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, March 31, 2006

Two For The Price Of One

For Friday Night Cat-blogging, I offer a photo of both of our kitties:

That's Hercules asleep on the left, and Panther Babaganoush alertly keeping watch on the right.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nothing At All Sexual About This Photo

Navy NewsStand has a series of photos of USS Dallas (SSN 700) in action with the Seal Delivery Vehicle in Norfolk (here, here, here, here, and here). The third photo in the set shows the SDV being loaded into the Dry Deck Shelter:

Yep, just a large cylindrical object being inserted into its natural home, and nothing else. Anyone who thinks differently really needs to get their minds out of the gutter.

Going deep...

The Newest Internet Fad!

If you've read blogs for awhile, I'm sure you're familiar with the various web traditions that have sprung up, like Friday Night Cat-blogging and... well, I'm sure there are lots of others.

Well, as of today there's one more. The lucky readers of this post are witnesses to history in the making. TSSBP is proud to present the start of a new blog sensation: Thursday Morning Duck-blogging! All you have to do is take pictures of the ducks you have hanging around your neighborhood, and post them on your blog on Thursday morning, thusly:

Isn't that fun? This pair of mallards has been hanging around our cul-de-sac for the last week or so; they're over in the neighbor's yard in this pic, but for next Thursday I hope to get a shot of them in our property (I may have to spread some cracked corn around). Hopefully they'll be in a part of the yard that has decent grass cover.

All you other bloggers are encouraged to get in on the ground floor of this fantastic new trend. Just snap a photo of your friendly neighborhood ducks, and post your best shots on your blog on Thursday morning. And, if you get a shot of your cats stalking the ducks, you'll be able to use it two days in a row! Don't be left out -- join in the excitement! Thursday Morning Duck-blogging... it's a "quacking" good time!

Update: Ninme also joined in on the duck-blogging craze!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Russians Are... On Our Sub

A four ship Russian Navy "Task Force" is in Guam, where they'll be doing a "bilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief" PASSEX with two U.S. cruisers, USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Chosin (CG 65). While they're in Guam, the Russian Admiral commanding the group (which is made up of the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov; the tank landing ship BDK-11; the oiler Pechenga; and the tug SB-522) took the time to visit USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705). This story was of special interest to me because the COCC's CO used to be my CO when I was Eng on the Jimmy Carter. It's been about three years since I've seen him, and as much as I hate to say it, he looks a lot older. This scares me, because through a unique set of circumstances, I'm actually older than he is. I'm hoping that I don't look a whole lot older than I did back then, but when I consider that I haven't had the day-to-day pressure of commanding a sub for the last 2+ years, I guess I don't have a reason to have aged that much.

Luckily, I don't think Captain Denno can go back and retroactively give me a crappier Fitrep for that comment... I hope.

Update 1352 01 April: Here's a photo of USS Chosin steaming in formation with a Russian Udaloy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Commenter's Remorse

Have you ever left a comment on a blog, and right away kind of wished you hadn't? I'm feeling that way now... just a little bit.

First, some background. A known skimmer officer with the nom de blog "Yankee Sailor" decided to take some potshots at my fellow sub-blogger Rob. (Rob, as you may know, if both active duty and liberal... a strange mix, I admit, but there are more of them than you might think.) Yankee Sailor decided that he didn't think that a liberal on active duty should be allowed the same free speech rights as conservative mil-bloggers, or some such thing, and he came up with some UCMJ articles to "prove" it. Rob responded quite ably on his blog, as well as at Yankee Sailor's place and over at Castle Argghhh!!!, where the discussion really took off. (Some of us sub-bloggers contributed to the discussions, but my "That's what you are, but what am I" comments weren't even in the same league as Rob's well-thought-out dissertations.)

This morning, Yankee Sailor retracted his two posts from yesterday, and replaced them with another post that says he talked to a JAG about the whole issue. Rob commented at Argghhh!!! that someone had called the SubPac JAGs office to complain about his blog, which I thought was a really chickens**t thing to do (calling the office to complain, not posting about someone doing it.) Based on no real data other than the fact that Yankee Sailor is a skimmer, and they do things like that, I got it in my head that Y.S. had been the one to call the CSP lawyer.

The more I thought about that, the more ticked off I got. Paraphrasing Boon and Otter from "Animal House", I thought, "They can't do that to our liberal... only we can give crap to our liberal." Being in that frame of mind, I went over to Yankee Sailor's and posted a comment that was really a little bit over the line -- by way of explanation, I was "responding" to a lame comment to this post by a retired ISC who goes by "Seaspook", but it was aimed squarely at Yankee Sailor:

"Well, Seaspook, I'm retired too, so I don't mind saying that it could appear to some as though you and the commenters on your blog sound like racists with regard to Mexican-Americans. I notice that Yankee Sailor permalinks you... does that mean he supports what some might call your supremacist organization? Would he support someone calling the JAG office in Newport with a complaint that he may be espousing supremacist causes in violation of DoD Directive 1325.6, paragraph 3.5.8? I'd say he's not really guilty of this, but would he support taking up a JAGs time (a government resource) to ask them about it to make sure? Actually, he shouldn't worry about it, because I can't imagine that anyone would stoop low enough to call a JAG office to report a blogger... Anyone who would was probably one of those "Teacher, Teacher, you forgot to give us homework" types in school."

I felt bad about posting almost as soon as I hit "publish", because Rob, and the posters at Castle Argghhh!!!, have tried to keep the debate civilized. While Seaspook and his commenters might actually be racist, I really hate throwing that tag around unless it's obvious, but I needed it to make my point. Plus, there's a chance that Yankee Sailor wasn't the one who called the JAGs office, or the CSP JAG staff just reads blogs on their own. Still, if it turns out that he was the one who called, it was totally worth it...

Update 0044 30 March: Yankee Sailor says he wasn't the one who called the JAG, so it was someone else. I apologized to Seaspook for specifically implying that he and his commenters might be racist, where I should have spoken in generalities, and he graciously accepted my apology. Elsewhere, Chapomatic weighs in with some thoughful ideas on the whole matter.

Care And Feeding Of VIPs

We've seen in the news recently stories about the various hotel service "requirements" of Vice President Cheney and Senator Kerry. The Sub Force has a similar "urban legend" -- the notorious list of requirements for when Admiral Rickover came aboard. The excellent biography "Rickover: Controversy and Genius" discussed the "list" of the Admiral's desires that was passed around; it included, if I remember right, two khaki uniforms that the Admiral would take home with him, stationary for writing letters to Congressmen, and several pounds of seedless white grapes. (One probably apocryphal story tells of Rickover approaching a submarine for sea trials and saying to his companion, "Well, it's time to get underway and eat those damn grapes again.")

One might think that when Rickover left, such a list would have gone by the wayside; if so, one would be mistaken. When I was Engineer on (then) PCU Connecticut, my CO and I were called into the office of the local head of the Naval Reactors office just before Alpha Trials, where we were given "the brief". By this time, there weren't any requirements for free uniforms, but we got some specific instructions on how to deal with the Admiral, along with some food and beverage choices that should be made available. In this particular case, this was only the 2nd Alpha Trials that this particular NR Admiral had been on, so they weren't quite sure what he really liked; they did know that he had asked for Diet Dr. Pepper when he was on the Alpha Trials for USS Louisiana, so we should probably have some on hand.

As it turned out, Admiral Bowman didn't give the MSs any trouble at all about the service, and made the men feel quite at ease. (The shipyard engineers, on the other hand, he kept on their toes, as was appropriate.) I don't know if they still do "the brief" for the new boats, but it was nice to be a part of a nuclear submarine tradition that few get to experience.

Monday, March 27, 2006

USS Columbus Hazing Update

[Update 0631 17 Apr: I have another update with much more information here.]

