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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Commander Relieved

No, this isn't a post about GEN McChrystal having his resignation accepted and being replaced as Allied Commander in Afghanistan by GEN Petraeus, it's about a frigate CO who got relieved earlier this week. Excerpts:
The skipper of the frigate John L. Hall was fired Tuesday morning for hitting a pier roughly one month after taking command.
Vice Adm. Harry Harris, 6th Fleet commander, relieved Cmdr. Herman Pfaeffle for loss of confidence in his ability to command, 6th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton told Navy Times.
There was no mast, and no injuries resulted from the April 16 incident, which occurred in Batumi, Georgia.
The incident happened during a port call held amid joint drills conducted with Ukrainian naval pilots and the Georgian coast guard in the Black Sea. Walton said the ship sustained some damage, but was able to continue with its mission...
...Pfaeffle is a mustang from the submarine service who enlisted in 1983, according to his official bio. He entered the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps through the Navy’s Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training Program and received his commission in 1993.
[Emphasis mine] As expected, the CO bio page on the ship's webpage is down, but here's the Google cached version, which show that Pfaeffle served on USS Guitarro (SSN 665) during the mid to late 80s. His picture is here, if that jogs any memories:

I guess I shouldn't be amazed that Big Navy would fire a CO who hit the pier after only one month in command, and maybe the CO overrode the crew's recommendations and ordered them to do something stupid that caused the collision. If that's not the case, however, I'm wondering if the deskbound senior officers who decide this kind of thing really expect that a new CO can fix all the problems on a ship after only a month in command -- especially in the middle of a deployment. If it turns out that the crew had a share of responsibility for the incident, will the shore-based squadron who signed off on their deployment preparations suffer any repercussions?

OK, you can stop laughing now. As has been shown repeatedly in the past, Big Navy knows that it's much easier just to blame the CO and crew than to actually look into any problems the shore-based infrastructure might have with training and certifying ships during pre-deployment cycles. That would be too hard, and would interfere with their busy schedule of going to clambakes and conferences. Anyway, they're not ever going to sea again, so why should they worry if they end up with a bunch of timid COs who spend all their time covering their butts instead of training their ships to actually fight a war?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

His incident is not a symptom of the problem. His firing is a symptom of the problem.

These issues have been getting a bit of press in DC this week.

6/25/2010 10:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I agree with Joel's indictment of the larger problems in the Navy, a quick search of messages shows the ship had three bumps in three months, starting with the allision in May. This particular case looks more like three strikes, you're out.

6/25/2010 1:07 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Another Cmdr. relieved for loss of confidence? Perhaps this action will be for the Cmdr's own good as well as the navy's.

What obviously separates submarine officers from skimmers is ability to navigate not only in close quarters, but in 3-deep dimensions.

There must have been an awfully good reason this guy was not a submarine officer considering the 'shortage of male submarine volunteers' cited by Big Navy recently. Perhaps one of the Frigate's female officers had also reported an inappropriate command attitude before she stayed in port on pregnancy leave.

6/25/2010 9:14 PM

Anonymous Running Aground Sucks! said...

Officer's navigating?...too funny!

CO's know what they are getting into and know that firings come with the territory and don't blame it on the "last guy". Kinda of like running for President, winning and then keep blaming everything on the last guy. Cowboy up and deal with it.

Firings seem easier now because there is always someone behind you that can do it better. The Navy has time on it's hands right now while the other services take on the brunt of the work. The submarine force is still looking for relevance so there is a lot of time "hands-on" help from squadron.

Speaking of squadrons, if I was CNO, I would cut all of the non-sea going officers, say O-4 and above on shore for more than 3-4 years, in half. Any "important" jobs could be taken over by Chiefs and First Classes. The E-7 thru E-9ranks need to be culled also but the officer corps is way over-manned, especially at senior levels.

As for the Hall CO, here is a simple ANAV rule that has worked for me over the last 20 or so years:


6/25/2010 9:41 PM

Blogger kaigun said...

I was on an FFG at NAVSTA Long Beach in the early '80s. Another newly commissioned FFG was pulling in for the first time in their new homeport, Navy band and dependents on the pier. Someone screwed the pooch on the approach and they hit a little hard. Knocked down a light pole on the pier that took out some stanchions and lifelines on the ship. We were laughing our asses off on the other side of the pier watching their CO jump up and down screaming. No one was relieved that I know of.

6/26/2010 12:30 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Looks like "Zero Tolerance" is hitting the wardroom with a vengeance.

6/26/2010 5:30 AM

Anonymous SubGuy said...

Something really smells here. There are only two possibilities - CO was incompetent or Big Navy is incompetent. Press articles all say due to hitting pier BACK IN month after COC. Nothing mentions "three strikes" as a previous anon mentioned.

If it is three strikes, then he deserves it! If it is just the pier incident and the damage/incident was significant enough to warrant firing, then why did it take over two months?

6/26/2010 5:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hauling his P-3s from Japan to fly missions over Afghanistan, including the first mission in which he flew personally, doesn't seem to qualify Vice Admiral Harris as "deskbound."

Nor does commanding Joint Task Force-Guantanamo seem to qualify as "going to clambakes and conferences."

Bubblehead, although you make valid points about "Big Navy" in general, your brush paints too broad a stroke in this case.

6/26/2010 3:44 PM

Blogger DDM said...

So here's a question: What should your local friendly neighborhood ISIC do for you?

I'll tell you one of the hardest challenges is to say something is good enough. I know several oversight organizations who always maintained a sky is falling mentality. That way, if the boat fails, it's "See I told you." If the boat succeeds, it's because of your "help".

6/26/2010 5:08 PM

Anonymous SubGuy said...

This should have been a hot topic of discussion on here...has been in the past.

However, it looks like the "assclowns" and "ducky" haters have pretty much shut this blog down.

Been a good ride Joel...

6/30/2010 1:50 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

"flew his P-3's to Afghanistan" ooooh! that's almost worthy of a bronze star like the CO's that said "commence launch in the open window" during the OIF. air threat at all to a P-3. Whatever.

Back to the real point. Relieved for a rough landing? Was the ship damaged? If not, it wasn't a rough landing. As for "can't fix all the problems after a short time on deployment" that's no excuse even if the sub force let a guy collide at <1kt with an amphib. (GRV) You can blame the crew all you want, but when the CO is on the bridge...I am not buying your snake oil.

6/30/2010 4:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

JLH had the pier allision in May, then was the allidee (anchored object that got hit) twice by different foreign ships between May and the relief.

The messages don't give a lot of detail, but firing a guy that had three incidents that damaged his ship (minor, but not negligible damage) back to back to back isn't exactly a zero defect mentality.

6/30/2010 5:23 PM

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