So, the HARTFORD JAGMAN is out. In typical fashion, NavyTimes gets a little sensational with its cherry-picking of phrases. “The Navigator was listening to his iPod during a critical evolution.”
The fact that he wasn’t in control during the crossing notwithstanding, he was in the wardroom…so listening to his iPod isn’t that far out of the norm.
I’m not going to go into the report and pass any judgements on the reported actions of the ship. Are there things that could have been done differently? Should have been done differently? Probably. But these things don’t occur in a vacuum, although they are evaluated in one.
I take it as a reminder that submarining is a hard business. Hyper-vigilence is the order of the day and the second you relax is the second it bites you. But you also have to remember that hyper-vigilence is useless if it is not focused on the right things. Take the time to step back and think about the big flick.
All that said, there is this little tidbit in the article that I find very interesting…
The collision illustrates the force’s larger problem with contact management. An internal message sent by Submarine Force Pacific commander Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny less than a month after the collision urged commanders and commodores to boost crews’ ability to track surface contacts.
“Over several months” prior to the incident, hundreds of watchstanders were tested in their ability to understand how to analyze the movement of surface contacts. The exams yielded results of 10 percent to 15 percent passing grades among enlisted watchstanders and 60 percent of officers.
“Given the attention I have personally placed on submerged contact management in briefing the waterfronts, this is unacceptable,” McAneny wrote in the message obtained by Navy Times.
Unacceptable? Most definitely. The question is…why?
I would offer this…the way we conduct contact management has changed greatly since I was a wee ensign. And I wouldn’t say it’s for the better. We constantly evaluate for the worst case scenario, and pay little mind to the most probable scenario.
Ask a newly minted contact coordinator, “Who is the contact of concern right now?” He’ll probably default to the closest guy, because the contact might turn directly at you and run at full speed.
Or the contact might not. In fact, it probably won’t.
Chances are the real contact of interest is the huge ass merchant 20k yards away who is coming directly at you at 20+ knots. But he’s not an interest right now. Why? Because he’s 10 miles away.
Somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten that the main goal is to not get run over. We get all wrapped up in mental gym and calculations and stop watches and “Look how awesome I am because I can do calculations in my head!” and we forget to just look around and see who’s going to hit us.
Gotta keep the big flick.