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Ziggy_Sprague

Death and valor on a warship doomed by its own Navy.

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Vaughan’s leg had been fractured in three places. He did not even feel it. “Get out, get out,” he shouted as men surged toward him through the rising water.

See https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/uss-fitzgerald-destroyer-crash-crystal/

As well as the larger piece at https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/us-navy-crashes-japan-cause-mccain/

This subject was previously discussed here (extensively, some 24 pages) at https://forum.worldofwarships.com/topic/142985-the-us-navy-has-a-problem/

...however, the links I've provided above are new material which go into a greater degree of detail since more information has gone public.

It seems like today's USN is in serious trouble.

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 8.53.58 PM.png

Edited by Ziggy_Sprague

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I spent close to 20 years in the Navy (out of 27) fixing ships in one way or another.  At SIMA San Diego shop 51A (Outside electric) used to hand me a whole raft of maintenance issues they couldn't resolve when I showed up for training (I was Reserve at the time).  Most of the time it was simply a matter of having basic skills and being able to think a problem through.  From what I saw there, then working for ComNavSurfPac N 4352 and N4356, I got the impression that most of the conventional surface fleet had minimal skill levels at maintaining equipment in a proper fashion.

In the nuclear power field, you fixed stuff and fixed it right-- or else.  In the civilian world you fixed stuff and did it right or you were unemployed.  Seemed to me that minimally proficient was acceptable for much of the Navy.  Safety was often a great excuse to not do something.  Buck passing on maintenance issues seemed common.  "We'll get the yard, shore facility, etc., to do that..."  

In Bahrain, I went there once because they had a softball field covered with generators of all sizes that were 440 / 220 V 50 Hz ("European" voltage) that they were going to get rid of because they wouldn't work with US voltage equipment.  I was like, "You know you can switch them over don't you?"  Well, they didn't know that an nobody had bothered to try and find out.  Had to call all the civilian vendors and have them fax over the wiring diagrams.  After that it was simple to change them over to 208 / 120 V 60 Hz sets or 480 / 277 V 60 Hz sets.

Just knowing how to use technical manuals and source parts seemed almost foreign to many fellow sailors I dealt with.

I can fully see the Fitzgerald not having the crew skill set to keep their gear up and running.

 

 

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To condense one of the articles down: “We’re using the fleet too much," Work told the Pentagon. “We have to say ‘no’ more often.”

This is one of the key problems most militaries have had historically.  The higher-up whose is always saying no for sensible reasons can get labeled as "timid" or "cowardly" are removed. From the start everyone is trained to follow orders, not rock the boat and say "yes sir".  And this has caused countless incidents where operations have gone forward lacking sense so as to not "rock the boat".  Anyone who says "no" in a military is at risk of being swept aside.  This is a problem not unique to any military.

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22 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

I spent close to 20 years in the Navy (out of 27) fixing ships in one way or another.  At SIMA San Diego shop 51A (Outside electric) used to hand me a whole raft of maintenance issues they couldn't resolve when I showed up for training (I was Reserve at the time).  Most of the time it was simply a matter of having basic skills and being able to think a problem through.  From what I saw there, then working for ComNavSurfPac N 4352 and N4356, I got the impression that most of the conventional surface fleet had minimal skill levels at maintaining equipment in a proper fashion.

In the nuclear power field, you fixed stuff and fixed it right-- or else.  In the civilian world you fixed stuff and did it right or you were unemployed.  Seemed to me that minimally proficient was acceptable for much of the Navy.  Safety was often a great excuse to not do something.  Buck passing on maintenance issues seemed common.  "We'll get the yard, shore facility, etc., to do that..."  

In Bahrain, I went there once because they had a softball field covered with generators of all sizes that were 440 / 220 V 50 Hz ("European" voltage) that they were going to get rid of because they wouldn't work with US voltage equipment.  I was like, "You know you can switch them over don't you?"  Well, they didn't know that an nobody had bothered to try and find out.  Had to call all the civilian vendors and have them fax over the wiring diagrams.  After that it was simple to change them over to 208 / 120 V 60 Hz sets or 480 / 277 V 60 Hz sets.

Just knowing how to use technical manuals and source parts seemed almost foreign to many fellow sailors I dealt with.

I can fully see the Fitzgerald not having the crew skill set to keep their gear up and running.

 

 

That's been the Navy's MO ever since it started outsourcing it's maintence cycles at the tail end of the Cold War. It's even worse now with the "Black Box" DDXs and LCSs.

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20 hours ago, Snipereagle23 said:

I am...Extremely confused.

I'm more astonished than I am confused, but perhaps I'm just confused.

If I understand the stories in both links correctly, then the USN is in serious trouble.

It goes beyond the fact that two captains allowed their ships to run into other ships, killing 17 American sailors in the process.

