Saturday, September 11, 2010

The "Responsible Service"

Some time ago, in writing about the hearings into the collision between a Marine F-18 and a Coast Guard C-130, I commented that the Coast Guard was coming across as “the more responsible service.” After reading about the hearings into the sailors charged in the boat collision in San Diego harbor that resulted in civilian loss of life, I am inclined to withdraw that conclusion.

It appears that these sailors being charged with crimes is more of an exercise in scapegoating than anything else, blaming them for a serious command failure at the Coast Guard station in San Diego. The hearings make it appear that this is a facility where training and discipline are all but entirely absent.

Unfortunately, the San Diego Union-Tribune does not make much of its content available online, but parts of this article reveal just how lacking the leadership is at Coast Guard San Diego.

But that picture was clouded by testimony from another San Diego Coast Guard boat driver who said Ramos’ driving had to be corrected from time to time, including during one offshore mission when a boat crew had to entreat him to slow down because they were getting battered about in rolling seas.

Petty Officer 2nd Class James Helt also said he thought Ramos’ boat driver qualification should have been suspended after that and then revoked in September when he destroyed a $18,000 boat engine by running it into a commonly used underwater boat ramp at North Island Naval Air Station.

Seemingly, the driver of the boat which caused the fatal accident was known to be a cowboy who frequently drove recklessly, and his habits had not only not led to disciplinary action, they had not even been corrected. Other articles have revealed that the other sailors in the boat were not keeping a lookout because it was not their habit to do so, for the simple reason that they had never been instructed to do so. One would think that basic training and fundamental intelligence coupled with self preservation would lead them to do it anyway, but evidently not.

So the Marine Corps and Navy simply find no fault at all when lives are lost, and the Coast Guard scapegoats junior sailors to avoid admitting command failure. Hard to see which is the “more responsible service” here.

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