Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Never retreat - never surrender

Lieutenant Commander Sean Kearns, former Executive Officer of USS SAN ANTONIO (LPD-17), took the ship's motto to heart in his fight to exonerate himself from Navy charges of "dereliction of duty" in the death of  PO1 Ansong.  The jury at the court-martial on Friday found Sean Kearns not guilty of negligence.

In LCDR Kearns' words, "Things needed to be made known.... Someone needed to stand up."  Thanks Sean for making things known and for standing up.  As the Salamander says - "great demonstration of morale courage."


Rubber Ducky said...

He was not 'exonerated.' He was found 'not guilty,' Over the years I've seen many times when shipboard accidents were treated as acts of nature. Glad someone finally said 'this is not acceptable.'

The primary duty of XOs in a warship is training. When a gator can't launch a small craft without killing someone, training is in doubt. Good perhaps that he was found not guilty but one hopes the other XOs in the fleet watched this well and are taking a round turn on shipboard training and readiness.

Failure in his primary duty resulted in the death of a sailor. Far from "great demonstration of morale courage," it was a sad demonstration of the absence of professionalism, the comments of a spook and an airedale not withstanding. No slack.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Appreciate your view Rubber Ducky. Navy has a responsibility to support the XO with the means to get the training done. Would be nice to see the Navy accept their portion of the responsibility for this 'preventable" death.

English Major said...

You two boys try to get along. I think you are both saying the same thing.

   /ɪgˈzɒnəˌreɪt/[ig-zon-uh-reyt] –verb (used with object), -at·ed, -at·ing.
1. to clear, as of an accusation; free from guilt or blame; exculpate: He was exonerated from the accusation of cheating.
2. to relieve, as from an obligation, duty, or task.

Anonymous said...

Exonerated, exshmonerated.

The Navy SORM (OPNAVINST 3120.32C) identifies XO responsibilities. There's nothing about waiving these responsibilities because of ship design and / or the CO doesn't require them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, fire them all !! None of them are following the SORM to the letter.

Anonymous said...


Rubber Ducky said...

C'mon. A kid died. A shipmate. Needlessly. The sea lawyers should back off.

I'm no fan of the way skimmers in higher authority approach support of shipboard responsibilities. In a another context, in writing, I had this to say about how the surface navy deals with its COs: "They make 'em bleed." But even with a pretty crappy force-wide approach to shipboard training and a tendency to try to 'inspect in' readiness, the responsibilities in the ship for the safety of the crew are not relieved or diminished.

Check out the lead article in Proceedings, December 1987 to see my full views. And been there/done that: qualified fleet OOD in a CG in WestPac/Vietnam and earned SWO pin ('The Smashed Bat') thereby.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Rubber Ducky. A Sailor died. It's extremely unfortunate.

A jury found the XO not guilty of criminal negligence. Regardless of agreement with the outcome, the military justice system worked.

I understand your opinion and the common acceptance of the reputation of the SWO community. I am not one but I did earn my pin.

However, I also agree with Admiral Harvey's concern about the wrong message the verdict may send.

"He offered a warning to the officers who command or serve as second-in-command aboard Navy warships. They need not fear becoming scapegoats when things go awry, he said. But neither can they claim that less-than-ideal circumstances absolve them of responsibility."


[On Soapbox] We know that CO and XO assignments have serious responsibility and accountability. Every effort has to be made by the incumbents to meet their obligations. If they can't, they need to seek the proper guidance / assistance to ensure the safety and readiness of the crew and the ship. [Off Soapbox]

Anonymous said...

Rubber Ducky,

I like you have been in both surface and submarine Navies but I think your words where you refer to skimmers, surface Navy, a spook, and an airedale (sp) are a bit biased. Two Boat Sailors died and more could have died in the Submarine incident from the following post. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-443952/Submarine-deaths-crashes.html. Both the CO and XO of the Submarine were found responsible.

The USS San Francisco (SSN-711), ran into an undersea mountain in 2005 and one crew member died. The boat did not have the latest charts, the CO got off easily for that one for some reason or another.

