Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Taylor CO Fired

Navy Times website reports (1) that the Captain, Cdr. Dennis Volpe, of the frigate Taylor has been relieved of command following the grounding of the ship in the Black Sea during the Olympics.  The article states,

“The investigation hasn’t turned up any egregious mistakes by Volpe.”

And yet he’s being relieved.

I have no further information about the incident and it may be that the Captain was negligent in some way and should be fired but it’s starting to look like another case of zero-defect mentality.  Even if the man was, in some way, at fault where’s the harm in allowing people to make mistakes if they can learn from them.  I’d rather have a Captain who once grounded a ship and learned from it than a man who’s scared to handle the ship aggressively when needed. 

All this zero-defect mentality does is encourage a zero-aggressiveness mentality – not exactly what we want from our combat leaders.


  1. Grounding a ship in the Navy has almost always been a career ender for the skipper, even if he didn't have the deck. My uncle, always said, as a skipper he was always responsible for anything that happened to his ship or that his crew did even on leave. He started his career in WWII and ended it when they retired the Iowa after it's Vietnam duty., so he wouldn't be surprised by this, and would have considered it normal.

    1. Normal is not the same as right or wise. Your statement that grounding has generally been a career ender is correct but in the last few decades or so it has gone from being a common outcome to a mandatory one with zero mistakes being allowed in a career.

      Consider the case of Fleet Admiral Nimitz who grounded his destroyer but was not cashiered and went on to a productive career. How many Nimitz's have we thrown away?

    2. "How many Nimitz's have we thrown away?"
      I have heard a number of Admirals and Generals lament this, but the reality is that we have been unable to objectively deal with this.

      History gives us examples of two foreign nations that had a handle on this: the Royal Navy and the German Army. In both services, the only truely unrecoverable error for commander was lack of aggressivenes in the face of the enemy.


  2. I think there is probably understandable ( forgivable ) mistakes.
    Grounding due to incorrect charts, in a storm, with loss of power due to an engineering defects.
    And unforgivable ones. Modern warships do have A LOT of ways of preventing this kind of things.
    When I comes down to it, I think this one was unforgivable due to ;
    a) A lot of bad press on the US military right now.
    b) Being in the black sea, right next to the Olympics where the eyes of the world are right there AND Russia is doing a passable job of looking good in front of the world.
    i.e. politics
    I suggest its a bit of an Obamaism sending a message to all the rest of your captains ?
    Right or Wrong ? mmmm don’t know
    On your other point.
    The royal navy took to shooting its commanders on the deck of their own ships for being “insufficiently aggressive” in battle. So that’s sorts out that issue. But that does create a bit of a paradox. Be carful BUT also be aggressive.
    I guess that’s why they get the big bucks ?

  3. Although I do not know of the specifics of incident regarding the Black Sea grounding of TAYLOR, I do find it very interesting we are having another “Ultimate Accountability of Command” conversation where zero tolerance leadership is used again on a Naval Officer. The historians are quick to roll out the name of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who ran a ship aground when he was Junior Officer. I have known CDR Volpe for 18 years. We were stationed together aboard SPRUANCE when I was a Senior Chief and he was straight out of the Academy. I recall just how good of a ship driver he was as he was awarded the DESRON 24 ship driver of the year while he was a LTjg.
    Being a self-described Naval Historian and 4-tour Command Master Chief myself, I also remember using the Chester Nimitz scenario in a personal letter to CDR Volpe when I was appealing to his good judgment when one of his Sailors (2-time SOY and Recruiter of the Year) and a CPO Select was hard busted to E-5 by his predecessor while he was XO of TAYLOR over an incident that paled in comparison to our Vice President giving away the brevity code of Special Weapons Development Group, now known as Seal Team 6. Although he was NOT directly involved while he was XO (in PCO School), he had an opportunity to set aside a clear over-reach of NJP. When presented with clear evidence of “fruit from the poisonous tree”, CDR Volpe chose to eat the fruit! When this issue was exasperated by his new XO egregiously using “UNDUE INFLUENCE” to thwart a the normal appeal to the ISIC, CDR Volpe chose to DO NOTHING! This resulted in pushing this rising star to a position of filing for and receiving a Hardship Discharge. So now we have a future Master Chief selling Insurance and an outstanding ship driver driving a desk. HMM? Why do I find myself thinking, “KARMA IS A BITCH!” My guess is if IG would have done an investigation aboard TAYLOR last year, we would have two officers preparing to walk down the red carpet, not just one!


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