Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, December 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.


Blogger Skippy-san said...

Problem is, that it has the sanction of both the battle group commander and the fleet commander-althought he implementation was left up to indvidual ships.

This is what happens when a P-4 comes out from a 3 star and everyone knee jerks.

Plus don't forget CPF was the C7F commander previously and he started the FDNF on this road........

12/30/2007 8:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think "...if I had stayed in I would now."

Then I read stuff like this and say "...I'm sure glad I got out."

12/30/2007 11:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sad!

However, skimmers (and sometimes even submarines) have been doing this type of thing on and off for a long time.

After my first boat, I "suffered" for three years in Subic as an MP. After too many liberty incidents, one carrier group mandated a Chief or Officer (jg or above) for every group of 20 Sailors. They were responsible for the group until liberty secured at midnight.

When I was at CSG-7 in the mid 90's , after the rape of some school girls, the Independence set some strict liberty rules along the lines of the Kitty Hawk.

As an aside,

On my second boat, our CO said that we could not bring any local girls to an MWR party on Grande Island. This was because he and a couple other officers brought their families over (we were doing a mid-deployment refit).

That was all the guidance the crew needed. Imagine some of the ugliest, slutiest, cheapest girls motivated Sailors could find and they were there. Turns out the CO didn't stick around long.

What a great party, not as good as the peso shows MWR supported in the 80's but close!!

Jim C.

12/30/2007 12:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I understand it, Chiefs and above are not subject to these restrictions. So the responsible first class petty officers who have been recommended for chief are subject to it. In my view by the command recommending them for chief they are saying they are ready to be chief petty officers now, but by treating them this way, they must be saying they are not ready.

Does anyone know if ships homeported elsewhere who pull into Japan on a port call are also subject to this?

Maybe the whole tour should be an unaccompanied tour, huh?

Makes me glad I am out.

Chief Torpedoman

12/30/2007 12:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, is this anything new? COs (and officers in general) like to pay lip service to enlisted personnel as the "backbone of the fleet", but deep down they consider them no better than semi-literate children. All throughout my career, I saw lots of crap go down on liberty, and it was my firm impression that *age*, not rank determined how someone would act. That means that a 24yo E-5 acts about the same as a 24yo O-2.

I think the carrier leadership was ignoring their own "fault tree" analysis system (a new fad in management, much like TQL or LEAN) - they're avoiding the bigger question:

"Why would professionals with everything to lose and subject to a draconian disciplinary system act this way? WHAT DROVE THEM TO IT?"

Could it be that, much like prison convicts, they figured things couldn't get any worse... and that, maybe, for a few hours, they could forget the living hell they "volunteered" for by drinking themselves into a coma? After being forced to sit off the coast of Iran for nine months straight, cleaning the same valves over and over... running the same drills, standing the same watches... they actually pondered "what could the Navy do to me that's worse than this?"

12/30/2007 1:16 PM

Blogger Skippy-san said...

In answer to Chief Torpedo's man question-all CSG's become part of CTF-70 when they inchop into the AOR-so technically the policy would apply to them.

Now that said I doubt they would be required to have the liberty form et al-it would take more effor than it is worth. But you can be damn well sure they would be warned not to screw it up.

Also only part of the policy applies only to E-6 and below. If you plan to drink-regardless of paygrade you have to submit a liberty plan and if you deviate from that plan you could get in trouble. E.G. if your wife wants to take you out for dinner with wine...............

One other unrelated comment: I think there is less of CPO's and E-6's going on liberty with junior personnel now thanks to gender integration and fear of being hung out to dry if the youngin's do something wrong. So the Senior people get away and go incognito and in effect leave the junior folks to figure out the boundaries on their own.

12/30/2007 5:36 PM

Blogger M. Simon said...

And I thought things were bad in the '60s.

I did a lot of liberty in Subic. We never had this crap.

Of course I got fleeced when I went (once) to a restricted area. Kept my mouth shut. Took my lumps. Learned my lesson.

What I learned was to hang out at the classier joints up the street and avoid Nina's Papagayo and the dives closer to the waterfront. And when the jeepney guy offers to take you somewhere "special" respectfully reply "not interested".

