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, December 31, 2011

Submarine Force 2011 Year In Review

Here's an official COMSUBFOR video of the year in review in U.S. submarines:

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Delta IV Shipyard Fire

Reading between the lines of this story about a fire aboard RFS Ekaterinberg (K 84), I'm guessing the shipyard used turpentine-impregnated wood in building the scaffolding. Excerpts:
Television pictures showed a giant plume of smoke above the yard in the Murmansk region of northern Russia as over 100 firemen struggled to douse flames which witnesses said rose 30 feet above the stricken vessel. Emergency workers said efforts to partially sink the submarine at the dock had failed to fully extinguish the fire. A defense ministry spokesman quoted by state news agency RIA said the blaze, which began at 1220 GMT (7:20 a.m. ET), was under control more than eight hours later...
...After hours of trying to put out the flames, officials decided to partially submerge the hull of the 18,200-tonne submarine at the Roslyakovo dock, one of the main dockyards of Russia's northern fleet 900 miles north of Moscow.
Local media reports were vague, but the blaze was believed to have started when wooden scaffolding caught fire during welding repairs to the submarine, which had been hoisted into a dry dock.
Earlier reports said the reactor was shut down after the fire started, but I'm guessing that was just media reporters who don't understand the military coming up with that one there own. Any fire that's bad enough for them to decide to try to submerge a boat undergoing refit must be pretty bad, though. I'm wondering if the Delta IVs have some sort of hull coating, and if maybe it got hot enough for that to catch fire?

What's the dumbest thing you've ever seen shipyard workers do to endanger Sailors?

In Memory Of Mike And Tom

From the video description of this tribute by poster "Grunt Labor" to the Submariners lost aboard USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708) 5 years ago today: "My video memorial/tribute to Thomas Higgins and Mike Holtz, who were killed in the line of duty during a pilot transfer off the coast of Plymouth, England."

Sailors, Rest Your Oars.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Quote Log

I think most boats had a "green book" or something similar where humorous quotes from crew members were preserved for posterity. It seems to be fairly common throughout the military, as shown my the "Staffer's Hard Sayings Log" I saw when I was at CENTCOM. On submarines, a lot of the quotes that make the cut are inherently funny, some are humorous only to Submariners, and others you won't get unless you know the person or people involved. (Some are put in their by the XO because they're trying to be "one of the guys", but the quote is only funny to him.)

Since it's the end of the year, let's collect some of the funnier quotes that you remember from your submarining days, past or present. One from my past the is humorous to me is as follows:

ENG (after being woken by a phone call at home for the third time that night): "Hello... Hello... I can't hear you!"
EDO (shouting, but sounding very distant): "Eng, you've got the phone upside down!"

See, it's not that funny, but the memory makes me smile whenever I dredge it up. So whether it's the CO's wife giving phone permission for a nuclear evolution in perfect nuclearese or something obscene the AMR Watch said during dependent's cruise, share your funniest quote for our own TSSBP "Virtual Quote Log".

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Submarine Style!

The official Christmas video from the Submarine Force!

Whoever put this together did a pretty impressive job of coordination. BZ to them, and Merry Christmas to all Submariners and those who love them!

The Submarine Force normally does a good job of getting boats home for Christmas if at all possible. Here's a video of USS Miami (SSN 755) returning home to Groton last week after a five month deployment. That being said, there always have to be at least a few boats at sea for the holiday. What are your favorite (or most intense) submarine-related Christmas memories?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My "War" Story

With the end of the war in Iraq, I figure I can tell the story of my "contribution" as the ultimate REMF to the war effort...

So there I was... I'd just been medically-disqualified from serving on submarines and lost my orders to be XO on USS Hartford (SSN 768); as a result, they transferred me to be AOIC of the Submarine Learning Center Detachment in San Diego while I waited for the inevitable 2x FOS to come through and I could put in my retirement papers. When I got to San Diego in July 2003, the OIC -- a real fitness fanatic -- decided that because I was right up against the Navy height-weight requirements I shouldn't teach any classes. So, not wanting to just sit around, I volunteered for the first Individual Augmentation job that came in; they needed an O-4 with SCI clearance to support Operation Iraqi Freedom at CENTCOM. Three weeks after I reported to San Diego, and 6 days after I first saw the message requesting volunteers, I was on my way to Tampa. (The rest of the background information is here, and here's a post about the "good deal" aspects of the assignment.)

CENTCOM headquarters normally had about 900 people assigned on PCS orders, but because they were running the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq they'd been augmented with about 3000 people on six month TAD orders. I got assigned to the Iraq Coalition Coordination Center and got put in charge of handling the financial aspects of supporting the Polish-led Multi-National Division (Central South) that was just arriving in country. The fact that I got assigned a job for which I had no training, and my turnover was spending a day with my predecessor who gave me his E-mail cache and a folder with a 2 page memo from Condi Rice saying we had $500 million in unbudgeted money to play with, a 4 page standard boilerplate agreement between the U.S. and Poland, and a 17 page agreement with no specifics between Poland and the other 22 countries involved -- none of which contained any mechanism for actually carrying out what they'd agreed to -- gave me my first inkling that the people running the war at the higher levels had no idea what they were doing. This was kind of a shock to me, because I'd always assumed that the Big Bosses knew what they were doing. It turns out that it was only the pockets of competence that existed at the O-4/O-5 level that enabled the war effort to function as well as it did from a staff perspective.

