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Amphib USS Boxer Sidelined by "General Complacency" and Breakdowns

USS Boxer
US Navy file image

Published Mar 20, 2024 7:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

The big-deck amphib USS Boxer has been sidelined by three back-to-back engineering casualties caused by "lack of procedural compliance, substandard supervisory oversight, and general complacency by the crew," according to the U.S. Navy. 

USS Boxer is the flagship of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, or would be under normal circumstances. However, she has been in various phases of repair and preparation since 2022, and she missed her latest scheduled deployment in the Pacific - all because of human factors, according to a recent command investigation

"Every level of senior engineering leadership failed to provide a safe, professional, and procedurally compliant work environment in engineering department. These failures had direct, measurable impacts on USS Boxer's upcoming deployment and impeded the overall accomplishment of the strike group's mission," concluded the expeditionary strike group's commander last year.

The casualties were first reported by KPBS, and all involve serious human error. In November 2022, two of the forced draft blowers on USS Boxer's steam plant failed, the victims of improper repairs. They were overhauled multiple times, and suffered oil and water leaks every time. An examination by the OEM found that improper parts were used, machined sealing surfaces did not line up, and reassembly techniques were substandard and noncompliant.

"Numerous deficiencies (non-conforming parts, poor quality control, poor craftsmanship, non OEM supervision) have been noted in the recent overhauls," concluded the command investigation. "The repetitive overhaul/repair of the [forced draft blowers] onboard Boxer may be an indicator of shortfalls in contractor experience necessary to conduct steam plant repairs."

In May 2023, USS Boxer experienced an unspecified incident during a boiler light-off, which the strike group commander attributed to complacency and a departure from "sound shipboard operating principles." The incident could have resulted in severe injuries, though luckily no crewmembers were harmed. 

In mid-July, Boxer's engineering team needed to rotate the propulsion system's main reduction gear for maintenance. Despite multiple rounds of retraining and outside intervention after the previous casualties, they again departed from procedure: the team spun the main gearbox for two hours without lubrication, and did not notify the commanding officer of this potentially damaging decision until 27 hours later. 

"Despite two previous major engineering casualty incidents within eight months, USS Boxer engineering department personnel continued to deviate from sound engineering practices and failed to apply lessons learned from previous engineering casualties. All watchstanders displayed an appalling lack of procedural compliance and general complacency in this casualty," the strike group commander found. 

The former commanding officer has transferred outside the strike group with a special letter of evaluation, and the former XO - promoted as the new CO - was issued a letter of instruction. The command intended to begin detachment for cause (DFC) proceedings for the Boxer's main propulsion assistant (MPA); the investigation referred to unspecified allegations of assault and failure to report incidents of assault within Boxer's engineering department, including allegations involving the MPA.