The rest of the nukes pretty much followed that policy. Of course we were a weird bunch (for the Navy). When every one else was playing acey deucy the nukes were looking for a fourth for bridge.

12/31/2007 4:50 AM

Blogger M. Simon said...

BTW I was a skimmer. DLGN-25. Back when it was a frigate. Now it is in the boneyard.

12/31/2007 4:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, this is happening all over. On my last boat before I retired six months ago, we had similar policies. Every E5 and below was required to call his Chief prior to consuming alcohol, and inform him of his plan for the night.
As a reslut, I would get several phone calls throughout the weekend, "Chief, I'm at home, and I'm opening a beer, and I'm staying at home". It became a running joke with us.

12/31/2007 7:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with the Marine COL. At some point, if you want command and intend to use it, you have to be willing to accept the trouble that "boys will be boys" will always, no matter how well intetioned they are, bring upon themselves and upon their Commanding Officer. Men get drunk. That's time for everyone else to watch out. If you can't, you are going to have a hard time in Life. So grow up girls.


12/31/2007 8:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having just completed a 6 month western pacific deployment and can assure you that this type of liberty policy is enforced on all naval vessels serving in westpac and is absolutely necessary. One of the missions our Navy accomplishes while forward deployed is engagement with our allies and host nations. The impeccable behaviour of our sailors, airmen, and marines as ambassadors of the United States helps to dispel the "ugly american" impression we often leave. It is this engagement that fosters alliances and allows US policy to become more multinational. Proper liberty behaviour is a critical mission area that supports national policy. There are plenty of things our service mebers can do when visiting Sasebo, Singapore, Sydney, etc; besides get drunk in public and embarrass the almost 300 million Americans they represent. The Navy is an all volunteer force, if you wanted to drink till you are stupid, you could have stayed at home and worked at Kmart.

12/31/2007 9:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But K-mart wouldn't keep me locked in the store for nine months straight, keeping an eye on the bad guys across the street (WalMart). And you need that kind of BS to have a truly inspired drinking binge.

1/01/2008 8:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't really about drinking at all. It is about the great majority of sailors being punished for the irresponsible actions of just a few. I agree that there are lots more things to do in Japan than drink, but for a senior petty officer to have to submit a plan and get it approved and then have to call for any deviations is a failure of leadership at the highest level.

At the risk of getting blasted by all, I will mention that Admiral Zumwalt tried to get rid of the chicken s**t regs and petty requirements. Are they now coming back with a vengeance? Punish the few severely or even turn them over to local authorities if necessary, but don’t punish all just because of the few.

I will venture to say that there won’t be much cross-decking from the Kitty Hawk to the George Washington.

Chief Torpedoman

1/01/2008 10:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok to start off I'm an Alcoholic in recovery, now. When I went on my first westpac(I had just turned 20) the CO brought Sharps(non-alcoholic beer)on board for pizza nights. In all the ports we pulled into I dont think anybody went anyware alone. We all looked out for each other from the E-2 striker to the CO, and nothing bad happened to anyone. To me this whole liberty rules thing could have been solved by sailers looking out for there shipmates. Still today if one of the guys from my old boat called and needed some help I would bend over backwards to try to help them.

STS2 D. Shaw

1/02/2008 12:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Homeported in Guam? Same liberty policy--even at home! That's the Seventh Fleet policy. Oh, but if you are a Sailor at the Hospital, or a security guard? No problem, none of these liberty policies apply. Completely rediculous. You treat men like children, they act like children.

Of course, what we really have is an extreme case of "Do not be the next guy," but to get there you have to do things that sometimes get COs fired.

1/02/2008 12:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if you are on a ship home ported in Guam, which is part of the US, then you still have to file a liberty plan and call your Chief to deviate from it just one bit? How about if Guam is your home?

1/02/2008 3:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever notice how the liberty policies are beginning to look like the old soviet navy? Next step will be the "comissar" to accompany groups of 10 sailors ashore to ensure they are doing all those "other things" and not "drinking" and "chasing women." Lets see....they can also monitor what our saliors say to the locals so we don't give off the wrong impression.

My two cents... Keep a zero bubble.......

1/02/2008 5:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its one thing to treat your younger shipmates in this way, but first and second class Petty Officers? Thats a scandal.