The USS Greenville (SSN 772) surfaced beneath a Japanese training ship, in 2001, and the collision resulted in the death of 9 of the individuals on the Ehime Maru. The CO of that Submarine took full responsibility for the accident, even though it was the crew members that should have recognized that the other vessel was near or in this case directly above the Submarine when they blew to the surface.

I was COB, and First Lt., on a nuclear powered Submarine for 3years and received no training whatsoever for these jobs and I was the second man to go topside after a 70 day patrol (the first man topside was a Nuc to check for radiation) and I was the last man to go below prior to our first dive.

Was it the lack of training that resulted in the deaths of the individuals noted above? Yes it was but I do not think any skimmers, airdales or spooks bore any responsibility for any of these unfortunate accidents.

Very Respectfully,

E. A Hughes, FTCM (SS)
USN (Retired)

Rubber Ducky said...

Chief Hughes: thoughtful post but not sure of your ultimate comment. Submariners WERE held responsible for the submarine deaths ... and the should have been. I've said so in print, though I've also said that GREENEVILLE's accident with the EHIME MARU and her grounding at Saipan indicted as well the higher authority who let her down in the areas of training and (Saipan) certification for overseas movement.

There's a big difference in the training needed between the most experienced enlisted person in a submarine going topside and that for putting a boat in the water underway with way on. The former relies on skills built over the years. The latter involves a make-up squad on the davits and in the boat, plus whoever's on watch on the bridge.

Many commenters want to lay this accident just on First Division and its leadership, showing the way that skimmers see the crew as a set of shipboard unions and allocate complex evolutions to this gang or that.

My general observation is that skimmers can live with most accidents - come to all stop and float about a bit. Submariners and airedales (correct) face a whole different realm of risk and potential outcome from what are easy problems on a surface ship ... and so approach training not as a check-the-box drill but rather as life or death. The surface navy got a sharp reminder that this is not a satisfactory way to train with the XO's court martial and good they did.

Responsibility for SAN ANTONIO's accident lay on the ship (CO: received punitive reprimand; XO: trial by court martial, found not guilty), but also on higher authority, the latter for A). surface navy's permanent disdain for training in favor of inspection; B). yet another case of a miserable design for launching small craft; and C). designing and constructing what seems to be the most troubled shiptype and hull in at least a couple decades - the gigantic problems that have plagued SAN ANTONIO since delivered have to have had a profound negative effect on the entire crew.

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

Anonymous said...

Rubber Ducky,

I understand where you are coming from on this subject, and with all the effort you extended I have to at least respond with a few words. I yield to your knowledge of small boat seamanship and to the understanding of Bridge - Deck coordination on this type evolution. And to your through knowledge of the accidents outlined in your posts on the subject.

I am fishing around in my own head to try to understand what you meant by, my ultimate comment, it was my intent to point out that lives are lost at sea and it is in most cases due to the lack of training. And that these accidents will happen on all ship types. I was a surface Sailor for 20 years and during that time (about 12 years sea duty) there were no accidents on the ships I served in that resulted in death. There were a number of accidents and close calls. And it was my observation that many of these accidents could have been avoided by proper training. But I expect my ego was just a little bit bruised by the more than one reference to skimmers and their inadequacies; as if these words were to invalidate my 20 years in the surface Navy.
Very Respectfully,


Rubber Ducky said...

In the past I've said that the surface navy has a lot to learn from submariners and naval aviators. I proposed four initiatives in which the latter two disciplines could help the skimmers:

1. Use standard operating procedures.

2. Train for combat.

3. Cope with the complexity of their platforms.

4. End their isolation form the rest of the Navy.

And I suggested that surface warfare officers should have training and incentives to attract equivalent talent into that world, with schools, bonuses, and special pays at the same levels as given the other two communities.

As the SAN ANTONIO shows, not much has changed in the 23 years since I wrote all this. We still have three navies (perhaps more, as this blog suggests) that require greater loyalty to the home community than to the Navy as a whole. Scant cross-training between disciplines. Far fewer dual-qualified officers or enlisted. And the sick child is always the surface navy.

