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USS San Francisco Commander Guilty Of Hazarding Vessel
Navy/Defense/Electric Boat | 2/12/2005 | ROBERT A. HAMILTON

Posted on 02/13/2005 10:23:15 AM PST by NCSteve

The captain of a submarine that hit a seamount Jan. 8 in the western Pacific Ocean, killing one crewman and seriously injuring 23 others, has been found guilty of operating the submarine unsafely and has been issued a letter of reprimand, effectively ending his career.

Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, the captain of the USS San Francisco, was permanently relieved as skipper after an administrative proceeding known as an admiral's mast. The proceeding was convened by an order of the commander of the Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

Cmdr. Ike N. Skelton, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, said late Friday night that Greenert determined during the investigation that Mooney failed to follow “several critical navigational and voyage planning” standards.

“By not ensuring those standards were followed, Mooney hazarded the vessel,” Skelton said, reading from a statement issued by Greenert.

The mast concluded that Mooney's crew had access to charts that showed there might have been an underwater obstruction in the area, and that a sounding taken just minutes before the accident did not correlate with the charts that were in use at the time, which should have prompted him to be more cautious.

The news stunned several Navy sources who have been following the accident investigation, particularly because Mooney's actions after the accident were characterized as heroic by everyone familiar with the situation. Despite extensive damage to the ship, he and his crew got it to the surface and kept it floating long enough to limp back to its homeport of Apra Harbor, Guam.

The San Francisco was heading to Australia when it came to periscope depth a little more than 400 miles southwest of Guam to fix its position accurately. Minutes after diving, and while traveling at a high rate of speed, the submarine slammed into a seamount in an area where official Navy charts list 6,000 feet of water.

Other charts of the area, however, show muddy water in the area, which normally indicates shallowness, and other government agency charts show evidence of the seamount less than 150 feet below the surface. The grounding destroyed three of the four ballast tanks in the submarine's bow, shattered the sonar dome and smashed the sonar sphere. In addition, a bulkhead at the front end of the ship was buckled.

Machinist Mate 3rd Class Joseph Ashley was killed when he was thrown more than 20 feet and struck his head on a large pump. Almost two-dozen others were injured so badly they could not perform their duties, though they have all since been treated and released from the hospital in Guam. Seventy-five others received less severe injuries.

The crew saved the ship by constantly running a low pressure blower meant for only intermittent use to force water out of the badly damaged forward ballast tanks, as well as using exhaust from the ship's diesel motor to augment the blower.

Despite the force of the blow, the nuclear reactor and the ship's turbine generators continued to operate normally, and even sensitive electronic and navigation gear continued to function.

On Jan. 20, Mooney was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam, pending the results of an investigation to determine the cause of the sub's grounding. Cmdr. Andrew Hale, the squadron's deputy commander, assumed duties as captain of the San Francisco.

The mast means that Mooney will not face a more serious proceeding known as a court martial, but the letter of reprimand and the decision to relieve him of command “for cause” means that his promising career is over, the Navy sources said.

In a related development, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the Pacific submarine force commander, said late Friday night that assessment of the damage to the San Francisco is proceeding and that shipyard workers in Guam are planning to make temporary repairs to the bow of the ship so it can be moved under its own power to a shipyard where it can be repaired.

Although the location where it will be repaired has not been determined, Navy sources said it would likely be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or Bangor, Wash.

“These temporary repairs will be engineered to ensure a successful transit,” Davis said. “As part of having on-hand materials for potential use in these temporary repairs, a large steel dome about 20 feet high and 20 feet in diameter will be arriving at Guam in the next few days. As of now, no decisions have been made about when USS San Francisco will depart Guam, where it will go, or what her final disposition will be.”

Other Navy sources said that if the assessment determines it makes sense to repair rather than scrap the San Francisco, the Navy will likely use the entire bow section from the recently decommissioned USS Atlanta to replace the badly damaged bow of the San Francisco.


TOPICS: Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: submarines; usssanfrancisco
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This was e-mailed to me by a fellow ex-submariner.

You have to feel for everyone involved, but IMO the Navy has done the right thing.

1 posted on 02/13/2005 10:23:16 AM PST by NCSteve
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To: Doohickey

PING


2 posted on 02/13/2005 10:25:21 AM PST by Severa (I can't take this stress anymore...quick, get me a marker to sniff....)
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To: NCSteve

I was shocked to see the Navy did anything. Must have been too much to cover up in case anyone went poking around.


3 posted on 02/13/2005 10:26:59 AM PST by cynicom (<p)
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To: NCSteve

I think its pretty much a rule if you run aground the Capt.'s career is pretty much gone. Damned shame too because he had to be exceptional to be a Submarine Capt. and the US has a lot of money invested in him.


