With Training and Repairs Complete, USS McCain Returns to Operations

USS McCain under way in the Philippine Sea, May 22 (USN)

Published Jun 16, 2020 2:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The crew aboard the destroyer USS John S. McCain have completed their basic phase certification, clearing the ship to return to frontline operations after three years of repair and retraining. 

The collision-damaged USS McCain completed repairs at the shipyard at Yokosuka last October. Since that time, the crew has undergone their required in-port and underway training with teams from Afloat Training Group (ATG) and the Center for Surface Combat Systems. McCain's crew members received instruction and evaluation in 23 different areas, including seamanship, navigation, supply, engineering, electronic warfare, medical and damage control drills. 

On the morning of August 21, 2017, USS McCain entered the Strait of Singapore's northern entrance. She had a full bridge team of ten people, including the commanding officer (CO). At 0519 hours, the CO noticed that the Helmsman (one of two helmsmen on the bridge) was having trouble adjusting RPM and steering at the same time. To correct the problem, the CO ordered the officer of the deck (OOD) to split controls between the Helmsman and the other helmsman (the Lee Helmsman). In the ensuing confusion, the bridge team lost track of who had the helm controls, then accidentally pulled back on the port side throttle and veered into the path of a tanker. The resulting collision left a large hole in the Berthing 5 compartment, killing ten sailors. 

The Navy found that the McCain collision was avoidable, and that training, seamanship and command culture deficiencies were largely to blame. A broader investigation indicated that the high operational tempo and "can-do" culture at 7th Fleet resulted in fatigue, reduced training and lower readiness aboard frontline surface combatants, contributing to the odds of a casualty. 

After the collision, McCain was loaded aboard a heavy lift ship and transported to the repair yard at Yokosuka. Work began in early 2018, and she was prepared to be floated out again later that year. Pierside repairs continued until October 2019, followed by training. 

McCain has recently finished a very long, successful path to returning to operations at sea,” said Lt. Philip Cherry, training liaison officer for Afloat Training Group Western Pacific (ATGWP). “In the process of completing Basic Phase, ATGWP [ran] scenarios designed to introduce various levels of stress to the crew, integrating all of the different pieces that were certified over the last year into a cohesive environment to see how crew members perform under real-world conditions.”

 “We couldn't have gotten here without the support from the community and all the training organizations that helped us accomplish this,” said CO Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday.