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.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

MSP CO Relieved

Somewhat surprisingly, the CO of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708), CDR Edwin Ruff, has been relieved of command. I say "surprisingly" not because it doesn't fit in with the Sub Force's recent "tradition" of relieving COs whenever something bad happens on a boat that makes the press, but because it apparently wasn't done by the first Flag Officer in the chain of command. That officer, RADM Jeff Fowler, had recently issued CDR Ruff a punitive letter of reprimand, but didn't fire him on the spot. So, either RADM Fowler didn't coordinate the punishment with the upper brass ahead of time (highly unlikely), he didn't want his name attached to the action, the Sub Force doesn't want anyone not in a boat's "home" chain of command making these things happen, or the safety report came out with additional information that made VADM Munns (SubLant) decide to pull the trigger.

Staying at PD...

Update 2227 19 Jan: Here's the Navy NewsStand version of the story. Excerpt:
Following a review of the events in connection with a Dec.29 at-sea incident near Plymouth, England, Commander, Submarine Force, Vice Adm. Chuck Munns relieved Cmdr. Edwin Ruff, commanding officer, USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708), and reassigned him to the staff of Commander, Submarine Squadron 6 in Norfolk, Va. Munns took this action due to a loss of in confidence in Ruff’s ability to command.
Cmdr. Chris Williams, Deputy for Readiness, Submarine Squadron 6, and former Commanding Officer USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), assumed command of USS Minneapolis-St. Paul Jan. 19.

42 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Submarine force has some significant problems up and down the chain at sea and ashore.....

Consider the contribution that ashore waterspace managers made to the SAN FRAN. A set up to be sure.

Consider all the Underway issues...Greenville, SanFran, MSP, Philly, Newport News...I'm sure I've missed several

Consider the inport issues....Columbus Hazing mess and most recently the firing of a commmodore for reasons I won't go into here, but most blogs have the flavor

Yes while they hold the C.O's accountable, they hopefully are addressing all the contributing factors...

This rash of firing's over the years, although undoubtedly necessary, is collectively indicative of a much deeper problem with many processes and personnel throughout the force.

Submarine life is a hard and demanding occupation all the way around and I don't think today's FORCE is up to it.

But on the bright side we're getting slimmer with every admin discharge for PFA failure and dumber with every Computer based course that takes the place of real training.

1/19/2007 8:55 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prior anon: pardon me while I interrupt your whining, but subs going "bonk" or "thud" is hardly news. This sort of thing happened throughout the cold war, and sometimes with loss of life.

Given this, it's hard to make any credible, cause-and-effect connection between the "underway issues" and some hypothetical decline in submarine standards/performance over time.

Moreover, ashore waterspace managers -- while clearly unhelpful in the case of San Fran -- are way in the clear from the standpoint of grounding-culpability . Preventing groundings is 100% fully the ship's crew's responsibility, and each and every waterspace-oriented message makes that perfectly clear (and from an accountability standpoint you wouldn't want that any other way).

Subs are simply more visible and in the spotlight these days...and blogs and other chronicles exist that did not before.

I'm entirely unconvinced that there has been some dramatic shift in "human resource" issues -- people are people, and 'stuff' happens.

Examples abound. Submarine admirals have been fried over sex/harrassment issues well before 2000 (e.g., a two-star in Dec. '95). Factually & historically, there have been instances of suicide clusters, "family advocacy" issues, wife swapping, homosexuality, alcoholism, drug abuse, hazing, groundings, collisions...and the 'stuff' list goes on and on.

The submarine force is simply part of the human race and therefore not exempt from human foibles...high standards for selection clearly notwithstanding. And there can be no "good" in life without the bad, that's just the way the universe works...so don't think that life on the outside, or life in the old ustafish days was all sunlight, roses and Presidential Unit Commendations -- that's absurd, and entirely rejected by the facts.

So, trust me and trust in yourself if you're on active duty: today's force is "up to it." While it often escapes our notice, things are constantly improving.

(P.S. You wouldn't happen to be a boomer sailor, would you...? ;-)

1/19/2007 10:28 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am g-damn sick over the sub force today... i wrote a few days ago as a memeber of ssn-677 that was invovled in a collision 12 yrs in Hong Kong.. I knew damn well it was bye-bye for the old man and if you check my blog ,you'll read the same... I am a proud ex-submariner and have a great respect for the current bubbleheads... But, how dare you (Munns, and other top bubbleheads)for trying to pass off the recent accidents on the CO's...Sit back with your 3 and 4 stars but you raised these skippers as JO's... Accidents happen and I understand you 1,2,3 stars want the the next promotion but do what it right..I'll say it again, you sent the skipper of San Fran on a course from hell and then blamed it on him.. shame on you.. Know wonder why any Navy skipper says the day he gives up command is like a thousand lbs. lifted off his shoulders...just sick over current navy brass..

