Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More on Awards Ceremony

Day Staff Writer, Navy/Defense/Electric Boat
Published on 3/29/2005

The Navy has presented medals or letters of commendations to 20 crewmen whose actions helped the USS San Francisco make it home after the submarine hit a seamount Jan. 8.

The highest awards, the Navy's Meritorious Service Medal, went to Hospitalman 1st Class James H. Akin, the ship's “doc,” and Lt. j.g. Craig E. Litty for organizing the crew's mess into an emergency trauma center and providing triage to more than 70 injured sailors over two days.

“When initial medical supplies were expended, (they) devised innovative methods to provide continued oxygen and other first aid treatment,” the citation reads. The citation also credited their “accurate diagnoses of injuries and exacting recommendations” for treatment.

Meanwhile, the captain of a submarine being decommissioned at Norfolk (Va.) Naval Shipyard will be transferred to Guam to take command of the San Francisco, Navy sources said.

Cmdr. Kevin Brenton, skipper of the USS Portsmouth during its final Western Pacific deployment in 2003 and 2004 and during its participation in Exercise Northern Edge in the Gulf of Alaska last year, will become the new captain of the San Francisco. He will replace interim commanding officer Cmdr. Andrew Hale, who was deputy commander of Submarine Squadron 15 before he assumed duties as San Francisco's commanding officer after the accident.
The San Francisco was making a trip to Australia when it slammed into a seamount in an area where official Navy charts list 6,000 feet of water. Despite extensive damage to the ship, the crew got it to the surface and kept it floating long enough to limp back to its homeport of Apra Harbor, Guam.

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 within days most were treated and released from the hospital in Guam. Most of the crew were treated for some injury.

The captain was found guilty of putting the ship in danger at an admiral's mast last month, and relieved of command. Last week, six more crewmen were cited for putting the ship into danger or dereliction of duty, and received punishments that included demotions and letters of reprimand.

The awards ceremony Friday recognized the actions of the crewmen who saved the ship after the accident, including nine men who received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. They were:

• Lt. Jeff M. McDonald, cited for a “flawless weapons off-load” in the wake of the accident, including removing two torpedoes that were in the bow tubes and had to be taken out with emergency handling procedures, and later handling the first submarine drydocking in Guam in more than 15 years.

• Senior Chief Machinist's Mate Danny R. Hager, who directed the stabilization of the ship on the surface and, though injured himself, designed a temporary oxygen system from the ship's oxygen banks to provide oxygen to more seriously wounded crewmen. He also was credited with advising the captain on how to operate some of the damaged systems to get the ship back to Guam.

• Sonar Technician 1st Class Christopher L. Baumhoff, cited for recognizing that Ashley's best hope lay in outside medical care, at which point he and Machinist Mate 2nd Class Gilbert L. Daigle, who also was presented with the medal, planned and set up the equipment for a hazardous open ocean personnel transfer.

• Culinary Specialists 2nd Class Jeremy Y. Key and David J. Miller, and Electronics Technicians 2nd Class Scott M. Pierce and 1st Class Bryan C. Powell, and Yeoman 2nd Class Carnell L. Smoot, cited for their work to convert the crew's mess into a trauma center, helping with first aid, and volunteering to assist in getting Ashley off the ship for medical attention.

Four other crewmen were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for their actions after the accident: Chief Electronics Technician Maximum L. Chia; Chief Machinist's Jacob M. Elder; and Machinist's Mates 2nd Class Ian P. Cross and Matthew R. Thurman.

A letter of commendation from Rear Adm. David Gove, commander of Submarine Group Seven, went to Electrician's Mate 1st Class Joshua D. Barrow; Machinist's Mate 1st Class Richard T. Bolton; Fire Control Technician 1st Class Scott C. Deranleau; Machinists Mate 1st Class Benjamin J. Sidwell; and Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Joseph D. Anderson.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sailors Awarded

Sailors aboard USS San Francisco awarded for bringing damaged ship into port
by Ken Wetmore,
Friday, March 25, 2005

A special ceremony was held earlier today for several sailors of the USS San Francisco. Navy spokesperson Lieutenant Arwen Consaul says 65 sailors received awards for their part in ensuring the fast-attack submarine returned safely to port. Among the awardees, 20 received special recognition awards for actions above and beyond the call of duty.

