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.)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Connecticut CO Fired After NJP

The CO of my old boat USS Connecticut (SSN 22) got a "non-band" relief after being masted for problems related to control of classified material and (more seriously) apparently not being completely forthcoming about the problems when asked about them. Stories can be found here and here. Here's the official Navy press release:
The commanding officer of USS Connecticut (SSN 22) was relieved of command June 6, by Commander, Submarine Development Squadron (SUBDEVRON) 5, due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.
Capt. Brian Howes relieved Cmdr. Michael S. Varney as a result of an investigation into the mishandling of classified information.
Varney was awarded non-judicial punishment for violations of UCMJ Article 92 (violation of a lawful general order), Article 107 (making a false official statement), and Article 134 (wrongful interference in an adverse administrative proceeding) June 6.
Varney, who took command of Connecticut in February 2009, has been administratively reassigned to the staff of Commander, Navy Region Northwest.
Capt. Benjamin Pearson, deputy commander, SUBDEVRON 5, has assumed command of Connecticut until a permanent replacement is named. Pearson previously commanded the Gold Crew of Trident ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737).
CDR Varney is a Naval Academy graduate, for what it's worth. Also, I note that the Navy website is allowing people to comment on their stories now; based on the responses for this story, I expect this to be a short-lived initiative.


Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Decidedly short lived. Can't imagine the Navy want's HM2(FMF) or MMCS(SS) to comment about stories about an officer.

I especially liked the one from Navy Wife: "...justice..." The facts seem pretty murky from the story.

6/09/2011 7:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Men of this caliber find ways to succeed even in the face of the strongest adversity. Good luck to you Mike!

6/09/2011 9:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure glad we don't have females on subs yet, because instead of class'd msg misshandling, it could have been fraternization....

6/09/2011 12:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like the CNO said, time to raise the bar on leadership. So, the "old" new navy fitrep system? Is it working?

6/09/2011 1:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had about 6,768 ships at the end of WW2 and today about 283 deployable ships. We had 12 CO's fired this year. We have more Admirals today than during WW2. I would probably bet that more CO's were fired this year than all of world war two combined. Is our "new Navy" better than our "old Navy?" The record is speaking for itself and readers can form their own opinion.

6/09/2011 2:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if the "new" is better than the "old", but the standards have definitely changed. Remember, ADM Nimitz ran a destroyer aground as a JO. Today, that event would end his career at LTjg. Back then there seemed to be some room for error and human nature. Not so much today.

6/09/2011 2:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This certainly throws a wrench in the secret-plan-to-fire-all-non-academy-officers conspiracy theory.

6/09/2011 9:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

guessing that he lost controlled material, if so, lucky he didnt end up in jail 0_0. NJP always sounds good to your average enlisted guy anyway.

6/10/2011 3:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

More CO's fired this year than in all of WWII? Not true by any stretch of imagination and I find it sad to see this type of comment being made on a submarine blog of all places!

WWII was brutal in firing submarine CO's that did not measure up to the high standard that waging unrestricted submarine warefare required. Sadly many of the peacetime CO's were not up to the task and they were brutally replaced as quickly as they demonstrated their lack of ability.

I will leave it for others with access to source material to cough up the actual number of submarine CO's "fired" in WWII but I am confident that number is more than 12.


6/10/2011 6:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This firing is tragic, but warranted. Bottom line he broke the rules and lied to hide it. He is a professional and absolutely knew the consequences of his actions. Being in a similar leadership position I think the root cause stems from two parts:

1) I expect that the only reason the CO mishandled classified material was to be better at his job (notes for briefs/study). Not to share info with the enemy or impress his friends. It was to do his job. Which is to have the best possible indepth knowledge in all facets of submarine construction, maintenance, and operations. There was no malicious intent. He clearly needed the material to do his job better because of the multitude of things that burden a CO every day.

2) He operated in a job environment that builds incredible external and personal pressure not to admit mistakes. The CO is under great expectations to make the right decisions and in the current environment the willingness to allow any mistakes is low. The personal pressure was likely the fundamental reason he lied about the issue and worked to cover it up. You don't get to the position he was in without having a great deal of personal pressure to perform under the most demanding circumstances--a trait in this case that was his undoing.

For those who read this blog and have walked a mile in his shoes I would expect you to understand how he went astray. And if you are still in a position to the get the shore establishment to do their damn job to reduce the burdens on the boats then act accordingly.

