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, June 29, 2007

Passing Of My Hero -- Gene Fluckey

I just received an E-mail from one of Admiral Gene Fluckey's grandchildren, passing on a message from one of RADM Fluckey's shipmates aboard USS Barb (SS 220):

Dear Barb Shipmates and Friends

It is my very sad duty to advise that our beloved skipper, Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey, went on Eternal Patrol at 11:45PM EDT 28 June 2007. He was in the Hospice Unit at Anne Arundel Hospital, Annapolis MD.
He will be cremated and inurned in the Columbarium at the Naval Academy. A service will be held at the Naval Academy Chapel with inurnment following, at a later date,estimated at least four weeks. All will be advised when arrangements are complete.

He is at Peace.
Here's what I wrote about him last year, when it was clear his health was starting to fail. I haven't seen anything in the news to confirm this yet (other than this post from Rontini, which is pretty good confirmation), but the nature of the E-mail (and the fact that the writer of said E-mail is listed in Thunder Below as one of Admiral Fluckey's shipmates) convinced me that I should share this sad yet ultimately uplifting news with Gene's submarine brothers. I know in my heart that he truly is now at peace. Sailor, Rest Your Oar.
Update 1747 29 June: Navy Times has a report on the passing of Admiral Fluckey.

Light Blogging Through The 4th

Unless something big comes up in the world of submarines, expect light blogging through the middle of next week as I head back to the land of the dial-up Internet connection in semi-rural Nebraska. Feel free to use the comments for whatever you want.

From here in the Boise area, have a great Fourth of July, everyone!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Hello. My Name Is Harry Potter. You Killed My Father. Prepare To Die."

A few days back, the web reporter for the local newspaper asked readers to submit their ideas on what they think will happen in the seventh and last Harry Potter book when it comes out next month.

Our family got involved in Pottermania back when the third book came out, and we've all been hooked ever since -- buying multiple copies at midnight for the last three books, for example. Needless to say, we're all very excited about the conclusion of the series, and we have many different opinions on how the book will turn out.

In the past, I've been (somewhat jokingly) part of the "Dumbledore Lives!" crowd (using the assumption that Dumbledore = Aslan = Gandalf, and both Aslan and Gandalf came back to life). The truth is, I've accepted the fact that Dumbledore is dead (based on J. K. Rowling's explicit statement), but one thing I'm very sure of is that Dumbledore's plan is still playing out, and that Snape is actually still opposed to Voldemort. The theory I like best (I'm assuming here that those still reading have read the 6th book) is that Dumbledore's burned hand was actually due to a curse put on the horcrux he recovered prior to the book starting, and this curse actually "killed" him; somehow he was able to get back to Snape, who was able to "put a stopper in death" (like he said he could when he first met the students in the 1st book) -- but only for a short time. Since Dumbledore knew he was going to die, he and Snape came up with a new plan that would get Snape completely inside the Voldemort organization, and make Harry completely hate Snape -- this is important because Voldemort can read Harry's mind easily, and would suspect Snape if Harry didn't hate him.

I don't know how the "final battle" will turn out (I'm assuming it will end with Voldemort's death and Harry's survival -- these are children's books after all), but there's one thing I know -- if Neville isn't the one to give Bellatrix LeStrange her just desserts, then the whole series has no point.

J. K. Rowling has said that the last word in the last book will be "scar". One of the favorite activities my family enjoys is coming up with the worst possible last line for the series. An example: "As Hermione looked lovingly at Draco, she continued shoveling dirt into Harry's grave, with the last thing she covered being his scar." In the comments, feel free to contribute your own theories or favorite possible "last line".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More News From The Tip Of The Spear

Submarines deployed to the Fifth and Seventh Fleet OpAreas continue to excel at that under-appreciated but important part of submarining -- Allied relations. Here are a couple of recent stories of boats and crews doing good:

USS San Juan (SSN 751) In Bahrain
On 15 June 2007, USS SAN JUAN hosted naval liaison officers for lunch and a tour while inport BAHRAIN. CDR Markus Wetekamp and CDR Michael Knafla from Germany , LCDR Bo Albertsen from Denmark, CDR Paul MacNeill from Canada, and CDR Clay Riales from the United States toured the submarine and received an overview of the ship's capabilities.
Following the tour, the Commanding Officer dined with the visiting officers in the wardroom. The visit provided the visiting officers the chance to better understand the operations of the submarine as well an opportunity for crew members of the SAN JUAN to interact with and share ideas from officers of foreign navies.
Here's a picture of the visit:

There's something unique and... well, depressing... about Manama Harbor.

USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) In Brisbane
CDR Mike Tesar, Commanding Officer USS CHEYENNE hosts Australian VIPs during their port visit to Brisbane on 14 June 2007. The evening included a tour of the submarine and a gourmet four-course meal, followed by presentation of gifts to the official guests. Guest list included members from the Royal Australian Navy, Australian American Association, Australian Submarine Association, and the American Legion.
The event was a huge success and showcased the expertise of CHEYENNE's Culinary Specialist division who catered the event. "USS CHEYENNE won the 2007 Ney Award for excellence in food service and tonight they had a chance to show off their skills," said CDR Tesar as he congratulated his crew for a job well done.
Captain Tesar was one of my fellow JOs on USS Topeka (SSN 754) back in the early 90s, so I always like to see how he's doing on his command tour. Here are a couple pictures from the visit; the first one shows CDR Tesar giving a tour topside:

The last one shows LCDR Axel Spens, Cheyenne's XO, exchanging dolphins with Mr. Don Currell, Vice President of the Australian Submarine Association Queensland Branch:

I only got to exchange dolphins once (with a Japanese submarine officer) but I think it's one of the greatest traditions we have.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

William Arkin Dips His Toe Into Sub Waters Again

Back in early 2006, Washington Post National and Homeland Security writer William Arkin (best known in the mil-blogosphere for his recent "the troops have obscene amenities" article) wrote about USS Virginia's initial deployment to SOUTHCOM; his story had so many errors that he was forced to devote another column to correcting them a few days later. (My responses to those articles can be found here and here.)

