There is no getting around it;
sometimes unexpected things happen. The crew of guided-missile cruiser, USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), knows that better than most. On Saturday, July 18, 2015, just a few miles out to sea off of the Atlantic coast, one of those unexpected things happened that, that for a few harrowing moments, can cause the blood to freeze in your veins.
According to the USNI News Service, The Sullivans was participating in a planned missile exercise off of the coast of Virginia when things did not go the way they were planned. The Sullivans fired off a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) at approximately 9:00 a.m. The test missile suffered some kind of malfunction and exploded at about the height of the ship’s mast, shortly after being fired. Thankfully, the missile was not armed.
The explosion showered the ship with burning debris that sparked a small fire on the ship’s port side.
The crew was able to quickly deal with the fire. The pictures in the USNI News article show the explosion, the parts of the missile falling into the sea, and the fire on the aft, port side of the ship. That was not the kind of “excitement” that the crew of The Sullivans was expecting, but their training kicked into gear immediately and they quickly got things under control, keeping the damage to The Sullivans minimal. You can bet that their collective heart rates were in high gear, but they responded as they were trained and turned this dangerous incident into a minor event in the end.
This is one of those accidents that my father used to call “successful.” A successful accident in his mind was one where everybody is able to walk away from it. With all of the things that could have happened, this event was, thankfully, without injury to any of ship’s crew and only some minor damage was caused to the port side of the ship. The Sullivans was able to return to port under its own power.
USNI News describes the incident with the usual matter-of-fact, dry, bureaucratic, informational tone of all such reports, but I’m guessing that the sailors aboard The Sullivans are telling the story to one another over and over again in much more colorful details. They are going to have some great tales to tell when they come ashore too.
They will be filled with the gallows humor that is so much a part of military life. That’s what you do when s**t happens and you walk away from it unscathed. When your ears stop ringing, and when the fires have been put out, and the smoke has settled, you pat yourself down for any signs of injury and you look into the wide-eyed faces of your fellow crew members and, you can’t help it, you laugh at the sheer, inexplicable luck of it all.
We here at The Veterans Site are so thankful that no one was hurt in this incident on the USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) And without any tongue-in-cheek irony we wish the crew of The Sullivans a hearty, “Fair winds and following seas,” from here on out.