Recently, news is out that an A-7C, jettisoned back in 1974 by (then) LtJG Bob Besal, was located off the Coast of St. Augustine FL. [Article Link].
Bob Besal would go on to achieve Flag, but back in ‘74 as a JG, he was required to return his Corsair to the taxpayers after having collided with his CO’s (Cmdr. Peter Schoeffel) plane pulling out of a training bomb run. CNN covers the majority of the story in an interview with RADM Besal…
"Pilot error. It was entirely my fault," he said humbly. "Truthfully, I got a little disoriented. I thought 'Oh my God,' it would be close. The planes were in a climb. I heard a huge bang. My airplane almost immediately went out of control, lost hydraulics."
Besal’s vertical stab was gone!
For Besal, who went on to earn two Distinguished Flying Cross awards and the Bronze Star in Desert Storm and whose career included duty as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS America, the collision nearly four decades ago and the recent discovery of his plane have brought back memories and another opportunity for a teachable moment.
"I was fortunate to grow up in a Navy system that accommodated some human error," Besal reflected. "I had a lot of people that gave me another chance. I was blessed."
And there’s the message…
"I was fortunate to grow up in a Navy system that accommodated some human error," …"I had a lot of people that gave me another chance. I was blessed."
Granted, Bob Besal was a JG then and certainly JG’s are afforded a few “Idiot Mulligans”, but has the Navy, and the Naval Aviation Community forgotten this lesson a bit in it’s zeal to placate the unknowledgeable- public and political animals rather than taking care of “Our own business”? Hell, Bob sawed off his tail using the CO’s bird as a knife! And yet, he was afforded the opportunity to continue his career as a Naval Officer… later receiving 2 DFC’s and Bronze Star, becoming CO of the USS America, and attaining the rank of Rear Admiral!
The past few years have seen any number of Command Pins Detonated for what many of ‘Old Salts’ would view as… while not entirely… trivial matters, certainly not momentous issues deserving of removal from command.
I ask our collective, has leadership in the Navy forgotten the lesson of “a Navy system that accommodates some human error”?
A man's errors are his portals of discovery.
~ James Joyce