Man, must've been a slow news day at the Sun. Or maybe they're just having an anniversary party.
Nah, I'm a dinosaur now. Don't know any of them, and what follows is my biased opinion based on personal experience and on running a lot of training at two different training commands. My Pearl Harbor training command did a lot of the court of inquiry work concerning the GREENEVILLE's collision with the EHIME MARU, and I saw a lot of that raw data as well as what it did to some of my shipmates.
The guys in command (or in PCO school) of the U.S. Navy's submarines right now are mostly from year groups '91-'96, which was hit hard by the post-DESERT STORM drawdown and a lack of retention incentives during a red-hot Web economy. This is a very small and perhaps shallow pool of talent, which was widely known around BUPERS in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Here are some less dramatic links:
Admiral: Complacency caused sub collision - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times
Naval Leadership: Report: Lax leadership led to Hormuz collision
Hartford repair bill reaches $102.6 million - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times
It's possible that a bootleg PDF of the investigation has found its way on to the Internet. A check of my favorite Navy scuttlebutt boards, SailorBob.com and RiggedForDive.com, didn't find anything. But if any of you come across it I'd love to read it.
I'd like to give the HARTFORD guys a pass, I really would. I'd like to say that they were exhausted from all the intel & SPECOPs work they performed, or swaggering home under the awesome burden of all their accomplishments. It's quite possible to spend 30-60 days on station doing all the stuff that the rest of us have to read about in Blind Man's Bluff. I've operated in similar shallow-water heavy-contact situations in the Philippines-- way way waaaaaay in the Philippines-- and it's easy to get punch-drunk and slap-happy about coming to PD amid a fleet of contacts. So you beat yourself up not to fall into those bad habits, but fatigue can make you sloppy.
However staying submerged in the Persian Gulf is not considered very remarkable these days, and I don't think they were anywhere near as good as they thought they were. There's nothing more dangerous and humiliating than an incident like this where the investigators conclude "no new lessons learned". It's usually a case of "CO didn't train the wardroom good enough" or "CO thought he trained them and then didn't keep an eye on things".
Blame is on Brookhart for failing to plan the “strait transit and crossing evolution,” for failing to communicate the plan, and leaving watchstanders without “the heightened risk that should have been foremost on everyone’s mind.”
At the time of the collision, the sub was southbound at periscope depth, periodically raising and lowering its periscope.
An officer of the deck did not look through the periscope prior to the collision after taking over contact management duties.
The CO has to be looking a step or two ahead of the guys who are working on the current problems. That's why he gets the extra $125 command pay every month, whether he earns it or not. It wouldn't hurt to have a little help from the XO & Nav, too, which is the real reason they also went to admiral's mast.
As for the periscope technique-- absolutely no excuse for this. None. Zilch. The scope should've been up the entire time with an eyeball glued to it. Even if the Iranians were running interference, there's no credible risk of detection and no reason to fear detection if it happens. The #2 scope has a number of early-warning receivers and other electronic conveniences on top, including a night-vision low-light amplifier, and there are at least two watchstanders available at all times to give an OOD a break. The CO didn't make this safety practice an issue with the OODs and the CO deserves everything he got. He's lucky he doesn't have a bunch of deaths on his conscience.
Two of the GREENEVILLE junior officers will never forgive themselves for what they could have avoided, and HARTFORD was lucky none of their shipmates were killed. I heard that the boat rolled nearly 90 degrees before it righted itself.
Control room understanding of contact management was found to be poor enough that crewmembers “routinely failed to critically evaluate the validity” of computer-generated contact information with “raw sensor data.”
“Over several months” prior to the incident, hundreds of watchstanders were tested in their ability to understand how to analyze the movement of surface contacts. The exams yielded results of 10 percent to 15 percent passing grades among enlisted watchstanders and 60 percent of officers.
“Given the attention I have personally placed on submerged contact management in briefing the waterfronts, this is unacceptable,” McAneny wrote in the message obtained by Navy Times.
Not only unacceptable but darn near incomprehensible. These guys presumably endured hours of pre-deployment training on the subject and had to take many exams. How did they lose their skills? Did they have them in the first place?
The LANT submarine training command probably got a good hard look at their HARTFORD records to make sure that this training was actually properly executed. Heaven help the training staff guys who didn't make it happen.
