In the early days of the Global War on Terrorism, one Marine veteran recalls being at sea as part of a MEU (Marine expeditionary unit). The MEU was aboard the ship LHD-1 Wasp. The Navy at that time had so many boats that were damaged and needing repair, the Wasp was pulled from its major 10-year life-cycle overhaul only six months into its planned 12-month refit. Essentially, the boat was patched together quickly so it could get by. The hull of the ship had literally been patched with a giant steel plate in one spot.
In December of 2003, the MEU went down the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico for a pre-deployment exercise. By the time the ship returned to its original port, the patched-up monstrosity was visibly leaning to one side from the water that had leaked through the steel patch. You have to love the Navy and Marine Corps and their ability to make things work.
Even with the ship looking like it was going to capsize at any moment, the ship left port and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. All 5,000 Marines and sailors aboard tried to forget about their predicament as the land faded away.
Now in 2016, the Navy has several new ships in the fleet, and those are beginning to break down. This time, based on preliminary reports, the issues are stemming from failure to follow standard operating procedures during maintenance.
As the military’s budget is being slashed, let’s hope that the fleet can afford to keep up with the maintenance and training requirements. As LHD-1 Wasp found out over a decade ago, the military will do whatever it takes to get ships out of their ports and into operational mode—even if they are operating under less-than-ideal conditions.
At least our Navy fleet is still lightyears ahead of the Russians with their single aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. It is a running joke in the Russian military that, “If you misbehave, you’ll be sent to the Kuznetsov.” Things could apparently be much worse for the U.S.