USS John McCain’s Former XO Disciplined As Fallout From Deadly Collisions Sweeps Navy


The USS John S. McCain’s former executive officer has received non-judicial punishment in connection with the deadly collision with a merchant ship in August that killed 10 sailors, the Navy announced on Wednesday.

Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez, who was relieved as the McCain’s executive officer in October, was found guilty of dereliction of duties at a Feb. 12 non-judicial punishment hearing and has received a punitive letter of reprimand, according to the Navy.

The McCain was one of two  Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers that collided with another ship last summer. The USS Fitzgerald had previously collided with a merchant vessel in June, killing seven sailors.

For the Navy, the back-to-back collisions have raised unsettling questions about how well sailors are trained in the basics of seamanship; whether surface warfare culture encourages sailors to go far too long without sleep; and whether the Navy is being to conduct too many missions with too few ships.

After an investigation released in November found that the collisions were preventable, the Navy announced in January that the Fitzgerald and McCain’s captains, as well as other sailors from both ships, would face Article 32 hearings on charges that include negligent homicide. The service has not yet identified all of the sailors who will appear before Article 32 hearings, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, nor has the service released charge sheets on the two skippers or other sailors.

Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, the McCain’s former commander, is slated to appear before an Article 32 hearing on March 6 at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., followed by former Fitzgerald skipper Cmdr. Bryce Benson on March 7 and three Fitzgerald officers on March 8, officials told Task & Purpose. The Navy is not identifying at this point.

Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez was found guilty of dereliction of duty at a Feb. 12 non-judicial punishment hearing.U.S. Navy

The murkiness about the legal proceedings does not end there: On Wednesday, the Navy announced that charges against an officer and enlisted sailor from the Fitzgerald were dismissed. Navy officials refused to identify the two sailors due to privacy concerns and because the convening authority had dismissed the charges against them.

Six other sailors have faced non-judicial proceedings, including former Fitzgerald executive officer Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and Command Master Chief Brice Baldwin, both of whom received letters of reprimands. The names of the remaining four sailors are not known. One sailor’s guilty verdict was overturned, charges against two others were dismissed, and one was busted down a rank after being found guilty.

The McCain and Fitzgerald collisions have had wider recriminations for Navy leadership. Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, 7th Fleet commander, was fired shortly after the McCain incident His successor fired Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70, and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, who led Destroyer Squadron 15. Adm. Scott Swift, former commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, announced in September that he was retiring after he learned that he had been passed over as the next head of U.S. Pacific Command, and  Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden retired as head of Naval Surface Force Pacific in January after the Navy recommended he be relieved over the collisions.

The collisions have posed an uncomfortable question for Navy leadership: Is the service too small to do all the missions being asked of it?

Over time, the Navy has shrunk in terms of both ships and sailors, yet the demands on the service keep increasing as the Navy, for example, regularly sails close to man-made Chinese islands in the South China Sea to exert the U.S. right to freely navigate the region. And while current plans call for the service to grow to 355 ships in the 2050s.  The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 would add 7,500 sailors, and that is meant to ease the stress on the force, said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Lauren Chatmas.

“Gapped billets over time can result in sailors working longer hours, increased fatigue, and degradation in decision making and safety - leading to decreased morale, lower job satisfaction, lower quality of life and decreased retention,” Chatmas told Task & Purpose on Wednesday. “Ensuring our units are manned properly will ease the strain of all our sailors, and improved the overall readiness of our current and future force.”


Want to read more from Task & Purpose? Sign up for our daily newsletter »

U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton.
(Islamic State Group/Al Furqan Media Network/Reuters)

CAIRO (Reuters) - After losing territory, ISIS fighters are turning to guerrilla war — and the group's newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.

In recent weeks, IS's al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.

The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Alexandria Crawford)

A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.

The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."

Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.

What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.

"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."

Read More Show Less

The F-35 Joint Strike Program may be the most expensive weapons program in modern military history, but it looks as though the new border wall is giving the beleaguered aircraft a run for its money.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press/Austin American-Statesman/Jay Janner)

A Texas judge has ruled that a negligence lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense filed by victims of the Sutherland Springs church massacre in 2017 can go forward.

The suit meets the criteria to fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to seek damages in certain cases if they can prove the U.S. Government was negligent, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Under most circumstances the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the government from lawsuits, but in this case U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez held that failure of the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense to log shooter Devin Kelley's history of mental health problems and violent behavior in an FBI database made them potentially liable.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT -- Loose lips sink ships, but do they reveal too much about the hugely anticipated "Top Gun" sequel, "Top Gun: Maverick," filmed onboard in February?

Not on this carrier, they don't. Although sailors here dropped a few hints about spotting movie stars around the ship as it was docked in San Diego for the film shoot, no cats — or Tomcats — were let out of the bag.

"I can't talk about that," said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, who commands the Roosevelt.

Read More Show Less