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.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sailor, Rest Your Oar

The Navy Submarine family suffered a great loss recently with the sudden passing of CDR (Sel) Chris Riley, assigned to PEO Submarines in D.C. CDR Riley was on vacation with his wife and three children at Disney World when he died in his sleep last Sunday.

From a TEAM SUBMARINE update:
Chris' funeral will be in St Louis, Missouri on Thursday, January 3rd at 1200. NAVSEA will send a small official party to represent Chris' co-workers at the funeral.
There will be a memorial service in DC hosted by Chris' church on Saturday, January 5th at 1100. The entire NAVSEA family is invited to honor Chris and pay their respects to his family at this event. It will be held at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1225 R St, in Northwest Washington DC. Further details will be provided next week.
I expect a fund will be set up shortly to help the family, particularly for the education of Chris' three young children. In the meantime, condolences may be sent to:

CDR Chris Riley Memoriam
614 Sicard St SE
Washington Navy yard, DC 20376-7004

Update 1010 30 Dec: An ALSUBFOR message released yesterday has some biographical information on CDR Riley:
Chris graduated from the Naval Academy in 1992, a member of 13th Company. Following his commissioning, he attended Syracuse University where he earned a Masters Degree, and then entered the nuclear power training pipeline. After sea tours on USS L. Mendel Rivers (SSN 686) and USS Atlanta (SSN 712), and a tour as a watch officer at COMSUBLANT, Chris transitioned to the Engineering Duty Officer community. He served for three years with the Supervisor of Shipbuilding in Groton, Connecticut and then worked in Program Management under PEO Subs. Chris served on three programs, the Advanced Undersea Systems Program, the SSGN Conversion Program, and the Virginia Class Submarine Program. As the Virginia Test and Evaluation manager, he was responsible for the recent successful completion of lockout trunk testing on USS Hawaii in October of 2007.
Although I didn't work directly with Chris, I knew him "around the shipyard" when I was Eng on PCU Jimmy Carter in newcon; he was always well-respected on the waterfront and known as a "straight-shooter", which is the highest compliment you can give an EDO.

Update 1726 31 Dec 2007: Chapomatic offers some personal remembrances of CDR Riley here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Give Me Liberty, Or..."

I didn't want to disturb the peace and serenity of the Christmas season by posting this too close to the 25th, but this article from Navy Times really got my blood boiling. Excerpts:

So you’ve got liberty in Japan? First, fill out this form. Then, get your chief’s OK. And if you want to drink, don’t forget your liberty buddy. And remember to phone in each day, even on your weekend off.
Those are just some of the rules for sailors stationed in Japan aboard the carrier Kitty Hawk, at least until the ship hands over its berth next summer to the George Washington before its eventual decommissioning.
Kitty Hawk sailors are living with some of the strictest liberty rules in the Navy, even when their ship is at its home port in Yokosuka with other forward-deployed Naval Forces commands.
Every Kitty Hawk sailor E-6 and below, and anyone planning to drink off base, must have an authorized liberty buddy and a detailed individual liberty plan that requires approval from his superior. Any change to that plan must be reported and approved by the first khaki in the command chain. The liberty restrictions — often tightened after a spate of off-duty and alcohol-related incidents involving sailors — don’t always end there, according to sailors and fleet spokeswomen.
Several incidents occurred the week after Kitty Hawk returned from deployment Nov. 27. In response, the command tightened the policy by requiring departmental chiefs or officers to reach by phone or physically see each of their sailors E-6 and below every evening — even on weekends and regardless of marital status — to make sure they were following approved liberty plans.
The article contains a copy of a Seventh Fleet "Individual Liberty Plan" form; the Kitty Hawk's local "Liberty Mitigation Plan" form can be found here.

This seems to be the natural result of the Navy's "Cover Your Ass" policy with respect to liberty incidents. I guess I can understand the need for a "liberty buddy" at overseas ports, and that it's probably a good idea to get a signed statement from Sailors that, yes, they understand that they're subject to non-judicial punishment if they get stupid on the beach, but this is taking "intrusive leadership" too far, IMHO. I mean, c'mon, this is the Kitty Hawk's home port! At some point the constant treating Sailors as children (including senior Petty Officers) will result in some well-deserved backlash in the form of significantly reduced retention. (And let's face it -- Chiefs and officers can get just as dumb on liberty as blueshirts can.)

Jim at FEWL.NET offers a great perspective from a local Sailor on the restrictions here and here, and Skippy-San offers his own perspective here, pointing out that this policy essentially tells Sailors that they have no choice but to lie to the command in response to stupid policies. The response I liked best reportedly came from a retired Marine O-6 in an E-mail that's been making the rounds in military circles:
If I was the CNO, and I read this, I would immediately pick up the phone and call the CO of the Kitty Hawk, and ask if the story was true. If it was, I would relieve the CO over the phone, and ask for the XO. I would ask the XO if he agreed with this disgraceful policy. If he said yes, I would relieve him too.
Then I'd call the Battle Group Commander, the CO of the base, and every other person in the chain of command who should have stood up and ended these policies. And if they gave any bullshit excuses, I'd relieve them too.
Then I'd fly to Japan and personally apologize to the Sailors on the Kitty Hawk that I allowed such assholes in positions of trust. And that it would never happen again.
This type of ass-covering leadership is despicable. It has no place in the Navy, or any other service. It is a cancer that eats away at the morale of our most precious asset--our people--and the trust that is essential to a warfighting organization.
If the Navy leadership in Japan thinks their primary duty in life is to prevent liberty incidents, bust them all to petty officer and have them stand shore patrol. They can then check all the ^%$$#$ liberty chits they want.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fresh Food Underway

As a special treat, here's a rough draft of an article a submariner working in a Pentagon mess wrote up to submit to Undersea Warfare magazine; he's looking for comments from the readers here. Click on the "Read More" link to read the article, and use the comments for your feedback.

