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 12, 2005

Personal Thoughts on the SF Situation

Here's a link to a Navy Times article on the NJP for Captain Mooney that doesn't have any new information, but captures what has been in the other articles I've linked (including stuff in the article from The Day that will require registration starting tomorrow). It does have one mistake, though: It's description of a "moving haven" as "an underwater passageway thought to be free and clear of obstacles" is not accurate; however, a quick Google search for submarine "moving haven" didn't show anything that had a good unclassified description, so I guess I can't correct them here. If you'd like to see the messages from Admiral Sullivan referred to in the story, click here.

Personally, I've thought a lot today about the Navy's decision to punish CDR Mooney. The investigating team clearly went through all the boats procedures and records with a fine tooth comb, and apparently found some inconsistencies and practices not exactly in accordance with approved procedures. My unsolicited advice to the Submarine Force brass is to ask themselves: What percentage of the boats in the fleet, if subjected to a similar inspection, would have had similar deficiencies? I would suggest that if the number is greater than a few, they should reconsider whether or not they want to punish more of the crew (as was done in most recent accidents, including the Greeneville and Oklahoma City collisions and Hartford grounding*), or if they should concentrate more on solving a potentially force-wide problem. Of course, if they did that, they may have to admit that the current inspection teams, which work for the senior commanders, maybe hadn't been looking for the right things.

* I couldn't find a convenient link directly to the Hartford grounding NJP story, so I reproduce a portion of it from this link below (full story about 3/4 of the way down):

Skipper, Squadron Commander Relieved; Six Others Disciplined In Sub Grounding In The Mediterranean
By Robert A. Hamilton, New London Day 11/10/2003 (Used with permission)
The captain of the Groton-based USS Hartford and the squadron commander who was aboard the submarine when it grounded off Sardinia last month have been removed from duty after the admiral in charge of submarines in the Mediterranean "lost confidence in their ability to command," a Navy spokeswoman said. Six other Hartford crewmen were charged with dereliction of duty and punished over the weekend, including one officer and one enlisted man who were relieved of their duties and ordered back to Submarine Squadron Four at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
Cmdr. Christopher R. Van Metre, captain of the Hartford, and Capt. Greg Parker, commodore of Submarine Squadron 22, will also return to the United States, said Cmdr. Cate Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Sixth Fleet in Gaeta, Italy. "There is the possibility of follow-on actions involving both officers," Mueller said. They were relieved from command before any formal proceedings because the Group 8 commander, Rear Adm. P. Stephen Stanley, "no longer had confidence in their ability to command."

Staying at PD...

Update 0202 13 Feb: Here's the report on the Admiral's Mast from KUAM, a local Guam television station. This report includes some discussion of the on-going repair work, including this bit:

"...the Navy is planning to make temporary repairs to the bow of the San Francisco so she has adequate structural integrity and proper buoyancy for transit under her own power to a shipyard, which is yet to be determined, with comprehensive repair capabilities. These temporary repairs will be engineered to ensure a successful transit. As part of having on-hand materials for potential use in these temporary repairs, a large steel dome about 20' high and 20' in diameter will be arriving on Guam in the next few days."

I'm assuming this "large steel dome" is a metal sonar dome, of the type submarines used to use before they came up with the glass-reinforced plastic replacements. (If this link is bad, go to this page; the picture of the San Fran's shredded sonar dome is currently the 13th picture down.

Note: While looking for a better link to a GRP sonar dome than the link above, I stumbled across this USNI web page on Los Angeles Class submarines. It has a nice interactive display of a submarine, where if you roll your mouse over various parts of the boat, it shows you what's inside. A good resource for the non-submariner.

Update 2332 13 Feb: Fellow submariner Rob posts his thoughts on the San Francisco.


Blogger chaoticsynapticactivity said...

As far as a case of balancing the actions of a selection of crews for the proper following of procedures, it's a exercise only worthy of fixing a problem, but not to rationalize the lack of proper procedures of the SF.

