested the investigation and stopped the (housing) allowance," Mallgrave said.
Monsma, who said he has been married for almost 2 1/2 years and separated from his wife for almost two years, acknowledged that he received a housing allowance for her during the time they have been separated.
He also acknowledged that he refused to produce the documents requested by Mallgrave. He said his attorney advised him not to cooperate on the basis that he would be giving up his right to remain silent.
"I have a valid marriage certificate, which is all that the Navy requires in order to get a housing allowance," Monsma said. "There's never been a question that I was supporting my wife. While I was in the (Persian) Gulf, my wife got a $2,000 emergency loan from the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which I paid back."
Monsma's wife has declined to talk to NIS investigators or comment on the investigation. He asked that she not be named in order to protect her privacy.
Now that Monsma has disclosed his homosexuality, Mallgrave said, Monsma will be processed for an administrative discharge as soon as the Navy's investigation of him is complete.
The type of discharge he gets depends on the outcome of the investigation. Monsma's homosexuality is not automatic grounds for a less-than-honorable discharge, Mallgrave said.
The dispute between Monsma and the Navy has attracted the attention of some members of Congress. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) and Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) today will request Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett to transfer Monsma from Mallgrave's command.