Navy charging officers of the Fitzgerald and McCain for homicide

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Navy charging officers of the Fitzgerald and McCain for homicide

I’m not a Navy expert by any stretch of the imagination, so this post is going to contain a few videos to give those of you who know this stuff a bit more information.

But let’s start with the Navy Times:

The commanders of two warships that collided with commercial vessels in the west Pacific last summer, killing 17 sailors, will face negligent homicide and other criminal charges, Navy officials said Tuesday.

Four destroyer Fitzgerald officers, including skipper Cmdr. Bryce Benson, will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel for the June 17 incident that killed seven sailors off Japan, according to the Navy.

The three other officers, two lieutenants and one lieutenant j.g., were not identified in the Navy statement. Cmdr. William Speaks, a Navy spokesman, said that the process for deciding whether the officers will be court-martialed is “very early in the process.”

Just this morning I was reading our upcoming magazine and there was an interesting quote in there about readiness and sequestration that bears mentioning here: 

Surely, the rash of deadly midair and at-sea mishaps is a byproduct of sequestration.  “On-duty accidents,” notes the American Enterprise Institute’s Mackenzie Eaglen, “have been the biggest killer of American servicemembers since 2014” – not the Islamic State, al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Task & Purpose, among many others tagged sleep deprivation as one of the most likely culprits in a manpower shortage navy:

“I don’t think I can remember not being completely exhausted on watch, be it the middle of the day or the seven-to-forever,” says August Sorvillo, a former Navy quartermaster who helped his ships navigate all manners of challenging channels and anchorages. “It’s safe to say I’ve bought enough Red Bull, Monster, and Rip-Its that I could [have made] a sizable down payment on a house.”

Lori Schulze Buresh, a former surface warfare officer, still cringes thinking about the deployment where she stood the Navy’s notorious “five and dime” watches: five hours on, 10 off, then repeat — no matter what time of day or night. “The hardest part is being awake at some point every night and still doing a job all day,” she says. “It is hard on a body and hard on the mind.”

Here’s a few videos for your perusal.

First, the McCain investigation from Fox:

Next, the Fitzgerald one from Military Times:

And lastly, a LONG briefing from the Navy on both:

Military Times notes that “Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson are scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday regarding the state of the surface fleet.”

That ought to be one heck of a hearing.

Posted in the burner | 18 comments
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I think we can all agree, that for safety reasons, the Navy needs to revise the way it's watch standing rotations are structured. For three years I had the mid-watch on a 6 & 6 rotation in a 1200 p.s.i steam engine room (in my opinion the most difficult watch rotation in the Navy). Luckily no one was seriously injured or killed due to watch-stander exhaustion. The Navy needs to do a better job of recruiting an adequate number of people to fulfill it's mission parameters.

Considering the method of giving the young SWO a program & then OJT/mentoring at sea is now proving to be a very costly decision rather than a money saver. I'm not sure the whole blame lies with the officers listed. But, not being privy to the full investigation does have its drawbacks. I just know that having served in a lot of training/education billets during my career, sooner or later, crappy training, a.k.a., "streamlined or fast-track" eventually shows it was not a good move. From the reports I have been able to read - Navy Times - & some of the others that were released, it seems that there is a key element missing - inputs from the CPO force. Maybe things have changed, but "back in the day" most often it was, "Ask the Chief!" Realizing that some of the firm approaches I may have used back during my career (Made E-7 in 1962 & E-9 in 1968) would be considered bruising to the psychic of some of today's youngsters - never physical, just good old extra duty cleaning requirements, etc., I still think that the chief's have too much to contribute. Had a chance to talk with several SSN crew members who just came back from an extended patrol totaling 10 months. Sure they were tired, but they also had a super attitude - Proud to Serve.
I just hope that the officers on the hot seat will receive a fair hearing & that the many extenuating circumstances will be taking into consideration before they get sacked for other people's short-sightedness in the training pipeline.

