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.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another Sub Skipper Relieved For Cause

Haven't found an official Navy statement, but Navy Times and a couple of Honolulu newspapers have a story about the CO of USS La Jolla (SSN 701) being relieved for cause yesterday:
Cmdr. Doug Sampson, who had been in command of the Los Angeles-class submarine since October 2007, was relieved of command by the commodore of Submarine Squadron One, Capt. Stanley Robertson, the Navy said.
“This action was deemed necessary due to the failure of Cmdr. Sampson to meet the high Navy standards necessary to remain in command,” the Pacific Fleet submarine force said in a statement...
...Lt. Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesman for the Pearl Harbor-based Pacific Fleet submarine force, said he could not go into specifics on the submarine skipper’s removal. Those issues are under investigation, he said.
“The issues, I would say, concern some of the in-port planning, the operations and the administration, which fell short of the high Navy standards,” Benham said.
Hard to say what the cause was based on this statement, but it sounds like it was operational vice shortcomings in the CO's personal life.

USS Texas Surfaces Through Ice

USS Texas (SSN 775) recently became the first Virginia-class submarine to operate in the Arctic; here's photographic evidence:

This occurred during the boat's transit from Groton to her new homeport of Pearl Harbor. From the CSP article:
“Words can not describe how impressed I am with my crew’s performance and professionalism,” said Cdr. Robert Roncska, Commanding Officer of USS Texas. “The ship performed extremely well in the cold, under-ice environment and I am honored to carry on the tradition of arctic operations by our awesome submarine force.”
Though the submarine force has continually operated in the dangerous region successfully for over 50 years, this occasion marked the first such venture by one the Navy’s newest assets.
“Once surfaced, the ship moored safely to the ice for over 24 hours,” said Ens. James Robinson, Supply Officer of USS Texas. “Activities on the ice included a very special re-enlistment ceremony for 12 crew members and a pinning ceremony in which one crew member received his submarine warfare qualification dolphins, as well as some down time to play touch football in the five degree weather.”
Sounds like a good time was had by all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Sig On The Great Qual Card Of Life

Our youngest child turns 18 today, so I guess I get a sign-off on the "get all your kids safely to adulthood" signature on Life's Qual Card. Sean is the only one of our children I didn't get to see born; I first saw him through the periscope when he was about 3 weeks old. Since then, he's kept me entranced as I've seen him grow; he's everything I wasn't growing up (confident, popular, good-looking, tall, imbued with common sense) along with having my good points (smarts). As he continues to grow in adulthood, I can only hope he knows how proud I am of him.

Happy Birthday, Sean.

USS Hartford Lessons Learned

VADM Donnelly, COMSUBFOR, made some extemporaneous remarks recently about lessons learned from the March 2009 USS Hartford (SSN 768) collision. Excerpts:
Speaking Wednesday at the annual Naval Submarine League meeting, Submarine Force commander Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly described a control room with “a lot of informality” and a “series of personnel failures” he blamed on the sub’s leadership.
The collision, which happened at night, came as the sub was making a submerged transit to Jebel Ali, its last port call before heading home to Groton, Conn.
The crew had just finished an intense operational phase of its deployment and “everybody let down their guard” for what was actually one of the most challenging phases, crossing the strait at periscope depth, he said.
“There was a great deal of complacency involved in the crew,” he said. “They had been at sea for 63 days operating in areas with high contact density.”
Another reminder that submarining is always dangerous, no matter how good you think you are.

Update 1049 31 October: Turned off comments.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now We're Sure To Win The War!

At the risk of having too much recent discussion about women and their role in today's Navy, I couldn't let this one slip by. Check out newly-released NAVADMIN 304/09, which features rules for permanent cosmetics. I guess I didn't know that a lack of such a policy was a problem, but this article on the Navy website set me straight. Excerpt:
A Sailor who elects such a procedure must pay for it herself, be prepared to take leave if necessary to recover and be available for shore-based medical care for two weeks following the procedure.
The updated cosmetic policy applies to new Sailors, including prior-service veterans, officer candidates and midshipmen and was expanded to reflect the changing norms of society.
"Due to the increasing popularity of permanent makeup, the update may increase the size of the recruitable population," said Lt. Cmdr. Heather Kline of Navy's Personnel, Plans and Policy Division. "It could also help with retention by providing an option for female Sailors to always look professional and feel good about themselves while saving money on cosmetic purchases."
I bet Al Qaeda doesn't have a permanent cosmetics policy, so their retention will go down! Another win for the Home Team.

