Monday, February 28, 2005
Best Collection of Jimmy Carter Pics
(Intel source: Ron Martini's Submarine BBS)
The best collection of Jimmy Carter pictures I've seen can be found here. I've linked to most of them before, with the exception of the the sixth and seventh rows down. The one on the left in the sixth row shows that the boat did in fact display the broom that I had spoken out against earlier.
Update 2044 28 Feb: Also via Martini's BBS, here's an excellent submarine news roundup which I can't believe I haven't run across before.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
San Diego Friends of the Military -- Check This Out
If you're in San Diego, please go check out this entry at Citizen Smash's place, and see if you can help him out.
Submariners vs. Skimmers and Aviators
Based on the comments from my "Fast Attack vs. Boomers" post below, I figured I should do another good-natured comparison of submariners with the other two major line communities in the Navy - Surface Sailors ("skimmers") and Naval Aviation. Do not expect me to compare submariners with the other major line community (SEALS) anytime soon, though -- I like my legs the way they are...
I did one 18 month tour, including 10 months at sea, on the Battle Group Staff embarked on USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Based on this one data point, I feel uniquely qualified to point out the differences I saw between the three communities. (The previous sentence was, in fact, sarcastic. I do recognize that if your sample size is 1, your correlation will always be 1.0. However, since this is the Internet, I figure I have more experience in the topic at hand than do most commenters.)
The conventional wisdom is that the difference between the three specialities can be summarized as follows: Submariners can only do what the book tells them they can, Aviators can do anything the book doesn't tell them they can't, and the skimmers say, "What book?"
When I was riding the carrier, the thing that I was least comfortable with was the gulf between the officers and enlisted. There were certain passageways onboard the ship where enlisted personnel simply weren't supposed to go; there were even officer's ladders, and lots of other areas designated by blue tile where the only enlisted people you normally saw were Mess Management Specialists (now "Culinary Specialists"). At least on attack boats, except for the wardroom during meals, there really isn't anywhere the crew doesn't go. Another thing that surprised me on the carrier is that I'd see O-4s doing work that I would normally expect to see an E-5 or E-6 doing on a sub. Granted, the smaller number of personnel on a submarine means that you can't afford to waste anyone's talent, but it still seems that the surface officers exhibited a lot less trust in their enlisted personnel. It also seemed that the surface officers loved to have meetings, and that they basically loved to hear themselves talk. We were supposed to meet the wardroom from one of the destroyers the first night in town for liberty one night, but they sent word over that they'd be delayed so they could have an officer's training seminar -- on the first night in-port?!? You try that on a sub, the XO would find his mattress in the freezer before he knew what was happening.
As far as the aviators go: well, I have to admit that watching flight operations on a carrier is the absolute coolest thing I've ever seen. Landing on a carrier at night is probably the scariest "routine" evolution I've ever seen. (I have two carrier catapult launches as a passenger in a C-2 Greyhound, and helo takeoffs and landings, but no "traps".) The people who were able to do that have my utmost respect. That being said, the supreme confidence that you need to be a good pilot tends to make one less likely to be able to accept any limitations in your equipment or skills. Actually, come to think of it, the same thing really applies to successful submariners. I guess I really don't have that much to say bad about pilots, except that the Battle Group Admiral never had to go personally apologize to the Dubai Police Chief to earn the release of any submarine officers when I was on deployment. (I listened in on the Admiral's Mast after that one -- I actually learned some new words.)
Each warfare specialty does some evolutions that are inherently difficult. Submariners come to periscope depth, Aviators do carrier landings, and Skimmers do underway replenishments; driving their ships side by side with only a few feet between each other, passing heavy items back and forth. It's pretty cool; submariners really don't like to do this.
So, we see that each group does pretty cool things; so which group is "the best of the best"? One way to look at it is deciding which group is more selective. Although they don't do this anymore, it used to be that if an officer failed out of their initial training pipeline, they would be switched over to another specialty. In my Nuke School class, we had a few guys who had failed out getting picked up for Aviator training, while most of them got picked up to be surface officers. We did have some people who were physically disqualified from flight training (usually because their upper leg was too short -- you have to be able to fit in an ejector seat) get picked up as a nuke, there wasn't anyone who had academically failed out of Flight or Skimmer training getting sent to Nuke school. Plus, submarines can easily sink any surface ship, including aircraft carriers, while outside of carefully scripted exercises where the sub has a lot of restrictions, I really don't see the opposite happening. Advantage -- Bubbleheads!
My surface and aviator brethern are cordially invited to respond.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Fast Attacks vs. Boomers
The other day at work, I had mentioned to someone that I am a submariner, and they asked me if I served on boomers. Reflexively, I gave the standard answer: "No, I'm heterosexual". Other than making me realize that this answer probably isn't appropriate around people who don't understand submarines (and may even get me in trouble in corporate America) I figured I should come to terms with my feelings about the great fast attack vs. boomer debate.
I never served on an SSBN, although I did got to sea on one once, for the Alpha Sea Trials of USS Louisiana (SSBN 743), the last of the Ohio-class boats. The advantage of serving on boomers seemed to be that you had a long-range schedule that they stuck to pretty closely; if someone called to see if you could attend a family reunion six months from now, you knew if you'd be at sea or not. Boomers have two crews (Blue and Gold) that rotate about every 3 months, so half the time you don't even have a boat to take care of. On fast boats, you're lucky if you know your schedule for the next month. (I had one underway in early December 1991 where we went out for 4 days, and came back three weeks later, the day before Christmas, after picking up an assignment for one of our sister ships that'd turned their diesel into a seawater pump.)
On the fast boats, the time you spend in-port is often more intense than it is at sea, what with having to get all the maintenance done. Although I've heard that "refit" periods between patrols for SSBNs can be pretty intense, boomers have an organization called Trident Refit Facility that does most of your major maintenance for you. On the fast boats, it's a pain to get your guys to the schools they need, whereas the boomers have a 2 month period between patrols where they have nothing to do but training.All that sounds like being a boomer Sailor would be a pretty sweet deal, quality of life-wise. And I suppose it is.
What I don't think I would have liked about boomer life, though, is what you did when you were at sea. Boomers go to sea to hide; their job is to be ready to launch their D-5 missiles when ordered. Sometimes you get to do test launches, which I suppose could be fairly eventful. The rest of the time, you try to stay away from other ships, and run drills. I, being a sneaky bastard, really preferred to do something at sea that involved sneaking up on other people, whether they were warships, interesting wildlife, or even people on sailboats. All in all, I'm glad I did my sea time on fast boats, but I still respect those who served their country honorably on ballistic missile submarines, and I really don't think you're gay. Really. I don't.
A New Bubblehead on the 'Net
Going through my comments, I found a comment under my name that I hadn't left. It turns out there's another "Bubblehead" loose on the Internet. His new blog is located here -- check it out! You can also check out his wife's blog, Mommy Matters. (She's a much bigger star in the blogosphere than the two of us Bubbleheads put together.)
Wackos in Idaho
As you may have seen, whenever submarine news is slow, I enjoy mocking idiots. Most of them seem to be found on the far left side of the political spectrum, but here in Idaho I've found that several of them are on the right. Today's Idaho Statesman has an article on a county commission from a small county near Boise who unsuccessfully asked the Governor to declare their county a disaster area. The reason?
"Gov. Dirk Kempthorne has denied a request by Canyon County commissioners to declare the county a disaster area because they feared an "imminent invasion" of illegal immigrants.
"Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez asked his fellow commissioners in January to consider the request after he saw a guide, styled like a comic book, that provides safety advice for illegal immigrants planning to cross into the United States.
"Vasquez said the guide set the stage for an invasion of illegal aliens into the United States and Idaho."
A translation to the comic-book style guide is here, along with a link to the Mexican government website that has the guide itself. Note that nowhere in the guide does it mention Canyon County, or even any part of Idaho. Nevertheless two of the three members of the Canyon County Commission apparently decided that this was all an insidious plot by the Mexican government to target their fair county.
I admit I'm engaging in a little bit of hyperbole here, but still -- yes, illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be resolved, especially with respect to border security. However, the fact remains that we are a nation of immigrants, and the vast majority of workers who come here are only looking for more money to send home to support their families.
While Idaho has a number of far-right wackos, they also have their fair share of loonies on the left. Just check out these Letters to the Editor found in today's paper. Maybe I've been jaded by all the time I've spent on the coasts, and have forgotten that issues like people from different cultures and unfair government interference are real issues of concern for a large number of people in Middle America.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Friday Night Cat-Blogging
As long as I've been visiting the blogosphere, the tradition of Friday night cat-blogging has existed. Since I don't have pictures on my blog, I haven't participated so far, but today I took a picture that I have to share. First, some background.
