Guam tours extended
Military personnel on Guam will see tours of duty extended. From January 2006 Air Force accompanied tours on Guam will change from 24 to 36 months while unaccompanied tours will stretch from 15 to 24 months. Navy tours will also be extended to three years for accompanied tours and two years for unaccompanied tours following an order for enactment on Oct. 12. Extension of tour of duty for staff already on Guam is voluntary.
The orders mean not only cost savings but provide a positive aspect to training and readiness Navy public affairs personnel said.
Rice takes command at Andersen
Maj. Gen. Edward Rice Jr. took command of the 13th Air Expeditionary Force at Andersen Air Force Base on Jan. 25. Rice most recently served as the chief of staff for the Office of the Representative and executive director for the Coalition Provision Authority under the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
USS San Francisco officer found guilty in sub accident
The captain of a submarine that hit a seamount Jan. 8 in waters 350 miles south of Guam killing one crewman and seriously injuring 23 others has been found guilty of operating the submarine in an unsafe manner and has been issued a letter of reprimand effectively ending his career.
Cmdr. Kevin Mooney the captain of the USS San Francisco (SSN 711) was permanently relieved as skipper on Feb. 11 after an administrative proceeding known as an admiral’s mast. The proceeding was convened by an order of Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert commander of the 7th Fleet.
Cmdr. Ike N. Skelton spokesman for the 7th Fleet in Yokosuka Japan said Greenert determined during the investigation that Mooney failed to follow “several critical navigational and voyage planning” standards.
“By not ensuring those standards were followed Mooney hazarded the vessel ” Skelton said. The mast concluded that Mooney’s crew had access to charts that showed there might have been an underwater obstruction in the area. Plus a sounding taken just minutes before the accident did not correlate with the charts that were in use at the time which should have prompted Mooney to be more cautious news reports said.
The San Francisco was heading to Australia when it came to periscope depth a little more than 400 miles southwest of Guam to fix its position accurately. Minutes after diving and while traveling at a high rate of speed the submarine slammed into a seamount in an area where official Navy charts list 6 000 feet of water.
Machinist Mate 3rd Class Joseph Ashley was killed when he was thrown more than 20 feet and struck his head on a large pump. Almost two dozen others were injured so badly they could not perform their duties though they have all since been treated and released from the Navy hospital in Guam. Ashley’s family have since visited Guam.
The crew saved the ship by constantly running a low pressure blower meant for only intermittent use to force water out of the badly damaged forward ballast tanks as well as using exhaust from the ship’s diesel motor to augment the blower.
Despite the force of the blow the nuclear reactor and the ship’s turbine generators continued to operate normally and even sensitive electronic and navigation gear continued to function.
On Jan. 20 Mooney was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam pending the results of an investigation to determine the cause of the sub’s grounding. Cmdr. Andrew Hale the squadron’s deputy commander assumed duties as captain of the San Francisco.
The mast means that Mooney will not face more serious proceeding known as a court martial but the letter of reprimand and the decision to relieve him of command “For Cause” means that his career is over Navy sources said.
Lt. Cmdr. Jeff A. Davis spokesman for the Pacific submarine force commander said Feb. 12 that assessment of the damage to the San Francisco was proceeding. He said shipyard workers in Guam are planning to make temporary repairs to the bow of the ship so it can be moved under its own power to a shipyard where it can be repaired.
Davis further stated that a large steel dome about 20 feet high and 20 feet in diameter will be delivered to Guam and be engineered to fit the submarine’s bow for the transit.
USS Houston changes commander
The submarine USS Houston (SSN 713) held a change-of-command ceremony at Polaris Point Jan. 7. Cmdr. Christopher J. Kaiser was relieved by Cmdr. John S. Zavadil.
Zavadil most recently served as current operations officer and submarine operations officer for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
The USS Houston arrived at its new homeport in Apra Harbor from Bremerton Wash. on Dec. 24 after an extensive overhaul and upgrades. It is one of three submarines homeported in Guam. MBJ