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.)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

USS Port Royal Hard Aground

USS Port Royal (CG 73), the last of the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, is hard aground off the coast of Honolulu in 17-22 feet of water; the ship's normal draft is 33 feet. The first attempt to refloat her failed, so they're removing weight (people and fuel) in an attempt to get her off the bottom so they can pull her off the reef. There's much more analysis over at the USNI blog; that's probably a good link for updated information and knowledgeable discussion. One thing they noted is that this is the CO's first underway with his new command; he was last at sea in command on a frigate in 2004. Between his commands, he served as Reactor Officer on USS George Washington (CVN 73). The ship just came out of an overhaul, and this was reportedly her first underway since at least October.

So what do you think? Will this cause a lot of people to come out and say that surface nukes should stick to nuclear power and not try to command ships? (Answer: Of course it will. I don't think they're right, however. Surface nukes are, I'm sure, no worse at shipdriving than the normal skimmer officer. It's the Navigation team that I'm wondering about.)

Based on initial reports this whole episode sounds like it should have been really, really avoidable. I'm hoping that SURFPAC will take a really hard look at what they're doing to keep skimmer Nav Teams proficient during overhauls.

Update 0519 09 Feb: Here's the latest update; she's still hard aground.

Update 0527 10 Feb: The ship got freed yesterday by several tugs after they removed about 600 tons of fuel and anchors; the CO was relieved soon thereafter.

Update 1141 11 Feb: Lots of really good comments on this thread. Here's the latest from the Navy, after the Port Royal made it back into port.


Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

GUARDFISH spent Christmas aground at entrance to Pearl in 1967. This is the Safety Note that followed:

Submarine Grounding

Brief: Submarine goes aground while entering port.

What Happened? A submarine was returning to homeport at night after deployment. Upon surfacing it was found that the bridge hatch was stuck shut. One of the two periscopes was inoperative. The OOD and navigator shared the remaining periscope to conn the ship and navigate. The maneuvering watch was fully manned with the exception of bridge watchstanders. Visibility was not a problem. An apparent gyro error of 8.7ø with the operative periscope was being used. Thirty nine minutes after surfacing the ship had approached within 2 miles of the harbor entrance point and had ordered all stop from speed 12 knots. Navigational fixes obtained indicated that the ship would pass landward of the harbor entrance point but not to landward of the harbor entrance buoys. Forty eight minutes after surfacing the bridge hatch was successfully opened. The ship had advanced 2750 yards from the point of the all stop bell and was well to the right of the harbor entrance range having crossed the range from west to east. Thirteen minutes after the bridge hatch was opened the ship was ordered ahead 1/3 and then 2/3 to make the turn to enter the channel. The Commanding Officer went to the bridge with a lookout and a quartermaster. The lookout was busy rigging for entering port; the quartermaster was trying to call the signal tower by flashing light. About this time the Commanding Officer assumed the duties of OOD from OOD in the attack center. Neither had the channel entrance buoys in sight although the buoys were on the port bow at a range of about 1000 yards.

Navigational fixes obtained were open to question because of gyro transmission errors in the operative periscope and the poor bearing spread of available navigational aids. A course to enter the channel between the channel entrance buoys was recommended by the acting assistant navigator, an experienced QM1. This course was essentially concurred in by the navigator, however the recommendation was not sent to the bridge.
The two channel range lights and a buoy pair (5 and 6) with the same light characteristics as the entrance buoys (1 and 2) occupied the attention of the navigator and the Commanding Officer (OOD). The stage was set. As buoys 1 and 2 slid unobserved down the port side the submarine went aground.

Comments/Lessons learned:

A missing locking key for the periscope bearing transmitter, a stuck bridge hatch, one inoperative periscope - none of these directly caused the grounding. When the additional factors of haste, pre-occupation with details rather than keeping the big picture, inadequate communication between the navigator and the bridge and inadequate preparations are added, a casualty is in the making.

The sea merely lies in wait for the innocent but it stalks the unwary."

2/07/2009 7:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

PH can have some tricky spots/currents both entering and leaving if you are not careful. Guardfish found that out on a Christmas Eve RTP. As an ANAV, I always reminded my guys to keep in the game and not let their gurd down just because it was an easy looking transit.

However, when it's all said and done, I am sure that the lessons learned will be that there were no new lessons learned.

I beleive the surface guys go to trainers like we do or in most cases can actually simulate piloting from the bridge. I know of teams going to merchant academys like the Pacific Maritime Institute in Seattle:

I have also seen them on occasion at the Bangor TTF facilities.

I feel for the nav team and what is about to come their way. Good luck and stay strong.

As for the CO, the taxpayer in me says fire him! However, lets get the details first.

2/07/2009 7:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CO's bio is interesting.

He sure sounds like a dandy fine nuke! Not much of a mariner, but I bet he can keep some fine training records.

2/07/2009 7:30 PM

Anonymous anon e. moose said...

I always found it interesting that NAV on a DDG/CG was a second tour JO, not a DH. Not saying it has to change, but that's a pretty big responsibility for a JO.

2/07/2009 8:07 PM

Blogger skonesam said...

Rx Dept in GWA was a disaster during his time there; it was a group that couldn't buy a break. Appeared to be their own doing, but the view from across the pier can be distorting, too, so who knows.

2/08/2009 12:24 AM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

last at sea in 2004? So what. I was at sea in 2002 as XO, then at sea as CO in 2006. So what. The CO isn't the only guy who should have a clue about how to navigate. Besides, he was previously a CO, so what exactly do you think he didn't know how to do?

The bottom line on this one is simple. He should be relieved. I know of no justified case where a CO was left after a grounding or collision. Job 1 is avoiding a tier 1 event. Screw that up, go home.

2/08/2009 2:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this an amusing comment during a press release.

"At a press conference, Rear Admiral Joseph Walsh, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the ship is structurally sound. But he added that a thick, underwater rubber encasement that surrounds sonar equipment at the bow has taken on seawater."

the sonar dome is always full of seawater when out to sea.. only on rare occassions does it have freshwater / or no water at all..

2/08/2009 4:54 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Skipper has violated one of the three cardinal rules of command:

Don't hit nobody.

Don't touch bottom.

Keep the ocean out of the people tank.

Toast. Bye bye,

2/08/2009 6:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I know of no justified case where a CO was left after a grounding or collision."

I'm sure there are a few other examples, but the CO was not relieved when USS Dallas went aground in AUTEC barely one month after her commissioning.

Similar to Port Royal the grounding happened during a small boat transfer; in Dallas' case this was for the squadron commodore, who was already aboard, in early dawn hours.

The Navigator was OOD, and had elected to close the beach before opening away; only got half-way through that plan. The boat had just surfaced, and, shortly before grounding, the on-coming maneuvering watch OOD -- challenging the Nav -- refused to take the watch as the ship was not in a safe condition (quote: "there are rocks going by!").

For those not familiar with AUTEC, getting a visual fix is/was fairly difficult as the geography is quite flat and lacking in landmarks. This was all, of course, way pre-GPS.

Any number of boats had grounded in/around AUTEC for similar lack-of-fix reasons; don't know if this was a mitigating factor.

The CO and Nav got letters. The squadron commodore -- a hot runner, and an all-around good guy -- finished his tour and was done.

So the conditions were substantially different from Port Royal, but this was at least one case of the CO not losing his job over a grounding. My recollection is that he later went on to major command, though delayed.

2/08/2009 6:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way back in the day, we had a shipset of DD hubs/blades come back for an early overhaul. Apparantly, there was a grounding at speed. The blade flanges were still bolted to the hubs, but all blades were sheared off at the root. We're talking 10 total blades between the two hubs.

Musta been one hell of a ride.

2/08/2009 7:00 AM

Blogger Harry Buckles said...

It's not about whether an individual is capable of being a good nuke and a good ship driver. It's that most of us mere humans have limits. For most people it's impossible to be good at everything, something the senior line officers, who continue to impose more and more admin requirements, fail to understand. One's life is essentially a zero-sum game.

Let's take an example from my new profession of medicine. Do you want your internal medicine doctor removing your appendix? Although he might be able to do it successfully, you want the guy who has focused his training on removing things from people's abdominal cavity. There's evidence that suggests the guy who only focuses on appendices will do a even better job, as measured by such things as complications and death rates, than the guy who only specializes on the entire abdominal cavity.

The navy is no different. We've moved on from the days when all line of officers are considered the same. Now some drive surface ships, some drive submarines, some fly planes and so on. It's time enough that we realize that the superior intelligence of nuclear officers does not mean that they can do everything equally. They are still human.

2/08/2009 8:37 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Hmmm, they both came into their positions in and around 2007...maybe they are tired?

Based on the USS Nebraska and this, I would fired Admiral Willard, Commander
U.S. Pacific Fleet

Does the CNO need replacement?

2/08/2009 8:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nimitz is a great example of someone who didn't get nailed for a simple accident, and the Navy was better for it:

"After graduation, Nimitz spent two years on sea duty in the Far East. In 1907, he was commissioned as an ensign, taking up command of the USS Panay, a gunboat. His next command – USS Decatur – involved his court-martial for grounding the boat."

2/08/2009 8:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm...Nope, Admiral Willard, isn't the problem. He supports those under his command even when mistakes are made. Let's just wait and see how this situation looks til after the investigation. We've got a ways to go on that one.

Mulligan as always, you're completely backasswards in your thought process. Did you actually serve in the Navy?? There's no way you were a submariner. How many days was it til you were kicked out of BESS? Did you even go to Groton?

As for the present situation, My only thought for now, is there were one too many pre-occupations and distractions between the Nav-team, maneuvering watch and the bridge. But that's my best guess for now. I'm sure we'll hear all about it before the end of next week.

QM2 L.K.

2/08/2009 9:35 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Well then, if Admiral Willard helps everyone, then his help was ineffective with helping the USS Port Royal stay off the shoals. What is this about cenfleet...with a boat tipping over while hoisting it, with another recent fatality. Is there issues with excess Navy fatalities while at sea?

Isn’t it interesting they might have lost propulsion and the issues of hurrying of the maintenance period; it reeks of misplace priorities and not having enough funding for national security. The USS Port Royal is a aging floating dinosaur? So its obsolescence and not having enough operational funding?

Remember the civilian’s control what the Navy does?

2/08/2009 10:34 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

2/08/2009 10:52 AM

Anonymous KEY said...

Is it safe to assume we can start ignoring this thread yet? Now that Trolligan is here, the rest of the comments will be about him, rather than the subject at hand.

Of course, I heard a rumor that Trolligan was really one of Joel's alter egos, created specifically to increase audience participation.

Notice he's not be banned?

2/08/2009 11:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding CO non-reliefs after a grounding, a CO of USS Honolulu survived a grounding. He arguably became more famous in the submarine force for minimizing damage in a scenario where the boat was effectively set up for a grounding. He made O-6 and would have made flag, had not another problem subsequently intervened.

I know of at least two other cases in which a boat ran aground through no fault of its own and the COs survived. Granted, it is extremely rare that a boat runs aground through no fault of its own.

2/08/2009 11:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know of at least two examples of collisions where the CO didn't get fired. Lee Hankins on GREENEVILLE drove into the side of OGDEN trying to do a HUMEVAC, didn't get fired, got deep selected for O-6, and is Commodore at CSS-1. Joe Mulloy drove SAN JUAN into KENTUCKY while prepping for deployment, didn't get fired, and made flag. As always, it's a case basis with much more involved than the specifics of the incident.

2/08/2009 12:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all the very latest and best technology tax dollars can buy; GPS accurate to a few feet; depth finders accurate to inches; sattelite range finders and the best maritime charts on the planet, how is is possible that a U.S. Navy Cruiser runs aground in 2009, in perhaps the most familiar port in the Pacific? My Sea Ray runabout has an accurate fish/depth finder!!!!! Admiral Bull Halsey must be rolling over in his grave.

