Up periscope

Kate Wiltrout at Virginia Pilot reports:

The XO of USS SAN ANTONIO

has chosen to go to a court-martial on charges he was negligent on the day a sailor was lost at sea last year.

If convicted, Lt. Cmdr. Sean D. Kearns, now assigned to a staff job at the U.S. Navy’s Second Fleet headquarters in Norfolk, would be the second person publicly reprimanded for a role in the death of Petty Officer 1st Class Theo-philus Ansong on Feb. 4, 2009.

The San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock ship that’s the first of its kind, was operating in the Gulf of Aden and preparing to transfer sailors to another U.S. ship nearby. Ansong, 34, was in an 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat that flipped while it was being lowered by crane from the San Antonio into the water. Three sailors were thrown from the small boat; two were rescued. Ansong’s body was never recovered.

The former CO received a letter of reprimand in May 2010 at flag mast.

The defense counsel has said that the defense will be based on a known design flaw in the ship which:

made lowering a small boat into the water more challenging than on other classes of ships, such as destroyers.

There are now five San Antonio-class ships in the fleet. "We are aware that they are encountering the same problems and difficulties," he said.

After Ansong’s death, the Navy rolled out a series of changes in how ships in the class should change their standard operating procedures when dealing with small boats, he said.