Look at the way the Marines and the Army treat their NCOs. As someone who was both, I always thought the blueshirt/khaki dynamic was a horrible division and destroyed unit cohesion.

1/02/2008 7:28 PM

Blogger submandave said...

Back in '97 I was in Egypt for Exercise BRIGHT STAR. It was just after some German tourists got shot up in the Valley of Kings, so CENTCOM told his Adjutant to make sure all exercise participants were safe. He did this by cancelling all liberty for all participants for the entire exercise. The CVN was scheduled to come in for a meet and greet with the Egyptian Navy, but the Capt. refused so long as that policy was in effect. The Adjutant modified the policy to exclude the ship, but all the rest of us were still locked on base.

Never underestimate the power of CYA.

1/04/2008 2:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reply to "Anonymous" writing at 12/31/2007 9:46 PM about "ugly american" impression ... this term comes from an actual book by the same title ... and I take it as a compliment (of course I've read the book and you have not).

I'm proud to have EAOS'd from the NUCNAV (KBK, RE-R1, 3393, 3373, 9502) so I don't have to be OTH'd now for refusing to put up with "mickey mouse" (sleeper chits, liberty plans, and the like).

The saddest thing in life is watching a lifer return for a sea-tour, after about their third week they realize they made a big mistake returning to sea - very sad. After seeing this, I took photos of all the great things carrier nuke life had to offer as I was leaving for MARF. Needless to say these photos reminded me (and my students ;-) of what it was like. Come end-of-tour I did not reenlist for the $30K nuke bonus. Not worth it if I'm going to be treated like a child.

1/07/2008 12:16 AM

Blogger Lou said...

I remember only 2 real incidents in 3 years on my SSBN/SSN, both of them were instigated by the wardroom. I don't know if alcohol was involved, but both involved the disappearance of 1) a cricket bat from the Holy Loch CPO club and 2) the National flag of a friendly power...

1/07/2008 5:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, you're going to love this one...... If you think that is bad, you are completely in the dark!

Approximately 2 years ago on an unnamed SSBN a blow valve was leaky resulting in a port call in Pearl Harbor. Said SSBN pulls in on a Sunday. Due to the lack of security provided at Pearl, the ships crew must pick up the slack (A given Nowadays). Said SSBN had 4 M16's, one MK43 and 7 M9 pistols topside alone, resulting in 8 extra watches at all times (by the way, the DDG next to us absolutely loved this). Due to the extra watches the ship was forced to stand nearly port and starboard watches and port and starboard duty days. Sucks right? Not event the the tip of the iceberg. Additionally, the Ships his, the Outstanding COB and the selfless XOs' infinite wisdom decided to keep the ships crew onboard until 1600 everyday. During this time the crew was to conduct divisional training from 0700-1100 and Field Day the engine room from 1200-1600. The "Working Port" call lasted through Thursday. Really sucked for those guys right? On top of that the top three (CO, XO, COB) put down Cinderella liberty requiring us to be back by Midnight. Thats right, in an American Port on US soil! Now imagine roughly 75-90 sailors having to cycle through ice cold showers no sooner than 1600, getting off the ship around 1630-1700, getting in the duty van (or if you were lucky someones car), driving to Waikiki, getting some dinner, maybe sight seeing a little, getting completely hammered as fast as possible (due to the small amount of time given) and getting back to the boat by Midnight. Amazingly we had no incidences. Other than nearly all watchstanders being extremely hung over and usually vomiting during weapons turn-overs. Good times, makes you fast boat guys wanna go Trident huh?

1/14/2008 7:36 PM

Blogger Jon said...

@m. simon:

Sad to say, DLGN-25 (aka CGN-25, aka USS Bainbridge) is no longer even in the boneyard. The last time I saw here (in 1998) she was in dry dock along with CGN-41 (USS Arkansas) getting cut into razor blades. I know that now she is completely gone, and the only thing even close to being left of her is her reactor cores, which are probably somewhere in Idaho now.

I decommissioned the Arkansas, and our Captain at the time was Captain Keithley. I distinctly remember him making an announcement on the 1MC (one of the last announcements) talking about looking over at the remains of the Bainbridge and remembering his days as a JO aboard her...

12/17/2009 10:03 AM


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