He's venturing back into the submarine waters again with today's post, based on an E-mail he received from an alleged Trident JO with a bad attitude who was responding to his post earlier this month expressing horror at the SSGN conversion program. (That first post this month managed to make it all the way past the first comma before providing a factual error, saying their are five Tridents in the SSGN conversion process instead of four.)

For today's post, here's some of what the alleged submarine officer wrote:

Submarines, however, having such a smaller number of people, are in a bit of an internal quagmire as they attempt to figure out how they can be relevant in a post cold war world.
The answer is really, that they can't be. Submarines, in this day and age have little to no practical use. I've been an officer aboard a Trident Class submarine for about two years, and can tell you that I have done nothing of value to this nation or its taxpayers in this time. In some esoteric sense, you could say that strategic deterrence is necessary, but in actual fact, the imminent nuclear threat doesn't REALLY exist anymore, and any idea that the USA would respond to a nuclear terrorist attack with a nuclear strike is at best COMPLETELY frightening to any level headed person. I also think it's highly unlikely, even with the current administration.
Further, the fast attack submarine community is at a loss due to the fact that there is no more cold war country producing similarly classed submarines to track and trace anymore. The threat just doesn't exist. The SSGN is an attempt by the submarine community to re-establish its relevance. Personally, I acknowledge the value of maintaining a submarine community for the sake of not losing the proficiency (submarining is highly specialized work, and developing it again from the ground up in 10-20 years would not be to nation's advantage), I really think that the current nuclear submarine community is perhaps the largest single waste of money in the military. I literally do nothing but train for inspections, go out to sea, wait for the supposed end of the world due to completely laughable scenarios as seen in your blog, and come home. We're far too afraid of terrorist attacks to even let the people that work aboard the sub to park within 2 miles.... 2 MILES of the submarines, showing a complete sense of irrational fear, as well a complete disregard for the quality of life of the individual sailors. It's infuriating...
The first thing I noticed was that he called his boat a "Trident-class submarine". I mentioned in Arkin's comments that this shows that he might not be a real submarine officer, since he made the simple mistake of not saying his sub belongs to the "Ohio-class". Based on the whining that goes on later in the E-mail (bolded above), I really don't have any doubt that the writer is at least a Sailor on an SSBN -- possibly he's a Petty Officer, and Arkin just shortened that to "officer".

Regarding the points the alleged officer makes about the Sub Force looking for a mission in the post-Cold War world, there's no doubt that we're trying to find a way to convince the public that we're still relevant -- since all the GWOT missions (like our Cold War missions) are classified, we can't go out and trumpet our successes like other branches can. Based on this E-mail, though, we might want to think about giving the Trident crews some briefings on some of our SSN missions, if for no other reason that to let them know that there's light at the end of the tunnel for their next sea tour (if they can get on a sea-going SSN, that is).

Arkin concludes with some thoughts that I really can't quibble with:
Before 9/11, I would have never thought the military needed more Trident submarines. Now, however, I see their value: Quietly patrolling, threatening no one directly, occupying no one's soil, they help to keep order. And they send a powerful message that says we all have no choice but to play by certain rules and respect each other.
I would add that the existence of our submarine-based nuclear deterrent is what really tells people who would do us harm that they can't ever really "win" a war against the U.S. -- if we chose to bring all of our power to bear. They continue to exist only because of our restraint, and if they do something to make us lose our patience, their fate will be horrifying and final.

Monday, June 25, 2007

'Mighty' Movie Reviews: "Evan Almighty" And "A Mighty Heart"

SubBasket and I saw two movies this weekend -- "A Mighty Heart" on Friday night with our daughter, and "Evan Almighty" on Saturday afternoon with our boys. While they're clearly intended for different audiences, I felt I didn't waste my money seeing either one of them.

"A Mighty Heart" tells the story of the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and murder through the eye of his wife. While people are talking up Angelina Jolie for an Oscar, I thought that she should only deserve it if she was supposed to be playing an emotionless character for 99% of the movie. What I liked about the film is that I think it did a good job of portraying Karachi, Pakistan, the way I always thought the city would look like. In other words, you won't see a lot of people who see the movie saying, "Hey, let's vacation on the Pakistani coast this year." It's hard for a movie to keep the suspense up when you know how it's going to end, and this one didn't really do a very good job of it. But, because of the intensity and assumed accuracy of the "travelogue from hell" aspect of the film, I give it three kidnapping-suspects-hanging-from-the-ceiling out of five.

There's been a bit of controversy regarding "Evan Almighty" from the Hollywood chattering classes. The incomparable ninme provides a link to a review by a Hollywood blogger who claims the movie has a "Christian message" -- even though Jesus isn't mentioned once in the film! I didn't really like "Bruce Almighty" (I'm not a big Jim Carrey fan, except for his In Living Color stuff), so I was prepared to not like this film (even though I really do like Steve Carell). In the end, I was pleasantly surprised -- it was a whole lot funnier than Shrek 3 (which I recognize isn't saying very much). As long as you go in with moderate expectations, and enjoy funnyanimals who poop all over people and hit them in the crotch, you'll like this movie OK. I give it three spitting llamas out of five.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Idaho Astronauts In The News

Astronaut Steven Swanson, who flew on the recently-completed Atlantis mission, has parents here in the Boise area; they flew to Florida to welcome him home, but missed out on the landing when weather diverted the shuttle to California.

