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

Friday, January 29, 2010

NWS Charleston Base CO Arrested

The Commanding Officer of Naval Weapons Station Charleston, home of Nuke School and NPTU Charleston, has been arrested for soliciting an undercover policewoman posing as a prostitute. Excerpts from a local newspaper article:
Capt. Glen Melvin Little, 55, of Goose Creek, has been temporarily reassigned to the office of the commander, Navy Region Southeast, in Jacksonville, Fla., said Scott Bassett, public affairs officer at the Weapons Station.
According to a North Charleston police report, Little was arrested about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday after having approached an undercover female police officer who was posing as a prostitute in the Charleston Farms area on Remount Road...
... The officer then asked Little if he wanted "business," and he said he did want "business" and asked her several times if she was a police officer.
Little offered to pay $20 for an oral sex act and invited the officer into his vehicle. The officer told Little it would be better if he were to pick her up in the rear of the building, where other officers moved in and took Little into custody, the report said.
It looks like even the oldest LDOs can be caught believing the old urban myth that police have to admit they're law enforcement personnel when asked when they're undercover.

Although CAPT Miller's bio has been scrubbed from the NWS Charleston website, they couldn't scrub the Google cached version (which could get updated to the blank page at any time), where we find that he is a Submariner from his enlisted days, serving on USS Birmingham (SSN 695) and USS Phoenix (SSN 702). He later commanded the drydock USS Arco (ARMD 5), after which he served as the Submarine and Nuclear LDO Detailer, so he's familiar to many Submariners. Hopefully he'll be able to retire quietly and not have this unfortunate incident be all that he's remembered for in the Navy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NR Recruiting Video

The Navy posted a video featuring a Naval Reactors engineer -- in uniform! It's fairly interesting; it actually shows her going to a ship in civvies, and she explains why they do that.

While she doesn't seem to know the number of active aircraft carriers (she says 10 vice 11, although I suppose the interview could have been filmed before the Bush was commissioned a year ago), she comes across as kind of having a clue. Not sure how effective it is as a recruiting spot, since they seem to be a little more honest than normal in this one -- probably because NR had to approve it (which makes me wonder how they missed the error in the number of CVNs).

As I've said before, I never really had any problems with the Electric Boat NR guys -- they were mostly helpful. It's the standard waterfront and prototype guys (and I guess gals now) who generally seemed to be power-hungry jerks. Have they gotten any better in the 5 1/2 years since I got out?

Update 0821 28 Jan: On further reflection, it's fairly clear that this LT is one of the desk-bound HQ NR types who generally only go out to the ships during RSEs or on familiarization tours as part of their initial indoctrination, so I still don't know if there are any female engineers in the field offices. The headquarters type of NR engineer are, in my experience, generally more helpful than not.

Repealing DADT

In the State of the Union address last night, President Obama called on Congress to repeal the "ban" on gays in the military. I think it's going to happen eventually, so it might as well happen now (although I doubt it will pass the Senate before 2013, since there's no political gain to doing it before the next Presidential election; however, it could sneak though as part of the conference report on the Defense Appropriation Bill after the November 2010 mid-terms if the Democrats don't do as badly as expected). What do you think?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

USS Los Angeles Goes "Home" To Decomm

USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) was decommissioned today in her namesake city. Articles discussing the occasion can be found here, here, and here; pictures of her arriving are here and here. This leaves USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) as the oldest commissioned submarine in the U.S. Navy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

USS Boise Gets MUC

As Idaho's first and foremost submarine blogger, I feel a special responsibility to highlight the accomplishments of USS Boise (SSN 764) whenever she's in the news. Here's a press release from SUBFOR. Excerpts:
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Boise (SSN 764) was presented the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the boat's continued operational success.
The award highlighted Boise's success in exceeding operational requirements during a 2008 deployment in the European Command area of operations, conducting four highly successful allied naval exercises with the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain.
During the deployment, Boise was a key contributor to the Global Maritime Awareness Force that maintained a common operational picture in support of efforts against illegal fishing, human smuggling and narcotics activities.
Commander, Submarine Squadron 8 Capt. Frank Cattani presented the award to Boise Commanding Officer Cmdr. Paul Snodgrass and the boat's crew...
... In addition to participation in the multinational exercises, Boise Sailors sustained reconnaissance efforts, enabling decision makers to carry out effective foreign policies and conducted independent operations in the North Atlantic.
"Without a doubt, I am most pleased that our crew was able to demonstrate a full spectrum of capabilities and versatility in several different environments," said Snodgrass. "This is a testament to the their ability to adapt to change, and my department heads' and chief's quarter's ability to communicate the mission and translate guidance into action. The award also reflects the crew's enduring positive attitude, and their willingness to do that one extra thing necessary to achieve success."
Boise has been awarded three Meritorious Unit Commendations since the submarine's commissioning in 1992, receiving the honor in 1995 and 1998.
Well done to the men of the "One Ship Fleet".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Busy Week At SUBASE NLON (Not!)