Anonymous said...

Rubber Ducky,

I agree to a certain extent with some of your comments but feel that your off the mark on the surface community. I am a 21 year active duty OPS TECH LDO and I have seen my share of incompetent SWO's in command but the Navy is changing.

Of course the Fly Boys and the Bubble Heads get the cream of the crop because everyone wants to get the training and cool jobs those communities have.

I think your last comment is off base "Far fewer dual-qualified officers or enlisted. And the sick child is always the surface navy."
Yes we have our incompetents and yes the submarine and avation communities send us your rejects but we do get a lot of quality people and the attitudes are changing in regards to how we treat the JO's.

Training is atrocious in the surface fleet because we invest very little. We don't shoot missiles anymore and we have cut back our training and staffing of surface ships to below the bare minimum along with piling 50 more inspections on the young kids.

Inspite of all this 99.9% of the SWO's and Enlisted crews perform superbly at sea. As far as dual warefare qualifications for SWO's what other qual can you get as a SWO with out hurting your career by taking a major detail to a RIVERON. SUBGRU duty does not qualify you for dolphins and don't think the navy will give you pilots wings for one divo tour so I am confused as to what other qual SWO's should get. IUSS is about the only other one but once again it requires a career detour.

I would venture to say that there is only one community now and thats the US Navy community. We even have a Coast Guard Officer as our Navigator.

I am not sure if your still active duty but I would ask you to please get out of your office and interact with sailors and see if the home community philosphy is true. If you are retired please visit the nearest base and check as I am sure you will be suprised as to what you see.
Very Respectfully,
George Laue LT USN

Anonymous said...

Lt. Laue,

These were your words, and they just fortify what Rubber Ducky was trying to help correct.
(I have seen my share of incompetent SWO's in command but the Navy is changing.) I have not noticed any other comments that you have made on this blog, but there are many that never leave their name and rank/rate so it is possible that you are aware of all posts on this blog. In case you are not I recommend that you do some research into its contents, and you will no doubt find Rubber Ducky's sage advice and common sense attitude on many posts. He most likely advanced to well above the rank and station that most of us have ever achieved, or ever will, and still has the knowledge to back up his past experience.

I am an old Sailor myself, you were probably still in grade school when I retired from the Navy, and I am concerned for the Navy and the problems that have resulted with this new Navy as some call it. With Commanding Officers dropping like flies, due to loss of confidence by their superiors, or just lack of good judgment on their part, and many of their assigned officers not lagging too far behind, it does not look too good. Please do what you can to save our Navy, Rubber Ducky and I did our best and left it in shipshape condition.

I cannot for one get out of my office and go down to the nearest Navy Base and find out what is taking place in today's Navy because the CinC some years ago felt that Charleston, SC, which had one of the first Navy bases in the United States should be shut down. I would have to go to Mayport, Fl or Norfolk, VA to see a real Sailor or ship. And as much as I loved the Navy that trip would probably be of no value to the Navy or myself. I have found that these base guards could care less about my past credentials.

Very Respectfully,

Anonymous said...

I am in no way trying to diminish what you and Rubber Ducky are saying and I probably did not state my objections clearly enough, but what I was trying to say was that I don't think the "home community and SWO sick child" moniker applies anymore.

Especially now that we have SUBS/AVIATION/SWO serving as dirt sailors in Iraq and Afganistan.

I personnaly think the CO and XO should both have been removed from command. Were both responsible no! But the ulitmate fact is the reason the CO/XO has ultimate power is because at all times they are held ultimatley accountable thats the job and we all accept it.

Times have changed some good some bad, but I think the biggest and best change is the fact that we have done a great job becoming more joint both within the Navy and within the DOD.

Th issues we have now with training are the lack of funding and the belief that we can do more with less, but thats a rant for a different day.
FYI I am third generation Navy Father is a retired CWO4 and Grandfather served during the WWII and beyond so I respect/value the sage advice of all retiree's. Just don't tell my old man.:)
Very Respectfully,
George Laue