Fresh Food Underway

A look into the benefits of hydroponic plant systems

By CS2(SS) Timothy Poole, USN

The delicious aroma of slow cooking marina sauce with fresh basil; the sizzling sound of piping hot meatballs mixed with oregano, thyme, or parsley; and the thought of a large batch of spaghetti boiling over is enough to make any homesick sailor come running to the mess decks to grab a bench. The Silent Service is world famous for the quality of food they provide to their submariners. Or rather the dollar amount allotted to each boat's supply department.

Meals are crucial to a crew's morale. It is up to the boat's Culinary Specalists to plan and execute nutritious and tasty meals four times a day for as long as six months at a time. The use of fresh food is very limited, usually only lasting the first two weeks underway. In the weeks and months following deployment, the crew finds nutrition in frozen meats and vegetables. Though the chefs work hard to create delicious dishes, the added touch of freshness is obsolete living deep underwater.

For many years, the absence of sunlight has equaled the absence of fresh foods. However, the use of hydroponics can make the growth of fresh foods possible in a submarine. Hydroponics from the Greek language literally meaning "water labor" is the growth of plants without soil. In combination with artificial lighting, hydroponics creates controlled environmental agriculture.

How hydroponics works

Natural plant growth involves trapping sunlight with the use of water and carbon dioxide. The trapped sunlight is then converted into chemical energy, creating food for the plant and releasing oxygen as a byproduct. Plants are traditionally grown in soil to provide a medium to collect water, provide minerals, and support the plant's root structure. By modifying the growth process and reducing or eliminating the size of plant beds, smaller plants can be grown on submarines. For the purpose of this research, the focus will be to grow and sustain an herb garden on a submarine for use in meals.

Hydroponic devices allow plants roots to be watered with a nutrient solution replacing minerals that can be found in soil. This technology further eliminates the need for soil by providing man made support for root structures. The plant can then be enclosed to maintain temperature, and placed under direct artificial light to induce growth. All factors of growth - temperature, light, water, nutrients, and pH balance can be controlled for maximum results.

The benefits of artificial growth

Plant growth in non-agricultural locations
Many groups have seen the benefits of hydroponic plant growth. The hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is considered an early day example of hydroponics. Built to please his wife, Nebuchadnezzar II brought lush gardens to present day Iraq in 600 B.C. Other examples in history include the floating gardens of the Aztecs in Mexico as well as those in China. Aside from aesthetic purposes, hydroponics is widely used for practical purposes. Farmers use hydroponics to provide vegetation year round regardless of the climate as well as large scale production. Hydroponics can improver farmer profits and provide for an increasing demanding society leaning toward healthier trends. Looking toward the future, NASA has been developing hydroponic plant growth to sustain long missions in space. Further, as we continue to explore life on other planets, hydroponics can help future missions to support humans on other planets.

Ease of use
The initial development of hydroponic devices custom built for attack submarines (SSN or fast attacks) or fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) will take some time to develop given restriction on available space. However, once the system is established, only basic agricultural skills are needed to maintain plant life. If implemented, the Navy will undoubtedly produce a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on how much water and light is needed to maximize growth. Care will have to be given to monitor the pH balance and adjust the climate in order to stimulate or reduce growth as necessary. In addition, without soil there is no threat to a plant's life by way of soil borne disease or weeds.

A hydroponic system is more efficient than natural plant growth in a variety of ways. First, the use of water is reduced due to the fact that water is being given directly to a plant's root. The root does not have to seek water from soil. Think of pouring a watering can over a plant bed as opposed to sitting a plant in a controlled amount of water. Second, hydroponic gardeners have found that their plants grow much faster as opposed to growth through traditional soil. Perhaps this is because the root is directly exposed to water and nutrients without having to seek such ingredients from the soil. Finally, the system is efficient because takes much less physical labor has opposed to traditional planting or gardening. On a small scale, the time and effort to grow herbs is quite minimal.

A hydroponic system is in complete control of the planter. All aspects of plant life can be modified through temperature, direct or indirect light, quantity of water, and the amount of nutrients to which a plant is exposed. Gardeners can experiment in this controlled environment, changing the elements listed above to find which combinations maximize or diminish growth.

Nutrition and well-being
As plants consume carbon dioxide, they produce oxygen. In an environment such as a submarine, a plant would be the only living entity contributing to the oxygen supply as opposed to consuming the supply. In addition, plants provide a profound amount of nutrition necessary to a human diet to sustain life. Herbs in particular can provide the following:

Aloe Vera- sooths skin and digestive disorders

Echinacea- found to possess antibacterial and immune-boosting properties, helps to fight coughs, colds, viral, and upper respiratory infections

Garlic- reduces blood pressure, preventing heart disease, and preventing and reversing a stroke. It also fights infections and cancer.

Oregano- rich in antioxidant content

Rosemary- helps prevent and treat cancer, also a powerful brain booster to aid memory problems.

Saint Johns Wort- holds powerful anti-depression properties

From the nutritional benefits listed above, it is easy to see how introducing fresh herbs to a group of submariners on an extended duty tour could help raise moral. Fresh food stimulates the body to perform and work to the best of its ability. In addition, the herbs mentally prepare sailors for the difficult duties they will have to endure. Taking care of the plants and maintaining the hydroponic systems can also increase sailor morale. Cultivating and maintaining a life form can bring pleasure and a sense of pride to caretaking duties, much as gardeners or farmers simply find pure joy in working with plants.


There is still much to be considered before implementing a hydroponic system on a submarine. The first consideration is availability of space. As many know, every available inch of a submarine is utilized. The best solution would be to first implement a small system on an SSBN on a trial basis. It would have to be determined if the effort to develop a hydroponic system (time, money, and use of space) is worth the output of the system (morale, nutrition, substantial plant growth). In addition, is the input to create such a system worth the effort when submariners are currently getting by on an already fantastic feast provided by their chefs? Another consideration is the use of dried herbs in preparing meals. Is this solution enough to provide benefits to sailors?

