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.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Getting Close To Christmas... it's time for all good boys and girls to start thinking about one of the most important traditions of the Christmas season -- the NORAD Santa Tracker! This year, NORAD has teamed up with Google, so it looks like they'll be moving their technology into the Naughties. Instead of having to play the videos with something like Media Player like we have before, they'll actually be in YouTube format. I'm just hoping they'll update the annual boomer flyover video.

Here's an intro to their updated web site:

New Iranian Submarine Certainly Looks Fearsome!

Check out this short article from Fars, a semi-official Iranian news agency. It mentions the recent launch of an indigenously-produced Iranian mini-sub:
TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran announced on Wednesday that its first domestically built destroyer, the Jamaran, as well as its first domestically built Ghadir class submarine launched operation.
The Iranian military said that the submarine can easily evade detection and fire missiles and torpedoes simultaneously. Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habib Sayyari said the destroyer is better than any warship of its class built "before the Islamic Revolution".
He also reminded that the Iranian Navy is closely watching military moves and maneuvers made by the US fleet in the Persian Gulf and the entire region.
Most impressively, check out the picture they used to illustrate this "powerful" new Iranian bathtub toy:

Compare and contrast with this picture of USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) on sea trials (from NavSource Online, 4th photo down):

It basically looks like they took the picture of the U.S. sub and added some "sky" on top of the standard "Persian Gulf brown" color. Those Iranians sure are tricky!

Update 1111 30 Nov: The same photo, chopped down, is on the City of Albuquerque's official web page about the sub.

Update 2248 30 Nov: Speaking of Iranian submarines, it looks like they'll let anyone post on YouTube:

A very impressive video; I don't think I saw anything in it that was actually accurate. If you like that videographer's work you should also check out his video demanding an investigation into Belgian UFOs.

Update 2332 06 Dec: Strategy Page has more on the new Iranian mini-sub, and Tigerhawk appreciates the absurdity.

USNA Spirit Spot

With the Army-Navy game coming up on Saturday (followed by the inevitable Navy victory celebration Saturday afternoon) I looked around for any clever "Spirit Spots" (short videos, often with a humorous theme, made in support of a service academy athletic contest). While the submission from SUBASE New London doesn't seem to be available on the 'net yet, I found a fairly clever one from a USNA organization called the "2-8" (I'm assuming that's a company number or some such thing -- I'm not a USNA grad, obviously). While I'm not a big fan of the culture at the Naval Academy wherein 21 year old kids get to lord around over 18 year old kids, I can appreciate a good sense of humor about the absurdity of the situation, which I believe this video demonstrates (intentionally or not):

Go Navy, Beat Army!

PCU California (SSN 780) Manning Up

A new submarine blogger, Whizzer, reports that he just got orders to SSN 780, the new Virginia-class submarine being built in Connecticut and scheduled for delivery in 2011. He also reports that his new command will be named USS California.

There's been quite a bit of speculation on which direction the Navy would go in naming this sub (and it should be noted that the Navy still hasn't made the official announcement), but the California congressional delegation has been putting a lot of pressure on the Navy to name the submarine for the Golden State. Expect an official naming announcement soon.

An Oldie But A Goodie

As I'm sitting here working on a long "philosophical" post (and wondering when I'll get time to write a post about the latest news items about Iranian submarines, here and here) I was going through some older posts to link back to, and I ran across this one I wrote in June 2005 that I really liked. So, since I don't have any new content ready to post tonight, you get to read this old sea story (updated for clarity and new link):

So there I was... standing Officer of the Deck on USS Topeka (SSN-754) the day after we finished a port visit in Phuket, Thailand, just before Christmas 1992. Seems the off-duty portion of the crew was hanging out in Crew's Mess, swapping liberty stories. Someone mentioned all the monkeys that the various vendors had to draw attention to their wares, and one of the Nuke electricians said something along the lines of, "Yeah, and they had really sharp teeth." The Doc was listening in on this shoot-the-sh*t, and grabbed the guy, verified that he had been bitten by a monkey, and went to see the CO. About five minutes later I get a buzz on the Conn: "Make preps to come to PD and establish comms with SubGroup Seven."

You see, our Doc had warned us during the pre-liberty briefings to avoid the wildlife, since rabies was a problem in Thailand. Next thing we knew, we got new water to head towards Diego Garcia; the USS Ranger, the flagship of our Battle Group (which was heading towards Australia after supporting our initial landing in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope) was the nearest source of rabies vaccine; they flew an S-3 to DiGar to deliver it.

We did the PERSTRANS, dropping off our potentially rabid nuke, along with one other crew member. (He had joined the boat in Bahrain about a month earlier, and apparently decided that submarine life wasn't for him; he had chosen to use the excuse that got a guy out of the Navy faster than anything else... you military guys out there all know what I mean...)

Anyway, it looked like we were down one throttleman for our upcoming end of deployment ORSE. I remember talking with my watch section about the potential pros and cons of having a rabid member of the Maneuvering watch team. On the plus side, some casualties would become non-events: "These throttles aren't stuck!" he'd shout, as he used his superhuman strength to overcome whatever resistance to throttle motion the drill monitor at the Aux SPCP could provide. On the other hand, I could just imagine the kind of comments we'd get: "Training value was lost when an obviously rabid Throttleman (TH) became enraged when the Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT) brought a bottle of water into Maneuvering. Additionally, the same rabid Throttleman attempted to bite the Board members, contrary to Paragraph B.2 of the ORSE Precepts Letter."

Our lesson learned from the whole situation: Don't let Thai monkeys bite you -- unless you want to spend a month at home in San Diego with your family while your shipmates are out doing an ORSE workup.

(Epilogue: The guy ended up rejoining us in Pearl, and rode us for the last week of the deployment; we used him as a drill monitor. We kicked ass on the ORSE.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bubblehead The Journalist

The rise of citizen journalism, or "blogging", has been chronicled on many of the best and most prestigious web sites. As Meridian, Idaho's most-read blogger, I decided to try my hand at this new and exciting phenomenon by covering the city's most anticipated event of the week: the official opening of the Locust Grove overpass over I-84. I knew from the local print newspaper that this would be an event no serious Meridian journalist could miss:
Idaho Transportation Board member Monte McClure will be joined by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John McGee, Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd and Ada County Highway District Chairman John Franden to officially open the overpass by crossing it in a Meridian fire truck. They will be joined in a parade of local emergency responders, including a special appearance by Santa Claus.
I headed over to the ceremony at about 1:45pm. I had to be home by 2:30 so my daughter could take the car to class, but I figured, with my keen journalistic insight, that there's no way such a ceremony, which would probably draw 20 people tops plus the guy who lives in the dumpster at the Kwiki Mart right next to the overpass, could last more than 15 minutes.