1/19/2007 11:29 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i joined the subforce there were somthing like 200+ submarines with 75% being fast boats toward the later part of my time in the number dropped to somthing close to less than half of the orginal number with tasking for at least the orginal 200 if not more. In my last year between 2 boats i was on i know of one collision, one 2SN test turning the diesel into a water pump and a severe loss of ship control incident. I can honestly say that in my opinion the collision was due to lack of training and same for the diesel incident. I honestly feel that due to OPTEMPO altho training is still being crammed down everyones throats there is a lack of quality training time. The do more with less attitude which has saturated the the ENTIRE comminuty IMHO is the cause for this. Especially when you apply do more things in less time to meet mission requirements. I truly loved my time in the cannoe club but saw this comming and wanted to exit before anything happened. I do wish the best for eveyone still on the boats and I hope you guys can nail this issue down
MMw1(ss)

1/19/2007 11:40 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please some boomer answer this, I really want to know... The Navy sends a ssn shipper overseas a couple times probably in high traffic areas doing very dangerous things in ports that have ungodly traffic up above.. Then the boomer skipper gets to do circles for 2 years in the ocean... A little unfair??? let me know if there is a difference between ssn/ssbn skippers today

1/19/2007 11:51 PM

 
Blogger bothenook said...

dang, i love it when bubbleheads line up and start measuring the size of their manhoods. in public. and all without suzi rottencrotch begging them to buy a hostess cocktail either.

sigh, the older i get, the better i wuz.

1/20/2007 1:28 AM

 
Anonymous Subbasket said...

It is clear to me that the anonymous poster who has asked "P.S. You wouldn't happen to be a boomer sailor, would you...? ;-)" as clearly not paid any attention to Bubbleheads mention of boats he has been on which are as follows: USS Topeka(SSN-754), USS Connecticut(SSN-22) and USS Jimmy Carter(SSN-23). The last two boats Bubblehead was on he was the Eng. So unless I am mistaken, and I do not think I am, all these boats are FAST ATTACK boats. Since I do sleep with this man ever night I do think I am more than able to understand what type of boat my husband is on and since the first boat he served on I gave birth to our third son while he was out to sea. Yes, kind soul who can not let anyone know who you are, you hit a nerve with this sub wife by questioning what kind of boat my husband has served on.

1/20/2007 6:05 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ATTN: BubbleHead

according to my scuttlebutt, your speculation that "the Sub Force doesn't want anyone not in a boat's 'home' chain of command making these things happen" coupled to yet unpublished conflict of interest and the fact that there was loss of life but no damage to SSN 708 were the deciding facts

~ theDdoubleSstandard

1/20/2007 7:21 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been doing this for 15 years and spending years on both platforms, I can say that there is absolutly a differnce between Boomer's and Fast Boats. Both have important missions and deal with the unforgiving threats of submarining. However, when an SSN deploys, the things that she does will be much more demanding. They will deal with difficult contacts, operate in much more difficult environments and have countless maneuvering watches. So with out putting Boomer sailors down, the fact is that as a general rule, from a strictly tactical perspective, Fast boat sailors are more experienced.

Now for those of you who think that today's submarine force can't handle the challenges. Even with blogs, websites and television, you don't know a lick about that which you speak. Todays submarine force not only continues the Cold War mission, but has added missions and operates in ways that the Force of the 80's didn't. Some of the skills have atrophied to be sure (but those arent needed anymore) and other skills have been developed. The submarine force is and always has been the most flexible arm of the navy. From Gene Fluckey bombarding the shore with rockets, to the Nautilus getting underway on nuclear power, to the advent of the SSGN, the submarine force innovates and rises to the challenge presented to it. Todays missions would (and do) make cold war Sailors' hair stand on end.

The accidents that have happened are simply a reminder of just how dangerous this job is.

Finally, I know CDR Ruff. I know his command and I can say that he is an outstanding leader, who cares about the guys who work for him. As his career is, I imagine, over, I can say that the Navy has lost another fine Sailor to this tragedy.

1/20/2007 7:44 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real issues here (I am currently in the FORCE, and have served in positions of higher authority , SSN by the way) is that the number of SSN's (where you get experience) has shrunk thus our Department heads and XO's who grew up in in a force with a much narrower margin of SSN to boomer have less experience and are less able to provide back up to the CO. Of course there is also a lot more shore duty away from the subforce for our community as well, as we support the Joint duty and other experience base threatening hurdles.

In addition the sea shore rotation on the enlisted side has gotten out of hand, our submarine numbers have shrunk, but the shore infrastucture has grown, again resulting in senior enlisted leadership with significantly less experience than the readers of this blog probably remember. I was raised by a bunch of salty chiefs and Master chiefs who made sure that my service would make them proud, those guys are much fewerer now, they do exist, but most chiefs these days would rather spend two hours a week running the dive trainer rather than going to sea.

The first commentator had it right in his last parargraph as well on the computer based courses, training occurs at sea with a seasoned generation passing on their skill set to the next generation.

1/20/2007 7:46 AM

 
Blogger SonarMan said...

ETCS(SS) Higgins and STS2(SS) Holtz should never have died. The accident was entirely preventable, because we learned this lesson 20 years ago when we lost two guys this exact same way for the exact same reason on the USS U.S. Grant, as it left PNSY, NH.

