Bonhomme Richard fire, too many admirals, not enough leaders

| July 5, 2022

When Bonhomme Richard went down in flames while piered in San Diego, it was a shock. One of America’s leading warships was destroyed, at home. Not at war. Not due to enemy action. This doesn’t happen. At least it shouldn’t. There is a seaman who has been charged with starting the conflagration, but it sounds like the men in charge didn’t know who was supposed to be in charge. While they played their proverbial fiddles as their Rome burned, we lost a $1 billion warship.

From Military Times;

The initial response to the July 2020 fire that destroyed the multibillion-dollar amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard was uncoordinated and hampered by confusion as to which admiral should cobble together Navy and civilian firefighters, according to new information from the then-head of Naval Surface Forces.

The discombobulation in those early hours meant sailors may have missed a small window to contain the fire in a storage area. One admiral who said he lacked authority to issue an order pleaded with the ship’s commanding officer to get back on the ship and fight the fire, when the CO and his crew were waiting on the pier. And when that admiral — now-retired Vice Adm. Rich Brown — found the situation so dire that he called on other another command to intervene, it refused, Brown said in an interview.

Brown, who led Naval Surface Forces and Naval Surface Force Pacific from January 2018 to August 2020, told Defense News in June he set up an ad hoc chain of command to coordinate trying to save the ship that Sunday morning, after seeing lower-level leaders struggle to communicate or to fight the fire aggressively. The move came after the fleet’s operational chain of command declined to step in due to confusion over who had control over the ship.

An investigation into the fire, released in October 2021, outlined several failures leading up to the fire and during the response. But Brown’s comments offer additional details and a new perspective on how the fire response came together and what was left out of the formal investigation.

Brown said he is sharing his story with Defense News now as he faces a secretarial letter of censure. He was named in the investigation as contributing to the loss of the ship, but was cleared by what’s known as a Consolidated Disposition Authority in December. He said he was not interviewed for the investigation into the fire.

Capt. J.D. Dorsey, a spokesman for Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, told Defense News “the secretary is still in the process of reviewing the command investigation and has not yet made any final decisions on actions beyond what the CDA has imposed.”

Much more at the source. Admiral Brown seems to be doing damage control. Ironically at the wrong time and place. Two years ago at San Diego might have been better.

Category: "Truth or fiction?", Navy, WTF?

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bullnuke

If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, ignorance, or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.” – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

MTFAO

A ship captain that can’t set up incident command? Admirals more worried about chain of command than solving an emergency? Commanders refusing to act? Nimitz must be rolling in his grave. Sadly I see the army going the same direction. Makes me so glad I got out when I did, but it makes me ashamed to see what the military I served in has become.

A Proud Infidel®™

“Makes me so glad I got out when I did, but it makes me ashamed to see what the military I served in has become.”

You and me both, I once got my ass chewed for smoking an E4 who got mouthy with me, that NCO demanding that I apologize to the Soldier for smoking him. I didn’t apologize because in the US Army I came from, some Troop saying “fuck you” to an NCO resulted in a trip behind the woodpile for a wall-to-wall counseling!

Instinct

Yep, Gave an order to an E-3 once and his response was “Fuck you, make me!”

I hit him once and knocked his ass out. Told the other airmen that when he woke up to tell him he better fix the fucking airplane or I would kick him across the hanger until he looked like road kill.

He complained to the chief who said “I saw you slip and fall and he was trying to help you up. Are you saying I am a liar, AIRMAN?”

David

“Authority can be delegated. Responsibility cannot”. Army OCS dictum.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

Too bad that the fire couldn’t be brought under control with modern fire fighting equipment even with a delay on who is in charge.

KoB

WWJD? (What Would Jake Deny)

ninja

We remember reading about this in May 2022:

“Navy Still Working Out Punishments For Bonhomme Richard’s Destruction”

https://breakingdefense.com/2022/05/navy-poised-to-dish-out-punishments-for-bonhomme-richards-destruction/

“Decisions on punishments are still to come for the 36 individuals who were at least somewhat responsible for the destruction of the amphibious warship Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) nearly two years ago.”

