USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


Fitz has significant damage below the waterline. I recall a Navy statement that said the hole, below the waterline, is 12x17 foot (where the bulbous bow of ACX penetrated the hull), and that’s why 3+ compartments were flooded under a minute (those 7 sailors were sleeping in that vicinity). Another report said the bulbous bow penetrated all the way pretty close to the keel of Fitz. They obviously had to make very tough choices in a hurry about sealing the watertight doors to save the vessel. I guess, if the decisions were not executed immediately the water flow physics would have made it impossible to seal the doors leading to more compartments getting flooded (causing nastier listing).


Except for “… a 10-feet-by-10-feet to 14-feet-by-14-feet hole below the waterline of the ship, flooding a machinery space (and) the berthing area that was home to about half of the crew …” *

I think that counts as hull damage.

“Over the weekend, U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin confirmed the spaces that were affected by the collision.”


From that article:

Meanwhile, when Crystal’s port bow hit Fitzgerald, the warship was performing a normal transit off the coast of Japan, USNI News understands.


^^ Well you can ‘doubt’ all you want, however “U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin confirmed the extensive below waterline damage”. “Three compartments were severely damaged,” Aucoin said at the Saturday press conference. “One machinery room and two berthing areas — berthing areas for 116 of the crew.” I really doubt he is lying. The vessel has a 5 degree list, suggesting quite a bit of water in the hull, which does rather sort of suggest a hull breach :slight_smile:

From the article “collision . . . knocked out the destroyer’s communications for an hour,” Does navy really not carry any portable handheld iridium phones (exactly for emergency use) - which have their own internal batteries and are completely self-contained and you can just pick up and make a call? And no eprib? Several really ‘should be’ at least be in the ‘abandon ship’ equipment.


So typically, the career looks something like this for a SWO (surface warfare officer); two, two year division officer tours (on a ship), a two year shore tour, back to a ship for another two years as a department head, then another shore tour for several years, then eventually back to a ship for XO (2 years), then eventually CO (2 years) So maybe around 8 years total on a ship.

Also keep in mind naval ships go through a two year work up schedule to deploy, so much of that “ship time” is not underway. Maybe 1/3 to 1/2. Also, the only actual bridge watch standing time is done on the first and second division officer tours. Department heads don’t stand bridge watch.

Further diluting the experience is the fact that those two divo tours are competing with 10 other junior officers plus second tours to get bridge time. Schedules also mean some divos hardly get underway, or never deploy, with maybe only a few weeks underway before moving on to their second tour. Some second tour division officer don’t stand much bridge watch as well.

You can see, it is fairly easy to lack much tangible experience. Now they do make due with what they have, and train hard in the short time period, but it is no substitute for experience.

Remember the OODs on those grey hulls have maybe several months of underway experience at most, and a shiney pin on their chest.

Now as for actually standing OOD qualified and on your own, I’m afraid you will find that answer quite scary. Just doing some basic math, best case MAYBE 480 hours conservatively (but it could be far less). If anyone wants to debate that, I can bring up the math.


Do they take that shiny pin away if you let a huge radar target run into you?


They can pull your OOD qual :laughing:


You get a complimentary copy of John W. Trimmer’s book: “How to Avoid Huge Ships”. :joy:


Maybe they should keep a copy on the bridge right next to the collision alarm button.


Can’t take too much issue with your SWO posting. In my case, it was a LOT more than 480 hours on the bridge before the Captain Robert F. Dunn qualified me as OOD - and I was a “hot runner” amongst 12 Ensigns as well. And that was in 1973…

As to the SWO pin, it doesn’t come with the OOD qual, but a good bit further down the line.


So after 4 years at the academy and 10 years of service the nav watch on the bridge of most navy ships has only weeks of credible nav watch experience? Your telling me a 3rd mate academy grad with an ink wet license has more bridge watch time as a cadet than a seasoned naval officer? This is real life? What’s the average timeline for advancement from Annapolis to making XO? How long as XO until you get to be CO of your own ship?