Before the ceremony started, I did what every good journalist would do -- I took some pictures. Here's a picture of Santa handing out candy canes to young children from the nearby Day Care:

And here's a picture of the refreshments they offered the crowd. That's Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd gesturing on the left side of the table:

Here's a dramatic view of the distant Boise Foothills from a perspective never before published -- from the top of the new Locust Grove overpass! Must credit Bubblehead!

And here's the overpass itself:

Finally, the crowd settled in for the festivities. Note the "traditional" MSM is all stuck in one place, providing only one perspective of the event, while your maverick citizen journalist has struck out on his own to give the public a fresh look at the powerful and beautiful in Meridian:

As you can see, I was way off in my prediction of how popular this event would be; this either says something about my predictive powers, or how boring Meridian really is. (Note that I'm very happy Meridian is boring -- that's the reason I live here.) About 7 minutes late, the official program started:

Unfortunately, I had to leave before they even finished introducing the dignitaries in attendance; as I mentioned, I had to get my car home for my daughter. As a result, you'll have to read about what they actually said in the dead tree and 'tron media. Still, this experiment proved that Citizen Journalism is alive and well in Meridian, Idaho. Please note that even though I had to wash dishes and play Guitar Hero prior to writing my article, it's still posted before the local newspaper has a story up. Blogging can not be equalled for its immediacy of coverage and snark!

As a citizen journalist, I know it's important that I express outrage at some aspect of today's events, so here it is. While all the bigwigs of Meridian were busy congratulating themselves for opening up an overpass (not even an interchange, and one that has overpasses one mile on either side of it anyway), they weren't doing anything about the local plague of blanket-molesting cats I've warned about earlier. Here's what I found when I got home:

Where was Mayor de Weerd when this was happening? Eating doughnuts with Santa in the middle of the street, that's where.

Update 2306 29 Nov: Here's a link to a story visitors to a local TV station website were able to read and see several hours after I broke this important story -- and their story contains not one picture of doughnuts or Santa! On the other hand, the Editorial Page Editor for the local newspaper was kind enough to offer some constructive criticism of my article (especially my inexplicable failure to "connect the dots" between my fat cat and the fatcats at the ceremony); I guess some MSM guys aren't completely old-fashioned.

"Hey, Shipwreck" DVD Now Available

Just in time for Christmas, I'm sure the submariner in your life (such as yourself) would really enjoy their own copy of the 1st season of the submarine-themed viral video sensation "Hey, Shipwreck". You can order it direct from creator ET1(SS) Patrick Hrabe's website, as well as watching some of your favorite episodes while waiting for it to arrive. It's only $12.99 plus shipping, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society. (I can see Pat being assigned as Navy Relief Campaign Coordinator by his command as a collateral duty this year, so this should help him out in that "good deal".)

For new visitors who might not be aware of the "Hey, Shipwreck" phenomenon, here's the famous "Sailor-to-English Translator" vignette that really got people talking:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Surprisingly Accurate Foreign Article About A U.S. Submarine Visit

Normally, whenever a foreign newspaper has an article about U.S. submarines, they're quite humorous from the standpoint of having lots of errors. That's why I was so surprised to see an article on a Korean website about the visit of my old boat USS Connecticut (SSN 22) to Pusan, South Korea -- the article was more factual than many you see in the U.S. papers (although that admittedly isn't very high praise most of the time. Check out these major points in the article:
1) The world's most powerful nuclear submarine is currently anchored at the Yongho-dong naval base in Busan.
Korean military authorities said on Monday that the USS Connecticut, the second of three U.S. Seawolf-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, has been moored at a pier of the Korean Navy's 3rd Fleet in Busan since Wednesday for an eight-day stay for maintenance and replenishing.
The Seawolf class was developed in 1990 to replace the Los Angeles class, the U.S. Navy's main nuclear-powered attack submarines. The ultramodern subs are considered the world's most powerful, far superior to the Los Angeles-class vessels in terms of attack and underwater operational capabilities.
Actually, we started developing the Seawolf-class in the mid-80s, but they are correct in pointing out that the Connecticut is the world's most powerful nuclear submarine (in a non-strategic sense). The blurb above would have been more accurate if they'd pointed out that the Seawolf-class boats are also far superior to Virginia-class subs.
2) Los Angeles-class subs have anchored at Korea naval bases before, but this is the first visit by a Seawolf-class vessel, provoking much public curiosity. Some experts believe that the Connecticut, which is under the command of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, may have made its sudden appearance at the Korean Peninsula on a special mission. Typically only U.S. Pacific Fleet submarines stop in Korea.
OK, so this blurb isn't as accurate, in that lately many LANTFLT boats have been doing WestPacs; additionally, Connecticut is conducting a change of homeport to Bremerton during this deployment, so she pretty much is a Pacific Fleet boat already. Still, that's a fairly recent development, so the Korean author can be easily forgiven for not knowing that.
3) The Connecticut is expected to depart Busan on Wednesday. There is much speculation as to why the submarine entered the Yongho-dong base, where it can be easily seen by the public, instead of other bases such as Jinhae where submarines can be shielded from public view.
"It seems that they decided to give their crew time to relax, including a little tourism, to help them get over the fatigue of an extended period underwater. They also seem to intend to show something to North Korea and China," a Korean military officer said.
That's pretty much the best point of the whole article. Submarines almost always pull into Chinhae when they go to South Korea; I've never heard of a boat pulling into Pusan. (I'm pretty sure that the sub would have to anchor out in Pusan, while you can pull into the pier in Chinhae.) While it could be that the Navy was too embarrassed to send a boat to Chinhae so soon after the USS Chicago's "van-borrowing" incident, I think it's more likely that they wanted more publicity for this trip, for the last reason indicated above. For those worrying about the crew and how pegged their fun meter might be, I've pulled in both places, and Pusan is definitely the better liberty port -- even if you don't go to Texas Street (which now mainly caters to a Russian clientele anyway).

Update 0855 28 Nov: A reader who was in Pusan sent a picture of the Connecticut at the pier (yes, it turns out she did get to pull up to the dock):

Another picture from the visit, of the CO greeting some locals, can be found here. Also, as a commenter points out, it's likely that the reason the boat went to Pusan instead of Chinhae is because Seawolf-class boats draw several more feet than does an LA; she couldn't pull into Chinhae without risking running aground.

Angle On The Bow... Zero

The Navy website posted some really good pictures of USS Montpelier (SSN 765) pulling into Souda Bay, Crete over the weekend. I really like the zero angle on the bow shot:

More pictures of their arrival are here, here, and here. From the looks of the acoustic tile peeling off their starboard bow, it looks like they've been running the ship hard so far during their deployment. Good for them! Hope they have a great liberty call, and don't get the ouzo headaches common for those on liberty in Crete. (The secret, I've heard, is not to put ice in your ouzo.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Idaho Senator Larry Craig: Just Resign Already, Willya?