It's more a question of *why* these officers failed, and the reason involves negligent culpability by their higher superiors.

It's not a problem with two individual ships... it's a problem of the entire 7th Fleet.

Admiralty was not only aware of the problem; they created it. Those are the heads that need to roll.

It's too easy to crucify a line officer for losing his ship. But it's like that on purpose to deflect any wrongdoing higher up the food chain.

To make a long story short, when that second destroyer hop-scotched that second merchantman, making two wrecks in four months plus two more collisions with the shore, It means you've got a fleet problem. 

Four incidents in the space of one season ain't coincidence. It's a big ol' itch saying it really needs to be scratched.

How is your navy supposed to fight and win a war when it can't even navigate? When it kills its own sailors at a rate far higher than any enemy naval engagement in the past 15 years.

 

Edited by Ziggy_Sprague

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I'll want to read these (I haven't yet) but I was curious as to the "legitimacy" of the authors.  Sounds like they are thorough but possibly may lead a layperson to the conclusion that the ships crews had less culpability than they perhaps do.  I'll have to read the full articles to form my own opinion. 

I do recall from my time in the early 1990s as a surface warfare officer (SWO) the optempo was such that people can and did have degraded performance from exhaustion.  Sounds like that has gotten worse.  Apparently surface warfare officer school has been eliminated (where you practice conning the ship, tracking contacts, communicating with the bridge/CIC, etc, before hitting the fleet), which is something we had.

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16 hours ago, groomsiebelle said:

I was curious as to the "legitimacy" of the authors.

Refer then to the article "How We Investigated the Navy’s Twin Disasters in the Pacific" located at https://www.propublica.org/article/us-navy-uss-fitzgerald-uss-john-s-mccain-crash-pacific-how-we-investigated which goes into that subject and cites its sources.

I have read the piece you linked to at War On The Rocks, and it confounds me to the point where I wonder if its author really comprehended both articles in full. Both ProPublica articles clearly reiterate several times that ship captains are indeed fully responsible for what happens under their command. That was never in question. These articles simply go into rich and significant detail as to *how and why* these captains and junior officers failed at their jobs. It would be an incredibly blind thing to say "look no further than the captain" when you have in one fleet a total of four serious navigation accidents at sea in the course of less than a year, with two of those being tragic collisions which killed people. The cause goes *beyond* the level of individual ship command. In fact the problem is above the fleet level. The problem lies within the admiralty and inside The Pentagon. That's what the ProPublica articles lay out.

Nowhere in the ProPublica articles is it suggested that these captains were not responsible for their accidents. The question instead is *how* and *why.* And the answers are that these captains were ordered to sail without a sufficient number of crew aboard, and of the reduced crews they had to work with, many of these sailors were untrained or poorly trained, without key senior enlisted personnel aboard to do any training, and with an overload of missions leaving no time to train in the first place. The piece at War On The Rocks says "shame on these captains for not training their crew." And yet the ProPublica articles fully address this, noting how both the Fitzgerald and McCain commanders complained bitterly through official channels about not being given the time nor the NCOs nor the skilled technicians to do the required training just to reach base proficiency, let alone proper mission execution.

What were these captains going to do -- disobey a direct order to head out to sea because of a lack of sufficient manpower and training? They reported their actual readiness states (yellow) and resisted and appealed and begged, but ultimately they left port the Navy way, which is to make do with what you've got and try to fix the readiness problem on the road. That's all they could do. 7th Fleet was fully aware it had a problem but it continued to churn out missions at an overwhelming rate. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials ignored the repeated warnings and refused to fix well-documented manpower and training and maintenance problems, electing instead to spend money building new ships that are years away from launching.

So no, please don't make the same mistake War On The Rocks does. There is no white-washing of these captains and junior officers. There is instead a much wider spread of culpability and negligence far, far up the chain of command that served no other function than to clearly set these guys up to fail, at a cost of 17 American lives. That's what these articles go into.

16 hours ago, groomsiebelle said:

Apparently surface warfare officer school has been eliminated

It may interest you to know that Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) is in fact mentioned in Chapter One of the second ProPublica article, the one about the McCain collision. SWOS hasn't been eliminated... it's been transferred to Compact Disc.

Since 2003, instead of spending months in a classroom before going to sea, aspiring surface warfare officers are simply given a stash of 21 CD's to take aboard ship and "learn while doing." This package of discs is often referred to jokingly as "SWOS In A Box." 

Here's what a couple of young officers aboard CG-63 Cowpens thought about it, back in 2007. I think they did a great job channeling Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake:

 

16 hours ago, groomsiebelle said:

 I'll have to read the full articles to form my own opinion. 

I hope you choose to do that, as I'd certainly like to hear your informed opinion about the whole thing.

Edited by Ziggy_Sprague
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