“The final recommendations are currently on Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro’s desk awaiting approval, Vice Adm. Scott Conn, the service’s top requirements officer, told a House panel today while testifying about the service’s fiscal 2023 budget request.”

“The remarks came in response to a question from Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who asked how the Navy has held its people — and in particular its flag officers — accountable for the loss of a $3.5 billion capital warship, allegedly set on fire by a disgruntled sailor.”

ninja

“Conn, who served as a key senior officer investigating the incident, explained it was not his role to recommend people who should be punished, but said the Navy has compiled a list of people who “need to go through due course and a formal
adjudication process. It was not my job to make any adjudications, decisions at my level.”

“The officer responsible for suggesting punishments is the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Conn added. Luria noted that to date the only disciplinary actions made publicly known about the incident are the ongoing criminal charges against the junior enlisted sailor alleged to have started the fire, Seaman Recruit Ryan Sawyer Mays.”

SFC D

So reading between the lines, my cynical self reads “We have a list of expendable personnel who will fall on their swords for this clusterfuck, without looking like they were pushed”.

Green Thumb

Yep.

They can join the E-4 who ordered 5 million dollars worth of berets from China….

ninja

Green Thumb: We owned and wore our Maroon and Orange Berets before we wore the Black Berets…

😉😆

tom reynolds

WTH is a orange beret for?

ninja

SFC D:

True story. Mid 1980s.

At one US Army Basic Training/AIT post, a Basic Trainee Soldier of European descent wrote home to his Mother that he was not allowed to drink more than 2 glasses of milk at a meal. He identified the “culprit” as one of his Drill SGTs, a SFC, Combat Arms, Boots On The Ground Vietnam Veteran who wore a CIB.

His Mother complained to her Congressman. This initiated an IG Complaint which evolved into an AR 15-6.

The NCO was immediatedly pulled from Drill status while that 15-6 was active. He waited patiently behind a Garrison 8-5 desk job until the investigation was completed.

15-6 was completed. A “compromise” was “reached” thru the Chain of Command. Basic Trainee Soldiers were allowed to have 3 glasses of milk during a meal. The NCO received a local, written counseling statement. Mommy was “happy”.

Don’t know if that Dude graduated. Do know that he was the type of individual who would get us all killed in Battle.

SFC retired as an E9.😉

ninja

Another true story. 2003. Happened at the beginning of OIF.

We had an O5/LTC who wrote his mother that he was not getting enough water to drink.

His mother contacted CNN. I still have the article.

Based on the CNN article, that LTC gave his mother the impression that he was stuck in the middle of the desert, working outta of GP Small, with only MREs to eat, hardly any water to drink, sleeping on a cot, fighting a battle with sandstorms and the Iraqis.

He told a similiar story when he was at Bagram for 2 weeks.

In reality, that Ossifer was in Kuwait, working and sleeping in a hard building and consumed 3 hot meals a day. Never went outside the wire. Had lots of water to drink.

Little Ole me shot him an email and asked him why he lied/embellished. His reply was that his mother was a Drama Queen.

Yep. He blamed his mother. Little Ole me contacted CNN with “The Rest Of The Story”.

That O5/LTC was the type of individual who would get us all killed in Battle.

Roh-Dog

Kirkuk Regional Airbase (KRAB), 2004 – during a Q&A with SECDEF Rummy some POG REMF (perhaps an Airman) idiot asked him why there wasn’t enough ice cream at the DFAC.

My and a Brother Company were outside the wire at safe houses in the city, 2 marmite chows a day (if we were “lucky”).

I’m not saying there was a ‘beatdown on sight’ agreement among the lower enlisted but the bounty was $500.

timactual

Unfortunately, VIPs like Rumsfeld mostly come in contact with REMFs, so they get a biased picture of the situation.