4 posted on 02/13/2005 10:28:30 AM PST by sgtbono2002
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To: NCSteve

He did a great job of saving the vessel, but that was after the mistakes were made.


5 posted on 02/13/2005 10:30:48 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: NCSteve
The mast concluded that Mooney's crew had access to charts that showed there might have been an underwater obstruction in the area, and that a sounding taken just minutes before the accident did not correlate with the charts that were in use at the time, which should have prompted him to be more cautious

First there was a mountain. Then there was no mountain. Then there was.

6 posted on 02/13/2005 10:32:27 AM PST by PUGACHEV
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To: NCSteve
I wonder if as severe an action as torpedoing a career will occur to the people responsible for maintaining the charts??

He is responsible if other charts showed it and they were truly in his control. However the cartographer and his commanders need to be held responsible too.

7 posted on 02/13/2005 10:34:48 AM PST by Nov3 ("This is the best election night in history." --DNC chair Terry McAuliffe Nov. 2,2004 8p.m.)
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.


8 posted on 02/13/2005 10:35:23 AM PST by Mo1 (Question to Liberals .. When did supporting and defending Freedom become a bad thing??)
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To: Nov3

Well its CLEAR that Lord Nelson had a chart that showed this mountain.... bzzzzzzzzzzzt!

No, this does not pass the smell test does it? Seems to me you get one set of maps and those would be the official ones. How many people drive with two or three maps? I dont see how the navy can expect captains to do cartography and drive at the same time.

I also thought that they were running silent. So was there a sounding really or no? If so, did the sounding really show anything?

I have not made my mind up about this, but it does not seem like it should end this guys career.

The unstated risk is that we create a bunch of risk averse general mcclellands when a war breaks out.


9 posted on 02/13/2005 10:46:15 AM PST by fooman (Get real with Kim Jung Mentally Ill about proliferation)
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To: NCSteve

The problem here, just like so many other issues, is that the MSM ran with the story before the Navy had finished the investigation. I don't recall that there was ever an official statement from the Navy saying that the sea mount was uncharted. But every time we read articles about it, "Navy sources" were cited saying that it wasn't charted. The MSM wanted it to be uncharted so that they could blame the Navy and ultimately, the Defense Dep't, for this tragic event.


10 posted on 02/13/2005 10:47:28 AM PST by SilentServiceCPOWife (Romeo&Juliet, Troilus&Crisedye, Bogey&Bacall, Gable&Lombard, Brigitte&Flav)
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To: NCSteve
Although the location where it will be repaired has not been determined, Navy sources said it would likely be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or Bangor, Wash.

Not sure if I'd trust No Ka Oi with a job like this.

11 posted on 02/13/2005 10:48:42 AM PST by atomic_dog
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To: NCSteve
a sounding taken just minutes before the accident did not correlate with the charts that were in use at the time ...

Sorry Commander, but you F/Ued right there.

12 posted on 02/13/2005 10:50:54 AM PST by dread78645 (Sarcasm tags are for wusses.)
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To: NCSteve

So much for learning from one's own mistakes.


13 posted on 02/13/2005 10:52:56 AM PST by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth...)
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To: NCSteve
"The crew saved the ship by constantly running a low pressure blower meant for only intermittent use to force water out of the badly damaged forward ballast tanks, as well as using exhaust from the ship's diesel motor to augment the blower."

I would be interesting to see the damage to the boat. Obviously, the forward MBT's must have been severely damaged and couldn't hold the air from the LP Blower. Venting the diesel exhaust into the MBT is something that is not done on a regular basis. Certain safety interlocks have to be overridden have to be done to do so. Must have been very tense while trying to figure that out.

14 posted on 02/13/2005 10:57:29 AM PST by SolitaryMan
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub

YFI


15 posted on 02/13/2005 10:57:29 AM PST by blackie (Be Well~Be Armed~Be Safe~Molon Labe!)
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To: fooman

"I also thought that they were running silent. So was there a sounding really or no? If so, did the sounding really show anything?"

The boat was reported doing 30 knots...at that speed you will be heard in Moscow; It's called cavitation.. you are not running silent...silent is slow - 8 knots or less...If he was running at speed, I don't think he would have heard the echo of his own sonar....he truely was flying blind and
totally relying on the charts....Two mistakes: relied on the charts (hard not to) and keeping the old ones to be found later........