Idaho Senator and national punchline Larry Craig decided, after pleading guilty to events surrounding an attempted airport bathroom anonymous homosexual seduction, not to resign from the Senate earlier this year. While he's lost most of the power he once held, he still has the power, as do all Senators, to put "holds" on bills he doesn't like. So which bills is he going after with the same gusto he used to reserve for gloryhole strangers? Funding bills for veterans, that's what. From Stars and Stripes:
The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Improvement Act (S. 1233) would extend the period of eligibility for discharged combat veterans to have swift access to VA health care from two years to five. Veterans who believe they suffer one of the “invisible wounds” of PTSD or brain injury would be guaranteed a mental health exam within 30 days of making a request. The same bill would increase the travel reimbursement rate for veterans commuting long distances to get VA care. It would jump to 28 cents a mile from the 11-cent rate set in 1978.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has put a hold on the bill, however, because of a provision was added after it cleared committee to reopen VA health care to new Priority 8 enrollees. These are veterans with no service-connected disabilities and adequate incomes by government standards.
Akaka and Filner support Priority 8 enrollments. Dan Whiting, Craig’s spokesman, said he opposes reopening VA health care to every veteran “because it would take resources away from returning injured veterans.”
Craig also is blocking the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act (S. 1315) which would improve veterans’ life insurance, adaptable housing and other benefits. What he opposes in this bill is language to give service pensions to Filipino veterans of World War II. Craig argues the pensions are too generous and they would be paid with dollars earmarked to provide a special monthly pension for elderly and housebound U.S. veterans.
Is it legitimate to ask the questions Sen. Craig brings up? Of course it is. Is it right for one Senator -- a disgraced one at that -- to hold up a bill supported by the majority of the Senate and major Veteran's organization because he wants to get his name in the paper for something other than attempted sodomy? I don't see what the advantage is. He's already going to "go down" in Senate history as one of the more pathetic losers ever -- why hold up funding for Veterans while he's at it?

Senator Craig -- just resign already. Just because you're not doing any good in D.C. doesn't mean you need to go out of your way to do something bad.

What Makes A Good COB?

After the great response I got from the readers here about what advice to give a new submarine JO, a Submarine Wife wrote and asked if I could do the same kind of post for what advice we'd give a new Chief of the Boat. This is, to me, a tougher question, since once a submariner is selected to be the COB, I figured his attitudes are probably already pretty much set in HY-80. Then I realized, "Hey, that's not necessarily the case. Just because the COBs you've seen all radiated self-confidence, that doesn't mean that maybe they still are just as scared that they won't do the right thing as you were when you got your orders for XO."

I've had the pleasure of serving with many successful COBs, and a couple who weren't as "good" from the crew's standpoint. That being said, the position of COB is so unique -- there really isn't an equivalent in the rest of the Navy, where the senior enlisted man onboard not only is responsible for the standard Command Master Chief-type duties, but also (normally) stands 3-section watch underway. It could be that the most effective COBs aren't liked by the crew -- you need to see how the boat does overall. I don't think that's the case, but I'm eager to hear other input.

The best COBs I knew were those who stood up for the crew when talking to the CO, and stood up for the CO when talking to the crew. They didn't need to be the CO's hatchet man -- that's what the XO is for -- but they didn't do the boat any favors when they sat around bitching about what the CO and XO were going to do next. The successful COBs worked just as hard as any other Chief, and took it on themselves to be "the man" when it came to standing DOOW. They recognized they were the COB for the whole crew, and not just a coner counterweight to the EDMC (Engineering Dept Master Chief; used to be called the EDEA, or Eng Dept Enlisted Advisor) -- they wouldn't announce "liberty for the crew" on return to homeport while shore power cables were still being attached. They knew their job was to represent the crew, but still took the time to give much needed advice to the officers -- including JOs trying to qualify DOOW. Most importantly, if they saw an Engineer tending to go straight to his Chiefs for expediency instead of going through the Division Officers routinely, he'd sit him down and remind him that this wasn't a good idea. (That was me, in case you were wondering.)

So what do you think? What makes a good COB, and what makes a bad one? Please provide your opinions and anecdotes in the comments.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If It's A Saturday In Late November, It Must Be Time To Talk About College Football

I've always loved college football. From growing up in Nebraska to graduating from Kansas (where I could cheer for Nebraska when they came to Lawrence) to living now the next city over from Boise State University, I've always been close to the game, but especially to the teams from KU, BSU, and above all NU. All three are in the news today.

The biggest news comes out of Lincoln, where Nebraska football messiah Tom Osborne fulfilled his destiny by firing the coaching staff after a horrible 5-7 season; the now-former Head Coach Bill Callahan had, in four years after being hired by former NU Athletic Director Satan, "led" the 'Huskers to their only 2 losing seasons since 1961. While many in Nebraska (including at least one whose diapers I used to change) are calling for the hiring of former NU Defensive Coordinator Bo "Sooner" Pelini, those who have a longer appreciation of 'Husker history and tradition know that 'Husker hero and current University of Buffalo Head Coach Turner Gill is the only honorable option for the job. (And although most people don't want to mention it, having an African-American head coach will surely help in bringing some talented players to Nebraska.) I'm sure Tom Osborne, who was Best Man at Turner's wedding, will make the right choice.

Here in Idaho, people are feeling deflated after Boise State lost the de facto WAC championship game to Hawai'i last night. I admire the BSU coach and many of the players, and am amused by many of the local fans who don't quite understand what real big-time football is all about. (For my Idaho readers who wonder what they're missing, compare the number of comments in the main local paper in-game thread for the NU-Colorado game vs. the BSU-UH game to see what high-level football is all about. For those who don't want to click, the comment count is currently at 875-43 -- plus over 550 comments on the NU site for the former HC's post-game remarks.)

Today's game between #2 Kansas and #4 Missouri marks the biggest-ever game in the "Border War". As the excellent article in this week's Sports Illustrated points out, these two fan bases really, really dislike each other; the hatred leads back to the Quantrill Raid on Lawrence by Missourians in the 1860s. While I still have a hard time believing KU is for real in football, I'd really like to see them kick Mizzou's butt. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Live-Blogging Thanksgiving

It's been a busy Thanksgiving already at the Bubblehead house. The day started off with the boys playing some Guitar Hero II, with impressive results:

Next was the annual Ward "Turkey Bowl", where I was acclaimed the MVP for catching 2 passes for 1 TD, making the game-ending interception, and not hurting myself. (I was 24 years senior to the next oldest player by the end of the game, so the last was the most impressive feat.)

Meanwhile, Hercules was engaged in his favorite activity, but with a Feast Day twist; as he finished molesting my sweatshirt, he looked longingly at the pillow he had molested earlier in the day:

More later if I remember to bring the camera when we head out for the family dinner.

Update 1423 22 Nov: Here's a picture of the turkey carcass I just finished carving:

The best thing is, this isn't even the turkey we're eating for dinner, since that one's being cooked over at my wife's sister's house. This one was cooked up just for sandwiches later this week! I love my wife soooo much....

No Peking Duck For Thanksgiving

While those of us at home here on Thanksgiving are enjoying our turkey feasts, the Sailors of the Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group will be eating on the mess decks out in the South China Sea because of the strange actions of the Chinese government. USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and five other ships, including my old boat USS Topeka (SSN 754), were unexpectedly denied entry into Hong Kong yesterday for unknown reasons.

There wasn't a good explanation given by the Chinese; in this Reuters article, it's suggested that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs blocked the planned visit for some perceived slight. The State Department wouldn't speculate on what the reasons might be, but I figure it's that the Chinese Foreign Ministry is filled with assholes.

Other than putting out the families of the Sailors who traveled to Hong Kong for a mid-deployment reunion, this really puts the Supply Departments of the various ships in a bind. I'm sure they were planning on having most of their crews ashore for the holiday; now, they'll have to feed probably 3x the planned number of customers a traditional turkey dinner -- and I bet they don't have enough turkeys thawed. Expect lots of Sailors to be really pissed off at the inscrutable Chinese this Thanksgiving Day.

Update 0802 22 Nov: The Chinese Foreign Ministry apparently backed down and allowed the ships into port for what they said were "humanitarian concern only" -- meaning, they knew they had a PR nightmare on their hands from all the families that they let into Hong Kong who weren't going to see their Sailors. So I wonder what it was that set the Chinese off originally -- the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama? The complaints about Chinese toys? Selling Patriot missiles to Taiwan? We might never know...

Update 2229 22 Nov: Not surprisingly, the U.S. ships weren't just hanging around with their noses pressed against the 12-mile limit wondering if they'd be let in; they were already heading northeast towards Japan when the delayed Chinese approval came in, and they aren't turning around. Hopefully Seventh Fleet will be able to get them a good replacement port call. And maybe when the next Chinese ship comes looking to pull into San Diego, with more than half their fuel gone, we might forget to provide diplomatic clearance...

Update 2252 29 Nov: It turns out it was the Patriot missile sale to Taiwan that set the Chinese off. Plus a little bit of Dalai Lama.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Music For Troops CD

No matter what we might think of some celebrities and their opposition to everything about the military (even if they say they "support the troops", but still always manage to find fault in everything the troops do -- unless it involves deserting to Canada), there are still performers who give freely of their talents to American military personnel. Many do so through the USO, while others through the "America Supports You" program run by the DoD. They provide a lot of moral support to American servicepeople and veterans, along with some "good deals".

One such good deal that just became available is a free music CD that's being offered to everyone who's ever been in the military -- it's called "CD For The Troops":
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2007 - Just in time for the holidays, 13 major recording artists have created a musical “Thank You” for the troops.
“CD for the Troops” will be available for anyone with a valid military identification card to download at no cost from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Web site,, beginning tomorrow...
...Getting this project, which combined the music of Billy Joel, Brooks & Dunn, the Goo Goo Dolls, Jewel, Josh Groban, Los Lonely Boys, Melissa Ethridge, the Neville Brothers, Sarah McLachlan, the Lt. Dan Band, Montgomery Gentry, The Fray, and Five For Fighting, to troops’ ears took true teamwork. John Ondrasik, the singer-songwriter who performs under the stage name “Five For Fighting,” was intimately involved with making sure that happened...
...Ondrasik spearheaded the CD after being asked to write a forward and contribute a song to a compilation of local bands sending music to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I thought it was a wonderful gesture,” he said, explaining his belief that music is a unique medium that can affect morale and mental health. “I started making a few calls to friends of mine, and six months later we have the CD for the troops.”
A staunch supporter of the nation’s troops, Ondrasik said he is grateful for the sacrifices of American servicemembers. He said he knows men and women who made and are making those sacrifices have ensured his family’s liberty and enabled him to pursue music as a profession.
“Let’s be honest, there would be no songs of consequence without the soldiers who allow us a voice,” he said. “I can’t speak for anyone but myself, (but) I think it’s important to recognize that artists from across the political spectrum came together to make this gesture of appreciation and thanks to our troops.”
While Ondrasik hopes the downloadable version of “CD for the Troops” will be available on the AAFES Web site through April, tangible versions also will find their way to the troops. Troops in theater, military hospitals and Fisher Houses will get a share of 200,000 hard CDs, he said.
Of those CDS, 50,000 will go to two care package groups that are supporters of America Supports You. Utah-based Operation Give will get 40,000 for its Operation Christmas Stocking program, and Operation Shoebox will get 10,000 for its holiday packages.
No matter how the troops hear the music, Ondrasik said he hopes it “inspires, motivates, provides an avenue for reflection, or simply distracts you from a mission few can imagine, much less undertake,” he said.
“If anything, let each tune be a small piece of home to carry you forward,” he said to the troops. “Thank you for all you do, and feel free to shoot me an e-mail with requests for ‘CD for the Troops II.’”
I downloaded all 13 songs tonight; it was really easy. You just have to go to the AAFES website, click on the "Free Music Downloads" bar, and enter your SSN and birthdate as the username and password, respectively. They apparently have that data on file, because I was taken immediately to the web page where I downloaded all the songs in about 5 minutes. They're pretty good songs, too.

I've always been impressed with John Ondrasik; his performance of "Superman (It's Not Easy)" at the post-9/11 "Concert for New York City" was fantastic. I'm glad to see he backs up the emotion of his songs with action.

Bell-ringer 0800 22 Nov: If you can't find the link on the main AAFES page, you can apparently go straight to this link to sign in to get the songs.

Alternate Uses For TDU Weights

A reader named Chief_Torpedoman sent in a story about an imaginative use of TDU weights that he'd seen:
I was in Weapons Repair QA on the Frank Cable (AS-40) in 1981. The Weapons Repair Weight Test Shop was supposed to test the torpedo loading skid for a 637 class boat on Monday so they could load SUBROC on Tuesday.
Interesting thing was that the approved method of testing the skid was to have a 21 inch diameter hollow gondola shaped like a torpedo and fill it with lead ingots until the proper weight was aboard the gondola. The pallets of lead ingots were out in the open in the parking lot at the end of the pier at Naval Station Charleston and wouldn’t you know it, someone lifted them over the weekend.
None of the officers knew what to do. The commitment to load on Tuesday was firm and fitreps were at stake. There was talk about shipping in another skid from a Norfolk sub that had already been tested.
Now I only had three years in subs and that on boomers, but I knew what TDU weights were, so I suggested that they may be a good substitute. Talk about a scramble and a high priority supply chit been walked through to get the weights. Well it worked, but the chop made us give them back afterwards.
Personally, the most inventive thing I've seen TDU weights used for was as part of a prank where you put one under someone's mattress every couple of days, that it keeps getting harder and harder for them to lift up their rack to get at their bedpan; the payoff comes when you hear them complaining that they need more exercise because they seem to be getting weaker.