I speak from the experience serving with the Combat Systems Assesment team members who had inspected the USS IOWA about 3 months before the explosion. My AOIC was the one who had "checked" the Explosives Handling Qualification/Cerification Program (EHPQCP) himself. It was very uncomfortable for him, but the end result was the IOWA crew failed to carry out PQS qualifications, further enhanced with the CNO required certifications for the weapons handling work.

I also had the "pleasure" of being sent to every NATO Sea Sparrow ship in LANTFLT, a few months after the USS SARATOGA put 2 of those into a Turkish Destroyer just after mind-night in early Oct, 1992. I reported directly to CLF on the results. I failed one ship out of all of them. It was an interesting experience, which I still have the "lessons leaned" VHS tape here. I often toy with the idea of putting it on DVD, and possibly sending it out to some active duty guys, for the lessons were more of the same we all heard about accidents across our career: Communications, communications, communications, and know your equipment!

Hard lessons dictate procedures were written in blood. Across the years, I was involved in a CMS account being mis-handled after the John Walker stuff, and a tactically proficient, sound O-5 lost his career, and did it like a real stand up guy, taking his responsibilities as his own. It was sad, because a ship just like his was also on deployment with us, and they were tactical buffoons, yet that CO made O-6 and ended up with a squardon command.

After three years of daily inspecting ships for CNSL in Combat Systems, I graded by the effective instructions, yet I made myself into a constant irritant to the CNSL and CLF staffs, when my men and I found, and/or saw stupidity, in order to get procedures changed. We did that with many things, but not without having the get right in the face of sometimes senior people, until the sailors were taken care of.

I saw far too many people on shore duty at the big staffs abrogating their responsbility to make things right, and one in particular hated to see me keep him in his office after 2PM, as he would be late getting home. After 5 years of work, and across 3 commands, they finally made some coherent changes. Many other places just chucked the recommendations and went on with business as usual. It's sad when an Ensign can tell you after looking over his PQS and training records for 30 minutes he learned more than they taught him in SWO Basic, and when you review the cirriculm and send up recommendations, supported by three years of inspection data, and they blow you off...

I'm sure the inspectors have good reason for their recommendations. Since we're on the side lines now, well have to wait for the printed copy.

I was blessed with a pretty unique job for three years, and even more fortunate to have had some dedicated E-8, 9s and one excellent O-3E working with me (he's now an O-6). I'm proud of how much we made better, despite the number of hours we spent at sea, while on shore duty. And, that's another long story....

2/12/2005 11:14 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Excellent comments. My statement wasn't as much an attack on the inspectors, but rather a back-handed shot at the Sub Force commanders who either don't remember that they did the same things when they were CO, or don't believe that these perceived "problems" are widespread. I read the incident reports after the Jacksonville collision, and they took guys to mast for doing things that are done every day on every single boat in the Force. I obviously haven't read the SF report, but my "gut feel" is that the San Fran wasn't doing anything any different than other attack boat would have done in the same situation; they just drew the black marble, and I don't think you should be punished for that.

2/13/2005 12:12 AM

Blogger chaoticsynapticactivity said...

Yep...I saw more than one incident when those who had been in command sort of glossed over things, as they knew good and well that they had sometimes not even done as well.

On the other hand, there was my CO, Wade Johnson said (and did): Strive for 100%...after it's all over you can worry about how close you got. More often than not, under his leadership we smoked the eyes out of stuff, and not with "inspectmanship," but good, clear cut performance.

As a point of reference, here's a link to a good guy, Joe Sestak. He was CO of Sammie B (SAMUEL B ROBERTS (FFG-58)) when I was doing CSAs. His little ship outscored the entire fleet, and to the day I retired, I think his team still held that honor. His crew was a class act, and all with an eye on being ready when they got to the tip of the spear. He delegated and let them run, quite wonderful to observe, as FFGs had a pretty junior crew overall.

I met him at his inbrief as PCO while at CNSL, and he sent his Khakis to tag along on inspections (while I invited many to come, and few did). For the preliminary inspection, which was designed to be interactive, he asked that my guys not stop anything unless it was safety related, just to see if they had trained well. The score was higher than almost all the final scores we had had in a year. I'm glad to see he made flag rank, we need leaders like that making decisions.

Enough sea stories, time for bed. Thanks for your rreporting on the SF stuff...great reading!