The job is hard enough without having to deal with offhull indifference to problems that are left to the boats to solve. Frankly we are tired of the offhull leadership failures that result in onboard leadership challenges. Need examples:

1)Read the 688 SSM sometime. It is the most useless set of procedures that are grossly out of touch, but no one is willing to take the time to fix them. Instead the boat is told to submit an MCR when staffs know damn well what needs to be fixed. Am I really supposed to stand before the crew and demand procedural compliance when those provided are so abysmal. And the MCRs are ignored under the guise of money and lack of necessity.

2)ATFP. Leaving the boats in a heightened ATFP posture indefinitely is just another cop out. No appreciation for what boats can't do because they are standing multiple extra pier and brow watches. Here is a novel concept: put the burden on the base to protect the HVUs--not the boats.

3)Manning. Man the boats first. Period. Not another SOB rolls to shore until every boat is at 100%. And don't roll a single guy off without a contact relief. This is the mindset we need so that the boat has enough people to address all the things shore staffs demand it to do. If the boat has an unplanned loss--refill it. Before you fill a single shore duty, fix the hole on the boat. And stop implementing half-baked plans like IT conversion without actually building the pipelines or transition plan to sustain it. Q. If the shore side isn't ready to implement who is holding them accountable? A. No one.

Submarine CO's are one-stop shopping for accountability as we continue to prove with each firing. That's fine--we signed up for that. The frustration really stems from no offhull responsibility and accountability. Each CO is trying like hell to play the hand he is dealt--how about TYCOMs/CNO/NR doing something to fix the hand.

Perhaps I've raved too long and the new TYCOM leadership will drive the standards of their staffs and support as high as they expect the COs to do on their boats. I'm looking for that in the wake.

For Mike Varney--I wish we could talk over a beer and compare notes. It's a bad mistake, but it doesn't undo all of the truly good things you have done over the years.

"That transient is me banging my head against the scope."

6/10/2011 7:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed with CO poster above. I don't know the details of this story, he may have been in the wrong personally based on the nature of the above post, however, too often they take the fall for everything under the sun.

The Navy fails to discipline at the right level in my opinion. When a guy turns the wrong valve - it means an additional audit program that a chief or div-o must complete. When that guy turns the wrong valve again - now the DH is adding an additional audit to his already 100hr work week. When that guy turns another wrong valve, now the XO is doing some enormous critque, implementing another command wide monitoring program, squadron is down on the boat daily, and that guy that turned the wrong valve is still turning more valves. Now, when that guy turns another wrong valve - the finger comes down on the CO.

When instead of just getting rid of the idiot who keeps turning the wrong valve, we keep trying to put a program in place that supposed to somehow make that guy want to turn the right valve. You could shrink crews by 20% if you got rid of those guys and everyone else didn't have to waste time trying to fix the mistakes. It would push accountability to the right level and prevent that guy from eventually turning the wrong valve that causes the CO to lose his job.

Now just replace the words wrong valve with 2 words that describe the last critique you sat in and I think it describes the current state of the submarine force.

Again, it sounds like the firing was probably a bit different, but the above comment struck a cord.

6/10/2011 7:52 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Here's the edited version of the two lengthy posts just above: "He fucked up and then lied to his boss."

6/11/2011 4:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ anon 7:09

Great commments skipper. Sounds like you have built quite the plan for fixing all of these issues when you get your flag...

Just remember these are men not billets/pawns/chess pieces. Try filling a sea or shore billet with no one, because your plan of forcing these men to stay at sea will ensure that there is no one left...

6/11/2011 6:28 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Deleted a comment. With all due respect to my commenters, I'm the person who will ask people not to comment here anymore.

6/11/2011 6:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure the CO above has already told his Commodore the same thing, right? Not just venting on a blog, hoping someone else will be the first to jump off the bridge, right?

If the job is too tough, get out of the way, there are a lot of other guys ready to fill your void. And, there are plenty of skippers and boats doing right out there as we speak!

6/11/2011 8:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is? Who is doing it out there right now? I challenge you to find a boat that is running perfectly, or even close to it, "by the book," without gaffing training, etc. Some boats are just better at prioritizing what the shore folks actually look at and then covering up the rest.

