Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

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Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby 308Mike » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:10 am

Linkyroo:

Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

By: Allison Horn
Posted: 3:59 PM, Jan 16, 2018
Updated: 59 mins ago

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(KGTV/AP) - The Navy said Tuesday it is filing negligent homicide charges against the former commanders of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain after deadly collisions which killed San Diego sailors in the Pacific last year.

The charges will be presented at a military Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian arraignment. It will determine whether the commanders are court-martialed.

Several lower-ranking officers are also charged, according to Navy spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks.

RELATED: San Diego sailors among the dead in USS Fitzgerald collision

The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship off Japan in June. Seven sailors died, including Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista.

Ten sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia in August.

RELATED: Divers find remains of missing USS John McCain sailors

Fitzgerald Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was injured in the collision, was relieved of duty last year. Benson and Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez are charged with negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel, according to USNI news.
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Langenator » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:31 pm

I can predict that a big part of their defenses will be that Big Navy (a) failed to provide adequate manning for their crews, leading to excess crew fatigue and (b) inadequate time to train the undermanned crew.
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Vonz90 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:24 am

Langenator wrote:I can predict that a big part of their defenses will be that Big Navy (a) failed to provide adequate manning for their crews, leading to excess crew fatigue and (b) inadequate time to train the undermanned crew.


Could be, but it would be sticking their heads in a noose. The CO, XO and Senior Watch Officer sign off on the qualifications (even the person in question was qualified from previous commands) - so that is basically saying that they signed off on unqualified watch standers for expedience.

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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Mike OTDP » Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:54 am

Discovery will be very, very ugly in this case. If you are not reading CDR Salamander's blog, I highly recommend it. Right now, he's the cornerstone of the Naval blogosphere.

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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Langenator » Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:30 am

Vonz90 wrote:
Langenator wrote:I can predict that a big part of their defenses will be that Big Navy (a) failed to provide adequate manning for their crews, leading to excess crew fatigue and (b) inadequate time to train the undermanned crew.


Could be, but it would be sticking their heads in a noose. The CO, XO and Senior Watch Officer sign off on the qualifications (even the person in question was qualified from previous commands) - so that is basically saying that they signed off on unqualified watch standers for expedience.


They're essentially putting the commanders in a hell of a moral quandry: if they have the integrity to say "half the crew isn't qualified to do their jobs (even some of the ones that the previous CO said were qualified), and the ship's not ready for an operational mission, and oh by the way, it's mostly your fault Big Navy" he's probably kissing any chance of promotion, and any further career, goodbye. That's in addition to calling into question the previous CO, who one would assume had successfully completed his command tour and might even have already been selected for promotion.

Or he can avoid rocking the boat, and hope nothing happens during his tenure in command. Hopefully get a promotion, or at least a few more years and a few more percentage points on his retirement pay.

I'm reminded of a bit in one of Clancy's earlier books, where he's talking about the Soviet Union, and he says that individual failures can be identified and castigated at length and in detail, but the behavior of institutions cannot be questioned or criticized, because to do so would be to question the entire system. It feels like much the same dynamic is in play here.

Because the issue of the mismatch between missions and resource does fall squarely at the feet of the senior naval leadership and Big Navy. Their inability and/or unwillingness to go to the National Command Authority and say "We don't have enough ships for the missions you've given us, we don't have enough sailors to man the ships we have, and furthermore, a lot of our ships are getting old and need to be replaced pretty soon. And you haven't given us enough money to fix any of these problems."

The admirals haven't shown any more moral courage than those two captains they're bringing charges against.
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Cobar » Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:10 am

Langenator wrote:
Vonz90 wrote:
Langenator wrote:I can predict that a big part of their defenses will be that Big Navy (a) failed to provide adequate manning for their crews, leading to excess crew fatigue and (b) inadequate time to train the undermanned crew.


Could be, but it would be sticking their heads in a noose. The CO, XO and Senior Watch Officer sign off on the qualifications (even the person in question was qualified from previous commands) - so that is basically saying that they signed off on unqualified watch standers for expedience.


