Home » Aviation » USS Fitzgerald Commander Temporarily Relieved; Destroyer Enters Dry Dock


USS Fitzgerald Commander Temporarily Relieved; Destroyer Enters Dry Dock

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, then-executive officer, assists in bringing down the battle ensign aboard USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) in 2016. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The commander of the guided missile destroyer that was struck by a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel last month off Japan was temporarily relived of command for medical reasons, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesperson told USNI News on Tuesday.

Cmdr. Bryce Benson was removed from his position by Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 15 on Tuesday to recuperate from injuries he sustained following the collision of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and ACX Crystal, spokesperson Cmdr. Clay Doss told USNI News on Tuesday.

Doss stressed the several ongoing investigations into the collision and the deaths of seven sailors aboard did not factor in Benson’s relief from command of Fitzgerald.

While Doss would not specify the type of injuries Benson sustained or was recovering from, the commander had been injured when his cabin was crushed and warped by the bow of the merchant ship and he was hanging outside the side of the destroyer before the crew rescued him by breaking down the door to his stateroom, according to several accounts of the incident. Benson was medevaced by Japanese forces following the collision. A sailor who saw Benson following the collision after the destroyer reached the naval base at Yokosuka told USNI News Benson was walking but “moving gingerly.”

Meanwhile, the stricken ship has entered a dry dock in Yokosuka so the service can evaluate the extent of the damage of the destroyer before it can decide where the ship should be repaired – Japan or back in the United States.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) moves into Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. US Navy Photo

Though the ship reached the pier at Yokosuka hours after the collision, the Navy conducted active damage control efforts for days.

Crystal had not only ripped a 12-foot-by-17-foot hole in the starboard side of Fitzgerald below the waterline, crushed the super structure and flooded three major compartments in the ship the impact but also twisted the hull of the ship and destroyed tens of millions of dollars on electrical equipment.
Before the ship could even be moved to dry dock, divers had to weld a complex web of hull patches to secure the hull enough to make the trip that was completed just ahead of the dry dock move on Tuesday.

“Preparations for the move included installation of a temporary patch on the hull beneath the water line as well as dewatering and defueling of affected spaces,” read a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.
Fitzgerald sailors participated in all preparations and continue to resume their normal routine.”

Fitzgerald was set to undergo a planned mid-life modernization in Fiscal Year 2019 that would have upgraded the hull, mechanical and electrical systems of the destroyer, USNI News has learned. It’s unclear if the planned modernization will factor into the schedule of repairs on the destroyer.
While the ship is being evaluated, several investigations are ongoing to determine what happened when Crystal and Fitzgerald.

Last month, the Navy announced the recently promoted Rear Adm. Brian Fort, formerly the commander of USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) and Destroyer Squadron 26, will head up the Navy’s Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN) investigation into the collision.

The following is the complete July 11, 2017 statement on the relief of Cmdr. Bryce Benson.

USS Fitzgerald CO Temporarily Relieved in Yokosuka
By Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet

YOKOSUKA Japan — The commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), was relieved temporarily July 11 for medical reasons.

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who is recovering from injuries sustained during Fitzgerald’s June 17 collision with the merchant vessel ACX Crystal, was relieved temporarily by Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 15.

Cmdr. John Fay will assume temporary duties as Fitzgerald’s commanding officer. Fay is currently assigned to Commander, Task Force 70 staff and served previously as commanding officer of USS Howard (DDG 83).

Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Yokosuka since September 2004 as part of U.S. 7th Fleet.

 

  • I have $20 bucks that say’s he’s gona get fired and the US Navy will be looking to hire a new Skipper very shortly. Expect every XO who’s Skipper eligible to polish their resumes to the Admiral very shortly.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Command selections don’t work like that, and CMDR Benson’s career was over the second the Crystal made contact with the Fitz, his XO is also probably doomed along with the OOD, etc. The navy is extremely unforgiving of collisions of any type, other ships, shoals, sand bars or a pier.

      • Pretty much the whole entire command of the Fitz is so screwed

        • Hollis McCray

          I would wait for the whole story to come out in the investigation, but it’s accurate to say there will be severe repercussions for the CO, XO, OOD, and probably other personnel.

        • @USS_Fallujah

          Not even screwed, they are over, but they all knew they were done the second the collision occurred, no avenue for them to be exonerated and the punishments are absolute.

  • PappyStu

    Seven men’s lives were lost, but many other’s will be irrevocably changed forever.

  • Joseph Costa

    My heart is going to the family of that ship.

  • Bill

    Hard to believe he has been actively commanding since the collision, given his injuries and evacuation.

    • TommyD

      ..

  • herschel wince

    ‘But also twisted the hull of the ship’, Question: Is that type of damage, ‘a twisted hull’ fatal to the Fitzgerald or salvageable?

    • Hugh

      I’d expect salvagable, with an open cheque book. Politics will drive that.

      • herschel wince

        In essence, a ‘new’ Fitzgerald with new hull, systems upgrades and a new captain, correct? Why not build a new Fitzgerald, if money is no object? Sen Collins and King would lobby hard for Bath Iron Works to receive such a project….no?

