Category Archive 'Accidents'

24 Sep 2017

Why the US Navy Keeps Running into Merchant Ships

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Homeland Security interviews an anonymous captain.

Captain F:
[N]ow we had a situation where you had decommissioned a large portion of the fleet. We are down close to 255 ships or so the last I looked, and we are still heading downward. On top of that, you were asking those ships we had to do jobs previously done by larger, better-armed and better-manned vessels.

It did not take me long after I took command of Fleet Training Center Norfolk in ‘98 to realize that I was supposedly training the chiefs and first-class petty officers of the new ships and that I would soon be expected to train the lower rank 2nd class petty officers and below. In other words, we should have been taking into account the fact that each of those men was going to have to have the knowledge, skills and abilities of about six people in order to do their jobs. The DDX was originally meant to be manned by 75 people versus the 250 to 350 men found on either the DDG51s, Spruance cans or Tico cruisers.

The LCS was even worse. They were expected to come into the fleet with a minimally manned ship of under 50.

IM: There was a large drawdown in the ‘90s. Many military bases closed. This continued until 2000?

Captain F: After all that was going on in the ‘90s, we also had a mandate to transform the Navy; build a better tooth-to-tail ratio and cut the personnel budgets. Think about it: if you can’t cut capital infrastructure such as ships, then the only place to look is manning.

From my perspective in the training world, that meant we had to figure out how to cut the costs of training by doing it smarter and with technology. Up until then, all Navy schools delivered training the same way – blue smock, pointer and blackboards.

The personnel command was meant to transform the way we assigned people to ships, considering the skills they had, to ensure that the right folks were assigned. That is how and why Task Force Excel came into being in 2000. Donald Rumsfeld came in as Secretary of Defense and instituted large transformation efforts.

From the Navy perspective, the CNO was Vern Clark and he fully supported the transformation efforts. We did a lot of good work and instituted a lot of change.

But as in all organizations, resistance to change can be powerful. In my opinion, to successfully get anything established, you should have at least seven years. We had that barely before the CNO retired, and a new one took his place and the resistance built back up.

IM: So it’s a leadership issue?

Captain F: What gave out was leadership. The admirals did not put their careers on the line and object about anything. They rolled over to save themselves. That is the big picture. From a more localized perspective, the direct in-line people, COs, XOs and MCPOs, also rolled over.

There is no way on my ships that would have happened. We always had direct leadership. Leadership that was there, present and capable. I am willing to bet that those ships involved in incidents with merchants had all their sexual orientation, transgender training, and environmental training all completed at the expense of the safety and operational training.

If you put the emphasis on social issues, you get a social force. If you put it on operational issues, you get an operational force.

The mistakes I see in the latest incidents – I have read the actual reports on the Fitzgerald – were so simple and basic it takes your breath away. Technology can never replace humans in totality, especially when the law of gross tonnage applies.

As CO, I would have been on the bridge in both those incidents. We would have had highly qualified officers and petty officers on watch.

So if you can follow my logic here is what I conclude. There was a confluence of leadership failures:

First, there was a failure by the nation and particularly the executive branch of the government to recognize that by using the armed forces as a social change agent, as well as denying them the tools (forces) to do the job, will always cause the forces to break. We are at the breaking point and it shows.

Second, there was a failure in naval leadership writ large from the time we tried to transform the forces to meet the threat to today. Not enough senior leadership was stepping forward, ready to sacrifice themselves, so our sailors would not be.

In addition, it has been obvious to me that SECNAV Mabus was able to transform naval leadership in a way to conform to his world view; [that he] fired or relieved those who did not conform to his views and promoted those that did. I think the top leadership is pretty rotten, although I am sure there is “good wood” in there somewhere.

Third, the direct chain of command must have been weak – 7th Fleet down through the commodores of the squadrons – or these ships would not be having these problems. Either the standards are too low or they are worrying about other things. I suspect they are worrying about other things, such as the social experimentation going on and how they get through so they can continue to survive themselves.

Fourth, the ship climate and command structures were obviously out of whack. COs don’t get to sleep in in heavy shipping waters, [that’s] just a fact.

Fifth, while it might be convenient or popular to string some kind of conspiracy theory, the mistakes made were all simple things: basic ship handling, navigation and seamanship stuff. Destroyers do not get run down by merchants; they are faster and much more maneuverable. No, they were not hacked; they were not run down on purpose. They just were asleep at the wheel.

Sixth, I am surprised and will continue to be surprised if some of these folks in leadership positions are not court-martialed. There is a good case for manslaughter in my mind.