They're essentially putting the commanders in a hell of a moral quandry: if they have the integrity to say "half the crew isn't qualified to do their jobs (even some of the ones that the previous CO said were qualified), and the ship's not ready for an operational mission, and oh by the way, it's mostly your fault Big Navy" he's probably kissing any chance of promotion, and any further career, goodbye. That's in addition to calling into question the previous CO, who one would assume had successfully completed his command tour and might even have already been selected for promotion.

Or he can avoid rocking the boat, and hope nothing happens during his tenure in command. Hopefully get a promotion, or at least a few more years and a few more percentage points on his retirement pay.

I'm reminded of a bit in one of Clancy's earlier books, where he's talking about the Soviet Union, and he says that individual failures can be identified and castigated at length and in detail, but the behavior of institutions cannot be questioned or criticized, because to do so would be to question the entire system. It feels like much the same dynamic is in play here.

Because the issue of the mismatch between missions and resource does fall squarely at the feet of the senior naval leadership and Big Navy. Their inability and/or unwillingness to go to the National Command Authority and say "We don't have enough ships for the missions you've given us, we don't have enough sailors to man the ships we have, and furthermore, a lot of our ships are getting old and need to be replaced pretty soon. And you haven't given us enough money to fix any of these problems."

The admirals haven't shown any more moral courage than those two captains they're bringing charges against.


In an environment like that, the people that would do the right thing already have. They didn't end up there at all. That kind of system ends up full of go-along to get-along politicians rather than leaders. Sort of like the education system being full of union-loving, collectivist, leftists. Anyone that does not fit that mold either gets out, or doesn't go in to begin with.

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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby g-man » Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:40 pm

At least in the Army, one has to opt-in to meet a Command Selection Board. Thus, this group is self-selected, from a group of people who are already retirement eligible, i.e. they've made O-5 and are guaranteed to hit 20 (assuming they don't get court-martialed). Thus, those who would be most likely to stomp the brakes with both feet have ZERO incentive to do so. Choices for this group are as follow:

1 - I can volunteer for a command, get picked for a shitty HHBN/Squadron/Boat job, point out that the emperor has no clothes, get a shitty review / get fired, torpedo my chances at O-6, not make a difference in the big scheme of things, and retire as a LTC/LtCol/LTCDR.

2 - I can volunteer for a command, get picked for a shitty HHBN/Squadron/Boat job, STFU and pray what happened here doesn't happen on my watch, and continue to play the game.

OR,

3 - I can pass on command, do my last few years bumping around working in jobs where I might be able to make a reasonable difference for a small number of Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen/Marines by attempting in some small way to reduce the stupidity of 'The Staff', and retire as a LTC/LtCol/LTCDR.

Lemme see... Not too difficult a choice here.


I've met some pretty good BN commanders. But any of them who thought their units were actually shit hot (vice being shit hot compared to the dregs in other units), were either delusional, or SF dudes. The best they can hope for is getting a unit that doesn't suck, and keeping it out of the suckage category until they're done with command. It is physically impossible to actually complete all the training requirements, which indicates that there are TOO MANY REQUIREMENTS. But commanders still have to 'sign on the dotted line' and assume responsibility for saying they've achieved the impossible. 24/7/365.
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Vonz90 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:14 pm

A commander should not be looking for opportunities to throw themselves on their swords, but they should at least be willing to risk their f-ing careers if they have to. I say this not as a theoretical construct, as an OIC I have had to go to my boss (an AF O-6 as it was a joint command) and say I cannot do this mission (this was in A-stan) with the people who have been assigned to me. He took my side and we ended up fixing the issue, but the entire situation was a ball of suck from start to finish.

Here is the thing, if you do not trust your guys to stand watch independently, then you f-ing sit there with them. Does it suck? Of course it sucks. But if really did not have the faith in his people that he says he did, then that is what he should have been doing: CO, XO, OPS-O on the bridge in 3 section until the OOD's and watch teams show they can do it along. It has been done; when I was on the South Carolina and we first went underway after 2 years in the yards that is what the CO did until he had enough experience with the watch team that he felt comfortable. The fact that the CO in this case was in his rack tells me defacto that he trusted his watch team, and ex post facto declarations to the contrary are BS.

