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Investigators from the U.S. Navy believe that “ineffective” leadership aboard the USS Hartford led to a collision between the Hartford and another naval submarine.
The USS Hartford hit the USS New Orleans on March 20th in the Strait of Hormuz, located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. The crash damaged the New Orleans’ fuel tank and injured fifteen sailors. Overall, the sub sustained $2.3 million in damage. The USS Hartford didn’t fare so well, either, with officials estimating that the damage to the Hartford could exceed $102.6 million.
Navy investigators determined that the crew of the Hartford made a number of mistakes leading up to the submarine crash, and reported that naval leaders on board were “negligent.” A review of crew behavior revealed a lax atmosphere: crew were often found asleep while on duty and listened to music while on post in the sub’s radio room, for example. Not what one would expect on a Navy ship!
The investigation also stated that the Hartford crew had an inadequate plan for crossing the busy Strait of Hormuz, a plan that would ultimately put the sub and other vessels in the area at risk. Over thirty tactical and watchstander errors were found on the sub’s log, according to a Navy commander, and had the crew corrected even one of them, the collision with the USS New Orleans may have been avoided.
“Correction…of errors, or adherence to standard procedures, could have prevented this,” said Admiral John Harvey, Jr., Commander of the United States Fleet Forces Command. Adm. Harvey supported the findings of the investigation.
After the crash, the chief of the USS Hartford was reassigned and many crew members were written up and disciplined for poor performance. Five sailors were notorious for falling asleep while on watch duty, but apparently none were disciplined. Two of these sailors were on duty when the USS Hartford hit the New Orleans, but the investigation did not say whether or not they were asleep.
In the hour prior to the collision, sailors who were supposed to be monitoring sonar activity were holding a conversation, and the supervisor had left the room. The sub’s navigator was reportedly listening to his iPod, and the officer in command failed to check the periscope. While this behavior may be shocking, it was apparently not unusual on board the Hartford.
Leaders on the sub reported “routine informal behavior” but did not take measures to discipline sailors or write incident reports.
It was also reported that the sub’s drivers would often “slouch” and only drive with one hand on the controls, often removing their shoes. Sonar operators and other commanders would often abandon their posts for long periods of time, and speakers were rigged up in several control rooms so that sailors could listen to music while they were supposed to be paying attention to navigation and other important tasks.
Commander Ryan Brookhart was relieved of his duties on the USS Hartford following the incident.
As a Navy man myself, I’m appalled to hear that this sort of behavior is permitted on board a naval submarine. As members of the military, we are conditioned to hold ourselves to a higher standard. This certainly is a poor example of what the Navy and the military in general stands for.
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