And lastly, we need to truly transform the services, not from a social viewpoint but rather from a warfighting viewpoint. Capabilities are available for us to reduce crew manning and use distributed systems, but like anything [else], we have to be serious about doing it. Perhaps that will be the one good thing coming out of all of this.

The last thing I will say is that the Navy has a very difficult issue transforming. Since it is capital-heavy, it needs to do more to bring down shipbuilding costs, while at the same time work assiduously to transform our personnel into distributed nodes with authority, that is transforming the personnel force. That is a tall order and it takes people not only with leadership skills but also imagination and vision, which is a commodity in short supply.

RTWT

02 Jan 2015

Senator Harry Reid Suffered a New Year’s “Exercise Accident”

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ABC News:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was injured Thursday in an accident while exercising at his home in Henderson, Nevada.

According to a statement today from the Nevada Senator’s office, Reid was hurt after a piece of equipment he was using broke, which caused him to fall. He broke a “number of ribs and bones in his face,” but his doctors expect a full recovery. …

Reid’s office says the 75-year-old will return to Washington, D.C. this weekend and will be back in the office Tuesday when the 114th congress convenes.

02 Oct 2014

James Dean’s Fatal Accident, September 30, 1955

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03 Sep 2014

9-Year-Olds and Uzis

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Amy Davidson, in the New Yorker, quarrels with the characterization by the local sheriff of the accidental shooting death of instructor Charles Vacca by a 9-year-old girl firing an Uzi as “an industrial accident.”

The Arizona Last Stop, where a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot her instructor with an Uzi last Monday, has already reopened. It was “booked pretty solid” for the Labor Day weekend, Sam Scarmardo, the owner, told Reuters. The sheriff of Mohave County described a video of the shooting—recorded by the girl’s parents, who were tourists from New Jersey—as “grisly,” and has filed his report. He found that there is no cause for any criminal charges, not against whoever put together the range’s Bullets and Burgers Adventure, designed to put automatic military weapons in the hands of children as young as eight, or against anyone else. Instead, the sheriff referred the case to the Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health, because, he said, it was “being viewed as an industrial accident.”

“An industrial accident”: that phrase raises the question of what industry we are talking about. …

There are many businesses that make up the gun industry, including the buying and selling of political influence. In Arizona and many other states, the realm of firearms is poorly regulated, from gun stores and fairs to tourist traps like Last Stop. As the Arizona Republic wrote, “Arizona statutes do address firing ranges, but the laws primarily deal with noise levels. No laws govern any training protocols for firearms instructors, safety guidelines or age restrictions. But even if there were, there is no regulatory authority to enforce them.” A former Last Stop employee described the range, to the Republic, as a “shake and bake” operation, but, for what it’s worth, its enforcement record was clean. Setting a minimum age of eight to use a gun on a range has been described, since Vacca’s death, as something of an industry standard in many states. There is still an overhanging injunction that workplaces be generally safe, and maybe the Arizona authorities can do something with that, but there is not much cause for optimism.

This shouldn’t be surprising; it is not accidental. The same political forces that gather around gun rights are those railing against government in any form, even the kind that involves keeping children and their gun instructors, or other teachers, safe. We are left not only with lax gun laws but shake-and-bake shooting ranges. This is part of the explanation for why talking to the gun lobby about “common-sense regulations” never seems to go well. They are drawing on, and stoking, a view that presumes the foolishness of regulations. It is sad and telling that the only department left to look into Vacca’s death is the state equivalent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—regularly derided by Republicans—and that it’s unlikely to be able to do much at all.

A possible question for a 2016 Republican Party debate is whether the candidates think that nine-year-olds should ever be permitted to fire automatic weapons.

But an industrial accident, i.e. an accident which occurred as the result of improper handling of a tool, was precisely what happened.

The 9-year-old girl was clearly too small, too weak and uncoordinated, and insufficiently instructed in the safe handling and management of that weapon in full-automatic fire. She fired too long a burst and lost control of the weapon, which climbed as the result of recoil as it proceeded to continue to fire causing the muzzle to move beyond her intended target, and finally move upward to the left, winding up pointed at one moment as it continued to discharge at the unfortunate instructor’s head.