Hack Stone

When Hack Stone was in Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield, he received a package from his oldest sister. A very large package. Opened up to discover that it was full of toilet paper (new, not used). Apparently some GI was bitching to what Hack presumes was CNN that he had no toilet paper. Based on that, Hack’s sister must have cornered the market on toilet paper along the Pennsylvania-New York border, in order to keep the Republican Guard at bay. Shortly after receiving the toilet paper, Hack was sent back to 29 Stumps for Tech School. Never made a dent in that toilet paper supply.

And to avoid any confusion, Hack Stone was in Desert Shield but not Desert Shield. That was the Marine Corpss decision, not Hacks.

Hack Stone

Just surprised his mother didn’t show up to breastfeed him.

pookysgirl, WC wife

“The move came after the fleet’s operational chain of command declined to step in due to confusion over who had control over the ship.”

Even I, an AF wife, am appalled at that line.

ninja

As of March 2022:

“Sailor Charged In Catastrophic Bonhomme Richard Fire Has Trial Date Set”

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2022/03/31/sailor-charged-in-catastrophic-bonhomme-richard-fire-has-trial-date-set/

“The trial for a junior sailor charged with starting the fire that eventually destroyed the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard in 2020 is scheduled to run from Sept. 19 to Sept. 30, U.S. 3rd Fleet announced this week.

Seaman Recruit Ryan Sawyer Mays.

Mick

Prior to “allegedly” starting the fire aboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD, Mays was booted out of SEAL training. Looks like the poor little snowflake got his feelings hurt when the Navy started making him chip paint and swab decks when he couldn’t make the cut as a SEAL.

Trial for sailor accused of burning Bonhomme Richard set for September in San Diego – The San Diego Union-Tribune (sandiegouniontribune.com)

‘Prosecutors say Mays was disgruntled with the Navy after finding himself assigned to deck duty on the ship after washing out of Navy SEAL training.’

ninja

*Sigh*

Lots Of Finger Pointing. Who Shot John.

We get it.

Let us not forget Seaman Recruit Ryan Sawyer Mays has been charged with arson and setting fire to the Bonhomme Richard.

ninja

Anyone else besides us remembers the April 1989 USS Iowa Turrett Explosion?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Iowa_turret_explosion

“On 19 April 1989, an explosion occurred within the Number Two 16-inch gun turret of the United States Navy battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) during a fleet exercise in the Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico. The explosion in the center gun room killed 47 of the turret’s crewmen and severely damaged the gun turret itself. Two major investigations were undertaken into the cause of the explosion, one by the U.S. Navy and then one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Sandia National Laboratories. The investigations produced conflicting conclusions.”

ninja

“Milligan and Miceli retired from the Navy in 1992 as a rear admiral and captain, respectively. Milligan later taught economics at the Naval Postgraduate School, then became vice president of a national insurance company.”

“Captain Moosally retired at that rank in May 1990. At his change of command ceremony on Iowa on 4 May, Moosally criticized the Navy for mismanaging the investigation, saying that the investigators were “people who, in their rush to manage the Iowa problem, forgot about doing the right thing for the Iowa crew”. Later, Moosally began working for Lockheed Martin in the Washington, D.C. area. In 2001, Moosally told The Washington Post, “Only God knows what really happened in that turret. We’re never really going to know for sure.”

“Skelley was transferred to the battleship Wisconsin in late 1990 or early 1991 and helped direct that ship’s gunnery participation during the Gulf War. He retired from the Navy in the fall of 1998.”

ninja

“Meyer resigned in 1991. In his resignation letter, he complained about the Navy’s investigation into the explosion, and Miceli’s and other officers’ roles in what Meyer claimed was a cover-up. The letter was passed to Vice Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, then chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, who requested, unsuccessfully, that Meyer withdraw it. When Meyer subsequently received his discharge papers, he discovered that statements in his letter criticizing the Navy and certain officers had been removed. Following assignment to the Middle East Force during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Meyer followed through with his resignation, and matriculated at the Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington. Meyer later served as the director of civilian reprisal investigations for the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Defense.

ninja

The New York Times in 1993 severely criticized the U.S. Navy for a series of botched investigations, including the Tailhook scandal, the Iowa explosion, security breaches at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Russia, and a problematic investigation into the murder of a homosexual sailor in Yokosuka, Japan. The newspaper stated, “Each fumbled inquiry may have exposed a different U.S. Navy foible. The repeated bungling suggests a systemic problem in the Naval Investigative Service—and a management failure at the highest levels.”

