Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Greeneville ART Speaks

Many of you enjoyed a website called the "Greeneville Underground Newsletter" that I found a couple months ago, and many of you wondered why the site had "disappeared". (For those who didn't see it, it was basically the traditional "bitch book"/"nuke passdown log" that the malcontent/humorous (pick one based on your prejudices) nukes were keeping online.)

I received a communique from "Anti-Retention Team", who I assume is one of the guys who helped publish the newsletter. I'm assured that he wasn't one of the people who had to sign a Page 13, so no laws are being broken here. Here's the statement:

Thanks and Farewell
The Greeneville Underground Newsletter

Friends, Readers, Weblog Colleagues, and Casual Bystanders:
As you now know or have suspected, the Greeneville Underground Newsletter has ceased publication. The shutdown is semi-voluntary, but fully-permanent. There will be no republication under a different name. Several people have requested information on what happened, and I'll attempt to explain. This may get long, since it's difficult to capture the spirit of what was going on here.
Every boat has at least one "passdown log"/bitch book/pit log/slam book hidden somewhere out of the way in the spaces. Command attitudes vary between absolutely not allowed and "not allowed, nudge nudge, wink wink." On one boat I was on it routinely got swiped and read in the CPO Quarters, then returned unharmed, whenever something particularly creative and funnyshowed up in there.
There are a few arguments that could be made that a passdown log is a good thing. I can think of three.
For one thing, people need to vent now and then. Maybe writing something nasty is better than keeping it to yourself. It's definitely better, in the self-preservation sense, than being a smart-ass to the XO.
For another thing, it can function as an informal suggestion-box. I've known some COs to periodically "take the oak leaves off" and take whatever abuse the blue-shirts can dish out (verbally, of course) in the name of hearing the REAL SCOOP. I admire COs that can do that. Now obviously, you can't run a military organization where any jackass can feel free totell off the Captain any old time he disagrees. The passdown log can, and does, function as the unvarnished opinion on the deckplate. The management can sneak peeks and find out how successfully (or not) they're running the show.
It's not limited to the management, either. I've seen people constantly harassed by the chain of command about quals do nothing, but then get hot once they start being known as a "slug" in the passdown log by their peers.
The previous two are decent reasons, and reasons I hear a lot. They don't really convince me, though. The reason that causes me to "overlook" these books, provided they don't get TOO out of hand with the personal attacks and bickering, is often missed.
People need to have fun. The passdown log is fun - fun to think up stuff to write in, fun to read. It's a break from the dreary "groundhog's day" of being underway. Same reason people get into wrestling matches in ERLL, same reason watchstanders get into water fights, same reason the XOs door goes missing periodically.
I think in management fad/theory, this is called the "fish principle". I haven't read that book yet, though. The premise is this: people will work their asses off for very little in return, as long as it's sort of fun and the time goes by fairly quickly. The leader who can make the workplace full of joking and laughter, even when it's 10pm on a non-duty weekend night, is going to get a lot farther than the slave-driver.
So where am I going with this? Well, this is important background to the Underground Newsletter. When "they" found our passdown log and took it away, with the remark that "you can have one, just not in the engineroom,"well, to quote the CO, "A bored Nuke is a dangerous thing."
But was putting it on the Internet, for the general public to see, a big middle finger to the command? A "Take it away, well, we'll show you" scenario? No. It also wasn't a desire to "show the world what crap we're dealing with" - we didn't think anyone would ever see it but us. It's a big Internet after all, and who's going to search for "Greeneville" that cares in the slightest? (foreshadowing)
No, it started out as a "wouldn't it be funny if..." scenario. Then a proof of concept blog. But then, hey, this turned out to be fun.
So Greeneville's in the shipyard, with morale at the lowest it's been in all the time anyone can remember (including the collision). Those of you who have been in the shipyard know what I mean. Those of you on Hono REALLY know what I mean. Then all of the sudden, something is fun.
I think people initially came to the Underground to bitch and be anti-navy, anti-greeneville, anti-this, anti-that. I think the tone of the site, though, was more about laughing at the ridiculous, telling funny stories - recognizing the humor in the situation, not anger. I think our non-crewvisitors could sense it, too.
The more active participants have mentioned that it came as a shock that the main Underground page became popular, while the Distractions didn't. That's the part we liked best. That, and the prank planning. We were actually moving more in the harmless pranks direction and less toward bitching the longer we went on.
It was fun. There were dozens of readers who didn't post, and everyone liked to talk about it. It made work kind of fun, with people watching out for "good things to post on the Underground". If the XO hits the limiter and starts cussing everyone out, it no longer makes everyone pissed off the rest of the day. It makes everyone smile to themselves wondering if it'll make the Underground and what it will say. In my humble opinion, it did more to IMPROVE morale than any other thing while it lasted.
Ok, so what happened already? Well, that's when the CO and COB made a public relations trip to Greeneville, Tennessee. While they were gone, the SUBPAC Public Affairs Officer decided to Google for any related news stories generated by the trip. Uh-Oh, turns out the Underground was the number one result for Greeneville+Submarine or something. Busted.
We got reported to the Admiral, who chewed out the Commodore, who "notified" the command in what I imagine was a one-way phone call. Also, NCIS was invited to scour the Underground for any classified material or operational security disclosures.While we had been careful (very careful) to keep a handle on the REAL security issues on the site, some participants were less good than others at being undercover. A couple of "our" people (plus a couple of innocent bystanders, oops) were invited to a special meeting with the chain of command where it was suggested that the site be discontinued. These suggestions being documented on Page 13s, if you know what I mean.
Since no actual UCMJ articles had been violated, and no classified information compromised, that was the end of it. I don't think the issue was that we had done anything wrong, but that it would be incredibly easy to embarrass the command publicly. Also that an accidental slip of something classified would be world-wide and unable to take back. I'm guessing, though.
So, being bored nukes, I suppose we COULD restart the site under a different name, about a "fictitious" boat. (we thought of starting the La Jolla Underground Newsletter, heh) We've decided, though, that being published on the Internet was not an essential feature - we can still do all the things we were doing offline, not get into trouble, and keep the command happy.
It's just better that way. We'll find another way to have fun. I'm sure the passdown log will reappear at some point - they always do.So we'd like to thank everyone who said nice things about us, and who made it fun. Because that was the important thing, the fun.

