Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Cleaning House on the Stout

USS Stout (DDG-55). The Navy has relieved the destroyer's skipper and command master chief after "losing confidence" in their ability to lead. Their dismissal followed misconduct by members of the Stout's crew during recent port visits in Scotland and the Mediterranean (U.S. Navy photo).

When revolution erupted in Libya, the U.S. Navy had only one surface combatant, the USS Stout, in the Mediterranean Sea (the other vessel, the USS Mount Whitney, is a command-and-control platform).

Despite the lack of naval assets, many wondered why the U.S. didn't follow the lead of Britain (and other countries) by sending an available warship to evacuate Americans from Libya.

Now, we may have the answer to that question. From the AP, via the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Navy fired a destroyer commander and a top aide and removed eight sailors from their ship in the Mediterranean after misbehavior by the crew in overseas ports that included drunk and disorderly conduct.

The U.S. 6th Fleet said Cmdr. Nathan Borchers was relieved from the USS Stout on Tuesday.

The Navy said it had lost confidence in Borchers' ability to address what it called a pattern of unprofessional behavior by his crew that included fraternization, orders violations and disregard for naval standards.

According to the AP, the "top aide" who was fired (along with Commander Borchers) was the ship's top enlisted sailor, Command Master Chief Susan Bruce-Ross.

Borchers is being replaced by Commander Sylvester Steele, the former executive officer of the USS Ramage, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The Navy has also selected Commander Master Chief Anthony Cole to replace Bruce-Ross. CMC Cole was most recently assigned at Naval Surface Force Atlantic HQ in Norfolk.

A Navy spokesman said Borchers and his command chief were relieved after an investigation revealed a "substandard command climate" aboard the Stout. The probe began following a series of drunken incidents involving Stout sailors during port visits in foreign nations. While those locations were not disclosed, the ship's blog said the guided missile destroyer visited Palermo, Sicily, Haifa, Israel and the Greek island of Crete this year, and Faslane, Scotland last year.

A 6th Fleet spokesman emphasized that neither Borchers nor Bruce-Ross were involved in the misconduct ashore. However, the Navy has removed one officer, five chiefs and one petty officer from the Stout in connection with the incidents.

The announcement of the command change on the Stout may explain why the vessel wasn't ordered into a Libyan port to evacuate Americans. With Borchers' leadership in question--and an investigation nearing completion--the 6th Fleet wasn't about to send the destroyer on a sensitive mission to a port city in the throes of revolution--and without key members of its "middle management" (the officer and chiefs removed from the ship). Instead, the Stout was relegated to escorting the civilian ferry hired to transport U.S. citizens from Libya to Malta.

With Commander Steele coming aboard later this week, tasking for the destroyer may quickly change. We're guessing the new skipper of the Stout won't get much time to turn his ship around, and get her ready for more assignments off Libya.


ADDENDUM: Various Navy blogs report that Borchers assumed command of the Stout just three months ago. He apparently inherited a troubled ship, but was unable to fix the problems in his command. Under another skipper, the Stout failed a major inspection three years ago, leaving it "unfit for sustained combat operations." Since then, the DDG has passed 13 major evaluations but those recent incidents ashore (and the poor command climate) prompted the firing of Borchers, along with his command chief.


Tamquam said...

As a former USN sailor this strikes me as ludicrous. Drunk and disorderly sailors ashore were a normal part of Navy life during my time (71-75), not only on my ship, but on every ship I ever heard about.

Anonymous said...

Of course the fact that the CMC is a woman is probably the source of the problem. No command presence or ability to lead young men filled with testosterone.

But drunkenness on shore leave. Wow, that is a surprise. Never heard of that.