Monday, January 13, 2020

Summer 2017's JAG Backwash

2.5 years.

That is roughly a bit more than 2/3 the time we fought WWII.

Though well meaning people can come to disagreements on details, but there is no question that from the junior officer to the flag officer, the Navy failed its Sailors. There has to be some accountability, or we send a message that poor performance at sea isn't really a concern.

Before we bring out a few pull quotes, we need to emphasize this; our Forward Deployed Naval Forces in WESTPAC are supposed to be our front-line. They are at the bleeding edge of the Pacific Pivot. They are responsible for BMD, and to be the face of our Nation to Russian, North Korea, China, as well as our friends.

And yes;
... Rear Adm. Brian Fort found that Combs’ CIC had "zero communication” with the bridge team before the Crystal loomed seemingly out of nowhere to ram the Fitz’s starboard hull.

Although listed as operational, her CIC’s SPS-67 system actually had fallen into a “degraded status,” according to Fort’s report.
Some CIC sailors didn’t appear to know how to use the equipment — much of it in various states of disrepair — and the room itself was heaped in garbage, human waste and exercise equipment, he wrote.

In the aftermath of the ACX Crystal collision, Fort found a stack of abandoned forms where Combs had been sitting.

“She was most likely consumed and distracted by a review of Operations Department paperwork for the three and a half hours of her watch prior to the collision,” he wrote.
Here we are, the winter of 2020 and the only officer held to any account was the one who was advised to take a plea deal.

Military prosecutors arraigned Combs in 2018 for two violations of the UCMJ: dereliction of duty that negligently resulted in the death of fellow sailors and the negligent and improper hazarding of a vessel.

It was a controversial call. Sifting through the evidence compiled against her, an Article 32 hearing officer previously recommended the Navy skip court-martial proceedings and send Combs to a board of inquiry to determine if she warranted remaining on duty.
the case against her and her commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, collapsed nine months ago under the weight of an increasing number of allegations accusing senior leaders of misconduct, especially concerns that unlawful command influence, or UCI...
That left only Combs to face the administrative tribunal. While they determined her performance shortly before the collision was substandard, the board unanimously agreed there was no basis for involuntarily separating her and chose to retain her, according to Bean.
A Navy board of inquiry on Thursday ruled there’s no reason to separate a lieutenant for dereliction of duty while serving on board the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald during a deadly 2017 collision that killed seven sailors, one of her attorneys told Navy Times.

Lt. Natalie Combs now will be honorably discharged from the sea service after 11 years in uniform.
From DESRON to the CNO's office, the legal support, recommendations, and performance is, in a word, damning.

For years, officers have waited for some type of final closure on their reputation and careers. That isn't fair to them.

Families of the 17 Sailors have looked for explanations and something like justice. That isn't fair to them.

Our Navy has been looking for evidence that we are a sound, well run institution. That isn't fair to us.

It wasn't just the CIC of FITZ that was full of broken equipment, incomplete admin overhead, bottles full of human waste, and non-mission related distractions - as evidenced by this timeline, so is the Navy's system of accountability.

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