USS McCain collides with merchantman, 10 sailors missing


#81

We alluded to the training racket above, but I just got a funny mental picture of someone going into a meeting with Navy brass or Congress and saying they need more training dollars to… umm, ahem … learn how to not run into giant barges.

I would not want to be that guy.


#82

I wonder if electronic training is up to date yet the analogue training is lacking.


#83

I’m not sure using an Italian supercar when talking about reliability is the right angle. :)


#84

Well, it’s not exact, but the service part of it isn’t far off: frequent service, and expensive to maintain.

If any of you have boats, you’ll know there is always something broken. It’s never ending.
A large ship isn’t that much different. They are underway a lot, and frequently some items are beyond repair until port, sometimes even dry dock.


#85

The Navy does in peacetime pretty much what it does in wartime, minus the shooting, and really, the shooting part is far smaller a portion of their activity than daily sailing around stuff even then. Taking a hunk of metal crammed full of people and machines, some of which can blow up or are toxic (people and machines both!), putting it on the ocean where the environment does its best 24/7 to corrode, swamp, flood, or otherwise disrupt and destroy you, and moving around to meet a precise schedule regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you–all of this is amazingly difficult and dangerous. All of the services have pretty dangerous daily stuff they do on a regular basis, whether it’s flying, moving explosives, operating heavy machinery, or whatever. There’s a reason why in most conflicts non-combat injuries and deaths tend to be so high, often higher than combat injuries.


#86

You know, I sometimes think the modern Navy doesn’t remember that. Foot point, Wombat.


#87

CNN story notes the GAO reported that the McCain and the Fitzgerald had rather substantial training issues, in terms of certifications that were lapsed. Now, the Navy quite rightly points out that the certifications the GAO highlighted were generally high-level stuff like air defense or what not, not run of the mill seakeeping stuff, but it’s still pretty damning. It points to system issues across the board, considering the GAO report cited something like a five-fold increase in certification problems in the 7th Fleet. Even if there isn’t, at this point, specific evidence that shows these ships had training problems with watchkeeping or other ordinary seamanship stuff (and we don’t know because the Navy won’t release that info while an active investigation is going on), the fact that so many ships had so many training issues in general is pretty awful.

The CNO even apparently testified that he had made a mistake in assuming the ships in Japan were at a high level of readiness because they were deployed so often. It’s kind of scary that the CNO is making decisions based on assumptions, though in truth I’m not sure from the story what the context of that remark is.


#88

Well, it’s a sensible assumption… The 7th fleet are always doing stuff out there in the pacific. They’re doing their jobs constantly, so it’s kind of weird to think that they aren’t competent sailors, given they spend all their time sailing.


#89

This is INSANE. I cannot even fathom having that many areas with lapsed ratings. If I miss out on just one month, I have my ratings pulled and have to undergo special observations. That the problem was so systemic not just for areas of competency, but for great swatches of the fleet…I’m at a loss for words.

My unit gets hammered just for being behind on small segments of our MICTs.

Something is definitely stinking in the waters of the 7th Fleet.


#90

Yes and no. I agree, it seems logical, but on the other hand, historically units that have been deployed constantly or in the field a lot have also had a lot of wear and tear and fatigue. People who are constantly on call and on duty tend to wear out as well. So a ship or battalion or squadron that has been deployed and combat ready a lot in a given period of time is just as likely to be worn out as it is to be honed and ready.


#91

I am afraid it is not just one fleet. Across the entire Pentagon, there is a pernicious culture of lack of responsibility, shoddy work, cynical corporatism, and seemingly more of a focus on securing a lucrative post-service job than on actually, you know, serving. The whole “duty, honor, country” thing seems to have gone out the window. Sort of like the old joke perverting the Boy Scout oath" On my honor/I’ll do my best/to help myself/and cheat the rest."

And this starts at the top. Civilian and military leaders in the past decade or two have IMO shown a remarkable lack of integrity, honesty, and moral courage. This does a disservice to the men and women serving under them, and to the country as a whole. There are simply way too many accounts of things ranging from simple if egregious misbehavior to outright corruption, incompetence, and dereliction of duty to ignore.