ART (The anti-retention team)
Greeneville Underground Newsletter

I'll put down some of my thoughts on this later tonight...

Update 2335 26 Oct: I feel kind of responsible for the site being taken down, since I'm the one who first "outed" them to the sub-blogosphere at large. Short version: They linked to me, I noticed them in my referrer's logs, and posted about them at Ultraquiet No More. On the other hand, based on the fact that some of the hits I had gotten from them came from the mainland, I think they were kind of an "open secret" anyway.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the malcontent nukes -- they generally worked as hard, or harder, than the quieter guys, and provided a lot more laughs. They kept you on your toes, too; you had to come up with real reasons why some task was important to satisfy them, other than "because I said so".

When I was Eng on Connecticut (which had quite a few malcontents) I made it a point to go through the "bitch book" whenever I had duty... just to get a pulse of what the crew was really thinking. I had an unspoken rule that I wouldn't hold guys responsible for anything they wrote in there -- as long as it didn't violate reactor safety, of course. The crew knew that, and knew that they could get a message to me without "going through channels". Since my EDMC was on the same wavelength, it worked out OK. I think it's a mistake for a boat to cut off this "relief valve" -- nukes being the inventive types they are, they're always going to figure out a way to bitch, and it's better to have something benign, like this blog was, than some of the other options. (That being said, I still have enough "active duty" in me to recognize that CSP really had no option but to shut the thing down once they found out about it -- had it made the press, and it came out that SubPac knew about it and did nothing, people would have lost their jobs.)

Anyway, I'll miss reading about the nukes on the Greeneville, and I hope they come up with another way to express themselves -- within the bounds of the UCMJ, of course.

I've re-enlisted a couple of guys who swore up and down they'd never re-up. It ain't over 'til it's over, guys -- submarining gets in your blood, whether you like it or not. And who knows... maybe when one of them is an EDMC, they'll tell a "no sh*tter" about the time CSP shut down their blog.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even little old me had that sucker bookmarked for my morning java. I thought the end would come soon.

--former XO's wife

10/26/2005 10:39 AM

Anonymous ex-ET nuke said...

I wondered if this was what happened. I still have one of the last "slam-logs" from my old boat, and I always get a chuckle out of reading some of the stuff in there. I'll certainly miss the vicarious fun of reading an on-line slam-log, but it was good while it lasted. In the immortal words of a very intelligent chief (is that an oxymoron or what), "A bitchin' sailor is a happy sailor."

10/26/2005 4:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had a bitch book on every submarine I was on. The only rules seemed to be that it couldn’t be mean or vindictive to hurt people on purpose. That didn’t mean that people did not get ripped but the usually the actions were ripped, not the person. While the book was usually in the Engine Room, it was not unusual to see an MS or QM scribbling in it. On my last boat the nukes had a small plastic penguin on the MC speaker box in Maneuvering and the bitch book was called the Penguin’s Night Order Book or PNOB. As Agang Chief, I read it religiously and fixed what I could. All-in-all, it was great reading and you found that there were some really talented writers on board.
On three of my boats we had the People Against People Ever Re-enlisting Civilian Living Incentive Program” “PAPER CLIP” gang. It was funny for awhile. They would walk around with huge paper clips on their pockets and it was a laugh until it got mean. I never cared if the individual liked the Navy or not. Hell, I only joined for four years and ended up with 20+. The Navy isn’t for everybody but I did insist that they did their job while they were there. In my opinion, people want to do a good job and most don’t concisely wake up in the morning and decide not to do what they are supposed to. When someone did start to resist or passive resist, it was important the issue got resolved at the lowest level possible. I also saw people re-enlist who said they never would and people come back into the Navy when they found that the grass wasn’t always greener in civilian life.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa

10/27/2005 12:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, those are always a fun read.

All time fav: "blank's wife looks like a klingon..." The knock ya down on the floor part was the fact that the individual makeing the comparison was the Village idiot!

(every boat has one)

10/27/2005 7:10 PM

Blogger Chap said...

Let's not forget the Green Book in the wardroom...worked with a couple of guys back on my JO tour who couldn't handle the pain in that one, and it got ugly...

10/28/2005 12:05 PM

Blogger trr said...

interesting story...I kinda' wondered when someone up the chain of command would see it and...

10/28/2005 4:38 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Just before I retired, I went down to my first boat and looked at the green book in the Wardroom -- they were still using the same one, and there were my past foibles in all their glory...

10/30/2005 6:12 AM

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