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The Navy needs to fix itself because it keeps screwing up
Unless you've been living in a parallel dimension, you probably have noticed the Navy is constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons.
If all of the military services were baseball teams, the Navy would be the 1962 Mets – a team so bad that columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote a book about them called, "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?"
The gaffe-prone sea service is still dealing with the uproar caused by media reports on Wednesday that the White House asked the Navy to keep the destroyer USS John S. McCain "out of sight" during President Donald Trump's recent visit to Japan.
Navy officials initially reacted to the news stories by issuing non-denial denials, but two days after the story broke Navy spokesman Rear Adm. Charlie Brown finally acknowledged on Friday: "A request was made to the U.S. Navy to minimize the visibility of USS John S. McCain, however, all ships remained in their normal configuration during the president's visit."
Meanwhile, the Navy continues to grapple with its culture that denigrates women: Sailors aboard the submarine USS Florida compiled a "rape list" of their female counterparts; a command master chief aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman resigned after telling sailors to "clap like a strip club" when Vice President Mike Pence visited the ship; and former SEAL and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens – who was accused of sexually assaulting and blackmailing a woman – recently joined the Navy Selected Reserves.
Charges against Greitens were ultimately dropped. The Navy is conducting a review of its policy for separating sailors in light of his return to the service.
That would be a lot for any service to deal with, but the Navy is like the Billy Mays of screw-ups – always willing to throw in one more completely free: The over-budget and perpetually delayed aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford will not have all of its 11 weapons elevators working when it leaves the yards this October, according to Breaking Defense.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told Trump in January that the president could fire him if all of the elevators were not working this summer. Spencer is "aware of the status" of the elevators now, said his spokesman Lt. Joshua Kelsey.
"He remains committed to ensuring the Navy and nation have a fully operational USS Gerald R. Ford and is working with the shipbuilder to get the ship at sea where it belongs," Kelsey told Task & Purpose.
Your friend and humble narrator gets no joy in writing about the Navy's streak of fiascos. The Navy is revered in my family. My grandfather Navy Lt. John W. Duff served aboard the battleship USS New Mexico during World War II. I have a framed picture of the ship in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender in September 1945.
Given this reporter's respect for the service, I felt it was time to offer some constructive criticism: The Navy is its own worst problem. It always finds a way to make a bad situation worse.
Following two deadly ship collisions in 2017, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran created the appearance of unlawful command influence by repeatedly blaming the former Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the former captain of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald, for one of the incidents, a military judge found.
"The evidence demonstrates that these repeated comments were the result of a coordinated message as opposed to a single slip of the tongue," Navy Capt. J.T. Stephens ruled in December 2018. "The court finds that anyone who heard these statements would reasonably conclude that the CNO believes the accused to be guilty, which is problematic given CNO's positional authority."
Yet Richardson continued to blame Benson afterward, telling ProPublica for a Feb. 6 story: "Our commanders make decisions and our sailors execute and there is an outcome – a result of that decision. The commander 'owns' that outcome."
In April, the Navy dropped charges against Benson. While Richardson's comments were not the sole reason why the case against Benson fell apart, they certainly contributed to the outcome.
The Navy made another unforced error when a Navy prosecutor included a tracking device in a May 8 email to defense attorneys for two Navy SEALs charged in connection with the death of a wounded ISIS fighter and Navy Times Editor Carl Prine.
As a result, a military judge removed the chief Navy prosecutor in the case of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher on Tuesday, finding the government had violated Gallagher's right to a fair trial.
Speaking of which, this reporter is getting more than a little tired of writing about SEALs facing charges for serious crimes. On May 16, Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Matthews pleaded guilty to assault consummated by battery and other offenses for his role in the June 2017 hazing death of Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, who was deployed to Mali at the time.
Fellow SEAL Navy Special Operations Chief Tony DeDolph – Melgar's team leader – is accused of approving the assault on Melgar and putting the Green Beret in a choke hold until he asphyxiated. Two special operations Marines also face charges stemming from Melgar's death.
Melgar's widow testified that her husband told her the SEALs in Mali were not mature and prone to juvenile antics.
If the SEALs don't get their act together, they will be required to have their wrists measured for the right handcuff size before they get their Tridents.
Come on Navy: You're better than this. The Marine Corps is supposed to be the dysfunctional sea service. Your job is to be the more regal military branch that puts up the bail money after the Corps has been in a bar fight. Please don't start eating crayons too.
WATCH NEXT: Chief of Naval Operations Statement on Recent Incidents in Pacific
Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.
MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper suggested on Thursday he could be ready to start a highly anticipated global force repositioning this year as part of an effort to refocus the Pentagon on challenges from China and Russia.
Esper said he did not want to put a firm timeline on the completion of his so-called "defense-wide review," which is expected to trigger those troop movements.
"If I had to put an end-date (on the review), I want to make sure we are in some type of better posture by the beginning of the next fiscal year," Esper told reporters, referring to the government's calendar year for spending, which begins on Oct. 1. "So I want to move fairly quickly."
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.
A trial for a German-Afghan national suspected of spying for Iranian intelligence is set to commence on January 20 in the city of Koblenz in Germany.
Identified as Abdul Hamid S. according to Germany privacy laws, the 51-year-old former interpreter and adviser for the German armed forces, or Bundeswehr, was arrested a year ago in the Rhineland region of western Germany and accused of providing information to Iranian intelligence for many years.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Iraqis rallied in central Baghdad on Friday calling for the expulsion of U.S. troops, but the protest mostly dissipated after a few hours despite fears of violence following a cleric's call for a "million strong" turnout.
Populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr convened the march after the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and an Iraqi paramilitary chief in Baghdad this month. His eventual decision to hold it away from a separate anti-government protest camp, and away from the U.S. embassy, looked pivotal in keeping the march peaceful.
STOCKTON — Diane Wright opened the door of an apartment at The Oaks at Inglewood, the assisted care facility in Stockton where she is the executive director. Inside, three people busily went through postal trays crammed with envelopes near a table heaped with handmade gifts, military memorabilia, blankets, quilts, candy and the like.
Operation Valentine has generated a remarkable outpouring of support from around the world for retired United States Marine, Maj. Bill White. Earlier this month, a resident at The Oaks, Tony Walker, posted a request on social media to send Valentine's Day cards to the 104-year-old World War II veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart.
Walker believed Maj. White would enjoy adding the cards to his collection of memorabilia. The response has been greater than anyone ever thought possible.