A while back, I posted about confusion regarding when Sailors can wear the Navy Working Uniform off base. They decided you can make "brief stops" while wearing the NWU; at SUBASE New London, they seem to be having some "problems", so they issued a clarification on Facebook (not sure if you'll be able to see the link if you're not logged into Facebook). Excerpts (capitalization as posted by the original source):
There is still some confusion regarding the wear of the NWU (Navy Working Uniform) and some of its components.

Authorized Stops
Routine short-term stops while transiting between work and place of residence via pov or public transportation in the NWU are authorized. Examples of short-term stops include drop off/pick up for child care, dry cleaners, gas stations, banks, and convenience stores. Several Sailors have been observed shopping at local malls such as the crystal mall and department stores such as walmart. Shopping at non-military installation retail store outlets or malls or attending off-base entertainment venues are considered extended stops and are therefore not authorized in the NWU. Wearing the NWU is generally not authorized at formal off-base official navy or government functions, for example: Sailor of the year events, navy league functions, award banquets. Off base working parties, including community relations (comrel) projects may be authorized by commanders to wear the NWU. Wear of the NWU is not authorized for off base personal appointments (examples: court, dmv, civilian medical visits, off-base education). During the prescribed workday routine short-term stops and off installation dining in the nwu/cuu are authorized.
Sailors in working uniforms at the Crystal Mall -- shocking! I know that we've never been allowed to go to the mall in our working uniforms, but I continue to be amazed that the Navy decided to replace our old working uniforms that were too ugly to be seen by the general public with... another working uniform that they're still to embarrassed of to allow Sailors to be seen at the Mall while wearing it.

The post goes on to explain the authorized style and wear of boots with the NWU, then adds this kicker:
As of 1 march 2010, on subase the blue foul weather jacket is no longer authorized for use with any working uniform. all waterfront units should turn in foul weather jackets to NSSC and shore commands to the base. NSSF will provide guidance to those sailors that have to work in heavy industrial areas where outer garments are necessary.
So... Sailors are no longer allowed to wear the blue foul weather jacket, but no replacement is mentioned. I hope that Sailors who have to work outside in Groton, CT, in early March will be able to use NSSF's "guidance" to stay warm. Hopefully "guidance" is a euphemism for "a sturdy warm jacket provided by the Navy for people working outside in cold weather".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Submariners On Reality Shows

My wife and I are thinking about applying for The Amazing Race -- it's our favorite reality show, and while we recognize our odds of getting selected are pretty low, we still think the application process could be fun. My theory is that the reason you don't see Submariners (with one notable exception) on reality TV is that they know we'd completely dominate; living through the crucible of a submarine deployment pretty much prepares you for everything there is in terms of interpersonal power-play relationships and overcoming system-generated adversity.

What do you think? Which reality TV show do you think Submarining best prepares you for?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tweeters On USS Hampton

As I type, several San Diego-area Twitter users are embarked on USS Hampton (SSN 767) on a day trip arranged by the Navy to, apparently, get good press from the local Tweeters. Here's a live feed. (There might be a better one, but I'm completely unfamiliar with Twitter.) And here's an earlier blog entry from one of the guys who's there.

I think this is a good thing from the public relations standpoint, and I'm sure the crew was REALLY, really excited to get underway on a Friday to show a bunch of netheads around the boat. What's the tour group that's most "excited" you for which you've gotten underway to show around for a day?

Update 1720 19 Jan: Here's an after-action report.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ode To The Rack

This picture of a Submariner in his rack on USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) got me thinking about how much I used to love my rack on the boat.

A Submariner's rack is a place of safety; a place where he can get a few minutes to himself. Sure, it's a place to rest ("Joel, come sleep in me" my rack used to call when I finished an especially tiring day) but it's also a place of refuge in a small tube filled with 130 smelly guys. We had this one JO on Topeka could could, literally, spend 18 hours in the rack on Sundays when there was nothing going on. Another guy tried to float a leave chit in the middle of deployment to spend an entire day in his rack. (Got disapproved.)

How much did you love your rack? And do you have an especially humorous or poignant stories about submarine sleeping spaces?

Update 1625 15 Jan: For non-Submariners reading the comments who wondered what it meant to "pin" someone up is their rack, a reader sent in a photo from USS Sturgeon (SSN 637) in the early '80s:

More Sturgeon photos from this era can be found here. Remember, current day Submariners shouldn't do this, because it's considered to be "hazing". (And, let's face it, it's unsafe if someone were left like that and there was fire or flooding.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tube Daze: Episode 1-01

Patrick Hrabe of Tube Daze Productions, creator of the very popular "Hey, Shipwreck" video series, has launched his long-promised new project with the release of the first episode of Tube Daze, set on a modern day submarine. Here it is:

I can't wait to see future episodes!

