Skimmer XO Court-Martialed
Check out this story from Military.com about the ongoing court martial of the former XO of USS San Antonio (LPD 17) for dereliction of duty relating to the death of a Petty Officer in February 2009 during a small boat mishap. Excerpts:
Prosecutors contend that Kearns did not ensure effective training or supervision of small boat operations on Feb. 4, 2009, when the amphibious transport dock ship -- the first in its class -- was operating in the Gulf of Aden.More information can be found in this Navy Times article. Based on what I've read (XOs almost never personally supervise RHIB ops on amphibs, there is still no standardized procedure for this class for this evolution) I don't see how they could win a conviction, but remember the jury is a bunch of O-5s and O-6s who might buy into the Big Navy philosophy of "blame individual Sailors on the deckplate so we can avoid having to acknowledge and fix systemic problems". I personally have a problem with the attitude that people should be punished for doing what everyone else does if there's an accident involved, but it's clear the Navy leadership does buy into that idea.
That morning, an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat with three Sailors aboard was lowered to the water. Its engines failed to start, and it flipped over soon after hitting the water. Two Sailors were rescued. Petty Officer 1st Class Theophilus Ansong, the small boat's engineer, apparently drowned. His life vest, too large for his frame and improperly closed, was recovered; his body was never found...
...Kearns, whose duties as second-in-command included supervising small-boat operations, was not on the bridge for the launch of Ansong's rigid-hull inflatable boat, Burby said. Instead, he was in his stateroom, checking e-mail...
...Kearns refused the option of facing non-judicial punishment in an administrative hearing. Instead, he opted to have a jury decide his fate.
Prosecution witnesses, for instance, had said the “best practices” gathered from general experience on systems common to many Navy ships, including small boat operations, were known to and disseminated to shipboard leaders, an apparent defense of the lack of formal training guidance.
But, Carmichael said in his closing statement, “Are best practices the standard that we hold somebody criminally negligent for?”