In August, Idaho will really be in the news when Teacher in Space Barbara Morgan flies on Endeavour during STS-118. This will be especially exciting for our family, because Mrs. Morgan was one of my wife's teachers in McCall, Idaho, back in the '70s. She'll be taking all of Idaho into space with her when she blasts off, and we know she'll do great!

Friday, June 22, 2007

USS Minneapolis-St. Paul Inactivated

USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708) was inactivated today in a ceremony in Norfolk. Eleven Twelve of the boat's 12 13 COs were there:

It's always a bittersweet moment when a boat ends her active service. For those of us, like me, who know that ships have "souls" (made up of all the blood, sweat, and tears of the men who have served on her) it's nice to know that a boat that has served honorably and well can get some well-deserved rest.

Update 2156 24 June: Corrected to update the number of COs present; I had fallen for the classic blunder of believing the Navy NewsStand text that said 11 of 12 former COs were there, and assumed those were in addition to the current one.

Also, the MSP Family Support Group has a photo website that includes pictures the families took of the inactivation ceremony; here's one of them:

The other family photos of the inactivation ceremony are here.

The 'Phib Speaks Truth To -- Well, Just About Everyone

CDR Salamander's been on a roll this week! If you haven't been visting out his site daily, check out these recent posts that really stood out:

Too Many People On Shore Duty (check out the comments too)

Oooooo, More Training Opportunities (submarine-related discussion on how the Venezuelans have agreed to provide us with all the diesel ASW training well need in the next decade -- if they'll even be able to get their planned new boats to sea)

The Collaborators (more make-work BS for professional shore duty Sailors)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The (Couch) Boys Of Summer

Today marks the official beginning of summer --the solstice occurs at 1806 UTC. When I was growing up, this was always one of my favorite days of the year; I lived for summer. I grew up on a farm, so I'd be outside as much as I could -- exploring the pasture, diving into the swimming holes, doing chores -- and I knew I'd never give up my love of summer and the outdoors.

Fast forward 30 years or so. Now summer means that the house will always be too warm and sticky, and it's often too hot to open the windows at night, so that means a higher electrical bill to keep the A/C running. I like fall a lot better; the new TV shows are on, there's football to watch, and I can sleep comfortably at night.

So what happened to the boy to make him such a curmudgeony middle-age man? I'm not sure; I always used to wonder why my parents didn't want to spend all their time in the water when we were at the beach -- now my kids have a hard time getting me into the pool at all. Living here in Idaho, it seems like just about everyone loves camping, or hunting, or biking, or skiiing, or some other outdoor activity. Not me -- I figured out one day that I'd probably charge $500/day for someone to make me go camping in the mountains. Skiing? $60/hour, including transportation time there and back. That's not to mean I haven't done outdoors stuff as an adult -- I took my kids camping in order to let them decide for themselves if they liked it or not. Now that I've done that, I figure I shouldn't have to do anything that I find unenjoyable if I don't have to.

There was an article in the paper today about how this generation of kids could become the first "indoors generation". I can see their point -- there are a lot more inside entertainment options than there were even 20 years ago. (Speaking of indoors entertainment -- and completely off-topic -- I got a Super Mario 64 cartridge for my old N64 system for Father's Day. My youngest son already beat the game, but I'm plodding along more slowly; it's been several years since I too beat Bowser. For those who forgot just how revolutionary and good that game was, check out this video of a guy who beat the game in 80 minutes when you have the time.)

So is it bad for people to spend most of their time indoors? Almost certainly. Do I plan on changing my ways? Almost certainly not. I like who I am, and when people make snide comments about how sedentary people have lots of health concerns, I'll smugly think about how I never missed a day of work because of ailments like "road rash". This is one of those things where I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about the importance of getting outside and having fun -- I'm just saying I don't plan on doing it myself. There's an old BNL song, "Pinch Me", that has a verse that pretty much describes my perfect summer afternoon:
It's the perfect time of day
To throw all your cares away
Put the sprinkler on the lawn
And run through with my gym shorts on.
Take a drink right from the hose
And change into some drier clothes
Climb the stairs up to my room
Sleep away the afternoon.
(Before you say anything, yes I know the song is making fun of this lifestyle choice. I don't care.)

"But, Bubblehead," you might say, "what about impressionable children who might be reading your blog and might want to emulate you." To those children, I say this: get outside and pull some weeds and rocks out of your Mom's garden -- you'll be glad you did. Wake me up when you're done, and we'll watch some TV.

The Joys Of Being Parents Of Teenagers

So tonight, my youngest son is trying to get to sleep, when he hears a car loudly peeling away from in front of our house. He gets up to see what's going on, and finds -- this:

(Oldest son pictured) It was a pretty thorough job of TP'ing -- probably 10 6 rolls; here's another angle:

It's lucky we found it tonight, since our sprinklers turn on before any of us go to work in the morning. At first, we wondered which of our three teenagers might be the target of the TPing; then we found a clue in the yard:

We assume that "HALO" indicates not that it was disgruntled California Angels fans, but rather the oldest son's video game-playing buddies. Just another example of how video games are warping the minds of America's youth! After all, did any of us do this to our friends in the days before video games?