16 posted on 02/13/2005 11:02:38 AM PST by OregonRancher (illigitimus non carborundum)
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To: SolitaryMan

Photo

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1330335/posts


17 posted on 02/13/2005 11:05:02 AM PST by spycatcher
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To: SolitaryMan
Hi-res pics here

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1330034/post

18 posted on 02/13/2005 11:11:43 AM PST by Robe (Rome did not create a great empire by talking, they did it by killing all those who opposed them)
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To: NCSteve

Saw it somewhere yesterday. Also mentioned that he may well be charged in the one death.


19 posted on 02/13/2005 11:16:01 AM PST by OldFriend (America's glory is not dominion, but liberty.)
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To: WildTurkey; Poohbah
Ping (one ping only, please, Vasiliy, one ping...)

I figured this was coming.

20 posted on 02/13/2005 11:17:05 AM PST by Long Cut (The Constitution...the NATOPS of America!)
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To: fooman
I have not made my mind up about this, but it does not seem like it should end this guys career.

It is unfortunate, but absolute trust in the captain is critical to Navy ships and their crews. When the soundings didn't agree with the charts, it was time for extra effort and caution. Failing to do this, he let down his crew and cost one man his life. Even if the Admiral's mast had not come to this conclusion, it is doubtful he could have effectively functioned in a command position in the future.

This should not take away from his actions after the fact. He behaved in the finest traditions of the US Navy and is, no doubt, a brave man. However, he knew going in that the job does not, and cannot, suffer mistakes.

21 posted on 02/13/2005 11:23:35 AM PST by NCSteve
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To: PUGACHEV
First there was a mountain. Then there was no mountain. Then there was.

When in doubt, don't go there at 30 knots.

22 posted on 02/13/2005 11:25:58 AM PST by Polybius
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To: cynicom

"I was shocked to see the Navy did anything. Must have been too much to cover up in case anyone went poking around."

The Navy always "does something" when a vessel is damaged.


23 posted on 02/13/2005 11:27:10 AM PST by mcgiver38
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To: fooman
No, this does not pass the smell test does it? Seems to me you get one set of maps and those would be the official ones. How many people drive with two or three maps? I dont see how the navy can expect captains to do cartography and drive at the same time.

I also thought that they were running silent. So was there a sounding really or no? If so, did the sounding really show anything?

I have not made my mind up about this, but it does not seem like it should end this guys career.

The unstated risk is that we create a bunch of risk averse general mcclellands when a war breaks out.

You said everything I was going to - To effectively end this guys career over this is simply wrong (and it encompasses a wrongheaded type philosophy).

24 posted on 02/13/2005 11:34:09 AM PST by SevenMinusOne
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To: NCSteve

Truly regrettable for the sailors loss of life, but:

The navy should be grateful it got all the technical information as to the real life viability of the severely damaged vessel and after action procedures taken for same.


25 posted on 02/13/2005 11:34:39 AM PST by Ursus arctos horribilis ("It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!" Emiliano Zapata 1879-1919)
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To: NCSteve
Conspicuously absent from even this latest report is the answer to the obvious question: ignoring all the charts in the universe, accurate or not, prior to being damaged why wasn't the sonar and all the other gee-whiz gadgetry not in use simply to identify any unexpected mountains in the path of high speed travel?

That's not a "rocket science" question.

26 posted on 02/13/2005 11:38:17 AM PST by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen, ignorance and stupidity.)
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To: NCSteve
You have to feel for everyone involved, but IMO the Navy has done the right thing.

I understood that his career was over the minute I heard of this accident. There are no accidents in the Nuclear Navy. Someone has to pay.

The fact that he was going as fast as he was in an area without 100% accurate charts shows that he wasn't acting with proper caution.

However, the BS rationale provided by this verdict that, even though the Navy's official charts showed a 6,000 foot depth he should have ignored those and relied on other sources than official Navy charts is offensive.

I think the Navy senior command of the last 15 years (mostly Clintonoids view of "good" military commanders) has clear liability in this incident. This verdict is designed to put all of the blame on the skipper and not on their complete failure to organize systematic review of all of the Navy's survey data as each new bit of data is uncovered. We have the tools, they just don't think that they're sexy or grab enough PC accolades. They'd rather concentrate on deploying Global Warming sensor arrays or protecting cetaceans from sonar (that's a ridiculous exaggeration, but you should understand the sentiment if you know the community).

Based on his actions and the actions of his crew following the collision he obviously knows how to train a crew and maintain discipline. This man should be teaching at the 'trade school.' This verdict means that will never happen. I think that's a mistake.

27 posted on 02/13/2005 11:42:41 AM PST by Phsstpok ("When you don't know where you are, but you don't care, you're not lost, you're exploring.")
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To: NCSteve
the Navy will likely use the entire bow section from the recently decommissioned USS Atlanta to replace the badly damaged bow of the San Francisco

Wow... A bow transplant... That's not the sorta thing that you see every day, is it (of course, neither is an out-of-position seamount)...

