Author Topic: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy  (Read 2231 times)

Threviel

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Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« on: February 08, 2019, 10:39:53 am »
I got hold of an interesting article which, despite its hyperbolic name, is quite good.

https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/uss-fitzgerald-destroyer-crash-crystal/?fbclid=IwAR3YeD2m0HYw4MGr0rn_izk_7EwyHYXK4FgS-LQZ9vWn_c2NKVOveffeK24

TL:DR: USS Fitzgerald was hit by a freighter due to bad seamanship. This was the fault of the higher ups.

What do you think? Are there serious structural problems in the worlds second best navy?

Berkut

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2019, 12:20:23 pm »
Wow. You don't see much reporting like that anymore. Excellent.
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Threviel

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2019, 02:41:03 pm »
I'm reading part 2 right now https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/us-navy-crashes-japan-cause-mccain/

I really wonder, as I am reading, what could cause such unreadiness and so run down ships and crew and if that attitude is in the entire Navy. Perhaps I should continue reading.

mongers

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2019, 03:08:12 pm »
Maybe they should 'drive' on the left-hand side instead.  :bowler:
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Berkut

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2019, 04:02:50 pm »
Quote
Two three-star admirals told ProPublica they had explicitly notified superiors of the growing dangers. The two people who served successive terms as undersecretary of the Navy, the No. 2 position in the civilian command, said they had, too.


Errh, if the bunk doesn't stop at three star admiral rank, where does it stop?
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grumbler

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2019, 04:12:24 pm »
That's a really well-written piece.  It got some things wrong (like the fact that it was Combs, not Coppock, who was in charge of the ship while on watch) but overall seems to be focused on informing, not judging.   Some thing that leapt out to me:

(1) Benson was himself the XO before he became CO.  That's a really bad idea.  The XO is the guy who actually runs the ship.  He is the only man, apart from the senior enlisted man aboard (who serves as a sort of sergeant-major of the ship) who reports directly to the CO.  Everybody else reports to him.  He knows where all of the bodies are buried, where the skeletons are in the various closets.  He's responsible for resolving problems like having one of the officers not eating in the wardroom.   

Having the XO take over as CO puts the new XO, Babbitt, in an impossible situation.  The CO knows more about the ship and crew than the XO, which is the opposite of the way that works.  The new XO cannot criticize things like the watch bill, because the new CO is the one who created it!  In fact, the fact that the Benson created the watch bill and "balanced the officers" is emblematic of the problem - that was NOT his job.  That's the Xo's job.

(2) The ship had a LOT of officers on duty (three of them just on the bridge), while at the same time the point is made that they are not getting enough rest.  Why didn't the ship lean more on the senior enlisted men?  Sure, the ship was short of complement, but only 10% down is better than any ship I ever served on.  Chief Petty Officer and First Class Petty Officers love to stand those officer watches, and are probably better at them than junior officers. 

(3) This story just reinforces how totally out of bounds the officer of the deck, Coppock, was.  She got no help from CIC, but didn't seem to do anything about it.  She passed no visual info to CIC, didn;t talk bridge-to-bridge with any of the ships she could see, and, worst of all, totally failed to properly handle the ship.  The rules of the road for ships is very clear; when a possible collision situation arises, a ship may either slow, or turn to starboard.  Turning to port is forbidden.  She increased speed and turned to port.  She also violated the unwritten rule that, when maneuvering to avoid collision, the OOD ALWAYS takes the conn: "attention on the bridge, I have the conn."  One never relays messages through a conning officer under those circumstances.  The conning officer is a trainee.

(4) The captain was asleep in his in-port cabin.  I've never known a CO who didn't use his at-sea cabin (which is right off the bridge) 100% of the time at night at sea.  That's what it is for.  There's a certain reassurance for OOD to know that the captain is about three steps away, and it's not that big a deal to call him to the bridge. Sure, you are going to wake him up, but he's not a watchstander and he can sleep when he wants to.  He was maybe still thinking like an XO (whose cabin is deliberately far from the bridge and the sea cabin and who is not on-call to the OOD except to maybe ask his advice on whether to wake the CO), for which I blame, again, the decision to make the XO the CO.  And so it come full circle.

This story is great for how it shows the different viewpoints of different people.  I hope the right people pay attention to it, and that they also see what it didn't (and couldn't, given the ongoing investigations) say.
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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2019, 04:14:28 pm »
Quote
Two three-star admirals told ProPublica they had explicitly notified superiors of the growing dangers. The two people who served successive terms as undersecretary of the Navy, the No. 2 position in the civilian command, said they had, too.

Errh, if the bunk doesn't stop at three star admiral rank, where does it stop?

