Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

With just over 5,000 employees, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is one of the smaller federal law enforcement agencies.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t deal with their share of vicious individuals, groups, and threats. In fact, the ATF goes after some of the most violent criminals: those who want to shoot others or blow something or someone up. Naturally, being an ATF field agent requires a great deal of mental toughness.


Carlos Baixauli, or “Box” as his friends call him, joined the ATF in 1986. He was recruited after doing undercover work for Florida’s state version of the ATF and for the Miami-Dade Police Department; his 30-year career included working on the Medellín Cartel, headed by the infamous Pablo Escobar.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Baixauli in the field as an ATF agent.

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)

His first experience as a new agent was witnessing an atrocity on New Year’s Eve at the Du Pont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The plaza was set on fire by angry union workers,” Baixauli recalled. “They wanted to send a message, and in doing so, killed 98 people and injured over 100 others.”

Baixauli was tasked with walking through the crime scene to investigate.

“People were burned into place,” he said. The scene was like something out of a nightmare. “One thing that’s always stuck with me — they were busting out of a window, and this lady was getting ready to jump. Then a burst of air came out, feeding the fire, and a giant fireball came across, and it was like everyone had been turned into the ruins of Pompeii. They were all ash.”

It didn’t take long for Baixauli to be assigned more undercover operations that put him in harm’s way, dealing with armed home invaders. With home invasions, the crime often goes unreported.

“We started coming up on homes and there would be five or six dead Colombians, Venezuelans, or some other South American nationality in the house,” Baixauli said. “The house was empty. I’m talking big homes, five, six bedrooms. But there was no furniture or accessories. These are homes that the drug cartels would set up in Florida. They are guarded by their thugs, and they are stash houses. They would start delivering drugs from these locations to other locations. The reason they would find the people dead inside is that home invaders would go rip off the dope dealers.”

His undercover role was that of a disgruntled employee of the drug cartel. Baixauli would tell the criminals that he wasn’t making enough money, that there were millions of dollars worth of drugs in these houses, and that he needed his fair share.

“They would talk to me about how they can come and rip the place off,” Baixauli said. “They would take the drugs and the money.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

An ATF Special Response Teams searches an exterior of a building in Baltimore, Md.

According to Baixauli, they were usually either a stash house or a drug house. He would meet with them four to five times before taking them to a house the ATF was in control of already.

“The violent nature of these guys,” he said, “they knew they were going into a gunfight. We were just lucky that we won.”

Sometimes his meetings as an undercover agent resulted in a brush with death.

Later in his career, Baixauli found himself amongst a rough crowd at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant in South Beach.

“I’m sitting there, and a guy puts a gun into my side. My team is wired up and they’re outside. I had to let them know I’m at gunpoint but they needed to wait for the code word because I needed to talk my way out of the situation I was in,” Baixauli said. “The guy with the gun says, ‘Tell me where the stash house is.'”

Baixauli refused.

Undercover and Hired to Kill

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Instead, he made a comment about the gun. “Why do you have that .45 in my side? Somebody is going to see it outside or from the bar. We have a good deal going here, and now we aren’t going to make any money.”

Baixauli kept his cool and didn’t even signal that the gun concerned him.

“If you’re going to keep the gun on me, put it in my back,” he said. “Nobody can see it then.”

He recalled the event as if reliving it. “We are moving. My team is listening. They are making a move towards the front door. ‘The cashier is going to see the gun,’ I tell the guy. The whole time I’m giving a play by play to my crew outside. Walking towards the front door, I see the cover team. Soon as I go through the door, this guy comes behind him, and he’s taken down easily.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Baixauli with .7 million in recovered cash.

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)

One way the ATF differentiates from other law enforcement agencies is that they try not use confidential or criminal informants (CIs).

“ATF doesn’t deal with CIs. CI always brings baggage. The best hand-to-hand is between a good guy and a bad guy. If I need a CI to introduce me to a bad guy, and we do a deal with the CI, we throw that deal away. We don’t want to deal with the baggage from the CI. As soon as we could cut the CI out, we would,” Baixauli said.