We got our oldest of our two cats, Hercules, as a stray in Navy housing in Groton, CT, in early 1997; we had him neutered immediately. He's moved across the country with us 5 times (once by air) and knows that he owns the house. He's also seriously mentally disturbed in that he molests blankets. By "molest", I mean that he drags them from wherever they are out to an open area, be it a hallway or large room, often dragging it up or down stairs. When he finds a place that meets whatever criteria his flea-eaten brain has come up with, he starts slowly stepping on the blanket while holding a corner of it in his mouth, and meowing strangely. As I said earlier, he is neutered; we have no idea what he's thinking about. He normally does this at night right after we've gone to bed, or immediately after the kids leave in the morning. He also pees when he meets turtles, but that's another story.
So, this morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I heard the familiar yowling. I grabbed my camera, and found him outside my daughter's room with a blanket he had dragged off her bed. He dropped the piece of the blanket he had in his mouth just before I took this picture, but I think you can tell that the evidence is pretty incriminating. If the link above doesn't work, try here.
If that wasn't disturbing enough, check out bothenook's latest entry. I dare you not to laugh at the second item!
The Submarine Science Project
Several years ago, my brother had to do the school science project where you're required to "make a submarine that submerges and re-surfaces". This is one of those things where, if one of my kids were to get that assignment, I would spend hundreds of dollars "helping" them make the most perfect toy submarine possible, with solenoid-controlled Main Ballast Tank vent valves and those little CO2 cartridges to blow the water out; it'd all be radio-controlled, of course. Back then, though, I was working long distance, and I think the project was due the next day. So, if you find yourself in this situation, here's what you need to do:
1) Get some raisins (not the kind from a "Raisin Bran"-type cereal, though; if that's all you got, you'll have to wash off all the sugar coating.)
2) Fill a glass with vinegar
3) Add a tablespoon of baking soda
4) Put the raisin in the glass
The reaction of the baking soda and vinegar releases a gas (probably carbon dioxide -- it's been 17 years since I got my Chemistry B.S.) which collects as bubbles in the crevices of the raisin. When enough bubbles collect, the raisin rises to the top of the glass as the bubbles displace enough water, whereupon the bubbles burst due to the lower pressure. Freed of the gas bubbles, the raisin sinks, and the process repeats. My brother got a 100% on the project, as I recall. (Mom, you reading this? Did I remember the story right?)
Actually, as I did some research after I wrote this, it turns out that you can do the same thing just by putting raisins in a clear carbonated beverage.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
A Topic of Enormous Concern for Submariners
Over at Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, the age-old debate is raging on the correct pronunciation of the word "submariner". While each side (sub-MARE-in-er and sub-mar-EEN-er) can bring several good arguments to bear in support of their chosen pronunciation, the truth of the matter is, with all due respect to my colleagues from the various Commonwealth countries, that the correct pronunciation is "sub-mar-EEN-er"; sub-MARE-in-er sounds like something that is "less than a mariner" which of course submariners are not. No self-respecting American submariner, except maybe some recalcitrant boomer sailors, would pronounce the word in the British way, and any that did so would probably wear underwear into the "Horse and Cow" and refuse to do the Dance of the Flaming A**hole. (Yes, it's a real dance; I've seen it done, and it's not pretty.) So let it be written, so let it be done...
Conspiracy Theories -- We Love 'Em!
When there's no interesting new submarine news on the 'net, I like to go out and look for conspiracy theorists. People who feel so powerless that they feel they must blame some wide-reaching, all-powerful cabal for their personal or their group's political failures amuse me, and I enjoy holding them up as subjects of mockery and derision. The fun thing is that you often don't have to say anything at all; just let their own words out them as idiots. Today, here are some of the theories floating around at my favorite lurking ground, Democratic Underground:
Bush is a Nazi! "Take a look at the family of George Walker Bush. Their treachery turns up everywhere from arming Hitler through the Eisenhower (Nixon)-CIA backed Bay of Pigs invasion to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy through the escalation of Vietnam and crookedly on through to the present outrage, the pretzeldunce."
Poll: Were 9/11 planes flown by remote control? "Remember, not only did the hijackers have to navigate the planes largely by geographic landmarks, then steer the planes precisely into the WTC towers and Pentagon, but they also had to descend 10,000-20,000 feet in the course of their piloting. This is not a simple feat. None of the hijackers pilots were described as particularly good pilots by their flight instructors, and several were thought to be very weak pilots. None of the hijackers pilots were known to have flown any sort of large jet airplane before."
Pre-planted explosives brought down WTC 7! "I'm thoroughly convinced that our unelected government either actively participated in or allowed the attacks on September 11 to happen on purpose. My wife, while despising the misadministration with all her heart, is not so convinced. However, both of us believe there was a cover-up by the US regarding the full truth of 9/11. (I don't see how anyone could not. 28 censored pages in the congressional report on 9/11 is proof of a cover-up. The only question is what are they hiding and who does it implicate?)"
And, from the right: Are Black Helicopters controlled by the UN conspiring to subjugate Americans in a New World Order? (Not from today, but lots of amusing reading from the links on this page.) "Citizens for U.N. Base Disclosure (C.U.N.B.D.) is firmly dedicated to uncovering the truth about the alleged top-secret military activity, which may involve the United Nations, taking place within the Sedona, Arizona area. Please read through our reports on this web site, and contact us for more information at the email addresses. A black helicopter base has been discovered near Sedona, Arizona. Various details have been assembled about it. This situation must not be ignored. Its purpose must be explained to the citizens of the United States, the reasons for its illegal operations explained, then all its illegal operations must be ended IMMEDIATELY."
But of all the conspiracies, Iowahawk has uncovered the most far-reaching conspiracy in the history of the world, ripped from today's headlines! Check it out NOW! And then join me at BlameBush to discuss what you've learned...
Going deep to avoid the helicopters...
Other Sub-bloggers Blog When I Don't
This morning I'm all involved in trying to figure out which kind of health insurance plan to get with my new job; whether to go with this TRICARE supplement plan they have, or go with the regular company plan. So, for interesting comments from other sub-bloggers, I recommend you visit the links to Submariners I have on the right. You should especially go see what Chapomatic has been up to (and from his posts, you can also infer what he was doing 9 months ago -- Congrats!), and check out WillyShake's thoughts on post-9/11 air security.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
The Radioactive Boy Scout
Just got back from picking the boys up from Boy Scouts, and was thinking that I should sign up to be a merit badge counselor now that I don't have to go to sea anymore. One of the merit badges offered by Boy Scouts is for Nuclear Science, so I figure I could do that one, as well as Citizenship in the Nation (having been of officer of the United States, I figure that gives me enough experience.). This got me thinking about the classic story of the Radioactive Boy Scout, which I link to for the night crew to enjoy. Any true story about a teenage boy that contains the following passage is probably pretty entertaining:
With neutron gun in hand, David was ready to irradiate. He could have concentrated on transforming previously non-radioactive elements, but in a decision that was both indicative of his personality and instrumental to his later attempt to build a breeder reactor, he wanted to use the gun on radioisotopes to increase the chances of making them fissionable. He thought that uranium-235, which is used in atomic weapons, would provide the "biggest reaction." He scoured hundreds of miles of upper Michigan in his Pontiac looking for "hot rocks" with his Geiger counter, but all he could find was a quarter trunkload of pitchblende on the shores of Lake Huron. Deciding to pursue a more bureaucratic approach, he wrote to a Czechoslovakian firm that sells uranium to commercial and university buyers, whose name was provided, he told me, by the NRC. Claiming to be a professor buying materials for a nuclear-research laboratory, he obtained a few samples of a black ore--either pitchblende or uranium dioxide, both of which contain small amounts of uranium-235 and uranium-238.
Update 0451 24 Feb: Provided actual link to the story I was discussing... Also, to add some submarine interest, I'm including a link to another story that mentions the Carter crew. This one, from the base newpaper in Groton, is interesting because of it's apparent revelation that noted chicken expert Frank Perdue has started a university in Indiana:
"I met the Chief of the Boat and the PCO (prospective commanding officer) at Perdue University while I was recruiting for the recruiting district of Indianapolis," said Miller. "At Perdue they told me about the Jimmy Carter and the next thing I knew, I was talking to the detailers, getting screened and becoming a crew member."
One time's a typo; twice means that the JO3 who wrote the piece must be from Arkansas...
