By Rick Trout / May 6, 2014
The recent drowning of Navy dolphin worker/Science Application International Corp. employee, 29 year old Coll Perske, during nighttime rehearsals for deployment of American dolphins into Black Sea waters near Ukraine’s turbulent coast is made even more tragic knowing that Congress tried to eliminate this ill-conceived program in 1992.
Then retired Admiral Eugene Carroll testified that the Navy’s dolphin program was a “flawed weapon/defense system that jeopardized national security” and gave him no confidence that any of his sailors “would sleep peacefully on a Trident nuclear sub guarded by Flipper!” Admiral Carroll understood that marine mammal intelligence and military intelligence are mutually exclusive given that wild dolphins, however trainable, are still juvenile delinquents in grey suits.
In my capacity as an SAIC/Navy dolphin trainer and dive supervisor for the deployment of dolphins to the Persian Gulf during Bush Sr.’s Iraq involvement in l987, I reached the same conclusion. During similar week-long nighttime rehearsals playing the role of an “enemy diver”, not one night went as planned in the dark back bay waters of San Diego/Coronado Bay.
Dolphins spooked, went AWOL and swam back to Coronado home cages.
Contrary to the assurances of spokesperson Jim Fallin, dolphins were often out of sight and out of control. The only dolphin who came close to ramming me as intended with the unarmed nose cone weapon device looked at me, simply dropped the device in front of me and swam away. That device, designed to eject a 45 caliber bullet on contact, was upgraded from Viet Nam war days when a needle would inject CO2 and explode (“nullify”) enemy divers. Again Mr. Fallin forgets that 2 of our guys were mistakenly taken out by the “Swimmer Nullification Program” now called “Swimmer Interdiction Program”. Coll was not the first human casualty of this unreliable program.
On my final night I quizzed program director, Les Bivens saying, “This doesn’t work, does it?” He answered, “We know that.” When I asked, “Then why are we here and more importantly why are the dolphins here?” Mr. Bivens offered, “This is just a deterrent.”
I told him I would go back to Florida and return with crocodiles, alligators and sharks … that would be a deterrent!!!
If this program was so impressive and “gifted with Mother Nature’s sonar” as the San Diego Union Tribune glowingly reported, then why weren’t veteran dolphins and handlers sent to help find the Malaysian 777 airliner in the Indian Ocean that was emanating the same kind of pinger sounds the marine mammals are trained to detect in San Diego Bay? More reliable U.S. Navy assets were sent instead.
Federal records show the Navy and SAIC have wasted millions in tax dollars while drowning dozens of dolphins in so-called “training accidents” and now tragically this young civilian. I hope OSHA officials are able to get unfiltered information to help Coll’s family understand how and why their son perished. There is undoubtedly more to the story than has been forthcoming.
Coll Perske, his family, and our military have been ill-served by Science Application International Corp. who has had the scientific application (side scan sonar & underwater drones) to replace the dolphin program which Congress knew in ’92 jeopardizes national security. Hopefully Commander Rothenhaus and SAIC’s condolences include recommending that Defense Secretary Hagel cancel the bizarre deployment of American dolphins to face off Russian dolphins and terminate this Swimmer Nullification/Interdiction Program that should have been shelved decades ago.
Rick Trout is an ex SAIC/Navy dolphin/sea lion trainer ’85-89 San Diego, and Lead rescuer/founder Marine Mammal Conservancy 1990-2005 Key Largo, Fl.
PLEASE forward this editorial to others and write your Congressman/woman and Secretary Chuck Hagel @ 1400 Defense Pentagon, Washington D. C. 20301-1400