While he’s been out of the ATF since 2016, Baixauli is still concerned about current threats; he sees groups like MS-13 as a bigger threat to the U.S than even Pablo Escobar’s cartel.

“MS-13 is 10 times worse. Drugs, extortion, brutal murders, prostitution, terrorizing people — and as far as law enforcement is concerned, they are animals who have no feeling for life.” In 2017, it was reported that the group stabbed a victim 100 times, beheaded him, and ripped out his heart.

Despite the danger, Baixauli loved his job with the ATF so much that he can’t remember a day he didn’t look forward to work. “I loved it,” he said. “I just loved it.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat-search-and-rescue flying in support of Florence victims

Reserve and active duty pararescuemen were undergoing dive and jump training Sept. 11, 2018, in Key West, Florida, when they were recalled back to their home units to immediately begin the process of pre-positioning for Hurricane Florence search-and-rescue operations.

Reserve airmen within the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, put their lives on temporary hold to respond to a natural disaster.


“When we returned to Patrick (AFB) that evening, we unpacked our dive gear and repacked all of our hurricane gear,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Traska, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “We went home to see our families briefly and returned the following morning to begin the trip to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.”

In all, 140 Reservists dropped what they were doing on a Wednesday afternoon to fix and fly search-and-rescue aircraft, and perform everything imaginable in-between, to get four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and all the necessary personnel and equipment heading north to Moody AFB, Georgia, when the prepare-to-deploy order was given Sept. 12, 2018.

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HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew airmen with the 334th Air Expeditionary Group, sit alert on the Joint Base Charleston, S.C.flightline Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

The 920th RQW airmen integrated forces with active duty personnel at Moody AFB’s 23rd Wing and began posturing for an official disaster relief operation as one cohesive Air Expeditionary Group, waiting out Hurricane Florence as it crawled through the Carolinas.

Two days later, Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, director of search-and-rescue operations coordination element for Air Force North Command, officially established the 334th Air Expeditionary Group tasked with positioning the fully integrated forces of airmen and assets for relief efforts to assist those most severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Within 18-hours, 270 airmen working together seamlessly picked up and moved their search-and-rescue operation from middle Georgia forward to Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Senior Master Sgt. Will Towers checks the tail rotor blades as part of his preflight checklist at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

However, the coastal installation was still under evacuation orders leaving the 334th AEG faced with establishing a bare base operations center while contending with lingering unfavorable weather conditions.

“The base had to literally open their gates for our arrival,” said Lt. Col. Adolph Rodriguez, 334th Mission Support Group commander. “They (JB Charleston officials) began recalling critical personnel to give us the necessary assistance for this operation to be a success.”

With the aid of the host installation, the 334th AEG was at full operational capability, ready to conduct search-and-rescue missions when the first HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed Sept. 15, 2018.

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Col. Bryan Creel, 334th Air Expeditionary Group commander, discusses search-and-rescue operational plans with Lt. Col. Jeff Hannold, 334th AEG deputy commander, at Joint Base Charleston on Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Technical Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

Switching gears from readiness training in South Florida to real-world operations in South Carolina is a prime example of, “being constantly fluid and flexible,” said Capt. Jessica Colby, 334 AEG public affairs officer. “Search and rescue is often like that: You never know where you’re going to go, you never know how big of a footprint you can bring, or what will be needed.”

There is one constant in situations like these, training, explained Rodriguez. “Reserve citizen airmen must constantly train to not only stay current, but to propel their capabilities beyond just meeting the minimum requirement. Honing their proficiencies will ultimately provide the best possible performance in real-world operations. All of the readiness training efforts that the 920th RQW has conducted has better positioned the Wing to this current operational pace.”

“The same capabilities which make the U.S. armed forces so powerful in combat also lends themselves extraordinarily well to disaster relief.”

“It’s amazing what these citizen airmen did inside and outside their Air Force specialty codes,” Rodriguez said. “They’re doing things they’re trained for, and accomplishing tasks beyond their job scope with zero deficiencies and zero mishaps.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.



