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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Facing a shortfall of roughly 6,200 sailors at sea, top Navy commanders promised lawmakers that they won't force undermanned and undertrained crews to deploy.

In 2017, the destroyers USS FItzgerald and USS John S. McCain were involved in separate collisions in the Pacific that claimed the lives of 17 sailors. Since then, the Navy has tackled the underlying causes of the deadly collisions by increasing the size of destroyers' crews and adding training for surface warfare officers. But the Navy still does not have enough sailors at sea.

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U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madailein Abbott.

Now that the destroyer USS John S. McCain’s former commanding officer has pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty, the Navy will be spared having to publicly discuss the training and manning problems that contributed to the ship’s deadly collision last year. The Navy says it is currently addressing those underlying problems.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The former captain of the destroyer USS John S. McCain was sentenced to forfeit $6,000 in pay and awarded a letter of reprimand at a special court-martial on Friday after he acknowledged responsibility for the  Aug. 21, 2017 collision with an oil tanker near Singapore that killed 10 of his crew.

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U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton.

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.

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U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart

The Navy has punished four more sailors for their roles in the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain collisions that killed 17 sailors last year.

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