What's the most imaginative use to which you've seen TDU weights get put?

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Old Boat -- Lookin' Good!

The official Navy website has a great picture of my old boat USS Connecticut (SSN 22) operating off Japan at the end of ANNUALEX 19G:

She's looking quite shipshape for being better than halfway through a deployment.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Training The Next Generation Of Submarine Officers

It hit me like a TDU weight dropped onto your gut by a "funny" shipmate -- considering what we've been hearing about USS Hampton and some of the other not-so-Clancyesque stories that have come out recently about the Sub Force, what must the NUBs currently in the pipeline be thinking about submarining? I got an E-mail recently from a Nuke officer in the training pipeline (not Chase, who you may be familiar with already) who asked:
I've been following your blog off and on for a while now, and with comp in power school looming up in about a month and a half I've come to the realization that I don't know much about the fleet...
...Do you happen to have any lessons learned, etc..., that you would be willing to share with an almost (but not quite there yet) nub ensign?
Hopefully I've been able to put across in my blog that, although I'm not always happy with the decisions made by Big Navy and various shore-based submariners, I still think submarining is one of the best careers to which any young man can aspire; I'd happily recommend to my sons that they join the Sub Force. That being said, it's clear that submarining isn't as glamorous as it used to be. So how should I answer the young Ensign? I'm looking for your input, whether it's from the perspective of a JO, former JO, or submariner who used to have to fix mistakes made by their division officer -- or from submarine wives. What can a young officer coming up for orders to his first submarine do or what should he know to make him the most effective submarine JO possible? The comments are open...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

FPS Field Day

Do you like to play FPS ("First Person Shooter") video games? Ever wonder how it would look to play an FPS where you go around cleaning a submarine? One of the inventive guys from USS Hampton did just that, with quite interesting results:

I expect that if you've never seen an FPS being played, you're sitting there stone-faced as you watch the video; "Halo 3" or "Doom" fans, on the other hand, are probably laughing their butts off.

(Re: some of the other videos this guy has posted -- remember, it's only gay if you're in port.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Idaho Drivers Are #1

A survey from an insurance company says Idaho has the most knowledgeable drivers in the country; in this case, I figure that they might actually have it right. While people here complain endlessly about how bad traffic is and how bad the drivers are (especially the "new arrivals bringing their bad habits from California") the fact is that the drivers here seem generally better than most other places in the country I've been to -- which is most of the country (every state but Alaska). And where does the survey say the least knowledgeable drivers are at? Here are the bottom five:
47. Rhode Island
48. Massachusetts
48. District of Columbia
48. New Jersey
51. New York
Any surprises there? While the Northeast does seem to have the worst drivers in general, the worst U.S. city I've ever driven in is Orlando -- the combination of all the tourists and 87 year olds who can't see over the dashboard makes for a perfect storm of lane-swerving, red-light-running hysteria.

It's well agreed, however, that when it comes to bad driving, the U.S. doesn't have anything on the rest of the world. Since most of my readers have traveled fairly extensively, I'd be interested to see where you believe the worst drivers in the 1) U.S., and 2) rest of the world are, based on personal observation only. (You can't just say "Cairo" because you know the worst drivers are there if you haven't seen it for yourself.) For me, the answers would be: 1) Orlando, and 2) Pusan, South Korea. Let me know what you think, and provide humorous anecdotes if possible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ship History Reports On The 'Net

On every XO's Tickler, there's an annual entry for a "Command History Letter Due to Director of Naval History". The Navigator provides all the ship's movements in the proper format, the XO writes a paragraph or two, and it gets mailed off to D.C., where I always figured it went into some filing cabinet, never to be seen again.

Lo and behold, it turns out there they're putting them on the 'net for all of us old guys to enjoy! So far, it looks like they're done for all the ship's with the first letter of their names up through "G", although there are some others that have been posted (e.g. USS Los Angeles and USS Salt Lake City, along with a few "H", "M", and "P" boats). Sadly, several boats have some years that aren't declassified yet, but most of them have reports up through 2003. The only one of my "old" boats that has theirs posted is USS Connecticut (SSN 22). I went right to the 1999 report to relive some of those wonderful old days as Engineer of an operational Seawolf-class submarine. Let's see how fun it was for me, shall we?

The year started out pretty good; I had orders to transfer right after the ORSE in the spring, and my relief was coming aboard in April. Here's what the Command History for 1999 says happened next:

1 January 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) is at Electric Boat Corporation undergoing a Technical Availability for work on the Emergency Diesel Generator (EDG) and Towed Array Handling Systems.
15 Januarv 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) held its first change of command ceremony at the Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton, CT. CDR Frederick J. Roegge relieved CAPT Larry H. Davis as Commanding Officer.
7 Februarv 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) was moved to her home port, the New London Submarine Base, Groton CT.
14 February 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway for Sea Trials and Weapons System Accuracy Testing (WSAT). The ship returned to port on 21 February to troubleshoot misalignments on the Emergency Diesel Generator (EDG) Seawater (DSW) Piping and Attached DSW Pump.
1 March 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway for WSAT. WSAT was successfully conducted at the Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) at Andros Island in the Bahamas.
15 March 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) returned to home port to correct misalignment of the DSW pump and its attached piping and to troubleshoot low electrical ground readings on the ship's Main Storage Battery.
29 March 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway for an ASW exercise and to test a temporary repair to the EDG.
31 March 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) has returned to home port after experiencing low grounds on the Main Storage Battery.
3 April 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) commenced a Technical Availability with the Electric Boat Corporation and the submarine base Naval Submarine Support Facility to replace the Main Storage Battery.
10 June 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway for a shake down period. The Main Storage Battery was replaced during the Availability. This first ever replacement of a SEAWOLF Class submarine battery was completed 2 weeks ahead of schedule.
18 June 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) returned to port for the weekend.
21 June 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway to prepare for the ship's first Operational Reactor Safegaurds Examination (ORSE).
2 July 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) returned to home port to celebrate Independence Day.
7 July 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway to continue ORSE workup.
12 July 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) returned to port to rest the crew overnight and pick up the ORSE Board.
13 Julv 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) underway for ORSE.
15 July 1999: USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22) successfully completed ORSE with superior results, and arrived in port at Norfolk Naval Station to drop off the ORSE Board and to pick up Midshipmen for summer training. This was the first-ever visit by a SEAWOLF Class submarine to Norfolk.
Hey, wait, that wasn't uplifting... that time totally sucked to be the Eng! I got held over for two months, and had to do most of the ORSE workup in-port while doing a BATREP! (I detached the day after the ORSE and went up to Groton to pick up my car to drive to San Diego. Then, when I reported to my "shore" duty two weeks later, I spent 9 of the next 12 months underway on an aircraft carrier.)

