Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ex-Greeneville CO In The News

This week's release of the official NTSB report on the collision of USS Greeneville (SSN 772) with the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru in 2001, gave former Greeneville CO Scott Waddle a chance to make the news again. I'll give my opinions on this report later on today...

Update 2245 23 Oct: I updated the links above to make them more relevant (the link to the statement from CDR Waddle now goes to the source article, and the link to "official NTSB report" now goes to the official NTSB report).

Regarding the collision and my opinion of CDR Waddle -- it's clear that the crew of the Greeneville, under the leadership of their then-CO, completely "screwed the pooch" that day in February 2001. Although a lot was made of the presence of "civilians at the controls", that really didn't contribute to the collision. The main problem, IMHO, was a command climate in which the CO didn't encourage a questioning attitude and forceful backup by the crew.

I've never met Scott Waddle, and I only interacted with him once, so this is another one of those "one data point"** conclusions. When I was the Submarine Liaison Officer for the John C. Stennis Battle Group back in 1999, the USS Greeneville was one of the subs playing OPFOR for our JTFEX. We were having a hard time getting any good interactions with the Greeneville after the first week; they had a "device" on board that all submarines participating in exercises carry, without which you really can't have decent contact between our submarines and surface/aviation units. We also had one certain ship that is specially designed to listen for submarines, and can tell immediately if this device is working properly. That ship reported that the device on Greeneville wasn't working, so I relayed that to the sub. CDR Waddle replied back that they had verified that their device was working, so the problem was on our end. I told him a couple more times that this wasn't the case, unless the laws of physics had changed (I was actually more diplomatic than that). He still refused to believe the problem was on his boat, and so we eventually decided that we wouldn't even bother sending forces to look for Greeneville -- it wouldn't be worth it, with the few days left in the exercise. (In his defense, these devices can be tricky; when I was a JO, we had the same problem on Topeka, but every indication we had on board said the device was working. The difference is that we believed what everyone else was saying, and dug a little deeper until we found the problem.)

I figured that was the end of it, until I read an article in Time magazine back in April 2001. (The article is "premium content" now, so unless you have access to that, you'll have to trust me that I copied the following passage correctly -- and you should trust me; after all, I'm a Time subscriber.)

"...Waddle had always seen himself as destined to fight a war and told his men as much. In October 1999, in his first major sortie after taking command of the Greeneville, he took to sea off San Diego to fight a mock battle against the John C. Stennis carrier group. "They were one to two miles away, coming toward us at 18 knots--and we went up to periscope depth. I was taking my guys into the most dangerous peacetime situation. Any one of those ships could have ripped us apart. I told my men, 'We are going to engage these guys. If I go to war, you want to go to war with me, because I will put the enemy on the bottom and we will come home alive.' That's what gained me their confidence." It was typical Waddle--brash, daring, determined to succeed. He did a series of unorthodox maneuvers with the submarine to confound the carrier group. "They couldn't find us. We ran rings around them."

So here he is, in an article about how sorry he is, bragging about his "tactical skill". Of course the Battle Group couldn't find him -- his device wasn't working. We wouldn't have been able to find any American sub in a similar condition. And he probably knew that -- I'm sure that Squadron told him after he pulled back in that his device didn't work. But he still couldn't resist trying to make himself look good. (As a side note: If he really did make a speech like that to the crew, you just know that they were probably smirking and rolling their eyes... saying stuff like that just isn't the submariner's way.)

That's the thing that bugs me about CDR Waddle. I'm glad he took responsibility for what he did -- it was the right thing to do. But, now that he's done so, I really don't see what the point is of seemingly making it his life's work to repeatedly talk about how he continues to take responsibility. He's already said he's sorry. He's visited Japan. He's written his book. He's griped about the Navy. The next step in the coping process is to quietly fade away...

Going deep...

** "One data point" conclusion: If your sample size is one, your correlation will always be 1.0.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Monday and I'm at school. Why haven't you posted yet you lazy, lazy man.

10/24/2005 10:18 AM

Anonymous subcomunic8r said...

What is overlooked is the presence of the SUBPAC COS. From the NTSB report, Waddell went from "Guess we're gonna be late" to an imposed sense of urgency that resulted in shortened TMA legs and periscope observations. What changed his attitude? When you have senior riders aboard, particularly for VIP events, they can affect decision making without taking any of the responsiblity. Had a Commodore try this during a VIP visit. Started making "requests" in control while still piloting. Luckily our NAV had a pair and tactfully sent him on his way. I think this is where things headed south for Greeneville.

10/24/2005 10:20 AM

Blogger Chap said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10/24/2005 11:39 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I found out the identity of the "anonymous" poster of the first comment when I picked him up from school, and he confessed. I'll have to have a talk with the school library about misuse of the internet for snarky blog commenting... (He actually had a point, though; I did get an "equalizer" in this morning...)

10/24/2005 3:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to SOAC with the guy. He damn near failed out.

Every peer of his I know has a low opinion of him. When we found out he got command, we collectively shook our heads in disbelief.

Don't blame Branhuber. Waddle made the safety sweep himself.

I got his book in the three buck bargain bin at Barnes and Noble. To me, it looks like he wrote it specifically by trying to parlay the right wing Christian angle on his story.

He is truly a loser. If he runs for public office, we won't wait as long as the Swift Boat vets to get the message out.

10/27/2005 6:28 AM

Anonymous wildbill(SS) said...

I still can't believe they sailed with the AVSDU OOC. It was common knowledge on my boats that we'd take every single CRT out of sonar to keep that screen running.
I agree with your comment on his speech. That would have caused quite a few "cough-BS-cough" comments.

11/14/2005 12:53 PM


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