In addition, a Meritorious Service Medal was awarded to Petty Officer 1st Class James H. Akin. Lt. Consaul says the recognition "is pretty much unheard of for an enlisted sailor to win the medal," noting that it must be signed off on by the President of the United States.

The 20 awardees were as follows. The term (SS) denotes those enlisted personnel who are “submarine warfare qualified” and wear the coveted dolphin designator:

Meritorious Service Medal (citations enclosed)
Lt. j.g. Craig E. Litty
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) James H. Akin

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Lt. Jeff M. McDonald
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SS) Danny R. Hager
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) Christopher L. Baumhoff
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) Bryan C. Powell
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Gilbert L. Daigle
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Jeremy Y. Key
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) David J. Miller
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Scott M. Pierce
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Carnell L. Smoot

Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Chief Petty Officer (SS) Maximum L. Chia
Chief Petty Officer (SS) Jacob M. Elder
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Ian P. Cross
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Matthew R. Thurman

Letter of Commendation
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) Joshua D. Barrow
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) Richard T. Bolton
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) Scott C. Deranleau
Petty Officer 1st Class (SS) Benjamin J. Sidwell
Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Joseph D. Anderson

"Vigilance ... Saves Us From Putting Thresher and Scorpion 3 Section"

Posted by Hagar, MMCS(SS) on Fri - Mar 25 - 3:33am, on Rontini:

I am one of the few Senior vocal members online since the mighty San Fran became a rock dart in January. Remember the old addage about mud darts? Rock darts don't work too well....

I can only say that because the healing process works with time, and I must have humor in my life as any self respecting submariner must have. I've been closely watching every discussion that is searchable online and I've been seeing some shifts around that I think are not needed. So, I will say a few general things about the thoughts of the senior leadership of the boat and what in general is happening.

Nothing for the boat has been determined yet, it is still open season for the hardworking crew and they await their new homeport, and shipmates to arrive to help relieve them on their watchbill problem.

The crew has lost alot of men from medical, discipline issues, attrition, and other things, but they are doing a good job at sucking up and saying they love submarining, I'm proud of damn near every man on that boat. She has a good crew.

You must understand, that when a boat has an incident like we had, there are many feelings and many arguments that are tossed around. But at the leadership level of a submarine, we, WE, at that level understand what our responsibilities are, and what we accepted when we took that billet. WE understand what can happen when we loose one of our sailors (god help us if it happens), or injure a sailor, or damage equipment under our orders or instructions. It is OUR responsibility to ensure that it does not happen on our watch. It is our responsibility to provide to the command the watch team backup necessary to ensure that each and every submarine is safe for our junior men. We accept that when we take the watch. People who do not accept that responsibility are the ones you see on a cable news show blaming somebody else.

The Officers and Chiefs gave the Mooney's a goodbye get together last night. It was as outstanding and tightnit as the crew of the boat is. At times it was tear jerking, hugging, and at other times it was laughing and joking about past exploits and ribbing. We are a true submarine family, and that's why we punch holes as a career. Yes, a career, a life. Submarines, GET SOME.

My thoughts on all the messages here are mixed, but I will tell you one thing. Amongst the Seniors on the command, there is no angst, no bitterness, and no looking back. Understand? We had the watch, we accepted what happened, and we will move on with our lives. Nobody wants to lose a sailor, and that saddens our hearts, but we cannot stop the life of a submarine because of that. Ash is getting a memorial on the boat, and at Squadron 15, that will last far longer than anything we can do for his family or the crew. We rejoice that we did not lose more sailors, or the boat, it could have been so much more terrible.

Out of this incident, many things have changed, and will be changed in the future. There is no single point culpable failure here, and it is something that rarely happens. But, as in space, submerged operations remain a dangerous life, we live with a hard woman in the ocean, and she likes to take sailors.

