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Retired Navy Capt. Paul Rinn Shares the Story of USS Samuel B. Roberts

Article By: MC1 Lewis Hunsaker

Retired Navy Capt. Paul Rinn, first commanding officer (CO) of the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), addressed Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) students, faculty and staff during a Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture (SGL) in King Auditorium, April 19.

Rinn shared his story of when, as the CO of Samuel B. Roberts, his ship struck a mine in the spring of 1988 while on escort duty in the Persian Gulf.

"The story of Samuel B. Roberts doesn't happen on April 14, 1988. It happens long before that," said Rinn. "The story of preparedness, combat readiness, strong leadership and everything else, starts way in advance."

When Rinn graduated from Marist College in 1968, one of his professors by the name of Dr. Roscoe Balch took him aside. Balch had a unique view on life, Rinn said, probably because he landed on Omaha Beach during Normandy at the age of 17. When his company arrived at the Rhine River, several months later, Balch was the only one alive.

Rinn shared with the audience a conversation he had with Balch that left a lasting impression.

“’Paul Rinn, generals and admirals don’t win battles. Soldiers, Sailors and Marines win battles,’” Rinn quoted. “’How you lead, train, treat, and the example you give them will determine your success. That is the primary thing you should always remember.’”

“I never forgot those words throughout my entire career in the Navy. I realized it was very important to train well and hard, to be aggressive, to be a strong and honest leader, to be an example, and to never impose on my people things that I wouldn’t impose on myself,” Rinn continued.

 Retired Navy Capt. Paul Rinn addresses students, faculty and staff during an NPS Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture (SGL) in King Auditorium, April 19. Rinn shared his story when, as the commanding officer of guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), his ship struck a mine in the spring of 1988 while on escort duty in the Persian Gulf.

With 13 years of Navy experience behind him at the time, Rinn was assigned to be the CO of the U.S. Navy's newest ship, USS Samuel B. Roberts. He was also the youngest CO in the Navy at that time.

"When I first arrived at the ship, I wanted to generate a sense of what was important … not just for me but for the entire ship's company," said Rinn. "The crew of 220 Sailors came from 47 different states. I had to bring everyone together to think, fight and care alike in order to be one unit."

With very little time to get his crew up to speed, Rinn initiated an intense training regimen that included cross training for all of his crew.

"We practiced, drilled, and practiced and drilled some more," said Rinn. "Until the crew was convinced that we could do everything faster and better than anyone. Once the crew saw that they were doing everything better than everyone, they really bought into the system."

Rinn also wanted to make sure all the Sailors respected and trusted each other.

“The number one reason people are unhappy in the military is because they think no one cares about them. Empower them, take care of them, make their lives better, and help them to get advanced … Care about them to be successful,” said Rinn. “Never give up on anyone, always give them the opportunity and chance to succeed.”

On April 14, 1988, that training was put to the test when the Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine in the Persian Gulf, causing the ship to lose all power in the aft end of the ship.

The scramble was on to save those Sailors and the ship. Rinn said they were able to get some of their weapons systems operational to defend against any attack, but the fire suppression systems did not work. And they had no power to get the ship moving. They were dead in the water.

"Power for the ship was rigged in 22 minutes by a Boatswain's Mate, Sonar Technician, Shipfitter, Cook [Culinary Specialist], and a Radioman with an Electrician arriving at the end," said Rinn. "This team powered up the ship and essentially saved the ship without a single engineer. Why was that? Because we trained!"

For his actions during the attack, Rinn was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and he received the U.S. Navy League John Paul Jones Inspirational Leadership Award. Over the course of their Navy careers, 34 of his crewmembers made Chief Petty Officer, 20 advanced to Master Chief Petty Officer, while five of his officers went on to command and three to major commands. Rinn retired from the Navy in 1997.

Posted April 25, 2016

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