#92

It’s kind of not surprising that the Culture of Me has also infiltrated our military. That sucks. :(


#93

The End of Empire, and in our lifetimes. The degeneracy of military and civil service is always notable.


#94

Rest easy. We made it through late 60s and early 70s, we will make it now. Leadership has to solve this issue though. (Statement was in reference to military readiness and workforce.)


#95

Most likely. I worry though that the sort of “Tom Clancy” vision of the military that emerged in the eighties–the idea that force solves everything, that technology equals victory, and that it’s usually simpler and better to just blow stuff up than to waste time with supposedly mealy-mouthed or wimpy diplomats–has eroded the general public’s understanding of the cost of military action, and hence, real respect (and not just the “thank you for your service” rote response stuff) for serious, professional military personnel and knowledge of the limits of power, At the same time, I fear that within the military a similar sort of mistaking the country’s ability to destroy stuff for the essence of what the country really is, along with a cynical sort of disbelief in any sort of higher principles (after all, if the political leadership exhibits little in the way of leading by example, why should the uniformed services?) has also taken place.

I hope I’m being overly pessimistic, but my observation of what’s been going on for a couple of decades doesn’t give me much reason to be optimistic.


#96

No, I think you summed it up well. There is certainly a disconnect between, the rah rah, “proud to be an american,” and, “thank you for your service,” crap and actual understanding of the loss of life, cost and ever expanding mission creep that forces face today.

But man, I miss late 80s and early 90s Clancy novels.


#97

An Atlantic article along these lines from a couple of years ago: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/01/the-tragedy-of-the-american-military/383516/

The difference between the earlier America that knew its military and the modern America that gazes admiringly at its heroes shows up sharply in changes in popular and media culture. While World War II was under way, its best-known chroniclers were the Scripps Howard reporter Ernie Pyle, who described the daily braveries and travails of the troops (until he was killed near the war’s end by Japanese machine-gun fire on the island of Iejima), and the Stars and Stripes cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who mocked the obtuseness of generals and their distance from the foxhole realities faced by his wisecracking GI characters, Willie and Joe.

If I were writing such a history now, I would call it Chickenhawk Nation, based on the derisive term for those eager to go to war, as long as someone else is going. It would be the story of a country willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously. As a result, what happens to all institutions that escape serious external scrutiny and engagement has happened to our military. Outsiders treat it both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.


#98

That Atlantic piece pretty much nails it. One thing that happened with the end of selective service (and yes, I understand that that pretty much had to end, all things considered, at least in the form it was limping along in) was the end of the military as a normal, sort of default item of conversation in daily lives. When most young men were subject to the draft, people thought about what they were being drafted into, and far more people had first-hand experience with some aspect of the services.

With the volunteer military, the problem isn’t with the idea but sort of with the contextualization. People not only wanted to ditch the draft, they wanted to ditch even thinking about the military and wars and stuff; it was all too depressing and complex. We went along with this desire to the extent that we repositioned the services more along the lines of job corps and career opportunities than, well, service, and at the same time removed most of the conceptual places where the military world intersected the civilian world here in the states. It became not something organic to the nation and its experience, but something external and peripheral.


#99

Starring Rush Limbaugh.


#100

The Navy plans to release on Wednesday its first official report on the specific causes of the two unrelated collisions this summer when both the destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain struck commercial vessels in crowded sea lanes in the Pacific.

The report reveals that both collisions came after critical failures of officers and sailors on the bridge and raises troubling questions about the basic proficiency of the Japan-based 7th Fleet and the surface Navy as a whole.
[…]
In the case of Fitzgerald, the officer of the deck failed to notify the ship’s captain that the destroyer was closing with the Crystal despite standing orders requiring it. On McCain, the captain was present on the bridge the whole time.

Both ships lost track of their situations completely, said Capt. Rick Hoffman, a retired cruiser captain who reviewed the documents for Defense News.

“The thing that stood out to me was in both situations they had minimal situational awareness,” said Hoffman. “In the case of Fitzgerald, nearly criminal negligence on the part of the bridge watch team. And in neither case did the ship sound five short blasts or raise the general alarm to let anyone know they were in danger.”