Vigilance is the only thing that saves us from putting the Thresher and Scorpion 3 section. I refuse to die in an accident.

What I ask, is to be wary of disgruntled sailors, we have a few that "gave that sh@t" up, and are on hold, and I don't expect many nice things publicly out of them. They are the few, they are not the norm, and there always are a few, and most of them had issues before this incident.

711 Tuf

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Punishment Meted Out

March 22, 2005
Punishment meted out to six in grounding of submarine
By William H. McMichael
Navy Times staff writer

At least six crew members of the submarine San Francisco, apparently including three senior leaders, have been punished at a nonjudicial hearing in Guam for their roles in the Jan. 8 underwater grounding that left one sailor dead and seriously injured two dozen more, sources say.

Punished at the March 22 “commodore’s mast” hearings in Guam were six crew members, a combination of enlisted, senior enlisted and officers, according to Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force. He said the six each were cited by Capt. Bradley Gehrke, commander of Submarine Squadron 15, for “actions that led to the grounding.”

Davis would not provide the crew members’ names or positions, citing their right to privacy in nonjudicial matters, but said the charges included hazarding a vessel and dereliction of duty, both violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He said the punishments included reductions in rate and punitive letters of reprimand. The latter is considered a career-stopper if not a career-killer.

The submarine’s commanding officer at the time of the mishap, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, was relieved Feb. 12 by 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert.

Davis declined to provide more specific information. However, reliable sources told Navy Times that those punished included the heavily damaged submarine’s executive officer, navigator, assistant navigator and three petty officers. The assistant navigator is a senior chief petty officer who had qualified for that duty. Sources also said that the three more junior sailors reportedly each lost a stripe, with one first class petty officer reduced to second class and two second classes reduced to third.

The Navy has not yet released any of its investigations into the mishap but given the initial punishments, it appears that much of the blame has been placed on the submarine’s voyage planning process. In Mooney’s case, Greenert concluded, according to a spokesman, that “several critical navigational and voyage planning procedures were not being implemented aboard San Francisco. By not ensuring these standard procedures were followed, Mooney hazarded his vessel.”

Once a submarine’s superior command orders a sub to deploy and issues a basic track or operating area, the sub’s navigation team is totally responsible for properly planning the route, according to U.S. Submarine Forces in Norfolk. The actual charts and plan are prepared and approved by, in order, the sub’s assistant navigator, navigator, executive officer and commanding officer, according to the Norfolk command.

Davis said the Guam command does not anticipate disciplining any other crewmembers as a result of the mishap.

The San Francisco, a nuclear attack sub, ran into an uncharted sea mount 350 miles southeast of Guam while transiting from Guam to Australia. The collision heavily damaged the bow of the 23-year-old, 362-foot attack submarine, which is being temporarily repaired in a Guam drydock to enable a transit to Hawaii this summer for further damage assessments.

The punishments come on the same week an awards ceremony is being held that includes meritorious awards for San Francisco crewmember actions taken in the wake of the mishap, Davis said. That ceremony is being held March 25 in Guam.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Diving Officer of the Watch Account

The following is the unedited account of the San Francisco grounding written by the on-watch Diving Officer. The editor of this blog has inserted comments in red to define the jargon or terms that my be unfamiliar to non-submariners.

Copyright 2005 by Danny Hager, All Rights Reserved. Used here by permission.

To say that I've had a bad year so far would be a little short on the tooth I think (understated). Last year was a good one for the boat. After spending 5 months away from home in drydock (Sandy Eggo) we got our second BA (below average) on ORSE (Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam) (bad juju), received the highest score in PacFlt (Pacific Ocean Submarine Force) for a submarine TRE (Tactical Readiness Evaluation, a significant evaluation of the crew's ability to use their weapons systems) inspection, aced (got a high score on) our mine readiness inspection with 4 out of 4 hits, completed 2 outstanding missions (will have to shoot you), and completed a early ORSE just before Christmas with an EXCELLENT.

