November 20th, 2010

Memphis has a sound short...

...because my old boat has been making a lot of noise in the news recently.

Yesterday, I marked eighteen months since I separated from active duty in the Navy. When I was in, I was fond of calling my sub, USS Memphis (SSN 691), the "Submersible Death Trap." When I left, I retired that nickname. I did not wish to carry forward the bitterness from that era.

But I feel it's appropriate to break it out again now. Yesterday, I was sitting at Hofstra waiting for class to begin, when my friend and esteemed colleague J. Raymond dropped a stunning bombshell on my Facebook news feed: the Commanding Officer of Memphis was relieved for cause, only ten months into his tour.

I did not serve with CDR Maher, but I know many who did. Some were on the boat before I was and experienced him as Engineer; others stayed long enough after me to be there while he was captain. This development has generated a lot of discussion and opinion. I myself have a gut feeling about it, having looked at the timing of certain events; however, in the absence of any hard evidence, I'll refrain from public speculation. I'll leave it to the commenters at The Stupid Shall Be Punished to hash all that out.

It's one thing to read about a skipper getting fired when you have no connection to the boat. It was slightly different in the case of USS Chicago earlier this year - though I didn't know anybody there, the events that precipitated that change occurred at Cornell, so I felt a slight connection. But this is another matter entirely, because I personally know a lot of the guys on Memphis, especially the nuclear trained ones. I can't imagine when they have been through in the recent past - and I can only hope and pray that things get better for them. That is to say, to what little extent things can improve on a submarine.