Sunday, February 11, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Sub's skipper quickly reassigned

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

It took the Navy less than 24 hours to remove the captain of the USS Greeneville from his sub.

Rear Adm. Al Konetzni Jr., the commander of Submarine Forces Pacific, yesterday reassigned Cmdr. Scott Waddle, 41, to Konetzni’s staff.

Scott Waddle, commander of the Greeneville, was reassigned pending an investigation into the collision.
The day before, Waddle’s boat - a 360-foot, fast-attack submarine - collided with the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries training vessel carrying 35 people that sunk 1,800 feet to the ocean floor. Nine people were still missing yesterday and presumed dead.

Waddle’s reassignment is the kind of career setback that’s nearly impossible to overcome in the Navy, said Eugene Carroll, a retired rear admiral who is now vice president of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington, D.C.-based military think tank.

"It’s not a trend, it’s a general rule," Carroll said. "If you have something bad happen to your ship while you are in command, you will pretty much write off your future. The captain is responsible for everything that happens to his ship, its safety, its safe navigation, the performance of the ship, and the performance of his crew. He answers for it."

In 1977, Carroll was the flag officer aboard the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea when the Navy cruiser USS Belknap violated Carroll’s task force guidelines and collided with the Kennedy.

The fault was that of the officer of the deck who incorrectly maneuvered the Belknap. But the captain bore ultimate responsibility, Carroll said.

"It wasn’t an issue of relieving him of command," Carroll said. "There was nothing left to command. The ship burned furiously and had to be towed back to the U.S. and overhauled for $100 million."

The captain was found not guilty at court-martial but ended up retiring at the same rank.

"In the history of the Navy, the commanding officer pays the price," Carroll said.

Waddle took command of the Greeneville on March 19, 1999. The boat, an improved Los Angeles-class sub that displaces 6,900 tons when submerged, is the namesake of the city of Greeneville and Green County, Tennessee.

The man Waddle replaced had commanded the Greeneville for nearly three years.

Waddle, a native of Austin, Texas, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1981. He was an original crew member of the submarines Alabama and Kentucky when they were commissioned.

In 1995 he became executive officer of the USS San Francisco and completed two deployments to the Western Pacific.

Waddle did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Capt. Tony Cortese, who was serving as a deputy at Submarine Squadron 1 at Pearl Harbor, becomes the interim captain of the Greeneville.

Konetzni reassigned Waddle pending the results of a Navy investigation into the collision, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Force.

"The admiral thinks reassigning him while that investigation was going on is the appropriate thing to do," Werner said. "It’s in the interest of a thorough, comprehensive review."

Advertiser staff writer Mike Gordon contributed to this report.

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