The USS Blue Ridge — the oldest deployable warship in the U.S. Navy and the apparent epicenter of the Fat Leonard scandal that's roiled the service — is preparing to hit the high seas this summer after almost two years of extended maintenance and upkeep, Stars and Stripes reports.
- The brains of the fleet: Just one of two Blue Ridge-class command ships, the vessel is a critical node for the indispensable 7th Fleet that's been roiled by surface mishaps and years of high operational tempo in response to Chinese and North Korean activity.
- A legacy in the making … “It has been 23 months since we started this , making it the longest in Blue Ridge’s history,” Capt. Brett Crozier, the ship’s skipper, said in the statement. “But it was essential, as we extended the life of the ship another 20 years, meaning this will one day be a 70-year-old ship.”
- … but a reputation to address: The Washington Post reported in January that 15 of the 30 individuals subject to civilian charges for their connection to Singapore-based business magnate and Glenn Defense Marine Asia owner ”Fat” Leonard Francis, 16 were assigned to the Blue Ridge, making the vessel “perhaps the most widely compromised U.S. military headquarters of the modern era.”
- And that's (probably) the tip of the iceberg: As recently as this month, Australian Navy officer Lt. Cmdr. Alex Gillet was reportedly ensnared in the Fat Leonard scandal while performing his duties as liaison to the 7th Fleet aboard the Blue Ridge, enjoying luxurious meals, prostitutes, and stays in hotels on Francis' dime.
We wish Capt. Cozier well in his efforts to keep the Blue Ridge both operational and reliable over the next two decades in light of the scandal, as do plenty of other T&P; readers who expressed dismay over the initial Washington Post report back in January. But let's be real, it's not like we'll ever know if he makes headway or not: As of May 2, the Navy will no longer publically disclose the names of commanders removed from their posts for misconduct, Fat Leonard-related or otherwise. Hooray transparency!