MIGHTY HISTORY

4 ways Civil War troops were obsessed with coffee

American troops are obsessed with coffee. If there’s a military unit whose coffee pot isn’t the hardest-working machine in the building, I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad the coffee is (even though good coffee is preferable), that beautiful, dirty-brown water is what really fuels the U.S. military’s bureaucratic inner workings — and always has.

Long before Rip-Its became the official beverage of the Global War on Terror, coffee was the only game in town and it was so important during the Civil War that it might have been the reason the North won the war.


The South wished they had the ability to brew coffee the way the North did. The Union blockade of the Confederate States meant that real coffee was in very short supply, and ground troops were unlikely to receive any of it. The Confederate Army tried everything they could to replace the magic bean, including replacing it with alternatives, like roasted acorns, malted barley, actual beans, cottonseed, potato peels, and the ever-present chicory root.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent
Which, when mixed with real coffee, is actually pretty good.

But there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. As Union troops realized when they had to start subsisting on what they could capture from Southerners, coffee was only available through Uncle Sam. As you go back through historical records, they more than made their feelings known — and businesses, government, and families soon responded.

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“Coffee Call” by Winslow Homer.

1. Civil War diaries use the word “coffee” more than any other.

That’s right — more than words like “bullets,” “war,” “cannon,” “Lincoln,” and even “mother,” troops had one thing on their minds: black gold. In letters written back to their families, much of the discussion was focused on the quality of the coffee that day or the hope that they would have coffee the following. Even around the campfire, much of the talk centered around the quality of that day’s joe.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

(theTruthAboutGuns.com)

2. This rifle with a grinder in the butt stock.

In the 1860s, the Sharps Rifle Company created a carbine with a small grinder in its butt stock, which was immediately useless for most intended purposes. It was actually designed to grind grain for horses in cavalry units, but the very fact that people immediately thought of using it as a coffee grinder tells you just how important coffee was to the average troop. I bet Sharps Rifle Company wishes they had thought of marketing it that way.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

When there’s no room for Jeb to fit, but Jeb sits anyway.

3. There was no water too putrid to make coffee.

As long as troops had the beans to brew it, coffee was going to happen. Not only were troops happy to use their canteen water to make coffee, they would also use free-running water, water from puddles, and even the sediment-filled water of the Mississippi River – also known as Mississippi Mud.

A boiled coffee was safer to drink than most other water of the era. Waiting for the coffee to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to kill most enteric pathogens.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

The best part of Civil War is Folgers in your cup.

4. The officers noticed the effects it had on the men.

Many Union officers ensured their men got at least a cup of the stuff in the morning before a battle, with many often having it ready for them after the battle, some demanding the men keep it in their canteens, and even going so far as to hire boys to run coffee to men in critical positions.

Then-Sgt. William McKinley was one such runner, who made it all the way to the White House riding that brave Civil War act during the Battle of Antietam. Hell, a monument was even erected for it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Navy pilots prefer to be called ‘naval aviators’

At some time in our military careers, we come across pilots of all sorts, helicopter pilots, Air Force cargo pilots, Navy fighter pilots, etc. While the former two might allow you to refer to them as simply “pilots,” there’s a good chance the naval aviator will take the time to remind you that he or she is an “aviator,” not a pilot.

And there’s a very good, non-egotistical reason for that. We promise.


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Insert obligatory “Top Gun” reference here.

During your military experience, you may have noticed the Navy has an entirely different vocabulary for so many things. Floors become decks, walls become bulkheads, beds become racks, etc. But the Navy’s tradition of a maritime language exists for a reason. It turns out the world they live in predates the United States Navy, the United States, and most navies, not to mention the concept of powered flight.

The maritime world is way, way old, man. And the terms used to describe that world are too. We can’t just change them overnight. Or ever, as it turns out. So while the aviation world refers to a pilot as someone who flies an aircraft, that term has a different meaning in the maritime world.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

No one aboard this ship called those boxes “toilets” but they had the same use.

For hundreds of years before navies around the world were flying jet-powered aircraft off the decks of massive floating cities, “pilots” were operating in navies long before ships had engines that weren’t powered by wind or slaves. In those terms, a pilot is specially qualified to drive a ship in and out of a specific port or a specific area. For large ships, this pilot is someone from outside, who literally comes in to your boat and drives it into the harbor because he or she knows the area better than anyone else.

