Attrition: Careers On The Rocks


July 16, 2013: A U.S. Navy investigation of one of their ships running onto a reef in the Western Pacific last January 17th, concluded that the cause was poor leadership by the officers of the 1,300 ton Avenger class mine sweeper. The ship (USS Guardian) that ran aground on Tubbataha Reef off the southern Philippines (the Sulu Sea) was so firmly stuck that it had to be dismantled and removed in pieces. The Philippines is surrounded by shallow waters that are full of reefs and shoals that are just below the surface. The mine sweeper is one of four Avenger class ships stationed in Japan and one of 14 in the U.S. Navy.

The investigation found that the USS Guardian was using outdated maps and the officers had not ensured that only up-to-date ones were used. The officers were also held responsible for not ensuring that lookouts were used properly while moving through shallow waters notorious for the ease with which a ship can run aground. These groundings are quite frequent in these waters, although in most cases they happen at low tide and high tide allows the stuck ship to get off and limp away to a port for repairs.

The Avenger class ships have a crew of 79, and the captain and four other officers of the USS Guardian crew were removed from their jobs in April and may now face punishment for losing the ship.



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