Another post at the Military Life blog for the Kitsap Sun discusses the allegations made of hazing aboard USS Columbus (SSN 762) while in the shipyard for DMP:

"No charges have been filed, but three USS Columbus crew members are in pre-trial custody and a fourth is under investigation in connection with alleged assault on the submarine...
"...No other information is available from the Navy until any charges result from the inquiry, according to Navy public affairs."

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have to play "Sergeant Schultz" on this one. Don't expect to see any posts from me defending the alleged perpetrators, though.

Thanks For Clearing That Up

Very interesting Letter To The Editor in today's Idaho Statesman (2nd letter down). The writer wants to clear up some misconceptions that other letter writers have, and provides some information that, frankly, I hadn't ever known:

There are frequently misstatements made in the Letters section. Allow me to correct these false impressions:
• War: War is an armed conflict between or within countries (and involves all of its peoples.) There is no war against individuals, ideologies, drugs, crime or terrorism. Only way to "win" a war is to destroy the enemy and leave. To stay for any reason is a loss. (Reparations, occupation, controlling the government, etc.)

• Abortion: A medical process, with mother and the unborn. A baby or a child denotes live birth. For the reason of abortion — and there are many — every one of these is saved from abuse, not by individuals, but by society for medical, economic, mental, psychological, neglect and other reasons.
• Morality: An individual's code of conduct. Everyone has different moral values. There is no universal standard. ("I'm moral, you're not," sort of thing.)

• Marriage: Not biblical. According to history, the institution of marriage was established just over 300 years ago, and the legal rights and privileges of such a union were created long after. These are the benefits sought by the gay community — not the ceremony so many heterosexuals violate every day.

The first point is patently ridiculous -- apparently our occupations of Germany and Japan after WWII were the reason we lost the war -- and the second point lacks, well, a point (as well as any hint of sentence structure). Is he saying that everyone who is born is abused by society, so we'd be better off not being born? The third point is pretty much the crux of the conflict between the religious and non-religious, so I'll give him a grudging pass on that one.

Now we reach his "point" on marriage: "According to history, the institution of marriage was established just over 300 years ago..." Huh?!? I'm not sure what history this guy's been reading, but I was always taught that marriage was a pretty big deal back in the time of, for example, Henry VIII (which was almost 500 years ago). Some say it goes back even further. Maybe the writer is one of those people who thing the Earth was made 6,000 years ago, and he's compressing time.

Seriously, he's obviously concerned about the Gay Marriage Ban amendment being proposed for the Idaho Constitution. There are lots of reasons to oppose such an amendment -- my main reason (among others) is I don't like the idea of being able to amend the Constitution with a simple majority vote, so I'm voting against any Constitutional amendment on general principles -- and lots of ways to try to convince others, but making up "facts" that have no basis in reality isn't one of them. It does provide cheap laughs for newspaper readers, though...

Submarine Golf Cartoon

My local paper, The Idaho Statesman, carries a sports cartoon called "In The Bleachers". It's normally pretty funny, but I liked today's strip more than normal, since it combines two of my favorite topics -- golf and submarines. Click here to check it out; I'll try to get it posted when the Blogger photo function is working better.

Update 2229 27 March: Here's the cartoon --

More Bad Anti-Sonar Propaganda

An article in the Honolulu Advertiser about the upcoming RIMPAC exercise and concerns about sonar use contains the same misinformation about relative sonar noise levels that I discussed last October. From the article:

"The Defense Council described active military sonar as acting like a floodlight, emitting sound waves, or pings, that sweep across tens or even hundreds of miles of ocean, and revealing objects in that path from the bounceback. Passive sonar listens for sound.
"The environmental group said the Navy's low-frequency system can generate 215 decibels — sound as intense as a twin-engine jetfighter at takeoff.
"Some mid-frequency systems produce 235 decibels, as loud as a Saturn V rocket at launch, it said."

As I discussed, airborne and waterborne reference levels are completely different, so the comparisons are worthless. Given that humpback whale song runs about 190 dB, which is the new Navy proposed limit, I'm not sure that there's as big a need for concern about marine mammals as the conservationists would have us believe.

Update 0027 30 March: From Navy NewsStand, an analysis of the likelihood that active sonar contributed to the whale stranding off North Carolina in January 2005. Their conclusion, based on the fact that the sonar use was 2-3 days before the beaching, among other things, was that it was unlikely that sonar played a role.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

This Is Getting Old...

Breaking news from the Gulf that another Navy ship, the destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), collided with a tanker at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. From the Navy press release:

"NORTH PERSIAN GULF (NNS) -- The Kiribati-flagged merchant vessel M/V Rokya 1 and USS McCampbell (DDG 85) collided at 11:09 p.m., local time, March 25, approximately 30 miles southeast of the Iraqi coastline in the North Persian Gulf.
"Two U.S. Sailors received minor injuries as a result of the collision. Two crew members from Rokya 1 also received minor injuries and were treated on-scene by McCampbell’s independent duty corpsman.
"Rokya 1 and McCampbell, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, both received damage on the bow and are deemed seaworthy. The cause of the accident is under investigation."

You may remember that it was only a few months ago that USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) collided with a merchant coming out of Bahrain.

Staying at PD...

Over The Edge...

I frequently make fun of 43rd State Blues, a group weblog for "progressives" here in Idaho that isn't nearly as bad as Democratic Underground, but still provides a few chuckles. Today, though, one of their posters goes over the deep end by posting, approvingly, about actor Charlie Sheen's dementia regarding the 9/11 attacks -- specifically the "controlled demolition" theory. (Charlie also mentions, in the same interview, about how he's not sure if a plane really flew into the Pentagon.)

I'd mention something over there, but for some reason I can't post comments. I only hope that Democrats running for Congress here in Idaho realize that they shouldn't associate themselves with the conspiracy theorists at 43rd State Blues if they hope to get elected...

Update 0936 27 March: Well, they've changed the title to the story, and cut out a lot of the body of the post, so it doesn't sound quite so moonbatty. The comment left by the author still talks about the WTC-7 "controlled demolition" theory, though. Beyond the fact that talking about active government involvement in the 9/11 attack is tantamount to accusing many, many people (including by implication the military) of pre-meditated murder of Americans, my question for the WTC-7 conspiracy theorists is: What possible reason would this supposed group of conspirators have for wiring WTC-7 to come down? It makes no sense. Maybe, just maybe, the unparalleled forces involved in two huge towers coming down right next to (and on top of) the building weakened it to the point of structural failure. D'ja think?

Plus, my old friend BinkyBoy makes an appearance with a comment about "grounded planes" that makes no sense at all. Remember, BinkyBoy, the process goes: "Post comment, then take drugs", not the other way around.

Upcoming Controversy Here In LDS-Land

Both Michelle Malkin and Instapundit are blogging about a new viral video that's making the rounds: "Lazy Muncie". (Long story short, it was made in response to two other viral videos -- the first was an SNL video called "Lazy Sunday" that's available at the NBC website, and the second -- "Lazy Monday" -- was a "West Coast" response video.)

Here's the reason the new video may be controversial here in the Idaho/Utah region: Bad Words and Kirby Heyborne. The video, which I hope you didn't just watch at work with the volume way up, seems to have some bad words in it. It also stars Kirby Heyborne, who apparently is required by law to be in every single LDS comedy movie. Expect some disapproving comments in various places where us Mormons hang out later this week... (Note that I'm not disapproving, being that Kirby doesn't actually say the really bad words -- although I think he does say something inappropriate regarding the Olsen twins in the video.)

CDR Kevin Mooney's Retirement Remarks

CDR Kevin Mooney, who you may remember as the CO of USS San Francisco (SSN 711) during her recent grounding, held his retirement ceremony this week. Here are his remarks:

Good Afternoon, before I get into the guts of my remarks I want to spend a few moments acknowledging the people who made this special day possible.