But now, what happens if society's norms continue to change, and male Sailors want to get some permanent eyeliner so they can feel good about themselves? I guess then it'll be time for another war-winning NAVADMIN!

Boats Dreams

Last night I dreamt about being on the boat again; it seems to happen about once a month. In this one, I was XO on the Connecticut (and somewhat confused about why I was back in the Navy), and I had to go yell at a newly-qualifed Topside Watch who had just made a 1MC announcement that twice featured the word "fire" without referring to actual combustion or a launch order, and for some reason I didn't have any shoes on.

For those of you who are out, do you still dream about the boat? (I'll take it for granted that you active duty guys do.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Submarine Non-Vols

We always say that the Submarine Force is made up entirely of volunteers, but there are some people who really aren't. Every once in a while, the Naval Academy doesn't make quota, so they have to "force" some graduates into the Submarine Force. According to this Navy Times article, they're looking at getting an additional 33 "volunteers" out of this year's class. Excerpts:
In a message to the Brigade of Midshipmen on Tuesday, the academy’s director of professional development, Capt. Stephen Evans, wrote that the academy this year was required to send 125 officers into the nuclear submarine training pipeline, but that only 92 had been accepted by Naval Reactors. That meant 33 midshipmen would be asked to volunteer or told to become sub nukes.
“If you are subsequently identified for a submarine interview, understand that you were released from your preferred community after serious consideration,” Evans wrote. “Be professional and focus on the positive aspects of serving your country in the submarine force.”
Naval Academy spokesman Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said it wasn’t uncommon for academy officials to move midshipmen from preferred warfare areas to areas where they were needed, although he said there weren’t records showing when or for which disciplines. The academy’s mission to provide the officers the Navy requires means the school must sometimes supercede mids’ wishes, he said...
...In last year’s graduating class, 78 percent of midshipmen entered the warfare area they selected as their first choice, and 92 percent got their first or second choice, Carpenter said. The first midshipmen this year who will be urged to choose submarines are those who picked it as their second choice, he said. They are required to serve at least five years after commissioning.
I knew a couple of Academy guys who were ordered into the Sub Force against their wishes, and they ended up being good officers. Still, I think it's better when everyone who's on the boat knew they had volunteered at some point (even though there are plenty of Submariners who, if they had it to do over again, might have not volunteered in the first place). For those Academy guys who do get lassoed into the Sub Force, I say "Welcome", and if you have hard feelings about it, I can only pass on the words of one of my wise old LCCs at prototype when ship assignments came out and some people were complaining: "Tough shit, why do you think they call them 'orders'?"

Friday, October 23, 2009

WWII Subvet Tells His Story

I really enjoyed reading this story about WWII Submarine Veteran Edgar Martin. Although he didn't make a war patrol, he did serve under legendary CO Slade Cutter on USS Requin (SS 481) after Cutter's history-making patrols as Captain of USS Seahorse (SS 304). My favorite part of Martin's story:
There were, Martin soon found out, other benefits to being part of a submarine crew: benefits such as 80 percent higher pay, access to the best food in the Navy and relaxed regulations.
But for someone who'd grown up accepting racial segregation as a part of life, perhaps one of the most unexpected benefits of serving as part of a Navy submarine crew was the absence of overt racism.
"You work in such close quarters on a submarine, it was difficult for anyone to focus on things like that," Martin said. "For the most part, everyone was friendly and there were no vestiges of segregation. Everyone worked together; everyone was glad to help you.
In my experience, this lack of overt racism aboard submarines has continued to the present day. As long as you can do your job and not cause problems, Submariners are very accepting. When it comes to dealing with those who can't hack it, however, we tend to be ruthless.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Intrusive Leadership

USS Hartford (SSN 768) was in the news for something good today. They were commended by the Navy for going 1000 days without a DUI. Excerpts:
Prairie Grove, Ark. native Cmdr. Robert Dunn, Hartford's commanding officer, accepted the commendation on behalf of the Los Angeles class attack submarine.
"Although you're giving this to me as the commanding officer, the intrusive peer leadership of the hard-working Sailors makes this possible," said Dunn.
The crew also received a personal message from Submarine Force Commander Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, calling Hartford "a prime example for the submarine force on how focused effort and deckplate leadership can curb reckless behavior and poor decision making."
"I recognize the fight to prevent DUIs is one of many tasks you undertake which requires constant, intrusive leadership. Hartford's accomplishments in this area are a testament to the crew's professionalism and dedication," wrote Donnelly.
What do you think of the value of "intrusive leadership"? Is it the right philosophy for the unique crew composition of submarines?

