DICK BAYNTON: The Devil is in the Details

Dick Baynton

First up in today’s column is the small but important failure of the Air Force to turn over information to the FBI regarding the court-martial conviction and prison sentence for the shooter who killed 26 worshipers at Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday, November 5th, 2017.

He also was known to abuse animals and spouses, had trouble holding a job and received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2014. Had his record been known to FBI and other government authorities, he would have been unable to purchase guns and 26 church-goers in Sutherland Springs, Texas might not have been killed on November 5th, 2017.

The explanation for this Air Force blunder is understandable. No one is at fault. The worker who should have reported this information to other authorities such as the FBI is unknown because it is probably uncertain who had the reporting responsibility. Working as teams in ‘task groups’ or ‘work teams’ all team members have the ‘backs’ of other team members and are able to spread responsibility around leaving no one to blame.

Next up is the Bergdahl episode that has graced the news for about eight years. This man who ‘washed out’ of the Coast Guard after 26 days in 2006 was accepted into the U.S. Army and sent to Afghanistan. It was here that in 2009 he left his post and sought refuge with the Taliban. In a deal to release prisoners from Guantanamo, then President Obama traded Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban Guantanamo prisoners in 2014.

The Army judge at Fort Bragg, NC, Colonel Jeffrey R. Nance, ruled on Friday, November 3rd that Bergdahl be reduced to private and dishonorably discharged from the Army. He will be required to pay a $1,000 fine each month for the next 10 months. Though unfit to serve in our military, is the judge keeping Bergdahl in the Army for 10 months so taxpayers can pay the fine?

The colonel must believe that desertion is not as big a deal as when we sent such turncoats to Leavenworth for life or placed them before a firing squad.  He may not have read the military manual that specifies the discipline and/or punishment for abandoning your comrades who live, bleed and die for our country.  Why wasn’t a panel of three judges convened to avoid the warped decision of a single officer?

Perhaps the most egregious injuries and deaths in the military are those incurred by friendly fire or in training exercises or accidents in the field or on the seas when training and /or patrol. The Navy’s worst nightmare occurred on June 17th, 2017 when the 505’, 9,000 ton USS Fitzgerald was struck by the Philippine ACX Crystal container ship that was 728’ long and displaced 29,000 tons. Seven precious sailors lost their lives.

At 5:20 am on August 21st, 2017, a collision of the John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer was entering the Straits of Malacca when the helmsman started having trouble with both steering and speed control. An investigation concluded that ‘confusion and lack of knowledge’ contributed to a collision with the ‘Alnic NC’, a Liberian-Flagged oil tanker. As a result of this collision, the lives of 10 sailors ended in Davy Jones Locker.

Investigations of these two tragedies are ongoing and several high level Navy officers and shipmates have been replaced. Was lack of proper training part of the loss of 17 sailors and millions of dollars of repair expense in Singapore (Changi Naval Base, thense to the U.S.) where the Fitzgerald is located and our Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan where the McCain will undergo repairs. The quartermasters and helmsmen of ships, the pilots of aircraft and operators of military equipment and weapons must make instant decisions constantly to avoid accidents causing injury and death.

Although records vary, the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps and the Navy were created in 1775 while the Coast Guard dates back to 1790 and the Air Force to 1947 to protect us and they will do that. But let the record show that training, common sense and good judgment are critical to the world’s most effective military forces.

Our military in peace and war; in battles galore, know what they are fighting for.

Dick Baynton