'Dark Matter' Galaxy Found
OK, this isn't sub-related, but I think this stuff is really cool. I expect A. E. Brain will have a more substantive post on this later, but this Yahoo report on a possible 'dark matter' galaxy is really fascinating. An excerpt:
"Theorists have long said most of the universe is made of dark matter. Its presence is required to explain the extra gravitational force that is observed to hold regular galaxies together and that also binds large clusters of galaxies.
Theorists also believe knots of dark matter were integral to the formation of the first stars and galaxies. In the early universe, dark matter condensed like water droplets on a spider web, the thinking goes. Regular matter -- mostly hydrogen gas -- was gravitationally attracted to a dark matter knot, and when the density became great enough, a star would form, marking the birth of a galaxy.
The theory suggests that pockets of pure dark matter ought to remain sprinkled across the cosmos. In 2001, a team led by Neil Trentham of the University of Cambridge predicted the presence of entire dark galaxies."
I've been fascinated by the fast pace of potenial breakthoughs in physics for the last couple of years, particularly with "superstring" or "M-theory" that has a chance of unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity. If you ever get a chance to see the NOVA special "The Elegant Universe" I would urge you to do so, or even read Brian Greene's books. (I'm re-reading The Fabric of the Cosmos now...) To me, it all just makes sense; the universe ought to operate by consistent laws, and having all matter and energy have the same basic form, varying only by it's vibrational energy, is all very elegant; after all, as a nuke I know that mass and energy are easily converted between each other...
Update 0941 24 Feb: I was right! Continuing on with my thoughts on the "new cosmology" that's been discussed in the last few years, especially inflationary expansion. I always wondered how, if everything is limited to the speed of light, how we could be seeing objects 13 billion light years away if our galaxy were not moving at at least half the speed of light (which we clearly are not) -- as we would have had to be to get that far from another object in the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang. The proposed answer now is that space itself expanded rapidly very soon after the Big Bang; there's no limit on how fast space can expand, and light still moves at the same speed through the space in which it exists; it's just that that space has gotten relatively bigger. Now, we're finding out that the universe is actually increasing in its rate of expansion, meaning that there's some kind of "anti-gravity" at work at trans-galactic distances; many scientists postulate that this is due to as yet undiscovered "dark energy" that they theorize makes up more than 70% of the total energy in the universe. Anyway, it's fascinating to me...
Excellent Resource for Recent Navy Stories
I can't believe I haven't stumbled across this site before. The Naval Open Source Intelligence website is a great resource for finding any press reporting on naval issues between 2000 and the present. For example, I found this 2001 WSJ article that first discussed the Jimmy Carter's potential capabilities.
I found this while searching for some information to inject into an interesting discussion over at Ron Martini's Submarine BBS. The Navy Times article mentioned is available at the Navy Times website to subscribers only.
Navy Safety Center "Friday Funnies"
One thing that I miss out on being retired is the weekly "Friday Funnies" that come out from the Navy Safety Center; you can get them on-line, but you have to be coming from a .mil address. They're summaries of various injuries that Navy and Marine Corps people have suffered, written in a "humorous" style that some find offensive, but that I think is effective in getting more people to read the message. Here's an article with one paragraph from one of the messages -- it's not really very funny, but you might get a sense of how they don't do it in a strictly "official" style. The main thing is that I think it prevents injuries because people will take extra safety precautions simply to avoid any chance of making the message; nobody wanted to see themselves in a story starting, "Recently, a Navy Lieutenant Commander was..."
So there I was, Engineer on the Connecticut in the shipyard. One of my electricians had gotten shocked the month previous when the shipyard had wired one of the cabinets wrong, and had hooked a DC line into an AC cabinet. We had "tagged out" the cabinet to do some work (making sure all the power sources that were supposed to be going in were turned off), and my guys had also done a check with a multimeter for any voltage that might be still there; however, if you're looking for AC, you use the AC setting on the meter -- it wouldn't pick up DC. So, when my guy went in with his hands, he got a nasty little DC bite, even though he'd done everything right.
As I said, this had happened the previous month, and I was sitting in my office writing my "night orders" for the weekend. The "Friday Funnies" had come out, and I was thinking my guys might get a kick out of seeing themselves in print. So, I transferred the message over to Word, and "added" an additional Funny: "And finally, from the submarine world, we have a report of an electrician who was so dumb that he got shocked by DC in an AC cabinet. What a dummy! What a maroon! If the bubbleheads are so dumb that they don't even know what kind of electricity they're supposed to get shocked by, I suppose that explains why they go to sea in a ship designed to sink that's built by the lowest bidder."
I printed the message up with the new addition, attached it to my night orders, and sent them back to the Engine Room, figuring that it'd be obvious that it wasn't a real message. About 10 minutes later I get a call from my Engineering Duty Officer, who says, "Eng, these guys are really pissed about the Safety Message." I went back to explain, but until I showed them a real copy of the message the guys thought it was for real.
I'll be back in an update with my all-time favorite Friday Funny.
Going deep for a short sprint...
Okay, I'm back. This story is pretty much straight out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. It started by describing how a Sailor decided to cut down a large branch from a tree in his yard. This sounds like the makings of a disaster from the beginning, but it talks about how he made sure that it wouldn't fall on anything, he had someone to hold the ladder for him (since it was a high branch, the top of the ladder just reached the branch), how he had the right safety equipment, including a lanyard for the chain saw, and even how he made sure that the cut would be on the opposite side of the ladder than the tree trunk. The guy goes up, cuts off the very large branch, and as it breaks free, the weight that had been holding the remaining portion of the branch in place is released, causing that portion, on which the top of the ladder was resting, to spring upwards, above the top of the ladder. So the guy's high on the ladder, with a friend holding the ladder at the bottom on the side opposite the one the guy climbed up, now acting as the pivot on a very large and almost vertical teeter-totter equivalent. I can just imagine the guy's thoughts as he started falling. The visual generated by the story is just too much.
Anyway, if anyone with a .mil account is interested in going to the Friday Funnies archive and finding it from 1996 or 1997, send it to me and I'll post it.
They also have a humorous collection of confusing road signs that's worth a look...
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Castle Argghhh!!! has a hilarious update on the new SOF hand signals that you shouldn't miss. It reminded me of a humorous terrorism preparedness guide I had seen a couple of years ago. Well, as I was typing this, SubBasket called to tell me that my official written job offer just arrived, so I'd better home to check it out, rather than continuing the somewhat serious post on the dangers of being too afraid of potential terrorist attacks with low-level radiation weapons I had planned. (Short version: any terrorist attack using low-level radiation will cause many more problems from the panic than in actual damage, unless the public is first educated.)
Update1342 25 Feb: Moxie has an updated version of several of the terrorism preparedness guide placards I linked to above.
Quotes from Carter Crewmembers
This Navy Newstand news release describes the interaction between the Carter family and Jimmy Carter crew during the recent commissioning weekend; it was gratifying for me to see some of my old shipmates mentioned.
Carter administered the reenlistment oath to Senior Chief Storekeeper Travis Tovar, a Port Washington, Wis., native.
“Incredible,” said Tovar, a Sailor for 18 years. “It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in the Navy.”
Carter has made it a habit to write personal letters to each crewman when the Sailor has reached a professional or personal milestone, such as advancement in rate or the birth of a child. Submariners share a bond of mutual dependence that draws them together, the former president explained.
Senior Chief Travis, in addition to being an outstanding SK, is also a really good first baseman for the boat's team, which won the SUBASE softball championship last year.
Also, Tom Bridge, the brother of a Carter crewman, has some personal reports from the commissioning here and here.
Update 1304 22 Feb: Ernie pointed me to a humorous Cox & Forkum cartoon about the Carter. In the AP article attached to the cartoon, I like how it describes the Carter as "the most heavily-armed submarine ever built" -- I guess the AP writer never heard of SSBNs.
I Can't Swear That This Happened...
...but I did hear it directly from the person who said it happened to them, the day after it happened. It seems to be one of those stories that someone wouldn't make up about themselves if it wasn't true.