But no matter how much it sucked, I wouldn't have done it any other way -- except for maybe the part where I signed for accepting that f^@%!ng Main Storage Battery when it was first installed.

(Funny story about that battery -- we ended up getting the MSB that was waiting for the Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) when the Connecticut did the unscheduled BATREP, and they told me they were going to "fix up" the bad one from the 22 and install it on the Carter. I remember thinking, "I feel sorry for the poor SOB who's going to be Eng on the 23". I remembered those words again when I got my orders to be the first Eng on the Carter about a year later. I used to go down to AMR2 to curse at that battery every week when I was Carter's Eng; they ended up replacing it with a brand new one before the ship went to sea, luckily.)

Jay -- Another Submarine Blogger In Your Neighborhood

Head on over to "Sleepy Eyed Whiners of the Deep" and welcome submariner Jay to the sub-blogosphere. He's already put up several posts about submarines, so he'll be a good addition to your blogroll or Favorites. Welcome aboard, Jay!

Using Skewed Statistics To Make Military Veterans Look Bad

Coming hot on the heels of a report about homelessness among veterans comes a new story, supposedly from CBS News, trumpeting a new "study" that claims the suicide rate of veterans is twice the national average. "This must be because veterans are unstable" is the unspoken slant of such reports. Of course, these slanted stories never take into account the gender imbalance of the veteran population.

The report says that the suicide rate for veterans in 2005 was 18.7 per 100,000, and claims the rate for Americans as a whole is 8.9. That's over twice the frequency! They don't mention, however, that men actually succeed in suicide at a rate about 4 times that of women, so the actual rate for men as a whole is closer to 18 -- not really much of a statistical difference if we assume the vast majority of veterans are men. (In the same way, the over-representation of veterans among the homeless is lessened if we compare homelessness numbers by gender, since men are over three times more likely to be homeless.)

While this doesn't lessen the tragedy of any suicide among veterans, an acknowledgement of the true magnitude of the problem may result in more effective programs to alleviate the crisis.

Update 0645 15 Nov: Via Neptunus Lex, Bill Sweetman makes pretty much the same point but with more up-to-date numbers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Groundhog Day For Submarine "Breaking" News

Remember the story from last year about the Chinese Song-class submarine surfacing in the vicinity of USS Kitty Hawk? Well, it turns out a reporter from the Daily Mail in the UK did as well (he was probably looking up "what happened this week in history in 2006" in hopes of finding a story he could write quickly), and by the simple technique of saying the event was "recent" he started a blogswarm of fair-to-middlin' proportions. Even UPI picked up the story without adding any embellishing information. While various commenters in the forums -- as well as Vigilis and Galrahn at their own blogs -- have pointed out that the incident came to light in November 2006, the posts at Hot Air and Slashdot are generating lots of discussion (almost 400 comments so far at the last link).

While we're talking about it again, it's worth reiterating the main lessons learned from the whole incident: 1) Any submarine of even modest capabilities can get close to a carrier in peacetime, 2) Any submarine that surfaces near said carrier almost certainly isn't doing it because he wanted to, 3) It's important to give the U.S. Submarine Force more money to help it guard against the Chinese submarine threat, and 4) Submariners are really cool, and you should buy them a beer whenever you see one.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Uncovered Propeller On Advanced Submarine!!!!

You know how we always try to go to great lengths to cover up the propellers on our submarines (with varying degrees of success)? It appears that the Maritime Central Design Bureau for Russia isn't quite as worried about it with their newest diesel boats of the "Amur" class:

On the other hand, the picture they have of the stern of their newest boomer (bottom picture on this page) does have the screw covered. Makes me wonder if maybe that's a dummy prop on the diesel boat pictured above...

Dinner Aboard PCU North Carolina

[Intel Source: The Sub Report] It looks like PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) has gone In-Service -- or is getting pretty close -- as shown by this picture of the crew having their first meal on board (steak and lobster):

The press release that came with the picture (which also includes a picture of the PCO with a cake) says that the sub will begin sea trials later this month, with delivery in December. That's a pretty aggressive schedule -- hopefully they'll make it with no problems. (It's normally 4 months from In-Service to Delivery.)

And as is always the case when a boat goes in service, the crew is, I'm sure, happy that they can eat that good submarine chow onboard, but even happier that Sea Pay finally starts.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"...The 11th Day Of The 11th Month..."

As we take time today to honor all of our nation's Veterans, it's a good time to reflect on the nature of service, and what we as a country owe those who have honorably served. In my opinion, the most important thing to a Veteran is his or her dignity -- we must ensure that one thing is never taken away from anyone who served faithfully.

Boise had a Veterans Day Parade yesterday that featured a float from the local Submarine Veterans Base. Lots of pictures can be found here, including this one of their model of the USS Boise (SSN 764) going by the Capitol Building:

Good job, Submariners and Sea Cadets!

The local NBC affiliate ran a story on the Parade that included the required story on homeless Veterans. While it's important to realize that Veterans are overrepresented in the homeless population, it doesn't do anyone any good to completely mess up the statistic like the anchor did when she said, "With Veterans Day approaching, it's a time to remember and honor our military men and women, but for some it's a difficult time with recent news that 25 percent of veterans around the country are homeless." [Emphasis mine]

I'm sure it was just an unintentional mistake by some writer and editor who doesn't understand that such a "statistic" is completely ridiculous -- they've probably been brought up to believe that Veterans are all kind of crazy people, or they're just unable to understand the difference between "25% of the homeless are Veterans" and "25% of Veterans are homeless". I guess if you don't do well in the Logic portion of the SAT, you go into broadcast journalism.

Enough ranting. I hope everyone has a safe and meaningful Veterans Day. I know that fans of the Naval Academy football team are off to a good start on the weekend, even if the score of the game that made them bowl-eligible (74-62) looked more like it was associated with a basketball game.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm Not A Complete Geek At All...

Sorry for the light posting this weekend, but my youngest spent some of his birthday money on Guitar Hero II on Friday, so we've all been busy kicking butt on the video game. (By "we", I mean my sons -- I'm only occasionally able to complete higher-level songs on Medium difficulty level, but I did score over 70,000 points on "Freebird".) For those without teenagers, who therefore might not be familiar with this game, here's a video clip from a popular TV show demonstrating the gameplay:

I'm totally better than Randy Marsh is at the game.

Anyway, if I wasn't busy wasting time on video games, I'd probably be blogging about this cool submarine-launched helicopter that seems like it'd be a great fit for an SSGN -- it's big enough to carry two passengers.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An Appropriate Ending...

