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.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Witness To History

As often happens to us old folks, a song on the radio today made me flash back to a memory. In this case, it was the first night of the Rodney King riots, where I was out with a good portion of the crew of USS Topeka (SSN 754) at the old Horse and Cow in Vallejo; we were in the area for a port visit to Alameda for some reason. Much Nuke Waste was drunk, and the Dance of the Flaming Asshole was performed as we cavorted through the bar, skivvie-less, singing "How can we sleep while Los Angeles is burning?"

The next day, I had duty, and we monitored the spread of the riots to the San Francisco Bay area as guys came back to the boat with reports of almost being assaulted on the BART. We watched the news, half-expecting to see A-Div streaming out of some looted hardware store with lots of new tools. Luckily, no one associated with the crew was hurt, and we left the next morning.

Where were you when history was being made? (In general, not just this particular event. Remember we already covered 9/11 earlier this month.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Japanese ASW Video

Here's a video of JMSDF P-3's practicing ASW:

If only the submarine had some sort of anti-air weapon, it would have survived.

Old And Forgetful

What with all the excitement around here about my son getting his LDS Church mission call (to northern Chile, leaving December 1st), I plain forgot about my 6th blogiversary 10 days ago. Here's the obligatory link to my first post, and here's a link to my current traffic stats. Over the last year, we've been pretty steady about about 40K visits and 80K page views per month. As long-time readers have seen, this site has pretty much evolved into more of a commenter-driven blog vice author-driven; I just post ideas, and you guys take it from there.

Thanks to everyone who contributes to make TSSBP the place it is today.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Guest Post: Submarine Dept Head Retention

A guest post from "LT W":

I know this topic hasn't been commented on in three months but for me it was a very emotional issue and I wanted to respond. I was a JO on a 688i out of Pearl in the mid-late 90's and I got out 75% due to leadership/culture reasons and 25% lack of mission reasons.

Before stepping foot on board I never thought I would ever get out. In high school I realized all I ever wanted to do in life was command a submarine; enduring USNA and the nuc power pipeline were just necessary evils to get to use the sonar and weapons. Yet despite looking forward every day for 8 years to finally being an officer on a submarine, it took me only one month to realize something was amiss and another two months before I realized that the only way I could mentally survive the next three years was if I knew I was getting out (as my way of fighting back).

First, my first CO, XO, Eng and Nav were terrible from a leadership perspective. (My first Weps was an exception so when I say DH's I exclude him.) They basically fostered a culture of "Dept Heads and above vs. JO's plus Crew". For example, the CO would come up with a new decree on a whim, the dept heads would say "right away sir" and then force the JO's to have the instructions carried out. Yes I understand that is the way the military works, but what I am talking about here is "busy work" as opposed to "real work". Busy work tends to demoralize when sailors are unable to go home until it is accomplished. Anyway the JO's could see the new requirement for what it was, i.e., non-value add and yet another demand on a crew already working 100-hour weeks in port, so the JO's were in the terrible position of having to order the crew to comply with a new requirement that the JO's themselves disagreed with as much as the crew. When you factor in that the JO's knew many of the crew fairly well in a way the DH's and above never did nor even cared to, it was heartwrenching. Basically the DH's and above looked upon the JO's and crew as expendable resources to be used and discarded.

It was so bad that at one point almost all the JO's tried to eat second sitting in the wardroom because we all wanted to avoid eating with the CO, Nav and Eng. Eventually it got to the point where the oncoming EOOW would be the only JO eating at first sitting (and he would excuse himself early). Eventually someone caught on and we were told either we eat at first sitting or we don't eat at all. Often many of us chose the latter. I once had the Eng pull out his tickler over meal and ask me for an update on each item on it. I do not deny that it was my JOB to know the status of everything, but the way he did it helped us view meals as adversarial proceedings to be endured, not time for teambuilding and camaraderie.