6/11/2011 8:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

6/10 @7:09 PM-it's all about the continuous stream of unfunded (either with people, time or $$) requirements that flow down hill. At the bottom of the food chain is the boat. So, whatever divine guidance comes from the all-knowing staffers (at multiple levels)gets dumped in the boat's pile to address.
Most do a good job but at some point the forcing of more crap into the overstuffed bag doesn't work and $hit happens. The atta boys in the bank will go a long way in determining the level of pain for the happening.
Submarines once...

6/11/2011 9:29 AM

Anonymous T. Allen said...

Wow! After reading these comments, I have to wonder, as a tax payer and owner of the boats and people, what I am paying for? Am I paying for lying, cheating and boats taking shortcuts?

My son has mentioned this type of cheating before and says it is just the way it is and nobody can stop it.

I am fowarding the CO comments to higher authorities and demanding action be taken to resolve these issues. If I didn't I would feel guilty when the next submarine sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

To the CO, thanks for your courage to get this out to the public and I hope you have the courage to continue this fight. Our sons (and soon to be daughters) have the right to expect only the best when they volunteer for the submarine force.


Proud Dad and Lifetime Taxpayer

6/11/2011 9:52 AM

Anonymous Fed Up Taxpayer said...

If it is that bad, maybe a bunch of CO's and COB's resigning en masse would send a message loud and clear to Navy leadership that enough is enough.

I agree with proud dad and am forwarding this link and discussion to SUBFOR.

6/11/2011 10:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Foolish Taxpayers,

Yeah, go ahead and forward this thread. It will result in more inspections to breath down the necks of those who are already dodging a insane amount of crap. The problem isn't the "cheating" - its the environment which makes cheating non-optional. There is a limit to how much anyone can suck up.

One thing that's been wrong with the program for a long time s that sometimes you have choices of "bad or worse" and simply have to take the risk of being caught. No one likes that scenario but sometimes you think "I have nothing to lose". When we back people into "I have nothing to lose", there is automatically failure. Its too bad that leaders at many levels don't get this.

6/11/2011 10:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucky our WWII submariners didn't fold in and surrender when things got bad or too tough!

Sounds like a good house cleaning might just be the answer.

6/11/2011 12:15 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Aside all the weeping and lamenting and rending of garments, the deep and profound analysis of the terrible state of the submarine force and the Navy .... what the guy did goes under the label of an honors offense.

That does in an officer under all circumstances.

The rest of the comments are irrelevant.

6/11/2011 1:09 PM

Anonymous SubGuy said... are correct.

6/11/2011 1:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect Ducky, the rest of the comments are NOT irrelevant. Nobody is saying we shouldn't fire the CO for lying to his boss. What they ARE saying is that we have created an environment where it is impossible to accomplish the mission without cheating at some level. Is there anyone serving on a submarine today who will honestly argue that point (if so, you're out of touch, pal)? You can call people wimps for complaining about it all you want, but its a destructive environment that destroys sailors and makes subs less safe-- it absolutely needs fixing.

6/11/2011 2:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think we drive today's boats under the same rule sets as our WWII counterparts you are mistaken. It would be reckless for us to operate that way.

Is anybody taking their boats past test depth just to see what it could handle? And would any ISIC let a CO keep his job if he did? That is not a reflection of a lack of courage of our current submariners.

As well, the discussions seems to have fallen off track. No one excused the actions of CDR Varney and no one should think it is ok to let pressures sacrifice integrity.

Seems the feedback was more an explanation of the frustrations faced by submariners when support commands fall short in providing the resources, men, and material necessary to get a hard job done.

6/11/2011 2:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the word I have is that the firing had nothing to do with performance as a CO. The mishandling of classified info happened during his previous tour. The previous command was conducting an investigation into security lapses. He, apparently, lied or misled investigators and got caught at it. Sad in that the previous command had no authority to punish him - all they could have done was refer the matter to his current chain of command. In all probability, the submarine chain of command would have slapped him on the wrist had he not called his integrity into question.

6/11/2011 3:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:16 pm. You are partly correct. Incident happened prior to command. Lies and interference happened while in command. How it was found out is classified. He lied...he is gone. It happens.

6/11/2011 3:38 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Pogo said "We have met the enemy ... and they are us." Those terrible people imposing all the intolerable rules and requirements on Forces Adrift are ... wait for it ... folks who just left the operating units and are now ISICs and ORSE guys and even a few years later NR himself.

