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Former USS John S. McCain XO Found Guilty of Dereliction of Duty

Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez. US Navy Photo

The number two in command of the guided-missile destroyer involved in a fatal collision off of Singapore in August was found guilty of dereliction of duty on this week, according to a statement from the Navy.

Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, former executive officer of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), was found guilty of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice during a Monday non-judicial punishment hearing in Washington, D.C. Sanchez received a punitive letter of reprimand in the hearing overseen by Adm. James Caldwell.

Additionally, Caldwell also held hearings and ultimately dismissed charges for an officer and enlisted sailor who served on USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) during a fatal collision off the coast of Japan in June. The Navy said the hearings were the last of Caldwell’s planned non-judicial actions.

Caldwell, director of Naval Reactors, was appointed in October as the Consolidated Disposition Authority tasked to oversee additional accountability actions for the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.

In late January, Caldwell held a series of NJP hearings in Japan in which four sailors were issued punishment.

With the addition of Sanchez, a total of 18 sailors have received non-judicial punishment for the two collisions the Navy has called preventable.

Next month, the former commanders of both ships and three sailors who were on Fitzgerald face a preliminary hearing for criminal charges related to the collisions that include hazarding a ship, dereliction of duty and negligent homicide.

Former McCain CO Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez will appear before a military judge at the Washington Navy Yard on March 6. Former Fitzgerald CO Cmdr. Bryce Benson will appear on March 7, and the three Fitzgerald officers will appear on March 8 in a joint hearing.

The following is the complete Feb. 14, 2018 statement from the Navy on the NJP hearings.

WASHINGTON –Admiral Frank Caldwell, acting as the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) for accountability actions in relation to USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions, held three hearings for nonjudicial punishment, February 12, 2018, in Washington, District of Columbia.

For USS Fitzgerald, two hearings were held for one officer and one enlisted member. Adm. Caldwell dismissed the charges in both cases.

For USS John S. McCain, a hearing was held for the former executive officer. The officer was found guilty for violating Article 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and received a punitive letter of reprimand.

These hearings conclude the CDA’s planned NJP proceedings.

  • DaSaint

    Why is that?

  • Brian R. Wright


  • Ed L

    Was he the Navigator? Or just the XO, I heard that the XO on the Burke’s are the Navigators. if so how is that possible? i been on ships where the CO and Navigator was relieved for a grounding. The XO was left to pick up the pieces

    • Pacemaker4

      that doesnt sound right…XO has too many responsibilities to have to concentrate on navigation.

      • TransformerSWO

        When I was in the Atlantic Fleet, the XO was always the navigator, though there was also a division officer as the ANAV. Because navigation is really really important and needs experienced oversight. PACFLEET didn’t follow this rule, at least back then.

  • CharleyA

    Will they release a transcript of the trial? A bit of transparency is due, to at least show that these officers and sailors are not being scapegoated for errors and omissions committed elsewhere in the chain of command.

    • James Bowen

      It was not a trial, it was an Admiral’s Mast. While the result adversely affects his service record and probably ends his career, it is not a criminal conviction. The details of Admiral’s Masts and other NJP proceedings are not a matter of public record and are often kept private. That being said, I agree with you that this strongly smacks of scapegoating.

      • CharleyA

        Thanks, I should have said proceedings.

        • James Bowen

          You bet.

          • Ed L

            If I remember correctly, He could still be courtmartial. It’s not double jeopardy

          • James Bowen

            Yes, I think that is right.

    • Theresa Palmer

      We weren’t even given an opportunity to go to the hearing?

  • Yamanote

    Another Russian troll, many of which have penetrated this site. How many SEAL veterans can there be??

  • Jonty Powis

    I hope the training and experience of the officers and ratings involved in the McCain and Fitzgerald events are also under such acute scrutiny. Perhaps an external authority should be invited to comment? Compared to other NATO navies USN officers spend relatively little time in sea-going jobs.

  • NavySubNuke

    Still would like to hear what charges were brought against the OOD on the Fitz. The fact that 3 minutes passed between recognizing collision was imminent and the actual collision itself and yet no one bothered to pull an alarm is absolutely criminal. Those lost from the Fitz would be alive today if the OOD hadn’t frozen.

