Lt. j.g. Sarah Coppock pleaded guilty on Fitzgerald collision

| May 8, 2018

The Stars & Stripes reports that Lieutenant Junior Grade Sarah Coppock pleaded guilty to the charge of dereliction of duty in her role that caused the collision of the USS Fitzgerald with a civilian commercial vessel, ACX Crystal, on June 17, 2017 off the Japanese coast;

The Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was not on deck at the time of the collision. Coppock was charged for failing to “communicate and coordinate with the Combat Information Center, report ship specified contacts to the commanding officer, operate safely in a high density traffic condition and alert crew of imminent collision,” according to the charge sheet.

Coppock was charged along with two unnamed junior officers on board the Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald was navigating out to sea near Yokosuka Port in Japan when it failed to recognize the dangers of three ships heading across its path.

They were close enough to present risk of collision, according to a U.S. Navy report. Two of the ships maneuvered to avoid a collision — one coming particularly close. The report said Coppock was responsible to alert the commanding officer after that close call. The third, called the ACX Crystal, did not.

Category: Navy

Comments (109)

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  1. ChipNASA says:

    So let me ask this, it sounds like a valid charge, or is anyone of the opinion that her “leadershit”/Big Navy, is just throwing her under the bus ship, as it were?
    😉

    • Mick says:

      For what it’s worth, the Navy Surface Warfare Officers who I have spoken with have all said that the charges in this case are valid/appropriate.

    • Jon Seabee says:

      You have to wonder what her relative skill and training had been. I can see the XO and the Navigation Officer taking hits as well. She failed the most fundamental rule of a bridge watch stander in that she failed to keep the old man in the loop. What did she NOT understand about that rule? Hubris? Over her head? She is going to truly “Walk the plank”… as well she should.

      • wheeler.gerald1@gmail.com says:

        Yep basic CCIR’s even us land Sailors know that. I am sure that this problem was on his list contact me ASAP. This is why they have to get qualified and certified, and usually signed off by the Skipper, as its his ship, troops and ass on line.

      • Fritz Steiner says:

        If, as has been suggested, LTJG COPPOCKhad “copped a plea” in return for the relatively light sentence she was awarded, it seems likely it was in return for her testimony in the CO’s upcoming court martial.

        She legally violated the CO’s standing night orders by not calling him. But I believe it’s entirely possible that as he left the bridge he told her to not call him unless she really needed him.

        If that’s the case, he’ll get crucified by the court.

        I’ve been through the Tokyo Wan approaches many times as an OOD, both day and night.

        One night, I was awakend and called by the CO to come to the bridge of my submarine. It was raining hard and he was soaked. He told me to relieve the OOD, who was considerably junior to me. Once I’d relieved him and he’d gone below, the CO told me: “Fritz, take her into Tokyo Wan and — don’t hit anything. Call me when it’s time to set the Maneuvering Watch.” He went below. He and I understood that his last sentence meant “Don’t call me UNTIL it’s time to set the Maneuvering Watch.” It was a wet, hairy three hours.

        His standing night orders were just like every other CO’s. i.e., to call him if anything got within 5,000 yards, etc.

        That’s doable when you’re in the middle of the Pacific, but it’s laughable in waters like those where EVERYTHING you can see both visually and on radar — and everything else you CAN’T see — is within 1,000 yards. or soon will be.

        It’s not difficult to think that FITZGERALD’s CO did something like that. Uninformed observers — who are in overabundance — say that he’d been CO for less than three weeks, implying that he wasn’t familiar with the capabilities of her officers. That assumption is dead wrong. CDR Benson had been FITZGERALD’s XO for the previous two years. He “fleeted up” to become her CO. He knew who he could depend on. He guessed wrong when she lost the bubble.

      • 25 years man says:

        This why we shouldn’t have women, gays or transgenders in the military.

        • Rocky Adams says:

          You hit the nail right on the head.
          Every ex seagoing sailor knew this kind of thing was going to happen.

        • Byron Warner says:

          My captain rammed our destroyer into a piling of the Cooper River Bridge on our way out to sea. He had the con. He was a guy. Anybody can screw up on board a ship.

    • NavyEODguy says:

      Shine some light: In the 70’s I was an Interior Communications Electrician (IC2). My station when leaving anchorage or a port was the bridge.