Either there's some wondrous brain transplant that is done when an individual leaves his last boat that turns him into an admin monster ... or the strictures etc. that cause such wailing are judged needed and useful by folks who have more experience in the Navy and in the Submarine Force than any of the complainants above.

I can only once again quote my old friend Gabby Hays, QM-3: "Cowboys don't cry."

6/11/2011 4:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there some way to read this blog without having to view comments posted by Rubber Ducky?

6/11/2011 4:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

+1 ^^^^^^^ Unfortunately there is no ignore button here....

6/11/2011 7:36 PM

Blogger Roy said...

...It's real easy Anonymous. When you see a posting with the title "Rubber Ducky said...", you scroll past it.

I thought that was simple enough for even a submariner to figure out.

Guess not...

6/11/2011 7:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I might have just been an enlisted Nuke... I was taught the Three Rules of the Nuclear Navy.

1) When questioned... Dodge
2)What accused.. make counter accusations..
3)When caught.. Implicate Everybody.

I guess these have gone by the wayside.

I watched my CO in the late 80's use rule #3 and basically made it so that to fry him they would have had to have taken the whole pier with him.

6/11/2011 7:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for how much better off we were in the cold war.

6/11/2011 9:05 PM

Anonymous T said...

I remember a thread a few months ago about cheating on Qual/Eng Dep Exams, and the overriding opinion was that it wasn't that common. It really IS that common, every boat in the fleet is the Hampton light. And any CO that says his boat is not like that, is just unaware, because I guarantee you that he has some blazed training plans and RADCON records somewhere along the way.

The hypocrisy is what drove me out of the sub force, I hope you guys can get it fixed, but quite frankly, I have zero faith in senior leadership's ability to do it. They're just a bunch of politicians in uniform.

6/11/2011 10:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I 2nd t and the anonymous comment mentioning non-optional cheating.

If a the requirements placed on the men were practical to complete in the time allowed, a lot more people would do that. At some point even the idealistic kids get worn out working such long days.

For many of them, that point is a significant emotional breaking point for them, where they change from thinking of what they do as important and taking pride in their work. Suddenly you have a bad-attitude slacker on your hands because he's decided it's impossible or masochistic to be 4.0.

Eventually he gets in trouble, gets out of the Navy, or the disappointment wears off. Maybe cheating gets easier each time, until he really doesn't even feel the guilt about it so much any more. Of course, by then, he's also very good at cheating.

Pretty picture, isn't it? Bad attitude, skillful cheater, or overworked and frustrated. But I guess it's been working since long before I was in, so maybe they're on to something I don't understand.

6/12/2011 1:31 AM

Blogger Curt said...

Life is a matter of setting priorities, and doing your best, given the resources provided.

Having said that, there are only two options:

1) Do what you can, and explain that the rest just didn't get done (not enough time, personnel, etc...).

2) Do what you can, and bluff (insert verb here) your way thru the rest.

Would #1 fly?? During the XYZ Inspection - What would happen with a, "We just didn't have time for that" response?? (Honest & Honorable??)

Bottom line: "If you ain't Cheating, You ain't Trying."

6/12/2011 6:47 AM

Blogger SubIconoclast said...

I should clarify my last point: "Requirements Triage" is a necessary function to execute duties which ARE documented in the Oath of Office and Navy Regulations, but I have yet to find any manual which clearly explains the rigorous application of chain of authority as I described above. My comments are simply a product of training and mentoring I've received from senior officers over the course of my career - "opinion" to most, although "requirement" to those operating directly under my own delegated authority. See how it works?

6/12/2011 7:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only he had posted lewd images of himself on Twitter, he'd still have a job.

6/12/2011 7:53 AM

Anonymous 594tuff said...

Curt, well said. There are not enough time and personnel resources to get done what needs to be done. This has always and will continue to be the case. Many years ago we went through a PMS reduction drill to free up manpower and more recently the force tried to look at "cumbersome work practices". The results did provide some improvement, but as with most efficiency drills, something or should I say someone has to fill the void. So we come up with GMT, gigantic TRE metric spreadsheets, and red, yellow, green training metrics to help us get better. Additionally, since we stripped down squadrons to a couple of people and consolidated “support” the boats on the waterfront are left with virtually no assistance. Now, I am not a huge lover of squadron being all in my knickers but an honest outside view is always helpful. We can solve this as Curt alluded to, by separating the “shalls” from the “should”. A bottom up review of what we do on a day to day basis is needed. Not that this will prevent some dummy from screwing up, but it would allow more close evaluation and mentoring for the COs who are out there doing it on thier own with little guidance except for the occasional firing to establish the goal posts.