2/08/2009 2:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good that it is not an automatic thing. Still the Navy does not easily forgive mistakes.

Probably doesn't help that he was with the George Washington during that fire incident, although he was in charge of the Reactor Department and not engineering.

The comments I have heard concerning the fitness of nukes to command have to do with submarine combat tactics rather than navigation competance. I don't know if there are other arguments within the community.


2/08/2009 2:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous at 2:50-

I have never conned a ship larger than a YP, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

GPS just tells you where you are. The ship has a large profile and is subject to currents and winds. Also it is not exactly instantaneous in response to helm commands. The ship was in a narrow channel operating with small boats nearby (I guess they were offloading VIPS) at night. Also they hadn't been to sea in a while. It is very easy to get caught up in the little tags and lose track of the big picture.


2/08/2009 3:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That would be "tasks", not "tags"


2/08/2009 3:07 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

On July 30, 2008 Admiral Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet....

Seems like the root cause(s) wasn’t deep enough. So who is in charge?

USS George Washington (CVN-73)

On May 22, 2008 a fire occurred on the ship off the Pacific Coast of South America that burned one sailor and injured 36 others. There were no fatalities on the ship. The Navy defined the incident as 'serious'.[7] On June 20, the Navy announced that the damage from the fire was more serious than previously thought and that repairs would take until at least August and would cost $70 million. The turnover with the Kitty Hawk was postponed and would take place in San Diego instead of Hawaii.

On July 30, 2008 Admiral Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, announced that Dykhoff had been relieved of his duties citing "a loss of confidence in his ability to command and his failure to meet mission requirements and readiness standards." Dober was also relieved for "substandard performance."[16][13] Six other sailors were disciplined with nonjudicial punishment. Four sailors were found guilty of violating a lawful order and hiding hazardous materials in direct violation of safety regulations. Two noncommissioned officers were found guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty for not properly supervising the workspace. The Navy's Pacific Fleet refused to name the enlisted sailors disciplined.[1

2/08/2009 3:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee Hankins on Greeneville was a political decision...he was the 5th CO in less than a year and the ship needed a break. Normally the CO would have been fired for that evolution. He did a good job after that and many were happy about him not getting fired.

2/08/2009 3:19 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

BTW, has anyone noticed that the Pearl Navy has a lot of trouble handling VIPs (see first GREENEVILLE incident)? Seems to cause a brain-freeze.

2/08/2009 3:40 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Just getting ready to ask that.

Were there any political or other VIP’s being off loaded from the USS Port Royal?

2/08/2009 3:56 PM

Anonymous Jim said...

phw (anonymous post at 2/8/08, 1459)-

Regarding your comment "Probably doesn't help that he was with the George Washington during that fire incident, although he was in charge of the Reactor Department and not engineering."

Please note that he had turned over as Reactor Officer over a year prior to the fire and was either just finishing up at Industrial College of the Armed Forces or enroute to PORT ROYAL via the Aegis PCO pipeline.



2/08/2009 4:21 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Wow, the Greenville hit the Ehime Maru on Feb 9, 2001, that’s is 20 days after the brand new President Bush was in office. They say the Greenville was trying to perform back flips for the VIP’s in order to push funding for the subs and the Navy in general. We are exactly 20 days into the Obama administration...almost 8 years to the day?

2/08/2009 4:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the correction Jim. I was speculating


2/08/2009 4:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also apologies for the implication...


2/08/2009 4:58 PM

Blogger Gary said...

Looks like the attempt to pull her off today failed.

2/08/2009 7:22 PM

Blogger Steve Harkonnen said...

I thought that CO's got relieved of command when they ran ships aground.

Kind of reminds me the story I heard when one of our deck hands yelled to the CO when pulling into Cartagena (everyone despised this CO; we all called him Capt Quieg) "Sir, watch out, we're going to run aground" and as the CO spotted the danger, ordered the ship hard to port and avoided a disaster.

The QM1 turned to the Seaman: "You could've saved all of us if you had just kept quiet."

I don't think any of us could ever forget Capt. Schery....I don't know what sub it was he commanded that got ran aground, but that's how he ended up being in command of our ship.

2/08/2009 7:35 PM

Anonymous Lester said...

Two things.

Everyone knows the area off the airport is nothing but shoal water. You can see the rocks and sand at low tide. I was on a destroyer in Pearl and we always did small boat transfers in the channel just past Drydock #4. This crew is obviously rusty from the overhaul. I'll be the investigation will show a very poor nav brief.

Admiral Boorda had command of a destroyer that ran aground in the Carribean. He was not relieved and went on to become CNO. The investigation showed the OOD disregarded his night orders.

2/08/2009 8:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best quips I've seen on the internet so far:

"Guided Missile Cruiser? More like 'Mis-'Guided Missile Cruiser!"

"Reports say that PACFLT has hired George St Pierre's trainer as a consultant; in related news, the Pearl NEX is currently sold out of Vaseline."

"If you land your plane in the water, you're a big hero and get to watch the Super Bowl, but if you land your boat onto a runway you're a big goat and get to watch the Pro Bowl.

2/08/2009 9:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is a commenter here posting as "steamshovel" at the USNI blog and duplicating comments word for word?

2/08/2009 10:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course, I heard a rumor that Trolligan was really one of Joel's alter egos, created specifically to increase audience participation. "

I've been wondering this myself.

2/09/2009 12:05 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

It would seem that the Navy needs a "NRTB" series for ship groundings and collisions. Talk about some interesting reading.

As Rickover said, "You have to learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself."

2/09/2009 5:02 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Trust me, I'm not Mike Mulligan -- even I couldn't come up with some of his outlandish theories. The reason he hasn't been banned is that I don't have the capability to ban someone by IP address (or even by name) here on Blogger. My response to trolls in the past has been recommend they post about the topic on their own blog and put a link to their discussion here, then (when they don't do that) to warn them they're going to get their comments randomly deleted, and then doing it. Mike is just about at that point, unfortunately. I find that the random deletion works best, where some of their comments get deleted, and some don't... they don't know which of their work will cause extra "work" for me, so they get frustrated and leave.

Mike: Please post about these topics at your own blog, and you can add a link to your post here in my comments. Otherwise, I'd really appreciate it if you'd not bring up ridiculous assertions that have no basis in reality.

2/09/2009 5:28 AM

Anonymous Jim Armstrong said...

Sorry for the off-topic post, but I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing USS George Washington without seeing (SSBN-598) in back of it. 'Course, being on the decom crew of the GW kinda has that effect...

2/09/2009 6:25 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...


You forget we live in the greatest country in the world and I love my US Constitution more than anything else.

What am I going to have submarine service assassins or department of Navy assassins at my doorsteps now.

What is happening is people are beginning to listen to me.

I hope people now see the childish antics, dressed up a Navy sailors, that has been going on this site. I hope everyone in the Navy is proud of the maturity of the submarine force.

Remember, transparency is a double ended sword?

You just increase the value of my comments because you make some of them disappear! It draws in attention.

2/09/2009 6:44 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...


You might want to consider shifting to WordPress. It has a number of options for keeping blogs from being intentionally vandalized by mental midgetry.

- ex SSN Eng

2/09/2009 7:20 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Can’t you imagine that Nuclear Engineer of a submarine with a young Navy sailor in closed room, who complains he sees a safety problem with the nuclear reactor. Can’t you hear the ship’s engineer saying, you keep that to yourself you mental midget because I won’t let you vandalize and sabotage my Naval career.

2/09/2009 8:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trolligan - your comments are uncalled for. Better to keep your mouth shut and let everyone think you're a fool than open your mouth and confirm it.

Former SSN COB

2/09/2009 8:18 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

I should have used my real name Mike Mulligan in the USNI blog. Mike Mulligan and “Steamshovel” is me...I am one and the same person. I have tried to correct that with another entry on the USNI blog.

COB, you's be backpeddling worrying about your career if I was ever on your boat.

2/09/2009 8:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally off the rocks early this morning (mon 2/9)

2/09/2009 9:03 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Somewhere, deep in here, someone said "I THINK the surface guys go to trainers..." or words to that effect. Before I get into that, a little about me:
I'm a retired SSN ANAV now teaching navigation full-time to the surface bubbas. Having now seen both sides of the fence, I must say that the differences between the two communities are staggering to say the least. To say "Skimmers don't care" is not strictly speaking true. They are not TRAINED to care. Bearing Takers take bearings. That's it. Radar operators track contacts. Thats it. QMOW's neither know nor care about RLGN performance. Nav teams are taking rounds every two minutes (Why, I have NO idea). In the interval between, the Navigator spends 45 seconds gathering data and another minute making his (REQUIRED) long-winded report, most of which contains irrelevant data. Situational-Awareness is completely lacking because they are procedurally bound to keep their heads down, instead of UP.
Back to trainers: The surface guys you saw at TTF Bangor were OS's there for RADNAV team training. Itself an anachronism. No QM's at all. The few times I assisted ATG in teaching that course (at TTF Bangor) did not go well at all. In general, SURFOR QM's do not go to trainers as we submariners know them, simply because, for the most part, they do not exist. The ones that DO exist (PMI Seattle, for example) are generally for the JO's to focus on shiphandling. They have NOTHING like SUBSKILLSNET, and SPAN is only a pipe dream.
At last check (Nov 08), >45% of the submarine force was certified to use VMS, where there only *9* SURFOR ships so certified. Why? Too many CO's are skeptical. Hopefully the downward trend in submarine groundings and the upward trend in SURFOR groundings will force SURFOR to rethink its position. Were I COMNAVSURFOR, my message to the COs would be: Get onboard or get out of the way.
I read the OPREPS and looked at the charts this morning and asked myself two questions: What were they doing there in the first place and Who was looking out the window.

As I tell my students:
Straight hulls and clean bottoms is not a goal, it is a STANDARD. Lose sight of that and you've already lost the war.

More to follow.

2/09/2009 10:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I hope people now see the childish antics, dressed up a Navy sailors, that has been going on this site. I hope everyone in the Navy is proud of the maturity of the submarine force."

This is just one of the many comments you have posted on this site that just make me go, WTF. What the hell is your problem? Where you kicked out of the Navy because you couldn't pass the PRT? My guess is you were NEVER in the Navy, and like some sicko, you get your rocks off by making conspiracy theories, and talking out of your butt. How dare you come to a website, and make such ignorant comments like you do. Yay for you, you live in the US.Yay for you, you love you Constitution. You want a cookie? The military is the reason why idiots like you can say such moronic things. My husband is a submariner, and he gets up each day and puts on his uniform. He is proud of his job, and proud of his shipmates, and proud of his country. Which is not something that can be said for you. You seem to forget that these sorts of things happen in the civilian world too. Ships run aground ALL THE TIME. So stop making it out to be such a big deal. The people who come here come to discuss articles, not make up outlandish accusations, or assanine theories about them. And there are people in the civilian world just as there are in the Navy or any other branch who are jerks. I just don't understand why you don't understand that.

To Joel, I apologize deeply for this, and if you find it fit to delete my comment, I understand. I come to your blog because I truly enjoy your posts. I've just been reading all of his comments, and I know this only feeds into him, but his comments as of late, especially with the Nebraska, just make my head spin. I am posting as anonymous because I don't want him trolling my blog!

2/09/2009 12:04 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

That’s is why Capt Carroll was fired so quickly...cause they knew I was making a run Admiral Robert F. Willard.