The pilot will roll up next to your ship aboard a pilot boat, which carries the pilot in a boat, one marked “pilot boat.” And those poor guys have to climb up the side of your ship just to park it for you. Both naval aviators and maritime pilots have a hard job that allows for zero error – so call them whatever they want.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just recovered an airman who died in 1952

The Air Force announced the name of a service member who has been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster aircraft that was lost on Nov. 22, 1952.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Eugene R. Costley has been recovered and will be returned to his family in Elmira, New York, for burial with full military honors.

On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.


On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later another AKNG team landed at the site to photograph the area and they found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster. Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended it to be monitored for possible future recovery operations.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and every summer since then, during a small window of opportunity, Alaskan Command, AKNG personnel and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations have been supporting the joint effort of Operation Colony Glacier.

Medical examiners from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System positively identified Costley’s remains, which were recovered in June 2018. The crash site continues to be monitored for future possible recovery.

For more information, please contact Air Force public affairs at 703-695-0640. For service record specific information, please contact the National Archives at 314-801-0816.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Intel

Navy plane captains get jets flying to the danger zone

If you’ve watched Top Gun, you probably enjoyed the dogfight scenes. Meanwhile, the ladies in the audience fiercely debated over who was more handsome, Maverick or Iceman (though the mustache fans out there might opt for a dark-horse candidate in Goose). But Top Gun, like many military aviation films, left out a crucial person who’s response for getting those jets ready to fly into the danger zone and blast MiGs out of the sky.


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Lance Cpl. Nicholas Levins, an F/A-18 aircraft mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 and an Issaquah, Wash., native, poses inside of an intake of an F/A-18 Hornet aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

One of the jobs a plane captain has is making sure the canopy is absolutely spotless.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dave Hites)

That person is the plane captain. According to a United States Navy release, he or she is responsible for making sure that a plane is fit to fly. This includes performing daily checks on all aircraft and additional checks made before and after each flight. Some of the things a plane captain looks for include cracks on the plane, missing fasteners (which could allow foreign objects to damage an engine), emergency oxygen levels, and canopy cleanliness.

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Plane captains assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 carry intake screens on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez)

Here’s the kicker: The people responsible for this are some of the newest, youngest personnel in the unit. We’re talking men and women who are anywhere from 19 to 21 years of age. They spend up to six months learning everything necessary to be responsible for a high-performance fighter. A Marine Corps release notes that these people spend as much as 14 hours per day keeping a jet ready. Oh, and they don’t get any overtime pay or comp time.

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The real challenge is to keep from becoming complacent. After all, one mishap could cost the United States a multi-million dollar jet and the life of the pilot (or the crew). But the plane captains, like the pilots, get their name on the jet.

Learn more about what plane captains do in this Korean War-era film from the United States Navy.

popular

The UK’s MI6 intelligence agency really issues licenses to kill

Or…licences. With a C. Because they’re British.


In any case, it’s probably the coolest thing any movie spy was ever issued. James Bond, with his “00” designation has one, and maybe a whole handful of real-world MI6 agents do too — because they’re real.

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And apparently anything goes.

 

A 2008 Reuters report on the inquest into Princess Diana’s death covered the testimony of MI6 intelligence operatives. The goal of the inquest was to determine if the Britain’s royal family ordered Diana killed.

 

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The result was no, of course they didn’t. But what it did reveal was a look at how the intelligence agency operates, especially in regards to targeted killings. It turns out British operatives are allowed to kill their enemies.

But first they need a Class Seven Authorisation and the personal signature of the Foreign Secretary.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s spy agency, revealed this during the inquiry. Diana and her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, were killed in a 1997 car accident in Paris. Ten more agents were required to give testimony in 2008 as the royal family faced accusations of wrongdoing from al-Fayed’s father, Mohamed.

Actually getting the Class Seven Authorisation is easier than it sounds. According to Dearlove’s testimony, once the paperwork is finished, it has to be signed off by a “senior regional official.” Then, it would have to go through the chief of the agency — in Diana’s case, it would have been Dearlove.