Getting enough watch standing depth and experience is always a challenge in the Navy, it is however exactly what Surface Warfare Officers are paid to do. You train, and cross train, and train some more. Deployment work ups suck, deployments suck (mostly) it is what it is always.

Between this case and the patrol boats the Iranians took without a shot, and other issues, it tells me the big hunks of the navy need a house cleaning.

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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby g-man » Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:26 pm

Random additional thoughts:

Totally speculation, but if the commanders in question were incapable of properly standing watch themselves due to inadequate training, would it not stand to reason that they wouldn't be able to properly train their watch teams to do so? Would this be a valid defense?

I realize commanders shouldn't be looking to fall on their swords. But they should be attempting to get the mission done with only the absolutely necessary amount of bullshit falling on their subordinates. I equated it to being a funnel: Good commanders act like inverted funnels, where only the central core of the upstream bullshit hits their unit, while bad commanders act like upright funnels, collecting all the crap from above and concentrating it on their troops. No idea which type these guys were. But it appears the Navy is definitely targeting individuals as scapegoats, vice actually addressing the rampant lack of training problem in the fleet.

Can't agree more that housecleaning needs to occur, don't even want to get started on the "Punk'd: Persian Gulf Edition" events...
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Langenator » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:05 am

More deep thinking: https://www.hoover.org/research/stretch ... disconnect

Semi-connected musings: I wonder how much, if any of the issues with the quality of O-5s and up might have to do with too few officers being commissioned during the Clinton administration? I was commissioned in the Army in 1996, and I know we had issues with not having enough officers in the Army coming out of the commissioning classes in the latter half of the 1990s. As a consequence, promotion to CPT was almost automatic (absent a felony conviction or similar) and promotion to MAJ wasn't much more selective. The expansion to fight the GWOT exacerbated this further. I even knew a guy who made LTC on his fourth look by the promotion board. (To contrast, under normal circumstances, a second NoGo is usually the end of a career, and a first time NoGo usually guarantees the second.)

Not sure if the Navy had the same problem; I know that got drawn down just like the Army, but I don't think they had a big expansion for GWOT.
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Langenator » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:35 pm

So, a 3 and 4 star take early retirement, two 1-stars get relieved (and I assume forced into immediate retirement).

But only the two O-5s face criminal charges.

"Rowden and Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift announced their retirements in the immediate wake of the accidents. Both the commanding officers of Fitzgerald and McCain were relieved as well as senior leaders on the ships. Both the one-star Reagan strike group commander and the head of the Japan-based Destroyer Squadron 15 were relieved, as well as the three-star head of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan."

https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/ ... Bird+Brief
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby randy » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:38 pm

Langenator wrote:So, a 3 and 4 star take early retirement, two 1-stars get relieved (and I assume forced into immediate retirement).

But only the two O-5s face criminal charges.

"Rowden and Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift announced their retirements in the immediate wake of the accidents. Both the commanding officers of Fitzgerald and McCain were relieved as well as senior leaders on the ships. Both the one-star Reagan strike group commander and the head of the Japan-based Destroyer Squadron 15 were relieved, as well as the three-star head of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan."

https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/ ... Bird+Brief


Sounds like OPS NORMAL procedures to me.
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Re: Navy files negligent homicide charges against former Fitzgerald, McCain commanders

Postby Vonz90 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:08 am

Langenator wrote:So, a 3 and 4 star take early retirement, two 1-stars get relieved (and I assume forced into immediate retirement).

But only the two O-5s face criminal charges.

"Rowden and Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift announced their retirements in the immediate wake of the accidents. Both the commanding officers of Fitzgerald and McCain were relieved as well as senior leaders on the ships. Both the one-star Reagan strike group commander and the head of the Japan-based Destroyer Squadron 15 were relieved, as well as the three-star head of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan."

https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/ ... Bird+Brief


They may have done crappy jobs, but they also did not sign off as being responsible for the ship. The Captain has pretty much unlimited authority on the ship because he also has pretty much unlimited responsibility for it. That is the way it is and always has been. Or to put it another way, the safe navigation of the ship is the Captain's responsibility, he can delegate the authority that goes with that but he cannot delegate the responsibility that comes with it.


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