One other telling story involved enlisted retention. Not surprisingly, our boat had the lowest enlisted retention in the squadron (officers just went to shore tour and got out). When the CO heard about the low enlisted retention from the Commodore, the CO's response was to implement a mandatory enlisted advancement exam study program. The CO figured, hey, it can't be leadership or culture as the problem, it has to be the enlisted aren't passing their ratings exams and so they don't get promoted which makes them unhappy and so they don't re-up. So now the crew has one more requirement, they can't go home (while in port) until their mandatory exam studying is done. Remember again the purpose of the mandatory studying was to improve crew morale. Amazing.

The way these "problems" were handled was a good example of senior officer mentality - when something happens, generate a new requirement to deal with the symptom and force compliance. Never did the DH's and above get together and discuss, hey is there anything leadership-wise contributing to the problem? One crewmember told me that the thing he looked forward to when the boat went to sea was it denied the ability for the leadership to say "this gets done before you go home".

My second Eng was even worse than the first, he tried to run the engineroom like the Marine Corps and as any sub vet knows it is a lot more collaborative than that. He came from a 726 and his attitude was like, "S6G, S8G, whatever same thing" and thought that by being a hardass he could hide his lack of S6G-specific knowledge, which the crew saw right through and they had zero respect for him. My second CO was assigned to the boat specifically because he was much more of a people person and the Commodore needed to do something about the (surprisingly continuing) low retention. The second XO was fair and just, an improvement on the first and I respected him greatly. The second Nav was almost as bad at "use-up-the-JO's" as the first, and the second Weps was nice but a bit of a limp noodle. So after experiencing six DH's, there was only one (first Weps) that I thought was a true asset to the fleet. And he was miserable because he was as in touch with the crew and felt their pain as many of the JO's did. About that second CO, he would spend half an hour talking to the ERLL watch about their family and such, he truly gave a sh*t about the crew and enlisted retention jumped up. If we had had the second CO first, the ship's culture may have been a lot different and so I may have thought the first CO I had was the leadership fluke and not the norm, but in my case by the time the second CO showed up I had my letter of resignation almost finished.

I remember making a little splash on the way out, my letter of resignation was four pages long, but was not combative like some are. It just detailed some of the leadership issues mentioned here (and more). Most JO's just submit a "I just want to spend more time with my family" letter in order to avoid having a showdown with every officer up the chain. I realized such an easy out would not do any favors for bringing attention to the underlying problems. What surprised me most was when I got a call from the head of submarine detailing (a Captain, I forget his name). Basically instead of trying to argue with me about how I had it all wrong about the boat, and instead of trying to scare me about how tough civilian life is, he simply said I can tell by your letter you care about the force and people, it's people like that we need to stay in to change things. That really got to me but by that time I had already been accepted to an Ivy-league business school and I was still very upset. I see now that it was partially my fault due to unrealistic expectations; I had showed up expecting the kind of leadership I read about with Mush Morton and Dick O'Kane in WWII, and instead was greeted with DH's and above who all acted like Ghost of Rickover. I do strongly believe the nuclear power mentality of check everything, trust nothing and massive micromanagement (basically) causes good leadership practices to suffer, but I have to assume some boats out there have both high Eng Dept morale and good ORSE scores. We achieved the second at the expense of the first.

I originally meant to address the other big aspect of why I got out, which was my entire time on the boat all we did was ORSE workup. If memory serves, we even once pretty much blew off our entire TRE workup time to run ORSE drills and we just winged the TRE. Seeing as how I joined up to try and find the Red October, but ended up being on a permanent ORSE training platform, I was basically faced with a terrible command climate while doing nothing actually submarine-mission-related. But this post is long enough already, and I see now that whole mission-focus issue was in many ways a subset of the leadership issue.