To Laura McNett and Bob Crann at the Fleet Reserve Association -- thanks so much for the use of the clubhouse. I cannot think of a more appropriate place to host this event. And don't worry, I've had a few words with the boys and told them to go easy after the ceremony.

To all of my former shipmates, particularly Senior Chief Rob Enquist and Chief Tom Riley, and the rest of today's ceremony participants. You are my brothers in arms.

To my fellow Veterans, I have reserved a special place in my heart for all of you. I have enjoyed interacting with you throughout my career, and I can never repay the debt of loyalty and support that you extended to me not only in my time of personal crisis, but also as I have worked through the transition to civilian life.

To all my family and friends who traveled great distances to be here today � words cannot do justice to the depth of my gratitude for you making such a monumental effort just to see me say goodbye to the Navy. I look forward to thanking you in a more personal way later today.

There are a few more people who I must mention by name. The two men sitting on the stage with me, Karl Hasslinger and Hass Moyer, and your lovely wives Donna and Katie. You all have taught me more about life, leadership, and friendship than any others. Also, my good friend Andy Hale who has just returned to the mainland from Guam. I'm truly blessed to have you as friends and I know we will continue our close relationships well beyond each others' Navy years.

And of course, most important of all is my family: My brothers and sisters and my extended family, who are represented here today by two of my sisters, Kathy and Maureen, my Aunt Mary, and a cousin and Navy veteran himself, Neil Gallagher. My second family in Ireland, proudly represented today by the indomitable Joan D'Arcy, better known to the Western World simply as Mum. My Dad, who has cheered my Navy career from the sidelines for the past twenty years. And finally, my ladies, Avril, Laura and Tara. My speech would end abruptly if I even tried to explain out what my wife and kids mean to me. In short, you are my world, so we'll leave it at that and I'll get on with it...

I love the United States Navy. From the day I was sworn in as a midshipman with my good friend Bob Benford at the Duke University Navy ROTC program, the Navy has provided me one opportunity after another to lead a rewarding and fulfilling career and personal life. The Navy paid for my education at Duke that otherwise was well beyond my means as the fifth of seven children in a large Irish Catholic family from Long Island. After Duke, the Navy topped off my undergraduate education with its own special form of learning -- nuclear power school. I hated it, and was happy to be shipped off to my first boat, USS BREMERTON based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Navy gives, but the Navy expects payback as well. As BREMERTON underwent an extended overhaul in Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, I processed hundreds of work permits and thousands of tagouts. I think it's fair to say that I paid back the Navy for all its education and other opportunities.

There's no place quite like a Navy shipyard. Let me give you one example of the types of serious problems I had to deal with in this environment: Nuclear power safety regulations dictate that we must have a precise status of the reactor plant at all times, so we maintain this large, laminated status board, which stands waist high right behind where the engineering duty officer conducts his daily business in the engine room. On this status board, we keep track of hundreds of valve positions with tiny grease pencil markings: an "x" means the valve is shut, and a "o" means the valve is open. Well, we kept losing status of valve positions and we couldn't figure out why. We were always very diligent and formal in our communications and operating procedures. Finally, one day we noticed some black grease pencil markings on the backside of one of our more portly officers. Being well-trained in the art of "root cause determination" Brad Buswell and I soon discovered it was a big butt that was getting us in trouble. I left these experiences much wiser and more astute, and fully ready for future assignments that would call on my problem solving skills.

All joking aside, I did learn a lot during my submarine first assignment. I had a great set of teachers on BREMERTON, including my first skipper, Red Dawg McMacken, who made a special point of spending many hours one-on-one with each of his officers. The effect was contagious, and that crew on BREMERTON was the most knowledgeable of all that I ever served with.

But we really need to look back at history to place my first submarine assignment into context. The Cold War was raging, and our Submarine Force was at its zenith in size and influence. Our exciting and relevant missions played a huge part in the eventual demise of the Soviet Union. I was lucky enough to participate in several of these missions on USS HONOLULU. At this time, submarines were universally acknowledged as one of our nation's primary assets in the battle against communist tyranny.

So as my first sea tour came to a close, I was faced with the decision to either remain in the Navy or join the rank and file of everyday civilians. As already mentioned, I had repaid my debt to the Navy for the opportunities it had given me. In the end, it was not chasing Soviet submarines that drove my decision to stay in the Navy. It was something else -- it was the opportunity to lead great people like the very Sailors who have honored me by showing up today. I came to recognize that I enjoyed leading men to accomplish difficult missions in challenging environments, so I set a new goal for myself: become the Captain of a nuclear submarine.

Next up was a shore assignment on exchange with the Royal Navy, which taught me that there were different, and in fact BETTER, ways of doing business than the US Navy way. During this assignment, I fought in the final stages of the Cold War from a busy headquarters directing US and Royal Navy submarines on special reconnaissance missions. I also managed special programs with our Dutch, Danish and German allies. In my plentiful free time - remember what I said about the Royal Navy having better ways than we Americans - my new wife Avril and I traveled throughout Europe.

Revitalized after two years with the Brits, my next assignment brought me back to Pearl Harbor, this time on a boat fresh from new construction and ready for operations, USS COLUMBUS. First as Combat Systems Officer and then as Engineer, I enjoyed great success with my COLUMBUS shipmates. Thanks to great people like Glenn Robinson, Tom Wieshar, Mike Heck and Tim Sielkop, we discovered how to achieve excellence while still maintaining the focus where it belonged: on the people. After over 3 years on COLUMBUS, I knew that one day the Navy would give me the opportunity to command a nuclear submarine.

However, there were more dues to pay before this would occur. After leaving COLUMBUS, I reported to the Pentagon, where I learned a new combat skill: powerpoint warfare. While in the Pentagon, I was fortunate enough to work in a position where I had access to senior submarine Admirals, who were faced difficult decisions affecting the future of our undersea fleet. Since the Cold War had ended, many submarines fell under the budget axe as part of the so-called "peace dividend". Despite these hardships, we still won some important battles, such as authorizing a new class of fast attack submarines, known today as the VIRGINIA class, and figuring out what to do with 4 TRIDENT SSBNs that were due for early retirement, which today are being converted to SSGNs. My Pentagon experience challenged me in many new ways, but was valuable primarily in that it brought me into contact with Captain Karl Hasslinger and a slew of other top-notch naval officers.

I soon had my best view of the Pentagon -- in my rear view mirror -- and Avril and I accomplished yet another cross country move -- this time to Bangor, Washington for my first exposure to the ballistic missile submarine community. On USS GEORGIA BLUE with Hass Moyer as my skipper, my XO tour was a blast. Hass patiently let me learn and grow into the job. He laughed off my minor administrative blunders, and set me loose to fix the nagging problem areas while he led from the front with a big stogey in his mouth. Hass always had his priorities straight and taught me look at all issues through the prism of leadership. We had a magical chemistry on that fine ship and GEORGIA BLUE quickly became the assignment of choice for Sailors on the Bangor waterfront.

Avril and I returned to England in 2001, this time for a truly international assignment on a NATO staff. Now some of you may think NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization - NOT TRUE. We never did settle on what the acronym NATO really denotes, but here were some of the contenders:
- Not At The Office
- Not After Two O'clock
- No Action Talk Only, and my personal favorite:
- Need Alcohol To Operate
All accurately describe NATO operations.