Earlier, I discussed my first trip to the Arabian Gulf aboard USS Topeka (SSN-754) in November 1992. When we pulled into Mina Sulman port the next morning, I left the ship to look for the supply officer on the tender against which we were moored, trying to check on the status of some spare parts we needed. I asked the Chop how liberty was in Bahrain, and he offered the following anecdote:
"Well, you just gotta be careful. Bahrain is where all the Saudi princes and sheikhs come when they want to get drunk and have a good time. Last night I was out at this hotel bar, and this Saudi comes over and asks me if I'm an American sailor. I say yes, and he says his [boss] wants to buy me a drink and thank me for the Americans protecting them against Saddam. He brings me to this back table, and there's this stereotypical Saudi sheikh sitting in a booth. I sit down with him, he buys me a drink, and we talk for a while. I get another drink, and we're still talking, when all of sudden the Saudi says, "Now, I will f**k you." I go, "What? No..." He says, "Yes, I have bought you a drink, so now I f**k you. We will go to my room now." I try to get up and leave, but his bodyguard moves in to try to enforce the deal. I'm not sure how I got out of there, but just let me tell you... watch out for Saudi's offering to buy you a drink."
Words to live by. And yes, the supply officer in question was a male.
On Trust and Being a Nuke
WillyShake once again proves that submariners can write well if they pay attention in the non-engineering courses, and has a most excellent post on the subject of trust and redemption against the backdrop of his experience as a nuclear officer. Unfortunately for us sub-bloggers, we've got lots of great stories we could tell if it only wasn't for those darn security classification issues. It's often said facetiously, but with a hint of truth, that an American submarine exists to take the reactor to sea. The influence of Hyman G. Rickover and the "nuclear power first, submarining later" mind-set that many see throughout the Force makes many wonder if today's submarine COs could fight as well as their counterparts; an excellent nuke with poor tactical skills has a much better chance of reaching command than an excellent tactician who hasn't "broken the code" on what goes on back aft. (I don't have the exact statistics, but an officer who serves as the Engineering Department Head has about twice the chance of reaching command than one who serves as Combat Systems Officer.) I personally am not worried about how we'd do in a fight; the same mindset that pushed the nukes to the forefront resulted in the design of such incredible boats that a CO would really have to screw up to lose a sub-on-sub fight against even the best CO in a non-American boat.
Anyway, WillyShake's story of redemption in being selected as ORSE EOOW (Engineering Officer of the Watch for the annual nuclear skills examination -- a big deal) after a previous mistake led me to think about a time that I needed to trust my junior officers, and how I could have done better. As the Engineer during drills, your job is to stand in Maneuvering and be the "safety monitor"; you know what the drills are, and know how the plant and crew should respond; your job is to stop the drill if things threaten to get out of hand. I eventually learned that, but during this one exam I was worried that my EOOW wasn't doing things as quickly as I thought he should, and since I couldn't talk to him (the senior examiner was also in Maneuvering) I decided to resort to some "non-verbal" communication. As the poor EOOW is looking through his book(s) of procedures, I'm standing beside him, tapping him on the ankle with my foot. He's still not giving orders, so I tap him harder, and eventually just flat out kick him. His yelp startled the senior monitor, and I'm sure he knew what was going on; my EOOW eventually gave the right orders, and we did fine on the exam. (This JO ended up becoming Engineer on USS Miami while I was still Eng myself, on the Carter.) So, Mike, if you're out there, I'm sorry I bruised your ankle, I know I should have trusted you more, and I thank you for not hauling off and slugging me, as I so richly deserved...
Monday, February 21, 2005
Quotes for Boring Meetings
As I was sitting in a boring meeting today, I got to thinking about this list of all-purpose quotes to throw out the next time you want to enliven an otherwise boring, time-wasting conference -- especially if you've already put in your notice, and have your next job lined up in a different industry:
1. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of shit.
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
3. How about never? Is never good for you?
4. I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
5. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
6. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
7. I'm out of my mind, but please feel free to leave a message.
8. I don't work here. I'm a consultant.
9. It sounds like English, but I can't understand a damn word you're saying.
10. Ahhh... I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again.
11. I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.
12. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
13. I have plenty of talent and vision; I just don't give a damn.
14. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
15. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
16. Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
17. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.
18. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
19. What am I? Flypaper for freaks?!?
20. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.
21. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of karma to burn off.
22. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
23. And your crybaby, whiny-assed opinion would be?
24. Do I look like a people person?
25. This isn't an office. It's hell with fluorescent lighting.
26. I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.
27. Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
28. If I throw a stick, will you leave?
29. Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
30. I'm trying to imagine you with a personality.
31. A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
32. Too many freaks…not enough circuses.
33. Chaos, panic, and disorder...my work here is done.
34. I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted a salary.
35. Oh I get it... like humor... but different.
Feel free to add your own in the comments...
(I had thought when I posted this that this collection of comebacks may have been put together for the first time in a quote log I get, but I did a quick googling to check, and it looks like they may have come from here. They're still good, though...)
Bad Luck Boats
WillyShake follows up on my earlier posts about the fires on USS Jacksonville and USS Connecticut by asking if people believe in the concept of "bad luck boats". USS Greeneville (SSN 772) comes to mind as a recent boat that suffered a series of "unlucky breaks" (collision with Japanese fishing trawler, grounding in Okinawa, collision in Arabian Sea). Previously, USS Guittaro and USS Houston were generally considered to be "bad luck" boats. USS Jacksonville can certainly be added to that list, when you consider the collision she suffered in May 1996, along with a few other incidents. I agree that a lot of it may be self-fulfilling prophecy, some may just be statistical anomalies, and some may be actual evil spirits. For instance, although I can't put specifics here (and not meaning to sound flippant with respect to the two injured Sailors), I happen to personally know that the battery well on the Connecticut is a place where evil resides; the original battery on the Connecticut failed right before I was supposed to leave the boat, so my transfer got delayed while it was replaced (a relatively long process on a Seawolf), and I had to stay until we completed the examination that was postponed due to the battery replacement. They ended up fixing that battery as best they could and putting it on the Carter for the first year before they got a new one -- I used to go down to the battery well at least once a week and yell at it. The newer shipyard workers thought I was crazy, but the older ones knew that I was justified.
Seriously, I do believe that ships have "souls"; their soul is made up of all the blood, sweat, and tears that everyone who serves on the ship gives to her, and from the little pieces of themselves that every crew member leaves behind, be it their hopes, fears, or dreams. I've left part of my soul on each of the ships that I've served on, but have also taken some of their personalities with me, so I think it's a good trade...
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Is Anyone Really Surprised By This?
Author Hunter S. Thompson, famous for his counter-culture writing ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") and as the inspiration for the "Uncle Duke" character in Doonesbury, committed suicide this evening at his home in Colorado. His sports writing for ESPN "Page 2" had become increasingly erratic over the last year, with lots of political angles that convinced me he had gone off the deep end. From his April 10, 2003 column:
Three journalists have died in Baghdad so far, and not one of them was killed by Enemy Fire. They were shot down like dogs by U.S. military personel, killed and wounded and mangled by Americans, who drive American M1 Abrahms battle tanks and eat all-American pie, just like the rest of us. American troops are killing journalists in a profoundly foreign country, under cover of a war being fought for savage, greed-crazed reasons that most of them couldn't explain or even understand.
What the hell is going on here? How could this once-proud nation have changed so much, so drastically, in only a little more than two years. In what seems like the blink of an eye, this George Bush has brought us from a prosperous nation at peace to a broke nation at war. And why are we killing innocent people at point-blank range on the other side of the world -- with big guns and big bombs that kill everything in reach?
Indeed, there is something going on here, Mr. Jones, and you don't know what it is, do you?
Bob Dylan said that, and he is still right, now more than ever. Hell, there is nothing really new about American enforcers -- especially cops -- killing and brutalizing innocent American citizens. It happens with depressing regularity. But at least the bastards used to have the decency to deny it.
That is a big difference, sports fans, and that is why I feel so savagely depressed tonight. When the Pentagon feels free -- and even gleeful -- about killing anybody and Everybody who gets in the way of their vicious crusade for oil, the public soul of this country has changed forever, and professional sports is only a serenade for the death of the American dream.
Checking in with the moonbats, it looks like they were able to get up to 29 posts until someone brought up the likelihood that the Republicans had him killed and tried to make it look like a suicide...
New Navy Uniforms -- Ugly or Hideous?
I always really, really disliked the Navy enlisted working uniform; I always figured that the reason you weren't allowed to go off base in them is that it would drive recruiting numbers down. Well, it looks like the Navy Task Force Unform has been hard at work, and succeeded in coming up with something even worse. Granted, the summer white uniform was hard to keep clean, and if you went out in town in the thing you were surrounded by kids asking if they could buy a Bomb Pop, but at least it looked decent. This new one looks like something that got rejected by some military junior high school. Plus, what's up with the rank insignia on the collars? It was already difficult enough to tell a CPO from a LCDR at a distance, and now we've got everyone wearing this metal crap. You can see several pages of the proposed new uniforms starting here. I guess I'm just turning into a fuddy-duddy old retiree, but jeez, these things have got to be a prank that got out of hand...
Carter Commissioning Wrap-Up
Here's the article on the Carter commissioning that I've been waiting for, from Robert Hamilton of The New London Day. He even quotes one of the initial manning nukes who's still there:
Machinist Mate 1st Class Robert Perry said he served on the USS Pasadena, a Los Angeles-class submarine, before he was picked for the Jimmy Carter.
“This is way more exciting — one of a kind, a class of one, the greatest technological achievement in the world,” Perry said. “It doesn't get any better than that. It's a great feeling.”
Staying at PD...
Update 1040 20 Feb: Some pictures associated with the commissioning on the Navy Newstand can be found here, here, here, here, and here. The Hartford Courant also has a story on the commissioning with a photo.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Continuing to Beat a Dead Horse
As I celebrate the commissioning of the Jimmy Carter today, I keep thinking about the controversy surrounding the naming of this fine vessel. Earlier, I rhetorically asked if some opponents of the honor given to President Carter were also opposed to the naming of other capital ships for other recent politicians. Today, I wanted to specifically go over some of the submarine names of the past 50 years, and see how President Carter's service to our country compares with theirs. I can't guarantee that all my information is right -- I'm pretty much just pulling it from memory, so feel free to correct me in the comments.
First, here are the names of the original 41 SSBNs -- The "41 For Freedom" . Did any of them suffer embarrassing attacks? Did any of them not always support the goals of the majority of Americans? Did some of them work to make the U.S. military less powerful? Consider this as you read the list; remember, these men all had submarines named for them.
GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598)
PATRICK HENRY (SSBN 599)
THEODORE ROOSEVELT (SSBN 600)
ROBERT E. LEE (SSBN 601)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN (SSBN 602)
ETHAN ALLEN (SSBN 608)
SAM HOUSTON (SSBN 609)
THOMAS A. EDISON (SSBN 610)
JOHN MARSHALL (SSBN 611)
LAFAYETTE (SSBN 616)
ALEXANDER HAMILTON (SSBN 617)
THOMAS JEFFERSON (SSBN 618)
ANDREW JACKSON (SSBN 619)
JOHN ADAMS (SSBN 620)
JAMES MONROE (SSBN 622)
NATHAN HALE (SSBN 623)
WOODROW WILSON (SSBN 624)
HENRY CLAY (SSBN 625)
DANIEL WEBSTER (SSBN 626)
JAMES MADISON (SSBN 627)
TECUMSEH (SSBN 628)
DANIEL BOONE (SSBN 629)
JOHN C. CALHOUN (SSBN 630)
ULYSSES S. GRANT (SSBN 631)
VON STEUBEN (SSBN 632)
CASIMIR PULASKI (SSBN 633)
STONEWALL JACKSON (SSBN 634)
SAM RAYBURN (SSBN 635)
NATHANAEL GREENE (SSBN 636)
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (SSBN 640)
SIMON BOLIVAR (SSBN 641)
KAMEHAMEHA (SSBN 642)
GEORGE BANCROFT (SSBN 643)
LEWIS AND CLARK (SSBN 644)
JAMES K. POLK (SSBN 645)
GEORGE C. MARSHALL (SSBN 654)
HENRY L. STIMSON (SSBN 655)
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER (SSBN 656)
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (SSBN 657)
MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN 658)
WILL ROGERS (SSBN 659)
So, are there any men there worthy of criticism? (Disclaimer: My criticism will be slighly hyperbolic; I actually admire most of these men, and think the honor bestowed on them was justified.) Here are my initial thoughts:
Robert E. Lee: Most famous for leading rebellion against United States
Sam Houston: Drunk
Alexander Hamilton: Died in duel with sitting Vice President
John Adams: One term President
Nathan Hale: Failed spy; famous last words not known until after war over
Woodrow Wilson: Unreasonable dreams of world peace
James Madison: Let enemy capture and burn Washington, D.C.
Tecumseh: Actively fought against U.S.
John C. Calhoun: One term V.P.; ardent proponent of slavery
Ulysses S. Grant: Drunk; Presidency marred by scandal
Stonewall Jackson: Actively fought against U.S.; fragged
Sam Rayburn: Legislative bureaucrat
Kamehameha: Royalist, not a big supporter of U.S.
George Washington Carver: Known for working with peanuts
Francis Scott Key: Wrote a poem
Will Rogers: "Humorist"?
Did any of these men work harder to undermine the U.S. than even the most ardent opponent of Jimmy Carter believes Carter did? Did any of them suffer embarrassing episodes? Were any of them associated with peanuts? Of course; but what do they all have in common? I would submit that they all believed that what they were doing was best for the people they led, and they can provide inspiration to us by their steadfastness of purpose, even while we might not believe in their causes.
USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) Commissioned
It looks like the commissioning ceremony might be done. This article from Newday, which is from an AP story, has the following amazing information:
The Jimmy Carter can reach speeds of more than 45 knots and carry Tomahawk cruise missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes. It is engineered to be quieter than the other Seawolves, making it better for surveillance.
Wow, that's fascinating stuff! Of course, any submariner knows that we never reveal any submarine speed information other than "in excess of 25 knots", but if one were to believe the AP article (I don't, by the way) then the Carter would move very fast!
Bell-ringer 1941 19 Feb: Interrupting this post with an update. It appears that most of the stories now showing up on the Google News site have been revised to say "more that 25 knots". The one I linked above removed the top speed mention entirely, but added a quote from one of my old crewmates. I only found one recent story that wasn't updated. Looks like someone clued the AP reporter in.
Unrelated note: There are rumors about that USS Connecticut (SSN-22) suffered a battery well fire in Groton last night. I haven't heard anything official, but...
Emergency surface 1836 19 Feb: It turns out that the story of a fire on the Connecticut is true, as this article from The Day attests. Excerpts:
"Two sailors on the USS Connecticut at the Naval Submarine Base were burned in a fire in the ship's battery well late Friday...
...the Submarine Base Fire Department responded to a call of a fire in the battery compartment on the Connecticut and quickly brought the fire under control. Connecticut had been tied up at a pier at the base on Friday and was undergoing repairs, but Rosi could not confirm what kind of work was being done."
Update 1154 19 Feb: The moonbats at Democratic Underground don't quite know what to think about the commissioning of the Carter. Some examples (spelling as posted; some punctuation corrected for readability):
"I'm sure JC would rather the $3.2 billion went to Habitat for Humanity;
But, that would be a parallel universe in which G.H.W. Bush and his ex-CIA pals hadn't hindered Carter's hostage release efforts, and Reagan-Bush had never been elected."
"Wow, how ironic! The most armed submarine for the most peace loving and diplomatic president ever. I thought Carter liked to deal with nations through talk, not blowing the shit out of them. Oh well, just the administration reframing history to fit their needs i guess."
"You realize the name was selected in the mid 1990's right? April 27, 1998 to be exact."
"Oh really? That seems a bit odd to me that Clinton would do this. But whatever... I guess having a ship named after you is an honor, but the most heavily armed warship for a peace loving diplomat and negotiator? It just doesn't seem right."
"It's shameful that peaceful Carter lets his name be on a killing machine and his wife is to call the troops to man the killing machine. Carter is being a hypocrite."
As much as I hate to say it, the DU thread is actually overall better informed and less insulting to the crew than the stuff they were saying over at this "conservative" website that manages to work an obscenity into their URL (bad word warning...)
"So that's how the Democrats are gonna force a new draft. No self respecting sailor is going to enlist and face the possibility of serving on the USS "Jimmy Carter".
"That's nice. Now send it to the bottom of the ocean, where it belongs."
"well you know what they say about them bubbleheads. 150 men go down, 75 couples come up. fitting somehow." (OK, this one is funny if said in the right way... my guess is this poster wasn't meaning it in a 'those sub guys are different' joking way though...)
I think I found one of the sanctaries of the hate-filled right...
Strange Picture of the Carter
This picture from the New London Day (will likely require registration tomorrow -- this posting will be around longer -- update 20 Feb) was apparently taken with some really weird type of lens. It appears to show the port side of Torpedo Room Upper Level, looking aft from the ladder that comes down by the CPO Quarter's hatch, and near the breech doors for Torpedo Tubes #2 and #4. What's weird is that the size of the crewman in relation to the weapons shapes is completely out of whack. Each of the weapons should be 21" in diameter (unless they built special shapes for the Carter; the Seawolf class boats do have much larger diameter torpedo tubes than the rest of the boats do), which means that if the perspective is right, the Sailors shown would be about 3 1/2 feet tall.
