Ex-USS Guardian crew given new ship

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 2, 2013 - 6:10pm

MANILA, Philippines - After being spared from imprisonment for damaging a heritage site, crew members of the ex-USS Guardian were rewarded with a new toy.

Crew members of the ex-USS Guardian were assigned to a new ship even if they are still being probed for the grounding incident in the Tubbataha Reef.

An article posted on the blog of the US 7th Fleet said the entire crew of the Guardian has been reassigned to minesweeper USS Warrior.

“In an unusual crew-swap situation, the crew of Ex-Guardian will be transferred to Warrior and remain forward deployed to CFAS (Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo) effective March 31,” the article read.

Despite the Tubbataha incident that will cost the US millions of dollars, the commanding officer of the ill-fated Guardian, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, has been named commander of USS Warrior.

Rice even lauded his 79-man crew for the “courage and dedication they showed when Ex-Guardian ran aground.”

“It was an incredible challenge but you demonstrated the greatest character in meeting that challenge. All 79 Guardian Sailors made it home because of it. As we move towards the future, know that I have always been proud to be part of this crew,” he said.

The USS Warrior arrived in Sasebo, Japan on March 27.

“It’s been difficult for the crew, both officers and enlisted, not having a ship,” said Ltjg. Jared Shrader, USS Warrior’s Damage Control Assistant.

“Sometimes there is a sense of confusion, but now with Warrior here we have a clear purpose,” he added.

The 1,300-ton, 68-meter-long USS Guardian ran aground dawn of Jan. 17 at the reef’s south atoll. The vessel was on its way to Puerto Princesa after a port call in Subic Bay when the incident happened.

The US Navy has blamed “faulty navigation chart data” for the incident but some sectors believe the incident was caused by human error. There were even questions as to why the US ship was in the area.

The Tubbataha reef spans 130,028 hectares and has been named a World Heritage Site due to its extensive coral network.

Republic Act 10067 prohibits the entry to the Tubbataha reef without the permission of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board. Violators will be slapped with a jail term of up to one year and a fine that ranges from P100,000 to P300,000.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya earlier said that the Guardian crew members may not land in jail due to practices granting immunity to foreign vessels.

Crew members of the ex-USS Guardian had conducted drills and had visited other ships before boarding their new ship.

“We’re excited to get on board, take possession of this new warship and get back out to sea like we were meant to do,” Shrader said.

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