Now...all that being said, recently I have been curious about if I wanted to, could I get back in. Recently (on this blog) I saw a post showing the names of the people who just screened for CO and some of my year group friends were on it, and the words that head of officer detailing said came back to haunt me. That, plus I have pretty much maxed out civilian life, the only thing left for me is to be a CEO/CFO/COO of some middle-market company somewhere. As mentioned I got out and finished a top-5 MBA school, and work in a niche industry fixing broken companies which is as much leadership, planning and execution as it is finance. My first job out of b-school paid about what I was making when I left the Navy, but having the nuc sub training quickly pulls you ahead of your pure-civilian peers and as such my compensation has doubled every couple years. Not to brag but last year I think I brought home three times what my old CO's made. Point is if I got back in I would be taking a massive pay cut. But life is more than income and I sincerely miss a lot of the leadership and execution - getting things done, being in charge - that even a C-level position in a company doesn't match up to. The problem is, with the economy not doing great I'm sure a lot of JO's are staying in just to weather out the economic cycle so I'm probably simply not needed, and also it might be too late being in my mid-late-30's to get back in. I just hope if I could get back in I could be assigned to only 688's, I really love those boats and remember almost all the piping diagrams and systems, maybe the detailer could swing that as I imagine everyone wants a Seawolf or Virginia.

Anyway, sorry this became so long, it was planned to be shorter but any place I think about cutting might be the one thing that really resonates with someone. As a side note, nowadays I tell any Navy person I meet who is a junior enlisted or JO to not make their stay-in/get-out decision solely based off their first CO; at least wait to see how your second CO is before you make up your mind as the first, if bad, could be the exception not the rule. Also, while you certainly can make a lot more money with nuc power training on the outside, unless you're running your own company you won't get the same opportunity for leadership and direct hands-on operations that you get on the boats.

Take care everyone, and as I remember saying at the end of my letter of resignation nine years ago, God Bless the US Navy and those who serve.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Facebook Group For TSSBP

Are you on Facebook? Would you like a way to tell from a glance at your Facebook news feed if a new post has gone up here at TSSBP? If so, you should join the new group at Facebook, cleverly titled The Stupid Shall Be Punished. Whenever I post a new article here, I'll put a link to it there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Former Submarine JO Writes Book, Makes News

I don't have as much time to write about former submarine JO and author Christopher Brownfield as I would like to right now, so I'll let you guys get the discussion started without me. I first posted about Mr. Brownfield back in June when he made news for suggesting that explosives be used to stop the oil leak in the Gulf. Now, he's got his first book out, "My Nuclear Family", which was just reviewed by the New York Times. I'll want to actually read the book before I form a final opinion, but based on this post by Brownfield at The Daily Beast, I'm pretty sure I won't like it. Excerpts from his post:
During my on-board training, while I studied more than 70 hours per week, my fellow officers regularly warned me, “Don’t let knowledge stand in the way of your qualifications.” They urged me not to, “learn too much… just check the box and get qualified.” But when my exam arrived, it seemed impossibly difficult. I failed miserably, despite having made a very serious five-month long effort to pass.
My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn’t used the “study guide.” When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called study guide, which happened to be the answer key for the nuclear qualification exam I was taking. I was furious. Defiantly, I handed back the answer key to the proctor and proceeded to take the exam on my own. I failed again. My boss, the ship’s engineer officer, started to document my failures with formal counseling so that he could fire me.
The most competent junior officer on our ship ran to my rescue, confiding that none of the other officers had passed the exam legitimately; the exam was just an administrative check-off. “Swallow your pride,” he told me, and just get it done.
The ship’s engineer and executive officer didn’t believe me when I complained of the cheating, and swept my allegations under the rug. It took me five attempts before I finally passed the "basic" qualification exam. Unbeknownst to me, senior members of my crew even went so far as to falsify my exam scores in order to avoid unwanted attention from the headquarters. But strangely, the exam was anything but basic. The expectations on paper were astronomically high compared to the banal reality of how our ship actually worked.
The post goes on to talk about his post-JO shore tour experience as a Sub School Instructor (which kind of shows where his career was heading had he not gotten out) and includes a rookie mis-spelling of "court-martialed". Interestingly to me, I easily could have been his XO for the last half of his tour on the Hartford (I had orders to be her XO starting in 2004, but got sub disqual'd for asthma), so I'm interested to think about how I would have reacted had I been on the boat. From what I've read of Brownfield so far, it's clear he's one of those over-earnest malcontents who just don't get it; they won't fit in with the group because of their "standards", and make a big deal out of stuff that's really not a big deal in the big scheme of things. Normally, I've liked guys like that; I felt they had something to offer, and there was no question that they cared, even if they did end up causing a lot of extra work and frustration for their supervisors. For this guy, I'm not so sure. I'll have to read his book (the last part of which appears to be about his staff IA tour in Iraq, which I can compare to my IA tour at CENTCOM) to make a final decision. You guys can feel free to start discussing him and his charges now. (Remember, though... NNPI shouldn't be posted.)