My most exciting day in NATO came when I received the phone call informing me of my next assignment: Commanding Officer of the USS City of Corpus Christi, based in Guam. Remember what I said about difficult missions in challenging environments? Well, I got it! And the mission would soon become even more difficult: COMSUBPAC re-directed me, along with several others, to the USS San Francisco. Despite SAN FRAN's recent troubles, it soon became clear that I had gotten a great deal. SAN FRAN had a top notch and enthusiastic crew. Sure, there was a lot of work to do, but we dug in our heels and drove forward despite some huge challenges, particularly with the ship's material condition and the inadequacy of Guam as a submarine home port. In just over a year, we had made remarkable progress. We steamed over 7000 miles from Guam to San Diego replace our propulsion shaft in a submarine drydock unavailable in Guam. We persevered through numerous ship's casualties including several major freon ruptures, a major electrical fire, two hydraulic ruptures, and on and on. Just like the SAN FRAN Creed states, we never gave up. We fixed the material problems, disciplined ourselves to operate efficiently and effectively, and finally went to sea for extended periods to conduct special reconnaissance operations. Just after being ranked as the best submarine in the Force in engineering readiness, we set off from Guam to Brisbane, Australia in January 2005. You all know how the cruel sea punished us during this journey, so I'll bypass the details, but please allow me to shed some perspective on the events that followed. After suffering the worst possible shock in the history of nuclear submarine operations, every single Sailor on SAN FRANCISCO -- yes, every single one -- did his military duty. Some did much more than their duty and acted in truly heroic fashion: Matt Parsons, Craig Litty, Billy Cramer, Danny Hager, Jake Elder, Max Chia, Chris Baumhoff, Doc Akin, Gil Daigle, and more: Key, Miller, Pierce, Powell, Smoot, McDonald. I could go on. But one hero clearly stands above all the others, he was my favorite Sailor, and the one who I miss every day, Petty Officer Joey Ashley.

In the aftermath of our tragic grounding, we, the crew of SAN FRANCISCO, forged bonds that never can be broken:
- not by investigations, nor Admiral's Mast, nor punishments
- not by grief, nor anger, nor sadness, and
- never by distance, space, or time
Why, you may ask, are these bonds so strong? Because as Chief Johnny Johnson surely would tell you, THERE ARE NO BONDS STRONGER THAN THOSE FORMED BY MEN WHO HAVE FACED DEATH TOGETHER. And on a very personal level, there is something even more remarkable: even though it was I who brought harm upon my men through my own shortcomings, today this room is filled with my SAN FRANCISCO brothers. Shipmates, I shall never forget your courage and loyalty and I was proud to serve as your Commanding Officer.

My final year in the Navy was spent under the command, for the second time, of my good friend, Hass Moyer. Hass warmly welcomed me to his staff at the Trident Training Facility, and gave me the freedom to work on a few projects while recovering from the wounds inflicted by that deadly uncharted sea mount. Outside of work, I kayaked among the orcas, became a soccer dad, ran a marathon, and prepared for my next career. In my new job, I will continue doing what I love most: Lead people to accomplish difficult missions in challenging environments. Avril and I hope to settle down after our next move for a long time, and give Laura and Tara some stability through their school years. We intend to be active in our local community, and share our time and talents with those less fortunate than ourselves. But most of all, we intend to love each other and be happy, just like we have done throughout our wonderful 15 years of marriage.

Let me finish now where I started: I love the United States Navy. But now it's time to move on. Master Chief Sielkop, I am ready to be relieved.

Fair winds and seas abeam, Captain... (although I know he's not the type who's gonna be slowing down anytime soon.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Russian "Mole" In CENTCOM... In Clear View

Since the news came out that we found documents in Iraq indicating that the Russian ambassador there had given parts of our "war plans" to the former government before the 2003 invasion, some people, including mil-blogger Aubrey J., have wondered how Russia could have gotten a "mole" into CENTCOM. The news reports make it sound pretty bad:

"The Russian government had sources inside the American military command as the U.S. mounted the invasion of Iraq, and the Russians passed information to Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents released as part of a Pentagon report."

Aubrey J. asks: "Who is the Mole???How are we going to catch him??? And should he be executed for his crimes???"

Here's the deal: The "mole", if there was one, was almost certainly one of the Russian liaison officers at CENTCOM. Check out the list of the countries in the Coalition for the GWOT; every one of them had (and maybe still has) one or more liaison officers at CENTCOM HQ in Tampa, and during the more active parts of the war, would have liaisons forward deployed to Doha, Qatar.

When I showed up at CENTCOM HQ in Tampa back in August 2003, I was really surprised to see Russian officers there; I was even more surprised the first time I went into the SCIF and saw one there. The thing is, the Global War On Terror requires us to look at the world through a new mindset; the Cold War is over, and we won. Having Russian liaison officers helped in coordinating our actions in Afghanistan. Sure, they tried to collect intelligence on us, but CENTCOM was pretty good at keeping the Iraq info compartmented from Afghanistan stuff. Plus, check out some of the information that was passed to the Russian ambassador, which they don't mention in the Fox News Story:

"One document, dated after the start of the air assault, claimed the US had decided that occupying Iraqi cities would be "impossible", and had changed their plans accordingly. Another seemed to have provided faulty information on the exact timing of the American assault on Baghdad that would have aided American forces.
"A document dated April 2 2003 from Iraq's foreign minister to Saddam said the attack would not begin until the US 4th Infantry Division, which had become stranded on ships in the Mediterranean after Turkey refused to cooperate in the invasion, arrived around April 15. This helped the US military to give the impression that the invasion was still some way off, in order to catch Saddam's regime by surprise, the Pentagon report said. In fact, the US military began the attack before the division was in place and the Iraqi capital fell on April 9.
"US forces moved into Iraq across the border with Kuwait but the report said the Iraqis were receiving intelligence which "fed suspicions that the attack out of Kuwait was merely a diversion". Another document, dated April 2, claimed Russia told Iraq that the US would cut Baghdad off from the south, east and north, concentrating its efforts around Karbala, where it would amass 12,000 troops and 1,000 vehicles - a claim that bears more resemblance to what actually happened."

So basically it looks like the Iraqis got fed three pieces of information: two that any 2nd Lieutenant could figure out with a dull pencil, and one nice big fat piece of disinformation. Sounds to me like we used the "Russian information conduit" pretty nicely. We should give the "mole" a medal, not a bullet.

Update 1902 25 March: Corrected the name of mil-blogger Aubrey J.; also added his site to my blogroll, since he's got a really good blog. Captain's Quarters also has a piece on this story that wonders who the "mole" was...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Not Just A Blanket-Molesting Cat

As you may know, our cat Hercules likes to molest blankets, as shown in this picture our daughter took yesterday morning:

But that's not all he does; he's also a Great Hunter. In these photos taken by Deepdiver, we see him first stalking his prey:

And then we see the results of his skillful hunting; his prey never had a chance against a predator of such speed and grace!

Update 0542 26 March: Via The Sub Report's new local news section, here's a story on a really fat cat.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

USS Columbia Homecoming Photos

A reader in Hawaii graciously sent some pics of USS Columbia (SSN 771) pulling into Pearl Harbor last Friday at the conclusion of her WestPac.

Blogger's photo function is acting squirrelly, so I'll post the other two photos as soon as I can.

Update 2337: It seems to be working now. Here are the other two:

Thanks for sending the photos... I'm glad I can share them with the rest of the submarine lovers out there!

Head For The Hills!

I've been recovering the last week from my shock over my alma mater, Kansas, getting beat in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament for the 2nd year in a row. I finally accepted that the problem was just that the players were just inexperienced and would do better next time, and the loss wasn't anything earth-shaking, and I should just be happy that KU won their football bowl game. Then I found this lost Nostradamus quatrain that scarily foretold these events:

In the land of the tall flowers, the bird that wears boots will excel with the round ball,
But with the oval ball of the pig, he will stumble and fall;
The bird will lose the prize for the round ball twice in two years on the Friday before the Spring equinox,
But shall win the soup container (Ed. note: also translates as "bowl") with the oval ball in between.

This lost quatrain comes from Nostradamus' most famous work "Fromage (Le Chat)", which roughly translates to "We're All Gonna Die!" This was also the book which foretold WWIII and the 2000 election debacle.