The next six months were a blast. Despite having no training in finance, I set up the mechanisms for providing funding for the logistics support for the division of 10,000, got additional force protection set up less than a week before an unsuccessful suicide attack on an MND-CS base that probably would have caused extensive casualties had I not cut through the red tape, and realized that the Spaniards are among the most unreliable "allies" in the world. I came to understand that while you have to be pretty smart to make flag, there are no real intelligence requirements to make O-6, particularly in the Marines. I saw lots of "war pr0n" of early insurgents who hadn't quite mastered the art of having their IEDs wait to blow up until after they had finished emplacing them, and saw one memorable IR camera video of a bunch of Taliban insurgents get out of a truck behind one that had just blown up, sprint about 100 yards off the road, and gather together in supposed safety, followed by a huge flash right in the middle of their group. I realized that the American military really was trying to do what was best for the Iraqi people, and the higher-ups really did have no plans for a permanent occupation -- they had no real plans at all. I saw the original plans for the invasion that showed that Turkey's refusal to let the 4th ID move in from the north negated what would have otherwise been a brilliant encirclement campaign that would have closed the big hole in the lines north of Baghdad, through which most of the future insurgent leaders escaped. Hanlon's Razor was confirmed: "Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by incompetence".

What did you do in the war? Alternately, were your eyes ever opened by serving on a major staff?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm On A (Political) Blog

I while back, I mentioned that I wouldn't be posting my political writings here anymore because I'd be joining a group blog. That new blog,, has finally launched, and will focus on Idaho politics with writers from across the political spectrum. (At least that's what we hope -- I'm currently the most liberal writer, and my political philosophy is very close to the first President Bush.) For those who are interested, my first post is here. (It's basically about the upcoming battle for the soul of the Idaho Republican Party.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Submarine Video And One Other Item

Here's a submarine video from YouTube -- it has some of my old Topeka shipmates, since part of it was clearly lifted from "Sharks of Steel":

Also, there's absolutely no confirmation that this guy is this guy. (I've been getting a few E-mails about the first linked story, and note that despite the same retirement year and same middle initial, there's no proof that the guy who pled guilty in the first story is actually the former USS Maine CO, SUBRON 20 Commander, and CSG 10 CoS.)

Army-Navy Spirit Spot From The Submarine Force

Here's the "Spirit Spot" from the Submarine Force for today's Army-Navy game:

What do you think of our effort this year? Personally, I'm a little disappointed; not really submarine-related. Here's a much better "Spirit Spot" from last year.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Let's Write A Story!

[Completely off-topic but timely aside: You can watch the christening of PCU Mississippi (SSN 782) here starting at 1100 EDT today; if you miss the live showing, they'll have an on-demand video replay available there for about a week starting later this afternoon.]

As I was soaking in the tub this morning, I started -- as frequently happens -- thinking about submarines, specifically some of the old midwatch discussions that pass on so much of the Submarine Force's "corporate knowledge" to the next generation. One of my favorites was the theoretical "forward vs. aft war" scenario: If the cones and nukes went to actual war on the boat, who would win? The conclusion always seemed to depend on where the discussion was being held; if in Maneuvering, the nukes would win, while if the discussion were held in Control the cones would prevail. The guns were all forward, but control of propulsion and all electrical power other than the battery bus, along with local control of the planes, was back aft.

This got me wanting to run an experiment with our little TSSBP community. While I doubt that it will work (I expect a result something like this), I think it'd be fun to try some "collaborative fiction" in the comments. My initial ground rules: 1) The protagonist wants to survive, so no solution where he just sinks the boat; 2) No gratuitous sex scenes; 3) No classified technical jargon that isn't already available open source; 4) There's some sort of mechanical fault that keeps the nuke from just manually blowing the aft EMBTs; and 5) If you want to make an editorial comment that isn't a contribution to the story, please put it in [brackets]. I'll start:

"MMCS(SS) Smith thought back to how he ended up in this situation. The emergent tasking while doing mid-deployment voyage repairs on his Los Angeles-class submarine in Jebel Ali, UAE, to transport the world's most wanted terrorist -- recently captured on the Afghan/Pakistani border -- back to the United States for trial. The submerged transit of the Straits of Hormuz and uneventful transit through the Arabian Sea. The midwatch training as EWS of the Reactor Technician (Under Instruction) on EAB usage with ET2(SU) Jones. The sounding of the general alarm with no 1MC announcement. Seeing the rest of the watchstanders in the Engine Room fall dead as if hit by a gas. Rushing forward to dog the watertight door between the forward compartment and the engine room, and seeing the crazed face of one of the CIA "guards" of their terrorist prisoner through the viewing window. Then, most disturbingly, the 1MC announcement -- in Arabic -- followed moments later by a voice in English saying "Surviving crewmembers in the Engine Room: We have complete control of the ship. Surrender now, and you will live."

Friday, December 02, 2011

USS North Carolina Deploys

USS North Carolina (SSN 777) departed on her maiden WestPac yesterday. Here's a picture:

Do you have any good stories from your first deployment?