2/09/2009 2:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know one officer who ran a ship aground in Germany many years ago and it was hushed up- MIKE BOORDA was CO. The sonar dome on that cruiser is ALWAYS filled with water and pressurized. It is a "rubber window"...steel at the bottom called the banjo (that is the shape). I am sure a new rubber window for that dome is on an aircraft is huge.

2/09/2009 2:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops-Forgot...ship in question that ran aground in Germany...USS FARRAGUT.

2/09/2009 2:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 2:54 commentor,

I do believe, based on your writing style, that you are the troll disguised as an ananymous poster. Go away

2/09/2009 3:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The USS Ray hit a sea mount in the late 70s or early 80s. Did lots of damage. The CO kept his job. I knew him as the XO on one of the boats I served on. He was a really good guy. Not sure why he didn't get the can, but am glad it worked out well for him.

2/09/2009 3:46 PM

Blogger Navy Blue Cougar said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/09/2009 4:54 PM

Blogger Navy Blue Cougar said...

Hey Joel. I just checked out your sitemeter and saw that you have surpassed 1,000,000 visits. Congrats on the milestone.

2/09/2009 4:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Admiral Boorda had command of a destroyer that ran aground in the Carribean. He was not relieved and went on to become CNO. The investigation showed the OOD disregarded his night orders."

What year was this? Wonder if this was the same incident that led to the early overhaul of the props....? It was in the Carribean...

2/09/2009 5:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No "troll" here....but....23-years in the Navy, I know that sonar dome with a rubber window very well. So who is the troll anyway and he has my writing style? Surface Line Mighty Fine...but the nukes need to go drive their own ships and not practice on ours.

2/09/2009 6:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting about Boorda and the Carib. He personally told me when he was COMCRUDESGRU-8 that he was the only surface navy officer in major command at that time who had run a ship (USS FARRAGUT) aground and he personally told me the harbor was Germany....Northern Euroipean / NATO cruise. I see no reason for him to tell me a lie about the ship and the location.

2/09/2009 6:07 PM

Anonymous Ross Kline said...

C'mon, now....I don't paint all surface ship riders or non-nuclear trained people with a broad brush, and I feel it is only fair for others to follow that practice. Not all of any group is perfect...there will be some people in any group who are below average.

I have no idea what happened here. I feel confident I will never get the full story. But I can't blame anyone until all the facts are in.

Unfortunately, the CO has the desk on any ship where the buck stops...and it usually stops hard. Unless someone was blatantly disobeying or disregarding orders, I don't see how this guys career is going to survive this hit.

2/09/2009 6:24 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

Ret_ANAV, wow and, wow. Unf*&!ingbelievable. If the surface gents would quit being envious of nucs and just learn to navigate, maybe they could avoid this.

"Ships run aground all the time"--er, no they don't. Other than combat, few things damage ships like mother earth. Given all the hours ships are operated, it is a rare event--and one of the COs number one jobs to avoid.

Some have survived these events. Why is probably more complicated than 'covering it up.' HONOLULU ran aground at Truk, CO stayed in command. Greeneville hit the OGDEN, CO stayed in command (a true mystery). Why didn't Waddle (Greeneville/Ehime Maru killer) get court-martialed?

Oh, and PORT ROYAL is pier side, saw her this morning.

My bet is that there are no new lessons learned. The Stupid Shall be Punished.

2/09/2009 7:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if this has already been published , but here it is:

2/09/2009 7:41 PM

Anonymous AGANG/SWO said...

This blog is quite amazing. Former MM, now SWO LT. I can tell you that if the NAVTEAM had been doing their job, then this wouldn't have happened. END OF STORY. Being that close to water, were they in mod-nav? Did they have the navigation detail set? Was the XO or CO on the bridge? Someone mentioned the buck stops with the CO. That's what they get paid for. However, ship safety is everyone's responsibility. It was said earlier that a SN reported rocks and diverted a disaster. This is why there are lookouts, people on sea and anchor detail, and plenty of people on the bridge. Okay, so they had a "mechanical malfunction" still a B.S. reason to run aground. WHY??? because as any SWO who has an OOD letter will tell you that there is still that big hook at the bow that can save you when needed. (most of the time.) It's obvious that they didn't do their job because of where they ended up. ORM anyone? Just come out of the yards? As a NAV, I would have been WAY paranoid of something going wrong. Not only that, but the shoal waters are colored on the charts. I understand the comment about the 2 minute fixes with the extraneous info in the report. One piece of that is where the nearest hazard to navigation is. Nav should have been aware of that at all times. The CONN, OOD, and CO are SUPPOSED to roger up to that report each time it is given. I can't wait for the final report to come out.

2/10/2009 4:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Srvd_SSN_CO -

"Some have survived these events. Why is probably more complicated than 'covering it up.' HONOLULU ran aground at Truk, CO stayed in command. Greeneville hit the OGDEN, CO stayed in command (a true mystery). Why didn't Waddle (Greeneville/Ehime Maru killer) get court-martialed?"

I was post-majcom in Pearl during the last two you mentioned. I commented on Hankins and the GRN above...just too tough on the crew with 5 COs in a year (3 assigned - 2 interim). 2 Star made the decision by himself with about 4 of us in the room briefing him (not necessarily agreeing with him).

Regarding Waddle, can't really say. If any collision deserved one, his did...I know the prosecuting JAG (now 3 star) and he still doesn't know why the dogs were called off.

2/10/2009 5:54 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

As our esteemed Post-CO observed; No new lessons here, just old ones re-visited.

To our former A-Ganger, now SWO, I couldn't agree with you more about the nav team doing their job. As far as Nav-Detail, Mod-Nav, etc, here are the requirements:

< 2nm from land: Full NAV detail (Bridge and CIC). Fix requirements: 2 Minute interval with a +/- 50yd tolerance, FOM 2 or better. Note: "All ships using GPS as the primary fix source are required to log Figure of Merit and to obtain a visual and/or RADAR fix at 3 times the intervals indicated (i.e., every six minutes in restricted waters). If GPS FOM exceeds those limits listed in Table 3-A, GPS will not be used as the primary fix source, except in cases where no other fix source (excluding celestial) is available."

2-10nm from land: IAW COSO. Fix requirements: 3-10 minutes as conditions warrant with a +/- 100yd tolerance, FOM 4 or better. Above note also applies here.

*Source: CNSFINST 3530.4B (NAVDORM) dated 28JAN08.

What the NAVDORM says about GPS:
"a. To facilitate this transition to electronic navigation, all ships may continue to use approved encrypted GPS IAW reference (j) as their primary fix source in all waters. This
does not preclude the navigation team from ascertaining the ship’s position by other means (visual, radar, etc.) as required and at no greater than every third fix interval in restricted waters. No one fix source should be solely relied upon. If GPS Figure of Merit (FOM) or Estimated Position Error (EPE) exceeds those limits established in Table 3-A, the ship’s navigation team will shift to an alternate fix source as the primary fix source. GPS datum must be set according to the chart in use. Commercial GPS (i.e., FURUNO, GARMIN, etc.) is not authorized for navigational use but may be used for situational awareness.

That last part is truly amazing.

Oh, and while I have the NAVDORM in front of me and am in a cut & paste mood, I'll revisit the "Required Reports" section that I touched on yesterday:

"Every verbal position report made by the Navigation Evaluator to
the Navigator (note: The the Evlauator usually IS the Navigator), Conning Officer, and CO will include the following information for each fix:
(1) Fix time
(2) Fix/EP Quality (excellent, good, poor, etc.) as determined by the Navigation Evaluator based on CO’s guidance Note: For GPS fixes, the CO may assign fix quality based on Figure Of Merit (FOM) to Estimated Position Error (EPE) or request that GPS fixes be identified with FOM (see Appendix F).
(3) Fix method (GPS, visual, RADAR, composite, running fix, etc.)
Note: If GPS is used as the primary fix source, the Navigation Evaluator will report FOM.
(4) Fix position in relation to proposed track
(5) Nearest hazard to navigation
(6) Nearest aid to navigation
(7) Corrected fathometer sounding, and comparison to charted depth
(8) Distance and time to next turn
(9) Course on next turn (reported at least once each leg and updated as changes occur)
(10) Any recommendation to regain/maintain proposed track
(11) Set and drift (once on each leg when less than 1500 yards and every third fix for legs greater than 1500 yards)
(12) The phrase "CIC/CDC concurs," "CIC/CDC does not concur," or "CIC/CDC has no fix," as appropriate
(13) The phrase "GPS concurs/GPS does not concur with Visual/RADAR fix"

In contrast, the SUBFOR SOM requirement states:

"Effective piloting demands excellent communications between the piloting party in control and the conning officer on the bridge. However, many parties mistake excessive communication as effective communication.
Both the piloting party and the OOD have a plethora of information they must assimilate and excessive chatter between stations detracts from the team’s ability to navigate safely. Furthermore, the availability of navigation displays on the bridge affects the utility of some reports. The navigator need not report data available on bridge tactical decision aids (TDAs) such as the bridge display unit (BDU). Reporting requirements can and should change depending on the situation. The team’s familiarity with the port, the material condition of TDAs, and the specific desires of the team should all be factored into tailoring what and when information is reported to the bridge. At a minimum, the following shall be reported:
Navigator to OOD:
a. Inability to fix ship’s position or shift in the primary fix source.
b. Receipt of any sounding tripwire.
c. Recommended course and speed changes.
Note: This requirement is typically satisfied with a report 500-1,000 yards prior to the next turn or speed change. There is neither a requirement nor desire to count down a turn."

*Author's notes:
1. For those unfamiliar with the SOM, it replaced SSM-OP-61-17 in Sept. 2007
2. The excerpt quoted above is from UNCLASSIFIED portions of the SOM.

Since the day I started working with the surface community, I have griped that these guys are procedurally-bound to navigate with one hand tied behind their back, and the NAVDORM excerpts quoted above merely underscore that thought.

Obviously, I have a lot more thoughts in my head and could go on for hours, but I will save those for later.
As always, I welcome all comments and feedback.

2/10/2009 6:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Report in the SF Chronicle this morning: Cruiser pulled off the rocks, CO relieved pending investigation.

Keep a zero bubble.....


2/10/2009 11:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, I served under Adm Boorda when he was CRUDESGRU8 too. Amazing sailor and officer.

I also served on board USS Fletcher in Pearl. I miss that island.

I agree with an earlier statement. Why were they offloading VIP's in that location anyway?

2/10/2009 12:02 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Lots have asked "Why were they there in the first place?"

Can't speak for the ship...I wasn't there...but my thought process goes sumpin' like dis:

PRL calls Port Ops at 1530 and asks for a 2000 BSP IVO Drydock 4.

Port Ops responds that there is no contract-tug ("Tiger") support after 1800. Spanish for: Nobody to help him get turned around and pointed outbound.

PRL: Roger, Out.

PRL CO decides to go on independent ops to make the shipyard riders happy and let them sleep in their own beds that night. Calls the PHNSY CO and coordinates transportation to/from Hickam Harbor. Maybe he called his ISIC as well, who knows.

Gee, does it sound like this has happened to me before? (Only with my boat, we were haulin' Frogs).


2/10/2009 1:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

(There is a point to this, so hang with me.) I was on a boat when MTV's "Beavis and Butthead" came out. Many guys (especially nukes in maneuvering...) started talking like them (heh, heh!). It drove me ABSOLUTELY INSANE!!! Yet, I never expressed my displeasure because I understood what would come next - never show your weakness! Eventually, the thought of talking like Beavis and Butthead just went away, and my sanity returned. My point? Just ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY IGNORE Mike Mulligan and hope that he goes away. Rational discussion hasn't worked; insulting him, his clearly deficient thought process or writing style, his ideas or heritage hasn't worked; maybe (God willing) if we ignore him, he'll JUST GO AWAY, or at least not have any reason to make repeated comments on a post.