Seriously, though, the 3rd round of the tournament starts tomorrow, and I'll still be watching as much as I can. It really is just about the best tournament in the world, even if people are trying to call Wichita State a "Cinderella" even though they've only beat one higher-seeded opponent, contrary to my guidelines. Personally, I still have five of my predicted Elite Eight teams alive, so I still have a chance to win the Bubblehead household bracket challenge.

Ever Get A Song Stuck In Your Head?

Of course you have... everyone does. This morning, I woke up with a song running through my head that I haven't heard in over 7 years. The song? The "official commissioning ballad" of my second boat, "USS Connecticut", written by two official "Connecticut State Troubadours".

I have no idea why this song popped into my brain. It has a peppy, rollicking tune, along with the corniest lyrics this side of "Barney". I love it in spite of the words taken straight from EB and Navy press releases. I wish there was a recording of it on the 'net to I could pass it on to you, my dear readers, but all I can do is hope that by posting the lyrics I'll be able to get it out of my head and replace it with something like "La Resistance" from The South Park Movie. Here are the lyrics to "USS Connecticut":

REFRAIN: Connecticut salutes you
As you slip beneath the foam,
Our name and hearts go with you
Until you're safely home.
In this "Land Of Steady Habits",
Some things stay the same:
The pride of folks who build and sail
The ships that bear our name ...

The Klaxon sounds, all hands stand at the ready,
The conning tower glides beneath the waves,
The solitary sentinel descends into the brine,
Submerging for the next hundred days.
Her periscope peers above the surface,
Her SONAR sounds the song, and paints an underwater chart;
A celebration of our "Nutmeg State's" technology,
U.S.S. Connecticut, state of the art.

Her mission blends vision with tradition,
From the four preceding ships who've shared her name,
The pride runs deep in the folks who built her,
And in "The Constitution State" from whence she came.
Bridging days of Revolutionary glory,
Civil War to West Indies privateers.
From "The Great White Fleet" into the 21st Century,
She runs silent, fast, down-deep, and without peer.


Her hand-picked crew was chosen for the task,
With inner strength and well-honed high-tech skills.
Together they have learned to work as one;
They've trained to fight, but pray they never will.
For thirty years below the seven seas,
U.S.S. Connecticut will circumnavigate,
Defending our nation and our citizens abroad,
Bringing honor to her home port and our state.

Anyway, I was glad I thought about the song, because the song's website has a picture of the singer/writers of the song along with my first CO on the Connecticut, Capt. Larry Davis, who I really liked. (Actually, I've liked all my COs other than He Who Must Not Be Named; some, though, I've liked more than others.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Liberty Port vs. Home Port

Navy NewsStand has two stories about submarines pulling into port last Friday-- USS Columbia (SSN 771) returning home to Pearl Harbor after a WestPac, and USS Norfolk (SSN 714) pulling into Jebel Ali, UAE. The sub returning home to Pearl got a visit from Mrs. Hawaii... the boat in Jebel Ali gets to experience the "pleasures" of The Sandbox (photo from this site):

When I was in the Gulf in 2000 (aboard USS John C. Stennis) the subs with our Battle Group actually got to pull straight into Dubai while the carrier and cruisers got stuck in Jebel Ali. I'm assuming that having the subs go to Jebel Ali (about a 40 minute taxi ride from Dubai) now is for force protection more than anything else.

Although any Sailor will tell you that any liberty port is a good port, and the UAE is better than Bahrain, I'm sure the men of USS Norfolk would much rather be in the same situation as the Columbia Sailors. Here's to their safe return home.

In Lieu Of In-Depth Posts...

... here're some "once around the 'net" and quick comment-type notes:

--CDR Salamander has a good discussion on the unintended humor you can find in articles about skimmers discussing ASW. I contributed to the comments.

--Blog Idaho has a good post up for anyone who liked "Super Size Me".

--Naked Conversations is trying to set up a "blog-meet" here in Boise on May 15th. I'm game...

--The Sub Report links to a story that tells us how the Brit sub guys are saying that "blue is the new black".

--I updated my post on the USS Columbus "hazing" story; it looks like the incident really happened, and was pretty bad.

--Ninme, as usual, is blogging up a storm. So is sub-blogger gus van horn.

--And finally, from back where I grew up, a picture from eastern Nebraska on the 1st day of spring:

Update 2357 21 March: More pictures of the "Blue Submarine" here -- plus WillyShake has an in-depth post on the subject.

Monday, March 20, 2006

This Week's Pop-Culture Blogswarm

I'm predicting that this article in The Toronto Star, titled "How To Spot A Baby Conservative", will generate quite a bit of comment around the blogosphere this week. Excerpt:

"Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.
"At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.
"The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right. Similar conclusions a few years ago from another academic saw him excoriated on right-wing blogs, and even led to a Congressional investigation into his research funding.
"But the new results are worth a look. In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There's no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings — the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it's unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings."

That should get some 'net-wide discussion going. As the article discusses later, an alternate conclusion, seeing that the study took place in Berkeley, may be that the whinier kids become political and social rebels, is also probably valid. I love the way that the researcher's cultural biases are subtly revealed, though:

"A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.
"The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective."

I think "hewed closely to traditional gender roles" is PC-speak for "more likely to be heterosexual".

Looking around Technorati, it appears that the left-leaning side of the blogosphere has fired the first shots...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

This Is Such Crap!

An article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, provocatively titled "Some troops headed back to Iraq are mentally ill", provides another example of how it's OK in the press to use inferences and broad generalizations when applying labels to those in the military culture that would never be allowed if speaking of other cultures. From the lede:

"Besides bringing antibiotics and painkillers, military personnel nationwide are heading back to Iraq with a cache of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.
"The psychotropic drugs are a bow to a little-discussed truth fraught with implications: Mentally ill service members are being returned to combat."

The article goes on to discuss how 200,000 prescriptions for SSRIs (used to treat depression and such, and marketed under brand names like Paxil) have been given out for the military and dependents. Note that no breakdown is provided between active duty and dependents. Is the article trying to say that everyone who takes anti-depressants is mentally ill? Is the San Diego Union Tribune trying to imply that?

"But medical officers for the Army and Marine Corps acknowledge that medicated service members – and those suffering combat-induced psychological problems – are returning to war. And anecdotal evidence, bolstered by the government's own studies, suggest that the number could be significant.
"A 2004 Army report found that up to 17 percent of combat-seasoned infantrymen experienced major depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder after one combat tour to Iraq. Less than 40 percent of them had sought mental-health care.
"A Pentagon survey released last month found that 35 percent of the troops returning from Iraq had received psychological counseling during their first year home.
"That survey echoed statistics collected by the San Diego Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. The system has found that about 33 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder."

I'd be interested to see the evidence for the last number. Is it possible that, rather than 33% of Iraq and Afghan vets suffering from mental conditions, it's actually 33% of those who got out, and went for services at the VA, that had such complaints? That's not quite a random sample, since it would consist entirely of people who had medical complaints, ignoring completely those who didn't seek out care.

The article goes on to quote such unbiased sources (yes, that was sarcastic) as Senator Boxer and the National Gulf War Resource Center (known mostly for their frantic screaming about Depleted Uranium).

I realize that articles like this are part of the political debate, and journalists have a right to support one side or the other while pretending to be neutral. What torques me is how the net effect of articles like this could cause hiring managers to start thinking, "Oh, Iraq War vet... probably mentally ill" when these heroes start looking for jobs when they get out. Yes, there are people coming back who have mental health issues, but the kind of broad-brush labeling we see in this article isn't helpful at all to solving the problem -- only in providing ammunition to those who "support the troops" but never seem to be able to say anything nice about them and really mean it.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Staff Officer Quote Log

In late April of last year, I started posting a series of quotes from a Staff Officer "Hard Sayings Log" that was passed around my "group" when I was at CENTCOM, such as these ones. (It was actually compiled and updated by a Navy officer at EUCOM who worked with all of us that were dealing with the coalition for the GWOT. He spoke Polish, which was very helpful on liberty during our TAD trips to Warsaw when we were setting up the MND-CS.)

