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CO, master chief fired after raising funds from strip clubs

Feb. 18, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Capt. John Heatherington was relieved of duty as CO of Naval Ordnance Test Unit in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Capt. John Heatherington was relieved of duty as CO of Naval Ordnance Test Unit in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Malcolm Denemark / Florida Today)
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The commanding officer and senior enlisted leader of a Florida-based ordnance disposal unit have been fired after the Navy determined their command inappropriately sought Submarine Birthday Ball funds from local strip clubs, the Navy said Tuesday.

Capt. John Heatherington, the CO of Naval Ordnance Test Unit in Cape Canaveral, Fla., was relieved of duty Tuesday by Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, the director of Strategic Systems Programs, SSP spokesman John Daniels told Navy Times.

NOTU’s senior enlisted leader, Master Chief Missile Technician (SS) Eric Spindle, has also been relieved as part of the investigation.

The firings stem from the command’s fundraising for the 2014 Submarine Birthday Ball at Cape Canaveral, with NOTU members soliciting sponsors for a November golf tournament to raise funds for the ball, Daniels said, including local dry cleaners, restaurants and two local adult entertainment businesses.

“There’s a governing Navy regulation on how to solicit money for official events and you can do it, but it just wasn’t done properly,” Daniels said. “We can go out to businesses, go to a dry cleaner and say, “Will you sponsor hole 12 in conjunction with tournament?’ But only certain types of businesses.”

He “wrongfully affiliated the U. S. Navy with businesses that are not representative of the Navy and DoD's high standards,” a Navy release said. The fund-raising team included active-duty, civilian and contract personnel, who are being handled administratively, Daniels added.

Heatherington’s reassignment has not yet been determined. Capt. Kevin Brenton, the SSP deputy director, has assumed command until a permanent relief reports later this year. Heatherington, a 1986 Naval Academy graduate, assumed command of NOTU in August 2011 and was scheduled to move on this summer.

His previous assignments include Defense Liason Division and Joint Staff, Operations in Washington, D.C and as commanding officer of the submarine Pasadena. His awards include three Meritorious Service Medals, five Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Defense Superior Service Medal and a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

He not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Command Master Chief (SS) Victor Smith, SSP’s CMC, has assumed duties as senior enlisted leader.

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