That's my contribution for today - ignore Mike Mulligan!

2/10/2009 3:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been there.

I had the deck when we hit a ship riding at anchor in a typhoon. My career survived it; different set of circumstances. But there, but for the grace of god, and maybe the luck of an inside straight, go I. There are a great many people going to armchair-Admiral this thing to death before the JAGMAN report is reviewed at CINCPAC, never mind before details make the news.

I'd advise 'em all to pipe down and wait for the report. The fact is that groundings are usually an event months in the making. If you read the JAGMAN reports from the collisions of USS INGERSOLL (in 1992) and of USS KINKAID (in 1989), both in the Straits of Malaca, you'd be amazed at the similiarity. Change the hull numbers and the CO's name, and you've got virtually the same report, right down to the fact that the Aftersteering watch were not PQS qualified for their Sea and Anchor Detail billets.

So what, right?

The JAGMAN listed everything that was wrong on those ships, and if the third buttercutter in the messline wasn't qualified to hold the butterknife, it made the report. Again, so what? What did aftersteering or the mess line have to do with getting t-boned because you didn't know own ship's position, crossed the traffic separation scheme with a green OOD on deck, at night, and had him try to re-cross the scheme, and drastically mis-read on-coming traffic's masthead lights?

Weeeeeell, it's like this: unless everyone woke up that morning and said, "Let's see how many things we can do that are completely wrong, against training, regulation, tradition, and plain good sense before disaster strikes," what the JAG report appears to document is a culture where there was a failure to hold to standards, a culture where 'good enough' was accepted where it should not be.

Don't get me wrong: these are NOT bad sailors, or unprofessional, or screw ups---there but for the grace of god, remember? We've all had our moments where we took the path of least resistance. It's when it becomes institutional for everyone that it becomes a silent killer waiting to strike. There have been many moments in my charmed existence where I might've earned a body-bag through inattention bordering on carelessness bordering on wrecklessness, and each time it was a wakeup call, and I STILL have moments where after the fact, I wonder if I don't have fewer braincells than Oscar.

But if you look carefully at any report of almost any mishap at sea, you'll see that it was the culmination of months of sliding. Performing things by rote because, "That's how we've always done it" (fine words from a sailor that's only been aboard the ship for 18 months, which may seem like a long time, but really isn't). Not bothering to plan and brief evolutions, and or not bothering to perform them the way they were briefed. Not making sure you have contingency/emergency plans, and that everyone on the watch team knows them cold. In general, a lackadaisical approach to what is an exacting discipline that is dangerous for professionals, and deadly to the casual or unwary.

In every ship I've served, the CO's Standing Orders had a statement that read something like this: "I am the Captain. I am inescapably responsible for everything that takes place aboard this ship." somewhere near where it also said, "If ever in doubt, do not hesitate to pass the word for me, including even the positive word, 'CAPTAIN TO THE BRIDGE'." Apparently, in the case of INGERSOLL and KINKAID, this was ignored. Charitably, I prefer to think it was out of inexperience or panic, rather than that some wet-behind-the-ears J.O. tried to get back on PIM before anyone found out just how dreadfully he'd screwed up, and in his snivelling fear for his own career, cost the life of a shipmate (in the one case, the 'Gator was killed, in the other, I believe a Torpedoman Chief). I'd hate to have that on my conscience the rest of my miserable days: through my own venal fears for my personal reputation, I got a shipmate killed.

What did the CO do wrong? Heck, he was just unlucky to have a dog on watch who froze and didn't call him, right?

Dunno. I cannot judge that. Wasn't there. But it is the CO's responsibility to ensure that his watchteams are trained and ably led---and apparently in both those cases, this was tragically not the case, if the JAG reports are to be trusted, and sadly, I have to trust them.

The CO of the INGERSOLL was a friend of my CO. We had just relieved them on station in the Gulf. I'm sure he had his moments of, "There but for the grace of god..." too. But I wouldn't worry that such a thing would ever happen to him. He's a fine man, and a fine officer, and without being a martinet, he set a standard, and he held us all to it. We did what we did because it was what we were supposed to do, backed up by training, instructions, directives, experience, professionalism and tradition. Evolutions were briefed and practiced until everyone knew his duty.

I recall trying to perform an OCSOT after I reported aboard and was assigned duties as Ship's Weapons Coordinator (SWC). An evolution that per the MRC should've taken around 1.1 hrs ate the entire morning, and still wasn't complete. By mid-afternoon, it became clear that it could not BE completed as written---don't dare breath it: can you say, 'gundeck'? You don't want to know how long we spent at it to finally get the MRC re-written so that it was correct and could be performed with the equipment/computer program we had, and then to get the feedback report written. The following OCSOT took nearly as long, even with the MRC was correct. We did the OCSOT twice that day, and no one left until it was complete---not to eat, and not for headbreaks. Not without a qualified relief. And again the next day. And again until we showed some improvement. Combat Systems Department was fastcruisin'. And there were assurances that we'd do nothing but OCSOTs until we were proficient at it, so get comfortable guys---we deploy in a couple of months. Maybe we'll take a break then.

At some point, the watchteam got the idea that this was serious. The rest of us went from simply being angry to being determined. It's not that anyone was a lazy screwup, and this wasn't a goofed up ship---far from it, she was the most ship-shape of any in which I've been privileged to serve. It's just that at some point in the past, someone had said something like, "Well, you know, they updated that computer program and so that procedure doesn't really work anymore, but they taught this new version at school and all the guys know it, so what's the big deal?" And so a compromise was reached to save someone the time of getting the paperwork to match the situation. And it went from there. Until you had a bunch of operators who all knew their own equipment aces, but could not function as a combat team. The whole is much more than a collection of all it's pieces---can you imagine the sound of an orchestra of virtuousos who ignore the conductor and all do the score the way THEY think it ought to be done? They can each be the greatest there is on their own instrument, but it'll be among the worst orchestras in existence anyway.

It took a bit of doing to get that particular collection whole again, but we did, and we did it because the CO and his Wardroom and his Chief's Mess were in lockstep, believing in him, and how he ran the ship, and that attitude trickled down to everyone else on the ship, and we became driven by the need to do it right, and then do it better.

He's a three star now, my old CO. No, I'm not going to drop any names.

We did our deployment, and it wasn't without it's highlights, but there was never a moment where I didn't wonder about what happened to KINKAID or INGERSOLL, and think, when I screwed up, how many shipmates would I kill? I've never met a professional who didn't tell me about fears that he/she might let the team down somehow, and used those fears to spur themselves to keep training to make sure it never happened (at least I share the fear bit with them...).

Seriously, we knew that it was up to us to be vigilant and AWARE of what was going on around us if we didn't want to be part of a tragic phuck up like those others, so we worked hard and we did our thing, and I'm able to look back from almost 20 years perspective at that cruise and and through it to moments like the one just had aboard PORT ROYAL and say, "There but for the grace of god, and the luck of having a CO who made us understand that we were responsible for performing as professionals, always aware of what we were doing and why, and not simply going through the motions by rote..." and that's why there haven't been many more situations like aboard PORT ROYAL, or INGERSOLL, or KINKAID, or CURTS, or HEWITT, or... Yeah. It happens. But reading the reports, it only happens to those who don't follow the training and instructions. The lessons are there to learn, and the mistakes aren't anything new.

My CO? I served under him as a Chief. Thanks to the lessons I learned the fine shipmates I served with, I was eventually able to earn a commission, and not too long after that, had the deck when we had a mishap that in broad strokes, followed the classic goofups performed so badly aboard INGERSOLL and KINKAID. We didn't have contingency plans, we pulled one out of a hat and didn't brief all the watchstanders, we---the litany goes on. No one was killed, no one was even hurt, and as I said, it was from one perspective, a completely different circumstances, so my career didn't suffer a blip from it (I've lived a charmed existence, and been blessed with a great many terrific shipmates that I didn't deserve...I just wonder how evil they all were in past lives to have deserved me). And in many ways, I was just a chip in the flood for that one. Dunno to this day that I could've done anything differently. So sometimes you get lucky.

Oh, my CO on that earlier ship was a Surface Nuke, by the way. He went on to his second command as CO of a sistership of PORT ROYAL. And I'd sail with him any day, any where, any time---so for those that have adverse opinions about Surface Nukes in CO positions, I have to say, I don't share 'em.

Fair winds,


2/10/2009 6:56 PM

Anonymous RapidRoy said...

The primary concern of the officer in charge ( Captain ) is to maintain "situational awareness" of where the vesssel is. Boarding people from small boats can be distracting... but you still must check where-the-hell-the-ship-is every minute or so. If you don't... it's YOUR FAULT. I'm not casting stones unfairly; I've run aground myself in a small outboard boat while I was distracted by trying to tow another boat. Yes, it was my fault, for not maintaining "situational awareness". I sympathize with the Captain.

2/10/2009 7:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Co standing orders....
Watch team briefings....
charts are all updated....
Nav brief.........
intervals of fixes.......
human look out????
4 months after dry dock where is the ORM????

The fire on GW was a disaster, I seen first hand what happened during the repair period in SanDOG...

2/10/2009 10:01 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

When Charlie White was the Ops boss at SubPac, he met with my PCO class (he'd had a great tour as CO WAHOO). He said this about commanding a submarine: "Command is easy ... if you don't plumber it up ... so don't plumber it up."

Part of the easiness of command is operating in piloting waters: if it's not fogged in, you can see EXACTLY where you are. If you're the skipper of a big gray thing, you've got a huge navigation party: role-players and supervisors both, at least two officers on watch, and yourself and the XO to stand on the roof and look nautical.

Rather than over-analyze this, let's just admit that this guy 'plumbered it up.' And if the instant inspection/JAG investigation does look at the process-management problem baked into the skimmer's mandatory and voluminous procedures, perhaps the skimmer navy might look hard at moving the needle that swings between documentation and training a lot closer to the training end of the dial.

Though the submarine force has had a share of navigation screw-ups, it also has always reacted firmly and effectively to them. Best expression of that was creation of the Navigation School in the mid-70s, mandatory for prospective navigators and with course content flowing into both PXO and PCO courses.

The skimmers have never put the resources (pipeline time and dollars) into training its shipboard leaders. The surface force's various attempts at getting better have always foundered on an intrinsic belief that firing the faulty was better than improving the breed (as an old boss of mine and knowledgeable of the ways of skimmers once put it, 'they make 'em bleed').

In 1987 I took huge criticism from the skimmers for suggesting in Proceedings that The Surface Navy Isn't Ready, arguing that submariners and aviators had a better approach to both safety and mission readiness. The skimmers hated the message, but they did move the art forward a bit towards readiness in the time after and skimmers in private have said thanks to me. If we use this grounding as a data point in the context of my old thesis, it would seem that the surface navy has picked up on the need for procedural documentation ... but has missed the two essential concomitants: procedural adherence and training.

As with GREENEVILLE's Pearl incident, the surface navy can go one of two ways in dealing with this grounding. One, the GREENVILLE path, is to see it through a narrow optic and assign all fault to the ship itself. The other - the right one IMHO - is to see this as a rich lessons-learned treasury for the practices and culture of the whole surface navy.

Admiral Sam Gravely was once in a position to advise on lengthening command tours for skimmers beyond two years. He was violently opposed, and this was his reason: "Skippers have about two years of good luck; after that, all bets are off." That concept - successful command may take some luck, too - is something any served CO can relate to. But - bottom line - relying just on luck is a poor way to start a command tour.

2/11/2009 6:30 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

"...see this as a rich lessons-learned treasury for the practices and culture of the whole surface navy."

I definitely agree with the duck on this one.