Update 0718 21 June: Upon overnight reflection, I reduced the estimated number of rolls used from 10 to 6. TP is like lube oil -- when it's all over the place, the amount you think you're seeing is always overestimated.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Most Commercials Aren't Aimed At Engineering Types

Here in the Boise area, there are these radio commercials for a central vacuum company that feature a kind of clueless dad (nowadays, what other type of dad is there in popular culture?) who is always wondering what he could do with his powerful central vac if he were to "reverse the polarity". (These things include launching things into the air, blowing out drain clogs, etc.)

Most people, when they hear that, are probably thinking something like "well, I guess the vacuum must be pretty powerful; maybe it'd be useful in my house to pick up dirt." Engineering types, though, don't react that way. We hear a commercial like the most recent one this company has out (where the dumb dad is going to "reverse the polarity" and attach it to his wife's SUV, so the air blowing out will push the car along and save gas) and we start thinking, "Wait, a vacuum pump is like any other centrifugal pump, it's built to work most efficiently in one direction. Why not just put it on the way it's designed and pull the van along by sucking air in?" We also think, "You're going to have a lot of losses in the alternator, converting gas to rotational motion of the engine to electricity. Combined with the inefficiency of the reversed vacuum motor, they're going to end up using more gas."

Bottom line, if companies want to advertise to engineering types, they need to get smarter ads. Or really attractive spokespeople -- those work too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hootie & The Blowfish Coming To Groton!

It hasn't been well publicized on the 'net, but it looks like Hootie & the Blowfish are going to be performing a free show at SubFest this year at Submarine Base New London! The July 4 show is listed on the Hootie web site here, and in the Subase MWR newsletter here.

For those lucky enough to be in the Groton area (now there's a phrase you don't hear everyday) you won't want to miss out on the show. My family and I saw them at the Orange County Fair back in 2004 (free tickets from the MWR in San Diego) and it was one of the best concerts we've ever seen. In the much more intimate setting they have at Subase, it should be really good.

I'm assuming the base will be open to civilians again like it was last year. For those who missed it, check out the comments to my post about last year's SubFest to relive the "Resolved: It's a pain in the ass to have all the townies tromping around on the base" debate.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Bleg For A Good Cause

I know that most of my readers also really enjoy The Sub Report -- the 'net's best collection of submarine news and features. Eric spends a lot of time compiling the links and information that allow us to stay up-to-date with submarines in the news. We've all benefitted from Eric's labor of love, and now we have the chance to pay him back just a little.

Eric's family dog, Tuxy, is going through some tough medical issues. Coming so soon after the loss of their other family dog, the vet bills have been quite high.

Eric's wife, Denise, has put together a website -- Save Tuxy -- for those who'd like to help. Even a few dollars can help a fellow Submariner and his loved ones defray this unexpected expense for a beloved member of their family. Please help if you can.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

USS Nebraska Blue Crew Visits Nebraska

[Intel Source: The Sub Report] Speaking of small town parades, it seems some of the crew of USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) enjoyed themselves recently at the Nebraskaland Days Parade in North Platte, NE. Excerpt:

The appearance of crewmembers of the USS Nebraska drew loud cheers and applause from the crowd. Prior to the parade, Governor Dave Heineman met with the sailors, and accepted a plaque and hat from Commander Matt Colburn.
“You are part of Nebraska,” Heineman said. “We are grateful for your service.”
Colburn and other members of the crew have attended the Frontier Review, the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, and Lunch with the Wild Bunch.
“People in North Platte have treated us like family,” Colburn said. “It has all been a wonderful experience.”
CDR Colburn is the CO of the Nebraska's Blue Crew. As I've said before, the USS Nebraska has just about the best continuing relationship with her namesake I've ever heard of, and it's nice to see the crew being able to interact in such a positive way with the people of my native state.

(Speaking of Nebraska being my native state, I'll be heading there at the end of the month for a short visit, so if there are any submariners in Lincoln who'd like to meet up, drop me an E-mail.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Small Town Summer Parade: An American Tradition

Last night, SubBasket and I went to the parade for the Meridian Dairy Days celebration. I've got some pictures in the extended entry -- it was a lot of fun. While Meridian, Idaho, isn't really a "small town" anymore (it had about 5,000 people in 1980, 35,000 in 2000, and over 60,000 today), the parade had a real neighborly feel to it. For a community that now exports commuters instead of milk, it's nice to see the town's heritage still being celebrated.

That being said -- on to the pictures!

As with all small town parades, this one began with an Honor Guard for the flags:

It was nice to see almost all of the people stand up as the Flag passed, with the men removing their hats. I don't remember seeing that as much in big towns.

Since this was a parade honoring the dairy industry, there were cows:

...and people dressed like cows:

...and cars and trucks dressed like cows:

As is required in all small town parades, there was a line of convertibles carrying pretty young women:

...and pretty slightly-older women wearing nice red hats:

The crowd cheered for everyone, even "The Walking Spine" put together by a local chiropractor:

They especially cheered for the military, both past:

...and present:

Of course, since all politics is local, we had politicians there. Here's my State Senator, Shirley Nancy McKague:

Although I'm sure she's a very nice woman, she also seems to be a somewhat rabid black helicopter conspiracy theorist, so I really hope someone runs against her next year. While there aren't any Democrats who actually hold office here in Meridian, some local Democrats did show up to a polite welcome:

Finally, as with all small town parades, there were lots of horses:

And because of the horses, bringing up the rear of the parade -- last but most certainly not least -- was this team of dedicated volunteers:

One of the of the most important measures of success of a small town parade is how much SWAG the average person is able to bring home; here's what we got:

Next year, we're bringing our cute little nephew, and I bet our candy haul will increase exponentially! All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend a summer Friday evening, and I hope that if your town has a parade, you'll head out and enjoy it.