A future for growth undersea

It is important to remember that our technology and our military are ever evolving. Hydroponics can allow flexible placement of plant life in a submarine setting to provide nutritional and morale benefits to our sailors. Roasted rosemary potatoes, garlic-herb chicken, herb encrusted tenderloin, and many more recipes are what could be enjoyed by submariners with the help of hydroponic plant systems. Look, I am not suggesting that we line the out-boards with tomato vines or grow fresh mint from a hanging basket back in manuerving(though it will make it smell better after taco night!) From the research that I have conducted all i need is a 3x3x3 space and I will be able to grow enough fresh herbs to make the crew crave their next meal. They could take part in the growth process, and take pride in their role to provide for the entire crew. Finally, they could be rewarded for the duty to their country which takes a tremendous amount of mental discipline. There is a movement in our society toward health and long life. Of the strongest, must be our military, which represent the United States to the world. Hydroponic systems in submarines could be the tool to keep our sailors healthy and strong in all environments they explore and defend. Adding fresh herbs to meals now could develop into the availability of fresh vegetables throughout extended tours in the future. Healthy minds and bodies are the best tools to safely complete a mission and serve the country.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Lighten Up, Francis"

Lots of people probably missed it because it came out on Christmas Day, but Idaho was in the national news again recently -- actually, the Police Academy just up the road from me here in Meridian made the news. Excerpt:
Idaho law enforcement leaders say they were "mortified" when a group of state police academy graduates chose a slogan that many felt was just too gung-ho.
The slogan, "Don't suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it," was emblazoned on the Dec. 14 graduation programs for 43 officers who completed the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training Academy's latest course...
...Apparently, each class at the academy is allowed to vote on its own slogan.
The latest group, with officers bound for 19 police agencies around the state, included military veterans interested in issues such as mental survival.
"Our class president was ex-military," Black said. "It slipped in."
Lots of people have expressed extreme moral and righteous indignation, including commenters in various newspaper forums and at least one local blogger, who wrote:
The decision by the current class of the Police Academy to send a message that they’re sadists who want to afflict others with PTSD will only make their jobs harder when they get on the streets of Idaho’s city and towns.
Sorry, but I really don't think that local police officers are out there to hurt and abuse the law-abiding citizens of Idaho -- they're here to protect their communities. And I really don't think there are a bunch of law-abiding citizens who will no longer cooperate with the police because a class motto made it out into the civilian world. Maybe I've led a sheltered life, but I've never had a problem with police officers wanting to hurt me for no reason at all, and I don't think there is a huge problem with police going out of their way to pick on people just innocently living their lives. I mean, c'mon, it's a class slogan from a "boot camp"-style course of instruction -- no one takes those things seriously! No one, that is, I guess, except for people here in Idaho with way too much time on their hands and too little sense of intentional irony. (Believe it or not, military people don't actually revel in causing unnecessary bloodshed and destruction, even if we joke about it once in a while.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa's On His Way!

Remember you can track Santa at the NORAD Santa Tracker website throughout the day.

Update 1627 25 Dec: Here's the annual "Santa Visits The Boomer" video:

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

War On Tacky Christmas Decorations

A reader (my youngest son) sent in an alarming article on one of the most dangerous trends in our beloved country -- people upset about Christmas Patriots decorating their lawns and homes with tacky, kitschy, mismatched holiday decorations. As a leading local practioner of the Gaudy Arts, I was shocked to hear about people with "good taste" and "a sense of decorum" causing problems for those of us who realize that lawns and homes should be festooned with large inflatables and have enough lights to make passing airliners think there's a landing strip below. Excerpts from the article:
"People have just rows and rows of things," says Kat Shumar, an Indianapolis homeowner and past vice president of her neighborhood association. "They've got Jesus next to Santa, and Mary with the elves -- it's just tacky."
Ms. Shumar is airing her grievances online. This season, she launched a Web site called [TackyChristmasYards], where she challenges people to find and send pictures of yards with the most "violations." Her list of violation categories includes "more is not less" and "multiple Clauses" (competing Santa figures). Under the category "fallen figurines," she implores people to restore to standing position the figures that have tipped over. "No one wants to see Mary and Joseph laying down as if involved in a deadly drive-by shooting," she writes...
...Police in some areas are also saying that the large inflatables -- which can range from 4 to 12 feet tall -- are attracting the attention of vandals who like to poke holes in them and deflate them. Last year in the Cincinnati area, two men were arrested after being caught on video stabbing a Frosty the Snowman with a screwdriver. This month in Lancaster, Pa., someone sliced the head off an inflatable Santa that the Ide family had in their front yard.
"The decorations were for people to enjoy, but I guess it didn't happen like we had hoped," says Jessica Ide.
It's up to us who enjoy the complete absurdity of temporarily lowering property values for miles around just to draw attention to ourselves to Fight The Power and continue to decorate our homes, lawns, and motor vehicles with increasingly outlandish and inappropriate "art". To the Scrooges and Grinches who don't appreciate it, I say: What more do I need to do to get featured on the TackyChristmasYards website?

Update 0805 24 Dec: Woo-hoo! I made it!

"Best And Brightest" JOs Getting Out?

Via Instapundit, Washington Monthly has an article examining why the "best and brightest" young officers are getting out of the Army. It included a statistic that, frankly, doesn't pass the smell test:

In the last four years, the exodus of junior officers from the Army has accelerated. In 2003, around 8 percent of junior officers with between four and nine years of experience left for other careers. Last year, the attrition rate leapt to 13 percent.
Those of us in the Submarine Force are certainly used to the higher number -- as I discussed before, the Sub Force is designed to need only about 38% of JOs to go on to a Department Head tour. Of note, a graph in this long report indicates that the Army currently has over 50% retention at the 7 YCS (Years of Commissioned Service) point -- and this is without offering hardly any officer retention bonuses.