After that, it would have to “go down restricted channels to the Foreign Secretary.”

Socialism turns even the smallest tasks into a whole bureaucratic ordeal. I bet the process was much smoother when Maggie Thatcher was in office.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy EOD Tech awarded Silver Star for saving comrades during ISIS fight

A Navy chief was awarded the military’s third-highest valor award on Thursday for repeatedly braving enemy fire in an area filled with improvised explosive devices to save his teammates.


Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Matthew O’Connor, a member of EOD Mobile Unit 11, received the Silver Star during a ceremony at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. Vice Adm. Scott Conn, commander of Third Fleet, presented O’Connor with the award.

Adversity under fire doesn’t test one’s character, it reveals it,” Conn said during the ceremony.

O’Connor, who joined the Navy in 2008, was serving as the EOD lead for a special operations task force fighting the Islamic State group in April at an undisclosed location. The team was tasked with checking into a facility where terrorists were known to be producing IEDs.

The chief and his team maneuvered into an enemy-held village, but were ambushed by eight fighters when they got to the facility.

After returning fire, O’Connor noticed a teammate on the ground, according to his award citation.

“With utter disregard for his own safety, Chief O’Connor advanced forward, carried his wounded teammate to cover, and then rendered lifesaving medical treatment while coordinating suppressive fire,” the citation states.

He again braved enemy fire to reach the team’s linguist, who was hurt. O’Connor then carried the first injured teammate to a casualty collection point, “under continuous enemy fire through difficult terrain,” his award citation states.

O’Connor then returned to the facility where the ambush started to conduct post-assault procedures, the citation adds. He then guided the rest of the task force across the area laden with IEDs to reach a vehicle pick-up point.

“By his bold initiative, undaunted courage and total dedication to duty, Chief O’Connor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” the Silver Star citation says.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Navy almost blew up the President of the United States

If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.


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Yes, that President.

In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

“Whoops.”

The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.

The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.

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Yes, that USS Iowa.

Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.

The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.

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The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.

The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Captain warned that crew wasn’t ready before sub ran aground, investigation shows

A newly released investigation from a submarine mishap in 2015 that caused some $1 million worth of damage shows that an inexperienced crew was given the go-ahead to complete a tricky return-to-port mission in the dark, despite warnings from the commanding officer that they weren’t ready.


The Ohio-class submarine Georgia ran aground in the predawn hours of Nov. 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, as it prepared to return to port at Kings Bay, Georgia, to replace a failed towed array sonar. While conducting a scheduled pick-up of a new pilot at Fort Clinch, Florida, near the entrance to St. Marys River, which approaches the base, the sub inadvertently exited the channel, then collided with a buoy amid the crew’s efforts to re-orient. The grounding occurred as the crew worked to get clear of the buoy, the investigation shows.

Ultimately, the sub was able to return to port to assess damages, which were mostly cosmetic, save for the ship’s screw propeller, an acoustic tracking device and an electromagnetic log meter that measured the sub’s speed. The Georgia was taken into dry dock in December 2015 for assessment and the costly repairs.

The investigation, which was completed in March 2016 but just released to Military.com this month through a public records request, found that the “excessive speed” of the sub as it approached the pilot pick-up made it more difficult for the crew to control the ship, and that the tugboat carrying the pilot was positioned poorly, making the maneuver more complex.

Ultimately, though, blame for running aground is laid at the feet of the commanding officer. In the wake of the incident, the commander of Georgia’s blue crew, Capt. David Adams, was relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. Like all submarines in its class, Georgia has two identical crews — a blue and a gold — that alternate manning and patrols.

“His inability to effectively manage the complexity of the situation and failure to respond to the circumstances in a manner sufficient to protect the safety of the ship and crew is beneath my expectations for any CO,” an investigation endorsement by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, reads.

In his detailed and thorough endorsement of findings, Crites also dismisses the notion that maneuvering in the dark and with a green crew was what led to the sub’s disastrous mishap.

“Ultimately, had this crew (and the Pilot) executed the same plan in the same manner during broad daylight, there is nothing in the ship’s planning effort, demonstrated seamanship, or response to tripwires that indicates the outcome would be any different,” he said.