Bell-ringer 1805 17 June: Edited to correct the first name of my State Senator.

Friday, June 15, 2007

USS Seawolf Media Availability

USS Seawolf (SSN 21) is leaving her birthplace of Groton for the West Coast this morning, and for her last full day in Groton, the Navy had her crew do a media availability. While those things generally suck for the crew, they give those of us not in Groton a chance to see what the boat looks like -- or it would if the camera operator for the Norwich Bulletin had realized that they didn't have to continually keep their cameras zoomed in on the face of the crew member who was talking. (Go to this article in the Bulletin and check out the Quicktime videos on the bottom right of the page -- you can still see some fleeting glances of the ship, which if you've never been on a Seawolf, should be pretty cool.)

The article in the Bulletin did have some good pictures, though -- including these ones of the SCP and of an open torpedo tube:

In the photo of the torpedo tube, you can see the insert that allows the huge 26" tube to hold the standard 21" weapons. (The internal Signal Ejectors are the same way -- bigger than what other boats have, so they need an insert to fit the standard rounds.) Sailors on Seawolf-class boats normally have pretty much everything bigger than other submarine Sailors -- especially those on the Virginia-class subs.

And yes, I'm talking about exactly what you think I'm talking about. Anyone have a problem with that?

Update 2321 15 June: It looks like she got underway on schedule; here's a shot of her heading past downtown New London for the last time in a long while:

Huge Scandal! Must Credit Bubblehead!

The Navy NewsStand has a couple of pictures (here and here) of one of those events that makes being on a submarine in-port a good deal -- some famous athletes, including the legendary L. C. Greenwood, visiting USS Albany (SSN 753).

So what's scandalous about that? Well, check out one of the the pictures:

"But, Bubblehead, that picture doesn't look scandalous," you're probably saying. It's not, huh? Check out the caption:

Lt. Fredrick Wissen, engineering officer USS Albany (SSN 753) gets autographs from the legendary L.C. Greenwood, a former star of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Greenwood toured Albany as part of Summerfest 2007 hosted by Naval Station Norfolk's Morale Welfare and Recreation.
Now, I'm personally always interested to see a submarine Engineer get The Good Deal, so I was excited for LT Wissen. I figured he must have just relieved as Eng, since he still had railroad tracks on (for the non-submariners out there, submarine Engineers get an automatic "spot promotion" to O-4 just because they're so darned good.) I downloaded the hi-res version of the picture, and as I was looking for interesting or humorous items in the photo I noticed something strange about LT Wissen's nametag. When I zoomed in, I was shocked at what I found:

Do you see the problem now? Clearly printed right under the Lieutenant's name you can clearly see the beginning of the words "Combat Systems". He apparently isn't really the Eng at all! The real Eng is probably back aft supervising some dumb evolution while the CSO is up there hob-knobbing with the rich and famous. How unfair is that?

So why would Navy NewsStand attempt to mislead us like that? Well, one might say that this was simply an innocent mistake, but is that really the most likely explanation? If you listen to progressives, we know that President Bush is responsible for all evil in the world, and routinely orders the military to lie. I'm guessing that the evil Karl Rove hacked into the Navy NewsStand server and changed the text for his own nefarious purposes, on President Bush's orders. Why did he do it? Probably to distract attention from whatever scandal they're trying to distract attention from today.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

USS Michigan Back On The Job

The third Ohio-class boat to complete conversion to an SSGN configuration, USS Michigan (SSGN 727), had her "return to service" ceremony on Tuesday. Here's a picture of the crew "re-manning" the ship:

A "Return To Service" is apparently something like a christening for a newcon boat -- the sub still has all of her sea trials and certs to do before she can start doing actual patrols or deployments:
The Michigan and its 154-member crew -- it will eventually have two crews operating on rotating schedules -- now begin certification and testing that can last more than a year before it will be available for deployment, said Lt. Kyle Raines, a Navy spokesman.
Still, it's probably nice for the crew to see the light at the end of the shipyard tunnel.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Submarines Score Phat Bling

The Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award goes each year to the most superior Atlantic and Pacific Fleet ship and crew in "intra-type battle efficiency". The recipients for 2006? Two submarines. From the ALNAV announcing the winners:
Selection for this award reflects the professionalism and dedication of these two crews. USS Seawolf (SSN 21) delivered exceptional operational performance as the first of her class to deploy to the Pacific area of responsibility, demonstrating "around the world" deployability while maintaining exceptional material readiness. USS Tucson (SSN 770) exhibited impressive operational acumen during several "first ever" missions and acted as an ambassador for the United States Navy through extensive crew exchange events with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
While it might appear that this would be the time to grab the nearest skimmer and rub his (or her) face in the fact that two submarines won an award with "battleship" in the name, and therefore this proves that submarines are clearly better than targets, it should be noted that, traditionally, each general ship type gets this award in their "own" year. The list of winners (bottom of this Wiki) shows that two submarines also won in 2001... and 1996... and 1991... and 1986... and 1981... and 1976... you can kind of see a trend.