Master Chief, I am in complete agreement. Before retirement, and becoming a teacher in public schools and colleges, I spent some years with the old Fleet Training Group prepping ships for deployment. Training programs get cut in ways to save money at the expense of properly training officers and sailors. As we have seen in many instances, probably including the two collisions at sea, undertrained people may find themselves in essentially routine situations they cannot handle. That is a TRAINING problem. Properly trained people always handle the routine evolutions...only experience under the tutelage of "Old Hand" can give them the confidence to make the right decisions in unusual events. Clearly a case of budget cuts which slice two ways...and good men and women die for other peoples' errors.

Failure to take action avoiding a collision and or grounding of a Navy Vessel is an almost automatic removal of the Command Structure that is supposed to make the vessel work flawlessly the first time, in times of havoc, for obvious reasons. This involved deaths; always a concern and bigger news.

British Man of War ruled the waves for hundreds of years; because in part of the design standards and training around them allowed regroup and instant precision teamwork allowed them to run circles around their contemporaries. Way more complex to handle correctly than anything at sea today except maybe an Air Craft Carrier.

Ask those Non.Com. sailors with experience who actually do the work. They actually make things happen or not.

It's just a shame that our fine men and women have to suffer yet another round of Obama. Their lives will be changed forever, along with the families of those killed due to an incompetent ass

The real shame is that there are people like you.

Sooooo the high tech new over budget aircraft carrier is so advanced we should be able to get rid of watch and use auto pilot. I mean seriously, we can find specks of dust out in the universe and identify it but we can’t keep giant ships from hitting each other? Sounds like a lot of DOD BS to placate someone. 25 years retired- I don’t buy this excuse.

During Vietnam workload was excessive, junior officers more interested in making a name for themselves, some senior officers looking to advance at expense of the crew. Injuries happen in line of duty and able seaman patch up back to work. Some injuries extensive with no rest putting crew and crewman at risk.But hey upon return those(crew/officers) who were not at risk given ribbons/medals for fine job done but those who actually did hard work and face death given nothing. Navy still has not changed! Escape goats greatly sacrifice and those truly to blame transfer, promoted
and/or retired quickly.

Skippers are responsible. If skippers demand perfection then it is, the chiefs who will ensure compliance. In today's navy there should never be "accidents" unless intentionally done. That is my 2 cents!!!

Having stood more time on guard or duty and also having to do my day job than I can remember, I know how exhausting it is and it is almost impossible to stay awake sometimes. Lack of sleep really affects your attention and judgment so mistakes and accidents. I'm curious though about the rash of new ship accidents - with all their electronics, computers, etc - seems like they would be designed with alarms or warnings loud enough to wake the dead. Who knows what really happened, what equipment failed, etc. All loss of life, but especially those caused by mistakes or accidents is tough to cope with. Sorrow for those injured and killed and hope for justice (not designated blame recipient) for those responsible. Semper fi!

The old adage rings true and bears repeating: "We never rise to the occasion, we default to the level of training". With Op Tempo as it is, I can appreciate the challenges these folks are under, and agree with the MC. In my opinion, Training can never be negotiable.

To answer Jim Bragg's question regarding the Vice Admiral's awards, he is wearing his top three awards which he is allowed to do.

Interested in how senior officers obtain their awards.

I'm not saying it's OK, but in touring the USS Midway this past March it was mentioned by the long-retired Navy petty officers (now tour guides) how little sleep sailors get at sea, whether wartime or peacetime. It had nothing to do with sequestration. Sounded like it was the culture. A few active sailors, one a bridge officer, backed-up this comment saying "Yeah, you're considered a slacker if you get six hours of uninterrupted sleep a day". While I was in the Marines back in the 80's I heard that was the case as well, but I never served on a ship.

I am not a robot.

Our best three ships damaged by tankers the same MO. What a coincidence, ever thought that
whoever was in control of the tankers didn't like our ships in the area????.

Air Force comes to the same conclusion when aircraft crash and pilot dies, its likely pilots error.

The Navy, as well as throughout the US government, regularly surveys its people for morale. Has the Navy released the morale surveys for the 7th fleet? or these ships? I doubt it. Why not? Could iit be objections to co-ed ships? loss of religion? lack of rest? Survey those who have left to get an idea.

let's not forget the huge explosion in no.# 4 engine room . that killed six and injured 35 due to neglect and to a captain who was in a hurry to get going.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.