I didn’t go to “the Academy”, and can’t answer for that. I was an enlisted sailor for seven years before I got commissioned and saw my first bridge.

I don’t recall in your post where it indicated “only weeks” after ten years of service. I thought you estimated an OOD qual after about 60 underway days of three-section watch. Might happen. Can’t say. Sure as hell didn’t happen to me or any of the other Ensigns on the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) in 1972-74.

And that fresh Ensign goes to quite a lot of specialized training after commissioning and before getting to that ship. The item below is excerpted from here:

Training Pipeline following commission: Upon commissioning, officers who select Surface Warfare undergo 17 weeks of intensive instruction at the Surface Warfare Officers School Division Officer Course (SWOSDOC) in Newport, Rhode Island. The first 11 weeks of SWOSDOC are common for all Surface Warfare candidates and emphasizes the basics of shipboard management, combat systems, ship control, and surface ship fundamentals. The final 6 weeks of SWOSDOC are ship class specific and center of the engineering systems in that class. SWOSDOC is designed to provide the tools needed for a successful first sea assignment. After completing the SWOSDOC Core, you will be sent to a specialty school for instruction focused on the requirements of your first job. Specialty schools include Anti-submarine Warfare Officer, Engineering Division Officer, Damage Control Assistant, and Communications Officer. Most of these schools are in Newport and are from 3 to 7 weeks long. Total time in Newport is 23 to 26 weeks.


I’m not concerned with all the different training to receive whatever qualification.

What I’m looking for is after 10 years of being in the navy how many actual days does the guy manning the bridge of a frigate, destroyer whatever have standing an underway nav watch? That includes any post yard period sea trials and any pre deployment underway training. I want to know if I’ve been in the navy for 10 years and I find myself as OOD on the bridge at 0200 what’s the typical amount of time I’ve spent in my career staring out the bridge windows in the darkness at other ships nav lights? How many nights have I been the officer in charge of the nav watch staring at ship traffic on the bridge radar and navigating congested high traffic areas?

How many years does it take to go from FNG to being an XO and how many years as XO to be CO of my own ship?


The best answer I can give you is not a happy one. :frowning_face:

As many other posters have pointed out, the deck watches are - generally - stood by the junior officers, i.e. the Ensigns, LT(jg)s, and maybe some LTs on larger ships. These are the Division Officers on the ship, and vary from fresh onboard to two or three years experience. The Department Heads (DH) usually stand watch as Tactical Action Officer (TAO) in CIC, and the XO doesn’t stand watch.

So, once an officer is a DH, their bridge time is limited, unless they are the Conning Officer or OOD for special details or General Quarters. The XO and CO are usually on the bridge at those times as well. It is NOT a system where the Deck Officers, i.e. 3rd, 2nd and Chief, stand watch and gain more and more bridge time and experience as the service years accrue. The XO tour is about 18-21 months on the ship, but not standing deck watch like a Chief Mate.

I think that’s the info you were looking for. Perhaps not what you wanted to read, but likely what you expected.


Well that’s not good at all.

So starting as an ensign how many years of rotating from shore duty and back to the fleet and working all the different duty stations onboard before the average officer is qualified enough to be up for an XO assignment? How many years as an XO before they can be recommended for their own ship command?


Moving up as a SWO is a progression of statutory selection boards and non-statutory screening boards, with required qualifications thrown in the sequence. For example:

  • qualify as Surface Warfare Officer
  • Select as Lieutenant (4 years after commissioning - about 100% promotion)
  • Screen for Department Head. Serve well in two DH tours.
  • Select for Lieutenant Commander (promotion about 10 years atter commissioning - about 80% selection)
  • Qualify for surface command
  • Screen for XO. Not all newly selected LCDRs will successfully screen for XO.
  • Serve successfully as XO
  • Select for Commander (promotion at about 16 years after commissioning - about 70% selection)
  • Screen for Command. Not all newly selected CDRs will successfully screen for CO.
  • Serve as CO as a CDR, on a frigate, destroyer, etc.