Update 1000 21 Jan: A reader sent in a picture of a "field day hat" he had made:

Longer Deployments In The Future?

We already had this discussion a couple of weeks ago, but here's a Navy Times article discussing submarine numbers over the next couple of decades and the likely effect on time spent at sea for Submariners. Excerpt:
Under the current 30-year procurement plan, the number of attack subs will fall below the required 48 boats in 2022 and will bottom out six years later at 41 boats. The shortfall will continue until 2034.
“[The Navy] doesn’t have a lot of choice in this gap,” said one congressional analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This is the result of decisions made in the past 20 years that are coming home to roost.”
The Navy plans to meet typical requirements with longer deployments and older boats. The service lives of 16 Los Angeles-class subs will be lengthened by as much as 24 months, and at least one month will be added to 40 deployments — about 25 percent of total deployments — over an eight-year period to provide the roughly 10 subs combatant commanders need on any given day. The typical attack sub deployment is six months; it was unclear when the longer deployments are expected to begin.
For now, there seems to be no political will to justify increased SSN purchases above the current plan, but I could see budget pressures causing a slowdown in the projected buy rate of two per year starting in 2011. That could result in serious problems 25 years down the road.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Base News From SUBASE NLON

Here's an article in The Day about how my old CO, CAPT Marc Denno, has been doing as the SUBASE Commanding Officer. It looks like he has his priorities in the right place. Excerpts:
"The base exists for one reason, and that is to homeport and operate submarines out of, and that has to be our primary mission. That has to be our focus," Denno said in an interview this week. "It's not that submarine hasn't been in it, but there have been distractions from the submarine primacy."
"We're getting a new commissary, a new exchange and that's all good," he added. "But we are in existence to serve the submarines, and right now the condition of that part of the base does not deliver that message."
Denno, who became the commanding officer of the base in June, said he does not like seeing the aging piers and infrastructure, leaking pipes, poor roads and inadequate parking for sailors at the waterfront.
"You have to make hard choices in the constrained fiscal environment that we're in right now," Denno said. "When I have one dollar to spend, I want that dollar to be spent on the submarine part of the base."
So are the new commissary and exchange in the same place, or are they putting them somewhere else?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Social Networking And The New Threat Environment

Blogs and social networking sites are great ways for military people to share stories and reconnect with old friends, but we have to realize our enemies use the 'net as well. Check out this story from Navy Times:
Jihadist threats online against U.S. warships in the Middle East have spiked since just before the New Year, according to a monitoring group in Washington, including some of the most ambitious calls yet for terror attacks specifically on the Navy and sailors.
One Dec. 30 post, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, calls for readers to assemble and submit information about American ships and their crews in chilling detail:
“Information on every U.S. naval unit — and only U.S. [units]! — should be quietly gathered [as follows:] [The vessel’s] name, the missions it is assigned; its current location …; the advantages of this naval unit; the number of U.S. troops on board, including if possible their ranks, and what state they are from, their family situation, and where their family members (wife and children) live; what kind of weapons they carry; the [vessel’s] destination …; the missions it has carried out; the way to monitor it around the clock; if its location is changed, define its movements and its route; monitor every Web site used by the personnel on these ships, and attempt to discover what is in these contacts.”
The writer, whose handle is “Ubada bin Al-Samit” and who posted on a Web forum called Al-Falluja, assured readers every item would be useful:
“My Muslim brothers, do not underestimate the importance of any piece of information, as simple as it may seem; the mujahideen, the lions of monotheism, may be able to use it in ways that have not occurred to you.”
More posts about this can be found here and here. Granted, a lot of that information can be gleaned from the Navy's own official press releases, but things like the names of crewmembers and their families and future port visit information are most likely to come from people posting on blogs and Facebook pages. The MCPON has some good guidance on how to deal with OPSEC in a new age; excerpt:
There are threats, though, that he believes are real and potentially very dangerous. "Anyone who thinks our enemies don't monitor what our Sailors, families and commands are doing via the Internet and social media had better open their eyes," said West. "These sites are great for networking, getting the word out and talking about some of our most important family readiness issues, but our Sailors and their loved ones have to be careful with what they say and what they reveal about themselves, their familes or their commands."
West said the Navy family needs to avoid discussing information about their units, such as location, schedules and specific missions or assets.
"That's standard OPSEC," said West. "But we're not talking about 'loose lips sinking ships' anymore, it's more than that. Our enemies are advanced and as technologically savvy as they've ever been. They're looking for personal information about our Sailors, our families and our day-to-day activities as well as ways to turn that information into maritime threats."
Which brings us to how to handle things like commenting on blogs like this one. I normally don't post anything that hasn't appeared in the media yet, but I have to be aware that this is a good aggregation site for a jihadi who might not have good internet search skills. (Of course, I'm aware that it's not just jihadis who are interested in submarines -- the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians might be getting useful insights from here as well.)