I've heard a lot of great things about Ruff, and I know that Fowler was hesitant to relieve him, and it's a shame that he was. My friend Chris Van Metre, another good officer, lost his command of the Hartford because he ran aground. I don't think the problem lies with the skippers. I think it's the brass above them. In each of these cases, and in others, I see the skippers being forced into situations to make decisions that put their boats and crews into bad positions, with no consideration for ORM. Then, when things go south, they have to fall on their sword. Like one commenter said, the brass is as much to blame because they trained them as J.O.s.

Our safety training is broke (and probably a bunch of other areas like navigation and piloting, too), and while a safety standdown will help remind us about safety, it won't help us get back into the safety mindset.

1/20/2007 12:14 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the guy who wrote, "Todays missions would (and do) make cold war Sailors' hair stand on end."

Yeah, right. Any SSN guys from the 60's agree with him?

1/20/2007 1:14 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear subbasket,

As the 2nd anon on this thread, I was speaking to the first anon...not your husband, Joel, a.k.a. Bubblehead. (see lead-in to my comment: "Prior anon:...")

My congratulations on Joel not being a boomer sailor, and my regrets for your having mistaken that I was calling him one. Clearly, those are fighting words, and so I don't otherwise blame you for your response.

1/20/2007 1:55 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CO of MSP made a poor command decision the day he opted to get underway in such foul weather. If the UK cancelled ferry service the same day, it obviously was too bad to get underway. Being in command means making the tough calls and one of those calls should have been to inform his chain of command that conditions were severe and requested a delay. There was no mission that was so critical that the MSP couldn't have delayed a day or two. This isn't Monday morning quarterbacking, its recognition for the danger the sea poses based on lots of underways on submarines. The CO made a bad decision and in the CYA Navy that exists today he should have expected nothing less.

1/20/2007 6:10 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Response to the poster of the following:

QUOTE

Prior anon: pardon me while I interrupt your whining, but subs going "bonk" or "thud" is hardly news. This sort of thing happened throughout the cold war, and sometimes with loss of life.

Given this, it's hard to make any credible, cause-and-effect connection between the "underway issues" and some hypothetical decline in submarine standards/performance over time.

Moreover, ashore waterspace managers -- while clearly unhelpful in the case of San Fran -- are way in the clear from the standpoint of grounding-culpability . Preventing groundings is 100% fully the ship's crew's responsibility, and each and every waterspace-oriented message makes that perfectly clear (and from an accountability standpoint you wouldn't want that any other way).

Subs are simply more visible and in the spotlight these days...and blogs and other chronicles exist that did not before.

I'm entirely unconvinced that there has been some dramatic shift in "human resource" issues -- people are people, and 'stuff' happens.

Examples abound. Submarine admirals have been fried over sex/harrassment issues well before 2000 (e.g., a two-star in Dec. '95). Factually & historically, there have been instances of suicide clusters, "family advocacy" issues, wife swapping, homosexuality, alcoholism, drug abuse, hazing, groundings, collisions...and the 'stuff' list goes on and on.

The submarine force is simply part of the human race and therefore not exempt from human foibles...high standards for selection clearly notwithstanding. And there can be no "good" in life without the bad, that's just the way the universe works...so don't think that life on the outside, or life in the old ustafish days was all sunlight, roses and Presidential Unit Commendations -- that's absurd, and entirely rejected by the facts.

So, trust me and trust in yourself if you're on active duty: today's force is "up to it." While it often escapes our notice, things are constantly improving.

(P.S. You wouldn't happen to be a boomer sailor, would you...? ;-)

UNQUOTE


In summary I read your response as this is the norm and the blogs and internet are just making it more visible.

The Greenville was on a VIP cruise and the SAN FRAN was enroute to a liberty port. Give me a break....Our Force is not getting it done.

In case you haven't noticed this is not the 600 ship buildup of the 80's and we can not afford to trash submarines as part of a status quo attitude that SH&* happens.......firing a skipper is not good enough at our current build rate.....COMNAVSUBFOR needs to prevent accidents.

BOTTOM LINE: Stop wrecking submarines or the taxpayer will stopping footing the 2 billion dollar tag for a submarine.

You can fire skippers all day, but it's not going to fix the problem..........as it has been so obviously documented over the last 10 years. How many skippers have been fired.........?

Your status quo is not good enough for todays navy......this isn't ustafish........

There's a saying..."no slack in a fast attack"........Well, all you have to do is watch CNN to know that's nothing but catchy little meaningless phrase.....

1/20/2007 8:25 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Above anon: did you have a point somewhere in all that nonsense?

1/20/2007 10:09 PM

 
Blogger Bubblehead said...

It's getting hard to keep all the anonymous commenters separate. You know, it's perfectly acceptable, when you're commenting, to choose the "other" block, and fill in some nickname -- you don't even have to register with Blogger. To maintain anonimity, you don't even have to have your nickname accurately describe you -- you could be "lovemonkey" or "12 pack abs" or "hetero boomer guy" or anything you want.

