The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, June 17, 2017 (U.S. Navy photo)

After two of its destroyers were involved in deadly accidents in the summer of 2017, the Navy's leaders pledged real change: more sailors for their ships, and better training for those sailors and the officers who led them. Old or broken equipment would be fixed, too. Most important, the Navy's top command would stop forcing ships out to sea before they were ready.

In late 2017, as part of an effort to assure commanders that the Navy was committed to genuine reform, Adm. Philip Davidson embarked on a speaking tour. Davidson was in charge of “readiness" — responsible for making sure that the Navy's ships were fully staffed, and that sailors were adequately trained and equipped and ready for combat. He had recently authored a public report laying out dozens of specific weaknesses that the Navy had begun fixing.

One of Davidson's stops in November 2017 was in San Diego, and inside the base's movie theater, he addressed hundreds of concerned commanders and officers. He was met with a series of tough questions, including a particularly sensitive one: If the commanders believed their ships were not ready, could they, as the Navy had promised, actually push back on orders to sail?

Davidson, according to an admiral inside the theater, responded with anger.

“If you can't take your ships to sea and accomplish the mission with the resources you have," he said, “then we'll find someone who will."

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The Navy has revamped training for junior officers following two deadly collisions in 2017 involving U.S. Navy ships.

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Photo via DoD

An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was damaged after colliding with a commercial vessel off the coast of Japan, the fifth such incident involving a warship in the 7th Fleet’s area of operations in 2017 alone. But for once, the incident wasn’t the result of serious failures blamed on Navy watchstanders.

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Photo via DoD

The Navy’s investigation into two separate collisions with commercial vessels involving two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers over the summer has found that both incidents were completely avoidable, the branch announced on Nov. 1.

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Photo via DoD

Sitting in his air-conditioned hotel room, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Salmon began sweating profusely.

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U.S. Navy

7th Fleet, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific forward deployed naval force, has burned itself out; the cost of this burnout is poor readiness, loss of ships and equipment, and most importantly, sailors’ lives. Since January, four significant ship mishaps have occurred in the 7th’s area of responsibility (AOR), including fatal collisions with merchant ships for the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain. Those two incidents killed 17 sailors — significantly more than the number of U.S. service numbers lost in the Afghanistan war zone so far in 2017. This summer has been a watershed moment for the 7th Fleet family.

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