FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 8th through 11th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

How do you know a man is thinking about his future? He buys two cases of beer instead of one.


USS Fitzgerald’s Officer of the Deck to Face Special Court Martial

Navy Times is reporting the Navy has released the first details regarding three junior officers charged for their alleged roles in the destroyer USS Fitzgerald’s collision with a merchant vessel last summer, an incident that killed seven sailors.  Two of the officers remain unidentified, and Navy officials said their names will be made public at their hearing this week.  LTjg Sarah Coppock was the Officer of the Deck, or OOD, early on June 17, when the Fitz was steaming off Japan, according to a charge sheet released by the service.  She will face a Special Court-Martial (SCM) Tuesday, May 8, 2018 in Washington and is charged with dereliction in the performance of duties through neglect resulting in death, according to the charge sheet.  As OOD, Coppock oversaw ship navigation when the Commanding Officer was not present.  She is accused of failing to comply with the Commanding Officer’s standing orders, as well as international water navigation rules.  It was Coppock’s duty to communicate with the ship’s Combat Information Center, report ship contacts to the skipper, operate safely in high-density traffic and “alert crew of imminent collisions,” the charge sheet states.  While the Navy has refused to make public any of its investigations into the disaster, a review released last fall found the OOD didn’t attempt to contact the commercial ACX Crystal ship via radio, nor did she attempt to maneuver to avoid the Crystal until a minute before the collision.  At one point, the Fitzgerald crossed the bow of an oncoming merchant ship at a range of less than 650 yards — fewer than four ship lengths — and the OOD never informed the captain, a violation of standing orders that require the skipper to be summoned to oversee hazardous conditions.  The Fitzgerald’s crew had no warning before the hulking Crystal plowed into her starboard side. The impact flooded sailors’ living quarters in less than a minute, according to the review.  The ship’s captain, CDR Bryce Benson, was asleep, and the Crystal’s bow punched into his quarters. He was injured and rescued by crew members as he clung to the side of the ship.  He faces an Article 32 hearing to determine if he will be court-martialed later this month.  On Wednesday, May 9, two Navy lieutenants will face Article 32 proceedings for their roles in the Fitz collision.  One, a woman whose name was redacted in the charge sheet provided by the Navy, was serving as the tactical action officer at the time.  Known as a TAO, the officer is responsible for the weapons, propulsion and sensors while the captain is away, and has the authority to maneuver.  She was derelict by failing to communicate with the bridge regarding safe speed and maneuvering recommendations, while failing to enforce efficient watch standing in the combat information center, which handles weapons systems and radar, according to the charge sheet.  Last year’s review found watch standers in the center failed to “tune and adjust their radar to maintain an accurate picture of other ships in the area.”  An unidentified male lieutenant faces the same charges as the unidentified female lieutenant.  He was serving as the surface warfare coordinator in the combat information center and is accused of failing to provide recommendations to the TAO and the bridge, while failing to stand his assigned station or ensure proper watch standing was carried out, according to the charge sheet.  I do not know the outcome of the SCM.


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 8th through 11th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018