1/21/2007 6:57 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point is this:

Stop wrecking submarines or the taxpayer will stopping footing the 2 billion dollar tag for a submarine.

Fire a skipper as an immediate action, but don't stop there.

What contribution has the SANFRAN made to national defense in the last 2 years.......What is it going to cost to put her back at sea......What will be sacrificed to repair her.........

Accidents of this kind are not acceptable and whatever corrective actions that were taken because of SF and Greenville have not been effective.

There is not an unlimited supply of submarines out there...these accidents impact the longterm future of the submarine force.

I can assure you, there is a cost vs gain analysis going in D.C and MSP/NN are not helping.

BTW, honestly....what contribution has SANFRAN made to the National defense in the last several years as compared to other operational submarines that haven't had accidents.

1/21/2007 6:02 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When did the MSP CO turn into this great guy we have heard so much about? That is not the person I came to know. Did the "force" change him? Maybe the the "power" got to his head. I saw no interest in "his Guys" unless it benefitted him. Where were the "safety nets" provided? There had to be some bad decisions if he was relieved for cause. They have to have facts to back up the decision.

1/21/2007 7:30 PM

 
Anonymous SSN Wife said...

Wow! You guys can do a lot of speculating and grand standing. I have been following this story in the news and on the blogs. I have to say that I think you have all forgotten that the crew of the MSP has been on one HELL of a rollercoaster ride. First they lose their COB and a Sonar Technician in a horribel tragedy that can only be described as an act of God; then they go through the JAG and safety investigations; then they are told that the CO and old XO have received punitive letters of reprimand; and THEN a couple of days later they are told, no we changed our minds we are going to relieve the CO. So now they have an Interim COB, and Interim CO and a new XO (as he was already scheduled). Stop grandstanding and take a moment to step back and say a prayer for the crew and the families of the MSP. They still have a job to do and regardless of whether or not you think you had it harder way back when, these guys have a tough job in front of them. I personally will continue to pray for all the submariners out there, but especially for the crew of the MSP that they will safely bring the boat back home from deployment and be able to move past this tragedey!

1/21/2007 8:03 PM

 
Anonymous O5 SSN wife said...

It's one thing to speculate about how all of this could have been prevented. It's quite another to attack Joe Ruff's character. Do you think we can stay away from that out of respect for HIS family?

1/21/2007 8:32 PM

 
Blogger WillyShake said...

bwahahahaha! I'm still laughing over your suggested handles to your anon. commentors....

..."hetero boomer guy"??!! Is there such an animal? bwahahaha

1/21/2007 9:47 PM

 
Blogger Chap said...

I concur with several above. There are a lot of people spouting off here, with no clue as to what they're talking about. Real people are involved here, real families, real actions.

I call for a general Rig For Polite Company, people.

1/21/2007 11:13 PM

 
Blogger Bubblehead said...

Chap speaks the truth. Please, let's remember that there are people looking for information about their loved ones on the boat reading this. Generalities are fine, but let's avoid discussions of specific people.

1/21/2007 11:45 PM

 
Anonymous bird said...

I'm wondering if the harbor pilot transfer could have been made before the MSP reached the breakwater and the rougher conditions? If this could have been done, the topside personnel could have gone below before the boat encountered the conditions that resulted in the men being washed overboard.

If the transfer could have been done before the breakwater, it should have been done that way. If it should have been done that way and wasn't, then the CO made a obvious bad decision that cost the lives of two of his crew.

1/22/2007 10:42 AM

 
Blogger SonarMan said...

This is a little off topic, but there's an underlying thread of boomer envy here. Personally, all you folks taking swipes at boomer sailors make me laugh - you're all jealous. You all secretly wanted to be on one, but never got a billet. In 20 years in the Navy, I rarely met anyone who at one time or another who didn't want to get on a boomer. Once they realized they would never get on one, they convinced themselves they never did in the first place. I've seen it so many times. You all say "Oh, I'm so glad I was never a boomer fag." but every fast boat guy I ever met who went to a boomer never turned down an offcrew and volunteered to go to sea on the other crew. And I heard soooo many times from sailors SSBN and SSN alike "I can't wait for offcrew." But, I digress. Deep down inside, you know I'm right, and I'm the only one brave enough to be honest, with himself and everyone else. You guys are funny.

I happen to be proud of my 16 Strategic Deterrent Patrols, seven of which were during the Cold War, dancing with the Russkies way up North. And, I'm equally happy that I got three-plus months off after every patrol where I didn't have to think about the boat, or at least too much and got sea pay to boot. It was damn nice!

I have nothing to be ashamed of being on a boomer; I know I did my part for National Defense. You guys did your thing, and that's fine. I take nothing away from you. But I never had any desire to do that, nor do I envy what you guys did. I always looked at the SSN life as one of suffering and misery. I always pitied the fast boat guys. While I always thought that their missions were interesting, their lifestyle was awful. Forget about it.