It looks like the "quote log" is still being passed around various military inboxes, because Neptunus Lex just posted a bunch of the better quotes from the collection. I was so proud to see that my personal contribution to the log (“When all else fails, simply revel in the absurdity of it all”) made Lex's cut.

Here's one of my favorites that didn't make Lex's list:

“I just realized that this War on Terror might take a little longer than we thought, so I am developing a new system of hanging charts on walls to solve our problem and win the war."
LTC (EUCOM) after a review of long range Counter Terrorism (CT) plans

List Of Idaho Blogs

Idaho Times, which has the most complete list of Idaho blogs I've seen, has apparently quit updating. In case they end up deleting the blog, I wanted to save their Idaho blogroll for posterity (and my future reference). It's not complete... just the most complete I've seen. This is just a quick "cut-and-paste" job, so I can't verify that all the links are valid...

43rd State Blues
Adam's Blog
A Family Runs Through It
A Life Without Fish
All I'm Saying
Arbitrary and Capricious
Are You Awake?
A Temptest Within
A Turtle's Relationship Wisdom
Backwoods Bob
Bay Views
Becker Bible Studies Blog
Binary Bliss
Blog Idaho
Blue Nile
Boise Guardian
Briana's Brain
Brian Crapo's Blog
Community of None
Confessions of a dumb, white guy
Crazy Notebook
Digitalfog News
Dogwalk Musings
Elegant Code
Everyday little things
Eye on Boise
Faith's Recipies
Fort Boise
Forum Garden
Freedoms Den
Fresh N' Tasty
From a Simple Mind
Ginny's Many Words
Global Wandering
Go Big West
Going Postal's T-shirt Blog
Grand Old Ladies Living Young
Hold Yer Horses
Homeschooling Helper
Huckleberries Online
Idaho Times
Idaho Zen
In house with Jeremy Petersen
Inventing Millions
J3susfr3ak? Not Anymore.
Jackassery, a Journal
JeanC's Cat House and Shooting Society
Just a Perfect Day
Kitchen Hints and Tips
LDS/Mormon Church History Sites
Lewiston Idaho Realtor Judy Higgins
Lewiston Web Consulting
Liberal Idaho
Liberty Letters
Life Insurance Lowdown
Little Nijette
Love a PITA
Mad Idaho Man
Making Flippy Floppy
Michael Worth
Not a Pretty Girl
Notes on a Napkin
Not So Fast
Objective Justice
Off The Toppa My Head
Orange Frog 76
Patty Duke's Online Center for Mental Wellness
Pink Sheets
Photoshop Experiments & Expressions
Ponderings from Idaho
Reclaim Your Brain
Red State Rebels
R Fair's Gallery
Ridenbaugh Press
Someone Else to Catch This Drift
Something Epic
Somewhere East of Life
Stebbijo's Choice
Steven's Päiväkirja
Sunshine's Daydreams
Super Strain
Sweltering Celt
Tech Rockies
That's Life. Life Goes On
The Adam Graham Program
The Bard of Sherman Avenue
The Calico Girls
The Church of the Great Oval
The Cutlerite
The Daily Grind Blog
The Daughter of the Devil Himself
The Endless Faculty Meeting
The Fall of '55
The Hotsprings Guy
The Idaho Kennedys
The Idaho Native
The Invent Blog
The Political Game
The Sagebrush Patriot
The Stupid Shall Be Punished
The View From North Central Idaho
Thin Air... the Only Blog You'll Ever Need
Thirsty Ghost
This is Breathing
Thoughts from Idaho
Time to Wake Up
Tim Reid dot Net
To Blog or Not to Blog
Un-Muted Mumblings
Vandal Sense
Waking Ideas

If you're an Idaho blogger, and your blog isn't listed, drop me a line, and I'll add it.

Update 0051 21 March: As a commenter pointed out, I demonstrated some hypocrisy by posting a list of Idaho blogs that didn't include Clayton Cramer. Perhaps I knew that he was about to let his domain name lapse.

I also noticed that the list didn't include my favorite Idaho "liberal satire" blog, Morialekafa. Neither did it include an Idaho mil-blogger, MREeater (who also posts at IdaBlue). In fact, the list isn't very complete at all. It's still more complete than any other list I've seen, though.

Navy vs. Pirates -- A Sound Ass-whipping

CNN has a report about a gun battle between pirates in a small outboard-motor driven craft and an American cruiser and a destroyer:

"At the time, the USS Cape St. George, a guided missile cruiser, and the USS Gonzalez, a guided missile destroyer, were conducting maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean, the Navy said.
"It was during a "routine boarding" of the suspected pirates' vessel that the naval boarding team noticed the men were armed with what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers, said the Navy.
"The suspected pirates then opened fire on the Navy ships," a press release from the Navy stated. "The Cape St. George and Gonzalez returned fire with small arms in self-defense."
Photographs released by the U.S. Navy were of a small outboard motor speedboat with three men aboard and writing on the side. Another photo showed what appeared to be small bullet holes on the side of a U.S. naval hull, and in a separate photo, a small boat engulfed in flames, with a long plume of black smoke."

I wasn't able to find the photos yet, but here's the Navy story, from Navy NewsStand (which is probably where the pictures discussed above will be released first). One pirate was killed and five were wounded; there were no U.S. injuries.

As always, Eagle1's place will be your best source of information for this, and all piracy-related stories. It'll be interesting to find out if this group of pirates were the ones responsible for the most recent attacks off Somalia.

You can also go to the unit homepages to get more info on the U.S. ships involved, USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and USS Gonzales (DDG 66).

Update 1326 18 March: I was wrong about where to find the photos first; it turns out Fifth Fleet put them up before Big Navy. The 5th Fleet photo gallery is here; some of the photos from this incident are here, here, here, and here. Blogger's photo function is acting up, but I'll try to post one of them as soon as it's back up.

Update 1442 18 March: Now the main Navy site has the pictures up, including the "burning pirate boat" one. Compare the color of the sky of the one at the Navy site with the same photo at the 5th Fleet site; someone played with the colors...

Update 1859 18 March: Here's the "red sky" 5th Fleet picture of the burning pirate boat:

Update 1319 19 March: Always interested in providing both sides of the story, CNN now has quotes from a spokesman for the "militias" (pirates):

"Saleban Aadan Barqad, a spokesman for the militias, confirmed the casualties Sunday to The Associated Press. He said that in total, 27 Somali militiamen had been patrolling off the coast before the gunbattle. Fourteen returned to shore safely, Barqad said on two-way radio from the central Somali town of Harardhere.
"The U.S. Navy opened fire first on the Somali militiamen's small utility boat, which was towing a pair of skiffs, Barqad said.
Barqad said that the boat caught fire, but did not explain how.
"The militiamen, "were in an operation to protect the country's sea resources from illicit exploitation by foreign vessels," Barqad said.
"Geraad Mohamud, also from the same militia group, threatened that they would kill any hostage they capture and that they would attack any ship unlawfully plying Somali waters unless their men were released."
[Emphasis mine]

See, they're not pirates; they're just misunderstood militiamen who want to enforce their country's claimed 200nm territorial waters; apparently the ransom they collect from ship-owners are "fines" for violating said limits. They clearly deserve equal time to make their case in the press. Idiots.

Also, Eagle1, as promised, has much more on the press reporting of the story.

Friday, March 17, 2006

New Undersea Warfare Issue -- Arriving!

It's finally out! The long-awaited Winter 2006 issue of Undersea Warfare is available on the 'net -- four days before the end of winter! Some of the articles include:

-- The SSGN Transformation
-- "Undersea Enterprise" (which I mocked and belittled back in November)
-- Pictures of submarines and submariners returning from deployment

Posting will be light while I'm busy reading the whole thing...

