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Sunday, 28 August 2011 18:51

I was the Mechanics Chief Freewinds for 16 years, from the day the Church took possession of the vessel until May of 2002, when I was basically declared dead after testing positive for HIV which I got 13 years earlier from a blood transfusion in Curacao, the ship's home port.

But that is another story. To try to see one's family while on the ship is virtually impossible. It is considered out-ethics to even want to see one's family. In early 2002, after 7 years with no LOAs (Leave of Absence) I made the outrageous request to be allowed to go to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I had seen no member of my family in 7 years. It would have been grossly out-PR for the Church not to allow me to go. I am the only Scientologist in my family. I sent in the standard CSW months in advance showing how my post would be covered, etc. I got no answer — the typical response. They figure, not totally incorrectly, that eventually you will give up wanting to see your family. But as I was under a lot of pressure to get this handled, I had to do something. So I finally sent a petition to ED INT to get a leave.

Now, a petition to ED INT should only be necessary when a person wants more than the "standard" 3 weeks leave but I couldn't get a reply from anyone else.

As an aside, for years I used to tell others on the ship that the only way to get off the ship was "in a box." Indeed, that is about how I ended up getting off.

Now, my stats were up, my FO-38 (reference to the Flag Order 38 that lays out Sea Org etiquette) was always in and I tried not to make waves. After all, if one screws up in the SO, one is basically "dead forever". I got a comm from ED INT's Communicator telling me that since I only wanted 3 weeks off, it was not a matter for ED INT and I should just CSW my local org, which I had been doing already for 5 months. So, that did not work.

My senior told me to to write the RTC Rep and I did. After staff meeting the next day I was called up to the Captain's office along with my wife, my senior, the Chief Officer and the Chief Engineer. The Captain started by telling us all that we should listen to what he had to say carefully as this would save us a lot of grief later. He then launched into a tirade against my wife (wrong target) for starting this "reunion shit." He then screamed at the top of his lungs (or so I thought at the time) "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT FAMILY."   I didn't realize at the time, but he was just getting warmed up. The meeting broke up and I had the treasonous idea to follow the LRH reference, HCO PL (Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter) “Job Endangerment Chits” in which LRH states "If one is threatened for writing a Job Endangerment Chit, one then writes a second chit based on the threat.”

I retired to my computer and wrote another report to the RTC Rep outlining the above. Still nothing happened… except I was put on the Restricted List meaning that I could not even go on the dock without a security guard to escort me.

Time had just about run out and now, with no way out, after 23 years in the Sea Org, first at FSO and then at the Freewinds, and suffering from a life-threatening physically illness, I was becoming suicidal. I decided that the only way out was to fry myself on the high-power 380 volt electrical buss bars that supply the ship's power. I could handle the abuse to me by the org, but I could not handle being forced to harm my own family. By the way, one of my cabin mates was Jorge Arroyo, who I heard from Marty’s site hanged himself last year on the ship.

I was then hauled into HCO for an interrogation on the meter with the Dir I and R. We were obviously being watched, as notes would be shoved under the door from time to time. Finally the door opened and Tamara Cippoli, the CMO CJU (Commodore’s Messenger Org, Crackerjack Unit) auditor ordered the Dir I and R out. She took over the interrogation and eventually found out about the suicide plan. The interview ended.

The next day I finally got my CSW back from the Chief Engineer. My leave was disapproved because "FSSO ‘Bodies in the Shop’ were down." (Bodies in the Shop or BIS is the number of public in the FSSO org on services — wholly irrelevant to a LOA requested by the Mechanics Chief — I ran the engine room!)

I was told to resubmit when there were more Bodies in the Shop. I didn't even work for FSSO. Had there been more Bodies in the Shop the leave would have been disapproved for that reason as when there are a lot of people in the org, the engineers are off post serving in the dining rooms and the Engineering Section would be undermanned.

Now time had run out, it was the day before the anniversary party. I had reluctantly thought of blowing and coming back to face the music but it was now too late. Withe the guards and cameras  and the fact that they were keeping my passport there was no escape. I had sent a comm to the person at the Relay Office who arranges flights in case I could get off to find me a ticket. It was Friday night staff meeting and after the staff meeting broke up the phone rang. The Captain answered it. It was the person who had arranged my ticket. After I talked to him and hung up the Captain said that in 15 years in the Sea Org no one had talked to him like that. (He was clearly referring to his conversation with the RTC Rep where the RTC rep had apparently ripped into him.)

Pointing to his Captain's bars he shouted at the top of his lungs " I AM THE ONLY RIGHT ARM CAPTAIN IN THE SEA ORG AND NOBODY CAN TELL ME WHAT TO DO! Well, one person could…” (apparently meaning COB) “BUT HE WOULD NEVER DO IT."

Obviously LRH, who wrote the policy on Leaves of Absences could not tell Captain Napier what to do either.