When I went in, anybody could go to a fast boat, and that's where the dregs went, but only the top of the class got their pick of the boomers, of which there were only a few billets. The boomers were the cream of the crop. That's the truth of it. That's obviously not the case today, and I can't help that. In fact, I recall the fast boat sonar TRE inspectors coming down being very impressed with our level of knowledge, and carrying it back to the SSN fleet, when the SSN sonarman were snottily stuck on "MY only job is to put a tracker in ATF. TMA is the FTs job."

Still, I'll grant that the job of a boomer isn't as glamerous as that of a fast attack. But then again, the most important jobs seldom are.

1/22/2007 11:23 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one of the British police officers involved in pulling out the casualties on the MSP tragedy, I have kept up with the news surrounding the incident with interest.
As we may be needed for an investigation I cannot say too much about the day, except that the conditions were absolutely appalling and several people risked their own lives trying to save the men.
The last US Naval casualty was recovered from the sub by a rigid inflatable boat being driven at 90 degrees, up onto the MSP's casing, and being held there under full power while the submariner was pulled from the boat.
As yet, no feedback has been recieved from the US Navy for any of the rescuers. Don't get me wrong, nobody wants praise out of such a terrible situation, just an acknowledgement that we did our job to the best of our abilities with the equipment we had.
My thoughts are with the families and the crewmates.

1/22/2007 4:07 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what amazes me is that rather than finding the problem and dealing with it we have looked for someone to blame. All the post discussions will never cure the problem of overloading the command teams and officers. We all make mistakes and believe,having made a few, me we live with the decisions we have made. It would be great to know we have back up rather than condemnation which leaves us one less thing to deal with. The more you fire people, the less they want the opportunity to command - why not invest in their future rather than losing good people because they make a mistake.

1/22/2007 6:16 PM

 
Anonymous Subguy said...

Please pardon the stream of consciosness, but it has been a long couple of weeks.
Having been a shipmate of these two lost souls, and lived through the fall of the MSP, it it is tough time. I think it is important to note, and imperative that we all not forget, the importance of solid, committed, and unwavering leadership. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, but more often, bad things happen to people who do not possess the moral character to do what is right when the going is easy, let alone, when the going is tough. A wise man once said, "Do the right thing in time of peace, and you are certain to do the right thing in a time of war." What does that really mean...that means...if you do the right thing when no one is looking, then you are certain to do the right thing when the bullets are flying and people's lives are at stake. In this line of work, you are always in danger, but the decisions we make must be in the best intrest of the ship and crew.
Solid, committed, and unwavering leadership would not have taken the MSP from the "Battle E" to where they are today in one short tour. Know that leadership carries a crew though crisis. It doesn't lead them to it. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the good men who lost their lives in this tragedy, and the crew that must continue on in the shadow of this legacy.

1/22/2007 7:22 PM

 
Anonymous SSN Officer said...

As one who took part in the Navy's stand down, I have the following comments to make:

For at least two years, emphasis has been placed on the following in various messages, lectures or training due to mishaps the submarine force has experienced:
"CO Decision Making"
"Watchstanding"
"Basic Submarining"
"Qualification" and "Training"
Unfortunately, the accidents have not gone away and, in my opinion, they will continue. The reason? Because the submarine force has failed to identify all the problems/root causes. Ironic for an organization that prides itself in identifying problems, finding root causes and fixing them.
Why? ALL the root causes would inovlve more than just the crew of the submarine (accountability would reach farther than a CO or the occassional Commodore).
Speaking from direct experience (and having spoken with many peers on other boats) I think the following problems/root causes haven't been touched and are significant contributors to submarine accidents:
1) No risk vs. gain is being performed at the unit level, squadron level or TYCOM level. Bottom line: You can take all the safety precautions in the world, but if you don't evaluate the risks vs. gain (which doesn't happen very well right now in the sub force) and keep taking the risks (I'm speaking of schedules that have 0 let up) your chance of an accident goes up.
2) There is no effective or real tool in place to help CO's evaluate the risk vs. gain for assigned missions. Schedules are decided at a fairly low level (they are browsed through at the upper levels, but they have little idea of the specific chanllenges each submarine faces -- they see a name on a spreadsheet). The onus is on the CO when given the schedule to say whether it is reasonable, safe etc. CO's rarely push back because of #3 below. Bottom line: There is no easy way for a CO to pushback or even contribute to the risk vs. gain assessment that should be made before a schedule even comes to fruition. The schedule is usually given first, making it harder to raise objections. Further, our culture prevents objective assessments from happening.
3) There is a culture in the submarine force to accomplish the mission whatever it takes. If you think the MSP or NN wouldn't have happened on another ship, you're mistaken. This culture runs through and through to the highest levels. An operating SSN is barely (that may be kind) able to safely keep pace with the current schedules. The acceptable level of risk (0 accidents) doesn't match reality (current pace of operations) and our culture blinds us from seeing that. The deckplates see it though.
4) Lack of focus. Our mission is all over the place. We only have potential enemies and are at war with a tactic. Terrorism isn't a nation or specific group of people. Our enemy is anyone who practices Terrorism as a tactic. That is hard to translate to the force, and in my opinion, we haven't done a good job of it. This plays into crew morale and morale feeds training, basic sub, and all the above root causes introduced in the beginning.