In the mid '80s, I had the unique occasion to be in the office of VADM Joe Metcalf (now deceased 2 years ago) in the Pentagon to brief him on this or that as a submarine JO.

While folks were gathering, something on his coffee table immediately caught my attention: duly mounted on an oak plaque with a brass plate, whose words I've long since forgotten, was a piece of a towed array cable from USS McCloy.

Unremarkable, except that McCloy had lost their 'noodle' recently in a tug of war with a Victor III, who had to surface with a fouled screw. Without going into the details of how we came about possessing it, suffice it to say that the U.S. submarine force was kind enough to return it along with a suitable frame and brief commentary.

Admiral Metcalf clearly wasn't embarrassed by it, for it was out there for all to see...and it certainly wasn't there for my benefit alone, as I was just a humble submarine JO flying solo in a crowd of skimmer O-5s at the time.

Borrowing from this "act of contrition," the current COMNAVSURFFOR would not do badly to have a large and dramatically framed picure in his office of Port Royal on the beach with a blunt, simple brass plate statement on it for all to see: "WTF?"

A picture is worth 1,000 words, but this would clearly be quite the conversation starter...each of them hopefully of the stuff that the surface force would continue to benefit from.

2/11/2009 7:50 AM

Blogger J120 Bowman said...

I was a JO at squadron 8 when the Jacksonville, surfaced, hit a tanker in fog on the way back to Norfolk in 95 or 96. I took the initial call from the sublant watch officer. After briefing the commodore, he told me to call the CO's wife so the she could contact the wives before the tv stations picked up on the news.

After identifying myself and telling her there was a collision, the boat was surfaced and stable and there were no injuries, her first words were, "Was my husband at fault?" I gave her the standard line about an investigation, blah, blah, blah. However, she already knew he was going to be relieved. She was in tears.

Bottom line, we are still the only organization (seagoing Navy) that holds accountability paramount. Having never been a CO, I can't speak to it directly, but every CO must know their command tour is only as succesful as the weakest link of their command.

2/11/2009 10:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the navigator on an AE back in the day (1970s) when they were ships of the line. With a deep draft, we were very careful about marking a plastic overlay of the chart with a grease pencil to pay particular attention to shoal water and other hazards. If any harbor or anchorage was unfamiliar, a pilot was requested prior to the port call.

My sense is that the crew returning to sea after a long layoff had no crispness as a team responsible for watching each other's back. It's hard to envision what with the advanced positioning systems such as GPS but one wonders if the simple use of lines of bearing to fix visually the position of the ship were in use. And if the charts were updated or reviewed beforehand. I'm sure the sea and anchor detail was still set so such a massive failure is puzzling.

A former colleague of mine was CO of USS Leyte Gulf when the sonar dome touched bottom while undergoing calibration near a buoy off of Norfolk. No substantial damage except scraping of the dome. Nevertheless, his combined enlisted/officer career of over 30 yrs was over.

2/11/2009 12:42 PM

Blogger Chap said...

@RD: I lived through some of the post-Greeneville FLAPEX. It was the initiator of a lot of change in the sub force, some good, some maybe not. I saw significant changes in everything from schoolhouse curricula to waterfront manning.

Back to topic: I saw some pictures of Port Royal damage.

Ouuuuch. That looks expensive.

2/11/2009 1:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You pay your money and take your chances. I was fortunate enough to have a great crew and make it through my SSN command tour without leaving any paint on the bottom or on another ship. Other men, better COs than I, were not so lucky. If, at the end of the day, you're unwilling to risk that, you're in the WRONG BUSINESS.

2/11/2009 2:08 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Chap: re GREENEVILLE lessons learned ... Good to hear. At the time of the incident, the submarine force seemed more interested in circling the wagons around Al K, somewhat implicated in the affair and about to depart CSP enroute his third star on the East Coast. Sack cloth and ashes would not have been good attire for the Sailor's Pal at the time.

2/11/2009 4:58 PM

Blogger Chap said...

@RD: Won't be able to comment about that. I can provide a little background offline if you wish; it's all RUMINT but I know a little.

As for the changes incorporated, it included:
--Standdown training, multiple
--Special training program on the collision, specifically on tactical issues
--Changes in manning requirements for underways
--Changes in scrutiny of how squadrons looked at ships
--Changes in how squadrons were manned and utilized (I'm fuzzy on the details)
--TRE beefed up and changed (it was being de-emphasized for a while)
--Changes to JO pipeline schools
--Significant revamp of SOAC, to include at-sea time and tougher standards
--Significant revamp of PCO school, to include PERISHER-style tactics and tougher standards
--Revamp of some tactical procedures related to this and similar issues, not for this circuit
--Change in billets for all post-command COs to put them all on the waterfront for either the immediate tour afterward (or the next one in special cases), pulling control grade billets away from Big Navy
--Change in control room procedures
--Change in PD procedures
--Squadrons paid closer attention to forward qualification and manning above the ship level (the forward guys in my squadron weren't getting much attention outside the predeployment evaluation, since we had LA and GRN and another boat in our squadron taking the squadron staff's time)

etc etc etc. Big shock to the system.

2/11/2009 7:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone's been commenting about how the Nav Detail should've kept this ship off the rocks.

Ever think maybe there wasn't one stationed?

GPS? Maybe the antenna was broken or something. That close to the airport, maybe it has interference.

Watch team? Since it was on the evening/midwatch, maybe it wasn't the most senior folks around.

I'm just sayin'.

2/11/2009 9:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ex SSN ENG - there are sort of NRTB's about collisions. The piloting team is required to review the collisions and groundings briefs for lots of collisions at least once a year (and it takes a year to get through all of them).

and like Chap, I've seen pics of the damage. It's not good at all. I've got some SWO friends who have commented that this ship was nowhere NEAR where ships do perstrans' in Pearl because of this very risk.

But, like everyone else said, there but for the grace of God go I.

2/11/2009 9:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and Mike Mulligan...

you're a f***ing idiot.

carry on.

2/11/2009 9:38 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Anonymous said:
Everyone's been commenting about how the Nav Detail should've kept this ship off the rocks.

Ever think maybe there wasn't one stationed?

GPS? Maybe the antenna was broken or something. That close to the airport, maybe it has interference.

Watch team? Since it was on the evening/midwatch, maybe it wasn't the most senior folks around.

I'm just sayin'.

I refuse (and I hope everyone else here with a clue does also) to subscribe to your scenario. See my earlier post that cuts and pastes (verbatim) the requirements of the SURFOR NAVDORM. I will not believe that anyone can be THAT stupid. As someone said earlier, (I'm paraphrasing here) these folks did not wake up that morning with the sole intent of making up new ways to screw things up.
That out of the way, there has been a lot of talk about GPS, technoligical this, technological that, etc. HOW TECHNOLOGICAL DO YOU NEED TO BE WHEN YOU'RE A MILE OFF THE BEACH?!? Two words: Danger Bearings. Two more: Parallel Indexing. Oh, you want two more? Risk-Management. I always ask my students: "What is the easiest way out of a crisis?" I'll pause for effect here to look at the puzzled looks on their faces, then, out of necessity, GIVE them the answer: "DON'T GET YOURSELF INTO ONE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!" I fist asked that question in 1997 when, conducting SDVT-1 MSLO/I Ops off the entrance to Chinhae, my Navigator (who was NAVSUP) brought the ship to within 100 yards of the rocks while chasing a swimmer who had gotten away from the boat. I came up to relieve him as NAVSUP, looked at the chart and was dumbfounded that both he and the QMOW had allowed the ship to get into that predicament. I also read him the riot act for not calling me immediately, but that's a side issue. I digress.

Earlier, I mentioned Parallel Indexing. When I started my current job last year, I was appalled to learn that a significant number of SURFOR JO's had never HEARD of it. Oh, and QM's don't even CARE to hear of it. SURFOR QM's and Radar's may as well be mutually-exclusive. You may laugh at this, but I'm not kidding. Was PRL doing it? Who knows, but my opinion, take it or leave it, is that if it was being properly employed, it WOULD HAVE prevented this grounding. I first breached this topic last year when I delivered a presentation on the USS Arleigh Burke grounding (May 2007) and it was clear to me that nobody had ever even considered it. Funny...the Submarine Force mandated this years ago. WRT Danger Bearings, I had an email conversation with my brother (not a professional mariner, but a competent navigator in his own right), went something like this:

"Surface ships typically have three people taking bearings: Centerline pelorus and one on each bridge wing (as opposed to ONE on a submarine periscope - often as not it was ME). A sad trait of the surface community is that they typically do what they are TOLD to do; nothing more, nothing less. For these knuckleheads manning a pelorus, they will not physically monitor bearings to objects unless they are TOLD to, and all-too-often, if they ARE told to monitor objects, they do not understand (nor do they really CARE) the significance of WHY they are monitoring it: it's just a number to them, and it's someone else's job to worry about that number. As a submariner, it's ingrained into me to UNDERSTAND WHY I'm doing what I'm doing and to look around corners and consider cause-and-effect. It's a process as natural as taking your next breath. Surface guys are not trained that way and it's a constant source of frustration when I'm teaching. Sometimes I bite my tongue, but more often than not my students end up on the receiving end of a philosophy monologue. Sometimes they get it, sometimes not. Rome wasn't built in a day."

One thing hasn't been breached yet: What is Afloat Training Group's (ATG) role in this mess (and others). personal observation is that "ATG" is two lies for the price of one: They're rarely afloat and they rarely "Train". Anyone who has worked with them in this era of TORIS-TFOM knows that they are more Bean-Counters than anything else. For the record, TORIS-TFOM stands for Training and Operational Readiness Information Services - Training Figure of Merit and is SURFOR's answer to STATS with some very significant differences. First and foremost: TORIS-TFOM is very QUANTITATIVE in nature and, in many cases, is not well-aligned with procedural guidance. The ship is tasked with maintaining its TFOM database and, often as not is evaluated solely by the data contained therein vice actual observation. Back to the issue of being Quantitative: Lets say, for example, SURFOR ships are required to practice a precision anchorage once per quarter. The entering arguement in TFOM is "Yes/No" Yes=Green, No=Red. Did they hit the target? Did they blow it out their ass? I have NO idea...there is no way to actually asses performance so in the end, all they are doing is placing checks in blocks. ATG sees Green, it's an up-check and they don't need to actually observe it. Again, all the GREEN means is that they DID it the required number of times. In fairness, there are SOME areas of TFOM that contain qualitative data but they are few and far-between. Also in fairness, there are some MOB-N evolutions that MUST be observed, but we all know how that dance goes. The biggest gripe about ATG is that they have not figured out that the NAVDORM has a Nav-Assessment Checklist for a REASON. Often as not, their evaluations are based on subjective opinion and "what I would like to see" rather than actual procedural guidance. I know, I know...we've all seen this before, but it is RAMPANT in ATG and the end-result is that the Skimmers spend more time worrying about what makes ATG happy than they spend on actual procedural-compliance. I see it EVERY DAY!

Questions I'm trying to get answered:

1. Was the PRL ECDIS-N (VMS) Certified? (I've heard that she doesn't even have it installed, but I'm seeking confirmation)
2. What is her QM Manning
3. Has she met all her formal schools requirements for Nav Team manning.

Obviously, I have many more, as do we all, but these are questions directly relevant to MY job, the answers to which should be easily accessible.


2/12/2009 7:17 AM

Blogger Submaster said...

My first impression after seeing a picture is, "who was looking out the window?" Anyone who is remotely associated with navigation and looked out the window should have said "Oh crap".

On a related note, with ALL the supposed changes to Naviagtion after Greenville and San Fransico, one HUGE weak link remains: Getting your Subnote and/or OPSKED at the LAST possible moment before underway...sometimes the night before. Until they get this fixed, I'm waiting for the next accident.