2/13/2005 1:10 AM

Blogger Christian said...

Do you guys think there's any chance this incident will help bring the QM rating back to Submarines?

2/13/2005 8:33 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

It's hard to say. I personally opposed getting rid of the QM rating, particularly with respect to the qualification and training of ANAVs (Assistant Navigators). My feeling is that a guy needs a couple of boats under his belt as a QM to be an effective ANAV; now, guys who were NavETs and rarely stood QMOW are qualifying ANAV, sometimes as a "goodbye" kiss from their boats (although the Force did take action to try to prevent this.)My feeling is that this will strengthen the ANAV qual requirements, but won't bring back the QM rating.

2/13/2005 8:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got out in 86, when did the QM rate get pulled from Submarines? I'm feeling a little foolish about my "lead Quartermaster" comment on your previous post. Guess that comment would apply to the ANAV qual watchstander instead. In any case it's a shame that a number of good people from the CO down the line will have their careers ended.

More than likely the area where the San Fran grounded will be visited by a T-AGS in the furture. That is if the Navy plans to operate subs safely in that area.

Former NavET

2/13/2005 9:49 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Subs still have Assistant Navigators, but all QMs are now ETs, with a different NEC (14QM). Same thing with submarine Radiomen and IC Men. My concern is that all the different forward ET rates (Nav ETs, Radio ETs, and IC ETs, in addition to QM ETs) are pretty much expected to qualify ANAV now to make Chief, at least if they want to make it earlier than normal. Also, the QM ETs still have to have in-rate knowledge of the other forward ET specialities, which limits the amount of time they spend specifically on quartermastering.

2/14/2005 12:34 PM

Blogger Alexander said...

Come on guys. It has always been this way and it always will be. The CO has ultimate accountability and responsibility for his command. When the sh*t hits the fan, he's the one that has to answer for it.

While I don't have any inside info on what procedures they weren't 100% on, we all know that if there's an incident of any kind and you were operating outside the guidance (regardless of whether "everyone is doing it" or not) you are history. Getting a newly refueled 688 decommissioned and having one of your Sailors die is as about as bad as it gets. Anything less than 100% compliance garuantees getting relieved of command.

That's how our system works. CDR Mooney knew that when he took command.

It is always a shame when the Navy loses a good leader like this, but that accountability and responsibility cannot be delegated to anyone, much less to "fate" or "bad luck".

2/15/2005 12:30 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

My point is, why does it have to continue to be this way? It's a new century, maybe some of the old traditions have outlived their usefulness. ("Eating our own" might still be useful for the initial qualification process, but I think has outlived its usefulness by the time someone reaches command.) I also don't have any official info on what might have happened, but of all the accidents the Force has had recently, this one does seem to be closest to an "act of God" than any of the others. Here's a bad analogy -- someone wants to shoot someone in a loud area; he shoots and misses, and no one hears the shot. He gets away scott free. Another person does the same thing, also misses, but is heard and gets captured, and goes to jail. Who's really more guilty? Plus, I think there are some mitigating circumstances here (getting the ship back to port safely) that should have been taken into account if they weren't.

2/15/2005 1:41 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

OK, that analogy really sucked. Here's another: suppose two commuters each drive through a residential neighborhood at 10 mph over the speed limit, talking on their cell phones, on parallel streets. A child runs out in front of one, and is hurt. That driver is prosecuted, and the other, who was doing the same thing, but didn't happen to hit anyone that day, is not. Who is more guilty?

2/15/2005 2:22 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

To expand on that analogy: suppose the driver who hit the child gets out and provides first aid that saves the child's life. The other driver, had he hit the child, would not have been able to do so. Should that be a mitigating factor? Yes, COs are responsible for everything that happens on their boat, and although they can't check on every watchstander all the time, they do train them. Tradition holds that COs whose boats get damaged get fired. But, there can also be exceptions made. Would the US Navy had been better off if Chester Nimitz had been cashiered from the service after grounding his destroyer?

2/15/2005 2:33 PM

Blogger ninme said...

Good thing you came up with that second completed analogy.

2/15/2005 3:31 PM


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