      We were in the Siracusa Bay in Sicily. I was assigned Shore Patrol when we got the message to get “all sailors/officers on a ship” – bad weather coming in.

      A few hours later I’m on the bridge for sea & anchor detail. The weather had rapidly went to hell & we had gotten a message from higher ups to leave the harbor.

      Next thing you know, our squadron commander (O-6) along with his CoS & Squadron Navigator, are on the bridge. The CoS ( also an O-6) asked my Skipper (also an O-6) what the plan of action was. After a brief discussion which became an argument, the Squadron Commander “relieved the Skipper” and “took the CON”.

      He order the skipper to leave the bridge, but all the skipper did was stand in the back. Luckily, we had a QM3 (mid-30’s, who had a PhD) who always seemed to be around when there was a mix up with squadron staff. He had slipped into the rear chart room & activated a cassette player (microphone lead to the center of the bridge up in the cableways).

      This recording saved the Skipper. We ran aground – badly. Took a few weeks to get us off the rocks. Offloading ALL the Marines & gear, including all helicopters, etc.

      So what I’m getting at is there may be a time or two in history a Skipper has been saved by the bell. But its a rarity.

      • John Seabee says:

        I remember that. I was the CE stationed at NavCommSta Sigonella when that happened. We wound up taking some of your signal traffic. A joke line, at the acey deucy club, was “What will you have to drink?” Answer: “A Guad on the rocks.”

        • NHSparky says:

          1992, Guam. Typhoon Omar.

          Similar deal, but this case was White Plains.

          • FlatGrass says:

            What was the new drink at Andy’s Beach Bar? White Plains on the Rocks.

            • NHSparky says:

              Omar undercut the beach Andy’s Hut sat on, and it was closed after that.

              The earthquake in 1993 finished the job and Andy’s went into the lagoon.

        • NavyEODguy says:

          “Acrylic Deucy”. I haven’t heard that term in decades.

          My oldest Grandson (an EOD1) gave me the glazed eye look when I asked him a few years ago if the Navy still had acey deucy clubs.

          His reply – a what club?

          Drank many a beer at the acey deucy in GLAKES NTC. What a life back then

        • SGT Dan says:

          Jesus, I did an overnight on the Guad in ’84, I was in fifth grade, and the ETs were still telling that story about the bridge being wired.

    • AZtoVA says:

      Saw a review a few days back from a mil law individual – looked to him like she accepted a plea agreement in exchange for her testimony against the CO.

    • NHSparky says:

      Nah. She was in over her head and didn’t seek help or follow the COs Night Orders.

      She has a lot of blame in the deaths of seven of her shipmates. Here’s hoping she understands that.

      • wheeler.gerald1@gmail.com says:

        Yep, but were was senior enlisted? there should have been a Chief up there on duty. We have seen this happen over and over. Yes Officers are overall responsible, but senior enlisted have the experience, the problem is the MESS has changed, that is all I am going to say.

        • wheeler.gerald1@gmail.com says:

          Where

        • Charles Strong says:

          concur…awcs ret

        • Kevin says:

          No, they hadn’t had that guy for 2 years. Seriously. The orders had then cutting through unmarked shipping lanes at 20 knots at night with the AIS off and the CIC radar set incorrectly to long range. She had far too little experience to be OOD in this situation, but the senior officers who should have been OOD there wanted their beauty sleep and she was the junior officer who was pencil whipped “qualified”. It was a total CF that shows, like the Fat Leonard affair, how the Navy really works and what the O5/O6 and flag officers really care about.

    • B says:

      From what I’ve gathered from my Navy friends it’s standard to fire all the higher ups when a ship gets damaged.

      Personally I think Coppock is absolutely at fault, but the higher ups are equally responsible because they set the command culture. Out of three officers on the bridge I think it’s telling that they all dropped the ball. I’m sure this wasn’t the only wonky thing going on, just that you can’t hide the deaths of seven sailors. I think it’s odd that an officer of her rank was left in charge of such a large ship while in such a busy area.

    • desert says:

      Sure sounds like a “scapegoat” to me!

    • No,it is not scape go as thing by The Navy. It is,however, a result of failing to be personally responsible. The military isn’t supposed to be an experiment in how the military can reflect society by lowering the the standards to accommodate individual whims. Not only did she f as ill to follow orders as he failed to follow international maritime law and has been found guilty and will be sentenced according to the UCMJ.