The bunk traditionally stops where the next bunk begins.  :P

But, seriously, the Navy has been over-deployed for two decades now, at least.
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grumbler

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2019, 07:31:17 pm »
I'm reading part 2 right now https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/us-navy-crashes-japan-cause-mccain/

I really wonder, as I am reading, what could cause such unreadiness and so run down ships and crew and if that attitude is in the entire Navy. Perhaps I should continue reading.

That second part is far more damning than the first - and the first one was about abject incompetence.
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Threviel

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2019, 11:49:51 pm »
Thanks Grumbler, always interesting to hear from guys with experience.

The second article really lays the blame on the political leadership, the SecNav and Congress. I hope that things have been better in the years since.

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2019, 12:26:13 am »
My interest in boating is limited but I thought that this was an absolutely fantastic piece of writing and journalism and sent links to several friends.

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Berkut

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2019, 11:26:07 am »
A couple things I would love to here grumblers take on:

1. The officer not eating in the wardroom. This is reported as kind of a minor problem, maybe even just an eccentricity. HOwever, as a commander....I think I would generically see this as a really serious issue. My officers don't have to like each other, but they do have to respect each other, and they most certainly MUST have a functioning social (military social but still social) relationship. So much of the non-tangible success factors in the military are based on the relationships working, and one officer not eating in the wardroom regularly seems like a giant fucking canary in the coal mine that *something* is wrong that needs to be adressed. Or am I reading too much into that, in regards how it works in the Navy versus other services (my uninformed gut actually tells me this is MORE important on a warship than other services, not less)?

2. One thing the article mentioned several times was how many missions the ship was put on, with no real chance for rest and refit. One of those missions mentioned was a "show the force" kind of thing where they went with a CVBG. Now, this strikes me as a mission that might be important overall, but have the Fitzgerald as part of it is almost completely irrelevant. Having one more DDG there or not seems to make no real difference. So given its rather poor readiness, why send it? That hardly seems critical.

I see two possibilities here:

1. Its readiness may look poor, but it is actually pretty typical, and not really as large a problem as the article makes out. And maybe none of the ships there were any better, so if you didn't send ships like the Fitzgerald, you wouldn't send any at all.
2. It isn't so much about the need for the ship to be there, but that nobody wanted to admit clearly that it should not go because of its poor readiness and need for more downtime. So its not that it needs to be there so much, but that someone says "Hey, we need some ships for this, lets send, uhhh who is available....X, Y, and Fitzgerald". And nobody wanted to actually say "Yeah, unless you REALLY need them, that is not such a great idea....".
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Berkut

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2019, 11:27:20 am »
Quote
Two three-star admirals told ProPublica they had explicitly notified superiors of the growing dangers. The two people who served successive terms as undersecretary of the Navy, the No. 2 position in the civilian command, said they had, too.

Errh, if the bunk doesn't stop at three star admiral rank, where does it stop?

The bunk traditionally stops where the next bunk begins.  :P

But, seriously, the Navy has been over-deployed for two decades now, at least.

Right - but don't three start admirals have a lot of influence on that very problem? I mean, these are the guys calling the shots, right?
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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2019, 01:38:41 pm »
I'm not a big believer in ProPublica painting an accurate picture.  I may be judging from a sample of one, but the first time I heard about them, it was when they did a study on how auto insurers racially discriminate.  It didn't matter that some actuaries consulted before publication pointed out how their analysis was littered with rookie mistakes that drove their conclusion, they weren't going to take some expert mansplaining things to them.  After the publication they still dug in their heels and went "of course the industry will not admit that they racially discriminate and will instead attack our conclusions".  It's good to be an investigative reporter, but only if you are passionate about truth rather than criticizing the powers to be.

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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2019, 02:00:15 pm »
I'm not a big believer in ProPublica painting an accurate picture.  I may be judging from a sample of one, but the first time I heard about them, it was when they did a study on how auto insurers racially discriminate.  It didn't matter that some actuaries consulted before publication pointed out how their analysis was littered with rookie mistakes that drove their conclusion, they weren't going to take some expert mansplaining things to them.  After the publication they still dug in their heels and went "of course the industry will not admit that they racially discriminate and will instead attack our conclusions".  It's good to be an investigative reporter, but only if you are passionate about truth rather than criticizing the powers to be.

I'd be interested to know more about the rookie mistakes.
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Re: Death and valor on an American warship doomed by its navy
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2019, 02:04:20 pm »
I'm not a big believer in ProPublica painting an accurate picture.  I may be judging from a sample of one, but the first time I heard about them, it was when they did a study on how auto insurers racially discriminate.  It didn't matter that some actuaries consulted before publication pointed out how their analysis was littered with rookie mistakes that drove their conclusion, they weren't going to take some expert mansplaining things to them.  After the publication they still dug in their heels and went "of course the industry will not admit that they racially discriminate and will instead attack our conclusions".  It's good to be an investigative reporter, but only if you are passionate about truth rather than criticizing the powers to be.

I'd be interested to know more about the rookie mistakes.


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