28 posted on 02/13/2005 11:45:05 AM PST by The Electrician
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To: OregonRancher

clarification. I had read that there to be no active sonar so as to avoid detection.

But then why would he be under these rules, if he were running above 8 knts?


29 posted on 02/13/2005 11:50:25 AM PST by fooman (Get real with Kim Jung Mentally Ill about proliferation)
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To: Publius6961

I've been wondering myself why they were not using active sonar.
Is that common practice during peacetime? If so, why? Who are we hiding from?

/stupid questions


30 posted on 02/13/2005 11:57:29 AM PST by Nita Nupress
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To: NCSteve

You could probably answer my question in 30.
Without getting nasty because you think I'm attacking the military.
Please. :-)


31 posted on 02/13/2005 12:00:34 PM PST by Nita Nupress
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To: Publius6961

I had read that he was ordered not use sonar.
(active)


32 posted on 02/13/2005 12:07:45 PM PST by fooman (Get real with Kim Jung Mentally Ill about proliferation)
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To: Phsstpok
This verdict is designed to put all of the blame on the skipper

When one is the skipper, ultimate responsibility is automatically assumed. The verdict didn't put the blame on him - by virtue of being the captain/commander of a vessel, that is where the blame always lies.

33 posted on 02/13/2005 12:12:59 PM PST by Chad Fairbanks (Celibacy is a hands-on job.)
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To: Nita Nupress

The strategic strength of the submarine fleet depends on its ability to move around the globe undetected. Even in peacetime, submarines represent the front line of deterrence. It is the fact that submarines can be just about anywhere, anytime that keeps those who would wish us harm from attempting anything stupid.

An active sonar ping can be heard sometimes for hundreds of miles under water, depending on conditions. Even a single ping is like throwing up a beacon that says, "Here I am!"

Hope that explanation helps.


34 posted on 02/13/2005 12:16:34 PM PST by NCSteve
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To: Publius6961

This boat was doing about 35 mph when it hit the mountain. At speeds like that you are deaf. You couldn't hear your own sonar.
There were several very good threads on this accident recently, and there were some respondents that actually have served on subs commenting on this very same issue.


35 posted on 02/13/2005 12:21:40 PM PST by brooklin (What was that?)
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To: Phsstpok

Yep. Part of my point. The map is the map. Why was he told not to use sonar? How can the maps be wrong after 50 years of navigation, inlcuding running UNDER the north pole.

I am not neccesarily saying the captain is blame free, but a number of elements are not being examined-including subs running around under water - with some uncontrollable elements.


36 posted on 02/13/2005 12:21:43 PM PST by fooman (Get real with Kim Jung Mentally Ill about proliferation)
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To: SolitaryMan
"I would be interesting to see the damage to the boat. Obviously, the forward MBT's must have been severely damaged and couldn't hold the air from the LP Blower. Venting the diesel exhaust into the MBT is something that is not done on a regular basis. Certain safety interlocks have to be overridden have to be done to do so. Must have been very tense while trying to figure that out.

That why it take so long to get qualified for your dolphins. Sometimes you really have to know and more importantly understand what your boat is about.
37 posted on 02/13/2005 12:22:58 PM PST by WHBates
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To: atomic_dog

Yer right, send it back to Groton EB, we need the work here in Ct.


38 posted on 02/13/2005 12:26:18 PM PST by RaceBannon ((Prov 28:1 KJV) The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.)
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To: Publius6961

You cant ping active sonar all the time, the idea is to travel undetected.


39 posted on 02/13/2005 12:27:16 PM PST by RaceBannon ((Prov 28:1 KJV) The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.)
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To: Chad Fairbanks
Chad Fairbanks wrote:

When one is the skipper, ultimate responsibility is automatically assumed. The verdict didn't put the blame on him - by virtue of being the captain/commander of a vessel, that is where the blame always lies.

Understood, which is why my first paragraphs was:

I understood that his career was over the minute I heard of this accident. There are no accidents in the Nuclear Navy. Someone has to pay.

 The point I was making was that the form of the verdict was structure to improperly absolve the rest of the Navy REMFs for having failed to provide the guys at the sharp end with accurate survey maps.

The Captain screwed up.  He screwed up because he trusted the Navy to provide him with accurate charts.  He should have been using NOAA surveys and ignoring what the Navy provided him as official documents.  Of course that makes sense.

Not!

40 posted on 02/13/2005 12:27:19 PM PST by Phsstpok ("When you don't know where you are, but you don't care, you're not lost, you're exploring.")
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To: Publius6961

Please pardon my rant, I've just seen this same question asked so many times.


41 posted on 02/13/2005 12:28:03 PM PST by brooklin (What was that?)
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To: Robe

Holy Cow! I missed the previous post on this. That is some damage. Extends all the way back to the Torpedo Tube shutter doors. No wonder they had to run the diesel to keep the ship afloat. I appears that they maybe had only one (maybe 2) the forward MBT's intact.


42 posted on 02/13/2005 12:36:55 PM PST by SolitaryMan
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To: Publius6961
"The mast concluded that Mooney's crew had access to charts that showed there might have been an underwater obstruction in the area, and that a sounding taken just minutes before the accident did not correlate with the charts that were in use at the time, which should have prompted him to be more cautious"

They didn't need any gee-whiz gadgetry. From the sounds of it they must have stopped or slowed (probably to get radio traffic) and took a sounding (not hi-tech stuff) and the sounding didn't agree with the charts they were using. This should have made them question the charts and take precautionary steps in moving forward.
43 posted on 02/13/2005 12:40:33 PM PST by WHBates
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To: WHBates
During submarine qualifications, you have to understand the systems, not necessarily operate each and everyone of them. In fact, I have never heard for a submarine venting the hot diesel exhaust to the MBT's as a drill or pracfac. The only reason for the procedure is to evacuate the ER is certain emergencies.
44 posted on 02/13/2005 12:42:52 PM PST by SolitaryMan
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To: fooman
Why was he told not to use sonar?

Attack subs never run on active in the open ocean (nor do boomers). The USS San Francisco was using sonar, but as per SOP he was using only passive. Undersea mountains do not make much noise just sitting there. That isn't the problem.

How can the maps be wrong after 50 years of navigation

The captains legitimate error was to rely on Navy charts that were not proven to be accurate. The Navy's error was to provide him with charts and insist that they were "official" and to be relied upon.

The error of the verdict is to imply that placing blame on the captain finishes the matter there and to be structured in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of employing an obviously good commander in training others.

45 posted on 02/13/2005 12:44:55 PM PST by Phsstpok ("When you don't know where you are, but you don't care, you're not lost, you're exploring.")
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To: fooman
No, this does not pass the smell test does it? Seems to me you get one set of maps and those would be the official ones. How many people drive with two or three maps?

He's screwed. The captain always takes the blame right or wrong. The cartographers are truly to blame here (except for the possible sounding which I hadn't heard of till now).

I drive with fifteen maps just in case< /sarcasm>

46 posted on 02/13/2005 12:54:58 PM PST by Nov3 ("This is the best election night in history." --DNC chair Terry McAuliffe Nov. 2,2004 8p.m.)
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To: NCSteve

Does anyone feel that the nat'l exposure this incident received influenced the severity of the decision?


47 posted on 02/13/2005 12:57:49 PM PST by thombo
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To: fooman
I am not neccesarily saying the captain is blame free, but a number of elements are not being examined-including subs running around under water - with some uncontrollable elements.

The universe is not entirely controllable. On one occasion, my husband's boat hit an uncharted, undersea mountain. There was a small (relatively) amount of damage, no one was injured, and presumably, there was no fault found with the Captain. He retained his Command.

Apparently, they did find issues which they felt the Captain was responsible for. Perhaps, people more familiar with subs might find these issues to be minor. But, when that much damage occurs, and someone dies, ANY mistake found is going to be punished.

48 posted on 02/13/2005 12:59:39 PM PST by Dianna
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To: thombo
Does anyone feel that the nat'l exposure this incident received influenced the severity of the decision?

Go and look at how many Captains retain control of their Command after an accident. It happens, but seems to be rare. I'd be more willing to believe that the extensive damage and the fact that someone died was the deciding factor over media exposure.

49 posted on 02/13/2005 1:03:24 PM PST by Dianna
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To: SolitaryMan
"During submarine qualifications, you have to understand the systems, not necessarily operate each and everyone of them. In fact, I have never heard for a submarine venting the hot diesel exhaust to the MBT's as a drill or pracfac. The only reason for the procedure is to evacuate the ER is certain emergencies.

LOL, your response surprises me. What you say is certainly true but being an MM doesn't make you an effective auxiliary man on board the boat but qualifications does. Knowing you boat and its class is important. During qualifications I was expected to understand all the systems on board. However, I was required to absolutely understand and operate the systems I stood watch on and was responsible for maintaining. I don't know how many patrols you were on but on every one I was on (only 5 years worth) we had to improvise in some way or another
50 posted on 02/13/2005 1:06:41 PM PST by WHBates
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