    • Byron Warner says:

      They are. No radar, exhaustion from a non-stop 16 hr. day prior to standing watch, at which point they entered heavily trafficked waters. Poor management at best. The squadron was overworked and under equipped. That’s not her fault. I wish she’d been able to sound the alarm prior to collision, though. That might have saved lives. I stood those watches once, long ago. We never had any problems with near misses. It won’t happen if the crew is taken care of and the watch is alert.

  2. Mick says:

    As per the Stars & Stripes article linked above, LTJG Coppock was the Officer of the Deck aboard USS FITZGERALD at the time of the collision, so the Navy will show her no mercy.

    She’s done, and rightly so.

    • Dennis O’Leary says:

      She lost 6 weeks pay and a letter in her permanent file. But she “accepted responsibility “

      • Mick says:

        I’m not sure what your point is.

        I’m not saying that I believe that her punishment was just.

        LTJG Coppock was taken to Mast (NJP), and she was also court-martialed. I don’t have any insight into the internal machinations of her NJP and court-martial proceedings and how/why she was charged as she was and subsequently awarded the punishment that she received.

        When I said ‘she’s done’, I meant that her career is done. She’ll never be promoted and she will probably now be compelled very soon to ‘show cause’ as to why she should be retained on active duty in the USN. In my experience, no one has ever successfully ‘shown cause’ for retention in either the USN or USMC.

        She was the Officer of the Deck at the time of the collision. Therefore, in my opinion, she should have been charged and tried under the UCMJ for negligent homicide and hazarding a naval vessel in addition to dereliction of duty, just as her former CO will be.

        Why she wasn’t charged as such, and why she isn’t now doing any time in the brig or at Fort Leavenworth, are questions that only the U.S. Navy knows the answers to.

        • dcsherlock says:

          Because she’s female and in the military now, social engineering is more important than the lives of men.

  3. IDC SARC says:

    I’d hit it!

  4. Reaperman says:

    I assumed that all of this stuff happened really shortly after the incident, and I’d missed it because the rest of it was bigger news.

  5. Sparks says:

    An O-2 soon to be an O-0 and rightly so. I was not Navy but my understanding is that in her position, the ship was under her control and there are procedures in place to be followed which she failed to follow. As a result of her negligence or hubris, seven Sailors died.

    • charles w says:

      Yes. They are called standing orders. You may get your ass chewed for waking the Skipper up, but Lord help you if you don’t.

      • Kevin says:

        Apparently the CO really didn’t like to be awakened. And they would have been waking him 5-10 times per hour. So they did what they had done for the past few months, which is what their leadership encouraged them to do. “Normalization of Deviance” is the formal name.

        Is she responsible? Yes, but the blame hardly stops there. Who put her there? Why? Is that the right place for the least experienced officer to be OOD? Why was she chosen that night? How often had people actually awoken the captain and what was his response? When was the last time someone had done that? How come the ship hadn’t had a Chief Quartermaster for 2 years? Why didn’t CIC notice the ship until less than a minute before collision? Why was their radar in the wrong mode? Why was there no lookout? How come nobody thought that maybe sounding collision might be good idea?

  6. stewburner says:

    The Captain, XO and Opps should go down on this one, because they signed off on her qualification to stand that watch Station.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      They might well. I’ve heard that a captain whose ship runs aground or collides with another vessel had best polish up his resume because his career is toast.

      Is that still true?

    • Mick says:

      According to the Stars & Stripes article linked above, the former CO of USS FITZGERALD is going to an Article 32 preliminary hearing on 21 May. He faces charges that include negligent homicide, hazarding a ship and dereliction of duty.

      • Sparks says:

        Mick, why do you think she would not or did not share in the charges of negligent homicide if her actions or lack of, were the proximal cause of the collision? Do you think it was part of the plea agreement to take those off the table? I’m speculating in question form here. Thanks for any help.

        • Mick says:

          Sorry, but I honestly don’t know, Sparks. In a UCMJ case of this magnitude, I don’t know if much plea-bargaining would actually be tolerated.

          I would have to refer your questions over to the Sailors and SJA/JAG-types here on Team TAH. Maybe they can pitch in with some insights.

    • OldSoldier54 says:

      I’m thinking the same thing … however, I’m wondering if there was any pressure to qualify her for bridge watch, being a woman and all.

