The recent unfortunate string of accidents in Seventh Fleet, including two serious collisions costing 17 Sailors their lives, has drawn fresh attention to operational safety. A blizzard of commentary has focused on possible causal factors, ranging from the demise of the Surface Warfare Officers School Basic Division Officer Course to overworked Sailors to decreases in readiness funding. While each of these factors may intersect the problem, none is dispositive as a single cause. Indeed, it often seems as though the commentary reflects a long-held axe to grind, or something that is politically expedient.
Unfortunately, accidents, incidents, and close calls happen in every warfare community, and not just in the Western Pacific. For example, according to the Naval Safety Center, as of early December 2017, both the Navy and Marine Corps aviation communities were on pace for the highest accident rates in several years. From 1 October 2016 until the end of November 2017, Navy and Marine Corps aviation lost 31 aircraft across the globe at the cost of 24 lives and more than a billion dollars.