All Hail The Navy and Their Leadership
Tinman Monday, January 21, 2019
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This report has been withheld from the public because the potential litigation ramifications. That unto itself has me rethinking the state of the military in whole, and the Navy specifically.
A friend of mine from my first ship, we’ll call him Dave (his name is actually Dave), sent me a Navy Times article. The content details the contents of a report on the USS FITZGERALD collision in 2017. This report has been withheld from the public because the potential litigation ramifications. That unto itself has me rethinking the state of the military in whole, and the Navy specifically. The concept of honor and integrity are out the window when an officer, let alone a Flag Officer, is more concerned about the repercussions than telling the truth. There was a time when HONOR and INTEGRITY were so cherished that (please forgive me, I forget all the details and Google is failing my research) that a midshipman (or maybe a Cadet in the USMA) was awarded the silent treatment as punishment because he was accused of not placing his pencil down in time at the end of an examination. He was accused of cheating and because he refused to acknowledge he had done it, in an attempt to make him drop out, no other cadet or staff could talk to him outside of official business. This punishment lasted YEARS because he refused to admit his “cheating,” nor would he drop out.
But that is only the tip of what this old Sailor takes from this article. The FITZGERALD (by the way, I know you all think I am bass ackwards in my language, but United States Ship names are always ALL CAPS, and Sailors are stationed IN them not ON them… it’s a Navy thing) was the epitome of Dysfunction, and not like we are Dysfunctional, but REALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL.
The Officer of the Deck (the one in charge of driving the ship) wouldn’t talk to Combat Information Center (the ones who run the secondary navigation plot to prevent things like collisions and groundings) because she didn’t trust the Operations Officer. The Operations officer who was standing watch at the time in CIC was doing a stack of paperwork instead of paying attention to the situation. When the investigators arrived, they found her left behind paperwork/reports stacked at her station. They also found Kettle Bells and bottles full of urine. What the ACTUAL FUCK? This is a fucking warship, not a HMMWV on convoy from KNB to Baghdad… ain’t nobody going to be able to explain bottles full of piss at a watch station.
FITZGERALD had been in a near collisions only months prior and the then CO and the CO at the time of the collision that did happen (who was serving as XO at the time) never did an internal assessment nor implemented a course of action to correct the problems that caused that situation.
So… did I tell you I am an old sailor? Yeah, I’m a really old Sailor. 27 years of service, with 14 years, 5 months, and 10 days of it being on Sea Duty. With that I have fucking opinions. When I was in my first ship, I qualified Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist. When I did that I had to give up my sleep, my off hours when I could be playing cards or watching SITE TV, etc. I had to put forth the effort to break out and do it because I WANTED IT and for no other reason. A bit later the Navy came out with these really cool pennants the ships could fly from their main truck (flag hoist) if all the officers or crew (a different flag for each) who had been aboard a certain period of time had qualified. Then it pretty much became a de facto requirement to get advanced that you become ESWS qualified. Then it became an in-writing requirement. Commanding Officers were being held accountable for Sailors not qualifying. The program went from one of elite status to “I went to the lecture, where’s my signature.” Fuck me, I had to chase a Chief down when he was on watch and sit there and TELL HIM everything I needed to know before I got a signature on my path to qualification… sometimes 3 hours of explanations, tours, demonstrations for ONE signature out of the HUNDREDS needed – and I was grateful. This shift in mentality wasn’t limited to this one program. It permeated… bang through the qualification book get the ticket punched, move on. Becoming an EXPERT fell from the standard to the rare exception.
I also shudder at the concept of having the Executive officer being the same rank as the Captain and “fleeting up” into the CO position when the CO transfers. When did this become standard practice? The Executive Officer is familiar with the crew. They are not friends with them, by any means, but they are beds and heads, and overall training team leader, and and and… the crew is comfortable with the XO… even if they are a big dick, they are the big dick they know. To go from that to CO… who thinks that will work? The CO, even my best CO, was a man to be feared. I am not saying they were raging maniacs, but they were the CAPTAIN! The man that could sail the ship wherever the fuck he wanted, and make you stay awake as long as it pleased him. He set the tone of the whole fucking ship! How do you go from 18 – 24 months of being the XO on the same ship to THAT? And how do you identify the systemic problems you just inherited when you were part of those systemic problems a mere month ago before you assumed command?
Now why would that happen? I will piss off a lot of my Navy brethren and sistren (what the fuck is the female equivalent to brethren?) with this. The Navy has not been in a WAR since Vietnam. We have done Combat Operations. I have engaged in some of them, but in a WAR? No. We have not faced a foe who had the intent of doing us harm. Yes, there have been isolated terrorist attacks (COLE comes to mind) but a militarized enemy? Nah. We have ruled the seas unchecked for decades. And now, although great tacticians and strategists, our leaders are administrators and bureaucrats counting numbers of quals on a piece of paper, not worried about the FIGHT we will face and the mentality needed to win it.
I hang my head today. My Navy is dysfunctional and unless it changes course it is only a mater of time before it runs aground.
Article written by: DV Tinman - Residential Naval Tube Expert & DV Mod
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