      • Sparks says:

        We’re thinking on the same page OldSoldier54. Get those women qualified and get those boxes for EEO, social program compliance, etc checked ASAP.

        • Ironsides says:

          Oh please. Have you been on a ship lately? Being a female had nothing to do with her qual. If there was any pressure for getting people qualled, it was probably for a FITREP bullet it SWO pennant. Besides, there were plenty of males on that watch who were just as incompetent, to say nothing of the chain of command that set the team up for failure.

          • SaltyDog says:

            Bottom line,senior officers to blame from soup to nuts,20 knots in congested seaway w/ a vessel of that tonnage and an Ltjg in command,the entire scenario is recipe for disaster.She rightly bears her share of responsibility but ultimately her superiors at every level will and should bear the brunt!

  7. OWB says:

    In no way justifying everything she did and/or did not do, but a few questions still come to mind. Like what in the world did the actual officers in charge have to do that was more important than remaining close while transiting a busy traffic lane? If they can’t find the time to take the bridge, or at least be in proximity to it, when the ship is most likely to encounter trouble, why are they there?

    Is it common to put a jg in charge of the whole shebang while all the senior officers disappear?? Crazy!

    • Mason says:

      I was wondering along similar lines. Seems like you’d want a senior officer close, even if not taking charge, for such maneuvers.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        I can understand what you’re saying but I’m not sure I agree.

        First of all, I don’t know how “routine” maneuvers like this are. Not being Navy, I don’t know if this is something that is especially hazardous or if it is just a regular day for the Fleet in that part of the world, such that a junior officer is considered to be an appropriate person to be on the bridge.

        Second, while it might seem unfair, the ground forces equivalent might be where a brand new butterbar suddenly finds himself acting as Company Commander because all the other LT’s have been killed or incapacitated.

        He was commissioned to that rank because he had demonstrated that he met the standards to be a leader, period (if he had not, he wouldn’t have been commissioned, would he?)

        Shit happens on your watch, it lands on you.

        • CPT11A says:

          I see your point, Martin, but at the same time, if the CO and all the LTs except for a butterbar were out of the fight, do you not think the BC would take as tight a rein on that company as possible?

          I do, and I don’t think that should offend the young LT. A 2LT is qualified to run a platoon, not a company. If he finds himself in that position, he needs and deserves to be supervised more closely.

          So- is an O2 in the Navy expected to be capable of maneuvering a destroyer? I guess the Navy believes one is. Sucks for Coppock.

          • Green Thumb says:

            Maybe.

            I have had to assume command at a higher level based on need at times. That being said, it was generally through assumption of command orders.

      • OOD LongAgo says:

        Two thoughts as a Yokosuka-based O-3 who sailed that route on an FFG in the 1990s:

        1) I didn’t crash the ship because, when I felt I might ‘lose the bubble’ (which happens) or just needed a hand with something that made me uneasy – I woke people up. Always the Old Man, but sometimes I asked the Navigator or one of the most experienced officers to wake up and coach me through something I hadn’t seen before. No one EVER complained. No one EVER failed to help me. Humility? That makes us all sleep more soundly, shipmate.

        2) Sailing through bottlenecks with heavy commercial marine traffic? That was as stressful as the frigging Gulf and we had our ‘A-team’ on the bridge, with either the CO, XO, or Navigator awake and on the bridge until things got boring again. You can always tell a rookie because they don’t get scared by the right things, and as a result, they don’t act aggressively enough, early enough to save lives. I have some empathy (but no sympathy) for the Junior Officer; You can’t teach yourself the OOD Job. The CO and XO of that ship own a massive portion of this tragedy.

        May God care for the lost and heal the sorrow of we who grieve for them

    • sj says:

      Admiral Kidd said in a leadership lecture at the Staff College the hardest thing he ever had to do was turn over the bridge of his aircraft carrier exiting New York harbor and go to the hanger deck. He said he had to let the Jr officer(s) gain experience and if he stayed on the bridge they would look to him and/or he’d butt in.

      • OldSoldier54 says:

        That’d give a guy gray hair, for sure.

      • Tallywhagger says:

        That’s a good story. I take it that all ended well and that his pups matriculated to become big dogs in their own right, somewhere along the way.