What I wanted to discuss this weekend was the old meme that "the best JOs always get out" that is frequently heard on the boat. I knew quite a few good JOs who got out as soon as they could -- along with others who got out after post-JO shore duty -- but, from my perspective, they weren't always "the best". Now, I recognize my perspective as an officer who stayed in may be slightly warped, so I'm looking for your input: Did the "best" JOs generally get out? Or were they considered the "best" mostly by the people who didn't like the Navy much anyway, and saw their own attitudes reflected in the early-leaving officers they admired? The comments are open...

Bell-ringer 0024 29 Dec: Chap has more over at his place; he also looks at the IA angle. As one of the earlier Individual Augmentees (2003), I can say it looks like the Navy has really improved on the IA program in the last few years, and I really hope the Sub Force does a better job of making sure it's administered fairly than they do with the normal detailing process re: the "golden boy" officers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Movie Reviews: "National Treasure II" And "Sweeney Todd"

Today was another "two movie" day; I saw the midnight showing of "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" and the noon showing of "Sweeney Todd". I was going to make it a triple-header with "Walk Hard" but ended up taking a nap instead.

Both movies I saw were OK. "National Treasure" started out with a real treat -- a no-crap "short" in the old "Goofy Over Sports" genre; this one had Goofy hooking up a home theater. (Being a jaded 21st century kind of guy, I kept expecting it to be full of product placement, or actually turn out to be a commercial. It ended up just being a funny cartoon.) The main feature suffered from a lot of the same problems you see in other sequels -- the need to do things just like the original movie, only more spectacular. I loved the original movie, and liked the characters, but this movie ended up taking away somehow from the original -- the characters (mostly) became less likeable. The movie also fell into the most common archeological film blunder -- the heroes exited the heretofore "undiscovered" treasurehouse through an obvious entry that surely would have attracted someone's attention throughout the centuries. (The most heinous example of this, of course, is in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", where a solitary building in the middle of the excavation area is one wall away from the Well of Souls, and no one has apparently bothered to check it out.) Overall, the movie would be a good standalone film, suffering only in comparison to the original, and gets a solid three Unsubtle Sequel Setups out of five. (Expect "National Treasure III: What's On Page 47?" in 2010.)

I was really looking forward to "Sweeney Todd" -- I'm a big fan of musicals, and had seen a production of this one in college back in the '80s. Being a Tim Burton film, it had really impressive camera work and mood-defining colors; unfortunately, it also had Burton's girlfriend in a leading role -- she's a fine actress, it just turns out that she can't really sing. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, can sing fine -- expect an Oscar nomination. "Sweeney Todd" is an interesting musical in that none of the songs has really entered the mainstream; it doesn't have a real "sing-along" quality to it anyway. The movie sticks very close to the story of the play, except it's a lot more graphic in the violence area -- well deserving of the "R" rating. The supporting cast was pretty good, featuring Borat, Snape, and Wormtail. With the exception of getting better singers, Burton probably did as well as anyone could with the story, but let's face it -- it's no "Mary Poppins". I give it a more squishy three Unexplained White Hair Streaks out of five.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Realists Vs. Idealists

"Politics is the art of the possible" -- Otto von Bismarck

There's an interesting article in today's Idaho Statesman about a man in here in Meridian who's locked in a battle with the local irrigation district over less than $5 in late fees on his irrigation assessment -- fees that have resulted in a lien being put on his house. Most people will applaud the man's actions, standing up for his principles in the face of a heartless bureaucracy. While my heart is with his quest, my mind knows that quixotic endeavors like this normally don't turn out too well. That's because I'm a realist when it comes to politics and government.

A recent post by Sara at F-words made me realize that my political realism makes me stand out in the Idaho political blogosphere. What is "realism"? To me, it's an understanding that the system can be changed -- if at all -- only incrementally, and only by interacting reasonably with those currently in power. In the grand scheme of things, there's really not that much different between the leaders of our two major political parties. Both generally believe in American exceptionalism, the superiority of enlightened capitalism, and the need for America to protect itself from those who would harm us. (While Democrats like to make noise about opposing all three basic tenets, when push came to shove the Congressional leadership made sure that all the really important stuff got taken care of this year.)

Idealism, on the other hand, comes in many forms. The most common characteristic they share is a complete belief that their cause is Good, and all those who oppose them are Bad. They tend to deal in absolutes, and as such are more susceptible to believe conspiracy theories. While a realist will recognize, for instance, that Congress agreed to the Protect America Act this year because sober statesmen on each side of the aisle recognized that a new world required new methods of fighting terrorists, idealists believe that President Bush must be blackmailing Democrats who supported the bill with information gained through illegal wiretaps.

Here's the thing -- when the powers-that-be decide that something needs to be done, they get together and figure out how to make it happen, while still trying to spin their actions to appeal to their political base. Consider the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in the last Congress. The program is opposed by those on both the right and the left -- how did it pass so easily? In cases like this, the Whips of both parties poll their members, and figure out who absolutely won't vote for a bill and who would like to vote "nay" politically but are willing to do the right thing if needed. They count the votes, and then let the people who want to (often the ones with the toughest re-election fights) vote against the needed legislation. In cases where the parties don't work together (like the recent "game of chicken" on the resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney) you end up with humorous absurdities. Idealists on the left wonder why their leaders won't invest time and reputation in removing the Administration from office; realists in the Democratic Party know they have absolutely no chance of gaining a conviction in the Senate, and that such a move would backfire on them in the next election.

So who's right -- the Idealists or Realists? Our country needs idealists; their passion is what pushes eventual needed change (the abolitionists are a good example of this). On the other hand, realists are still needed to actually do the heavy lifting of running the country -- there really are people out there who want to hurt us, and we need to have adults in charge. It's fine to have the 5% of the people out there loudly supporting Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich and wondering why everyone else doesn't see just how "right" their candidates are, but it's up to the realists to actually select the next President. And that's just the way it is.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More On The Submarine Weld Issue

When the news came out earlier this month about potential weld issues on Virginia-class submarines, I figured it was just another paperwork exercise -- someone doing a QA review for North Carolina's sea trials had found a discrepancy, and everyone had to jump through hoops to get all their paperwork in order. It turns out that there's a little bit more to it.

