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"Courtney is a bright, energetic and hard-working member of Congress who has earned another term." Hartford Courant, 10/25/2012


By Max Jaeger

The two Navy destroyers that crashed in separate incidents this year — killing a total 17 sailors — were woefully behind on training certifications, according to a new report.

Crews on the USS Fitzgerald, which smacked into a merchant ship near Japan on June 17, was behind on 15 of 22 training certifications, including those for seamanship and communications, CNN reported, citing new Government Accountability Office data.

The USS John S. McCain plowed into an oil tankernear Singapore on Aug. 20, while seven of its 22 certifications were expired.

The boats are part of the Navy’s 7th Fleet — the branch’s first line of defense against North Korea.

The news comes on the heels of a damning report issued by the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command that blamed sailors’ incompetence for both deadly incidents.

Many of the boats’ credentials had lapsed nearly a year ago, and some were as much as two years outdated.

Cruise missile qualifications on the McCain were 28 months behind, and surface fire support training was derelict 26 months, CNN reported.

Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney demanded the GAO data following the summer crashes.

“This is not some temporary coincidence or confluence of a momentary event — that list describes a chronic issue,” he said. “I think it loops back to the fact that why are standards in the 7th Fleet not being maintained at the same level as other parts of the Navy in other parts of the world?”

The GAO report also found that ships based overseas such as the Fitzgerald and McCain, which have ports in Japan, tend to have poorer training records than boats that call US ports home.

The Navy disciplined two officers on the Fitzgerald and relieved former 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin of his post following the incidents.