Tuesday, February 08, 2005

USS San Francisco Grounding - DOOW's perspective

John at Argghhh! does my job for me. Bill the Rotorhead was sent the following email, I'll quote in full. This is slightly edited from the first few hours of this post. This sounds ligit and I will let those who can judge it. I will run it, and leave it at that.

Some of the abbreviations are:

DOOD - Diving Officer of the Deck
OOD - Officer of the Deck
SBO - Switch Board Operator - my job at sea
COB - Chief of the Boat
EOOW - Engineering Officer of the Watch

"To say that I've had a bad year so far would be a little short on the tooth I think. Last year was a good one for the boat. After spending 5 months away from home in drydock (Sandy Eggo) we got our second BA on ORSE (bad juju), received the highest score in PacFlt for a submarine TRE inspection, aced our mine readiness inspection with 4 out of 4 hits, completed 2 outstanding missions (will have to shoot you), and completed a early ORSE just before Christmas with an EXCELLENT. It was also the first year that Auxiliary Division had a Christmas stand-down since coming out of the yards in 2002. A-division also took the CSS-15 Red DC award for the second year in a row. My retention has been 100% since I checked onboard in Oct 2002 amongst 1st/2nd and turd termers.

We were going to our first true liberty port 2 weeks ago, heading for Brisbane and fun in the sun. As this WOG knows, we were getting ready for our crossing the line ceremony and the crew was really upbeat, and hard charging, we had just completed a great year for the San Fran. To say the world went to shyte in a hand basket would be an understatement. I would put it closer to a nightmare that becomes reality.

The seamount that is a large part of the discussion the last 2 weeks is un- named. The charts we carried onboard were up to date as far as we can tell. No modern geographic data for this area was available to us onboard as it is a remote area not often traveled by the Navy. We have one of the BEST ANav's in the fleet onboard, a true quartergasket that takes pride in his job. We have RLGN's onboard, when they are running, they are accurate as hell for our position, they also drive Tomahawks. We knew where we were. All of my depth gauges and digital read the same depths as we changed depth to our SOE depth for flank. I can't discuss alot, because I'm still a participant of at least 2 investigations....LOL.

I was the Diving Officer of the Watch when we grounded. If you read the emails from ComSubPac, you will get some of the details, from flank speed to less than 4 knots in less than 4 seconds. We have it recorded on the RLGN's-those cranky bastages actually stayed up and recorded everything. For you guys that don't understand that, take a Winnebego full of people milling around and eating, slam it into a concrete wall at about 40mph, and then try to drive the damn thing home and pick up the pieces of the passengers.

As for the actual grounding, I can tell you that it was fortunate that myself and the Chief of the Watch were blessed by somebody. I was standing up, changing the expected soundings for a new depth on the chart (yes, we had just moved into deeper water) leaning against the ship's control panel with a hand grip, and the COW was leaning down to call the COB on the MJ.

The next thing to cross my mind was why am I pushing myself off of the SCP and where the hell the air rupture in the control room come from? I didn't know it, but I did a greater than 3g spiderman against the panel, punched a palm through the only plexiglass gauge on the SCP and had my leg crushed by the DOOW chair that I had just unbuckled from. The DOOW chair was broken loose by the QMOW flying more than 15 feet into it and smashing my leg against a hydraulic valve and the SCP. I don't remember freeing myself from it. If I had been buckled in, I don't think I would be writing this. The COW was slammed against the base of the Ballast Control Panel, and only injured his right arm. He could of destroyed the BCP, he was a big boy. Everybody else in control, with the exception of the helm, was severely thrown to the deck or other items that were in their way, and at least partially dazed. Within about 5 seconds of the deceleration, we blew to the surface, it took that 5 seconds for the COW to climb up the BCP and actuate the EMBT blow. We prepared to surface right away and got the blower running asap, I didn't know how much damage we had forward but knew it was not good, I wanted that blower running.

I would say that about 80% of the crew was injured in some way, but do not know the number. We grounded in the middle of a meal hour, just after field day, so most of the crew was up. Once we got the boat on the surface and semi-stable with the blower running the rest of the ship conditions started sinking in to our minds. We were receiving 4MC's for injured men all over the boat. I was worried that those reports were over whelming any equipment/boat casualties that could make our life worse. I had teams form up of able bodied men to inspect all of the forward elliptical bulkhead, lower level, and tanks below those spaces. I couldn't believe that we did not have flooding, it just didn't fit in. At one point I looked around in the control room, and saw the disaster. The entire control room deck was covered in paper from destroyed binders, and blood. It looked like a slaughterhouse, we had to clean it up.

I knew that Ash was severely injured and brought to the messdecks, he was one of my best men, and one of our best sailors onboard, he was like a son to me. After surfacing I was the control room supervisor, I had a boat to keep on the surface and fight and knew that if I went below to see how he was doing, it would teeter me on the brink of something that the ship did not need, the ship needed somebody who knew her. I have to say that the design engineers at Electric Boat, NavSea and others have designed a submarine that can withstand incredible amounts of damage and survive. We lost no systems, equipment, or anything broke loose during the impact. The damage to our sailors was almost all from them impacting into the equipment.

The crew is a testament to training and watch team backup. When a casualty occurs, you fight like you train, and train like you fight. It kept us alive during that 2+day period. [emphasis mine - ed]

I've just returned from the honor of escorting my sailor home to his family. God bless them, they are truly good people and patriotic. The Navy is doing everything they can for them and they are learning how submariner's take care of each other. During the memorial and viewing on Saturday, CSS-15 provided a video from the coast guard of us on the surface and the SEAL/Dr. medical team being helo'd in, the family had this video played on 2 screens in the background. It was a sobering reminder of what a hard woman the ocean can be. We had to call off the helo because of the sea state, it was becoming too dangerous for the aircraft, we almost hit it with the sail a couple of times. The sea would not allow us to medivac in our condition and that sea state. I was one of the 23 sent to the hospital that Monday. I was fortunate, my leg was not broken, just trashed/bruised. I walked on that leg for almost 24 hours before it gave out on me and they had it splinted. The SEAL made me promise not to walk on it, how do you refuse a SEAL? LOL. So I hopped around on a single leg for awhile, the other chief's were calling me Tiny Tim, LOL. "God bless each and every one! Except you, and you, that guy behind you!". The COB threatened to beat my @ss if I walk onboard before my leg is otay, he's about the only man onboard that I'd take that from, hehe.

The crew is doing better, we've lost a few due to the shock of the incident. We will make sure they are taken care of. The investigation goes on, and I have a new CO. I will only say that the San Fran was the best damn sub in the Navy under CDR Mooneys leadership. We proved that. God bless him and his family no matter what happens in the future, he is truly a good man.

I just need to get my leg healed and get back to fighting my favorite
steel bitch..."

I am hearing from here and a couple of other places that Skipper Mooney might be under the gun. I know there is more out there that we don't know, but if things are as they seem, I hope he doesn't go down.

You know, in aviation if you are in a multi-engine plane that due to no fault of your own, one engine blows itself and one other out of 4 engines and you manage to get back, they don't fire you-they give you an Air Medal with Bronze Star. Go figure. I need Bubblehead's take on this.

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