I managed to get 10 days off and came back. Had I known then as I found out a month after returning from leave that I had HIV I could have saved all the trouble as I was removed from the vessel and beached in LA without even being told by ship's medical personnel that I had tested positive.

I haven't been back since but I did leave a message for the Port Captain after I was no longer allowed to talk to anyone as soon as the receptionist recognized my voice. The message I left was "I'll be back" like Arnold Schwarzenegger said it in "The Terminator."  I would like to go back at some point just to see the look on the Captain's face when he sees me alive. After all, We Come Back.

Not only is the above a gross violation of human rights, it is also a violation of human trafficking laws. Human trafficking is not only about send staff off to far flung places without their consent, it is about detaining them against their will.

Former Mechanics Chief Freewinds
Bill Straass



+3 # AnonLover 2011-08-28 20:08
Bill, your story is such a heart wrenching account. But the points about withholding your VISA and comment below is by far the most relevant to STOPPING these abuses...

"Human trafficking is not only about send staff off to far flung places without their consent, it is about detaining them against their will."

So please consider contacting the American Embassies in the friendly ports the Freewinds frequents most often, and relaying your experiences and report these unlawful tactics in the hopes of starting an investigation by authorities.

Once reported, contact Amnesty International (AI) and ask for their help in following up on your reports and apply the necessary pressure to have it taken seriously. They have a dedicated Human Trafficking group that operates internationally. Plus there is already OPEN investigation files with AI on child labor law abuses the Church of Scientology has committed in the US and Australia. More info on AI and other useful human trafficking issues can be found here:


There's also a good deal of additional information supporting your claims of human trafficking that has been collected for the past 2 years readily available here:


But it takes a knowledgeable first hand account to report it and get an investigation started.

Surely there's still people stuck on the ship that want out. And here's hoping somebody so goes back for them before any more heartbreaking stories that end up worse than you did happens.
+2 # Scott Campbell 2011-08-28 20:40
Horrific story Bill.

The Captain and any other org staff on the Freewinds are guilty of violations of basic human rights.

I'm glad you made it out alive, buddy. Thanks for speaking out about the abuses.
# John Doe 2011-08-29 20:57
Bill, your attempts to get a CSW approved to take a 3 week leave, the leaves that LRH says in that Flag Order about letting people take their leaves, is pretty much a repeat of me trying to get an urgent, family related leave 32 friggin' years ago!

This type of cross ordering LRH about leaves has been going on for quite a while, at least at the Int Base.

Only because a messenger that still had a heart got involved did I make it on that leave and just barely. Back then there was an 8-page routing form one had to complete to go on a leave, and this is AFTER one went through all the bullshit to get the CSW approved in the first place.
+1 # RJ 2011-08-29 21:45

They should re-christen the Freewinds and call it the HMS Bounty.

Seems more appropiate.

Don't ya think Bill?

Glad you're off that ship of fools.
+1 # Bill Straass 2011-08-30 08:03
Actually I was thinking of a sign which states "Arbeit Machs Frei" which means "and work will set you free". This is the sign that is at the gate to the Aushwitz death camp. The meaning is close to what we were doing. If we worked hard enough and long enough, we would be free. Hence, FREEWINDS. Almost all of those at Aushwitz were freed via the chimmney. (As an aside, one of my juniors on the ship was from Poland and he did actually "fly the chimmney" at Aushwitz.)
# RJ 2011-08-30 12:53
When the coup took over in the early '80's and we saw "SP" declares for people like John Horwich, Bill Franks, Bill Robertson, David Mayo et al being declared we used to call the org "Auschwitz '82" because it was starting to feel more like a slave labor camp instead of an Org with all the heavy ethics going down.

Actually I posted this on Marty's board sometime back and some didn't appreciate my twisted sense of humor :)
+1 # Tara 2011-08-29 23:53
Disgusting. So much hatred towards their fellow man. I'm just disgusted right now. I have my own BPC on the subject. Ugh.
Again, I'm so very glad you made it out alive! And I'm extra specially glad you and your wife are free! :)
+1 # Leah 2011-09-04 12:28
Bill, I've read this post and the one you wrote about testing positive for HIV and the horribleness that ensued. It makes me profoundly sad. You may or may not remember me, but I was on the ship from 1994-2000. I remember you clearly...I did some time in the engine room when I was "in trouble". You once gave me some art supplies as, I think, a Christmas present. Do you remember me?
# Bill Straass 2011-09-12 09:23
Dear Leah,
I believe I do remember you. It would be easier if I knew your last name but maybe you do not want it posted.
Love, Bill
# Leah 2011-09-14 19:04
Hi Bill,
What's your email? I'll email you with details. :)
# Bill Straass 2011-09-16 09:08
Dear Leah,

My email is
Looking forward tro hearing from you

Sorry, but you do not have the right to post comments.

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