Sorry for the detail, but you can see that it is a progression that has fewer and fewer folks as you move up. SWOs don’t screen for DH, or don’t do well and don’t select for LCDR. Or make LCDR but don’t screen for XO. Or don’t select for CDR, or select for CDR but don’t screen for Command. (That was the end of the ladder for me).

I’d be guessing here, but I think a maritime academy graduate who works hard and stays on ships can have a Chief Mates ticket after 720 days at sea (three to four years on a busy ship), and has a better shot at a Chief Mate slot long before a SWO is likely to be an XO. I’d also guess that a lot of Chief Mates have Master tickets and no open slots. Please note that nothing in this paragraph is meant to be harsh, or negative in any way, for the merchant marine service.


It takes 360 sea days (two years of equal time work) to apply for 2M. Then another 360 sea days (2 years of work) sailing on the 2M license (note: the time doesn’t begin until the 2M license is issued). At some point in there you needed to complete all the classes and assessments required to apply for CM, apply, be approved to test, study, test, and be issued the new license. Then you need to wait until you are suitably experienced for a company to hire you as CM and they’re also be an opening. Since most USMM attrition is in the early stages most chief mates are lifers and waiting for a Master position, which means your need to wait for a captain to be fired or retire in order for everyone to move up a notch. Then you’re looking at a few years as Chief Mate before possibly being considered for a Master position.

The soonest you could possibly be licensed as Chief Mate (on a conventional ship where you don’t get day and a half time) is 4 years if you time everything perfectly. Maybe if you do straight time at MSC you can get time a little faster.

It sounds to me like a Chief Mate license requires more bridge watch-keeping experience than being the CO of a USN destroyer, let alone actually passing an interview for a CM position.


I’ll certainly agree with that. But being CO includes all the management and responsibility of the Master, plus all the war fighting expertise for that ship. I really think we are trying to compare apples to oranges with the merchant marine and the navy - they are just too different in their roles. The Commanding Officer of a ship has non-judicial punishment authority that might surprise you, e.g. a mid-grade petty officer can be reduced in grade, fined the equivalent of a month’s pay, extra duty for 45 days and confinement to the ship for 45 days.

When I was on a shore post after my XO tour, I was working with a lot of maritime academy grads who were USNR officers. I went through a lengthy process to validate ALL of my underway days from commissioning in 1972 to end of sea time in 1987. The REC in Baltimore evaluated all the paperwork I got from the Bureau of Naval Personnel and determined that I had sufficient underway deck time to sit for Chief Mate (83 days short for Master), and that included 1080 days just for 3rd since I was a “mustang”. My sea and shore jobs in engineering also earned sitting for 1st A/E Steam, Unlimited HP, but I didn’t follow up on that. My service was a bit different in that I spent 13 of 21 commissioned years on sea duty, including the first eight after commissioning. Just plain loved it out there. :grinning:


But the CO is the most experienced watch stander onboard and the person the OOD calls for advice, yet he really doesn’t have much collision avoidance experience. That’s kind of the point of this discussion, that the SWO career track is trying to do too much such that these officers do a lot of things poorly instead of being experts in a chosen niche.


Noted, and understood. While others above have suggested that the navy should put specialist ship drivers on the deck, and I assume it is what you are alluding to as well, it just isn’t likely to happen. While almost any licensed MM mate would do fine on the navy bridge from a navigational perspective, what about all the other stuff that the OOD has to do? The OOD is the CO’s rep and has to be cognizant of almost every evolution taking place on the ship, and was probably asked permission for it to proceed. How often have you launched and recovered helos from your ship? We do that with the regular underway watch. Prepared the ship for underway replenishment, day or night? Given permission for weapons transfers or exercising of weapons systems? All this is one reason we have an OOD, plus a JOOD who is usually the conning officer.

I am not trying to be argumentative here. I just go back to my earlier statement that we are comparing apples to oranges, and we are unhappy with the resultant lemonade.