        • George_the_Builder

          Estimates for “salvage” are roughly $400 M. A new one costs north of $1.6B.

  • tzayad

    To our shipmates on the Fitz. Our deepest condolences to those sailors that lost their lives. While you toil to bring the Fitz back into shape, think of them as your inspiration to do so.

  • Matthew Schilling

    “temporarily relieved” as in “just for this lifetime”.

    • Arkansas Traveler

      And the next, his naval career is over. He might as well get healthy for retirement.

  • Hawkeye

    Hard to believe a sleeping victim would be blamed for the collision unless there was neglect of duty prior to the incident. Costs to much to train senior staff to cashier them capriciously. Who was on watch and were the navigation systems functioning properly? Surely the Navy still has human eyes on duty watching the four quarters? Who was asleep?

    • Bill

      The Captain is 100% responsible for insuring that those on watch are qualified. And, everything else.

    • Ed L

      The Captain of the Ship is accountable and responsible all that happens on the SHIP Even if the Captain is asleep

      • Arkansas Traveler

        Yep, even if he is a 1000 miles away.

    • Kenneth Millstein

      I was responsible as QM aboard the USS Mullinnix DD944 to have the Captain sign off on the night orders (only when we were underway) that instructed the OOD to comply with whatever the Captain wished the OOD to accomplish when he retired to his stateroom in the evening. Even when a Captain in a US Navy vessel is asleep he still remains COMPLETELY responsible for anything and everything regarding that vessel. It has been said that one of the most powerful positions on earth is the Captain of a vessel but that goes double for the Captain of a US Navy warship.

    • Don Hamilton

      I’ve been wondering what information came out of Combat Information Center. Having served over 20 years as an Operations Specialist, it was our job to maintain surface radar surveillance and to make evasion recommendations to the Bridge.

      • Jim Crotty

        From leaked info to the press it appears the Fitzgerald and Crystal were on the same course heading up the highway to Tokyo Bay, with the Crystal at 18 knots slowly overtaking the Fitzgerald on the starboard side of Fitzgerald. Having been a former OS myself, I suspect CIC did detect, track, compute course and speed and establish a CPA and so informed the bridge. Since they were both on identical or nearly identical courses I suspect the CPA was on the starboard beam of Fitzgerald at somewhere in the 2000-2500 yard range. The OOD called the CO and informed him of the surface contact (Crystal) and related all the info including CPA. In a traffic pattern, even a loose one, closer than normal CPA’s are not a real huge issue as long as both ships are heading on the same course and the Bridge has it on radar/visual and CIC has it on radar. So up to that point everything worked as it should and both CIC and the Bridge were doing their job. At some point, the released Crystal track shows Crystal made a left turn, maybe 15-20 degrees, not really large enough for the lookout to notice as there would of been no change in the lights he had been looking at, but what the Bridge and CIC were doing at that point is likely the issue to be resolved. Once the Crystal made the left turn at 18 knots there was only about 4-6 minutes (unless Crystal was much further out with their original CPA) for the Bridge team to notice and take action. Other than calling the CO to the Bridge via the 1MC (Commanding Officer to the Bridge!) the OOD likely would not of had time to call the CO on the phone and try to explain the situation. The OOD needed to act and he should of had a plan in the event Crystal decided to change course. But from everything I can see regarding the impact and the crew asleep (no collision alarm) I suspect for whatever reason no one on Fitzgerald (Bridge or CIC) noticed the left turn by Crystal and did not even notice them until impact. We shall see when the investigation is complete and released, at least in parts. The CO and OOD are done but there are plenty of others in jeopardy of punishment at various levels (Court-martial, Flag Mast, CO Mast). #My2Cents

        • Dogbreath

          So all that Aegis radar and you use handwritten CPA?? GEEZUS.

          • Jim Crotty

            First off, where did I say that? Secondly, using a manual maneuvering board to backup a computer generated CPA is prudent.

  • Hogdude

    Some say the Fitzgerald will be a haunted ship with the souls of the dead always on board.

  • Graniteman31

    The U.S.S. Investigation is under way. Wait for it.

    • Steve Richter

      just do not understand why the investigation takes so long. And no one in the media is demanding a press conference?

      • Al Sayyid.

        because its america. you dont point faults at them even if they are wrong.

      • Joe Mooney

        The military is under no obligation to respond to the press. This is not politics. The media could request the SecNav to provide information, but they know they will get nothing until the investigation is complete. And it has not taken all that long considering all that is involved.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    “temporarily?” ok

  • Dogbreath

    I feel safe. A freaking container ship rams into a USS Destroyer in the middle of the fucking night and the captain is asleep in his bunk, so are the rest of the crew…yup, nothing to worry about.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    3 relieved and gone today along with careers

  • todd armstrong

    Knew a sub skipper who ran aground on an uncharted sand bar……career over. Allowed to retire with 22 years of service.

  • GARY ZIERK

    SHIP AHOY !
    RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER !

  • Bigg Bunyon

    I’ll just watch the made for TV movie to understand all this.