The off-hand comments of an enlisted Coast Guardsman on a public Facebook page about Kodiak have landed him in hot water with his superiors at Coast Guard Base Kodiak. In a post on Friends of Kodiak regarding Native land access restrictions Petty Officer Brandon Upchurch made derogatory comments toward Alaska Natives and claimed he accesses Native land despite it being private property.
KMXT’s Jay Barrett has more, and we want to caution you, some of the comments Upchurch made will be offensive to some.
The Facebook page “Friends of Kodiak” offers a forum for
residents to ask questions and share information. Everything from where
to buy Girl Scout cookies to updates on road conditions can be found
there. The administrator of the page, Jeri Mainero, has behavior
guidelines pinned to the top of the page saying two things are not
allowed: “No ‘bashing’ of anyone;” and cursing should be kept to a
And while the second of those minimal rules was followed
by Coast Guard Petty Officer Brandon Upchurch in comments he made on
Wednesday, the first most decidedly was not. Here are his written
comments, which as we said, might be offensive to some.
“Hell, I will still go out there to camp and have fires. Have you ever
been where these damn Natives live? They live like a bunch of bums with
trash everywhere. You think that the billions they get from the U.S.
Government, they would live like kings. So every one of them can kiss my
Until recently, Upchurch was stationed aboard the
Kodiak-based Cutter Munro. According to Chief Petty Officer Sara
Moores, he was transferred to a shore-side position prior to the
“We require all of our members to adhere to
the coast Guard values of honor, respect and devotion to duty, whether
they’re on-duty, off-duty, out in public, talking online or in the
execution of their duties," said Moores. "As such, this member didn’t follow those
guidelines, and we understand a number of people within the community
found those comments rather tasteless.”
In response to Upchurch’s
remarks, the commander of Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Captain Jerald
Woloszynski, issued a formal apology, which was also posted on Facebook.
In the letter he writes that Upchurch’s command has been notified and
will decide how to deal with him. Moores said the Captain wanted to
reassure the community that Upchurch’s comments did not reflect those of
the base as a whole.
“The Coast Guard holds all our members
accountable," Moores said. "Making inappropriate comments isn’t tolerated, especially
when they have the potential to offend various groups throughout the
Moores says Upchurch’s commanding officer is taking
the incident seriously and investigating the comments. She says there
are several different outcomes.
“The command can consider
entering remarks in the member’s personal data record, or an evaluation
to document issues related to performance. Any measures taken through
this process are confidential and not releasable to the public," she said. "If they
take it further than that, into the military justice process, the first
step in that process is when charges will be preferred against a
military member following an investigation. And these processes closely
parallel the civilian process.”
Many other people, seemingly all
civilians, also vented and shared opinions, derogatory and otherwise,
about Kodiak Native groups for closing their private land to public use. Moores says the Coast Guard’s code of conduct is the difference between Upchurch’s
comments and a civilian saying the same thing in a public forum.
“Everyone has opinions, but the vast majority of them don’t belong on
Facebook. We encourage all our members through our Coast Guard social
media policy and through a variety of different training to interact in a
positive and respectful manner in public and in their daily life,
whether they’re on or off duty," Moores said. "Certainly we don’t want to offend anyone
and we certainly don’t want to make any kind of statements about any
Moores says Captain Woloszynski’s apology on Facebook has been well-received by many outside the Coast Guard:
“The Coast Guard enjoys an excellent relationship with the community
here in Kodiak, and we value those partnerships. A lot of people who
have been stationed here, choose to remain here after their careers
because it is such a wonderful place to live and work," she said. "And we really
appreciate the support that was obvious from the community in the
comments on that letter that was posted to Friends of Kodiak, of people
valuing the Coast Guarding and the continued partnerships that we have.”
KMXT has been unable to reach Petty Officer Brandon Upchurch for
comment, and his Facebook profile is no longer accessible. Before his
current shore-side assignment and time aboard the cutter Munro, Upchurch
served on the Cutter Sequoia. The USO in Guam honored him as its Coast
Guardsman of the year in 2011.