Waddle hopes his lessons prevent other disasters
BISMARCK, N.D. » The commander of a submarine that plowed into a Japanese fishing boat off Oahu five years ago, killing nine people on it, says the incident still haunts him, and he wants to share the lessons he learned.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Scott Waddle of Raleigh, N.C., is now an author and public speaker. He spoke Saturday at a National Guard aviation safety conference.
Waddle commanded the USS Greeneville, which inadvertently struck the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru during a surfacing drill on Feb. 9, 2001, sinking the Ehime Maru and killing four teens and five adults aboard it.
A National Transportation Safety Board report, released last October, concluded that Waddle's hasty order for the drill caused the submarine to surface into the Ehime Maru's hull.
Today, Waddle said, the scars remain.
"It is the most painful experience you can imagine," he said. "I feel sorrow beyond belief."
He said his message is that people's actions can directly affect others and that integrity and accountability are trademarks of leaders.
"I came to speak here in hopes of precluding an accident from happening here," Waddle said before his speech Saturday. "Am I over it? No. Something reminds me of it every day. Does it consume me anymore? No."
Waddle visited Japan in 2003 to meet with survivors and their families. He said he accepted responsibility for the accident.
"It was important to me to tell the truth. As painful as that is, you have to be accountable and responsible -- that's what a leader is," Waddle said.
Saturday's speech was entitled "Failure Is Not Final."
"A high failure, a catastrophic event, that doesn't define you," Waddle said. "Keep your character intact. That defines you as a person."