6/12/2011 8:42 AM

Anonymous MM1/SS said...

What the last few comments have reminded me of is the mentality that the actual requirements aren't enough.

So, what ends up happening that somewhere in the chain of command, someone has an "idea" that will help improve how the boat operates. This invariably ends up translating into some type of cumbersome administrative tasking that has no real positive results. The problem is that once the right person has said this is a good idea, it becomes a perceived requirement (though not an actual one). At this point the boat is loaded down with not only the things that are actually required, but also the things that are perceived as required. This leaves the sailors feeling helpless and out of time, which leads to the corner cutting.

I had an EDMC a while back who had a no bullshit policy about this type of hogwash. His view was that if it is required (as in actual written down requirement), get it done. Anything above that is extra and therefore a waste of time, unless you had the time to waste. Pretty much, if the requirements are "the standard", then don't expect or want more than that. If you want more, change the requirement. There are no minimum requirements, just the are we meeting what's written down or not?

While he was the EDMC, a lot of the paperwork bull that didn't actually have to be done, disappeared and we were a much happier crew.

I think the sub force needs to worry about the actual requirements and not the extras they keep adding on.

As far as he original topic on the thread: A lot of people cover stuff up in this job. If you do it, be ready to pay up if they find out. I know you can't be perfect everyday. It's a numbers game. Some people get caught, some don't.


6/12/2011 9:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any bets on how long it takes until we lose a boat to the environment documented in the comments above?

With the demands on the submarine crews (and, I'd hazard the entire Navy - but I can't speak to that) it's only a matter of time and engineering.

There's a reason people leave 2 years short of retirement. I'd be willing to bet there will be plenty of "can't hack it" responses - which I'll counter with the statement that enabling is part of the problem you are all describing above.


6/12/2011 11:52 AM

Blogger FastAttackChief said...

Why would any complain about paperwork this days. Hasn't the EDMC's life gotten much easier with the paperless ship and the instituting of NTDPS.

6/12/2011 11:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

6/12 @ 9:45 AM MM1/SS has the only way to deal with the ever-expanding universe of requirements (perceived or real..TBD). The system cannot continue to pile on the "rules and regs" without additional resources and expect superior results.
Every crew wants to do well but well is ever-expanding!
Good luck to those still doing our nation's serious business-
Submarines once...

6/12/2011 3:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completed an ORSE workup and exam during a brief EDMC tour. It was always a challenge to balance the stuff that I knew had to get done (EDM/OM) and squadron's "good ideas"...and there were quite a few. I remember a mentor's advice that success as an EDMC is about "keeping as many plates spinning as possible." Some are bound to fall and shatter...A good EDMC just knows which ones to allow to hit the other words, know the difference between major and minor comments. No excuses necessary.

6/12/2011 5:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of these posts are right on others are way out of the box. Our problem is we have become a zero defect Navy. Human frailties are not allowed.

Now I'm not sure of the details involving the CO, but the two issues that probably led to his removal was the fact that he tried to lie about the issue and tried to get others to lie (i.e. Articles 107 and 134). Mishandling of classified material is serious, but its not a career ender unless your selling it to our enemies or releasing it to the public.

6/13/2011 12:48 AM

Anonymous BTDT said...

Based on comments here, looks like not much has changed since this story came up last year or since Alaska Blue ORSE cheating scandal in 2006.

6/13/2011 6:58 AM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Or the HAMPTON cheating scandal of 2007.

6/13/2011 7:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or the Memphis in 2010....

6/13/2011 8:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took over from stellar performers on two boats as a division chief.

Upon reviewing PMS records both times, I deleted PM requirements on non-existent equipment on board- PM's with several years documented history of having been accomplished.

Unfortuneately, both times it turns out that CHENG had done his monthly audit on those non-existent pieces of equipment- and was shown how it was done. Didn't like being shown he was fooled.

I was shitcanned- for incompetence. Wouldn't sign off on PMS that weren't done. When the PM says- replace the parts- and you're told clean them off, too expensive to buy, the PM did not get done.