        • sj says:

          He made 4 stars so, yep, think it worked out and probably wasn’t the only time he did it.There probably were some Chiefs watch to make sure no one did something really dumb. He was funny describing how carrier command was what he worked for for his entire career and here he was standing on an elevator seeing the possibility of his career ending right there, plus potential accident.

          This was in about ’75 so the Navy culture might have been more understanding then. I don’t know. I was Army but his lesson was a good one for all leaders, and even fathers!

          • wheeler.gerald1@gmail.com says:

            sj, that is the problem Chiefs are not the same old crusty guys of 70’s,80’s and yes even some 90’s. They are making them young and early so that critical thinking and experience is not exactly there. I always use to say I hate seeing or being on a train wreck, and that’s when I would voice my thoughts. The only thing you can do is voice your thoughts and experience in what you should or would do, after that the “O” has to deiced what to do.

    • timactual says:

      I wonder about that, too. Is it common in the Navy to put an unsupervised O-2 in charge of anything? The Fitzgerald theoretically had 33 officers assigned (WIKI).

      I was an Army guy, but I cannot imagine an O-2 being put in charge of a Bn., or even a Co., road march in traffic when there are more experienced officers available.

      • Ironsides says:

        JGs *have* to be qualified Officer of the Deck to get their SWO pin, and if they don’t get it, they pretty much don’t make LT and get kicked out.

        It’s pretty awesome responsibility, being a 23-23 year old “kid” who is in charge of a billion dollar warship and 300 lives in the middle of the night when the XO and CO are in their racks. But that’s why there are Standing Orders. And also CIC support. I couldn’t even imagine blowing off a contact report and violating the Standing Orders. So much negligence from the bridge team.

  8. Martinjmpr says:

    It may seem harsh for this to land on the shoulders of such a junior officer but as the comic books have taught us, with power comes responsibility.

    What separates the O’s from the E’s is not their education level or even their job duties – it’s their level of responsibility and what they can be court-martialed for doing or failing to do.

    • wheeler.gerald1@gmail.com says:

      Yes, we always use to say it is our job to keep “JO”s out of Jail, and keep troops safety in mind.

  9. thebesig says:

    Assuming she’s allowed to continue to serve, she’s not looking at making Lieutenant (Army Captain equivalent). Don’t know the specific beyond what’s mentioned in the article regarding the letter and pay hit.

    Her name would show up on the promotion list… but her name would be flagged pending review board action. She’ll have a chance to “make a statement” on her behalf, as well as provide supporting documentation. However, if the board/review determines that she should be removed from the promotion list, and the CNO signs off on it, then her name would be removed from the promotion list.

    She’d have a second chance, but with the same result. Then, she’s looking at getting discharged.

    The article goes on to mention that the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) and CIC Watch Officer are also facing Article 32 hearings. They failed to do basic things that the Operations Specialists should’ve been doing.

    When I was an Operations Specialist, standing watches in CIC, we constantly sent recommendations to the bridge in situations like what they found themselves in. We sent tactical information to the bridge, along with avoiding course recommendations, as soon as we tracked a ship became a danger to us… Long before it showed up on the visual horizon.

    We also made sure that the bridge acknowledged us.

    As the Tactical Action Officer, CIC Watch Officer, or Watch Supervisor (NCOIC) passed this information through the “squawk box”, An OS in CIC was passing that information up through the JL, who also reported that information to the bridge.

    This break down went all the way down to the Seaman levels.

    • OldSoldier54 says:

      With seven dead sailors, she deserves long years in Leavenworth.

    • SaraSnipe says:

      Being a Snipe I do not have a lot to say about how those dummies up on the bridge operate, but I did go drinking with one of the helmsmen on the Sara that saved many careers, lives and prevented considerable damage to her. He was always on the bridge during sea & anchor, unrep or whatever special evolutions that required someone that knows their shit. This was in ’83, ’84. I think of him as Captain Ron. He took immediate and proper actions whenever he saw the need. Guys like that will spoil a crew, because they get used to having that guy. Having a nose for trouble is hard to train into someone.

  10. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    Being a Snipe, I’m keeping out of this one.

  11. Trent says:

    A sad state of affairs all the way around, but I have to say at least Lt.j.g. Coppock owned up to her mistakes. I know her statements don’t ease the pain of the families who lost loved ones, but it’s a start.