The accompanying article from The Day (same registration requirements starting tomorrow) is very interesting; I recommend it highly. The four paragraph "fair use" excerpt follows:
"Five years ago the Navy and EB reached agreement on a plan to put a 100-foot, 2,500-ton section in the middle of the ship that will give it a sort of “bomb bay” capability, at a cost of $887 million. That section is jammed with special equipment that will allow it to deploy and retrieve gear such as unmanned and tethered drones, or Special Forces commandoes..."
"...The crew can't talk about most of the work they'll be able to do with the Multi Mission Platform or MMP, as the special section is known, but the navigator, Lt. Stephen Karpi, said some of the unclassified advantages are the extra storage space, berthing area and “head,” or bathroom, that were included in it.
"In addition, the special section has space for some extra exercise equipment for the long missions the Jimmy Carter is expected to tackle, and an extra wardroom, which the crew has taken to calling the “officers' study,” which is equipped with a microwave and sink..."
"...Unlike most submarines Jimmy Carter actually has more berths than people — 164 vs. 151 — but Karpi said the ship is expected to have 25 to 30 “ocean research and development personnel” on most trips, and it is designed to accommodate up to 60 Special Forces, so junior sailors will still probably end up sleeping on temporary bunks in the torpedo room, or “hot racking,” where three sailors who work different shifts share two bunks."
I actually hadn't known how many berths the boat was going to have when I left; that was one of the details that they hadn't finalized yet. Although they didn't mention it, I hope that they ended up with the second washer and dryer, which I was really fighting for. One ominous note: were I still on board, no one (other than the CO, of course) would call the 2nd wardroom an "officer's study" within my hearing -- that's a boomer term, and the Carter is NOT a boomer. I would definitely throw down on that one...
There's also another photo of the Carter at the pier, and a supportive editorial from The Day. Better see them today, though, unless you want to register.
Staying at PD...
Update 1839 19 Feb: For some good pictures of the Carter's commissioning, go to this CNN.com article -- it's the same dumb AP dispatch with the ridiculous top speed number, but down in the "Related" box there's a link to the gallery of pictures. (In the 10th picture, the officer to the far right is the guy who relieved me as Engineer; I guess that standing on front of the crew is the standard job for the Engineer at these ceremonies; I did the same thing for USS Connecticut's commissioning.)
Friday, February 18, 2005
Jimmy Carter Multi-Mission Platform
For the more technically-oriented reader, this 25 page report has some information on the Jimmy Carter's 100 foot Multi-Mission Platform section. One interesting item (other than the claim that the addition of the MMP will reduce Carter's speed by 2 knots from the Seawolf class standard) is the comparison in size and complexity between a 747 and the normal Seawolf.
Boeing 777 Airliner SEAWOLF Class Nuclear Attack Submarine
Weight (T) 250 9137
Length (Ft.) 200 353
Number of Systems 40 230
Crew Size 10 (2 pilots) 116
Patrol Duration (Hr.) 8-14 ~2,100
Number of Parts to Assemble 100,000 1,100,000
Assembly Man-hours/Unit 50,000 23,000,000
Production Time (Mo.) 14 72
Production Rate (Units/Yr.) 72 0.16
Well, this table sucks. My HTML skillz just aren't up the the task. Basically, the first number is for the 747, the second is for a non-Jimmy Carter Seawolf.
Back up for a quick trip to PD: Here's an interesting summary of the HMCS Chicoutimi story, including a good discussion of the possible electrical faults that existed when the ship was delivered to the Canadian Navy. Maybe they do it different up north, but I personally couldn't see how the British are entirely to blame, unless they deliberately withheld documents that the Canadians had asked for. If you're going to buy a sub, I'd make sure I knew everthing there was to know about the material condition and history, and wouldn't take delivery until I had the info.
Now, going deep...
CNN Article on the Jimmy Carter
This is fairly interesting... this article from CNN that actually has people coming right out and talking about the Carter's potential capabilities as an intelligence-gathering platform. I, of course, have no idea what they're talking about, but it might make interesting reading for anyone who hasn't read Blind Man's Bluff. Here's are some excerpts:
"The Jimmy Carter, like other submarines, will also have the ability to eavesdrop on communications -- what the military calls signal intelligence -- passed through the airwaves, experts say. But its ability to tap undersea fiber-optic cables may be unique in the fleet.
"Communications worldwide are increasingly transmitted solely through fiber-optic lines, rather than through satellites and radios..."
"...To listen to fiber-optic transmissions, intelligence operatives must physically place a tap somewhere along the route. If the stations that receive and transmit the communications along the lines are on foreign soil or otherwise inaccessible, tapping the line is the only way to eavesdrop on it."...
"...During the 1970s, a U.S. submarine placed a tap on an undersea cable along the Soviet Pacific coast, and subs had to return every few months to pick up the tapes. The mission was ultimately betrayed by a spy, and the recording device is now at the KGB museum in Moscow."
I don't know... it sounds like a bad spy novel to me...
Staying at PD...
Why Does Only the Navy Operate Military Reactors?
When I posted my Submarine Humor entry, I included my favorite piece, obviously written by what appears to be a team of bitching nukes comparing working at McDonald's to being a submariner. One of the entries may have confused some people, so I thought I'd give you the background. Here's the entry:
52) McDonald's never had an accident that cause a person to be stuck to the ceiling impaled on a french fry. (ie. No Mc-SL1)
The SL-1 was a prototype reactor set up in the Idaho desert that was built as a demostration model for a proposed series of low-power reactors to provide electricity to remote Army posts. (This excellent article has the full story.) On January 3, 1961, at about 9 pm, the reactor somehow went "supercritical" and suffered a steam explosion, killing the entire three man work crew; from the article:
Two of them died instantly, one thrown sideways against a shielding block and the other straight upwards, where one of the shield plugs pinned his body to the ceiling...
The article later discusses how the body of the man pinned to the ceiling was recovered:
The third man finally was found. His position directly above the reactor presented a new hazard. Aside from the obvious difficulty of working in a high radiation field at an awkward location, physicists feared that if pieces of debris near him fell onto or into the reactor through the open shield-plug holes, the disturbance might start a chain reaction. A photographer suited up and entered the room for one minute, taking as many photographs as possible. With the help of the photos, a plan took shape for the retrieval. Army volunteers from a special Chemical Radiological Unit at Dugway Proving Ground wanted the practical experience offered by the challenge of removing the body. The twenty-four enlisted men and five officers perfected a plan and rehearsed their moves on a full-scale mock-up of the SL-1 erected at Central. They rigged a special net on the boom of a crane and positioned it to prevent the body or anything else falling onto the reactor. Metal workers shielded the crane operator’s cab. On January 9, eight men, paired in two-man relays limited to sixty-five seconds inside the building, recovered the body and lowered it to the ground.
And that is why the Army doesn't have a nuclear reactor program. As far as why the Air Force doesn't, I can't find it on an unclassified site, so I guess I don't know why...
Rumor control: Around Idaho Falls, there's always been a rumor about the "true cause" of the SL1 prompt criticality. I won't write it out, but it's buried in this comment thread...
Another USS Jacksonville Fire in Shipyard
(Intel source: Ron Martini's Submarine BBS)
This article in Foster's Online discusses a shipyard fire on USS Jacksonville (SSN-699) during a refueling overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. This follows another small fire they had two months ago; this more recent fire seems to have been more serious, with 8 people treated for smoke inhalation. It doesn't say for sure, but I'd bet that this will turn out to be another fire caused by welding. I predict a lot of training on fire safety and extra work for the shipyard workers and crew. Normally, if you have one safety violation, there's a little extra training, everybody's more vigilant for awhile, and everyone goes on with their lives. However, when you have a second occurrence of the same type, this means, to Sub Force higher-ups, that: 1) Your training the resulted from your first accident wasn't effective in preventing a recurrence; 2) Your internal monitoring programs were not effective enough to determine that your training wasn't effective; and 3) You now need to have Group and Squadron personnel come down (or up, in this case) to watch you constantly to make sure your training and internal monitoring procedures are effective. My theory is that the Sub Groups did that mostly to make the corrective actions painful enough that noone wants to go through them again; if desire to avoid personal injury isn't enough, then desire to avoid more Group and Squadron monitor watches may be a more effective deterrent to continued unsafe behavior.
