This post is a day late because I received the news just as I was departing for a family vacation and I've been on the road yesterday and all day today. It put a significant damper on my spirits and I've been composing this post in my mind for many hours driving across country.
Terry Garbuzinski was killed in a head-on collision on I-95 in Mystic, Connecticut on Thursday night.
Update 3/28/2010: Terry's obituary is posted in The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro.
If you've served on a U.S. fast attack submarine or went through any of the submarine officer training pipelines from SOAC through SCC anytime in the last two decades, then you have benefited from the superb interactive tactical training provided by Terry.
I first met Terry in the spring of 1996 when he came down to provide pre-deployment training (PDT) to our wardroom on USS PROVIDENCE (SSN-719). My CO at the time was a very highly respected submarine tactical god of sorts and somewhat of a legend in the submarine force. I was just a nub ensign at the time, and I thought it was kind of weird to have this guy in a suit coming down to our boat to tell US how to do things on the pointy-end of the spear. However, to see the way our captain respected Terry and listened intently to everything Terry had to say gave Terry a lot of credibility.
Bubblehead's post has some great comments about Terry. Over on FastNav's post, one commenter wrote that Terry " treated everyone around him with great respect." He hit the nail on the head. One of the things that impressed me about Terry back in 1996 was the way he spoke to me as if my opinion mattered and he valued my opinion - even as an ensign.
It didn't take long that first morning in 1996 for me to develop a feeling of awe both for Terry's level of knowledge in the history of submarine operations and the way he employed that knowledge in an interactive manner to help us think through difficult situations. Instead of the typical canned training powerpoint presentation (like the old version of the collisions and groundings brief) which just recited in a monotone voice, "on such-and-such a date in such-and-such an ocean, USS UMPTYFISH collided with so-and-so. The root causes of why they collided were (a)... (b)... (c)..." zzzzzzzzzzz.
Terry's style of training was always tremendously valuable in the way he put you in the moment and made you go through the same decision-making process that the crew did in that difficult situation. He would pick someone in the wardroom, "Okay, LT Blunoz, you're the Officer of the Deck, the ship is at PD, on course 270, speed 3 knots, and you observe the following..." He would present you with the same raw data that those guys had and see if you would make the same decisions they did. He would walk you through the current submarine force tactical guidance and what you're supposed to do by the book.
After you told Terry what you would have done in that situation, regardless whether or not you made a good decision, then he would make sure everyone was engaged and exercising their brain cells by asking around the table what the other guys thought. Then you could count on Terry saying something along the lines of, "Okay good, so turning right would have been the best maneuver here. However, let's say you thought (whatever was in the mind of that OOD back on that day), so you turned left instead. As a result, now you observe the following..." and he'd present you with the next round of information that became available to the watch team. It was a great way to see how to recover after you've made an initially bad decision and regain control of the situation.
Terry's training in fast attack submarine wardrooms and at submarine school was invaluable and a highlight of any wardroom's PDT or sub school curriculum, and I suspect that's how most guys wearing gold dolphins will remember him with thanks and admiration. However, the awesome training he provided was only the tip of the iceberg. It would be impossible to quantify Terry's contributions to our submarine force and to our national security.
Shortly after hearing the news, I had a meeting with a fellow submarine officer, and we talked about our mutual respect and feelings of loss for Terry. He was much more eloquent than me in the way he described Terry as "the guardian of the realm" -both inside and outside the lifelines of the submarine force. Outside the submarine force, he was a defender of the submarine force's reputation and an advocate for the capability and value of submarines. However, he was never content to let the submarine force rest on its laurels or get an inflated ego of over our capabilities. Inside the lifelines, he was a vigilant protector of our reputation in that he made sure we never abused or took advantage of the position of special trust and confidence the submarine force has earned over the past few decades. His in-depth analysis of submarine operations helped us to identify issues before they became problems, and he was a valued participant in any flag-level oversight discussion in that he spoke the truth and he wouldn't sugar coat it or water it down.
It's very sad to remember the last time you spoke with someone - not realizing it would be the last time you would speak. In my current job, I communicated with Terry on a regular basis via email and telephone. I counted on Terry for backing me up with the historic precedent of policy decisions and providing critical insight on how to handle new challenges. I saw Terry several times per year when we tag-team briefed the Submarine Command Course (SCC) or attended conferences together. When Terry was in DC last week for a conference hosted by my office, it never even crossed my mind that it would be the last time I would see or speak with him.
Terry - Thank you for your truly remarkable contribution to our submarine force and our national security. Thank you for the way you treated everyone with respect and valued their input. Thank you for always having a positive attitude and making everyone who met you genuinely glad that they did. Thank you for teaching me at every stage of my career, especially in the past year and a half. I am a better submarine officer because of you, Terry, and I was really looking forward to hearing you brief my SCC class next year.
This is a terrible tragedy and substantial loss for the submarine force.
My thoughts and prayers are with Terry's family, friends, and coworkers.
Sailor, rest your oar.