Response to media questions on USS Greeneville (SSN 772) incident
Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Thomas B. Fargo's response to media questions on USS Greeneville (SSN 772) incident, Feb. 10.
"The status of the Skipper; as you saw a few minutes ago the Greeneville is returning to port and a full investigation will proceed upon their arrival.
"These are routine operations. The ship had been at sea for a full day. The ship was returning to port and conducting a surfacing evolution. Now there's a couple of different ways we can surface a submarine. In fact there are two routine procedures that are used. There's the normal routine and what you call the Emergency Main Ballast Tank Blow. We use both procedures on a regular basis for training, for demonstration and to check the proper operations of these systems. In this particular case they were using the Emergency Main Ballast Tank Blow system. There was no emergency, but we do this on a regular basis. All our operations are -- were -- very normal and not hazardous.
"USS Greeneville was operating in normal submarine operating areas and since she was returning to port she would generally surface about 9-12 miles off the coast.
"The question on the extent of damage, you saw Greeneville coming in, and obviously there were some indications on the rudder. There's some very slight damage to the port side, but noting that would impair her operation.
The second question deals with surfacing. Our normal procedures, which have been tested over many years are to do an acoustic and visual search prior to surfacing the ship. That's what we would expect and believe happened in this particular case. That certainly will be the subject of our investigation.
"The submarine was involved immediately in the rescue effort, providing both the initial search for survivors and also providing communications back to Hawai'i. It was the submarine's message and communications back to inform the Coast Guard that allowed them to launch helicopters and surface ships to the scene.
"As you know from the video taken yesterday, there was a large swell in the area. The seas were 3-5 feet. That precludes the submarine from opening her hatches out there and taking people on board safely, but USS Greeneville as fully involved in the rescue both immediately after the accident and throughout the night.
"Submarines would normally conduct a complete visual inspection with their periscope of the surrounding area and also an acoustic search prior to surfacing, but we'll look into the facts surrounding the surfacing in great detail as we proceed with the investigation.
"There were a number of civilian and military observers on board. This is entirely routine for us to take out business leaders, members of the community, academic leaders in order to provide them an orientation about what submarines do and how they support our national defense.
"Let me make one more statement before I have to leave. There's a lot of effort that is on going right now to take care of the survivors and their families. We have set up an assistance center at the Ala Moana Hotel to help make sure they have funds, and lodging, and transportation needs are taken care of so they can communicate with their families. And also I would like to mention the search and rescue effort continues. Our search and rescue procedures are very similar to those of any country, including Japan. And we certainly will not stop this effort until we have exhausted all possibilities."
For more information, visit Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.