Was it unwise to put that Uzi into the hands of this 9-year-old girl? Clearly, it was. Yet, I feel perfectly sure that Mr. Vacca could have put that Uzi into the hands of entire school classes full of 9-year-olds without any such accident occurring. Most children would have kept their heads and never lost control of the Uzi. If warned in advance of the hazards of firing too long a burst, if given a magazine for full-auto fire with a more limited number of rounds, if the child were taller or if the instructor stayed lower or stood further behind the child, if the instructor were more alert, Mr. Vacca’s tragic death could easily have been averted.

All over America and the world, adults, from time to time, in the natural course of life, expose children to the excitement and interest of using dangerous tools, machinery (and sometimes weapons) all of which are potentially lethal. Parents teach children how to drive a car, a tractor, a lawn mower, or an ATV. Adults show children how to use a power saw, a lathe, or other machine tools. Parents take children to the shooting range and allow them to handle and fire guns. That is precisely the way that children grow up acquainted with tools, weapons, and machinery and learn to use them safely.

Amy Davidson’s philosophic approach to a tragic accident of this kind is to demand new federal laws and regulations based on the prejudices and emotional responses of people like herself, bien pensants socially and geographically remote from the kind of people who like to play with guns, and who actually in reality possess no expertise concerning guns or firearm safety themselves whatsoever.

From the liberal point of view, the combination of the administrative state and the pure intrinsic wisdom of the well-educated elite is effectively omnipotent. Just surrender more liberty and money to them, let them pass some more laws and create another federal agency, and they can successfully regulate happenstance, misfortune, and human incompetence and stupidity out of existence.

Obviously, there are a lot of us who disagree.

Instructor Vacca’s death was a tragic accident, but Mr. Vacca himself had as good a chance as anyone could possibly have had of preventing it. He simply failed to foresee one extreme possibility. I expect that shooting instructors nationally are going to be a lot more careful about placing full-auto weapons in the hands of children, and are going to take extra precautions and be more alert when they do.

Davidson obviously falsely depicts shooting ranges as part of an imaginarily lucrative and conspiratorial firearms industry so rich that it can buy political immunity from regulation. Gun control has actually been successfully resisted almost entirely by the purely grass-roots efforts of individual sportsmen, hobbyists, and collectors. The firearms “industry” contributes modestly to the NRA and many of its member corporations sell out to government quite readily.

Shooting ranges are all well aware that they live in a litigious country with a predatory trial bar eager to go after them. They do not need political prodding to implement safety rules and protocols. Every shooting range has already adopted all of them that they could think of as necessary.

The accidental death of Mr. Vacca merely proves that human foresight is limited and that even experts –Mr. Vacca was undoubtedly an expert– make mistakes.

The decision about when a particular child should be permitted to shoot a gun, or drive a tractor, or even I would say, when a child should be permitted to take a drink, ought really to be left up to the child’s parents. We do not need state or national policies and the last people who should be permitted to regulate access to, and usage and possession of guns or other machinery or tools should be the kind of people who write in the New Yorker and who are completely innocent of personal acquaintance and familiarity with the things they wish to regulate.

14 Mar 2012

It’s Rather Appalling to Learn That You Can Even Do That

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Run Google image searches on: “Penile Fracture” and “Peyronie’s disease.” I’m not posting pictures.

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Jeff Winkler had a rather unusual, and incredibly unpleasant to even contemplate, accident.

With my one kidney, the Meckel’s diverticulum was unable to dissipate a blood clot causing aortic arrhythmia, which led to the ruptured penile corpus fracture and Peyronie’s disease. It was a freak accident.

07 Dec 2011

Mythbusters Hit Homes With Cannonball

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Television’s Mythbusters had one of their experiments, apparently testing the velocity or the penetrating ability of a cannonball, go severely wrong. The projectile, intended to penetrate multiple barrels of water and a cinderblock then wind up buried in a hillside on an army base southeast of Oakland, instead sailed over the Diablo foothills and went right into the suburbs.

The misaimed cannonball went straight through the front door and the interior and exterior walls of one house in Dublin, California, then flew across a busy highway (luckily missing the passing cars), and took out the slate roof of a second house 50 yards away before coming to rest in a third family’s minivan.

I bet that program’s insurance will be markedly more costly next season.

CBSLA

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Vanderleun offers maps.

26 Jan 2008

A Lesson in Gun Safety

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On January 19th last, this unfortunate blogger, mistakenly believing his Model 1911 to be empty, dropped the hammer on a loaded chamber thereby putting a Federal Hydro-Shok 230 grain jacketed hollow point .45 ACP bullet right through his thigh and then right through his calf.

He is sharing this painful and embarrassing experience as a public service, hoping to remind the rest of us always to assume that they are loaded.

Via Xavier.


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