Our freedoms are our strength, and I don't intend to stop sharing stories and concerns on the 'net just because someone might be able to use the information to better understand how to attack us. On the other hand, I don't want to be stupid. Let's police ourselves such that we aren't posting the names of people currently on submarines that aren't released by the Navy (usually that's just the CO's name) and re-doubling our efforts to ensure we don't post about future fleet movements that aren't released by the Navy. With these common sense suggestions, I'm sure we can continue to enjoy some spirited interaction and yarn-spinning that Submariners do so well.

What do you think? Is there anything else we can do to ensure we don't compromise the safety of our shipmates and their families?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Key Words And Tricky Phrases

The classic old joke about phrases that have been found in Royal Navy Fitness Reports makes for funny reading; U.S. Navy fitness reports and evaluations, however, seem to be much more boring.

Since all promotions above E-6 require the candidates to get selected by a board of some sort, it takes some skill to send the right message to the board that "this person really needs to get promoted" or "this person shouldn't be promoted"; this last option is especially important when you don't want to completely demoralize the Sailor who's getting the evaluation.

Do you have any examples of fitrep or eval comments you've seen that were "damning with faint praise" in an especially artful way? And do you think there's a better way we should be doing senior NCO and officer promotions than the old Promotion Board?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Movie Review: "Avatar"

I finally got around to seeing "Avatar" this weekend, and I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. I saw it at the IMAX, and if you have an opportunity to see it in that venue, I highly recommend you go for it.

First, the bad. As many have said, the storyline was pretty much "Pocahontas" meets "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest", and there will be no one under the age of 8 who won't be able to figure out where it's going about an hour into the film. In true Hollywood fashion, corporatists and military people unable to see shades of grey are the bad guys, and enlightened environmentally-conscious multiculturalists are the heroes. The technologically-deficient natives are able to defeat the bad military people by becoming one with their surroundings -- never revealed is how they plan to hold on to their reconquest of their moon if the evil humans decide to use kinetic energy weapons from low orbit.

The good, however, is amazing. It was, visually, the most beautiful movie I've ever seen. It's the first movie where you can say, "They spent $300 million making it, and every dollar is right there on the screen". I'm not sure how good it is in 2D; this is one where it's worth spending the extra to see it in 3D. This is the future of movies -- hopefully with better stories next time.

Overall, I give the movie two out of 5 for the story, and six out of 5 for the technical aspects, resulting in an overall four Politically Correct Reformed Marines Straight Out Of "The Last Samurai" out of five.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2009 Battle "E" Winners

In the first message of the new year (is it pronounced "twenty ten" or "two thousand ten"?) COMSUBPAC announced the winners of the 2009 Battle "E". They are:

CSS 1: USS Charlotte (SSN 766)
CSS 3: USS Key West (SSN 722)
CSDS 5: USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23)
CSS 7: USS Santa Fe (SSN 763)
CSS 11: USS Topeka (SSN 754)
CSS 15: USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705)
CSS 17: USS Kentucky (Blue and Gold) (SSBN 737)
CSS 19: USS Ohio (Blue and Gold) (SSGN 726)
Submarine Tender: USS Frank Cable (AS 40)
Drydock: Arco (ARDM 5)
Special Category: Devil Ray (TWR 6)

Congratulations to the winners, and especially to the repeat winners: Ohio, Frank Cable, Arco, and especially my old boat Topeka for winning her third straight. I note that my old boat Jimmy Carter supplanted my other old boat Connecticut for the CSDS 5 award; it's OK with me if they just swap it back and forth from year to year.

I'll post the SUBLANT winners as soon as I see the message.

Update 2320 02 Jan: Here are the SUBLANT winners:

CSS 2: USS Springfield (SSN 761)
CSS 4: USS New Hampshire (SSN 778)
CSS 6: USS Scranton (SSN 756)
CSS 8: USS Newport News (SSN 750)
CSDS 12: USS San Juan (SSN 751)
CSS 16: USS Georgia (Blue and Gold) (SSGN 729)
CSS 20: USS Maryland (Blue and Gold) (SSBN 738)

Bell-ringer 0835 07 Jan: Corrected the hull designation for USS Maryland. Cut-and-paste can bite you in the butt sometimes.