In summary: If the root causes identified above are truly it! We have seen no measurable improvement (if accidents are the measure) in the last two years. If they are only some of the root causes, then we haven't even identified what we need to fix. Either way, what is it going to take to wake up.

1/22/2007 9:10 PM

 
Anonymous ex SSN officer said...

Great post, SSN officer...and it's refreshing to hear from the real world instead of lazy-thinking finger-pointers...but you worry me a bit with #4 (Lack of focus), and the "no measurable improvement" line.

As regards lack of focus, you must be aware that you are at war with (1) Islamic militarism, (2) Iran, and (3) subtle enemies from the cold war who reside within Russia & China. Don't let the politically correct tell you otherwise, either directly or by omission of fact.

I guarantee that the weapons that are killing our military members in Iraq and elsewhere say "made in Russia" in Cyrillic letters or "made in China" in Mandarin or "made in Iran" in Farsi. There is obviously a shared interest between these three, and it's "not good."

To be sure, the enemy is not the people of any of the above countries, nor even (necessarily) the government itself in every case, but governmental entities that lie within and who possess substantial power.

That's the non-PC truth of it. The reason that you don't hear this from your military chain of command is because when you define an enemy you have created an enemy, and the U.S. is so far unwilling to "out" China and Russia in particular. Appropriate to Sun Tzu's "Art of War," taking the high road and using diplomacy is the route that is being taken for the time-being with these two. Success via this path is clearly an unknown, but I would offer the perhaps cold consolation that we did win the first Cold War with (few to) no shots being fired.

Lastly, as regards zero accidents as a metric, just let it pass. Life has paradoxes, and this is one of them. The higher-ups know that sh-t happens when you're on the front lines, but they can't let that become an acceptable standard...nor should they. But don't hold the false illusion that perfection is an objective. It's not. It is an appropriate vision.

Op tempo sucks when you're at war, and the fast boats live that life even when at "peace." We salute and honor you, your shipmates, the entire submarine force, and all who go in harm's way. You've had plenty of company in the past, son...it's just your turn in the barrel. Stand proud.

1/23/2007 5:28 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may leave a comment here with you as a wife of one of the CO's that had an accident and lost command. Only with luck, no life was lost, only a career ended. But, that's not the issue. The issue is that someone has to step in and do the job, which is a huge responsibility and one never taken lightly. Your ability to have reached the point in your career to take command means that you have been trained to the best of what had been available...but, that doesn't mean that chance or fate has you in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My heart goes out to the families that lost a love one in this incident. Never forget them...never mean to call them, but don't. Keep them close...they made the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be a part of this special family called the Submarine Force.

The CO will always remember this even during tender times and I pray for him and his family to be able mourne for all that was lost with family and friends close by and that they never be forgotten either. That he get over quickly the 'what if's'.It was a chance of lifetime he was given. One for God and Country during this hostile time in our history. One that he knew all the foibles that go with command. Lest we forget we are at war with an unidentifiable enemy that doesn't play by rules...and he and his crew were there to protect and defend us.

We've been able to move on, but, still work for the Defense of our country. Our whole family does now. That's important, because the Sub Force gave us a chance to be a part of something that set the rules for life in our family. Centering on what's important and being able to do something about it.

My favorite saying in that other life when a wife was worried her husband wasn't going to make the next rate or rank, was "Stand beside and behind him. Never in front. Because he'll find the way to make it all right and it'll be okay." So, we picked ourselves up...dusted ourselves off and moved on.

God love those that are the crazy nukes they are and may those at home love and hold tightly to every memory they make for when they are far away from home. One never knows what tomorrow will bring...

Thank you all that sign up...the Navy needs you...as do we all.

1/23/2007 5:11 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

US CO's have way too much to deal with - other SSN operating nations are never this constrained. The importance of command is shrouded by engineering prinicples which are and will continue to be the constaint on releasing talent to explore and disover tactical prowess of a great core of men. This will have a marked effect on the next genration of subamriners; they will be come really risk averse, because they fear the consequence of what could happen if they make a decision. That will only make the submarine force weaker in the long run - we need to resolve it now and nurture our successors - let them learn from our mistakes without the penalty.

1/23/2007 6:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If I may leave a comment here with you as a wife of one of the CO's that had an accident and lost command. Only with luck, no life was lost, only a career ended. But, that's not the issue. The issue is that someone has to step in and do the job, which is a huge responsibility and one never taken lightly. Your ability to have reached the point in your career to take command means that you have been trained to the best of what had been available...but, that doesn't mean that chance or fate has you in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My heart goes out to the families that lost a love one in this incident. Never forget them...never mean to call them, but don't. Keep them close...they made the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be a part of this special family called the Submarine Force.

The CO will always remember this even during tender times and I pray for him and his family to be able mourne for all that was lost with family and friends close by and that they never be forgotten either. That he get over quickly the 'what if's'.It was a chance of lifetime he was given. One for God and Country during this hostile time in our history. One that he knew all the foibles that go with command. Lest we forget we are at war with an unidentifiable enemy that doesn't play by rules...and he and his crew were there to protect and defend us.