  • William Blankinship

    Educate, train and drill.

    • Pacemaker4

      foster pride in your work/job…while destroying large egos.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, former XO of McCain, and Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, former CO of McCain??? I thought that sort of thing went out with the Sullivan brothers. No relation I assume?

    • TransformerSWO

      That’s right, they’re not related.

      • Theresa Palmer

        Any relationship to the Sanchez involved in the Fat Leonard Francis scandal?

        • Pacemaker4

          All members of the new Sanchez Navy ! What a dirty bunch..

          • publius_maximus_III


        • TransformerSWO

          Doubt it, I knew that Sanchez.

    • Theresa Palmer

      Not related..i think?

  • Theresa Palmer

    What order did he refuse to follow?

    • John Locke

      U.S. Navy Regulations

    • Pacemaker4

      Probably Captains Standing Orders too, I imagine.

  • Theresa Palmer


  • MDK187

    Non-judicial punishment for dereliction of duty resulting in a totaled ship and a bunch of dead? WTF?!

  • I find it interesting that the head of Naval Reactors is in charge of assessing the situation, and a former head of Naval Reactors is CNO. For those of us who understand the Naval Reactors training and defense-in-depth operational management program, which are exhaustive if not totally without weak spots, both of these deadly incidents likely occurred without adequate training and operational defense-in-depth. It takes up to 1200 “signatures” on Nuke qual cards to get “qualified” to be an operator on a shipboard nuclear plant, even then an operator under close supervision, and that is after a full year of intensive and comprehensive shore-based training.

    I went through the nuke EOOW qual process 5 times and later taught experienced nuclear chief engineer candidates in preparation for their Chief Engineer exams by Rickover’s staff. As an ensign, my first shipboard EOOW qualification was on USS Enterprise CVN 65, a challenge unmatched elsewhere due to the need to qualify to operate the 8 Enterprise reactors, which together formed a highly complex propulsion and power plant. 1200 signatures afloat after a similar 1200 signatures ashore on a prototype nuclear plant, each taking 3 to 6 months on average. All nukes did similar training, even if not assigned to Enterprise, the toughest challenge of all.

    I also qualified as Officer of the Deck on Enterprise, a qualification that in the end required no “signatures” on a qual card at all. I was issued a one-page OOD qual card as a Junior Officer of the Deck, but there was no actual, systematic (much less “comprehensive”) training program. It came time for deployment, and I (and one other officer) were “qualified” by an oral board that took about one hour. The ship needed OOD’s to stand watch, so got “qualified” as a LTjg as OOD on one of the biggest warships in the world, and certainly the most complex, with minimal training due to a very poor training program. I could go on about the training issue.

    The defense-in-depth operational management issue also applies. Enlisted nuke operators had similar training – exhaustive. They were supervised directly and constantly by officers, of course, but they also had the benefit of detailed written procedures to study and to use “verbatim” for all situations, at least situations that could be anticipated. The overarching motivation for all the training and operational defense-in-depth was simply that only one “disaster” on a nuke ship would likely end the entire nuclear power program in the Navy. Rickover gained funding priority to make it all happen by “going around” the rest of the Navy, where standards were not very high for the most part, at least as compared with the nuclear program.

    Later, I saw the same dramatic difference in standards in the nuclear weapon arena. The nuclear powered ships that also had nuclear weapons had nuclear weapon management programs of the highest calibre, while the non-nuclear ships, the Army, and the Air Force were pathetic in comparison. I actually had to “put them on report” to President Reagan to get their attention, even if that was short lived as well.

    So, again, the “training” and “management” issues involved with these disasters at sea are rightly under the formal assessment of the true expert on such programs and issues, even if not everyone has the proper perspective to be able to recognize that expertise.

    • Pacemaker4

      So in summary to drop nukes you need nothing…and to work on reactors and nukes -you need a 2400 signatures from Bishops and one from God himself?…lol

  • draeger24

    so what did he do wrong, as in, what incorrect actions did he undertake? Ignoring Captains night orders?…that would be helpful for lessons-learned.