Made my 20 and retired, didn't get past CPO. Also never got masted despite numerous threats. "He refused to follow orders and sign off on the PM!" would be a tough charge to pursue when the PM wasn't actually, like, you know, accomplished.

There was always someone who would sign off on them...

6/13/2011 9:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. It's just we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that'd be great. All right!

6/13/2011 10:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Navy submarine cheating exposes, Christopher Brownfield's book My Nuclear Family is now down to $0.70 for a brand new copy at

Seventy cents for 320 pages, at that price it is cheaper to use than paper towels, for lining the bird cage.

6/13/2011 10:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 6/13 @ 9:50

Last I knew boats don't have a CHENG and anyone who actually served on a boat would know that.

6/13/2011 3:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And if you served in the 70's and 80's, you would know boats did have a CHENG. Boats don't have a CHENG? What is it, EDH for engineering department head? Or something else? Or do the engineering departments run themselves?

6/13/2011 8:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Engineer. That's what the boats had since the 80's at least. CHENG is a skimmer thing.

6/13/2011 9:45 PM

Blogger MT1(SS)WidgetHead said...

What is a CHENG exactly? From what decade did that acronym originate?

6/14/2011 12:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as an aside, people are mistaken if they think that the Submarine powers that be aren't aware of this blog.

6/14/2011 4:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

CHENG = Chief Engineer

6/14/2011 4:36 AM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

How about the Congressional powers that be? Are they aware of this blog. They are the assholes that are stirring up this debate. Let them ring in. Better yet, let them run on a boat for a full 6 monther. . . Every last budget cuttin' one of em. Male, female and geriatric.

6/14/2011 8:19 AM

Blogger Harold said...

"What is a CHENG exactly? From what decade did that acronym originate?"

Questions should be what century... Chief Engineer has been the title for the head guy in charge of a boiler house, or a ship's propulsion plant, since boiler houses and propulsion plants have been around. I'm certain it's been abbreviated to CHENG since that time. We love to abbreviate things.

The title is still used. As are the terms staionary engineer, for a plant that doesn't go anywhere, locomotive engineer, for one on rails, and marine engineer, for a shipboard plant. Were all at one time virtually identical jobs, when all were pretty exclusively steam powered.

6/14/2011 8:26 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

anon @ 6/09/2011 2:04 PM

Your guess is patently false:

"The year 1943 saw 25 more COs relieved for cause (out of 178)."
This can be verified in several sources at your local library. For readers' benefit, here is a convenient online source.

6/14/2011 10:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prior to 1942, there had been hell to pay when U.S. skippers shot their torpedo loads and missed too many targets. The problem was pinpointed in August 1941, with help from USS Herring (SS-233).

6/14/2011 10:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm certain it's been abbreviated to CHENG since that time. We love to abbreviate things.

During my time on boats in the 80s and 90s, the term was NEVER used.

6/14/2011 12:36 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

There were two basic problems with the submarine COs who were in command at the start of WW-II. First was training. The torpedo exercises were set-piece runs, canned in every way, and the skippers were judged on demonstrating their ability to produce 'the right answer.' Innovation was neither allowed nor rewarded. Skippers were trained to follow the track plan by rote. WW-II's need for courage and intelligent battle were not in the script.

The second problem is that a pretty fair percentage of the early skippers were drunks. I can't cite a definitive reference on this, but you see it in the books and I've heard it enough over the years to know it was so. When I've pulsed it with submariners wearing the combat pin, they've pretty much confirmed it. For example, the best I could get from Bill Ruhe (great guy, died at 88 in 2003) was "No, I don't think they were ALL drunks." Rickover cited this factor as primary in his decision to leave the boats after his XO tour and move into the ED world (BuShips during the War).

6/14/2011 12:44 PM

Blogger RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Three boats during my 21 years ('82-'03), and all three had an Eng. Only CHENG I ever saw was on the tender.

6/14/2011 1:38 PM

Blogger Ret ANAV said...

In my experience, we'd use the term "CHENG" in place of the words "F*ck1ng Idiot". Kinda like using the term "SUPPO" in place of "CHOP". To be called one generally meant acceptance while being called the other was derogatory.

6/14/2011 2:45 PM

Blogger SJV said...