Articles in Virginia and Connecticut newspapers discuss the root cause of the problem -- welders at Newport News being allowed to carry filler material for more than one weld type. As a result, the probe is being extended to all ships worked on recently at Newport News:
An investigation of faulty pipe welds on Virginia-class submarines assembled at Northrop Grumman Newport News has been broadened to include aircraft carriers and another class of submarines.
The assessment will cover non-nuclear piping systems on carriers and subs repaired and built by shipyard workers in recent years, shipyard and Navy officials said Monday.
A shipyard spokeswoman described it as a precautionary move after the discovery in recent weeks of contaminated welds on some of the Virginia-class submarines the yard has assembled. It's possible that welders made the same mistake on other vessels - using the wrong type of metal weld filler to join non-nuclear piping systems...
...The internal piping systems under review carry such things as oil, air and water.
So far, seven ships beyond the Virginia-class subs have been targeted for an assessment, Dellapenta said. Four are carriers - the George H.W. Bush, the Carl Vinson, the Enterprise and the George Washington. The other three are Los Angeles-class attack submarines - the Toledo, the Newport News and the Oklahoma City.
The problem came to light when a couple of welds on PCU New Hampshire failed hydrostatic tests at EB; basically, welders at Newport News used copper alloy filler on CRES (corrosion-resistant stainles steel) socket welds. Having only been at EB myself, I know that it was always a big deal if we saw some welder carrying around more than one type of filler (it normally happened on the night shift). The articles don't say how long Newport News welders have been allowed to carry more than one type of filler -- does anyone know if they've always done it that way?

Update 0858 20 Dec: Springbored and Galrahn have more on the issue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Skimmer Nukes In The Future?

As it is now, about half of all students going through the enlisted Nuclear Power Training pipeline get assigned to surface ships (meaning carriers) -- all non-submarine volunteers, all women, and even a few Nukes who volunteer for submarine duty. If the Navy goes the direction the Congress wants in the 2008 Defense Authorization bill, there might be even more submarine volunteers getting pressed into skimmer duty:
House and Senate lawmakers are requiring the Navy to power its future classes of cruisers with nuclear reactors, unless the service decides that doing so isn't "in the national interest." This somewhat muddled provision is contained in the recently released fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill.
The provision states that all new ship classes of submarines, aircraft carriers and cruisers should be built with nuclear power plants. Since the Navy's plans for submarines and carriers already include nuclear propulsion, the provision would most directly affect the service's next-generation cruiser, designated CG(X). If nuclear powered, the service's designation for the ship would be CGN(X).
The Navy plans to award the contract for the lead ship of the CG(X) class of cruisers in 2011, at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion, and 18 more by 2023. Because of the long lead times needed to order nuclear components, procurement funds for the proposed cruiser's nuclear power plant would have to be included in the 2009 budget, currently being drafted by the Defense Department.
But if the Navy prefers to equip its future cruisers with conventional power, it does have an out. The measure states that with the budget request for the CG(X), the Defense secretary can submit a notification that "inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system is not in the national interest."
Nuclear-powered cruisers make sense on a lot of levels (especially considering the cost of oil) but it'll require a lot more Nukes in the Navy -- which means bigger re-enlistment bonuses for those who are already in. Everyone wins! (Still, the odds that the Navy won't exercise the "national interest" provision to opt out of CGNs are fairly low.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hilarious Halfway Night Video

Newly posted on YouTube is this really funny Halfway Night video from USS Alabama (Gold) back in 1996. Humorous bad word warning!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Last Call For Entries!

Just a reminder that entries for the Submarine Christmas Photoshop contest are due by 2359 EST on Sunday night! Just E-mail your entry to Eric at The Sub Report; the winner gets a "Hey, Shipwreck" DVD.

MAD Christmas Carols

A couple years back, I wrote a post about some funny parodies of Christmas carols that had appeared in MAD Magazine back in the 70s that have been cluttering my brain. Every December, my referrers log fills up with people doing Google Searches on these songs. I had written down the lyrics in that post to a couple of the more popular songs I remembered ("Sam and Roz Are Coming To Town" and "It Hangs Down From Our Chandelier"), and linked to some others I found. Some of those links are dead now, so I figured I should put the lyrics to some other songs down here for posterity.

"Wrap Your Gift" (found here):
(to the tune of "Deck the Halls")

Wrap your gifts with fingers agile, Fa la la...
Seal it up and mark it "fragile", Fa la la...
There's no reason to feel nervous, Fa la la, la la la...
You can trust the postal service, Fa la la...

Hear the postal worker singing, Fa la la...
As your parcel he is flinging, Fa la la...
See it crumple in the bin there, Fa la la, la la la...
Aren't you sorry you walked in there, Fa la la...

See your parcel speed to Philly, Fa la la...
Through the air to cousin Billy, Fa la la...
It will end up in Savanah, Fa la la, la la la...
Via Nome and Butte, Montana, Fa la la...
We Three Clods From Omaha Are:
We three clods from Omaha are
Spending Christmas Eve in a car
Driving, drinking,
Glasses clinking,
Who needs a lousy bar?

Drink to Charlie. Drink to Paul
Drink to friends we can't recall
Swerving, speeding
Signs unheeding
Drink to anything at all

We three clods are feeling no pain
Drunk as skunks with booze on the brain
Senses losing
'Til we're cruising
Into a wrong way lane

Drink to Melvin. Drink to Fred
Drink to those two trucks ahead
Headlights flashing
Screeching, crashing
Drink till they pronounce us dead
Oh Little Bank Americard (found here, along with other funny Christmas lyrics) :
Oh, little Bank Americard
You bring me Christmas Cheer
Without your clout
I have no doubt
No gifts I'd give this year.
Your credit line allows me
To run up bills quite large
And when I'm through
Exhausting you
I'll use my Master Charge.

(Same tune, sung in late February)

Oh, little Bank Americard
You bring me discontent
I calculate
Your int'rest rate
Is over (twelve) percent.
Each month, your cry for payments
My letter-box bombards;
I'm one more sap
Caught in your trap
Next year I'll just send cards.
I'm not sure about the interest rate number in this version being the same as in the original MAD Magazine article; the version I copied said "eighteen", but I'm pretty sure I remember it was a one syllable word.

Update 1255 15 Dec: After I posted, I did some more searching, and found that someone actually posted a scan of the entire article (here, here, and here) from the January 1977 issue, along with other MAD Magazine parodies. It turns out my memories were pretty accurate, but I did forget a couple songs, including "Out There On The Sidewalk" (to the tune of "Away In A Manger"):
Out there on the sidewalk a Santa Claus stands,
Beside a fake chimney, a bell in his hands;
A second one's smoking a smelly cigar;
A third one is picking his teeth in a bar;

A fourth Santa's trying to pick up a blonde;
A fifth one is drunk in the gutter beyond;
A sixth one is part of a window display;
The seventh and eighth ones appear to be gay;

They're fat and they're skinny, They're short and they're tall;
And none of them look like the real one at all;
With so many Santas it's tough to keep score --
Small wonder that kids don't believe any-more.

I'm Giving Up On The Broom Thing

Almost since I started blogging (and before) I've been a voice crying out in the wilderness against the new "tradition" of submarines coming back from sea trials with a broom flying from their sail. During WWII, a submarine only came into port flying the broom if they'd sunk every enemy they'd encountered -- frequently by means of firing off all their torpedoes over the course of several weeks in the face of determined enemy resistance. Here's an example of a submarine deservedly flying the broom:

PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) returned safely from Alpha Trials yesterday; these trials involve taking a submarine to sea for the first time in local waters. Sure, it's a tough job, but let's be honest -- it's not really on the order of shooting a charging enemy destroyer with a "down the throat" shot. Here's how the bridge of the North Carolina looked yesterday:

(I added the fuchsia arrow pointing out the broom on a chopped-down version of this photo.) Having been on a few Alpha Trials myself, I'm not going to blame the CO and crew for this; I know that the shipyard is usually responsible for wanting the Captain to fly the broom. I'll just have to be happy that my CO on Connecticut told the OOD to refuse permission for the shipyard to send the broom to the bridge when we came in from our very successful Alpha Trials; he had a good understanding of how to honor our predecessors. If we were the last boat to refuse the broom, so be it. I can only hope that the next generation of Captains come up with an unwritten rule that the broom should only be flown if ordnance was used against the enemy. If so, I'll applaud them. Until then, I'll try to keep my trap shut and just honor the men (and sometimes women) who skillfully take untried submarines out to sea.

Update 1030 21 Dec: Here's a short video of the North Carolina on the surface returning from Alpha Trials.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bo's Bubblesphere Blog Roundup

Everyone should check out bothenook's roundup of recent submarine-related post by many of the talented submarine bloggers out there.

On a blog admin note: Birdie, I've been trying to reply to your E-mail, but it keeps getting kicked back. Send me an "e" if you have an alternate E-mail address.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Congressman At "Work"

It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of my Congressman, Bill Sali. While I don't agree with a lot of his priorities, I've always thought that he was a man of principle -- he tends to vote his conscience, even when it might be politically unpopular. This week, though, he voted for something popular that seemed to go against his principles as previously expressed to me by his spokesman.

Back in October, Rep. Sali voted "Present" when Congress passed a resolution recognizing "the religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali" (a Hindu festival). This came soon on the heels of Congressman Sali's controversial statements in opposition to having a Hindu prayer open the Senate earlier this year. Considering he had voted "Yes" on a similar resolution honoring Ramadan, I wrote to Mr. Sali's spokesman asking about the difference between the two votes. Here's what he said in return (previously posted by me at the Idaho Statesman's website):
Congressman Sali’s vote indicates that he neither approves nor disapproves of the resolution. Rather, it indicates he thinks the issue involved was unnecessary for House consideration. The problem we’re experiencing now is that the House is getting into the habit of recognizing the celebrations and rituals of many religions, which seems in a way rather condescending and, perhaps more substantively, is unnecessary in a country where freedom of religion is intrinsic to our way of life. Our Founders established a government that honors and protects liberty of religious practice for persons of all faiths. For more than two centuries, brave men and women have died to defend this freedom. Consequently, highlighting one ceremonial day after another seems not only redundant but also patronizing to the practitioners of the faith traditions followed in our great, free Republic.
Fair enough. Very idealistic, I thought. Well, it turns out he wasn't really that idealistic, in that he voted "Yes" this week on a resolution honoring Christmas. Is that surprising? No, but it is just a little bit disappointing. I can respect a man who stands up for what he believes in, even if I don't agree with it. To see a man like that turn into just another politician who says one thing and does another, though, is just sad.

Update 1455 14 December: Congressman Sali's spokesman, Wayne Hoffman, responded to my concerns thusly:
The content of the Christmas resolution is entirely consistent with Bill's work. Congressman Sali has been extremely involved in addressing human rights issues. He has been active on the issue of human trafficking (the 21 st century human slave trade), is a member of the Task Force on International Religious Freedom and the House Human Rights Caucus, two groups that have consistently worked to secure human rights around the world. You will note that, in addition to recognizing the importance of Christmas and recognizing the role played by Christians and Christianity in the formation of the U.S. and western civilization (which is entirely consistent with many, many statements Bill has made), the resolution also rejects the bigotry and persecution that has been directed against Christians.
Once again, I'll have to take Congressman Sali at his word, since there's no hard evidence otherwise. Still, it'll be interesting to see how Mr. Sali votes on future resolutions expressing support for non-Christian groups that also might call for rejecting bigotry and persecution of said groups.

PCU North Carolina Underway On Alpha Trials

Just a quick post while blogging from the Land of the Dial-up Internet Connection (more on that later). Despite the recent discovery of potential class-wide weld issues, PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) got underway yesterday for Alpha Sea Trials. Since they aren't "first of a class" trials, they should be pulling back in today -- hopefully without the damn broom on the sail.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Submarine Officer Tour Lengths Down?

Last July, COMNAVSUBFOR (whose website is currently unavailable, btw) put out a message that reduced nominal sea tour lengths for submarine JO/DH/XOs. Basically, it said that JO and DH sea tours were going from 36 to 32 months, and XO tours from 22 to 20 months. (To the Submarine Force's credit, and I think a large part due to NR's influence, the Sub Force has resisted the lead of the aviators and skimmers in reducing CO tour length.)

By keeping the shore tours at 24 months, the net effects of this change would seem to be 1) getting more officers XO tours, and 2) increasing selectivity for CO. Your basic wardroom has 8 nuke JOs, 3 nuke Department Heads, along with one XO and CO. Doing the math, if XO tour lengths go down while those of COs stay at 3 years, the number of XOs you need to fill the CO billets has gone from 22/36ths (61%) of the served XOs to 20/36ths (55.6%). For Department Heads, however, the selection chance for XO stays about the same, going from 36/(22*3) or 54% to 32/(20*3), about 53% -- but since there are more DHs, there are still 11% more officers who will serve as XO. Finally, keeping the JO and DH tours the same, you still need 37.5% retention in the Sub Force to fill the DH billets.

I'm guessing this initiative was driven by a perceived need to increase selectivity for CO. With the issues the Sub Force has been having that have resulted in COs being fired, PERS 42 needed to do something to show they were being "proactive" in fixing the problem.

So, how's this been working out after almost 1 1/2 years? Has anyone noticed officer tour lengths going down? Are any boats running short of JOs, or did we have enough in the pipeline to let the senior JOs go early? Have continued DH firings completely thrown any semblance of Wardroom Planning out the window? Let me know what you've heard or experienced in the comments.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Taking Kitsch To A New Level

As I mentioned on Halloween, I was looking for a way to attach an inflatable Christmas lawn "decoration" to my roof. Many of you probably scoffed and chortled, but I teched out most of the problems, as seen in this picture of my house in all its Holiday splendor:

I ended up attaching the motor to the roof with 2" wood screws (the motor's on legs, so I shouldn't have a fire hazard from an electric motor on wooden shakes) and put the inflatable right in front of a false gable, which protects the highest part of the ornament from easterly winds and provides a physical backstop for excess movement from the prevailing westerlies. I attached the tiedown cords to eyebolts I screwed into the gable in back, and to the gutter in front. It made it through the first night without blowing over -- although the reindeer in front did get moved towards the raingutter. (I can probably tie some line around them and attach it to another eyebolt if it becomes a problem.) As long as it doesn't get ripped to shreds while it's deflated during the day, I'll have pulled off a Great Feat in Obnoxious Christmas Decorating that all guys (and my competition) will admire! Because I'm so dang proud of it, here's a closeup of the roof inflatable. (While the elf is sticking up out of the bag now, it cycles about every 30 seconds where the elf drops down and a teddy bear pops up. It totally rules.)

You might notice that, compared to past years, the lights along my roofline aren't as bright and mismatched. I decided to "go green" this year and replace them with LED lights, which aren't nearly as bright. I figure it's a worthwhile trade-off, though; with the two new inflatables I'm probably running right up against the 20A limit of my outdoor circuit breaker.

Virtual Trident Tour

Via the retired Submariner who blogs at In Through The Out Door, I found what looks like a promising site -- a "virtual 360" tour of some spaces on the last Ohio-class submarine, USS Lousiana (SSBN 743). You have to download a plug-in to "take" the tour, but it only took me about 30 seconds to do that, without any problems noted (so far). For all you guys who miss seeing what the Ship's Control Panel or Sonar Room on a Trident looks like, this may be the site for you.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's Submarine Christmas Photoshop Time Again!

Once again, Eric at The Sub Report is hosting the "Submarine Christmas Photoshop" contest! It's very simple -- all you have to do is submit an altered photo "including any type of Winter Holiday/Christmas with a Submarine, Sub sailors, or submarine related items" to Eric by December 16th. It's really easy to do; I found a cool picture of lockout operations on USS Hawaii (SSN 776) (other pictures of the same operation are here and here) and clumsily added a digital-type Santa head to the diver, thusly:

I know all you submariners and submarine fans out there can do much better. I look forward to seeing your entries! (Here's a link to last years contest to give you some ideas.)

This Is The Kind Of Thing That Gives Idaho A Bad Name

I have a confession to make. For my own twisted entertainment, I've spent way too much time baiting a kindly old gentleman moonbat up in the Idaho panhandle who blogs at morialekafa. I'm not proud of what I've done (like the time I badgered him into admitting that no, he doesn't believe in the concept of the "soul") but I've been concerned that, since he's supporting the same candidate for Congress I do, someone would have to call him on some of his more outlandish conspiracy theories before it caused problem for our candidate. (Plus, I appreciate absurdity, and many of his rants are classic examples of the most profound kind of absurd thought.)