Update 0830 23 Sep: So as not to appear to hypocritical, here's my disclosure on my experiences with the BEQ exam (which is clearly what Brownfield is talking about in his post). Clearly, it's tacky to give the guy the answer key with the exam. On the other hand, it was roundly known that the only way to pass it was to take it "open book"; guys generally took it in the wardroom during the midwatch, with the RPMs available when needed. As Eng, I gave a proctored BEQ exam to the whole department at the time; I had that luxury because I was in new construction doing initial quals, and had trained the guys for almost 2 years, in a much more structured setting than is available to operational boats, before I had to give the exam. As far as the few guys who took it after the initial qualifications when I was still Eng -- I never really asked, but I assume they did it open book. [Parenthetically, the BEQ exam is a big deal for junior officers because they have to pass it before they can stand any watches aft; junior enlisted guys don't have that restriction.]

Update 1030 23 Sep: Vigilis posts his thoughts on the media campaign for the book.

Update 0936 24 Sep: Thoughts (and additional forums in which to spread the discussion) from nhsparky and [Bell-ringer] Tom Ricks.

Officer Promotions To Be Delayed

“Great! What we really need are some more 0-5s around here…”
MAJ (EUCOM) on the release of the list of 0-5 promotables

--From the Staffer's Hard Sayings Log

It looks like the Navy has figured out a way to save some money -- hold off on paying people for promotions for as long as they can. From the PERS-42 website, you can download a story and a FAQ about the Navy mid-grade officer promotion phasing plan for FY11 and beyond. Excerpts from the story:
As part of the Navy’s multiple efforts to achieve fiscal balance, the Secretary of the Navy has approved a revised phasing plan for active duty officer promotions beginning in fiscal year 2011.
Under previous plans, five percent of officers selected for captain, commander and lieutenant commander were promoted in each of the first eight months of the year, with 15 percent per month during the remaining four months.
Effective Oct. 1, 2010, active duty officers selected for promotion to the grades of captain, commander and lieutenant commander will be promoted at a three percent per month rate for 11 months, with the remaining officers to be promoted in September 2011.
All officers selected for promotion during fiscal year 2011 will be promoted in that fiscal year. This phasing plan does not affect future selection board promotion rates.
While I'm always in favor of Sailors getting all the money that they've earned, I guess I'm not surprised that the Navy would look at this as "low-hanging fruit" to "save" a few million dollars. Hopefully, they'll return the saved money to taxpayers or augment the maintenance budget, rather than using it to fund something like an extra Senior Officer Conference in Phukett where they share lessons learned on how it's stupid to write yourself TAD orders to go visit your girlfriend.

I figure as long as the selected officers can still get frocked, it's not that big a deal. (Their wives might think otherwise, of course.) How do you feel about the concept of frocking?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Missing MIP A SHT-ty Problem For 774s