We've been able to move on, but, still work for the Defense of our country. Our whole family does now. That's important, because the Sub Force gave us a chance to be a part of something that set the rules for life in our family. Centering on what's important and being able to do something about it.

My favorite saying in that other life when a wife was worried her husband wasn't going to make the next rate or rank, was "Stand beside and behind him. Never in front. Because he'll find the way to make it all right and it'll be okay." So, we picked ourselves up...dusted ourselves off and moved on.

God love those that are the crazy nukes they are and may those at home love and hold tightly to every memory they make for when they are far away from home. One never knows what tomorrow will bring...

Thank you all that sign up...the Navy needs you...as do we all.

1/23/2007 5:11 PM "




Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. We really need to focus on ALL the families. They are all hurting and are good people.
We are once again reminded how dangerous it is to be on a submarine and how unrelentless and the sea is. God Bless the crew and families. You will all be in my prayers. -Jen B

1/23/2007 6:27 PM

 
Anonymous SSN Officer said...

Ex-SSN Officer,

First, thanks for your thoughtful response. You obviously have perspective based on living the life of a submariner.

I would like to hear your thoughts on points 1,2 & 3 that I referred to in my earlier post. I think there is a serious weakness in our force wrt these, especially if the Navy is serious about ORM. Unless you think there is no serious desire to reduce the number of accidents, meaning two class A mishaps/year is and will continue to be accepted as a cost of doing business (though not tacitly, of course).

I understand what you are saying wrt the "paradox." I agree that the standard cannot be lowered. However, I believe the standard can be held and our leadership communicate with some straighter talk. I think we have earned and deserve that. I know the highest levels have one foot in the political world, but they are military officers first and are our leaders, we want to be inspired and that is not happening.

Let me speak more of our lack of focus in the force and I'll use an example that represents what I'm talking about, but in no way fully captures it:
I won't name names, but a very senior officer visited our base about a year ago and had an O-Call. He used a bunch of war college terms and used some abstract geometries to describe where we are, want to be or are going as a sub force??? I get the feeling he was still not sure. The JO's from my boat were uninspired to say the least. He could of used the forum to pump us up, but it was wasted on abstracts w/a smattering of specific examples. I'm sure that it fascinated him, but in our lives we need some visceral motivation that we can carry to the deckplates. I find it hard to motivate the deckplates without a cogent vision. I can say "this specific task is important because..." but if you want to see immediate positive feedback, produce a common vision that is real, focused and has an aim the deckplates can take hold of. And it doesn't need to primarily be tied to terrorism, we are a very small piece of that pie (I know that pangs some).

In closing, if our leadership met us in improving the margin of safety and took some needed steps on there part to make the system better, they would see an inspired force meet them and exceed what they thought possible. As it is, I think they will continue to struggle. I am not trying to be all gloom and doom, I care about the Submarine Force, but I think there are signs of trouble that if not addressed, will lead to continued problems.

1/23/2007 7:15 PM

 
Anonymous ex SSN officer said...

SSN Officer:

To answer your request that I comment on your first three points, I have the following observations:

1) No risk vs. gain is being performed at the unit level, squadron level or TYCOM level. Bottom line: You can take all the safety precautions in the world, but if you don't evaluate the risks vs. gain (which doesn't happen very well right now in the sub force) and keep taking the risks (I'm speaking of schedules that have 0 let up) your chance of an accident goes up.

Reply: From their early days in the cold war, senior members of the submarine force are used to taking high risks and achieving high gains. Whether directly or from very specific and extraordinary stories that they know of, and sadly can't be discussed here, they know what an attack boat can do when it has to. So their threshold of pain is pretty high when it comes to risk. I am doubtful that there is "no risk vs. gain" ORM stuff going on, but then we didn't do that at all back in the cold war days...at least, not in a pseudo-scientific fashion as would tend to propogate under, say, a Harvard-attending CNO with a masters in Operations Research. However, now that offloading Tomahawks the easy way is largely over with (at least in Iraq), my guess is the senior sub officers are not used to being in a more supportive but less direct role such as they are in the GWOT, and may be responding to higher risk/reward ratio roles as a matter of 'practicality' (a euphemism for 'satisfying senior, non-submariner blowhards'). History tells us that higher reward/risk days are coming for the submarine force...and over and above those that come with foreign port liberty calls. Not to be insensitive, I'm all but certain that in the case of the MSP there was no casual operational demand for the boat to get underway, though anyone who expects the boat's mission to be discussed publicly is likely to be disappointed.

2) There is no effective or real tool in place to help CO's evaluate the risk vs. gain for assigned missions. Schedules are decided at a fairly low level (they are browsed through at the upper levels, but they have little idea of the specific chanllenges each submarine faces -- they see a name on a spreadsheet). The onus is on the CO when given the schedule to say whether it is reasonable, safe etc. CO's rarely push back because of #3 below. Bottom line: There is no easy way for a CO to pushback or even contribute to the risk vs. gain assessment that should be made before a schedule even comes to fruition. The schedule is usually given first, making it harder to raise objections. Further, our culture prevents objective assessments from happening.