A Year In The Life

It was a year ago today that I found out I had esophageal cancer. Now, thanks to all the support from my friends and health care providers, I'm pretty much back to normal (just a lot thinner). The cancer is gone, and I only have to go in for follow-up CT scans every six months. Thanks to everyone here who supported me during the past year!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Movie Review: "Where The Wild Things Are"

I went with my wife, sister-in-law, and 4-year-old nephew to see the new movie "Where The Wild Things Are" yesterday morning. I'd read this beloved book (written the year I was born) to my kids frequently, and always put on a really good performance of my favorite lines:
They roared their terrible roars,
And gnashed their terrible teeth,
And rolled their terrible eyes,
And showed their terrible claws...
This movie didn't feature teeth gnashing or eye rolling, but it gave us something more -- a really good film that really young kids will like while their parents are getting an emotional roller coaster ride. The pre-schooler loved it, and both the ladies with me admitted to being in tears at points. (I just got something in my eyes.) Kids over 8 years old, however, might find it a little too intense.

The movie works on many levels. It explains why Max makes mischief of one kind and another (a broken home and unhappy childhood) and spells out -- without shoving it in your face -- how the Wild Things are manifestations of the people and feelings in his life. The CGI and voice acting were incredible; the Wild Things seemed as real as the boy. It was the adaptation of the story that will cause the most controversy; this movie really isn't aimed at kids, even though the advertising campaign seems to be. Will children from unhappy homes leave the theater in tears? Will they emulate Max in making mischief? They might, but they might have done that even without seeing the movie. For parents who are worried about how the film might affect their more sensitive kids, I'd suggest seeing it yourself first -- you'll have a first-rate theater-going experience even if you decide not to take your children. I give this movie four Wild Rumpuses out of five.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Diggit Tools

As a shipyard Eng, I had this cartoon frame hanging on my office wall:

(This comes from the classic "Techno-Bill" series of Dilbert strips in the early '90s.) This visual representation described me pretty well -- I had a pager, cell phone, Leatherman, and flashlight always hanging from my belt, along with a TLD. Didn't have the glasses, though.

What stuff did you have hanging off your belt or packed away in your poopy suit when you were (or are) on the boat?

(Off topic, I got some E-mails that said NCDOC has placed on the listed of "denied sites", so people can't access blogs like this from Navy computers anymore. Is this worldwide, or just in certain regions?)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meridian, Idaho Property Values Plummet!

It's the time of year again where I lose whatever sense of dignity I might have and populate my lawn with tacky holiday decorations. During Christmas, I unfortunately can't compete with a few neighborhood houses when it comes to gaudily dressing up one's yard, but during Halloween I'm at the top of the heap. I improved upon last year's effort by adding a couple more inflatables, thusly:

As you can see, I've matched my achievement during the Christmas season of two years ago by "purr"-fecting the methodology to mount a roof inflatable -- still unmatched in the neighborhood. The black cat on the roof ended up exceeding my wildest expectations; it looks really, really good. I can't wait to see it at night, since its eyes light up.

I still have to string up some border lights, but other than that I'd say I'm ready for Halloween!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Everyone Loves The CFC

Here's a video of President Obama urging all Federal employees to contribute to the Combined Federal Campaign:

It looks like this year's campaign is kicking off again for the Navy; I'm sure most commands have goals like "100% contact". Did you ever get stuck with the thankless job of being CFC Coordinator? Did you think it was punishment for something you'd done? I remember back in the days when you pretty much had to contribute (since goals were based on "percent of command contributing" vice "contacted"); did you ever donate to a completely off-the-wall organization as a kind of protest against the whole process?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Like This Result Better

Back in 1990, #3 Nebraska held a 12-0 lead over #9 Colorado going into the 4th quarter. CU scored 27 fourth quarter points for a 27-12 win.

Tonight, #24 Missouri held a 12-0 lead over #21 Nebraska going into the 4th quarter; the 'Huskers scored 27 unanswered fourth quarter points for a 27-12 win. I like being on the winning side of such games better.

(For those who wonder if 'Husker football is really important to Nebraskans, here's a clue -- I remembered this 1990 result without seeing any mention of it anywhere. It's ingrained into our DNA.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Local Soccer Player In The News

Here's a great article about a girl's soccer player at our local high school, Shalese Miller. Excellent reading, but they consistently mis-spelled the name of her coach (who's also the Latin teacher who took my boys on a school trip to Europe last year). For the record, it's Jason Lang.