It was also the first year that Auxiliary Division had a Christmas standown since coming out of the yards in 2002. A-division also took the CSS-15 Red DC award for the second year in a row. My retention has been 100% since I checked on board in Oct 2002 amongst 1st/2nd and turd termers.

We were going to our first true liberty port 2 weeks ago, heading for Brisbane and fun in the sun. As this WOG (a traditional term used by sailors for those who have experienced the crossing the equator, sort of a "right of passage") knows, we were getting ready for our crossing the line ceremony and the crew was really upbeat, and hard charging, we had just completed a great year for the San Fran.

To say the world went to shyte in a hand basket would be an understatement. I would put it closer to a nightmare that becomes reality.

The seamount that is a large part of the discussion the last 2 weeks is un-named. The charts we carried onboard were up to date as far as we can tell. No modern geographic data for this area was available to us onboard as it is a remote area not often traveled by the Navy. We have one of the BEST ANav's (Assistant Navigator) in the fleet onboard, a true quartergasket (quartermaster, the Navy rating that is trained as navigator) that takes pride in his job. We have RLGN's (Ring Laser Gyro Navigation, or, fancy high-end accurate navigation equipment) onboard, when they are running, they are accurate as hell for our position, they also drive Tomahawks (the same cruise missile weapons used in Iraq) .

We knew where we were. All of my depth gauges and digital read the same depths as we changed depth to our SOE (Ship's Operating Envelope, technical specifications for the required minimum or maximum depth for a given speed for a submarine) depth for flank. I can't discuss a lot, because I'm still a participant of at least 2 investigations....LOL.

I was the Diving Officer of the Watch when we grounded. If you read the emails from ComSubPac, you will get some of the details, from flank speed to less than 4 knots in less than 4 seconds. We have it recorded on the RLGN's-those cranky bastages actually stayed up and recorded everything.

For you guys that don't understand that, take a Winnebego full of people milling around and eating, slam it into a concrete wall at about 40mph, and then try to drive the damn thing home and pick up the pieces of the passengers.

As for the actual grounding, I can tell you that it was fortunate that myself and the Chief of the Watch were blessed by somebody. I was standing up, changing the expected soundings for a new depth on the chart (yes, we had just moved into deeper water) leaning against the ship's control panel with a hand grip, and the COW (Chief of the Watch) was leaning down to call the COB on the MJ.

The next thing to cross my mind was why am I pushing myself off of the SCP (Ship's Control Panel, the main instrument and control panel for steering and driving the submarine) and where the hell the air rupture in the control room come from? I didn't know it, but I did a greater than 3g spiderman against the panel, punched a palm through the only plexiglass gauge on the SCP and had my leg crushed by the DOOW (Diving Officer Of the Watch) chair that I had just unbuckled (seatbelts are normally worn at high speeds) from. The DOOW chair was broken loose by the QMOW (QuarterMaster Of the Watch) flying more than 15 feet into it and smashing my leg against a hydraulic valve and the SCP. I don't remember freeing myself from it. If I had been buckled in, I don't think I would be writing this.

The COW (Chief Of the Watch) was slammed against the base of the Ballast Control Panel, and only injured his right arm. He could of destroyed the BCP (Ballast Control Panel), he was a big boy. Everybody else in control, with the exception of the helm, was severely thrown to the deck or other items that were in their way, and at least partially dazed.

Within about 5 seconds of the deceleration! , we blew to the surface, it took that 5 seconds for the COW to climb up the BCP and actuate the EMBT (Emergency Main Ballast Tank) blow.

We prepared to surface right away and got the blower running asap, I didn't know how much damage we had forward but knew it was not good, I wanted that blower running.

I would say that about 80% of the crew was injured in some way, but do not know the number. We grounded in the middle of a meal hour, just after field day, so most of the crew was up. Once we got the boat on the surface and semi-stable with the blower running the rest of the ship conditions started sinking in to our minds.