I Don't Wanna Talk About It

Yes, I know my alma mater Kansas lost in the first round of the tournament... again. And yes, I know that they're young, and I shouldn't have been expecting too much out of them this year. It still sucks...

A Call For Restraint

It's been with us for several years, but now it's only getting worse. I'm talking about, obviously, the complete overuse of the term "Cinderella" as it relates to the NCAA Basketball tournament.

It seems to work this way with every major sporting event -- the press feels the need to find some "human interest" story that appeals to the more "casual" fan, to go along with all the stats and penetrating analysis ("You suck, ref!") that the serious sports fans want.

Before the tournament, you have articles analyzing which team can be the "Cinderella", to the point where there are over 400 stories at Google News discussing the term. Quite frankly, it's been cheapened to the point that it really has lost its meaning.

I call upon all sports media to voluntarily adopt the following guidelines to determining whether or not a team deserves to be called a "Cinderella":

1) They must have beaten at least two higher-seeded teams in the tournament.

2) The only exception to Rule 1) is if a 16 seed ever beats a 1 seed.

3) Under no circumstances will a team be called a "Cinderella" if they've won one game over a WAC team!

Proposed Rule 3) is what got me to post about this subject this morning. Sure, 12 seed Montana beat 5 seed Nevada, but c'mon... Nevada is from the WAC! WAC teams aren't even supposed to win tournament games, and now Montana is being labeled a "Cinderella" for beating one?

The worst thing is the cutesy titles they try to come up with for these stories. I imagine that somewhere, in some newsroom last night, some sports reporter was thinking to him- or herself: "Let's see, Montana is the Grizzlies, which is a type of bear. And Cinderella is kind of like Goldilocks, in that they're both fairy tale persons of gender. I should title my story "Grizzlies Find The Glass Slipper 'Just Right' ". My editor'll love it!"

USS Hartford Arrives At PNSY

USS Hartford (SSN 768) joined four other submarines (USS Pittsburgh, USS Jacksonville, USS Salt Lake City and USS Philadelphia -- SLC is undergoing deactivation) at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard earlier this week. Based on the timing and duration, they're probably there for a DMP.

The article from the Portsmouth Herald has a nice little 3 minute video of Hartford's arrival that you should check out; it's at the bottom of the article.

"Hazing" On USS Columbus (?)

[Intel Source: The Sub Report] There's an interesting post at the "Military Life" blog at the Kitsap Sun about alleged abuse aboard USS Columbus (SSN 762), currently undergoing DMP in Bremerton:

Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating alleged hazing involving sailors on USS Columbus.
The fast-attack submarine formerly based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, has been at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton for maintenance since September 2004. A Navy spokeswoman declined to elaborate on details of the allegations, including when the incident or incidents occurred.
Shipyard workers called Seattle's KOMO 4 TV station, a Kitsap Sun media partner, Tuesday to report the alleged hazing, but they declined to give their names. They told KOMO one sailor was badly beaten and his shirt set on fire. Again, the Navy won't confirm any allegations while the investigation is ongoing.

This sounds kind of fishy. A Sailor "badly beaten"? That doesn't happen on subs to any submariner who doesn't steal stuff. "Shirt set on fire"? Sounds more like a stupid prank to me, if it even happened.

I have a couple of theories on what happened here. Maybe the shipyard workers who refused to give their names wanted a couple of days off work, and figured an investigation might shut down the ship and give them some easy days. Or maybe they were new painter/cleaners who saw some stupid but traditional horseplay, and mistook "wedgied" for "badly beaten". Most likely, though, some knucklehead came up behind another guy with a lighter and used it to try to catch an unaware guy's shirt on fire, and succeeded, with subsequent pushing and shoving, which the shipyard "workers" witnessed.

Or maybe it was even some guys from another ship wanting to really screw with the Columbus guys by making an anonymous call to the TV station, claiming to be yardbirds. If so, that's really bad form, considering the recent (last 15 years) Navy policy of "overreacting to the point of ridiculousness whenever there's a chance that 'hazing' might make it into the news".

If it did happen the way I think it did, we can expect a Force-wide anti-hazing stand down with Power Point slides about why you shouldn't hold a flame up to a guy's shirt for fun when you're bored.

Update 0103 21 March: Based on the comments, and some E-mails I got, it looks like the hazing incident was the real thing, and pretty bad at that. From what I've heard, though, the investigation was going on long before the yardbirds called the TV station. I wish the Navy would have been allowed to handle the problem without the press looking over their shoulder, but that's the way it is in a democracy.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Idaho's Governor Moving To DC

Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne will be nominated to become Secretary of the Interior, leaving the statewide election picture in Idaho in a bit of a tizzy. Not because he was running for re-election, though -- it's much more interesting than that.

When Governor Kempthorne resigns, Lt. Governor Jim Risch will become Governor. Gov. Kempthorne wasn't running this year, so my Congressman, "Butch" Otter, is giving up his Congressional seat to run for Governor. This scared off Risch back in November, who announced that he was going to be running for a second term as Lt. Governor, rather than try to move up. So, unless Risch changes his mind and gets the paperwork in by tomorrow (the filing deadline for the November election), we'll have the incumbent Governor running for Lieutenant Governor this fall.

How weird is that?

Update 2250 17 March: It's official; soon-to-be Governor Risch will be running for his "old" job of Lieutenant Governor this fall while he's the Governor. I think this might be a first...

Breaking News From The Iraqi Front

The main media websites have breaking news posted that Coalition forces have launched the "largest air assault in Iraq since 2003". The CENTCOM press release is here:

"TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces and their Coalition partners launched the largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom I today in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra.
Operation Swarmer began this morning with soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 1st Brigade, 4th Division, the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade conducting a combined air and ground assault to isolate the objective area.
Attack and assault aircraft provided aerial weapons support for the operation and also delivered troops from the Iraq Army’s 4th Division, the Rakkasans from 1st and 3rd Battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment and the Hunters from 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment to multiple objectives. Forces from the 2nd Commando Brigade then completed a ground infiltration to secure numerous structures in the area.
More than 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation.
Initial reports from the objective area indicate that a number of enemy weapons caches have been captured, containing artillery shells, explosives, IED-making materials, and military uniforms.
The operation is expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted.
Operation Swarmer follows closely the completion of a combined Iraqi – Coalition operation west of Samarra in early March that yielded substantial enemy weapons and equipment caches.
The name Swarmer was derived from the name given to the largest peacetime airborne maneuvers ever conducted, in spring 1950 in North Carolina. Soon after this exercise, the 187th Infantry was selected to deploy to Korea as an Airborne Regimental Combat Team to provide General MacArthur with an airborne capability."

While I'm at work, I'll be praying for the safety of our troops as they fight...

Way Kewl Submarine Video

Do you like to see subs blowing up surface ships? Do you like to listen to AC/DC while you're watching this? If so, you've got to check out this video that I found via Rontini's BBS. It appears to be a Royal Navy video of a Sinkex...

Also, you can check out these still photos of frigates being "blowed up" by torpedoes.

How Not To Cut The Defense Budget

A link at The Sub Report to a story on a Russian announcement that they've started construction on a third Borey-class SSBN reminded me that I've been meaning to post about the proposal from a group called "Business Leaders For Sensible Priorities" on how to "(i)ncrease funding to meet the needs of our children and children around the world (at no additional taxpayer expense) by reducing money spent on the Pentagon for Cold War weapons systems no longer needed to protect America."