  12. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Seven sailors dead and she “cried during her court-martial at the Washington Navy Yard. As her sentence, she will forfeit half of her pay for three months and received a letter of reprimand.” Nice deal and the tissues were free.

    • AW1Ed says:

      And what do you think her advancement opportunities are, 2/17? She has two- slim and none. Remember, it takes a lot of moving parts to fail to cause an incident like this, one being she was rather obviously ill prepared for a relatively routine exercise like a shipping lane passage.

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        Her career options are far greater than those of the seven dead sailors. If she was ill prepared to do her job, I guess that’s not her fault. After all, she’s a girl.

        • AW1Ed says:

          Com’on 2/17. Gender has nothing to do with this, and the results of her actions, or lack of, are why she’s getting shit-canned for what I see as negligent homicide. Sucks? Yes, all around.

          • 2/17 Air Cav says:

            Really? I’m guessing that the same thing about her ill preparedness would not be said about a man. The suggestion is, of course, that her being derelict in the performance of her duties is not entirely her fault. Also, she cried at her court martial. I should point out that also that at least one other of the two officers awaiting their day in court is also female. I guess she, too, wasn’t fully trained.

            • Grunt says:

              No. It wouldn’t be.

              If I, as a leader, sent my Soldiers out to do something difficult or dangerous and didn’t ensure that they were properly trained, then yes its my fucking fault as well if something bad happens.

              Such is leadership. You’re responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen.

              I’ve also seen plenty of men who have cried at Art 15 hearings, courts martial, and civilian court proceedings. Tears aren’t just limited to those “weak minded wimmen-folk”.

              • Grunt says:

                Correction to first line: Yes. It would be.

                Poor copy editing on my part.

              • 2/17 Air Cav says:

                “Such is leadership. You’re responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen.” I did not say that her superior is w/o any responsibility. What I did say is that were she a man, the same excuse would not be offered for her. There were three officers, at least two of them women, who are facing charges, minus this gal who took a sweet plea deal. If it’s lack of training, then it’s time to shut down the whole Navy.

                • 2/17 Air Cav says:

                  Poor training resulted in the surrender of a Navy boat and crew to Iran, caused the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, got a ship stuck in Canada and what else? Maybe the Navy needs a vacation.

                  • Ironsides says:

                    7th FLT obviously has some serious issues, which they’ve been investigating and addressing. Loss of life is always tragic, and that several incidents occurred right after the other made the Navy take a hard look at its training programs. But to suggest that being female had anything to do with qualification, preparedness, sentencing, etc. is just ignorant. Females have been on ships for a while now, and there’s no reason to push them through for EO reasons. I swear, the people who aren’t currently on ships make a bigger deal about it than the ones that are. You got your good and bad male servicemembers, and you’ve got your good and bad female ones. I’ve seen more crappy male officers who only got commissioned because they played a sport at the Academy than anything else. And like Grunt, I’ve seen plenty of tears from both male and female sailors when punishment is being handed out.

                    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

                      Crying is definitely a province mainly of women. There is no disputing that, rationally, and if anyone would like to challenge it, please use Google first. Crying is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Under certain circumstances, it is a sign of childishness. That a naval officer (not merely a sailor) cried at her court martial is significant. Leaders don’t cry, not in the workplace and not in public. It’s that simple. As for the Navy’s preference for women and minorities to fill the officer ranks, I have no idea. I will say this: the preference is so ingrained in the services (save, perhaps, the USMC) that it is probably now a given.

        • Ex-PH2 says:

          Gender has nothing to do with training someone to navigate a ship through shipping traffic or drive a car. That is the fault of the command on that ship.

          IF she was left to wing it and didn’t have enough sense to demand that a more experienced officer guide her, she’s at fault, yes. If she was left to wing it, and was refused help, that’s the ships’s command at fault. If she was set up for failure, you’d have to ask why.

          I’ve run into women who were stationed on board ships in Asian waters who have said it was tough, but they found it very rewarding.

          My guess, from the bewildered look on Coppock’s face in that photo, is that she lacked some common sense and now she and the others have to pay for it.

          • Grunt says:

            I really wouldn’t put too much stock in the photo. All of us make less than flattering faces that if caught in a picture would make us look like mouth breathers.

  13. Club Manager, USA ret. says:

    Was there not a senior chief on deck to tell the LTJG to get her head out of her ass? Yes, we turn junior officers loose but the expectation, at least in the Army, was there would be an NCO with them to keep things on an even kneel.