From an article at reposted at, there are apparently concerns with how much Mold-in-Place (MIP) Special Hull Treatment (SHT) is falling off the Virginia-class boats. Excerpts:
Significant portions of the specialized hull coating sloughed off from portions of three of the first four boats in the class, leading the Navy to begin an investigation to determine the cause of the problem and how to fix it.
The coatings, applied to the entire exterior of submarines to absorb sonar waves and reduce the amount of detectible noise emanating from inside the boat, have "debonded" from underway Virginia class subs, often in "large sections up to hundreds of square feet," according to the Pentagon's top weapons tester.
J. Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing and evaluation, presented the findings in a June 30 letter to Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon's acquisition chief. In the letter, Gilmore said the Virginia class program has experienced multiple "fail-to-sail" issues — problems that could delay a ship's deployment — including the hull coating problem.
Major hull coating failures are limited to three of the seven subs commissioned so far — the Virginia, Texas and the North Carolina — the Navy said in a written response to questions posed by the Daily Press. The debonding occurred over a period of several years.
Several readers here noticed this problem from a picture of USS Hawaii (SSN 776) I posted earlier this month. As I recall, the early 751-flight Los Angeles-class boats had the same problem. As the engineers have solved similar problems before, I'm sure they'll figure this one out as well -- given enough time and money.

What's the most interesting thing you've ever had fall off your boat?

Update 0732 23 Sep: Some really good posts from Next Navy on the subject of the debonding MIP can be found here and here. The links include close-ups from this picture of USS Texas (SSN 775) taken last month that shows missing MIP from all along the starboard side of the boat:

Bloggers: The Next Generation

[This post is mostly for family, so my regular non-family readers can feel free to skip it if they want. For those who are left... Hi, Mom!]

As the kids we've known for the last 6 years are all going off to college, a couple of them have discovered blogs as a way to keep family and friends informed of their goings-on. My son Robert's roommate started College: The Blog; some of the posts talk about Robert. Another friend of the boys who is going to Idaho State (where my wife was going when I met her) recently started up 4 teh lulz. I especially like today's post, in which he talks about how much he liked hanging out at our house and eating our food.

So, it you'd like to see how the next generation of nerds is enjoying college, I highly recommend these fine blogs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Second Shoe Drops

The second firing of a Bangor-area CO occurred today, when the Commanding Officer of USS Ohio (SSGN 726)(Blue) was fired for "inappropriate personal behavior". Excerpts:
Capt. Ronald Gero was relieved by Rear Adm. James Caldwell, commander of Submarine Group Nine, because Caldwell lost confidence in Gero’s ability to command.
The relief occurred after an investigation into allegations of inappropriate personal behavior that eroded good order and discipline, the Navy said.
Gero, who took command of the submarine in November 2008, has been temporarily assigned to administrative duties on the staff of Submarine Group Nine...
...Gero’s profile on states that he was the ninth commanding officer of the USS Buffalo, from July 2002 to May 2005. He was the executive officer of the USS Narwhal, and served on the USS Nebraska Gold Crew and the USS Houston.
Read more:
A Navy Times story of this firing (and others) can be found here. At this rate, I'm almost looking back with fondness towards the old-fashioned firing for a failed TRE or ORSE or something rather than these "inappropriate personal behavior" RFCs, although I'm sure this type of CO early relief is a lot easier on the crew.

Submarine Field Days

While we're waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Bangor CO firings, here's the newest viral video making its way through the Submarine Force; it looks like it's a rap done from the perspective of JOs:

My favorite line: "If the Dive need a head break, rack out the Chop..."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Aboard USS Rhode Island

USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) recently hosted some journalists for an at-sea media availability, and an Armed Forces Press Service reporter filed this report, posted on As with most reports where a civilian journalist goes on a submarine, some interesting "facts" are presented. Excerpt:
The Trident subs, known as “boomers,” are powered by a single-shaft nuclear reactor. They can carry more than 16 tons, travel more than 20 knots -- more than 23 miles per hour -- and submerge more than 800 feet, according to Navy officials who keep their exact capabilities secret.
I was interested in the "single-shaft nuclear reactor", and I really have no idea what statistic the reporter misconstrued to come up with the "16 tons" factoid. I'm guessing some crew member said it to the reporter as a joke, and nobody caught it during the editing process.

I was interested to see a mention of a CDR Michael Sowa, identified as the SubGru TEN Deputy COS for Strategic Weapons. I know there were two Mike Sowa's in the Sub Force back when I was on active duty; I'm wondering if this is the one who was one of my JOs on USS Connecticut (SSN 22).