Does getting sunk count as being relieved? Not that good CO's didn't get sunk, but for sure poor CO's don't last too many combat tours. As far as Rickover goes, he didn't really have any credibility in matters other than technical. He had lots of power, but he never really had any strategic input, right?

6/14/2011 4:32 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

RD, interesting slam of WWII sub skippers. According to Clay Blair, Jr's. "Silent Victory", the clear majority of whom were almost 90% USNA alumni.

Too often have I been accused of discrediting the USNA. Nothing could be further from the truth; rather, I sincerely attack the current emphasis on PC, which dilutes the stated mission, historical virtues, and esteemed graduates of this venerable institution.

Now, you (unintentionally?) offer that some of those fired "for cause" were drunkards! Excuse me, but I doubt seriously that would have been the case when men like Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey never mentioned it. Or, am I wrong?

I beg of you to kindly reconsider, or substantiate your gratuitous slander.

6/14/2011 7:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gratuitous slander? Seriously?

6/14/2011 8:02 PM

Anonymous T said...

Just as an aside, people are mistaken if they think that the Submarine powers that be aren't aware of this blog.

GOOD! Maybe they'll fix their shit!

Who am I kidding, they just want to brown nose their way into another star...

That is true of 90% of O-6 and higher officers, and a pretty good portion of those past their JO shore tour.

6/14/2011 8:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@6/13/2011 8:46 PM

Nuclear submarines didn't have a CHENG in the mid 60's to mid 70's. Others have chimed in that was also the case in later years. CHENG (Chief Engineer) is a skimmer term and always has been. Boats have an ENG. I repeat, anyone who was actually on a boat would know that and would never use the CHENG title.

So what boats do you claim to have been on and when?

6/14/2011 9:14 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...


In 1940, 90% of all the Navy officers were USNA.

From my reading of the record, nonperforming boat COs were not DFCd but rather just rotated out of command.

My source for saying that there were too many drunks in command of submarines at the start of the war was the KOG himself, in a 1983 phone call to me in which he said 'They were all drunks.' Bill Ruhe pretty much confirmed it when I later raised it with him.

6/15/2011 4:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

RD, You spoke with him? Wow..... I think I just got hard.

6/15/2011 6:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An admiral once told me " if I want the truth I talk to an Second class petty officeer or lower (enlisted side) or a junior LT, after that its all BS really"

6/15/2011 6:31 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

He called me (3 times) to tell me he liked an article I'd written in Proceedings (Dec '82) offering a diesel boat skipper's argument against buying more diesels and for nuclear submarines (the argument: we're not a coastal navy and the nukes can do all the diesels can do and vastly more).

I was one of two non-nukes in the PERS-42 shop at the time, was not in when he first called, and took great delight in ignoring the call-back slip for about a half hour after I returned to the office.

6/15/2011 6:34 AM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

rubberducky +1 :)

6/15/2011 7:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you'd take Rickover's word about those diesel submariners? The same guy whose mission was to get rid of all of them, to ensure none got onto his nuclear submarines?

The same guy who had no problem playing political games to ensure he got exactly what he wanted and other Admirals were pushed out?

Them "all being drunks" certainly makes his decision to keep them all out look better...I'd say you might want another source to confirm that.

6/15/2011 7:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

RubberDuck: " Rickover? We hung out."
I knew Patton too.
The Queen... Yep knew her
and on and on and on.

6/15/2011 7:54 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I don't know if "all" of WWII skippers were drunks, but I do know that many skippers of diesel boats in the 1960s were heavy drinkers. When I reported to my first sub (a diesel boat)in 1965, the wardroom and the goat locker had a custom of going for a long lunch on Friday's that was more liquid than food. My "initiation" was to be sure I was able to make it to quarters the next morning. Saturday was a work day because the boat was in the final months of an overhaul. The XO sent me back to the BOQ right after quarters telling me that I had passed the test. In fact, I did not see a strong campaign against the heavy use of alcohol at higher levels until my command tour in the 1980s. I am sure that the penalty is even greater today.

6/15/2011 9:51 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Well, in 1979 after a local arrest in Waterford Conn for drunk driving, I had a 1st class FT in my sub come up to my bunk and invite me to my first AA meeting with him. I was a nuke and I kinda didn't really trust him because he wasn't in my drinking group. It was the last drink I ever had up to this date.