While coming in for the brunt of the blame, Adams was not alone in being designated for punishment. Crites indicated his intent to take administrative action against the sub’s executive officer; chief of boat; navigation/operations officer; weapons officer, who was the officer of the deck; and assistant navigator. He also said he’d issue non-punitive letters of caution to the commander of Submarine Squadron 16 and his own chief of staff and director of operations — all Navy captains — for failure to take appropriate action toward resolution regarding Adams’ concerns around the sub’s transit into port.

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The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) exits the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, following an extended refit period. Georgia is one of two guided-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

(Bryan Tomforde/U.S. Navy)

The 475-page investigation, which includes witness statements, logs and other supporting documentation, offers insight into what those concerns were. In a Nov. 24 email to the commodore of Squadron 16 marked “confidential,” Adams, the Georgia blue crew commander, lays out his qualms about the plan he has been ordered to execute, particularly the predawn return to port for a brief one-day stop with a crew that had spent just three weeks underway together on a new ship.

“CO/XO/NAV have not piloted into Kings Bay in the last 20 years. All of the untoward [incidents] I know of occurred between [St. Marys] and Fort Clinch,” he wrote. “My assessment is that this is not a prudent plan for [return to port] … Having just been at sea for a few weeks, I have not built enough depth. I am concerned about the fatigue level of my command element.

“Given an all day evolution and subsequent [underway], we will have spent the majority of 36 hours awake and are set to pilot out and submerge on the mid-watch at 0330.”

The two-page memo, it appears, was never received and read by Submarine Squadron 16’s commodore, Capt. John Spencer. But Adams testified he had relayed the same concerns face-to-face with Spencer days before, on Nov. 22. He also discussed the same issues, he said, in a follow-up phone call.

This much is clear: the plan wasn’t called off, and the mission was cleared to proceed. But murky communication dogged the lead-up to the operation, and later the mission itself.

Spencer and others testified that Adams had been given leeway to “slow things down a little” if he felt uncomfortable. Adams said he believed any delay would have been viewed as insubordination.

On the day of the mishap, communication was also flawed, in ways that underscore the crew’s unfamiliarity with each other, and possibly the sleep deprivation that had left some members running on just two to three hours of rest.

According to the investigation, as the Georgia approached the point at which it was to meet with the tug and pick up the pilot — the navigation expert who would drive the ship into port — it became clear that the tug was well west of its expected position. The sub, meanwhile, was approaching too fast and slowing too gradually. The investigation found it was still making 15 knots, or about 17 miles per hour, when it passed the set “all stop” point. That speed and positioning would make every maneuver that followed more risky and difficult.

Initial attempts to communicate with the tug and the pilot aboard via radio were unsuccessful, and the planned transfer happened late. Adams did not want to scrap the transfer and proceed into port without the pilot, the investigation found, because of the challenges of pulling into port without one.

When the sub exited the channel at the west end of the Fort Clinch basin, the crew’s communication skills faced a major test. The assistant navigator recommended to the navigator that the sub go to “all back emergency,” a call the navigator then passed to the bridge. The officer of the deck seemed to agree, but said nothing, the investigation found. Adams, however, overrode the order, believing it would not work, and ordered “all ahead full” instead. He started directing the officer of the deck, but did not fully take control of the sub or give direct orders to the helm, the report states.

Despite a series of maneuvers — right hard rudder, left hard rudder, all ahead full, right hard rudder — the sub collided with Buoy 23 in the channel. But the worst was still to come.

“When [Adams] asked [the lookout] if the ship hit buoy 23, [the lookout] informed the CO that he did not care about the buoy, but thought the ship was going to run aground on the beach forward of the ship,” the investigation states.

As grounding looked imminent, the Georgia asked the driver of the C-tractor tugboat if the tug could cross in front of the sub on the starboard, or right, side, and push the bow around. The tug master refused, according to the investigation, worried that the water was too shallow.

The sub ended up, as the lookout put it, “hitting Fort Clinch.”

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

In this file photo from July 12, 2018, Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), views the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The base is home to six of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines that make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and support strategic deterrence.