I've been having a good E-mail debate with someone about this "proposal", which, as near as I can tell, seeks to wipe out the high-tech advantage the U.S. currently enjoys over potential adversaries. They don't put it that way, of course; they just proposes stopping spending on new weapons systems for the next 15 years to save $60B. What they don't say (or don't recognize) is that to save this money, we couldn't buy any new airframes or ships; by building no new units, while the old ones continue to get older, we'd end up with almost no modern weapons at the end of the 15 year moratorium.

They propose eliminating funding for most of the new systems in the pipeline: the F-22, F-35, C-130J, Virginia class submarines, DD(X), and Ballistic Missile Defense. As justification, they point to a report by Lawrence Korb, who was an Assistant SecDef under President Reagan, and is now with the Center for Defense Information. Since I'm a submarine guy, I've been arguing mostly about the plan to stop building submarines. Here's how Korb "justifies" stopping the building of new submarines:

"The Virginia class submarine was originally intended to combat the next generation of Soviet submarines, vessels that will never be built. The Navy plans to buy 30 of these boats to replace the SSN-688 Los Angeles class submarines at an estimated cost of $94 billion, or over $3 billion for each submarine. To date, the Navy has spent about $25 billion developing and producing the first SSN-774. For 2007, the Navy is asking Congress to appropriate approximately $2.6 billion for one boat and plans to build one vessel per year through 2011 and increase to two per year beginning in 2012. As these Virginia class submarines are commissioned, the Navy plans to retire the existing Los Angeles class submarines early – that is, before their normal service life is reached. However, not only is the Virginia class submarine not cost-ineffective, but it also fails to provide significant new capabilities beyond those of the Los Angeles class. Canceling the Virginia class and refueling the reactors of the Los Angeles class at a cost of $200 million per vessel can save $2.3 billion in 2007 and $62 billion over the next 15 years."

Here's how I answered this "analysis":

Refuelling the Los Angeles class boats would be great (actual refuelling overhaul costs are closer to $400M, but that includes other upgrades -- some info is here; the $200M number is actually "in excess of deactivation costs", so it's valid), but as I said, subs have a hull life of about 33 years. That means that they cannot dive after that amount of time (stresses in the hull make it unsafe; there's no way to anneal the whole hull -- you'd have to cut down on the engineering design factors, and we can imagine what would happen to anyone who signs off on that if a boat ends up going down). By Korb's plan, at the end of 15 years of building no attack submarines (in 2022), we'll have the three Seawolfs, the four Virginias that are fully funded, and 22 Los Angeles class boats, which would be going away at the rate of 2-3 a year -- less than 30 SSNs. (The Korb article is also intentionally misleading in talking about "$25B for the first submarine" -- intentionally misleading in a way that turns me off to rest of their message. Yes, the program cost has been $25B to date, which includes the R&D, plus the first boat, plus another sub that's over 90% done, another over 50% done, another over 25% done, plus long lead item purchases for two other boats. If he has such a strong point, why resort to such hyperbole?) The Center for Defense Information (which, in the past, has opposed every single large weapons program -- I'm sure that's just coincidental) would probably be happy with those numbers, but many other people who have studied the required numbers wouldn't be. The only realistic way to save money, while maintaining our submarine capability, would be to reopen the 688 production line...

As I said earlier, it's not just about cutting new programs, although that's defensible. You still need to build new hulls for the existing weapons systems -- individual airframes and hulls only last a certain amount of time. It's a materials engineering fact, not political wish. And these new copies of old designs will still cost money, so the proposed savings only work if you don't build anything new, which seems to be what the CDI wouldn't mind.

Oh, and regarding the "Soviet submarines that will never be built" -- that's true. The Soviet Union isn't building anything. Russia, on the other hand, apparently has plans for several new classes of submarines. (True, they probably don't have the money to build them, but you never know.)

It was getting late when I wrote that, so I didn't even mention the problem of destroying the industrial base needed to build submarines. If you want to start building them after 15 years, where are you going to find the trained nuclear welders?

Seriously, if someone wants to save money from the submarine construction budget, we can start the 688 production line back up again -- it's still better than anything a potential adversary can throw at us. They'd still be over a billion bucks a pop, though, so you're not looking at that much savings.

I have a feeling that budget savings aren't really what this group is after. I have a feeling that the Congresspeople involved in this project, including Representatives Barbara "Don't Attack Afghanistan" Lee, Dennis "Department of Peace" Kucinich, and Jim "Baghdad" McDermott, wouldn't mind seeing the military reduced to a shell.

Yes, I know this proposal doesn't have a chance in hell of even being looked at seriously, but it's still a good example of the mindset of the anti-military left, and the crap they're foisting on their well-meaning but ill-informed supporters.

Putting It All On The Line

Here they are -- my picks for the NCAA Men's basketball tournament. I'm not sure why, but I'm putting them out for public ridicule (or admiration, depending on how well I do). You'll note that I didn't exactly follow my "formula" for a top 3 finish, but I came pretty close.

In the first round, I picked all the favorites (10 seed NC State is a 1 1/2 point favorite over 7 seed California) except for those teams that were favored by exactly 2 1/2 points in this Wednesday's paper. Why? Well, I'm pretty sure that UNC-Wilmington is going to beat George Washington (they're ranked 14th, but an 8 seed? The seeding committee knows something...) and almost as positive as I can be that Oklahoma can't beat anyone at this point; their last seven games were four 1-point wins over bad teams and three bad losses. I noticed that both of those teams were 2 1/2 point favorites, so in order to make it a "system" I picked against the other team favored by that much -- Indiana.

The teams I have winning Thursday are: Duke, UNC-Wilmington, Syracuse, LSU, San Diego St., Gonzaga, Marquette, UCLA, Washington, Illinois, Wichita St., Tennessee, Nevada, Boston College, UW-Milwaukee, and Florida.

My Friday winners are: West Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina St., Texas, Memphis, Arkansas, Pitt, Kansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan St., UNC, Villanova, Arizona, Georgetown, and Ohio State.

My Sweet Sixteen are the top four seeds in each region, except for Wichita State, who will beat Tennessee (if Winthrop doesn't -- Tennessee doesn't even come close to deserving a 2 seed).

In the Regional Finals, I predict: Duke over Texas, Kansas over UCLA, Connecticut over UNC, and Ohio State over Villanova. I also "predict" Ohio State over Kansas in the Final, just because I want to see if I've been jinxing Kansas for the last 16 years by always picking them to win it all.

Note that I split up the 8/9 games, exactly what I warned against in my earlier post. Had I followed my advice, I would have taken all the 9 seeds. We'll see if I do better than had I followed my "safe" method. I don't think I will...

I'll update this post through the weekend with a status on how I'm doing. My goal is 11 out of 16 teams still alive heading into next week, with no Elite Eight teams out.

Update 0707 17 March: Well, I did OK yesterday -- I was 11 for 16, and had one upset come through (UW-Milwaukee over Oklahoma), but would have been 12 of 16 had I just taken the higher seed. Still, I didn't lose any of my Sweet 16, so I'm in good shape. And if UNC-Wilmington had been able to hold the 18 point 2nd-half lead, or San Diego St had held their 3 point last-minute lead, I'd be looking even better.

Update 2300 17 March: Well, I ended up 23 of 32 for the first round... of the four lower-seeded teams I picked to win, 2 won and 2 lost, so I matched the result I would have had if I had just picked the bettter seed in each game. Of course, having one of my finalists lose in the first round throws my brackets into complete disarray...

Update 2324 18 March: I ended up getting 7 of 8 games right today. I correctly picked the Wichita St. win, but missed the Washington "upset" of Illinois. I already know I won't do as well tomorrow, though, since two of the teams I picked to win on Sunday (Iowa and Kansas) lost on Friday.

Update 0545 20 March: With yesterday's upsets, I got only 4 of the games right -- missed the Ohio State and North Carolina losses in addition to the two where my predicted winner had lost in the first round. So, I ended up meeting my goal of predicting 11 of the Sweet 16, but both teams I had in the championship game are out...