We were receiving 4MC's (reports over a submarine's emergency-use-only sound-powered phone system) for injured men all over the boat. I was worried that those reports were over whelming any equipment/boat casualties that could make our life worse. I had teams form up of able bodied men to inspect all of the forward elliptical bulkhead, lower level, and tanks below those spaces. I couldn't believe that we did not have flooding, it just didn't fit in. At one point I looked around in the control room, and saw the disaster. The entire control room deck was covered in paper from destroyed binders, and blood. It looked like a slaughterhouse, we had to clean it up.

I knew that Ash (MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley, the only crewmember that did not survive the grounding) was severly injured and brought to the messdecks, he was one of my best men, and one of our best sailors onboard, he was like a son to me. After surfacing I was the control room supervisor, I had a boat to keep on the surface and fight and knew that if I went below to see how he was doing, it would teeter me on the brink of something that the ship did not need, the ship needed somebody who knew her. I have to say that the design engineers at Electric Boat, NavSea and others have designed a submarine that can withstand incredible amounts of damage and survive. We lost no systems, equipment, or anything broke loose during the impact. The damage to our sailors was almost all from them impacting into the equipment.

The crew is a testament to training and watch team backup. When a casualty occurs, you fight like you train, and train like you fight. It kept us alive during that 2+day period.

I've just returned from the honor of escorting my sailor home to his family. God bless them, they are truly good people and patriotic. The Navy is doing everything they can for them and they are learning how submariner's take care of each other. During the memorial and viewing on Saturday, CSS-15 (Commander, Submarine Squadron 15) provided a video from the coast guard of us on the surface and the SEAL/Dr. medical team being helo'd in, the family had this video played on 2 screens in the background. It was a sobering reminder of what a hard woman the ocean can be. We had to call off the helo because of the sea state, it was becoming too dangerous for the aircraft, we almost hit it with the sail a couple of times.

The sea would not allow us to medivac (evacuate people for medical reasons) in our condition and that sea state. I was one of the 23 sent to the hospital that Monday. I was fortunate, my leg was not broken, just trashed/bruised. I walked on that leg for almost 24 hours before it gave out on ! me and they had it splinted. The SEAL made me promise not to walk on it, how do you refuse a SEAL? LOL. So I hopped around on a single leg for awhile, the other chief's were calling me Tiny Tim, LOL. "God bless each and every one! Except you, and you, that guy behind you!". The COB (Chief Of the Boat) threatened to beat my @ss if I walk onboard before my leg is otay, he's about the only man onboard that I'd take that from, hehe.

The crew is doing better, we've lost a few due to the shock of the incident. We will make sure they are taken care of.

The investigation goes on, and I have a new CO. I will only say that the San Fran was the best damn sub in the Navy under CDR Mooney's leadership. We proved that. God bless him and his family no matter what happens in the future, he is truly a good man.

I just need to get my leg healed and get back to fighting my favorite steel bitch (working on his favorite submarine).

Nuclear Sub Missed Warning Signs Before Crash, Navy Says

March 13, 2005

Navy investigators have found that the officers on a nuclear submarine failed to take into account a variety of danger signs before the vessel smashed into an undersea mountain in January, Navy officials said in interviews last week.The officials said crew members on the submarine, the San Francisco, did not look at some navigational charts of the South Pacific that might have prompted more caution. The sailors also should have checked the water depth more frequently and should not have been traveling at high speed, the officials said.

One sailor was killed and 98 were injured on Jan. 8 when the submarine crashed into the mountain 360 miles southeast of Guam. The Navy has said the mountain was not marked on the charts, but investigators found that several charts showed other possible hazards and had inconsistencies that should have made officers more cautious. The findings are part of a report that is likely to be released within several weeks. The submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, has been replaced, and Navy officials said other officers could be disciplined. The accident crushed the vessel's bow, and repairs could cost $90 million to $100 million. Lt. Cmdr. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet, would not comment on the investigation. But he said the Navy had briefed the rest of its submarine captains on maintaining "a skeptical attitude" about the charts.