Still, this is a great accomplishment for the crews of the Seawolf and Tucson, and I'm sure they'll put the windfall for their rec funds to good use.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Responsibilities Of Editorial Page Editors

I'm throwing this question out for debate: what are the duties of newspaper editorial page editors when it comes to pointing out factual mistakes in Letters to the Editor? Do they have any moral responsiblities at all, as long as they have a statement that letters don't reflect their views, and they print later letters that point out the errors? Or should they put in an "Editor's Note" after clearly false claims stating that the writer is in error? What do you think?

I got thinking about this when reading the letters in yesterday's Idaho Statesman, and the top letter in this group made the "Barack Obama is a Muslim and went to a Wahabbi school" claim that's been thoroughly debunked. (Note: While I'm not supporting Sen. Obama for President under any conceivable circumstances, I do support the truth.)

Update 0827 13 June: I really appreciate Kevin Richert, the Idaho Statesman's Editorial Page editor, stopping by to offer his thoughts. (Truth be told, I appreciate all my commenters.) DFO from Huckleberries Online (on Spokane's Spokesman-Review website) opened up a parallel discussion over at his place, and offers his newpaper's policy on obvious LTTE errors:
We won't knowingly print a letter to the editor that contains false information. I've received calls from our letters editor asking me about claims made in Idaho letters. Occasionally, misinformation does slip through, however. Of course, many readers mistake opinion for fact. Also, we have kicked out letter writers who plagiarize other material.
I know the Statesman calls the writer of each LTTE to confirm that they actually submitted it. I'd like to see them at least inform the writers of obvious falsehoods that their letter contains a clear error, and ask them if they'd like to change it before they get flamed. Some people might actually not know that they have bad data; others, of course, are intentionally putting out disinformation for political or other reasons.

Navy Wife Radio On The 'Net Tonight

Wendy and Marie will be interviewing author Sarah Smiley (of "Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife" fame) tonight at 21oo EDT on their internet radio channel. Sounds like it'll be a lot of fun. (And, if you're like me and you'll be away from the computer then, you can always listen anytime in their archives.)

Joe Buff On The Nuke Vs. Diesel Debate

Submarine author Joe Buff has a good discussion up at (a re-print of an article the originally appeared in USNI's Proceedings, whose current issue features a spotlight on submarine warfare) on the question of whether or not the U.S. should build diesel submarines. Some excerpts:
Proponents of acquiring diesel subs argue that because an SSI is smaller and requires less sea clearance than a nuclear boat, it can penetrate far closer to shore without risk of bumping its nose, dragging its tail, or breaking the surface unintentionally. In reality, however, the differences aren’t that great. The typical SSGN is only about 25 feet higher than a diesel-propelled SSI, and for the Virginia-class SSN the disparity is only some 15 feet. Moreover, the question of how much clearance is acceptable for a particular class of sub depends more on a vessel’s ship-handling and stability than on the size of the boat itself. Submariners say the key to operating safely in littoral areas with a large sub is simply to move slowly.
What is more, the ability of nuclear boats to operate closer to shore can be improved by equipping them with minisized unmanned undersea vehicles or autonomous undersea vehicles (UUVs or AUVs). They can be used as remote robot sensor probes, enabling crew members to scout ahead and combine their survey of on-the-spot conditions with satellite data on local sea characteristics.
Contentions that nuclear-powered subs are less maneuverable than diesels are similarly flawed. Virginia-class subs are equipped with a new computer-controlled autopilot and hovering system that enables them to maintain a specific depth to within one-tenth of a foot and to remain perfectly level in any but the roughest seas. Thus, they can penetrate close to shore wherever the contours of the sea floor permit. Ohio-class SSGNs -- onetime SSBNs that have been converted into SSGNs -- also are very stable. In their former incarnations, they had to be able to fire sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) over thousands of miles with pinpoint accuracy and recover quickly from each jolt to be ready for another possible launch. As the Ohio-class subs are overhauled, they receive hovering and trim systems enhancements...
...It is also a misconception that submerged, non-snorkeling SSIs can run at their top speeds for long periods. When a diesel submarine accelerates to sprint speed, it draws power from its regular batteries. Once the batteries go flat, the AIP equipment of an SSI’s propulsion system permits cruising at only a few knots. If the captain wants to use the AIP system to recharge his batteries, his speed is even more restricted for quite some time. The reality is that it limits the range of the SSI, making it easier for an enemy nuclear sub to pursue and destroy the diesel. If the pursuing nuclear boat gets into trouble, its superior mobility and its wider array of available countermeasures (and burgeoning arsenal of “stand-and-fight” weapons such as sub-launched anti-air Sidewinders and anti-torpedo torpedoes) will enable it to defend itself if necessary, withdraw to deep water and later repenetrate the littoral area at a more opportune time. While an SSI must use its fuels carefully and recharge its batteries frequently, a nuclear boat can recharge its minivehicles (its UUVs and AUVs) indefinitely.
Read the whole thing. (You can also read Joe's other essays here.) I agree with Joe that lowering ourselves to the technology level of our potential adversaries isn't a smart move, but I would add one thing. Joe says that diesel subs can be built for 3 to 5 times less that nuke boats, but I'm thinking that when you add in all the SubSafe and fancy coner gear that U.S. subs really can't do without, you'll find that an American diesel boat would come in costing more than half of what a Virginia costs. And personally, I'd rather have one SSN than two AIP diesel boats if I was in a fight -- speed is life.

