Command senior chief busted for secretly setting up Wi-Fi on US Navy combat ship

In the Navy, no, you cannot have an unauthorized WLAN. In the Navy, no, that's not a good plan

The US Navy has cracked down on an illicit Wi-Fi network installed on a combat ship by demoting the senior enlisted leader who ordered it to be set up.

Now-former Command Senior Chief Grisel Marrero was tried and convicted in March, according to the Navy Times, which acquired documents pertaining to her trial. Marrero served on the USS Manchester, a littoral (near-shore) combat ship assigned to the US Naval Surface Force Pacific (SURFPAC), part of the larger US Pacific Fleet.

Spokespeople for the Navy today told The Register the report on Monday was accurate, adding in a statement:

The command senior chief of USS Manchester (LCS 14) Gold Crew, Senior Chief Grisel Marrero, was relieved of her duties due to a loss of confidence in Marrero’s ability to serve as the senior enlisted leader. Navy senior enlisted leaders are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct. They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards.

Between March and August last year, during her stint as Command Senior Chief on the Manchester, Marrero "willfully coordinated the procurement, installation and use of an unauthorized and unapproved Wi-Fi system," her charge sheet read.

The specific wording of the charge implies that Marrero wasn't acting alone, and in fact other sailors were said to be punished in relation to Marrero's Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi ain't always the most secure, and the use of the wireless networking tech generally is prohibited on Navy vessels, we're told.

The installation escaped scrutiny until about June, when a crew member tried to pass info about the illicit network to the ship's commanding officer. However, that tip was intercepted by Marrero, who didn't tell the commanding officer anything about the Wi-Fi deployment, presumably because she didn't want to get herself in trouble.

The scheme unraveled in August after a Manchester crew member was set to be disciplined. In order to "influence or impede" the crew member's punishment, Marrero edited an image of the ship's Starlink data usage to show less data being transferred via the satellite link, presumably to hide the Wi-Fi network and the backhaul connectivity it was using.

It is unstated in the report whether the crew member was being disciplined in relation to the Wi-Fi network, hence why Starlink data usage came up at all, but either way the senior chief lied to her superiors.

Marrero was initially relieved from her position in September, and then court-martialed. She was charged with willful dereliction of duty, making false statements, and obstruction to justice. She pleaded guilty to all but the last charge, which she was found guilty of anyways.

The now-ex senior chief's punishment was being demoted a rank, from the E-8 level to E-7. It is not yet known what the Navy has in store for the other sailors involved with the Wi-Fi network. ®

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