Response: I'm happy to be able to respond more quickly on this one and simply say "I don't know." I'm not an ORM guy...though I've no doubt that someone, somewhere is making a lively career out of such stuff. No offense intended, but to me it smacks of just another soon-to-pass management school fad, much like TQM ('Total Quality Management') or any similar, eye-rolling acronym.

3) There is a culture in the submarine force to accomplish the mission whatever it takes. If you think the MSP or NN wouldn't have happened on another ship, you're mistaken. This culture runs through and through to the highest levels. An operating SSN is barely (that may be kind) able to safely keep pace with the current schedules. The acceptable level of risk (0 accidents) doesn't match reality (current pace of operations) and our culture blinds us from seeing that. The deckplates see it though.

Response: I must admit to having a soft spot here, not least of which because I was once an operational (no dig there, Joel) fast attack engineer, and even 20 years later know all too well the raw pain of spending too much time away from home and family. But the best guys that I knew of...no...make that 'guy'...a very specific guy...had that saying for his own personal motto/mantra: "whatever it takes, it's worth it." He later became the last operational C.O. of Parche. I had and have a world of respect for the guy, and his getting that assignment tells me others did too. You don't have to, but you might want to consider the possibility that this is the right motto and culture for the sub force. That's tough on the personal life...but good for the soul, and the nation, when a mission gets accomplished. There are reasons that SEALs and fast attacks to together, and not least of which is because these sailors are each in their own way about as tough as they come. Congrats...you are one.

1/24/2007 12:39 AM

 
Anonymous SSN Officer said...

Ex-SSN Officer,

Thanks for your comments. While I have met some who share your "view point", there is a different thinking that is/has taken hold that doesn't mesh with reality and is uninspired. I wish I could know that it is temporary or short term. However, leaders change out and time always moves forward. Here's hoping our future leaders add some inpsiration into our submarine force. We surely need it.

1/26/2007 7:10 PM

 
Anonymous ex SSN Officer said...

SSN Officer:

My views above were most-honestly provided by my looking backward in time -- rather than forward -- via the mindset/lense-of-thought that I developed "back in the day."

I'd much prefer to close our brief discussion by looking forward...and truly-inspirationally, not combatively-inspirationally:

The day will come when we will be able to tie the boats to the pier for the last time. That's not just my vision...it was Rickover's. He stated in his closing remarks before Congress that he would "sink them all," but for the need that mankind up til now engages in combat to resolve differences.

Make no mistake: everything you're doing today is critical and needed. Things are exactly as they should be right now...combat included.

But...a vision...an inspiration...for the future is false indeed if it does not see peace among all of mankind. Importantly and emphatically, this is a pro-peace message...not an anti-war message.

As we're all well aware by now, today's battles are largely centered in misinterpretations (deliberate in some cases) or outright denials of God.

The vision and inspiration that I would want to leave for you is that God is Love, and that we'd all do well to not only remember that, but to find ways to change our perceptions to acknowledge that deep truth.

The very correct but misapplied war cry of the Islamic militants is "Allah Ackbar"...God is Great. Who can dispute that? Yet how much more meaningful, and evocative, and truthful would it be for us to be able to sincerely reply as a society "Yes...Love is Great."

I'd encourage any reader to see what happens in their life when they substitute the word 'God' with 'Love' in their thoughts and prayers. Putting God first in your life? Try 'Love.' Just try it...and see what happens.

Last but not least, I cannot recommend any better book to read on what I'm talking about than Marianne Williamson's "A Return to Love." Incredibly powerful stuff.

God's Love to All,

ex SSN Officer

1/27/2007 12:11 PM

 
Anonymous SSN Officer said...

Ex-SSN Officer,

I did not take your comments as combative at all and appreciated them. I would post this before your "close" if I could because I agree 100% with it. Take care and God Bless.

SSN Officer

1/30/2007 4:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody know any place on the Internet where anyone who was actually topside or in control explains what happened from their point of view, and why it was Joe Ruff's fault? I've always been skeptical of that viewpoint, as I believe Ruff would have been congratulated for getting the ship underway in those conditions if there had been a different outcome. But I don't really have any clue what happened... the engineroom can be an insular place... and I don't want to bug the only two people I clearly remember to have been topside about it (Horr and Ledford). If I was one of those two I'm not sure I would appreciate being forced to think about it.

6/13/2012 2:25 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same anon as previous. I'm aware that a big part of the argument is that the pilot should have gotten off inside of the harbor. I've also heard that the pilot insisted that it was unsafe for the boat to exit without him. At one time I knew just enough about the cone to get my dolphins, and very little more, and that day hadn't even come yet when the incident happened. Thus, the ins and outs of these two viewpoints have always been somewhat opaque to me.

6/13/2012 2:39 AM

 
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9/21/2012 12:14 PM

 

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