Note: The link I chose for USS Jacksonville above is the one general link I found that included a description of Jacksonville's collision with MV Saudi Makkah off Virginia in May 1996. I'm surprised as I look around the 'Net that I don't find more about that collision. About the best summary comes from this GlobalSecurity.org page that generically lists accidents at sea; it says:
17 May 96: Jacksonville (SSN-699): Collision. The attack submarine USS Jacksonville crashes into the Saudi Makkah cargo ship in thick fog in the Chesapeake Bay. Both ships suffered significant damage, but no one was injured. The Jacksonville’s captain was relieved of command two weeks later.
The CO on Jacksonville had earlier been my XO on USS Topeka (SSN 754). I love him like a brother, but that was one case where the CO did, unfortunately, deserve to be relieved; not for his actions, but for the actions of his watchstanders.
Staying at PD...
I Suck At Discrediting Mainstream Media Journalists...
So there I was, working on what was sure to be a sure-fire way to prove myself within the blogging community. It started when I was surfing through Democratic Underground for a few laughs, when I ran across this thread that linked to this article: US soldiers to receive ecstasy to fight combat trauma, which was actually a reprint of this article in the Guardian. The discussions among the DUmmies in the thread focused on the assumed fact that the Pentagon was going to give MDMA to soldiers in Iraq. This clearly made no sense, so I googled a little in order to disprove this obvious falsehood. Maybe, I could even show this David Adam, Guardian Science Correspondent, to be a fraud! I looked in the FDA News database; no announcements there. While searching, I found this article in Spiegel Online. Money quote:
"The United States government has found a new way of recruiting soldiers for the Iraq war: It's offering them ecstasy. The trick is, the soldiers only get the free drugs after they have seen enough fighting to be experiencing flashbacks, recurring nightmares and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The usually tough-to-please US Food and Drug Administration has given the experimental treatments an initial go ahead and scientists in South Carolina have quickly gotten to work. "
If it turned out that the Guardian article had made these accusations as well, I'd be in the money! Links from Michelle Malkin were sure to follow, and I'd be hailed as another success story in the blogosphere! Unfortunately, it was not to be. While the Guardian article clearly doesn't go out of its way to say that active-duty soldiers won't be part of the study, and the unattributed Spiegel piece clearly wants readers to believe that, and the raving moonbats at Democratic Underground believe it implicitly, the truth is that the Guardian article does pretty much state the truth about the state of the research:
"He is about to advertise for war veterans who fought in the last five years to join the study."
Okay, so maybe that's not an example of how "researchers" had "quickly gotten to work", but it's not a smoking gun either. I guess I'll have to retire to the small dark corner of the blogosphere reserved for sub-blogs, and wait for another chance for the bright light of digital fame...
Really Scary Search Results
Checking my referrers log again, I saw someone came in from a Yahoo search for "submarine blog". The first four results in the condensed results are all me, or someone talking about me, or me commenting about myself on other blogger's boards. The last result scares me, though... (No, I didn't click on it, so I'm not sure if "submarine blogs" really are a big items in that particular community...)
Discussion of Jimmy Carter Design, Mission, and Construction
Sorry, you won't see anything here that you can't find other places on the web. All I do is bring these sources to one place, and provide any unclassified comments I think might be useful. A post over at Ron Martini's Submarine BBS brought me to this page, which has a fairly interesting discussion of some of the construction techniques and possible missions of the Carter. While searching for other mentions of HY100 steel in submarine construction, I found a piece taken from the Congressional Record that has a listing of the various vendors that supplied parts for the Carter. That's one way the Navy goes about getting political support for the boats -- if you can have suppliers in every state, then that could provide a lot of votes to get money for your submarine.
Also, I have it on good authority that the press will be touring the Carter today, so we can maybe expect some interior pictures to hit the wires tomorrow morning.
Staying at PD...
Ever Get Writer's Block?
Other than yesterday being the 141st anniversary of the CSS Hunley sinking USS Housatonic in the first "successful" submarine attack ("successful" in that the target was sunk; not as successful in that Hunley's surface to dive ratio did not remain at 1 by the end of the mission) there's really not that much out there in the news that I haven't already covered. I'm still planning of writing a summary of the direction of future submarine construction, but not yet. Since I still haven't heard back from Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), I'll fall back on the time-tested lazy blogger's fallback and run a "best of...". This one's from last month (I really haven't been blogging very long; only five months now...) but new events in Syria and Iran might bring some new light to it:
Deterrence: The condition in which an adversary is certain that any attack will be met with retaliation, but is unsure of the extent of the retaliatory response.
I don’t claim to be an expert at international relations, world history, or current socio-economic trends. What I am is a simple retired submarine officer who has spent the last 20+ years living and traveling around the world, interacting with military officers from dozens of countries, and developing a world-view that I hope will allow me to explain to my children in a logical way why some people might want to kill them just because they’re Americans. Here’s what I believe right now: (Disclaimer: I reserve the right to modify my opinion if and when I get new factual information. I’ve seen many people on the ‘net complain that people “believe their opinions are right”, as if that’s a negative. Opinions are, by definition, what one believes to be true based on the information they have. To those who are against one believe that one’s opinion is right, I would ask them to name an opinion they have that they believe to be wrong. Not too easy, huh?)
We (the United States) have been at war with people who subscribe to what is frequently called an “Islamist” philosophy since at least 1979, when our Embassy in Teheran was over-run by Iranian militants. This war continued on through our involvement in Lebanon in the early ‘80s, through the scattered terrorist attacks of the ‘90s, and reached new heights with the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and finally with the attacks on September 11th, 2001. This was a rather one-sided war; not from a military point of view, but from the viewpoint that only one side (the Islamists) recognized that we were at war – that is, up until the morning of September 11th. At this point, the American public realized, as had many in the military that I had worked with through the 90s, that we were in a no-shit, world-wide war against a determined enemy.We prosecuted the opening phases of this “new” war brilliantly, overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan and mostly chasing Al Queda (or the “UBL” organization, as we military professionals always referred to it before 9/11) into the ungoverned regions of Pakistan. Our next step in the war is where it got tricky. Our goal should be to deter the terrorist from attacking the U.S. homeland, or that of our allies, ever again. As I said at the beginning of this entry, deterrence is the state where the enemy is certain that we will retaliate, but unsure of how we will retaliate.
This brings us to the Iraqi theater of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). We had any number of reasons to attack Iraq and replace their government: 1) They were shamelessly violating oil sanctions imposed as a result of their failure in their aggressive war against Kuwait; 2) they were shooting at our warplanes enforcing the “no-fly” zones imposed as a result of previous Iraqi violations of the cease-fire ending the Persian Gulf War; 3) they were harboring terrorists who’s stated goal was to attack the U.S. (the fact that these particular terrorists were not involved in the 9/11 attacks notwithstanding). [Note to readers: I personally saw 1) and 2) above, so for the purposes of this blog they will be treated as a "given".] Also, and what I believe was the best reason to eliminate the Baathist regime, is 4): They were "loose cannons" whose future actions we could not predict, and who were likely to cause even more trouble by not being removed. In saying I believe that this was the best reason for a pre-emptive war, I'm not arguing that this is the "ethically right" causus belli (arguments 1, 2, and possibly 3 above fit the bill better), I'm just saying that that is how power politics operate in the new, unipolar world. Might may not make right, but perceived weakness doesn't mean you can kick the bully in the nuts and not expect him to hunt you down. This is the real world, not a college classroom. There are those who say that the oil sanctions and no-fly zones were unfair; that may be so, but I believe that a country (or stateless people, in the case of the Palestinians) should suffer some penalties as the result of starting an aggressive war that they then go on to lose. Two centuries ago, that penalty would have been complete loss of sovereignty over some or all of their territory; international opinion now seems to have moved away from this option.
I believe that the message we were trying to send to the Islamists in positions to attack the U.S. by invading Iraq was, basically, “You attacked us, and you figured that you could accept the loss of your major base of operations. However, we’re also taking away an option for a future base of operations as well, as part of our retaliation. Think about that the next time you want to start something.” [Is this fair? Probably not. Is this type of thinking required to defeat our new enemy? I believe it is.] Although for political reasons we had to go through the UN and try to base the war on “weapons of mass destruction” (which we assumed was a “slam dunk”, mostly based on our failure to understand the Arab psyche, as well as assuming that the Iraqi acknowledgment of a chemical/biological stockpile in the mid-90s was valid), I believe that most international leaders understood the real story.