Normally I don't post stuff like this, but in this case I'm a very proud uncle. Good luck to Shalese and her teammates in the upcoming State Tournament!

Neutrino Comms With Submarines?

Here's an article about an idea that won't come to fruition for several hundred years: using neutrinos to communicate with submarines.

When you consider that any such communications would have to be encrypted (since they'd be sent worldwide), I really don't see any way this would be feasible with the low data rates they're talking about as anything but a bell-ringer, which we already have with ELF.

Monday, October 05, 2009

40 Years Of Monty Python

Forty years ago today, the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus aired on the BBC. In honor of this, here are two of my favorite Python sketches -- "The Spanish Inquisition"...

...and "How Not To Be Seen":

When I was a student at Kansas, I saw the late Graham Chapman give a lecture in which he said he'd never really heard a good definition of "Pythonesque" humor. Here's what I came up with: "Humor involving a person or persons, who may or may not be silly themselves, either interacting with silly people or finding themselves in an inherently silly situation". Watching Monty Python's Flying Circus on Sunday nights on the local PBS station when I was in high school was when I started learning to appreciate absurdity, a pasttime I continue to enjoy to this day. For this, I'm thankful for Monty Python. I'm sure that even in another 40 years, they'll still be bringing laughs to generations of new fans.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

USS Buffalo Undocks

From the Navy website, here's a picture of USS Buffalo (SSN 715) undocking in Pearl Harbor:

My best sea story from being in drydock is when I was Ship's Duty Officer on USS Topkea (SSN 754) in San Diego during the magnitude 7.3 Landers and 6.5 Big Bear earthquakes on 28 June 1992.

This was the first night I had felt comfortable enough as SDO to actually sleep in my rack; prior to that, I had always slept on the Wardroom bench when I was Duty Officer. It was our first night in drydock, and I woke up immediately as the ship started shaking. My first reaction was "Earthquake?", then I thought, "No, the drydock's afloat". (I didn't remember, being mostly asleep, that pins connected the drydock to the pier when it was in its normal raised position.) I next wondered if the drydock did LP blows on their ballast tank, and had just about decided that it was a carrier sailing by at a high speed when the Duty Chief burst in and said "Earthquake!" I immediately headed up the Weapons Shipping Hatch ladder and found the topside watch still clutching his desk. I verified that we didn't have any real damage (other than that the CD overboard connection duct tape had come loose) and got ready for turnover.

The duty section had all turned over, except for me (the oncoming SDO was late) when the Big Bear quake hit. I was back aft, and one of the nukes had real fear in his eyes when he yelled out, "What's happening". Being an "old hand" at this, I calmly said, with arms akimbo, "Don't worry, this is only about half as bad as the last one."

Do you have any good drydock stories?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"America's Navy: A Global Force For Good"

It appears that the Navy has a new advertising slogan, replacing the "Accelerate Your Life" campaign they had been running the last few years. Here's the first commercial using the "America's Navy: A Global Force For Good" tagline:

For some reason, when I hear this new slogan, the first image that comes to my mind is Danny Noonan telling Judge Smails "I want to be good" in Caddyshack. I'm not a big fan of the new slogan yet, but I suppose it's better than some of the advertising campaigns the Navy has done over the last few decades. I enlisted during the "It's not just a job... It's an adventure" period, so I'm probably not the best judge of what works. Still, this one just sounds so frickin' corny...

MEDEVAC From Ohio-Class Boat In Pacific Northwest

A Submariner was evacuated off a Bangor-based Ohio-class submarine Tuesday night by a Coast Guard helicopter based on Oregon; here's some video of the transfer:

Some excerpts from the article:
The Navy contacted the Coast Guard at 5:50 p.m. to request help in transferring the crewman from the submarine to a hospital. Coast Guard Air Station Astoria, Ore., launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. It arrived at 7:12 p.m. and hoisted the sailor by basket from the sail of the submarine.
“Great teamwork between the Navy and the Coast Guard got our sailor off safely and he’s doing well,” said Lt. Kellie Randall, spokeswoman for Bangor-based Submarine Group Nine.
She couldn’t say which submarine was involved, or what injury or illness caused the sailor to need care.
The sailor will be transferred to a local military hospital as soon as possible, she said.
Have you ever been part of a helicopter transfer from a submarine?

Bell-ringer 1806 01 Oct: Commenters are saying that the video at this story from KOMO-TV is better.