2/12/2009 8:45 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Submaster sez:
My first impression after seeing a picture is, "who was looking out the window?" Anyone who is remotely associated with navigation and looked out the window should have said "Oh crap".

At my schoolhouse, we have a Full-Mission Simulator not unlike the one at MSI Norfolk and I frequently engage the instructors (Generally retired CO's) in shiphandling and navigation discussions. Long story short, one of them once told me point-blank "The Navigator's head belongs in the chart, not out the window". I'm not kidding, he really said this.

2/12/2009 12:28 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

The below passed on to me by another former skipper in Hawaii. Apologies for the choppy text, but the gist is there and too lazy to clean it out.

If true, this will go down as one of the dumbest accidents in modern USN history.

"I have a contact who is the navigator on a cruiser in Hawaii, he sent me this information on the Port Royal grounding.

"Yeah. They're actually moored just adjacent to us now - they're not
> allowed to touch ANYTHING on their ship - we did their lines and their
> shore power and also wrote the change of command message for them saying
> CAPT is relieved by new CAPT.
> Initial news: Only nav equipment that was up was Faruno. No SPS-73, GPS
> on the fritz, no fatho and no pitsword. The ship was not at Navigation
> detail. The Navigator was not on the bridge, but the QMC was (who is Nav
> qual'd - plus I went through Nav school with him last year and he's a
> really good guy). Not clear as to when the CO arrived on the bridge or
> if he was up there when it happened. Conflicting reports that the
> QMC/QMOW advised standing into danger and were either ignored/not heeded
> by the CO and/or OOD. Despite what the news was saying, the Admiral was
> not on-board when it happened. He went out by whale boat the next
> morning to check it out - we saw him depart the harbor first hand. Sonar
> dome's all but gone. Confirmed that there are no blades left on the port
> screw, and initial rumors that all blades on the starboard screw are
> gone, as well. Port shaft is bowed (she was aground on her dome and her
> port shaft). Sonar and fwd Aegis skid were flooded out. They were
> aground for 78 hours in very, very plain view of the entire city of
> Honolulu. They had no potable water, A/C, and very little food. We
> helped with a massive waterfront relief effort to boat out supplies to
> them the morning after. The crew was sleeping in the hanger and on the
> flight deck for at least a couple of nights. They will be in dry dock by
> the end of the week, and will probably take anywhere from 4-6 months to
> repair (damage estimates are not complete yet).
> As for the actual incident... they were 4500 yards to the East of where
> all of the PH ships do boat ops. It makes a big difference, as the
> shoals spike out a lot at the eastern edge of the runway (where they
> went aground). She had no business being where she was - been on two
> ships out here now, and I've never been in the vicinity of where she
> ended up. Nobody outside the investigation knows why she was where she
> was. Very sad overall for the ship and crew. They'd just gotten done
> with 4 months of combined SRA and dry-dock. The CO had just taken over
> back in October. He'd been U/W on his new ship for a total of 12 hours
> before running aground. It's bad out here - lots of scrutiny and just
> unpleasantness around the waterfront. As I'm sure you saw, it was a VERY
> public grounding - very embarrasing for the Navy and the waterfront.
> We're all eager to hear the results of the investigation, but for now,
> it does appear that they just made one bone-headed decision after
> another that eventually put them in 8 feet of water, hard aground."

2/12/2009 4:18 PM

Blogger Michael said...

USS Port Royal... my 2 cents.

I am a retired QM1(SW) with over 20 years of experience both being part of an effective Navigation team, leading my own effective team and being a part of a team that is FUBAR most of the time, having admitted this, here is what I just don't get:

How in the hell do you run aground off of the reef runway of the Honolulu International Airport?

It's apparently easier than anyone might think, even in the perfect weather off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The biggest complaints most QM's had back in the day (1984-1994) about that area of Hawaii, is that most of the navigation aids are difficult to see and often oppose each other in bearing, there just is not enough of a bearing spread visually where the ship went aground.

On the other hand, if one uses all of the tools at your disposal, its the easiest place to navigate safely in the world. Visual, Radar, Fathometer, Stadimeter, Mark-1 Mod-1 eye ball are enough to have avoided this accident.

It appears the crux of the problem was letting poorly trained officers run the bridge instead of a seasoned enlisted 1st Class or Chief Quartermaster.

In my time, I was in charge of the Bridge even as a senior QM2, the CO knew it, the XO knew it, and by God, the Navigator knew that Navigation began and ended with my training and skills.

From what I have read, USS Port Royal was completely paper-navigation-chart free, relying solely on GPS and digital chart systems. This I believe was the beginning of the problem.

The next part always goes back to a lack of VISUAL experience and training.

I would be willing to bet my retirement pay that not one person on that bridge or in CIC knew how to take Horizontal Sextant Angles, let alone plot a running visual or radar fix.

Its time to bring the retired Quartermaster Old Timers back aboard to extend some training to these folks before someone gets killed.

My 2 cents.

QM1(SW), USN (ret.)

2/12/2009 10:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing not to forget lest we all judge too quickly. I think PORT ROYAL ran aground at 8:30 pm - about two hours after sunset. Now, that opens up a whole world of discussion on ORM, I think it helps answer some of the WTF? questions. Take for example, the picture whic shows them clearly in light blue water - never a good place for a relatively deep draft ship, but hard to see at night. The first (and only!) time on my SSN we pulled out of the slip in the dark, in homeport no less, I had a few thoughts of "HOLY S**T, this looks a lot different with the lights out!"

Anyway, as many can tell you, the bridge or control room is a lot harder in the dark.

Sail Safe!

2/13/2009 12:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone's been commenting about how the Nav Detail should've kept this ship off the rocks.

Ever think maybe there wasn't one stationed?

GPS? Maybe the antenna was broken or something. That close to the airport, maybe it has interference.

Watch team? Since it was on the evening/midwatch, maybe it wasn't the most senior folks around.

I'm just sayin'.

RET ANAV: I refuse (and I hope everyone else here with a clue does also) to subscribe to your scenario.

Wow, sound like you better start believing the scenario there ANAV, if that email posted above is correct.


2/13/2009 4:52 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/13/2009 5:42 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Huge loss of taxpayer money. Opportunity cost in loss of ship's services. Disruption to operating skeds that will ripple for a year. What next?

Put a stake in the ground. Charge the CO, the XO (always the Training Officer), and the Navigator (always primary responsibility for ship's navigation) with violation of UCMJ Article 92, in that they were 'derelict in the performance of their duties.' General courts martial.

This happy crap that getting fired is punishment enough just does not parse either with the nature of criminal justice or the nation's expectations of its military leadership. Hammer 'em.

2/13/2009 5:42 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

FastNav said:
RET ANAV: I refuse (and I hope everyone else here with a clue does also) to subscribe to your scenario.

Wow, sound like you better start believing the scenario there ANAV, if that email posted above is correct.


Yeah, I was eating my words as I read this. It's not often that I'm left speechles...this is one of those times. I'll now go out back and kick my own ass...I guess people really CAN be that stupid.

Excerpts from Micheal's post:

How in the hell do you run aground off of the reef runway of the Honolulu International Airport?

The simple answer: By not recognizing the error-chain that is building and allowing it to go unbroken.

The biggest complaints most QM's had back in the day (1984-1994) about that area of Hawaii, is that most of the navigation aids are difficult to see and often oppose each other in bearing, there just is not enough of a bearing spread visually where the ship went aground.

Huh? If you're SOUTH of the entire expanse of land then, by definition, the bearings will not oppose each other. OK, in fairness, there are times when some will oppose (Diamond Head and Barbers Poine come to mind) but I personally have never had any problems navigating visually...even at night.

It appears the crux of the problem was letting poorly trained officers run the bridge instead of a seasoned enlisted 1st Class or Chief Quartermaster.

Partly right, in my book. Coupled with nonexistant Risk-Management and the complete and total absence of procedural-compliance.

From what I have read, USS Port Royal was completely paper-navigation-chart free, relying solely on GPS and digital chart systems. This I believe was the beginning of the problem.

This is incorrect. She had Voyage Management System (VMS) version 7.7.1 installedbut was NOT TYCOM-certified to use it as her primary source of navigation. Spanish for: She was still required to use paper. I spent three days pulling the string on this question and it has been verified by three independent sources (Schoolhouse, OPNAV and NAVSEA ISEA).

I would be willing to bet my retirement pay that not one person on that bridge or in CIC knew how to take Horizontal Sextant Angles, let alone plot a running visual or radar fix.

I would be willing to bet you're's barely even addressed in the curriculum anymore. QM "A" school, for those who aren't aware, is on NKO nowadays. Spanish for: These new kids are sat in front of a PC monitor and told to click their way thru the course. We all know how that works. By the time they get to my "Refresher" class, I STILL find myself teaching some of the basic skills they all should have learned YEARS ago. Sucks up a lot of time that I SHOULD be spending on the more advanced stuff. I should NOT have to be teaching a QM1 how to compensate for Set and Drift, for example. Nor should I have to be teaching him how to differentiate between IALA Region A and B. Just a couple of examples.

Its time to bring the retired Quartermaster Old Timers back aboard to extend some training to these folks before someone gets killed.

I disagree with this in principle. What it IS time to do is reinforce a culture of Procedural-Compliance. It never ceases to amaze me just how many senior QM's cannot cite specific NAVDORM requirements. They can tell me all day long what TORIS-TFOM and ASA Checksheets say, but the bottom-line is that those two items are not DIRECTIVE in nature (though they are PERCEIVED to be). The NAVDORM (though it has some significant shortfalls) is specifically designed to keep the hull straight and the bottom clean. As we submariners well know, procedural-compliance is not a GOAL, it is a STANDARD. As I alluded to in an earlier rant, it is clear to me, by my own observations, that SURFOR puts more emphasis on "showing others (ATG) what they want to see" than they do on following clearly established guidelines.

2/13/2009 5:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe SURFOR is concerned about what they want to see, but I'll bet you they are a lot more advanced in diversity and DUI control and new PT uniforms than you bubbleheads are...

2/13/2009 6:29 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...


C'mon guys, these are piloting waters in clear weather. It ain't rocket science and does not take a blizzard of acronyms and new approaches to redefine this NAV-101 topic.

Take a round of bearings.

Plot 'em.

Augment with fathometer, GPS, and radar-ranges (use plot overlay on the PIP if no close hard echoes).

Dead-reckon the track.


Repeat, one-minute intervals - two at most.

Yell like hell if you're standing into danger or don't know where you are.

Call the navigator if there is any danger.

Tell the OOD that you are making a log entry if he does not react properly and promptly to warnings.

Do not touch bottom.

If these things were not the actions on the bridge of this ship at the time leading up to the grounding, blame the CO, XO, Nav, & OOD - do not shove it down on the enlisted kids on watch; we don't pay them enough to be fully to blame.

2/13/2009 6:45 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Anonymous sez:
Maybe SURFOR is concerned about what they want to see, but I'll bet you they are a lot more advanced in diversity and DUI control and new PT uniforms than you bubbleheads are...

No arguement here. (He says equally tongue-in-cheek)

2/13/2009 6:47 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

The Duck sez:
If these things were not the actions on the bridge of this ship at the time leading up to the grounding, blame the CO, XO, Nav, & OOD - do not shove it down on the enlisted kids on watch; we don't pay them enough to be fully to blame.