    • sj says:

      ^^^Word. I’ve surely heard expressions like: “would the LT like for me to …”. I.e., I did something dumb and he was politely telling me how to unfvck it.

      • The Stranger says:

        Exactly, and I was a prior NCO. I knew enough to listen to my Platoon Sergeant and my NCOs

        • Sj says:

          It got to where he didn’t even have to say anything…I’d get the subtle “LOOK”.

    • oldrmepilot says:

      When I became XO of a firing battery as a “senior” butter bar, the firing battery chief, SFC Brandon, the last of the brown shoes, called me aside and said “Lieutenant, here is how it is, you cover my ass and I will keep you out of trouble”. I did and he did.

      • SaraSnipe says:

        As a section chief, my best approach was,”Sir, can you explain to me why our impact area at blah blah mils is over there (Dona Ana NM where one can see where the are supposed to go), but all our tubes are pointing over there?”. My attitude would be that I genuinely needed the training. Everybody thought because I was ex-Navy, that I did not know shit. Three times during that AT, I had to do this. One to let the Commander know that there was a ROZ that had to be considered for Min QE. I do not know who let them have this range. I also had to educate all those that knew their shit about how to set the timer on Illum rounds. That AT was the most frightened I have ever been in my military career. Battalion FDC called to load Illum rounds and I was the one that called check fire, because they did not give us a time setting. Me being the guy that prevents calamity is not the situation I ever considered myself being in, but that to me is part of being aNCO.

        • timactual says:

          It is rather disconcerting when you finally discover that those in charge of dangerous things don’t know what they are doing. I was an FDC for a mortar platoon right out of AIT. Took me a couple of years and two duty stations to figure out how ignorant i was, because there was nobody who knew any better. Thankfully, I never hurt any good guys. Probably no bad guys, either.

    • thebesig says:

      Originally posted by Club Manager, USA ret.

      Was there not a senior chief on deck to tell the LTJG to get her head out of her ass? Yes, we turn junior officers loose but the expectation, at least in the Army, was there would be an NCO with them to keep things on an even kneel.

      On the ships that I was on, you had the Officer of the Deck, the Conning Officer, the Quartermaster of the Watch, and Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch. I’ve seen senior enlisted as the conning officers. Both the Conning Officer and Officer of the Deck were usually junior officers. The Quartermaster of the Watch is an NCO, and the same with the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch.

      The CIC Watch Supervisor is an NCO, I’ve even seen CIC Watch Officers that were senior enlisted.

      Whenever we had a radar contact that looked like it was tracking to close to the ship, we gave the lookouts a heads up. When it was supposed to show up on the horizon, we’d once again reach out to the appropriate lookout. We had more manning on station whenever we went through heavily traveled channels.

      So, when the “threatening” ship comes within visual range, the JL talker on the bridge receives information from the lookouts as well as from CIC. A good OOD and Conning officer team would be querying the BMOWs up to get their lookouts to be looking for those ships as soon as they’re supposed to show up on the horizon. They’d also looked at the radar repeaters on the bridge.

      There’s enough “checks and balances” to where even a combined watch team consisting of junior NCOS would be able to “influence” a change of course away from danger. We did work closer with the BMs when something like this happened, even got the Signalmen in on the act.

      Heck, I was passing avoiding course recommendations to the bridge as a junior NCO. I did it from the radar repeater, from the maneuvering board, and from the Dead Reckoning Tracer. :mrgreen: All the OOD had to do, in these instances, was to take our recommendations. They were doing their own plot as well, our recommendations matching theirs was a good indication of a specific course of action.

  14. Pops says:

    Did she not know–That a collision at sea, could ruin your whole day?

    • OWB says:

      She surely does now!

      But seriously, it seems like it took a whole lot of folks up and down the food chain doing something other than what they were supposed to be doing to mess it up this badly. And two near misses preceding the collision? Now matter what the dials, radar, and whatever whiz bang gadgets somebody on the ship were supposed to be monitoring, wouldn’t somebody have noticed a serious change in direction of the ship? And maybe called somebody to inquire what was going on?

      I dunno. Don’t know much about ships, but it seems that something very strange was going on here. But yes, those in charge definitely are responsible. All of them.