I got choked up reading the story at the SubPac website about RADM Gene Fluckey's final voyage:
USS Pasadena (SSN 752) departed from Naval Station Pearl Harbor for a regularly scheduled six-month deployment to the Western Pacific Oct. 31. Though the deployment is a routine one, the Pasadena is traveling with history.
A portion of the cremains of decorated Navy Rear Adm. (Retired) Eugene Bennet Fluckey was brought on board Pasadena moments before departure. There, the remains will make the journey with the sub to the Western Pacific, where a ceremonial burial at sea will take place at an undisclosed location. While a portion of the cremains travel with the sub, as per Fluckey’s wishes, the rest of his ashes were entombed at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
The retired Rear Admiral passed away June 28, 2007 at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Maryland. He was 93 years old.
Fluckey, a Washington, D.C. native, was a highly decorated and world-renowned submarine commander also known as “Lucky Fluckey” and “The Galloping Ghost of the China Coast.” He is credited as being the skipper who sunk the most enemy tonnage during World War II: some say 17 ships, others say as many as 29...
... Chief of the Boat MTCM Jim Lyle carried the cremains onto the sub. “I’m honored”, said Lyle of his involvement in this historic event. “I had goose bumps.”
I'm glad the Submarine Force continues to honor our heroes from the past. I'm just wondering where the "undisclosed location" is they're going to conduct the burial at sea? I propose Namkwan Harbor...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blegging Writ Large

(I'm pinning this post to the top of the main page until voting is complete on 08 Nov. Please vote for "The Stupid Shall Be Punished" every 24 hours.)

The 2007 Weblog Awards

This is more than a "bleg" -- begging by a blogger. This is a "super-bleg", because I'm asking you not only to vote for me in "Best of the Top 5001-6750 Blogs" category of the 2007 Weblog Awards, but I'm also asking you to open up your wallets and pocketbooks to support our wounded troops as part of the annual "Project Valour-IT" fundraising drive. Click on the above icon to the right every 24 hours to vote for "The Stupid Shall Be Punished", and click on the "Make a Donation" tab on the icon to the left once before November 11th to help injured servicemen and women get a voice-activated laptop they can use to keep in touch with their loved ones and learn new skills. (If you're a blogger, you can also join "Team Navy/Coast Guard" to help this year's Valour-IT fundraising drive, which runs through Veteran's Day.)

Thanks for your time and help... it really is appreciated.

Update 2335 08 Nov: Thanks to all my loyal supporters, I finished a very respectable 3rd this year. Congratulations to Simply Left Behind on winning! And please -- if you haven't done so, consider contributing to Project Valour-IT; the fundraising drive runs through Monday.

Boise State University Leadership: Anti-Gun, Anti-Military, Or Just Prudent?

Today's Idaho Statesman has an article that's generating a lot of attention here in SW Idaho on the refusal of the BSU leadership to allow a 21 gun salute on campus this coming Veterans Day. Excerpt:

Boise State University has turned down a request from veterans for a 21-gun salute on campus Monday to mark Veterans Day, saying it might scare bystanders still spooked by school shootings in other states.
R.K. Williams, a Vietnam War veteran and longtime Boise State employee who runs the campus veterans services office, said he asked university officials for permission to hold the salute at noon, but they turned him down — twice. The salute would consist of seven shooters firing blanks in three volleys as part of a flag ceremony in the Quad at the center of campus...
...But "having a 21-gun salute in today's environment in the middle of classes didn't seem to be an appropriate way to celebrate" Veterans Day, BSU spokesman Frank Zang said. He cited a student shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University last April that killed 33, including the gunman, and said students and staff might not realize gunshots are part of a ceremony and are safe.
"Gunfire on campus in the middle of the day would not be prudent or appropriate for safety and security," Zang said.
Adam, probably correctly, opines that this decision demonstrates reflexive anti-gun attitudes on the part of the university leadership. ("Anti-gun" is an even bigger loser of a political position here in Idaho than in most places.) There's little doubt that BSU leaders as a whole are more liberal than the state in general, but I'm wondering if this might be something even more ominous than "guns are bad".

Progressives like to claim that they "support the troops", but are frequently quick to believe any story about atrocities blamed on the U.S. military, or support any measure that comes out that would weaken our military. They always have a good excuse, but the net result of their actions are always opposition to the military as a whole. (It's like liberals in the '70s, where they claimed to oppose the Soviet Union, but everything they supported tended to make the U.S. weaker.) I certainly hope that this isn't a case of BSU leadership demonstrating a general anti-military mindset, but this possibility can't be dismissed out of hand.

On the other hand, the leadership might be, as they're claiming, just prudent; they really might not have the ability to contact students ahead of time to let them know that there'll be a gun salute in 5 days. If so, I'd encourage them to resign and let the state hire people who are more competent and actually can institute a notification system.

Update 2336 08 Nov: The BSU powers-that-be came to their senses even quicker than I thought they would; I figured it'd be until tomorrow that they caved.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

USS Montpelier Deploys

The Navy website has a good picture of USS Montpelier (SSN 765) pulling out of Norfolk to deploy with the Harry S Truman Strike Group yesterday:

Submariners looking at the picture will see that the boat is being pushed to port by the tug tied up at the bow; those not as familiar with how a submarine leaves the pier might just focus on the personnel on the bridge, and wonder, "Is anyone driving that thing?":

Assuming all goes well, Montpelier and her crew should next be in the news whenever they're about to relieve the Enterprise Strike Group in the Middle East sometime next month, and we'll get the standard "we're about to attack Iran" stories that accompany any carrier relief in the Fifth Fleet.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Navy Settles An Old Score

Navy's 3OT win over Notre Dame yesterday ended a 43 game losing streak to the Fighting Irish -- the longest losing streak of one team to another in NCAA history. The avenging of this streak (which I sure has left ND-fan WillyShake quite shaken) means that the U.S. Navy has now atoned for every embarrassement with the exception of the HMS Leopard / USS Chesapeake encounter of 1807.

Of interest, the 2nd longest win streak by one team over another was Nebraska's 36 consecutive wins over my alma mater Kansas through 2004; Kansas got their 2nd win in three years over Nebraska yesterday in a really humiliating fashion. The 76 points given up by Nebraska were the most ever surrendered by a 'Husker team, proving that defensive coordinator Kevin "Idiot" Cosgrove should really consider studying the Japanese samurai culture and the Bushido code for what to do in the face of intolerable failure. Luckily, he and the other coaches brought in by the previous Athletic Director, Satan, will be gone in a few weeks; 'Husker fans are apparently buying as many tickets to the Colorado game as they can to give them a fitting farewell -- and ensure they don't come back to Nebraska when they're fired by Saint Tom after the final gun. Here's a picture of one of the coveted tickets to that game:

Oh, well, it's almost basketball season...