Perhaps I have not been sufficiently clear in my rants: With a couple of general exceptions, my indictments are more aimed at the PROCESS than at the PEOPLE. I do not blame the people who may or may not be jumping up and down if they have never been empowered to jump up and down. As a submariner, I have always been empowered to jump up and down...way back when I was a skimmer: Not so much. I DO blame a culture that does not emphasize adherance to procedural standards, which is, quite obviously, a significant contributor to this mishap (assuming the above quoted email is legit).

2/13/2009 7:01 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

"...I DO blame a culture that does not emphasize adherance to procedural standards"

Having spent at least a summer aboard a nuclear skimmer back in the day, I think that Ret ANAV has hit the nail on the head with this comment.

PQS, for instance, was/is viewed as a bitter, forced, hand-me-down joke that had its vague and cursed origins somewhere in bubble land.

There is a general disdain of process up there on the surface.

If I were to boil down the surface fleet's manifold issues to a single descriptive word, that word comes easily: arrogance.

2/13/2009 9:59 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Ret Anav: Agree your comments about skimmer culture. I found that out as electrical officer in a brand-new cruiser, when another snipe ignored a red tag one of my electricians had put in place and closed a breaker on a circuit under repair. Sad thing was no one in the wardroom understood why I went high-order.

2/13/2009 10:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

RD -
Oh, I totally agree that this isn't rocket science.

Shoot bearings, plot, label, DR, evaluate, report. Not hard stuff. I've been known to go to 3 minute rounds to allow ample time to "evaluate", which I'd argue is the most important part of the round.

In this case though, all moot if there's no NAV team stationed.

It appears the crux of the problem was letting poorly trained officers run the bridge instead of a seasoned enlisted 1st Class or Chief Quartermaster.

Actually, I've heard that the QMOW WAS the QMC.

I would be willing to bet my retirement pay that not one person on that bridge or in CIC knew how to take Horizontal Sextant Angles, let alone plot a running visual or radar fix.

I agree with most of this statement, and with the underlying importance of basics that it implies.

But seriously, a horizontal sextant angle? that's just silly. :)

2/13/2009 10:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the day, I was a sub JO in Pearl, standing the midwatch and tasked with getting the boat to periscope depth near Pearl Harbor so we could surface in time to beat the other boats on local ops back to Subase on a Friday morning.

A strong following current pushed us in closer than we should have gotten, so I reversed course immedaitely, before the quartermaster of the watch (a QMC and the ANAV) could verify our position by getting a fix. Wanting to get into port more quickly, he asked me to wait on the course reversal. But I knew we were in too close because we were east of a line of street lights that ran up the hill in Makakilo (above NAS Barbers Point). I lived on that hill and knew the street was depicted on the chart.

My first point is that even though Port Royal ran aground in the dark, they were in so close that a simple visual comparison of known landmarks (such as the beacon on the airport control tower) to the chart should have clearly showed them as being way out of position and in grave danger.

At another time during that JO tour, we were conducting a torpedo shooting exercise. Between shots, we were debriefing the results in the wardroom. The engineer and I disagreed about what had happened (a disagreement about a fact, as opposed to an opinion). During the discussion, the XO, CO, and commodore sequentially supported the engineer. I knew that I was right and stood my ground (too forcefully for my JO status), growing more frustrated as each of them joined the discussion. In short order, I was proven correct.

Interstingly, I was never chastised for my too forceful tone, even when I responded "bull***t" to the commodore, because I was right and stood my ground. In fact, this event actually started a personal relationship with the commodore that survives to this day.

My second point is that I believe this generally is a characteristic of the submarine force--being good at what you do and being right are more important than rank, rate, or seniority. And the chain of command typically listens to people who are good at what they do and are usually right. However, based on two midshipman cruises on surface ships, I don't think that's generally true in the surface community. And that effect may have contributed to the Port Royal's grounding (i.e., if a junior person tried to point out that things were amiss, was anyone listening?). In any event, I'm quite certain that my outcome under a similar scenario would have been drastically different in the surface community. Perhaps being put in hack or receiving a letter of instruction for disrespect?

2/13/2009 1:12 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Eng, glad you brought up PQS. The current version of the Ship Control and Navigation PQS (NAVEDTRA 43492-2G) is a JOKE.

A little background for ya: Way back when, before I saw the light and became a submariner, I was a skimmer QM. Qualified all my watchstations (QMOW, Master Helmsman, etc) without ever having laid eyes on any qual card whatsoever. Go figure.

Fast-forward 25 years to present day and present job. After teaching several classes and seeing the quality of QM in the surface fleet, I decided to do some digging and try to find the root of what I perceived to be major problems.
I could write a book about my findings, but I'll make a long story short:
A complete revision to the Ship Control and Navigation PQS should be on the street by this spring or summer. It's been modeled after the International Maritime Organization's STCW and formatted similar to the competencies outlined in USCG National Maritime Policy Letter 01-02. In short, it added Measures and Metrics to assessment criteria where previously there were none. The surface navy, for some time now, has been trying to adopt the title "Professional Mariner". My logic behind the PQS model was simple: If you want to BE professional mariners, then you better TRAIN to THEIR standards, because right now, you aren't even close.

2/13/2009 1:21 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Someone should send this thread to Gary Roughhead and Jim Stavridis. I know both these guys - they get it.

2/13/2009 1:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least one three-star friend of Stavridis has been reading it today.

2/13/2009 1:53 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Stavridis now has it in his email queue via SOCOM's blog email link...

2/13/2009 1:57 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Da Duck said:
Someone should send this thread to Gary Roughhead and Jim Stavridis. I know both these guys - they get it.

Roughead's stock went up a notch when he picked Rick West (Another SSN ANAV) to be MCPON.
Sidebar note: 3 of the last 4 MCPON's have worn Dolphins. Coincidence? Methinks not.

2/13/2009 2:12 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Sea story: when Ike Kidd was CincLant/CincLantFlt, he went to his old bud at COMSUBLANT Joe Williams and said "I need an EA and I don't know submarines well; give me your best hot-runner post-command SSN guy." Joe Williams did as asked. Frank Kelso.

Submariners ain't perfect, but they/we're damned good.

2/13/2009 2:27 PM

Blogger Michael said...

I know from personal experience that what will go down here is this:

The CO fired, no brainer. But after that, its anyones guess. Does anyone here remember hearing about an FFG back in 2003 that hit a buoy in the Strait of Mallacca?

The CO was relieved of command, the Leading QM (QM1)(not on the bridge at the time of the incident) was taken to mast, got 45-45 and a $1000 fine, kept his rank, position and stripes (including gold).

The OOD, JOOD, CONN, Navigator, CICWO (on the bridge at the time) and QMOW walked scott free.

Neither the Nav or the QMOW (QMC, recently an SM1) were present at the QM1's mast.

Its amazing when politics get involved and theirs a desire to bust the "right people".

2/13/2009 3:13 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Michael said:

Its amazing when politics get involved and theirs a desire to bust the "right people".

It's not politics at all (OK, maybe it is in this case?). If you look back through history, you will find that skimmers are exceptionally good at treating symptoms. They just suck at curing the disease.

2/13/2009 3:24 PM

Blogger Michael said...

I just started reading this blog yesterday, and even though I know its geared towards your garden variety bubble-head, I dont think anyone should get too snooty about the submariner track record on safety. The subforce has had some pretty exceptional groundings, collisions and mishaps over the years.

I started out in submarines too, and from what I saw, submariners surface and subsurface navigation skills '84-'04 needed some serious improvement as well.

The submariners are missing out on a good 40% of the skills real mariners have, namely celestial navigation, piloting and weather guessing skills. Granted these skills aren't needed much aboard a submarine, but dont go calling yourselves professional mariners until you have mastered these skills.

2/13/2009 8:19 PM

Blogger Michael said...

I've had similar discussions with CO's, XO's and Cheng's.

Once, crossing the Pacific, we had 25 kts ordered, set and drift was somewhere off either quarter at 5-7 kts consistently. After doing the math over and over, the only conclusion for extra loss in speed had to be mechanical as I could only account for 2-3 kts of that drift.

The CO, XO, Cheng all insisted that me and my QM's needed some math refresher.

A few dark nights later I was looking over the port side and noticed an excessive amount of wash coming from the area of the port fin stabilizer. After calling engineering and learning that the port fin was locked in the horizontal position, I asked the MMC on watch if its possible that an indicator shows the fin horizontal, when in fact its vertical? MMC said its possible, but unlikely.

By day 4 the CO was getting pretty miffed at all the extra fuel we were burning just to maintain 17 SOG to try and stay with PIM and wanted me to figure out where the math errors are. I pointed out that if we are burning extra fuel and not making the SOG needed, it has to be more than just math.

Upon arrival in Singapore, one of the Salt Water intake valves was to be changed out. I went out on the pier and asked the divers to take a picture of the fin stabilizers.

Sure enough, the port fin was locked in the vertical position causing at lease 3-4 kts of hydrodynamic drag.

Not too many folks from engineering or the ward room talked to me much after that.

2/13/2009 8:37 PM

Blogger Chap said...

@Ret ANAV: Perhaps we served together. Your Nav initials JD? I remember another time when we were getting set to about 300 yards from this one rock off Pusan in '99 with no headway available due to the guys in the water having trouble. That was a bit hairy, but we briefed the risks beforehand and that time we had everybody up there because of the nature of the op. I wasn't exactly relaxed, though...

2/13/2009 8:47 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Michael sez:
The submariners are missing out on a good 40% of the skills real mariners have, namely celestial navigation, piloting and weather guessing skills. Granted these skills aren't needed much aboard a submarine, but dont go calling yourselves professional mariners until you have mastered these skills.

(Yoda voice ON) Judge me by my size, do you? (Yoda voice OFF) You assume too much. I'm very proficient at Celestial Nav and I grew up navigating in Puget Sound....Spanish for: My weather-Guessing skills are better than most. As for Piloting...well, those who know me know that I'm one of the best at what I do. I don't generally like tooting my own horn, but for you to make blind assumptions like that is downright assanine. Someday, when you're really bored, compare the qualification requirements between QM(SS) and QM(SW) and ANAV(SS) and ANAV(SW). Better yet, get with me offline and I'll send them to you. The differences will make your head spin. Oh, and did I mention yet that I teach skimmer navigation for a living? (Yes, I can do VISCOMMS, too). Oh, by the way...CELNAV has been removed from the NAVDORM entirely...a *^$%$ TRAVESTY that I am struggling mightly to reverse. For the record, I HAVE mastered these skills, as have a significant number of my former colleagues, and we ARE as professional as professional mariners get. DON'T judge a book by its cover.


Chap, Yes, you are indeed correct. I made the assumption when I read your first post that we had sailed together...hence the references. Figured I could troll you out! Oh, and I remember the Pusan "incident" as well, but, doing DDS ops, 300 yards may as well have been 3000! Another day at the office! I'll shoot ya an email offline in the near future.

2/14/2009 5:28 AM

Blogger QM1(SW), USN (ret.) said...

Submarine's don't have QM's, right? Aren't they called ET's? or Nav ET's? What other responsibilities do sub Nav ET's have while underway?

Surface QM's are no longer QM's either, they are converted SM's or OS's, something is getting lost in the transition, this is my main point.

It's not just a problem in SW, but also SS services.

Submarine and Surface navigation training has a very long way to go in order to become proficient enough to avoid these collisions and groundings, to include near misses and glancing contact with navigation aids.

2/14/2009 10:26 AM

Anonymous ex ssn eng said...

"Submarine and Surface navigation training has a very long way to go..."

Or...a very short distance, at least for the surface Navy: my sense is that a $500 pocket-sized GPS system held in the possession of the OOD would have prevented all of this. Call it "situational awareness" or whatever you want to get around the "professional mariner" chest puffery and desk jockey admin rules, but jeez guys...get with the program. It's 2009, for heaven's sake.

