The U.S. Navy has passed down punishment for the sailor who was presumed to be lost at sea last month, only to be found days later, hiding on board.

“I just can’t believe he’s gone,” Amy James, the missing sailor’s sister, told CBS affiliate WJAX during the search. “Is this real? Is this a nightmare?”

She added: “He’s still alive, he’s got to be fighting for his life.”

A massive search and rescue operation was launched on June 8th, after Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims, a gas turbine systems technician on the USS Shiloh, was reported as missing.  The Shiloh was conducting routine operations about 180 miles east of Okinawa, Japan, and was part of a large U.S. Navy presence in the region due to increased tensions with North Korea.

Operating under the assumption that Mims must have fallen overboard, American and Japanese ships diverted from their normal operations to search for the missing sailor, scouring over 5,500 square miles of the Philippine Sea.  After 50 hours, the decision to suspend the search was made.

“The decision to suspend the search was not arrived at lightly,” Rear Adm. Charles Williams said in a news release at the time. “Our thoughts are with our lost shipmate, his family, and the officers and crew of USS Shiloh.”

Seven days after he was reported missing, however, some of Mims’ own crewmates found the lost sailor in the last place anyone might have expected.  Mims’ shipmates found him hiding in an engineering space of the Shiloh.  He’d never even stepped foot off-ship.

According to reports, Mims small stature allowed him to hide in portions of the ship his crewmates wouldn’t have expected him to fit, allowing him to avoid detection for days, all while remaining on the ship that reported him missing.

Mims appeared before an Admiral’s Mast to answer for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s Article 86, abandoning watch, and Article 92, dereliction in the performance of duties.  While some may have expected a court-martial, Mims’ as yet unreported penalty came in the form of non-judicial punishment.  The maximum penalty he could incur would be loss of pay and confinement in the brig for six months.

“We are not disclosing any of the punitive actions taken against him,” 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Paul Newell said. “However, I can say that Mims is facing possible further administrative action.”

Further administrative action could include seeking an administrative separation for Mims, which could include a discharge under “other than honorable” conditions.

While many have responded to Mims actions with anger, with some calling his behavior an embarrassment to the Navy, Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of the carrier strike group that includes the USS Shiloh, has a slightly more positive take.  Instead of focusing on the specific sailor’s actions, he emphasized that finding him alive was a relief for the entire naval community.

“I am relieved that this sailor’s family will not be joining the ranks of Gold Star Families that have sacrificed so much for our country,” he said.


Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy