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.)

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds like something a cook would say! Frickin stew burners...

6/27/2007 12:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

F@#&IN Boomer C*!#ts whining again, maybe this young man should be transferred off his sweet blue/gold rotation and onto a maximum deployed fast attack.

6/27/2007 12:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No relevance for the fast attack boats, eh? Maybe someone ought to inform him of China's 60 conventional boats they've been training with?

Perhaps someone ought to sit that young fellow down and explain how fleet logistics work, and how vulnerable merchants are to submarines.

War with China will eventually come. The question for the US Navy is whether or not we can deal with the Chinese blue-water ss's. They might be diesal boats, but if they sortie a hundred of them, and with our surface navy's lack of ASW training, it might well be a hard day for our fleet.

It's not that we CAN'T take them on, but it's all in the numbers. Do they have more subs than we have torpedoes? Can't answer that yet.

What if, however, they decide to ignore our surface fleet and concentrate on shutting off our logistic support? Cruise missle attacks against shore-based depots overseas, and harbour facilites, backed up by submarine attacks against our AO's and other supply ships. Hard to sustain a war without bunker, JP and reloads.

I'm just tossing out stuff here, but we have planty of missions available for a diminishing SSN fleet. I'm also concerned about casualties (of any type) to the boomers in a reduced number fleet.

The problem with more warheads of fewer boats is that, if one gets hit, or has a propulsion casualty, or whatever, we lose a larger percentage of the SLBM strike capability. 1 boat fewer means a 10% reduction in assets.

You don't need such things when confronting an enemy. Of any kind.


6/27/2007 2:25 PM

Blogger MT1(SS) said...

Hey anonymous poster #2, how about grabbing yourself a username of some sort before you start simply trolling in here with your attitude.

I've heard all the jokes for the last 10 years, and as near as I can surmise, it's the uneducated and inexperienced that choose to refer to their OHIO-class counterparts with such disdain.

I'm certainly not going to get into an argument with you over the jobs that our various classes of submarines perform, since you have obviously had your mind made up for you. However, I would encourage you to at least engage in some professional discourse with someone serving on a Trident so you can learn a bit about it.

6/27/2007 3:56 PM

Blogger Jarrod said...

Everyone out here in Bangor, E-1 to O-5, seems to use "Trident" much more than "Ohio." Don't know about the rest of the fleet.

6/27/2007 6:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I literally do nothing but train for inspections" - I dunno, could be a real JO. If he had followed through with "I do nothing but watch my highly trained and experienced senior petty officers wax the engine room floor on their hands and knees," I'd have known he was for real. It really seems as, while the fleet has shrunk, the boards for ORSE/TRE/God knows what else have grown. So it's all too easy to get stuck in that endless inspection loop. You can't even say it makes for better sailors; we trained for TRE for months only to run into a goddanged mountain in broad daylight.

Not every boat gets this. Quite a few boats get to go out there and defend the country against scumbags. But not all. I believe this JO saying he did nothing of consequence for two years; I was on the boat over three years before we even got close to a genuine non-training mission. Some boats have it even worse.

Honestly, though, if you're going to get rid of boats, get rid of 688's. An Ohio can station-keep off someone's coast far better, longer and quieter than any fast boat, and chances are you don't need to actually shoot anything anyway. Plus, of all things, they have room for most of the crew. Send the fast boats to the chopping blocks and give us some Blue crews of our own.

6/27/2007 6:46 PM

Blogger Lubber's Line said...

A whiny sailor, Junior Officer, Petty Officer or otherwise, is not a very rare find, (example - anonymous commenter #2 whining about his Boomer brethren’s crew rotation) Twenty plus years ago I heard similar rants about the constant training, inspections, drills, quals, field days, etc… all the while Soviet AGIs, Bear Ds and the occasional Charlie or Victor made an appearance along the east coast.

Such is the military life if you’re not on alert and on station then you’re training for when you are. If Mr Arkin’s email buddy doesn’t get that little bit of common knowledge then he needs to find a more fulfilling profession. Insurance sales maybe, oh sorry, another boringly expensive item no one needs until they need it.

As for the secret easy life aboard Trident submarines, it’s true they do have a swimming pool and tennis court but; sorry to say, only the other crew gets to use it.

6/27/2007 8:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oz is pretty much correct on the "Ohio" v. "Trident" thing.

Also, I quote: "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."

Sounds like a case of boomer envy for sure...

And I've never heard more calls to Whine-1-1 for the wahmbulance than by those "fast-attack tough" guys, especially when they whine about boomers. When they're not sneering. If I was a fastboat dude, I'd be embarrassed to call myself fast attack tough.

6/27/2007 11:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a similar clueless idiot I ran into in a coffee shop in Oregon. He was a neighbor of my parents and asked what I was "doing" with my life. When I said I was a submarine officer, he launched into this diatribe about what a "waste" my life is because submarines are so totally "useless" in the post cold war world. ...I just smiled at him and moved on. His ignorance isn't going to change the missions we do on the pointy-end of the spear, nor will he ever know or appreciate what we do to preserve the freedom he enjoys on a daily basis.

6/28/2007 9:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote that letter. I am in fact a JO on a Trident class submarine, and I don't really know anyone who calls them Ohio class. It's almost always Trident or Boomer.

Whoever said I feel like I've wasted x number of years of my life feeling like I've done nothing, you sir are correct! I don't mind hard work, but I do mind jerking my dick in TTF trainers trying to pretend that I don't have most of the scenarios memorized by now.

Yes, I would rather be on a fast attack. I requested fast attacks, and despite my disappointment with being assigned to a boomer, didn't raise a stink until I found out that my main job was manufacturing training plans for inspections that didn't reflect anything we actually did. At this point, I'm so disillusioned with this service that I laugh at the idea that I will ever be on board an SSN. Only a fool or a masochist would sign up for more of this. I can confirm this by my interactions with many of my senior officers.

I joined the navy, like many people, to see the world and do cool things. I've never been to a port, and have done by my count exactly two cool things:

1) Accidentally popped a san hose in the barn creating a 30 foot turd geyser... which was hilarious, despite the fact I had to go to the critique (which, of course, accomplished nothing... as these things are wont to do).
2) Participated in a sub exercise that was the sole professionally rewarding thing I've done.

To be honest, I don't mind going out to sea, I hate the hours during refit, but actually at the end of the day feel like I've accomplished something, but I do hate wasting my time. Off crew... sorry PDTC is a colossal waste of time, as our the incessant inspection work ups. News flash, the nuclear war we're training for is not coming! The evil foreign submarine is not out there! It's not looking for us! And if it is, it's not looking in the right spot!

Frankly in a real sub on sub war (where we can't manipulate the known variables of waterspace to hedge our bets to where the enemy is) I'm fairly convinced we'll just go out to sea and shoot at schools of fish and rainstorms until all we have left are plain jane 48's. From experience I can tell you our airborne brethren are no better (if not worse).

Anyway, see you ladies at the Squadron Administration Building!

6/28/2007 11:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a retired MT chief and yes the OP is correct it seems that the Nuc navy is using the Boomers as nuc training platforms then for what they were designed for. Yes Subs do have there place in todays world, look at the new SSGN. It can be a fast attack or a special ops boat. As for the boomers we will always need them because Uncle Ivan and Uncle Mao are not really are friends. Plus let us not forget or "friends" Uncle Hugo and the crazy from Iran.

6/29/2007 6:03 AM

Blogger Mike L said...

Hey Boomer Homo, Lighten up enjoy your time on the boat. Blowing a san hose is fun but it is better when some one blows shit on themself when you are blowing the san2. I did all the same lame ass shit you are complaining about. Stores load, TDU weights, field days, ORSE, TRE, insurv work ups, rabbit, data collection, upkeep, SRA duct tape. You name it getting killed in the trainer by an air dropped VictorIII. Love it because someday you will look back on it and miss it for some twisted reason. You complain about a walk to the pier. Ever have to walk through downtown Newport News at 3 in the moring to go to the boat to crank.STS2 ss SSN 668

6/29/2007 9:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 90% of the way with boomer homo. all should note that he's not whining about how hard the work is, the sea time, or the hours in a refit, he's whining about how people find the need to put in unneccessary hours for admin to fill their time and completely miss the point of why we train, and what's truly important. Additionally i should add that it's an environment that deters smart, independent thinkers who are motivated to learn and do amazing things, and promote what the submarine force needs, such as good people and a positive environment, and will promote those who have been brainwashed in their academy upbringing that they have to stay in, have to color-code and format their training binders. He and I have the same job, and it's not satisfying at all... But he must realize that there is worse...the shipyard, where you don't even get to OPERATE a submarine at sea where it's supposed to be, where boomers actually are fulfilling some purpose, whether you agree with how worthwhile it is or not. tagouts, WAFs, and TSOs are not what I signed up to do either. My advice to you brother, take an IA and run. I'm with you, no regrets, and continue doing your job, but don't give in and sign that contract and go another five years to "find out" if their really is more out there to offer. Because there's no guarantee you're going to have a better CO, cooler missions, or not go back to a boomer or shipyard boat. and yes it would be best to keep bringing the ssn debriefs to SSBN communities to see what it's like on the other side, they're a bit enlightening. For the whole trident/ohio/boomer thing... trident is a class of ship, starting w/ 726 and even the SSGNs are trident classes. "Boomers" are SSBNs. have yall beaten that to death yet or what? Ohio class is synonymous with trident. it's the same damn hull, the ssgn's are just a little more tricked out, therefore a G instead of a B.

7/01/2007 3:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Well said. Frankly, I try to avoid the briefs where they talk about SSN stuff, I find it depressing that I'm withering away in TTF while someone is at least sort of doing something mildly interesting.

Anyway, no IA's for me shipmate (though I, too, try to convince my fellow JO's that it's a good idea to go to the sandbox, [better them than me!]). If the whole IA situation isn't a great example of what's totally twisted about the Navy, I don't know what is. Let's reward our hardworking JO's after their sea tour with... 12 months in a warzone? Ummm, last time I checked, I've never shown up on the pier and seen a bunch of marines or soldiers standing by saying "Hey, we're here to paint your boat!"

So why are we doing THEIR job?

7/01/2007 10:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you who sail on all the Submarines. My late husband spent 21 years in the Mavy, 2 Diesel boats and 2 SSBN's.
That was way back then, but they did their patrols. He retired as RMSC. Keep up the good work.

7/03/2007 10:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bubblehead, your blog is great stuff. Thanks for bring this Arkin guy to my attention in previous blogs, he actually gets an awful lot right (for example, that VIRGINIA deployment you insist elsewhere was only 77 days earned a Sea Service Ribbon for the crew, and there's no way a ship spends over a year in drydock for around $50 million -- zeal to correct the MSM may have bypased your own common sense filter there!). But back to the original article, two things stand out:

1) Arkin correctly asserts that submarines are still important, but not for the conventionally accepted reasons. You'd be surprised to see just how badly demand for traditional SSN missions has dwindled lately. Yet, much like putting a man on the moon, we represent capability beyond the reach of would-be competitors that has value all its own. Our Submarine Force is one of the crown jewels of American foreign policy which we can't afford to let tarnish or fade.

2) The misguided boomer JO seems to accurately grasp his circumstances without understanding the reasons behind them nor their greater purpose. In that, his leadership has failed him by not training and developing his understanding of why he does what he does. Worse, he shows that his own leadership skills are sorely stunted by whining to the Washington Post about just how bad he has it -- despite still being able to count all of his fingers and toes at a time when his comrades-in-arms face much worse circumstances. The most recent anonymous has it right that our sad little JO should volunteer for IA if he feels he has missed out on the opportunity to serve our nation -- job gratification doesn't get more immediate than being "in the fight."

7/05/2007 9:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 is for quitters:

Comparing my service to the service of a marine or a soldier is logically ridiculous. If you are in fact a submariner, I'm sure you've met many a soldier that say "I wouldn't want to do what you do" to which I reply "Great, I don't want to get shot at". The misguided occupation of Iraq had already started when I signed up for my Naval service, if I had wanted to get shot at I would have joined the marines.

I feel sorry for the people overseas as I don't really think they're fighting for any purpose, but at the same time, they did sign up for it. At some point, you have to realize that signing up for the marines or army could eventually lead you to get shot and killed. Likewise, my service could theoretically lead to me dying in a number of unpleasant ways aboard a submarine. I'm ok with that, it's a calculated risk I took when I agreed to serve.

If you can provide the greater purpose behind any of the following, please inform me:

1) Training Plans
2) TDBRAD (no one actually uses this)
3) ORSE Drills (No seriously, is any real casualty ANYTHING Like this?)
4) TRE Scenarios(See Above)

7/05/2007 12:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having just been exposed to Mr. Arkin and wanting to learn more, I read the bio linked from his blog. What a symbolic victory it is for the submarine force that the man whose bio reads:

In the late 1980s, Arkin conceived Greenpeace International's "Nuclear Free Seas" campaign.

is now someone who contends that Trident submarines are key to winning hearts and minds, and are essential to international security.

For our boomer JO: if your wardroom, your chiefs' quarters, your TTF instructors, and your squadron staff have been unable in 2 years of full-time operations to motivate you, no amount of comments on a blog entry are going to make a difference. My IA recommendation was sincere; really I'd prefer you find any line of work you can call rewarding rather than just complain about the one you're in.

Your logic stinks of the perennial loser who drops out of college because it's too much work to keep his grades up, enlists in the Navy without recognizing the commitment he's making, and then spends 6 years of his life poisoning JOs in Maneuvering with his grumbling on the way to getting out of the Navy and taking the same job with a nuclear power plant (and I can only imagine quitting soon afterwards). Sound like anyone you've stood watch with? I won't argue that we've got an endemic leadership problem in the force -- the fact that you've bought the bitter nuke philosophy is evidence enough of that.

What's sad is that your hard work really provides an important contribution to our nation, but you've allowed yourself to be convinced otherwise and as a result show a sense of bitterness where you deserve nothing but pride.

7/05/2007 2:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do I start? I enlisted in the submarine force with the intent to go all the way to 30 and retire. I got out after ten years. Why? Did I lack in a love of my country and willingness to serve? Was I afraid of hard work? No. Did I hate the work, the going to sea, hitting the beach on five different continents: Hell No. Did I hate doing six month long ORSE/TRE/TRR work ups, inadequate officers, and butt shark goat locker dwellers - yes. A lot of those bitter nukes are that way because of the command environment. My first boat rocked. The Providence kicked so much ass. It sucked at first, but a new ENG, XO, and CO later we were rockin and got the Battle E, twice, after being the dregs of the squadron. When I got to my second boat I learned that Blue-Shirts are Blue-Shirts - they are not afraid to work or have good times. But when the submarine force accepts and enforces only two standards (Sub and Double) the unit dwindles to a smashed heap a'la SanFran style. The chiefs and officers drive the command environment and the bitterness that is the scourge of the submarine force. The good chiefs allow the bad chiefs (you both know who you are) propagate and prosper. I actually saw a Senior Chief yell at a PO3 for smoking on watch (which I agree was wrong) while the MMCS was himself smoking on watch. When I called him on it (since he was condemning in public(not per training of being in private) I chastised in public) I was told to shut the hell up. I could go on and on. But those situations and the whole this one guy screwed up so now we (the command) are going to screw all of you. Years ago that would actually do something. The squared away guys could do something to the dirt bag guy a'la Full Metal Jacket boot camp scene with the blanket party. But for that to happen now, stand by for the Grey Hound direct to prison. Oh, and how many Witch Hunting Inquisitions - er, um Critiques have you been to when the XO made up his mind before the wardroom doors opened to get the thing started, and the band-aide looks good to squadron fixes. That the kind of crap that got me out of the sub force. By the way, I do work in commercial nuclear power, because I nuclear power kicks ass.
I'll stop there. Let you bad chiefs bitch and moan and tell me I just don't get it.
One last thing, if the navy can't keep a guy who wanted to stay in, how do they expect to keep the one tour guys around?

7/05/2007 6:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a plankowner of a Trident commissioned in the 80s. Even back in the Cold War, we still had to do the same dumb, useless crap that you people bitch about now, except back then we went out and stayed out - not these lame-ass patrols you do now. We got six familygrams per patrol and nothing else. We had no internet. Your patrols are not nearly as long as ours were and most of our patrol consisted of Field Days, or wearing EABs for hours. I waxed on and waxed off next to my E-6 for 64+ days. It's part of the job. You people sicken me. You disgrace this service. As far as the bad-attitude officer goes, you should be ashamed. Why don't you try messcranking for a month and see how you like it. Oh, officers and gentlemen don't do that. If you were meant for "greater things" in life then resign your commission. The world doesn't have enough bitching civilians. Use those finely honed bitching talents and get paid big bucks in the civilian world.

7/15/2008 8:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

for some reason, i read this today (August 2008)

i have never been in a sub nor do i want to be in one.

that said, the griper in this blog seems to be in the wrong damn place in life. if your situation is so lousy, why not resign and do something where you have a chance to be ...what shall we call it...happy?

as to the useless crap you guys perform, if you are so wise and all knowing, why not be a catalyst for change. let everyone know that changes are both needed and beneficial. if you get booted out, at least you went out doing something worth while. the rest of us are doing worthwhile things in our lives and you might find some satisfaction by being less a griper and more a do-er.

8/14/2008 12:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lotsa stories that may be true or not. I did time on two boomers 643 & 628. I ended my career on a fast boat out of pearl SSN 715. Did alot of cleaning and getting ready for inspections. From the time i was seaman recruit to the time i made chief there was never any doubt what the mission was and never any doubt that the threat was real. My shipmates on all my boats were the best of the best. Dang! My old XO is COMSUBPAC rite now. Maybe i just got lucky having been on three awesome boats in a row. Well thanks for the reading and the memories. Feels like i just left the boat. Havent felt this proud of myself since i got out. RUN SILENT RUN DEEP SHIPMATES. V/R FTC(SS)

3/09/2012 9:10 PM


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