Anyone care to guess what it'll eventually cost to fix the current CNO's former command...a.k.a. USS Port Royal...? Betcha you could buy a whole lot of pocket GPS systems for that number -- probably one for every active duty member of the U.S. Navy.

2/14/2009 11:00 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

QM1 sez:
Submarine's don't have QM's, right? Aren't they called ET's? or Nav ET's? What other responsibilities do sub Nav ET's have while underway?

ET's, QM's RM's and IC's merged and became ET's in 1996. We were split into 2 flavors of ET: COMM and NAV. In a nutshell, we're QM's, WSN-7 techs, EM log techs, CAMS tech's, phone techs and anything else you could imagine a wire-biter who plots dots doing.

Surface QM's are no longer QM's either, they are converted SM's or OS's, something is getting lost in the transition, this is my main point.

Actually, you have it backwards: SM's became QM's. The OS-QM Merger has been tabled for the time being (Thanks, ADMs Lotring and Roughead). SURFOR is now going thru the pain that SUBFOR experienced back in the late '90s. Welcome to our embrace it, or move on.

Submarine and Surface navigation training has a very long way to go in order to become proficient enough to avoid these collisions and groundings, to include near misses and glancing contact with navigation aids.

Couldn't agree more....on both counts. The difference is: The changes mandated by SURFOR after several recent incidents only served to further restrict a CO in his ability to use tools at his disposal to safely navigate. SUBFOR responded to mishaps in the last several years by:
1. REDUCING (yes, I said reducing) the number of people in the piloting party,
2. REDUCING the number of people on the bridge while in restricted waters and, most significantly,
3. MANDATING the use of ALL available tools, regardless of certification. Example; Though we could not use VMS as our PRIMARY means of navigation, we were REQUIRED to use it as a secondary plot...and we were under no restriction at all with commercial GPS...Clinton turned SA off PERMANENTLY more than 10 years ago, for Christ's sake!

Eng sez:
Or...a very short distance, at least for the surface Navy: my sense is that a $500 pocket-sized GPS system held in the possession of the OOD would have prevented all of this. Call it "situational awareness" or whatever you want to get around the "professional mariner" chest puffery and desk jockey admin rules, but jeez guys...get with the program. It's 2009, for heaven's sake.

Couldn't agree more, Eng. As previously mentioned, the skimmers are procedurally FORBIDDEN from using commercial GPS. Don't ask me why. Hopefully the NAVDORM changes that are sure to emerge from this will address this issue...among others.

2/14/2009 12:06 PM

Blogger chief torpedoman said...

Just a word from a long retired TMC here. Don't claim to be an expert on any Nav issues. Heck the largest thing I was responsible to navigate was a 72 ft Torpedo Retriever (but I did keep it off the rocks in Narragansett Bay).

Did a Unitas on a Spruance DD in 1988 (best cruise I ever had) and one of the things we were mandated to purchase by the Admiral was a couple of portable fathometers for the whaleboat and the OMB (no RHIBs back then). We used these in about every port to chart the depth of water. They came in very handy in late 1989 after hurricane Hugo blew the river buoys off station in the Cooper river. Heck that was 1988 – what’s available now and how much better and cheaper? Why put the big ship at risk when the RHIB can very easily check out the depth of water all around?

Didn’t take a Quartermaster either, our Sonar Techs operated the portable fathometers. I guess the gist of all the discussions here is that there is a wealth of options available to keep the ship off the rocks.

I really enjoy reading this blog and I always see some very good discussions on here (certain trolls excepted). As far as the QMs, no matter what you call them or what their prior rating was, they can be very valuable in assisting with the safe navigation of the ship and I believe any investment in their training is well worth it.

I can’t find it on the internet, but I remember reading about the investigation of when the Spruance ran aground off Andros island (1989?). I believe the young QMOW shouted warnings several times to the OOD that they were standing into danger and got ignored for his trouble. Didn’t the CO lose his job there too? Ah, but I ramble on.

2/14/2009 12:50 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

Let me get this straight. According to Rubber_ducky's source:
Billion dollar warship.
No piloting party.
No ship's radar.
No visual fixes.
Just the onwatch QMOW
Driving toward land...

Just how frak'in dumb do you have to be to be a skimmer? The CO is just the tip of this iceberg. The "give a damn" meter must have been pegged low--but it is the COs job to get that meter pointed into the black and out of the red.

2/14/2009 1:09 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"I can’t find it on the internet, but I remember reading about the investigation of when the Spruance ran aground off Andros island (1989?). I believe the young QMOW shouted warnings several times to the OOD that they were standing into danger and got ignored for his trouble. Didn’t the CO lose his job there too?"

Yes, skipper was fired. T. Wood Parker. Fine officer, excellent tour as Lehman's Admin Assistant, winner of USNI Arleigh Burke Essay Contest.

2/14/2009 1:22 PM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

Looking it up just now, it turns out that commercial GPS can be used, Ret just wasn't in the case of Port Royal.

"Commercial GPS (i.e., FURUNO, GARMIN, etc.) is not authorizedfor navigational use but may be used for situational awareness."

This all vaguely reminds me of submarine Captain Jim Patten's lament when, back in the day, an untoward event of some kind resulted in desk jockey orders issuing forth that required the digital depth gauge be covered up below a certain depth.

His comment at the time: "What are they going to do when one of the other gauges sticks...require you to cover up THAT one...??"

The problem here could ultimately be traced to somebody's chickenshit interpretation of "the rules." Regardless, were it up to me, I'd fault the OOD for NOT having a commercial GPS in his pocket. In this day and age, what was he thinking?

2/14/2009 2:58 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Eng sez:
The problem here could ultimately be traced to somebody's chickenshit interpretation of "the rules."

Which is exactly why, more often than not, SURFOR nav teams do not read beyond the words "Not Authorized". The path of least resistance here is to, rather than subject yourself to scrutiny for your interpretation of "may be used for situational awareness", just not travel down that road at all. Remember, I work with skimmer nav teams every day and THIS is their mindset. The same guys who wrote this are the ones who removed the requirement to do celestial navigation, other than azimuths. The same ones that do not require QMs to take a Rules of the Road exam. I could go on and on. If you found the quote from the NAVDORM, I'll assume you have the entire document. Read it. It will amaze you.

2/14/2009 5:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone over at Information Dissemenation" said this is all actually an "unscheduled beaching operation". Someone else was wondering if there was any truth to the rumor that the PLAN was starting a crash program in arificial reef deployments. :-)

2/14/2009 7:49 PM

Blogger QM1(SW), USN (ret.) said...

These "CO's" are the same dip-sticks that try to fight a 15 knot wind with a 3 knot APU bow thruster heading for a precision anchorage.

Freakin' yacht skippers!

USS Taylor and USS Carr
RefTre Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Summer of 1996

2/14/2009 11:21 PM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

Here we this cost, $279.95 including the optional Navionics marine charts, we can buy two for everyone in the Navy...just in case they lose one.

2/15/2009 10:39 AM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

My bridge setup:
In addition to the BDU:

2 Garmin GPSMAP 76's: One for the CO, one for the OOD.

And in addition to the BDU:
Raymarine E80 MFD with integrated GPS and 2Kw radar (with MiniARPA). This was tied to the two other RM MFD's (1 E120 and 1 E80) I had in Control. The whole smash was interfaced with AIS and VHF Radio (For DSC functionality). SSEP got a little miffed at me for playing with "their" AIS, but they got over it. Having a Chart overlaid with Radar AND AIS is the MONEY shot! A tad on the expensive side, but my attitude was: Make the CHOP cry "Uncle" and he never did! Whole system, handhelds included, was about as close to sailor-proof as I've ever seen. Oh, and not as proprietary as Furuno!

2/15/2009 11:33 AM

Blogger QM1(SW), USN (ret.) said...

How are the charts updated?

2/15/2009 6:41 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

The prosecution rests, your honor.

2/15/2009 8:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an idea...have all USN bridge watchstanders pass USCG unlimited tonnage licensing exams corresponding to their respective positions (QMs-AB, OOD-3rd Mate, NAV-2nd Mate, XO-CH Mate, CO-Master) and then they will be as qualified and hopefully as proficient as the rest of the sea going communities on the high seas.

Although if it weren't for Navy lessons learned on groundings and collisions, the merchant marine would be left with a small reference library in these areas.

2/19/2009 5:58 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

Great idea, but the process doesn't necessarily work this way. The STCW knowledge requirements are based on WATCHSTATION-SPECIFIC sets of competencies (as opposed to license-level): You are either a "Rating Forming Part of a Navigation Watch" (Helm, lookout, etc) or an "Officer In Charge Of A Navigation Watch." the latter is where the QMOW/OOD/JOOD would fall. The Chief Mate/Master fall under "Navigation at the Mangement Level". For more info on these, see USCG National Maritime Center Policy Letters 14-02, 01-02 and 04-02, respectively. As I mentioned in a previous post, the NEW Ship Control and Navigation PQS (due out soon) is modeled heavily on these specific competencies.

2/20/2009 9:34 AM

Anonymous twiggit45 said...

I've read that some of you have seen pics of the damage. I tried looking for them on the web but couldn't find. Have they not been authorized to be released yet?

2/21/2009 12:51 AM

Blogger chief torpedoman said...

There are two pics here: on the USNI blog.

2/23/2009 8:06 PM

Anonymous twiggit45 said...

Thanks Chief. A couple of hours after
asking 3 pics finally showed up on the Navy's website. It shows the sonar & screws as well as a long shot of PRL sitting in the drydock.

2/23/2009 10:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few points.

I?m saddened that the quality of training and due diligence appears to have declined precipitously. Yes, I can make the assertion, even without reading any more ?facts?. The USS Oklahoma is another recent example of failed training and discipline.

As an officer aboard destroyers and as the OOD (officer of the deck) for special sea detail, e.g.; entering and leaving port, the navigator, the senior quartermaster and I would always review the planned track in great detail including speed, direction, turns, navigation aids, hazards (fixed and mobile, e.g.: ferries). Everyone knew their assignments and responsibilities. If we were anchoring out, going alongside the pier or taking a position is a nest of ships, the ship?s 1st lieutenant was updated as to the plans.

Thus we were all entirely familiar with our transit plans.

Let me mention that the Combat Information Center team was also briefed and the crew in CIC marinated our track in parallel with the bridge navigation team. Two teams, sets of many eyes, but always working as a true combined team with one purpose: safe transit at all times. The CIC team could and would announce if we were heading towards a hazard.

Our navigator was so anal that he had a dozen #2 pencils sharpened to a dart?s point so that he could plot precise points; about the size of a period at the end of this sentence.

Today with GPS and electronic navigation systems, some of the ?old school? stuff has fallen by the way side.

And, did I tell you that we would practice gyro casualties and navigate the real old fashioned way, by magnetic compass.

Sometimes in broad daylight we would cover the windows of the bridge with paper to simulate heavy fog.

So we had trained teams, we had disciplined teams, we had cohesive teams, but it didn?t mean that we would abandon mirth or a quip, if it seemed appropriate, from seaman to captain -- we were a team

3/07/2009 6:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stupidity and incompetence surfaces once again.,0,4188709.story

I rest my case.

3/20/2009 6:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoot me for this comment, but sometimes nucs are far more indoctrinated towards Rickover than the sea.

One exception: I rode GREENLING for one year-the CO made sure that all in the ward room (bar the CHOP) learned REAL shiphandling...Good think Rick was dead already due to the Old Man's saying:

"You're a seaman first, a nuc second"

We had a pretty good ship control team-more than a few took the OM's lessons when they went Merchant Marine.

10/06/2011 7:28 AM

Anonymous gutscheine zum ausdrucken said...

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4/24/2013 5:17 AM


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