As a retired Navy Senior Quartermaster, I was fortunate to commission USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51). My assigned duties were as the QMC, underway OOD and LCPO of Nav/Admin dept. Our underway schedule was arduous with the first deployment in Mar 0f 93. as an OOD on three ships and thousands of miles mainly in the Atlantic, Med, Red Sea, Aribian Gulf, Eastern Pacific and as a boat captain on a 110' TWR in the Pearl hbr. want to share some insight and my personal thoughts on the Porter mishap in the AG, the Princeton grounding in Japan and then the Fitz/McCain collisions . Command climate. Training , Ships OPTEMPO, schedule, material condition of ships and support from ISIC, ( immediate superior in charge) for "downtime" to rest the crew especially in the Seventh Fleet. There is more but this enough.
Command Climate- it appears and I'm not surprised that both CO's on Fitz/McCain did not have favorable CC's. I was privy to an initial mishap investigation report, and that is where the navy investigation begins. Bad culture=unhappy crew and generally less trained, poorer material condition of readiness / with an intense underway schedule is fast approaching disaster. Both Ships .
Training- when the navy abandoned Refresher Training ( REFTRA) in GTMO and San Diego and adopted Integrated Self Training and self assessments , we in essence abandoned the true sense of training. We prepared for months, had the Navy's finest instructors/Inspectors in an environment far from home port and you either passed or failed. The training was 2-6 weeks depending on how the ships crew was performing and the overall material condition of the crew. IT worked but was EXPENSIVE. Navy abandoned Self assessment training is good if you have a good command climate and an experienced wardroom/ CPO mess. Elimination of the SWOS Training Pipeline for JOs in Newport placed greater need for experienced CO's XO's, department heads . Which leads me to this... with the innovation of technology and the greater need to attract more talent in the Surface Warfare Community, these basic standards were eliminated which has created a degradation in the pipeline. Here we are today...
Now, after reading the entire mishap reports we now know, there was a complete breakdown in the surface picture on both ships. Inadequate level of training and inexperienced OODs. The OOD on both ships failed to , maintain a proper lookout , DID not use the Combat Information Center Watch Officer, the surface detector tracker console operator on the bridge, NOT broadcasting AIS( ship was not in EMCON), was not communicating via VHF, and most glaringly DID NOT CONTACT the CO when CPA's deviated inside the CO's night orders and standing orders. Ineffective use of ARPA and not employing more watchstanders IAW the CO's Standing Orders, Colregs and OPNAVINST 3120.32D. Failures of nothing other than the CO's command climate. Sadly both CO's MUST be prosecuted for the loss of life. If the ship is not working and crew fatigue is that intense failure of the CO to notify his boss, DESRON Commodore , and i can tell you I had several CO's that would go to bat for the crew and get our scheduled adjusted for no other reason than in port repairs and crew rest without seriously jeopardizing their career path, 2 of those made Flag! Having command of a US navy warship is the ultimate accountability and responsibility for the crew and ship. Its their ship. the failure of judgement on both CO's are cause for their disciplinary proceedings and the navy will learn tragically as we did after the Kennedy/Belknap mishap.
My last ship was the USS Yorktown, we were the test platform for Integrated Bridge System(IBS) and Voyage Management system) VMS. The precursor to ECDIS . The navy was 20 years behind in integration of ECDIS with the emphasis placed more on development combat weapons systems, and engineering updates rather than ships control and navigation.
Today I am the lead instructor for Sea School Great Lakes and spend most of the calendar teaching unlicensed and licensed credentialed mariners and administer USCG exams. When not doing this I get to deliver boats , sail and power and put that great training you all afforded me to practical and safe use. Last week i taught the USCG 5 day radar unlimited radar cse and administered the exam to a class of seven who are assenting from AB to mates the entire course is maneuvering board and hand plotting CPAs , understanding the basic concept of relative motion. I certainly hope the navy adopts more of a merchant marine approach to training and watch keeping standards that are required of licensed deck officers, mates and masters .