Mick

The NIS investigation into Tailhook ’91 was a complete and utter SHITSHOW.

‘Nuff said.

ninja

Mick:

👍👍👍👍👍👏👏👏👏👏

ninja

For Mick reference the Tailhook Scandal.

That Movie That Shalt Not Be Named.

 😉  😎 

https://twitter.com/JimLaPorta/status/1508851932940705797

“In 1985—the @USNavy
was involved in the making of Top Gun (1986). When the Tailhook scandal happened in 91, some Navy leaders blamed the behavior on the movie—that it was responsible for the culture in Navy/Marine aviation. But what happened in 91, almost occurred at Tailhook 85.”

jeff LPH 3 63-66

ninja

I asked my Dad about the Iowa turret explosion and since he was a Tech Sgt. during WW2 in Coast Arty and was an instructer on 16 in. guns, he told me they could have over rammed the powder bag/bags or the air operated debris ejectors inside the breach didn’t work and a spark from bag debris lit off the bag/bags. In Dads day, when the breach was opened, they wet swabbed out any debris inside the breach. Some time after the investigation, powder bags were dropped from a tower to see if they cooked off due to compression when dropped and if my memory serves me right one or two bags went off when they hit the ground.

ninja

Jeff:

Thank You so much for that information..really appreciate it.

We had the pleasure of touring the USS IOWA when we did a quick trip to California. Still feel so sad about what happened to those 47 crewmen.

Wow..your Dad was with the Coast Artillery. There is so much history with the Coast Artillery. Did he receive his training at Fort Monroe? Thank you so much for sharing your Dad’s service.

Similiar to KoB’s Dad serving with the Field Artillery during WWII (we have not forgotten, KoB).

Thank You again!

Can we still say gabn…😉

11B-Mailclerk

At least some of the powder bags have a black powder initiator on one end.

BP will definitely go boom if crushed hard enough.

And the “plug projo” and “ram powder” levers are right next to each other. They not only have different force settings, they drive the ram a different distance. So if you pull the projo ram on powder, the stack is trying to drive the shell -way- into the rifling. Thus crushing the charge. Ouchie.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Wait?!?!…..WHAT?!!
Was there NO officer, NO Petty Officer, not even a Seaman Recruit….who was there & said, “FUck it! This fire has got to be fought & put out NOW!” Even if they tried, and failed, at least they tried. No one?!

“My DD214 is my shepherd, I shall not want. It leadeth me beside the still waters…….”

Offhand I would say that the ship’s “command climate” was subpar. Obviously that seaman apprentice was a real monster.

Anonymous

Recruit/promote based on popularity, hold the unpopular responsibile for anything bad that happens. What could go wrong?

SgtBob

Toxic Deplorable: My first thought as well. Nobody said, “Fuck this. We got a fire to fight.”

HMCS(FMF) ret

Every one of them didn’t do the right thing – fight the fire (and save the ship) first, them get into the dick measuring contest afterwards. Now that heads are about to or are rolling, it’s time to play “Cover Your Ass”.

Too damn late for that, idiots… too damn late

Roh-Dog

Losers, in every sense of the word, the lot of them.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” ― Alexander The Great

Wireman611

Wait.. The freaking CO stood on the pier and watched his ship burn!!?? Something tells me he would have dressed in drag after the Titanic hit the iceberg.