Brookhart was never in the control room during any time crossing the strait, the investigators found.
The XO was probably in the control room, perhaps as CDO, while the CO got caught up on his
paperwork. But since the XO also went to mast, it sounds like he wasn't effective. CO's fault again.
Sailors also reported a lax attitude in the sonar division about taking breaks.
On the night of the crash, sonar operators chatted “for the majority of the time [in the hour before] the collision.”
This is typical of sonar watchstanders while at periscope depth in turbulent seas, but in this situation it's a symptom of lax training. They could've heard quite a few hints from the contacts through their hull sensors if they'd taken the opportunity to work on it. It probably never occurred to them that they could contribute to the contact-management picture. It certainly never occurred to the OOD or the chain of command.
The slouching shoeless helmsman is a slippery slope that no self-respecting Chief Petty Officer or OOD should allow to happen on his watch. Leadership 101. No need to be a fire-breathing CAPT Queeg about it, just to point out that those shoes and that seatbelt need to be in place in case the sub runs into something like SAN FRANCISCO did a few years ago.
The chronic "sleepers" are either an indication that the crew was being worked too hard or that those individuals were not working efficiently and taking care of themselves. We had a couple of those on one of my subs and they definitely adversely affected crew morale-- especially when they were senior sleepers. Our Chief's Quarters nearly had a screaming match with our CO over one of his officers, and that potential mutiny cleared the problem up in a hurry. A screening by the corpsman and a little discussion with a department head or the XO is usually sufficient to ensure wakefulness from then on.
A couple of minor annoyances were thrown in to make the crew look as bad as possible:
Also, administrative action was taken against three direct support element members assigned to Naval Information Operations Command in Georgia as well as a fleet intelligence specialist based near Washington, D.C. The report did not explain what role they played.
These guys were probably standing watch in the radio/ESM room for the previous 63 days, but had no assigned duties that night. I suspect they also showed the HARTFORD's radiomen how to connect the iPod to the space's speakers. No one was "hiding" anything from the chain of command, and submerged or inport (tied to the pier) an iPod is a perfectly understandable way to run radio room rock&roll for cleaning or routine tasks. No big deal.
But they should've been guarding radio circuits at PD (in addition to the handset on the conn with the OOD) and it's possible that the DSE guys were in there telling sea stories about the wonders of Jebel Ali. The HARTFORD crew could've been backing up the OOD by keeping an eye on the radio traffic, and they're probably right next to the ESM watchstander-- who could've wondered why that amphib's radar seemed to be getting closer without changing its bearing. But the ESM early-warning receiver is on top of #2 scope, and if the scope's not out of the water then the ESM watchstander can't be any help.
The navigator, off-watch, was found to have been taking an engineering exam in the wardroom “while listening to his iPod,” despite the hazardous evolution underway.
This is ignorant or unforgivingly sensationalistic journalism. Probably both.
A submarine navigator runs a division of quartermasters. The head quartermaster is a chief petty officer (sometimes an E-8) who is trained & qualified (and paid extra) to be the Assistant Navigator. During transit situations like this, the Nav and the A-Nav stand port&stbd supervisory watches on the plot. The idea is to keep the OOD from running aground while he's dodging contacts.
The Nav had probably just finished his supervisory nav watch, turned it over to his A-Nav, and was planning on getting some sleep-- when the Engineer started haranguing him about getting caught up on his engineering training. So the Nav probably grumped into the wardroom, plugged his iPod in so that he wouldn't be disturbed by whatever else was going on in there, and started scribbling. I don't want to get into how I visualized that scenario.
The Nav's iPod had nothing to do with the collision and was not improper. But the lack of planning for the transit, not backing up the CO, having watchstanders holding a ruckus in Radio/ESM during the transit... there were probably enough other symptoms for the investigators to decide to make him look as bad as possible. And he's accountable for the training & supervision of his people.
That sub is damaged goods (and a doomed reputation) for the rest of its (possibly shortened) life. I don't know if the area around the sail can be made to work properly again. If this had been a car accident the insurance company would've paid off the cash value and towed it to a junkyard.
But the rest of the sub is worth millions so they'll probably try to find a way to tear off the whole sail and replace it at the next refueling overhaul.