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Question One

Leadership and Responsibility

USS ColeOn October 12, 2000, the US Naval destroyer USS Cole was attacked while in port at Aden, Yemen by Al Qaeda terrorists piloting an explosives-filled rubber boat.  The resulting blast killed seventeen sailors and injured a further thirty-nine.  The crew of the Cole followed published US Naval rules of engagement which required sailors manning guns to obtain permission from the captain or other officer prior to firing on the potential attackers.  In January 2001, the office of the Navy's Judge Advocate General released a report stating that the captain of the Cole, Commander Kirk Lippold, had done all he could to protect his ship, and had committed no act of negligence.  Nonetheless, Commander Lippold never held a ship command again, and was denied promotion to Captain no fewer than six times by the US Senate.  An Associated Press article states that after the sixth refusal, Secretary of the Navy Donald D. Winter wrote that Commander Lippold's handling of the attack on the Cole "did not meet the high standard" expected of a commanding officer, and that he was therefore "not the best and fully qualified for promotion to the higher grade." 


USS VincennesOn July 3, 1988, the destroyer USS Vincennes, under the command of Captain William C. Rogers II, was engaged with Iranian gunboats in Iranian territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz when it fired missiles at what had been identified as an attacking Iranian F-14 fighter jet.  A year prior, the Iraqi Air Force had similarly attacked the guided missile frigate USS Stark.  Instead of an F-14, however, the aircraft was a commercial airliner, Iran Air Flight 655, flying from Bandar Abbas in Iran to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  The plane, which had 290 passengers and crew on board (including sixty-six children), was ascending, not descending to attack.  It has been surmised that faulty data from the radar tracking system led the bridge crew of the Vincennes to believe the airliner was instead an attacking fighter jet.  Like Commander Lippold, Captain Rogers never held a shipboard command again, and was never again promoted. 

To what degree was each captain responsible for what happened in each incident above?  What do you think of the treatment of Commander Lippold and Captain Rogers?  Do you think either man deserved another command?  Do you think it was right or wrong to deny each man subsequent promotion?

Question 2 Home

Reminder: E-mail your submission to LTC Hank Fuller before 1700 (5:00 p.m.) EST on Friday, 11 March.


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