Fired Seventh Fleet Admiral Speaks Out On Fitzgerald and John S. McCain

Navy Times is reporting the former head of the Japan-based 7th Fleet who was fired in the wake of two fatal destroyer collisions in the west Pacific last summer is for the first time offering his take on what led to the disasters, while at times questioning Big Navy’s account of what transpired.  Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was fired as 7th Fleet commander on Aug. 23, just a few days after the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore, an incident that killed 10 crew members.  A few months before that, seven other sailors died aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was struck by a merchant vessel off Japan in June.  Since then, Navy leadership has decried a lack of readiness, maintenance and training among ships based out of Japan, and across the surface fleet in general.  Writing in the Naval Institute’s “Proceedings” magazine this month, Aucoin takes issue with how Navy leadership characterized the shortcomings in a comprehensive review and strategic readiness review done in the wake of the disasters.  “The Comprehensive Review (CR), Strategic Review (SR), and some media reporting could lead one to the impression my staff and I were oblivious to or unconcerned about the manning, training, and maintenance deficiencies affecting my ships and their ability to carry out their assigned missions,” Aucoin writes. “That was not the case.”  Instead, Aucoin alleges that his bosses at U.S. Pacific Fleet knew about the negative impacts that increased 7th Fleet operational tempo was having on training and maintenance “well prior” to the collisions.  “Despite these explicitly stated concerns, the direction we received was to execute the mission,” he writes.  Aucoin also questioned the narrative that the surface fleet’s shortcomings were limited to Japan.  A San Diego-based cruiser, Lake Champlain, was involved in a daytime collision with a Korean vessel last spring, he writes, suggesting a problem that was not limited to 7th Fleet.  Japan-based ships began getting the short end of the stick in 2014, when manning levels for those warships fell because of Navy policies that prioritized stateside ships, according to Aucoin.  He writes that his staff convened a Forward-Deployed Naval Force manning summit in June, and he takes issue with this effort not being mentioned in the comprehensive review, which was overseen by Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson.  “While it is said that the (comprehensive review) focused primarily on training and readiness, it did not address manpower issues nearly enough,” Aucoin writes. “I do not know how one can exclude manpower in a discussion on readiness in a high-operational tempo (OpTempo) environment.” Aucoin also writes that the realities of west Pacific command and control were neglected in the reviews.  Afloat Training Group West Pacific, responsible for training and certification of Japan-based ships, reported to Naval Surface Force Pacific and not 7th Fleet, he writes.  The “Third Fleet Forward” initiative, which sends stateside ships to 7th Fleet waters to relieve the pressure on 7th Fleet ships, came to entail those stateside ships operating outside 7th Fleet’s command and taking on missions that didn’t ease the workload of 7th Fleet cruisers or destroyers, according to Aucoin.  Aucoin also wonders why he was not interviewed for the comprehensive review.  “How comprehensive is the CR when neither Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), nor I, as the numbered fleet commander, was interviewed or asked for inputs?” he writes. “For the sake of our Navy, a transparent examination of the problem should include a full understanding of the challenges with which we were faced.” Naval operations “expanded dramatically” in the Indo-Asia Pacific since 2015, Aucoin writes, and demands from Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command increased, and readiness declined as a result.  “This was known both to commanders in FDNF and across the Navy,” Aucoin writes. “Through 2016 and early 2017, my staff produced detailed data quantifying the increase in (cruiser and destroyer) operational tasking and demonstrating the consequent decline in executed maintenance and training, which I sent directly to (Pacific Fleet).”  Pacific Fleet agreed that 7th Fleet’s maintenance and training were in trouble, he writes, “yet (7th Fleet) received no substantive relief from tasking or additional resources.”  Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charles Brown said several investigations into what led up the collisions had been undertaken inside and outside the Navy.  “We do not have anything to add to these numerous reviews and investigations,” he said in an email.  Aucoin writes that his command worked to stay focused on executing operations safely and pushing back when they could not fulfill a request from higher up.  “In a few cases, we were able to argue for changes that allowed ships to complete training or maintenance,” he writes. “In many other cases, our arguments and recommendations were either overruled or ignored.”  Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has said repeatedly since the collisions that commanders need to be able to say no to requests from higher up when their ships are not mission-ready.  The Navy needs to push back when combatant commands ask too much, Aucoin writes.  “It would have been reassuring if the (comprehensive review) had addressed the Navy’s organizational responsibility to act as a check against such increasing demand when divorced from the reality of readiness impacts,” he writes. “While the situation was well known by more senior leaders, this demand went unfiltered and fell to me.”  “I do not understand why our leaders do not push back on the excessive demand on our ships or exhibit more transparency on the true extent of the issues the Navy faces beyond Seventh Fleet,” Aucoin writes.  As 49 sailors had to be cross-decked in Japan to fill gaps on the ships, and five of 11 quartermaster billets were gapped, Aucoin writes that it was “frustrating” to hear of San Diego ships that were so over-manned they had to leave 30 sailors on the pier.  “In addition to a soaring OpTempo, the cumulative effect over time of not having enough people and resorting to cross-decking had a debilitating effect on readiness,” he writes. “We not only lacked overall numbers of people, we also lacked mentors, the men and women with the skills and experience that are vital to raising our next generation of experienced sailors.”  While taking Big Navy to task, Aucoin also points out his own faults near the article’s end.  “While we were able to turn off some taskings, in hindsight, I should have reiterated a ‘no’ when issued ‘force to source orders’ for operational tasking,” he writes. “I accept this mistake. At the same time, in the future I hope our Navy will listen more carefully to our commanders on the scene.”  Seventh Fleet is a hard assignment to fill, due to the rigors of overseas screening and the affects on families, he writes.  “My foremost hope is that my Navy can better support the men and women of the FDNF,” he writes. “Most sailors in FDNF find the mission exhilarating. At the same time, these wonderful people do need reasonable and consistent support for their ships, their families, and their careers.”  Comments?


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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 29th Through May 2nd, 2017

Friends of FOD

So I got busy over the last few days and didn’t get an edition out in a timely fashion.  Being retired is hard work sometimes.


Philippines and Philippine Leader Rodrigo Duterte in the News

It’s in the news over the weekend last where President Trump has called Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte and expressed Washington’s commitment to their treaty alliance and his interest in developing “a warm, working relationship,” according to a Filipino officials comments to Military Times.  Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said the friendlier ties are needed even with concerns about Duterte’s human rights record, which includes extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users as part of the government’s drug war. Priebus cited the military threat of North Korea. But in a more interesting development, Chinese Navy ships will visit the Philippines for the first time since 2010.  Three vessels – the guided missile destroyer Changchun, the guided missile frigate Jingzhou, and the supply ship Chaohu – will dock at Davao City in Mindanao from Sunday until Tuesday.  The port stop comes after Russian navy vessels arrived in Manila last week for joint exercises as part of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s attempts to lower Manila’s dependence on its traditional ally the United States and expand ties with other regional powers.  No word of any intended port visits to Subic Bay or Olongapo! Ties between China and the Philippines have warmed quickly since Duterte promised to put aside their territorial disputes over the South China Sea and pursue stronger business links.  Follow the $.  The Chinese port visit will coincide with Sunday’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila.  As holder of the bloc’s rotating chairmanship, the Philippines was expected to adopt a softer-than-usual line on South China Sea disputes and exclude references to militarization or island building in the area, Reuters reported, citing a draft of the chairman’s statement.  An interesting development, particularly as Dutente said he didn’t know whether he’d have time to visit the US as per Trump’s invite.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 29th Through May 2nd, 2017”