Bell-ringer 1115 12 June: Jim C. wrote more about this topic back in November.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I Can't Believe Seawolf Is Almost 10 Years Old

The Norwich Bulletin had an article today about how USS Seawolf (SSN 21) is leaving Groton for a homeport change to Bangor on Friday. (It's part of a move of SSN assets from the Atlantic to the Pacific.) The first thing I thought was: "Seawolf can't be 10 years old! I was just riding her for Alpha Trials a couple years ago."

Alas, it's true. Seawolf was commissioned 10 years ago next month. How time flies...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Navy Tidbits From Around The 'Net

Saw some interesting Navy-related stories as I was surfing around my normal places on the web:

1) CNO to become CJCS: ADM Mike Mullen will be nominated to relieve GEN Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. The linked Navy NewsStand article is surprisingly candid in giving the reason GEN Pace isn't being nominated for the traditional second 2-year term:

Gates said he intended to renominate Pace and Giambastiani but after consulting with senators of both parties came to the following conclusions:
"Because General Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future,” Gates said.
He said the confirmation process would have the possibility of being quite contentious.
“I am no stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink from them,” Gates said. “However, I have decided at this moment in our history the nation, our men and women in uniform, and General Pace himself would not be well-served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
Pace will continue to serve as chairman until his term ends Sept. 30. He is the first Marine to hold the position.
I just finished State of Denial, by Bob Woodward. While it's good to take everything in the book with a grain of salt, I believed the description of GEN Pace as "Rumsfeld's yes man", and I think it's good Sec. Gates gets a chance to put someone else in the job. That we'll now have Navy guys in the two most important slots (CJCS and CENTCOM) can only be good for the Navy, I figure.

2) Associate Degree Requirement for E-8 Scrapped: You know when you see some new initiative come out, and you know it just isn't going to work? (Examples are ADM Boorda's "Get Rid Of Unnecessary Paperwork and Inspections" program and the pre-9/11 "Pay Huge Amounts of Money to Sailors Who Get Sent to Sea Too Much" ITEMPO cluster.) When I heard about the "Chiefs have to have an associate's degree to get promoted to Senior Chief" requirement when it came out a couple of years ago, I knew that it would run headlong into reality before the first guy was denied a promotion:

“Times have changed since we developed the requirement two years ago,” said Mullen. “We still view education as exceptionally valuable for our senior enlisted force. But we realize that in light of the challenges Sailors face in today’s dynamic security environment, not everyone has the same opportunity to pursue an associate degree.”
Nearly nine months of analysis resulted in a set of statistics CNO and the master chief petty officer of the Navy determined too detrimental to the career opportunities of a significant number of chief petty officers. If the policy were to remain in effect, fully 35 percent of the chiefs eligible for advancement in fiscal year 2011 would be at extreme risk of not meeting the requirement.
“That 35 percent represented our most sea-intensive and GWOT ratings,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe R. Campa Jr. “This places them at an unacceptable disadvantage in competing for advancement. Now, more than ever, it is important that we advance our people based on leadership and their commitment to the success of the men and women they lead.”
I'm just glad they did it now instead of waiting until 2010.

3) USS Kidd (DDG 100) Commissioned: The 50th Burke-class destroyer was commissioned on Saturday night. I was kind of surprised to see Rep. Ron "We Deserved 9/11" Paul as the principle speaker -- I guess the libertarians out there won't be able to claim that the Administration is trying to marginalize Rep. Paul by not letting him speak in public.

4) Not really Navy, but the Disneyland Submarine ride (now called the "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage") officially opens tomorrow!

5) Sub-blogger Chapomatic has a new addition to the family. Head on over and wish him well.

6) Lastly, but locally, Marv Hagedorn, my newest Idaho House Representative (he's a retired Navy officer) has a blog up that conservatives will love. Plus, he allows comments!

Update 0743 11 June: Almost forgot, submariner VADM Jeffrey Fowler just took over at the Naval Academy.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

HMS Astute Launch Video

The British MoD posted a video of the launching of HMS Astute yesterday on YouTube; check it out:

Friday, June 08, 2007

HMS Astute Christening

The Sub Report has lots of links to today's christening of the newest Brit SSN, HMS Astute. (They're not calling it a "christening", though -- it's a "launch and naming".) The Duchess of Cornwall will be doing the honors -- I suppose that's kind of like having the Vice President's wife as the ship's sponsor.

I was interested in a chart on the manufacturer's web page comparing HMS Astute to the Royal Navy's first submarine (named Holland, like ours). The Brits list a higher top speed for their SSN -- 29 knots, as opposed to the "faster than 25 knots" we acknowledge. But, for some reason, they list range as only "7,000 nautical miles (at economical speed)". I'm assuming that's just left over from their diesel boat pages, and they really don't have such a crappy core (as this "Fascinating Facts" page seems to confirm -- it says it's a life-of-the-ship reactor core).

Here's hoping the ceremony goes as planned, and no royalty slips and falls into the water.

Update 0612 08 June: The ceremony apparently went well. The Duchess used a crew-brewed bottle of beer to seal the naming instead of champagne; this is supposedly traditional at the BAE shipyard.

Update 1724 08 June: Here are some pictures of the ceremony.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

...And The "Most Effective Use Of A Soup & Salad Bar As A Podium Award" Goes To...

