US Navy Times said:E-4*, below barred from standing armed watch
NORFOLK, Va. â€” Sailors below E-5 are temporarily barred from standing armed watches aboard Atlantic Fleet surface ships, and chiefs and up must monitor crew-served weapons stations, following four instances of negligent firearms discharges aboard separate ships since June.
One of the rounds was fired from a ship moored in Portsmouth, Va., across the Elizabeth River toward downtown Norfolk.
The four events prompted Rear Adm. Dave Thomas, Naval Surface Force Atlantic commander, to simultaneously direct a comprehensive review of weapons qualifications and training documentation for armed watchstanders and to order ships to fully qualify their watchstanding teams. Once thatâ€™s done, ships may lift the rank restrictions, said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Urban, a command spokesman.
Thomas imposed the rank limitations, the review and the qualifications requirements Aug. 25, a day after the latest incident, in which an M240B machine gun was discharged from the deck of the destroyer James E. Williams while the ship was moored at MHI Ship Repair & Services in Norfolk, Urban said. That shot was believed to have hit the water.
The other incidents:
â€¢ An M240B was discharged July 20 aboard the amphibious transport dock San Antonio while it was tied up at Earl Industries Shipyard in Portsmouth, with the weapon pointed toward downtown Norfolk. There were no reports of damage or injury.
â€¢ A third discharge involving an M240B occurred June 17 while the destroyer Mahan was getting underway in Mayport, Fla. The round is believed to have hit a sand dune across the St. James River.
â€¢ A sailor on the coastal patrol ship Tempest in 5th Fleet shot himself in the foot with a 9mm pistol while removing it from the holster when coming off watch June 19, Urban said.
In addition to directing the review of qualifications and training documentation aboard all SURFLANT ships â€” to be completed by group and squadron commanders by Sept. 8, Urban said â€” Thomas directed all ships to temporarily limit the issuance of firearms to â€œqualified sailors E-5 and above.â€
He also required that a weapons supervisor who is a chief or higher temporarily supervise all crew-served weapons stations, Urban said.
Commanders must ensure that sailors meet the eight specific requirements to become certified to carry weapons before they can lift the rank restrictions, which several ships already have done, he said.
Two of the four incident investigations are complete, Urban said. Some of the sailors were given nonjudicial punishment, and â€œother administrative actionsâ€ were taken, Urban said.
* - Petty Officer Third Class, the fourth enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, just above Seaman and below Petty Officer Second Class, and is the lowest rank of non-commissioned officer, equivalent to a Corporal/Leading Hand