6/15/2011 10:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wtfdnucsailor: BS. (your entire post)

6/15/2011 11:36 AM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

I don't think drunken officers are limited to diesel boats. We left Ft. Liquordale, FL (during Spring Break) in the mid 80's with the CO slumped down in the doghouse and the XO slumped in the little OOD chair on the Conn; neither able to really actively take part in the maneuvering watch.

6/15/2011 12:11 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Sanctuary, Yokosuka, Japan.

'Nuff said.

6/15/2011 12:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll see your sanctuary, and raise you a summer week in Palma De Mallorca!

6/15/2011 1:42 PM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

To anonymous 06/15/2011 at 11:36 - I am sorry you don't believe my post but the incident happened. I also know that the toleration to heavy drinking had decreased markedly by the time I took command. I am sure there were/and are heavy drinkers in the sub force today but that culture is not as readily accepted as it was in the sixties.

6/15/2011 2:16 PM

Anonymous Chuck ETC(SS) nuke said...

In 1983 when I went to my first boomer, a "ship's" party was a keg and a six pack of warm Tab. On my second boat in 1990 a party was food, a keg, and plenty of soda including diet. By 1996 on SSN beer was an after thought, reserved for frockings and ceremonies. The soccer team tipped a beer or two after a game.

I was a DAPA from 1989 on, there was a lot of pressure to prevent "alcohol related incidents".

6/16/2011 11:56 AM

Blogger Query said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/17/2011 8:53 AM

Anonymous Jim Houston said...

The sad thing is that the caliber of skipper you get in peacetime lowers over time. Think about the guys you know that just kind of floated with the current, didn't do anything extraordinary and made CO. Then they get onto the boards and select guys like them. It's a self-defeating process. I was often appalled at the low level of seamanship and basic submarine operational knowledge (and fear to do anything that might involve calculated risk) amongst submarine COs before I left. Pretty much every collision and grounding reflects the fact that the skipper or XO shouldn't have been there in the first place.

The WWII COs washed out because they were that type of CO. A great modern day example is to reflect on how many Generals washed out before we got to Petraeus...

6/17/2011 8:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I served with this guy and often he and the XO would tell the crew not to hide anything and come forward when you messed up. The guys that didn't step forward and chose to lie about their actions to his face were masted. Why didn't he practice what he preached and step forward to his superior? I wish him well on his future endeavors.

6/20/2011 1:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is what appears to be the full story.

6/27/2011 9:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I served under him on his XO tour. He was my least favorite XO of 3 on that ship. He was a "Do as I say, Not as I do" Officer who ALWAYS assumed the rules applied to everyone except himself. I'm not surprised by this in the least.

6/29/2011 2:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We All Play in Traffic. And one day, the blinders will come off. Hopefully, they'll come off with your family still by your side.

8/05/2011 9:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Men of this caliber" obviously you never served under this man. I was on the CT when he got fired and you could feel the sigh of relief when we found out it was the single happiest moment of my time on board. When he showed up moral was destroyed within 2 months. And it wasn't just one or two sailors who had problems with him it was the whole crew. I saw sailors break left and right. It was crazy. I think that squadron was looking for a reason to fire him.

1/23/2012 6:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at his command when he got fired. He is dog shit. He took info home on his personal computer from hen he was in Afgan, and when confronted about it....lied. Then they took his computer and found the info that he tried to delete and hide. He kicked people out of the NAVY for less things, but this guy is still in. He does not deserve to wear that uniform! He does not deserve to retire. But that is out military, never punish the high ups they way they should be punished.

5/30/2012 6:37 AM

Anonymous Dortha said...

In my opinion one and all should browse on it.

8/24/2012 10:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a roommate and shipmate of CDR Varney's earlier in his career. I can say he had both a solid technical and tactical grasp of submarining. That being said, the crew thought he was odd. Personally, I thought he was one of the most talented douchebags I'd ever met -- arrogant, condescending, crass; a complete pig. Doesn't surprise me at all when I read the details of the security incident, I could have predicted that year ago.

9/30/2012 8:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've obviously never worked for Mike Varney. We called the USS Connecticut the devil's flagship under his regime.This caliber! Ha.

4/03/2013 10:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont know how bad his screwup is (scuttlebut from the friends I still have on the CT says pretty bad) But I do know it couldnt have happened to a bigger douche. Unless of course it happened to ETCM Enquist the COB

5/09/2013 7:09 PM


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