(Eli Buguey/U.S. Navy)

The mishap, and the misgivings that preceded it, came against the backdrop of a Navy grappling with a culture in which overworked and unready crews were regularly put underway in service of operational needs. After two separate deadly destroyer collisions in 2017, service leaders found, among other things, that a “‘can-do’ culture” had undermined safety and led to unduly high operational tempo and fatigue.

“The can-do culture becomes a barrier to success only when directed from the top down or when feedback is limited or missed,” the Navy’s comprehensive review of the destroyer mishaps, released in October 2017, found.

Whether these factors came into play with the Georgia is more difficult to say.

In a statement for the investigation, Adams emphasized that he took full responsibility for what had transpired.

“Despite my significant reservation – expressed face-to-face, on the phone, and In emails with staff and leadership … concerning the risks of proceeding Into Kings Bay In the dark with an inexperienced team, when my requests to delay [return to port] one hour later were denied, I failed in my command responsibilities by driving to achieve mission success at the expense of appropriately acting to mitigate risks to increase our margin of safety,” he said.

“In retrospect, I should have loitered at [St. Marys] until I was satisfied that the risks were commensurate with the mission gain.”

Reached for comment by Military.com, Adams, who retired in 2016, referred to a public statement he had released at the time of his relief, in which he called the actions that caused the grounding “mine alone.”

“I ask that my lapses not be used to denigrate the terrific service of the Sailors and families of GEORGIA BLUE,” he said at the time “After thirty years of serving in the world’s finest Navy, my only regret is that I will miss sailing with them again to stand against our nation’s enemies.”

But the fact that some above Adams were also warned offers insight into how the higher command viewed the incident.

Crites faulted Spencer, the Squadron 16 commodore, with “failure to provide his ship a plan with adequate margin to safety, specifically in not providing sufficient guidance and training to his staff that developed the plan in his absence and not aggressively pursuing complete resolution of the ship’s requested arriva through personal intervention with the Type Commander staff.”

The chief of staff and director of operations for Submarine Group 10, Crites said in the report, had failed to “pursue acceptable resolution to the concerns they had with the plan for the ship’s arrival.”

Holly Carey, deputy public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic, declined to say whether all administrative actions recommended by the investigation were carried out.

“What I can tell you is that the Navy is confident that leadership took appropriate corrective actions against several personnel assigned to the squadron and submarine based on the findings of the investigation,” she said.

“Following the investigation, which concluded in 2016, leadership took appropriate accountability measures and has taken all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence in the future. USS Georgia, and her current crew, serve proudly today among the U.S. Submarine Force and has leadership’s full confidence to protect the interest of the United State and allies.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Trainees get shot in the chest for this insane Russian special forces training

The Russian military isn’t really known for having a gentle touch, so it should come as no surprise that their counterterrorism operations training is really tough. But just how tough is borderline insane.


Russia’s Federal Security Service, called the FSB – and successor to the KGB – shoots their agents center mass to give them confidence in a terrorist-controlled situation where bullets might be flying by their heads.

The trainees, wearing body armor, absorb a few round before fire shots back at the target. In the video below, the guy in front of the target is Andrei, an FSB operator, who doesn’t flinch as three rounds zing by his head.

Andrei has clearly been through this confidence training before. As a member of the FSB Alpha Team, he’s part of Russia’s dedicated counterterrorism task force. If you’ve ever heard about how the Russians respond to terror attacks, you know they don’t mess around. And they train like they fight.

The ammo is standard ball ammunition; the vest appears to be a standard soft vest with ceramic plates. The host of the show, Larry Vickers, is a retired American special operator who is now a firearms consultant and the star of TAC-TV on YouTube.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this amazing police dog traverse tricky obstacles

A Belgian Malinois named Lachi has earned some celebrity for his video in which he traverses two thin ropes in order to retrieve his tennis ball.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Partially paralyzed sailor finds release in adaptive sports

Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.

He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.

A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.


After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.

But then he was introduced to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic by Katie Blunk, his recreation therapist at North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, and says his life changed forever.

initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.

“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.

But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.

After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.

“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.

By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.

“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.

Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.

“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”

George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.

“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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