Friday, November 02, 2007

USS Hampton: "The Easy Button"

VADM John Donnelly, who as COMNAVSUBFOR has administrative responsibility for all submarines, made some comments regarding the recent problems aboard USS Hampton (SSN 767) that made me think the Submarine Force is taking the right approach to this. Excerpts:
Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly said Thursday that he is trying to determine whether the alleged misconduct on the USS Hampton is an isolated incident.
“I do not have any indications now of a forcewide problem, certainly not of the magnitude that we have there,” said Donnelly, commander of the Submarine Force. “But I am asking those questions, and we're looking very hard at this.” ...
...“We have a group of individuals, not a single individual, but a group who were working together, and they compromised their integrity,” Donnelly said. “I think they were pushing the easy button, perhaps to avoid the pain of long hours and hard work.”
A chief petty officer in the squadron's staff noticed irregularities in the records during a routine engineering check, Donnelly said...
...“We're looking very, very carefully at the root causes of what happened on the Hampton, and the investigation is still ongoing, so it's a little early for me to draw conclusions there,” Donnelly said. “I expect we'll wrap it up in the very near future.”
The easiest thing for the Sub Force to do in this case is decide that the problem was completely confined to the Hampton and not look into real root causes. And by "root causes", I don't mean limiting it to integrity; I mean looking deeper and asking the hard questions like, "Why would an entire division decide to avoid the 'long hours and hard work' on this particular requirement?" They should maybe look into whether whatever checks were skipped can perhaps be done in a less time-consuming way, or checked less often, or if maybe there's a smarter way to put together a system of having supervisors periodically monitor these checks than what we're doing now -- something that lends itself to being less paperwork-intensive and more deckplate-focused. Of course, doing that would involve making Naval Reactors admit they have not been doing it the best way up until now, and that's a longshot. Still, I can always hope...

Update 0951 03 Nov: More on VADM Donnelly's remarks at the Navy Times.

Royal Navy Submarine Recruiting Ad

Check out this submarine recruiting advertisement from the Royal Navy:

To me, this seems just as effective as what we've been doing -- and much more effective than the old "E-3 pulls his fancy car right up to the pier gate" ads we were doing a few years ago.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hey, I'm A Finalist Again!

The list of finalists for the 2007 Weblog Awards came out, and it looks like I'm a finalist in an Ecosystem category again! After finishing 2nd in the coveted "Best of the Top 2501-3500" category last year, I'm moving down a couple weight classes to battle for supremacy in the "Best of the Top 5001-6750 Blogs" group this year. Voting apparently starts tomorrow, so I'll fill you in with more specifics as soon as they come out.

Additionally, it looks like submariner gus van horn is a finalist in the 6751-8750 category, and fellow Idahoan (and Marine in her active duty days) MountainGoat is a finalist in the Best Political Coverage category. (I'm proud to say I nominated both of them; unfortunately, a few of my other nominees, including ninme and Adam, didn't make the finalist list for reasons I can't understand.)

Update 0646 02 Nov: The polls are open until Nov. 8; vote for The Stupid Shall Be Punished here! You can vote every 24 hours, so please -- vote early and often.

Update 1016 02 Nov: Edited to add hyperlinks to the polls in the main body of the entry. As of now, I'm just barely in the lead in my category (2 votes ahead of my nearest rival), but gus van horn has opened up a huge lead on his group. MountainGoat Report is up against some really tough competition, but she's chugging along. You can look at the other categories here.

"Retention Deep Dives" -- A Short-Lived Initiative

The New London Day has an interesting article in today's edition on a new initiative to find out why some boats are having low retention rates. Those of us familiar with the Submarine Force know this effort is doomed to failure, but for those unfamiliar with the inner workings of submarines, we'll discuss it here. Excerpts from the article:
The Navy is sending a team of experts to Groton next week to determine why one of the submarines has trouble retaining personnel.
Force Master Chief Jeff Garrison said on Wednesday that five people, including reserve captains, a command master chief from outside the Groton area and a career counselor will visit one of the subs at the Naval Submarine Base for two days.
Their goal is to figure out the root cause of the ship's poor retention, high attrition and low morale, and provide the commanding officer with ideas on how to improve the situation, Garrison said...
...The Groton submarine will be the first ship to take part in the program. Garrison would not say which submarine was selected.
“We'll send that same team to another boat with a high retention rate and high morale so we can better understand those best practices and share them with the rest of the fleet,” he said. “Then we'll determine if we're going to continue with these deep dives, but I'm sure we're going to have success with it.”
All of us have seen this type of initiative come and go. Some deskbound senior guys who will never go back to sea sit around shooting the sh** and come up with a bright idea. It doesn't matter what the idea is -- the common thread is that it demonstrates said desk jockey's loss of contact with the reality of boat life. (The same dynamic is at work when a boat gets in trouble for something they did operationally, and the investigating team convinces themselves that all the ancillary issues they discover are limited to only problem boats.)

So why do some boats have better retention than others? In some cases, it is because of a better command climate -- everyone is happier, so potential re-enlistees are more likely to want to stay in the organization that makes them happy. In my experience, though, that's pretty rare. Submarine Force retention rates, especially for first termers, is skewed by the re-enlistment of baby nukes who get a lot of money to reenlist for basically two extra years right after they get to the boat -- it counts in the numerator of the retention rate without having a chance of being a loss. A boat with "low" retention might just be in a cycle where they aren't getting many baby nukes.

The idea that crew interviews with a couple of reserve Captains will uncover some "truth" is completely ridiculous on the face of it. They'll go in looking for people with bad attitudes to ask them why their boat is so messed up, and guess what -- they'll find malcontents. What they'll forget is that every boat has malcontents, and even on the best boats they'll find guys willing to explain why their boat is crappy. (Don't get me wrong -- I like malcontents in general; I'm just mentioning them in this context because the investigators won't be looking for them on the "good" boat.)

Another problem with investigating retention rates is a dynamic that shows up sometimes in boats with really, really bad command climates. I served on USS Topeka (SSN 754) up until 1993 under "He Who Must Not Be Named" -- and Topeka had great retention rates, particularly among officers. You know why? Because re-enlisting for orders was often a Sailor's only quick way off the boat. For my cohort of JOs, 7 of 8 signed on for the Nuke Bonus (the fleet average back then was about 38%); not doing so meant you spent the rest of your obligation on the boat. It was a no brainer. (Me? I was a dig-it, and would have signed up anyway. I figured that, having made it through "Fast Eddie", I'd never run into anything worse, and I was right.)

Still, I'm sure it'll be interesting as Submariners on the Groton waterfront look to see which boat the "Retention Deep Dive" team is heading to -- and hoping it'll be their boat if they think it'll make everyone be nicer to them. A bitching Sailor is a happy Sailor, and there's nothing a bitching Sailor likes more than someone to bitch to.