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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 17, 2001

USS Greeneville violated rules, sonar man says

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By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

The USS Greeneville had been regularly violating Navy rules against unqualified sonar technicians tracking surface ships for at least 3 1/2 years, the submarine's sonar supervisor testified yesterday.

Petty Officer 1st class Edward McGiboney testified that his crew didn't know the kind of ships they were tracking or where they were headed.

Associated Press

Petty Officer 1st class Edward McGiboney knew that such a practice was in place when he stepped aboard the Greeneville on Feb. 9, hours before the submarine collided with a Japanese fishing boat.

He testified that in 1997, he alerted a chief petty officer that the Greeneville wasn't complying with regulations by allowing unqualified technicians to stand watch at sonar stations.

The unidentified chief said at the time that it was common practice on the Greeneville because there were so many other qualified technicians to help out, McGiboney said.

Soon after McGiboney began testifying, Charles Gittins, the attorney for Greeneville's skipper, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, objected.

"It seems to me we have established a potential dereliction of duty. ... Although I am not his attorney, the Uniform Code of Military Justice says what it says."

McGiboney had been advised of his rights last weekend, which the court of inquiry later rescinded, said Capt. Bruce MacDonald, counsel for the court.

"At present, the court does not suspect you of having violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and is calling you as a witness," MacDonald told McGiboney.

During his testimony, McGiboney revealed even more problems aboard the Greeneville leading up to the collision nine miles south of Diamond Head:

• He let the two sonar technicians stay on watch longer than their usual one-hour shift because they were only tracking two contacts for most of the trip, and they appeared to be far away. One turned out to be the Ehime Maru.

• The sonar technicians had poor information on their contacts and improperly recorded the information in their log books.

• As the sonar supervisor, he failed to ask the officer of the deck to guide the Greeneville to get better sonar readings on "Sierra 12" and "Sierra 13," which later was identified as the Ehime Maru. McGiboney said he thought asking for a course change was unnecessary because the contacts seemed so distant.

• The officers in the control room did not call for a standard briefing before going to periscope depth, which would have alerted McGiboney to turn on equipment that would monitor the "sea state" on the surface.

• McGiboney acknowledged that his crew never had a clear idea what kind of ships they were tracking or where they were headed.

But unlike previous testimony, McGiboney said he felt that two critical course "legs" the Greeneville took were long enough for the ship's sonar equipment to properly track the contacts.

Looking at charts that reconstructed the paths of the Greeneville and Ehime Maru, he admitted there were times during high-speed maneuvers when the Greeneville's sonar readings turned to "spaghetti" and needed to reacquire the contacts.

But in nearly two hours of testimony yesterday morning, he insisted that the information indicated Sierra 12 and Sierra 13 were far away.

During questioning by Vice Adm. John Nathman, the president of the court, McGiboney agreed that the limited sonar readings also could have meant that Sierra 13 was actually on a collision course with the Greeneville.

"Looking back, I could see how that could happen," McGiboney said.

As the Greeneville rocketed toward the surface in an "emergency blow" maneuver, McGiboney heard someone over the "1 MC" intercom system explain to the 16 civilians aboard what was supposed to happen.

The Greeneville was supposed to lift into the air as it broke the surface of the water, he remembered hearing.

Instead, it seemed to push back down.

"It didn't make sense," McGiboney remembered thinking. " ... Not longer after thinking that, I heard the first boom," followed by a second.

"You were clearly surprised," prompted Rear Adm. Paul Sullivan, a member of the court.

"We didn't track anything," McGiboney said. " ... It didn't make sense that we could have hit something."