... the COMNAVSUBFOR Force Master Chief during his recent talk to Chiefs and JOs aboard USS Springfield (SSN 761):

As usual, I really like looking at the hi-res versions of these pictures to see what's interesting on each boat's Crew's Mess. In this one, I noticed that 1) the JOs at the forward portside table don't seem to be paying attention as intently as the CPOs in the audience, and 2) the sub seems to have an actual replica Springfield rifle hanging from the overhead. I'm assuming the rifle comes down before they try any angles and dangles.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Congressman Bill Sali And Public Relations

There's an interesting article in today's Idaho Statesman about the problems our Congressman, Bill Sali, has had with his district director. While his staff is making all the right sounds about how the former state senator leaving after only five months is no big deal, it's fairly clear there's something else there. Congressman Sali himself apparently refused to be interviewed for the story; it's not like a Congressman should want to get his views out in the biggest newspaper in his district or anything. (/sarcasm)

Apparently, he and his remaining staff also don't feel the need to respond to questions submitted by constituents. Back in April, Adam challenged Idaho bloggers who don't support Bill Sali's policies to actually ask him to explain some of his seemingly inexplicable votes. I took him up on his challenge, and sent an E-mail to Congressman Sali through his website asking some questions. The website said I'd get a response in 2-6 weeks.

Well, it's been six weeks, and still no response. I guess I shouldn't be surprised; he didn't answer any of my questions during the campaign either, and he seems to be going out of his way to avoid any meaningful interaction with those who may oppose him (like he did during the campaign). I suppose it's time for a Letter to the Editor and see if that breaks anything loose.

Luckily, we in Idaho will have someone else to support for this seat in 2008. Larry Grant, who narrowly lost the 2006 run for this seat, has a website up that offers his views on what he would do differently as our Representative. And he has an option for readers to leave comments! That's something I bet you'll never see on a Bill Sali website.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"What Happens On EastPac Is Supposed To Stay On EastPac!"

Based on this story in Navy Times, I imagine that's what a Taiwanese Vice Admiral (and former commander of their Sub Force) is saying today after one of his liberty excursions made the paper back home:

Vice Admiral Shen Po-chih, deputy commander of the navy, denied yesterday he did anything wrong while he was on a visit to Hawaii in 2002.
In a statement, the Navy Command said Admiral Shen, charged with visiting a strip-tease show instead of the USS Santa Fe, does not mind being investigated.
The Liberty Times published an expose yesterday, quoting a retired navy commander as testifying Shen, the then deputy fleet commander, refused to visit the U.S. nuclear submarine in Hawaii in order just to watch the strip-tease show.
The retiree was with Admiral Shen on Hawaii from December 17 through 22...
...According to the Liberty Times, six naval officers, including Shen, were invited to visit the U.S. Pacific Fleet after President George W. Bush approved in 2001 a major arms sale to Taiwan in 2001.
Lee said the navy has taken a serious note toward the case. But he added it is necessary to find out whether the strip-tease show was "an ordinary floor show, which is quite normal in the West or anything erotic."
Midwatch Cowboy has more. I can just imagine the staff guy who was in charge of making sure the visiting dignitaries kept to their schedule calling the CO of the Santa Fe: "Uh, Captain, the Taiwanese aren't going to be coming down to the boat today -- they got sidetracked."

While I don't know if this really happened or not, and I surely don't want to condone Taiwanese Admirals wasting their TAD money on morally questionable activities when they're on the government dime -- don't you secretly feel kinda proud that there's a submariner out there who still knows how to put the "oo" in "Boondoggle"?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Battle Of Midway Anniversary

This week marks the 55th65th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which turned the tide in the Pacific War. Steeljaw Scribe has been posting an excellent series on the battle; just start at the top of the page, and scroll down.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Unofficial" Submarine Patches

As I was blogging about the new USS Georgia patch in the post below, I started thinking about the "unofficial" patches that different groups on the boat would come up with. They were always very inventive, if sometimes a little vulgar. On Connecticut, the midwatch nuke guys (we stuck the drill monitors on midwatch for an ORSE workup, so they got essentially no sleep) came up with their own patch that was quite humorous, despite the fact that it had a really bad word on it.

A reader let me know about an interesting patch from USS Thomas Jefferson (SSBN 618). The patch, from this web page. Here's how the patch originated:
The 618 Gold crew in the late 1960's was pretty tight and we had a great CO by the name of Purdum. Somehow we got know as a bunch of pirates -- I think the XO of the blue crew had something to do with it....
The patch itself is here:

In my post below, I was talking about how it was hard to read the "SSBN" part on the Georgia's original, pre-SSGN logo. For the "Purdum's Pirates" patch, apparently someone noticed that if you turned the patch upside down, the Olde English lettering in the "SSBN 618" spelled out something completely different:

Can you see it?

Speaking of submarine logos, the N77 website has a couple of pages of official ship's seals they put together a few years ago that included the logos of most of the boats in commission in about 1998; the one for Los Angeles-class boats is here, and the one for Ohio-class SSBNs is here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

New "Hey, Shipwreck" Video

The 12th episode of "Hey, Shipwreck" just got posted:

A wife calls the boat to get in touch with her husband in the duty section. Everyone remembers getting calls like that. (On my last two boats, the new phone systems were able to forward outside calls to any phone on the boat -- including the one in Maneuvering. I spent more time explaining to helpful coners that, no, he shouldn't be forwarding calls from the SRO's wife back to him when he was on watch in the box.)

Update 2311 01 June: This is probably the USS Georgia (SSGN 729) ship's seal mentioned in the video:

Update 0658 02 June: I was informed in my E-mail inbox that, despite the fact that the letter between the "SS" and "N" on the left side of the logo above looks like a scrunched-together "13", it's really supposed to be a "B", meaning the one above is the Georgia's old SSBN seal. The new SSGN seal is (supposedly) below -- if one trusts people who E-mail them stuff. This one comes from a pretty reliable source, though:

Purty fancy!