  15. Stephen F. McCartney, M.D. says:

    Years back the USN canked the several month long SWO School at Newport, R.I. for cost cutting I am told. They switched to on deck duty and instructional C.D.s. with follow up short stints at SWO Tng at Newport at the end. It was during underway periods they learned and when ready, took the rather brutal SWO boards. Most of the SWOs I have discussed this with have mentioned that the ending of the intensive resident SWO school has had an effect and they are concerned that these episodes likely play into it.
    CAPT Bones USN (ret)

  16. Dave, Cdr., USN, retired says:

    Grabbing some sleep in the middle of the night when the ship is 1,000 west of Pearl is prime sleeping time for a Navy Ship Captain. A Captain grabbing sleep in the middle of the night in one of the busiest (and scariest) sea lanes is stunning; as the Navy apparently agreed.

    • SFC D says:

      I may be a retired signal puke, with no nautical experience other than a 16ft boat, but that was exactly my thought, Sir.

  17. FatCircles0311 says:

    The verdict is a joke. Crying, tattoos, and officers getting a slap on the wrist when deriliction of duty caused the deaths of fellow sailors. This is embarrassing for the navy not only the idiots in charge not having a fucking clue but also not holding those people accountable.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      You know, I had no idea what you meant when you mentioned the tattoo so I googled it. And all I can say is – WOW.

      For those that don’t know and don’t want to google – Apparently immediately following this incident, Coppock went on shore leave and got a tattoo on her wrist with the coordinates of the collision, the words “Protect your People” and seven shamrocks to symbolize the seven lives lost.

      Now, setting aside for the moment my mild surprise that an officer would get a tattoo (seems to be more of an enlisted thing but in these days, not so much I guess) but the idea that she would memorialize such an incident seems … bizarre is the only word that comes to mind.

      What the hell was she trying to say with that tattoo? Is it supposed to serve as a reminder of some type? A confession? A commemoration? It’s deeply disturbing and seems to be a decision that was a product of an unwell mind (and I’m assuming alcohol was also involved) but even so, did she not have a fellow officer who could and should have dissuaded her from making such a foolish choice?

      (I’m trying to imagine if Lt. Calley had gotten a tattoo with the coordinates of My Lai and the words “Obey the Laws Of Land Warfare” what people would have thought.)

      Weird, bizarre and tragic all around. I’m assuming that after this is all over, Coppock and the Navy will part ways and while that may or may not be good for Coppock, it’s undoubtedly good for the Navy.

      • rgr769 says:

        One has to wonder what is going on in her brain housing group that caused her to think inking a symbol of the greatest fuck-up in her young life was a good idea. She has some serious mental problems. The tattoo screams lack of judgment.

  18. JURRASICHM says:

    The Navy is still paying for eight years of let’s all feel inclusive and squishy under the Secretary of Social Engineering Ray Mabus. The guy was an absolute joke. He was more worried about kissing Obama’s ass and pandering to his niche voting blocks than he was about the operational capabilities of the Navy. The Navy also needs to get back to real seamanship training and reduce its over dependence on technology. If these crews can’t operate effectively during routine patrols what the hell is going to happen when the shooting starts?

    • Cameron Kingsley says:

      I did see some posts on Facebook (I believe it was on the official Facebook page for the Navy) that the Navy was going back to using old fashioned yet tried and true navigation methods through use of sextants and using the stars to navigate.

  19. CarrierSailor says:

    I spent more than a little time as a phone talker on the bridge of a US Navy carrier many years ago and my first reaction after reading about this situation was what in heavens name happened to the Navy I served in? What I saw on our bridge was competent and capable officers and enlisted men who took their job and responsibilities like the professionals they were. This seems like a case of a very poorly trained OOD combined with senior officers and chiefs who also dropped the ball.

  20. Jerry lambden says:

    Retired Navy and retired airline driver.. seems in both professions old fashion training in basic navigation and situation awareness have been replaced with technology. Doesn’t anyone look out the ” window” any more?

  21. Jerry lambden says:

    Retired Navy and retired airline driver.. seems in both professions old fashion training in basic navigation and situation awareness have been replaced with technology. Doesn’t anyone look out the ” window” any more?

  22. Destroyer OOD says:

    I lean more toward training and command climate. The other hundreds of Navy ships are managing to avoid collisions.

    Retired Navy