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.