Coast Guard station head fired over harassment claim inaction

by Vern Evans

The commander of the Coast Guard’s largest station was fired June 3 for failing to follow proper procedures in the wake of harassment accusations in the command, service officials announced.

Coast Guard Station New York leader Cmdr. David Ruhlig was relieved after the service determined he “failed to take certain steps required by Coast Guard policy to address allegations of harassing behavior within the workplace,” First District spokesperson Lt. Samantha Corcoran told Military Times in an email. “The Coast Guard takes all reports of harassment seriously and is committed to providing all members with a safe and respectful environment to work.”

Lt. Cmdr. Robert Garris, from the Coast Guard’s Office of Boat Forces, will serve as the station’s interim commanding officer until Lt. Cmdr. Craig Johnson assumes command of the station in September.

Ruhlig, whose dismissal was officially listed by the service as resulting from “a loss of confidence in his ability to fulfill the expectations of his position,” was reassigned to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, the service announced.

The firing follows a string of recent dismissals within Coast Guard leadership. In less than two months, the service fired four top leaders, according to a report from Military.com.

Capt. Daniel Mode — a Catholic priest and service’s top chaplain — was relieved of his command in April after allegations surfaced that he failed to act upon learning of another chaplain’s sexual misconduct prior to joining the military, the report found.

In May, Master Chief Petty Officer Timothy Beard was relieved of command for “inappropriate misconduct,” according to the Military.com report. Coast Guard chaplain Cmdr. Cristiano DeSousa was relieved of his duties that same month following an investigation that determined he showed poor judgment and breached the trust of service members.

The dismissal of Ruhlig comes as the Coast Guard grapples with a sexual assault and harassment controversy following the release of a long-hidden report detailing 43 credible accusations of sexual assault at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

In response to the report, known as “Operation Fouled Anchor,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan in July 2023 announced a 90-day accountability and transparency review for the Coast Guard’s sexual assault and harassment policies.

Fagan in December introduced 33 recommendations to address policy issues that would help stifle sexual assault in the service.

A Government Accountability Office report found that by February 2024 the Coast Guard had only completed five of the 33 recommendations.

Zamone “Z” Perez is a reporter at Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.

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