Via Kate at the VaPilot,
A military jury found a naval officer not guilty Friday night in the death of a sailor aboard the trouble-plagued amphibious transport dock San Antonio - a case that pitted the Navy's principle of holding commanders at sea accountable against the perception that the crew was being blamed for the vessel's flaws.BZ to LCDR Kearns and the jury.
Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, 42, was charged with negligence for failing to properly train and supervise small-boat operations on Feb. 4, 2009. A rigid-hull inflatable boat being lowered from the ship flipped, throwing three sailors into the Gulf of Aden. Petty Officer 1st Class Theophilus Ansong was lost at sea.
Kearns, who was the ship's executive officer, chose to take the case to court-martial rather than accept a potentially career-ending reprimand like the one given to Cmdr. Eric Cash, the ship's captain.
Here is why,
Kearns said the verdict is more than a personal vindication.That is Fullbore. That is moral courage. Like then LT Black, LCDR Kearns leaned into the wind because it was the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do.
"The true victors here are the sailors who served on, and continue to serve on, LPD-17-class ships," he said, adding that they face struggles with the new design and are not getting the resources they need from the Navy.
When asked why he refused administrative punishment, Kearns said: "Things needed to be made known.... Someone needed to stand up."
Here is why he did what he did.
"You're going to learn a lot about the San Antonio, but I think I can sum it up," he said, quoting from a 2007 internal Navy report that it remained "an unfinished ship."Documented over the years on this blog as well. Before she even got underway we told you that this ship would get fixed with enough money and hard work of Sailors. I think we even warned that it might take a life or two.
"She was incomplete," Czaplak said. "The Navy wanted Kearns and the crew to deploy with an incomplete ship. Now, it wants to court-martial him."
The lawyer described some well-known problems found on the San Antonio: 6,000 faulty welds, and loose bolts that caused the engines to misalign. He also revealed that it deployed without 40 percent of the technical manuals usually found on board.
"The evidence is going to show that the government is grasping at straws, hoping you'll see a haystack," he said. "They're not even going to come close to their burden" of proof.
There is a cost for poor program management - Petty Officer Ansong unfortunately payed the ultimate price to prove that point. He didn't need to die like he did - I hope that is not lost on Big Navy.
Court Martial ... yea, someone needs to be sent to Court Martial - but it ain't Sean.
Promote him via a special board with back pay. A phone call from the CNO would be nice too. More calls to the family of Petty Officer Ansong is in order as well. Oh, and Sean - if you ever want to come on Midrats, drop me an email.
If you want an example of moral courage Midshipmen and Junior Officers - look to LCDR Kearns. As it should be done.