Responsibility of Command

by Steve on January 19, 2007

In a move that comes as no great surprise to those who have served, Commander Edwin Ruff, CO of the USS Minneapolis-St Paul, was relieved of his duties today following an investigation into a December 29th accident that killed two of his crew members. The Captain of a Naval vessel has ultimate authority and responsibility concerning his ship and her crew. Such harsh reality is neither applied nor understood in the private sector but is a fact of life in the military command structure.

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) — Following a review of the events in connection with a Dec.29 at-sea incident near Plymouth, England, Commander, Submarine Force, Vice Adm. Chuck Munns relieved Cmdr. Edwin Ruff, commanding officer, USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708), and reassigned him to the staff of Commander, Submarine Squadron 6 in Norfolk, Va. Munns took this action due to a loss of in confidence in Ruff’s ability to command.

Cmdr. Chris Williams, Deputy for Readiness, Submarine Squadron 6, and former Commanding Officer USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), assumed command of USS Minneapolis-St. Paul Jan. 19.

Earlier this week, Commander, Submarine Group 8, Rear Adm. Jeff Fowler, conducted a non-judicial punishment hearing for five submariners of USS Minneapolis-St. Paul(SSN 708). Ruff and the former executive officer both received punitive letters of reprimand. Charges against the other three Sailors were dismissed.

Loss of confidence in his ability to command – the kiss of death. The paradox of command at sea is that even if CDR Ruff had been asleep in his rack at the time of the incident, the outcome would remain the same. Ultimate responsibility is a difficult concept for the civilian world to grasp especially in this day and age when nobody seems to be responsible for their own actions much less those of someone else. If CEO’s were held to the same standards there would be countless more of them doing time behind the wire and far less corruption.

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