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Navy stands up new unit to oversee 7th Fleet readiness

The Navy announced this week the creation of a new detachment that will oversee training and certification of ships based out of 7th Fleet in Japan.

Naval Surface Group Western Pacific was stood up Tuesday, a day before the Navy released scathing reports showing that crew shortcomings were to blame for fatal collisions aboard the destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain this summer, disasters that killed 17 sailors and pushed the Navy into a service-wide reassessment.

The interim detachment will have authority to determine if a ship is ready for operations, or if it requires “remedial training,” according to Naval Surfaces Forces.

Seventh Fleet will assign ships to the detachment during maintenance availability and follow-on training, with the detachment readying those ships for operations, according to the command.

play_circle_filled The US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan, on June 17, 2017, after colliding with a container ship. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)
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Two accidents that claimed the lives of 17 sailors resulted from complete breakdowns in standard Navy procedures and poor decision making by officers and sailors on the bridge of the two warships.

A myriad of threats in 7th Fleet’s West Pacific waters, from North Korean missiles to an ascendant Chinese navy, have led to a harried operational tempo leaving crews and vessels with less time for training and maintenance than ships based in the U.S.

Government watchdogs have warned of such threats for years, and Navy leadership has assessed the shortcomings with renewed urgency after the Fitz and McCain incidents.

Adm. Scott Swift, Pacific Fleet commander, said in a statement that the detachment was created to address an organizational gap “that allowed a culture to grow myopically focused on operations to the detriment of readiness.”

The detachment, he said, “will consolidate authorities to oversee the training and certification of surface ships forward deployed to Japan.”

The detachment will be the initial fleet commander representative until a permanent Naval Surface Forces group is established.

It will report to Swift and will eventually fall under Naval Surfaces Forces commander Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, according to the command.

“(The detachment) will be my eyes and ears on the ground here in the Western Pacific,” Rowden said in a release. “Not only to consider the operations we have to execute, but also to ensure we understand how we are going to properly generate the readiness we need.”

A post major command captain will lead the new unit, with Capt. Rich Dromerhauser serving as the organization’s first commodore.

“I am here to protect the most precious resource we have – time,” he said in a Navy release. “Time for the maintenance and modernization of our systems and time for the focused training that builds the confidence and competence to fight and win at sea.”

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