We now find ourselves occupying a country who doesn’t want us there, and where we honestly don’t want to be for an extended period of time. This wasn’t a “war for oil” – if we wanted cheap oil, we could just occupy Canada. This was, in my opinion, a warning shot across the bow of Islamist strategists: our level of retaliation was more than you expected, and you can expect it to be worse next time. Our goal should be, such that when a terrorist wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Hey, I should attack the United States”, his next though should be “…but if I do, the consequences will likely be worse than I am able to bear. Therefore, I won’t attack the U.S., and live to fight another day.”
That being said, I believe that, unfortunately, we have shown that the U.S. wasn’t psychologically or politically ready to pursue such a strategy, as shown by the negative public reaction to recent setbacks in Iraq. We’ve shown that there is a level of resistance that can make a large part of the electorate start declaring the operation to be another “Vietnam” and a “quagmire”. This is unfortunate; we had a chance to change the world. I believe that we must “stay the course” in Iraq, and finish what we’ve started there, hoping that the small seed of democracy can grow, and choke out the Islamist thistle patch that is flourishing there now. Perhaps we have taught the terror masters that we won’t let an attack go unanswered, as we did when the USS Cole was attacked. I hope so, but I doubt it. We still don’t understand the motivation that drives our most implacable enemies and their supporters (Note: I do not mean we should alter our behavior to change their motivations, just that we need to understand them to be able to counter [and kill] them more effectively). Until our leaders and the public at large fully understands the hate that dwells in their hearts will we find the will to fight them at the level where we need to in order to gain complete victory. We aren’t there yet (I’m not even there – I was repulsed by what I saw from Abu Grahib), and I fear we won’t be until another attack helps force it into our collective psyche. I hope it won’t come to that, that we have met our goal of deterring our adversaries, who know that another attack will likely result in the increase of American will to will enable us to fight them on their terms… and that’s what I tell my children.
Note: I intentionally did not read Bill Whittle’s essay titled “Deterrence” when that came out several months ago, because I’ve been planning on writing this since before I started blogging. If any of the ideas expressed here were expressed earlier (and I’m sure better) by him, this wasn’t a case of plagiarizing; simply a case of a lesser blogger reading some of the same resources and coming to similar conclusions.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Definitely Not Sub Related...
...but really cool. Via Ninme, here's a cool website that allows you to check the relative popularity of the top 1000 boys and girls names over the last 100 years. It turns out that SubBasket and I may have been ahead of the curve in the potential naming of our kids. Had either of our boys been a girl (they were born in 1990 and 1991) we would have named her "Kaiya", which wasn't ranked then, but is now the #808 girl's name; "Kaya" is #542. (The names we actually did give our kids, though, are all on a downward trend, so I guess we were only "hip" and "modern" in our theoretical naming "skillz".)
Presidential Support of the Military
As I've looked at the controversy concerning the naming of the last Seawolf class boat in honor of Jimmy Carter, some of the more serious posts on the matter have concerned the fact that Carter, as President, cut money from the military. I'm wondering if these same people have an issue with USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) ; after all, the Truman administration cut funding for the proposed supercarrier United States. The issues surrounding unification and the Navy's role in post-WWII strategic defense led to the Revolt of the Admirals, due to the Truman administration's support of the Air Force over the Navy.
Meanwhile, the first Bush administration was the one that initially cut off the Seawolf program after two boats (it tried to cut off funding for SSN-22 as well), and it was the under the Clinton administration that funding was restored for building SSN-23. Does this mean that the Navy shouldn't name CVN-77 the USS George H. W. Bush? (I support both carrier name designations, although I too would like to see both submarine and carrier naming return to the older traditions.)
Around the Blogosphere...
I'm blogging during lunch while waiting for the HR rep for the company I'm going to be working for to call back so I can accept their job offer, so I figured I'd fill the time by taking a quick stroll around my little corner of the 'Net:
How do you feel about Hollywood actors and their action with respect to the military? Head over to Castle Argghhh!!! as well as the link to the concomitant Snopes entry and you might change your mind about at least one of them.
Rob's Blog has a personal story about how drinking and driving can ruin a promising military career (not Rob's, but one of his shipmate's).
Ever wonder how submariners go to the bathroom? bothenook has a real "no-sh*tter" that answers that question...
And finally, check out the newest addition to my blogroll, Lawhawk.
Update 1208 17 Feb: Also check out The Noonz Wire; he has some good thoughts on the San Francisco grounding.
Update 1421 17 Feb: In an effort to figure out exactly how widespread the guffawing over the Jimmy Carter is on blogosphere, I decided to use my Technorati skillz, and came up with this: 88 posts, of which at least 60 were generated over the last two days.
Hints for Job Hunters: So there I was, stuck doing temp "work" while looking for a real job for almost 4 months. Only one offer, and that was for about 40% of what I used to make. Now, I get two legitimate offers within 2 days (the hiring manager was calling in with the offer for the second job on the other line as I was accepting the first one); then, as I'm telling people about this, another call comes in from someone who wants to interview me immediately for a job they want to fill yesterday. What's my hint? The universe has a sense of humor -- accept it. As my personal motto states: "When all else fails, revel in the absurdity"...
Frank J., lead blogger of the newly-designated group blog IMAO, makes up for his USS Jimmy Carter piece yesterday with one of his funniest "Know Thy Enemy " pieces yet -- this time, he takes on blogs.
Update (1 minute later): It worked! Notice how you can click on the title of the post, and it hyperlinks you to the article I'm referencing! I learned a new skill while my truck warmed up!
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Serving on the Jimmy Carter
Today, the blogosphere erupted in (mostly) good-natured humor as people finally realized that the Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) was about to be commissioned. While there were a lot of "attack rabbit" and peanut jokes (even from Frank J. ) there were many other posts which seriously questioned if President Carter should have been honored by the naming of a warship for him. To this question, my answer is an unqualified "yes".
First, a disclaimer. Yes, I served on the crew of the Jimmy Carter as the Engineer (Engineering Department Head) before I retired. (For those with a superficial knowledge of submarine personnel assignment procedures who may question this: the boat manned up in April, 2001. The Navy, recognizing the the long time between initial manning and the boat putting to sea in 2004 would mean that someone doing a normal 3 year Eng tour would not get any sea time, decided to bring in a served Engineer for a special "Post-DH Shore Tour" to be Eng for the first two years. Since I had already been the new construction Eng for the previous Seawolf, and was coming up for orders, they picked me.) I'm proud of my service on this unique boat, and wanted to share with you why I think the Navy did right by honoring President Carter.
Jimmy Carter is unarguably the most famous submariner in the world; not because he is a submariner, but in the same way that President Bush is the most famous former baseball team owner in the world. There are many people who disagree of the actions that Carter took as President, with his statements and actions since being voted out of office, and with his choice of family members. That's OK; as Americans we are allowed to criticize our leaders, past and present. I disagree with their apparent premise that his actions as President or since render him morally ineligible to be honored with the naming of a warship after him, and here's why. Despite what people may think about his beliefs or motives, I have never heard anyone say that he is not acting on his true beliefs. This, I don't think, can be said about other recent Democrat Presidents or presidential candidates. President Carter stood watch as Commander-in-Chief during the Cold War, when he had to live with the possibility that he might be awoken any night with the news that NORAD had detected a missile launch, and he had to decide what to do right away. Most of us remember how much the Presidency aged him; it's a tough job, and I admire anyone who can make it through 4 years of that stress. As long as ships are being named for political figures, I think that Jimmy Carter has as much right to claim that honor as anyone.
My first CO on the Carter shared this story: when he and his wife went to Georgia to visit President and Mrs. Carter, my Captain talked with Carter for about an hour in Carter's office. He noted that of all the memorabilia on the walls, there were only a few items from his Presidency, and an entire wall from when he served in the Submarine Force. Later, President and Mrs. Carter came to Groton, CT, with several members of their family, to meet with the crew and see the ship as she was being built. He spoke with passion about how honored he was to have the ship named for him, and in his abiding interest in protecting the national security of the United States. Although many don't believe that his actions, past or present, truly accomplished that goal, I think that he truly believes that by reducing tensions in the world, the U.S. will be safer. Simplistic? Probably. Naïve? I'd say so. Evidence that he supports our adversaries, or wishes the United States harm? No.
If anything, I'd say the Carter administration is evidence that submariners, being as a general rule micromanagers, probably aren't suited for the Presidency. However, I do believe that his well-intentioned service to our country, and the respect that is due the office which he held, make the naming of the world's most capable attack submarine after the profession's most widely-known practitioner a correct action. I am proud to have served on this vessel, and wish continued success for the crew as they get ready to really start having fun!
Staying at PD...