Thunderstixx

Statement of charges to that officer in charge for the entire cost of the ship…..
See you in the next life, Sir…

Claw

Nope, sorry, Stixx, but a Statement of Charges would not be the appropriate document to recoup the loss to the government. You can only request two months proration on a S/C, but on a Report of Survey (or the Fiddle-Faddle or whatever they are calling it these days) you can get the proration for the rest of their lives (even after retirement/death) till the debt is paid.

The Stranger

FLIPL, Clawl, FLIPL. Financial Liability Investigation of Property Loss. Yep, an officer can conceivably end up with an LES that says “NPD” for a very, VERY long time.

A Proud Infidel®™

During my AD time in Korea we had a fellow young Joe who busted the transfer case of a 5 Ton Truck by putting it in reverse while it was in low transfer despite the caution labels in the cab and got 2 months of No Pay Due for it!

Prior Service

Fight the fire first. Then sort out lines of command. It can’t get more obvious. That said, in a former job I had the duty of sending investigative requirements down to units assigned or attached to a theater army. Amazingly, sometimes it took days or even weeks to sort out what commander actually held responsibility for these units. Usually they were detachments, platoons and some companies. Just throwing a little light on the idea that sometimes chains of command aren’t clear.

timactual

The fact that chains of command aren’t clear is a sign of bad management.

ninja

“5 Insane and Memorable Times Military Officers Were Fired”

https://www.military.com/military-life/5-insane-and-memorable-times-military-officers-were-fired.html

“The Navy has a history of publicly sacking officers for a “loss of confidence in leadership.” Sometimes, it tells the public what led to that loss of confidence; other times, it doesn’t.”

“But the Navy isn’t the only branch of service that has to fire officers, even if its firings seem to be much more public than the other branches. The Navy just has much more experience with it. If an officer does get fired publicly, it’s usually safe to assume there’s a good reason for it.”

“Though the Navy likes to cite a loss of confidence, statistics compiled by the Associated Press between 2005 and 2013 found that, of the 255 fired commanders above the rank of lieutenant colonel, 40% percent were actually sacked because of sexual misconduct. Another 10% percent were alcohol-related.”

ninja

We remembered very well BG Janis Karpinski, who was demoted to O6/Colonel after the results of the AR 15-6, i.e. the Taguba report, the Abu Ghraib prison scandel.

From the report:

“During the course of this investigation I conducted a lengthy interview with BG Karpinski that lasted over four hours, and
is included verbatim in the investigation Annexes. BG Karpinski was extremely emotional during much of her testimony. What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers.”

timactual

I remember her. It came out that she failed to provide leadership and/or oversight of her subordinates because, she said, it was too dangerous to travel to them. I think you can safely add cowardice to her list of shortcomings.

timactual

I just cannot imagine a ship captain, with his crew, willingly sitting on a pier with his thumbs up his ass watching his ship burn.

The Stranger

Well, Tim, you don’t have to imagine it. It literally happened!🤣

Hack Stone

Evidently Initiative is not a required Leadership Trait in today’s Navy.

And the crew of the ship may not have received any Damage Control Training, but you can bet the door of your mailbox that they sure as hell are well versed in recognizing indicators of White Supremacy.

A Proud Infidel®™

As well as having that all-important SHARP Training up to date!

Skivvy Stacker

The first time I read about a chain of responsibility in military service like this was when I read Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day”, when he talked about the fuck ups made by Hitler and his merry men on the morning of 6June1944. The LAST time I read about this fucked up chain of command was a review of how Putin is running the war in Ukraine.

11B-Mailclerk

What the fuck happened to

“Don’t give up the Ship!”

, huh?

Any surviving Yorktown crewmen, or Ben Franklin crewmen, can supervise the flogging.

rgr1480

“A ship with too many captains sails up the mountain” (Japanese proverb) …. in this case, a ship with too many admirals burns … and burns …. and burns.

Sailorcurt

True leaders in the Navy never make it past the rank of Commander. You’ve got to be a politician to make it to O-6 and a consummate politician to make flag rank.

Fergus Boon

Obama has done his work well and the military bent over and told him to go full bore.