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.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

So Much To Blog... So Little Time

There are quite a few interesting things going on in the submarine world today, and here I am without enough time to blog about them. Hopefully I'll get back to them, but until then, here are some snippets:

1) The CO and former XO of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708) received punitive letters of reprimand for the incident in which two crew members lost their lives when they were washed overboard late last year. From the Stars and Stripes:
Rear Adm. Jeff Fowler, commander of Submarine Group 8, conducted five nonjudicial punishment hearings Tuesday related to the Dec. 29 incident and issued letters of reprimand for the top two officers, said Lt. Chris Servello, a spokesman with Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet. Fowler dismissed charges against three other crewmembers: two officers and a chief petty officer, Servello said.
The sub’s commander, Cmdr. Edwin Ruff, took command of the Minneapolis-St. Paul in December 2004. Servello declined to name the former executive officer, citing privacy laws. Typically, information on nonjudicial punishment hearings is not released publicly. The former executive officer had been replaced because of a normal rotational cycle, not because of the incident.
“The decision made today was made in the best interest of crew safety and future mission success,” Servello said when asked why Fowler decided to keep Ruff as commander.
From what I've heard about the accident, this seems like a fair resolution. I knew then-Captain Fowler when he was CSS-3, and I always thought he seemed like an outstanding leader. This decision on his part bears that out, IMHO.

2) My "favorite" writer for Soldiers For The Truth, Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.), is still writing about submarines -- in this case, the recent collision between USS Newport News (SSN 750) and a Japanese tanker. I haven't had a chance to really check the article for evidence of asshattedness (only for poor spelling in the first 4 paragraphs, like "contruction" and "quntity"), but I expect to find some soon.

3) Today's the 52nd anniversary of USS Nautilus' first underway on nuclear power. Here's what I wrote for the 50th anniversary.

4) Strategy Page has a story up on the recent submarine accidents and the Stand Down. Part of it says that " the admirals are paying more attention to the chiefs (Chief Petty Officers, senior NCOs) complaints about how much tighter things were back-in-the-day." Whenever I asked crusty old Master Chiefs what things were like "back-in-the-day", they talked about a lot more grab-ass and significantly easier drill scenarios. So what's the real story? (Personally, I think it's a combination of 1) operating a lot closer to traffic lanes, and 2) having every little hiccup make the press, that's making it look like the Sub Force isn't doing as well nowadays.)

5) A reader pointed out this photo in the SubSim coverage of the USS Texas (SSN 775) media embark last August; the caption says: "The COB dispensing liberty passes". Look at the photo in the link above and see if you can see "what's wrong with this picture".

Doesn't it seem like there are a lot of petty officers with dolphins lining up for liberty cards? Was that just a photo op for the press, or is there some new requirement for qualified NCOs to have liberty cards?

6) Almost forgot this one -- a former Russian admiral has an explanation for the USS Newport News collision:
Former Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Edward Baltin said Tuesday that the presence of so many nuclear submarines in the Arab Gulf waters pointed to likely plans for a US attack against Iran.
Baltin, who was quoted by Interfax news agency, said the presence of US submarines in Gulf waters meant that Washington was contemplating a strike against Iran.
"The presence of the submarines indicates that Washington has not abandoned plans to launch a sudden attack against Iran," the admiral said.
He blamed Monday's collision between a US submarine and a Japanese sea liner near the Strait of Hormuz on the fact that US submarines needed to sail relatively higher than their usual depths to get clearer vision enabling them to zero in on likely targets.
[Emphasis mine] And this guy's a former submariner, too. No wonder we kicked their asses in the Cold War.


Blogger Skippy-san said...

Please explain to me why the Captain and Xo deserved a LOR unless they were sanctioning non approved procedures or allow the men not to use the right safety devices?

Yes I know the Captain is always responsible, but with out more detail I'm not sure why they went to mast.

Does this mean Newport News CO will be in front of CTF-54 soon?

1/17/2007 3:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to SOAC with Jeff Fowler back in '86 and could tell a story or two, but suffice it to say that he is a very good and smart guy. Not knowing all the facts, I'd certainly give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the calls he's made here.

The most salient point to me in all of this is what appears to be poor seamanship. A 688 can hold it's position just fine between the outboard and the main engines, and sailing on like there's nothing going on with gale-force winds and waves near a breakwater doesn't make sense. From here...many miles away and with plenty of feels like it was treated like every other underway rather than a unique one that required getting the guys below before approaching the breakwater.

But then, as OOD on the bridge I've briefly 'submerged' a 688 while on the surface in the Med and sailing into gale-force winds. Respect for the power of the seas runs deep here.

1/17/2007 7:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounded as if they were transferring off the pilot - and as the pilot was probably required to stay onboard past the breakwater, it sounds like they had little choice concerning sending men up on deck at that point.

Underways happen when they have to, and pilot's get off the boat when they have to. Hazarding lives over a pilot's presence because of being inside/outside a breakwater is just not something that passes the brain test. It's a breakwater...not winding through the narrows in and out of Bermuda.

I'd think that anyone would find it a good bit easier to be explaining why they dropped the pilot off early rather than why they risked lives topside in high seas.

Then again, I recall that the reason that I was on the bridge instead of looking out the periscope when my 688 went porpoising in the Med was basically because it was "the routine procedure." This recent event out of Portsmouth reeks of the same, stilted thinking.

All IMHO. God's peace to those families and shipmates who have lost loved ones.

1/17/2007 9:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bother with LT Perry's article. Doesn't add anything to the discussion and although there are a few GCEs in the article, no major damage is done.

1/17/2007 10:27 AM

Blogger bothenook said...

joel, we've allknown american versions of upper crust types that run off at the mouth just like this rooskie.

1/17/2007 3:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A simple fact? The CO can release the pilot at any time and transfer control of the ship. Entering breakwaters with 20 foot waves and over 40 mile winds with men topside? Rigging for dive alongside the pier with the lines off, or even holding in the bay for the transfer to happen before breakwaters? Howabout keeping the pilot for a day underway for a safe transfer? That's just 3 suggestions that could have bested this tragedy.
As one of the poor bastages that used to supervise lines topside, this could have been prevented easily.
Word has it that the CO is going away soon. Another thing is that they were not wearing the proper gear topside, as in turnarounds and had illegal extensions added on which compounded the problem. The first investigation is supposedly completed, the safety investigation is still in full swing.
We shall see what happens. No humility here, the sea is a harsh mistress and when tunnel vision overcomes forethought, then you are fuxored.
Remember, when you become hands on, you are no longer a supervisor.

1/19/2007 4:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like COMNAVSUBFOR agrees that this was entirely preventable: the CO has been reassigned.

God's peace to family, shipmates and friends who have lost loved ones.

1/19/2007 4:35 PM


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