Tonight, though, both he and Idaho Rocks brought to our attention the kind of beliefs that have given Idaho such a bad reputation over the years. Here's part what Janney Chandler of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, had to say in a Letter to the Editor of her local paper:
Barak Hussein Obama, a Muslim wants to be our next president.
How can a good Muslim be a "good American," much less the President of the United States of America?
Politically he can't because he must submit to the mullah (political leader) who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of the great satin they refer to as America. Death to all who are not Muslim...
...Philosophically he cannot because Islam Mohammed and the Iran do not allow freedom of religion. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or antrocatic.
Spiritually he cannot because when we declare "One Nation Under God," our Christian God is loving and kind while Allah is never referred to as a Heavenly Father nor is he ever called love in the Iran. Muslims cannot be both a good Muslim and a good American. Their personal preference and allegiance is to Allah and not our Constitution, nor our God.
A state of our nation has already elected a Muslim (Obama) to the House of Representatives.
He is in the current session of Congress 2007 and during his swearing in he used the Muslim Iran instead of our Bible...
...Also four Senators along with many others voted against English as our official American language. Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Obama, Boxer, Kerry, Kennedy, Lieferman and many more. Where is their loyalty to America?...
It goes on in that vein. As much as I appreciate the absurdity of all the spelling (antrocatic?) and grammatical errors in a letter complaining about people who don't want to make English our official language, and the complete absence of any actual facts (Sen. Obama is not a Muslim, it was Rep. Keith Ellison who was sworn in using the Koran, the Muslim Holy Book isn't called the "Iran", and so forth) I'm still disturbed that a paper would print something so inflammatory without some sort of Editor's Note. Mrs. Chandler has every right to publicize her opinions, just as I have the right to mock and belittle them. I believe a newspaper, though, has a higher responsibility to at least correct completely erroneous information that makes its way into their print editions -- the standard disclaimer that "we're not responsible" just doesn't do it for me.

I for one am worried about the falsehoods being spread about the Muslim faith, such as that they don't worship the God of Abraham. We are at war with some Muslims (albeit only a small percentage of them, and are friendly with many more), but it doesn't do anything to help our military capabilities to not know everything we can about our enemy. If America's youth, some of whom may soon serve in our Armed Forces, are not being taught the truth about our enemies, I fear they'll be less effective at fighting them -- or making peace with them when the time eventually comes.

Update 0031 29 Dec: Two Idaho newspapers, including the one up north, have published apologies for their original publication of demonstrably false letters. It's a good start. (Personally, it's OK with me if they print the letters, as long as they attach an Editor's note to each one pointing out the obvious falsehoods.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

USS Tautog (SS 199) Draws First Blood

Most students of submarine history know that USS Tautog (SS 199) was one of the most successful of the WWII submarines, with 26 enemy ships to her credit. What they may not be aware of is that the Sailors of the Tautog were credited with shooting down one of the first attacking Japanese planes 66 years ago today. From the Tautog's After-Action Report:
On 7 December, 1941 Tautog was moored at pier two U.S. Submarine Base manned by one section of Submarine Division Sixty-One relief crew. Tautog has returned from a 45-day patrol on 5 December and only one fourth of the regular crew was on board. At 0750 several men on deck observed three planes flying in the general direction of the U.S. Navy Yard from over AIEA fleet landing. When the first plane dropped a bomb and turned revealing the insignia, it was realized that an attack was being made. General Quarters was sounded immediately and about 0755 the first cal. .50 machine gun was brought into action. Torpedo planes, some of which passed very close astern of Tautog had commenced an attack on Battleships moored at Ford Island. At about 0758 the fourth plane in line burst into flames with a loud explosion when about 150 feet astern of Tautog. Tracers from the after cal. .50 machine gun and the starboard cal. .30 machine gun were going into the fuselage of this plane at this time. U.S.S. Hulbert was also firing at this plane. It is certain that it was hit repeatedly by Tautog, no other ships in the vicinity had opened fire.
Other after-action reports can be found here, and other good information on the Pearl Harbor attack is here. On this day of remembrance, it's good to take to heart the lesson that we've shown before that we can defeat a seemingly implacable death-worshipping enemy, and we can do it again if we remain united.

Update 0736 07 Dec: Here's an article from a Missouri paper with the recollections of a submariner assigned to USS Narwhal (SS 167) during the attack and its aftermath.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

SSGNs On Parade

There's been lots of SSGN news going on the last couple of months. With the initial deployment of USS Ohio (SSGN 726) and the upcoming return of USS Georgia (SSBN 729) to her namesake state, all four submarines in the conversion program are well on their way to finishing one of the most successful naval conversion programs ever. I'm looking forward to the first stories of USS Ohio's first deployed crew swap in Guam early next year.

The other two boats, which are between Ohio and Georgia in the conversion process, are also featured in some new multimedia on the 'net. Here's a YouTube photo slideshow of a tour of USS Michigan (SSBN 727) that happened earlier this year; the video was posted by a national officer of U.S. Submarine Veterans:

Also, here's an article that mentions the upcoming deployment of USS Michigan along with a discussion of the saga of the ASDS she'll be carrying.

Finally, there are some new pictures of Seal Delivery Vehicle operations from USS Florida (SSBN 728) that took place earlier this summer, but were just released recently by the Navy. Here's one picture:

Two other are here and here.

Edited 1540 06 Dec to correct the hull number of USS Georgia.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Sure-Fire Moneymaking Scheme

Whenever people start doing stupid things, I like to figure out what the best way is to make money off of their stupidity. One area that I think offers a lot of potential is in the area of carbon offsets, where rich liberals and the companies who fear them are giving people money to neutralize their carbon footprint -- frequently by doing something like planting trees or capturing methane.

Many organizations that offer carbon offsets are planting new trees that take a while to get big -- they're not as good at being CO2 scrubbers as a big tree. My idea is this -- buy some land that already has trees, and sell "Mature Tree Saving" carbon offsets to gullible celebrities; that is, if the celebrity pays you enough money, you won't cut down the trees you own. The effect on net worldwide carbon is the same as planting many more new trees. The best thing is, you can sell the rights to save the same trees multiple times by not specifying the length of time the offset is good for, or by using strange units of time in the contracting language. ("This offset will ensure 10 mature trees will be left unmolested for one (1) Jovian diurnal cycle.") If they buy into that, you can expand into methane reduction offsets -- buy a cow (it can graze in your forest), and if the celebrity gives you enough money, you'll kill the cow so it won't emit methane anymore. As an added bonus, you get to eat the cow!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Video From Inside Iranian Ghadir-class Submarine

It looks like Iranian TV showed some sort of "Meet the Iranian Sub Force" documentary lately, because clips have been showing up on YouTube. Here's a clip where they go on one of the Kilo-class boats (supposedly the Taregh), and here's one where they go inside one of the new mini-subs:

It's sooo cute!