The article also has a picture of the Dolphin Ceremony for PO3(SS) William Corring:

Congratulations, Petty Officer Corring!

Update 1700 9/15: Maybe the reporter meant 16 tons of food -- or 16 tons of crew. It's been so long since I've done a dive comp that I can't remember what we used to put in for a full stores load and crew complement, but 160 guys (for an Ohio-class boat) times 200 pounds would be about right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bangor TTF CO Fired

Story at Navy Times. I'll update with the link in the morning.

Update 0827 15 Sep: Here's the link to the Navy Times story. Excerpt:
The commanding officer of the Trident Training Facility in Bangor, Wash., was fired Tuesday because of “inappropriate personal behavior,” according to a Navy spokesman.
Capt. David Solms, the 14th CO fired in 2010, was relieved Tuesday by Capt. Kenneth Swan, commanding officer of Submarine Learning Center in Groton, Conn., said William Kenny, a spokesman for the learning center.
Kenny said the relief stemmed from “inappropriate personal behavior” that led to a loss of confidence in Solms’ ability to command. Kenny said he could not characterize the nature of the behavior.
Here's a story from September 2009 when CAPT Solms assumed command. The Navy Times article also has the list of the previous 13 COs fired this year. This blog grabbed CAPT Solms' bio before it got taken down from the TTF Bangor website; it looks like CAPT Solms did his JO tour on USS Helena (SSN 725), Eng tour on USS West Virginia (SSBN 736)(Gold), XO tour on USS Ohio (SSBN 726)(Blue) and command tours on USS Alaska (SSBN 732)(Blue) and USS Hawaii (SSN 776), where he was the plankowner CO.

For those who have been E-mailing me, yes, I've heard that there's more "news" coming out of Bangor other than this story, but I generally don't publish anything until it gets into the public domain.

For my standard "question" at the end of a post, let's give this one a shot: Have you ever been a CO who didn't realize that if you did something stupid someone was going to find out, and that people can't get away with the same crap that they could even a few years ago?

USS Maryland (Gold) CO Wins Stockdale Award

CDR Jeffrey M. Grimes, Commanding Officer of USS Maryland (SSBN 738) (Gold), was announced yesterday as the LANTFLT winner of the 2010 Stockdale Award. Excerpts:
Grimes reported aboard the Kings Bay, Ga.-based Maryland in 2007. Maryland received the 2008 and 2009 Commander, Submarine Squadron 20 "E" for battle efficiency and the 2008 Omaha Trophy for top performance among Trident submarines.
Grimes was chosen to mentor prospective commanding and executive officers as part of the Strategic Programs Prospective Commanding Officer/Executive Officer Course, and was nominated for the Stockdale Award by three fellow commanding officers, including Cmdr. Michael Katahara of the USS West Virginia (SSBN 736)(Blue Crew).
"A true team player, Cmdr. Grimes fosters a strong atmosphere of camaraderie and esprit de corps throughout the Kings Bay area," said Katahara, in his nomination letter. "A true mentor for peers and juniors alike, he has clearly displayed leadership which will establish a professional legacy in the submarine force for generations to come."
He'll receive his award Nov. 3 at the Pentagon. Congratulations, CDR Grimes!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had just set the first Senior Supervisory Watch on PCU Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) at Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, CT. We were about to start the portion of the Pre-Core Test program that required Ship's Force watchstanders, so as Eng it was the culmination of a very busy time for me, getting all the required qualifications completed. As we were checking valve lineups prior to putting the first water into the reactor vessel, some of the shipyard workers came in and said that some planes had hit the World Trade Center. About an hour later, the CO came down and announced that the Pentagon had been hit, and the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed. The testing program was suspended while the shipyard pulled off people to review emergency plans, and I was left on the boat wondering what was going on. From the building, we could see boats heading out to sea down the Thames in response to the DEFCON 1 declaration for the Submarine Force on the Eastern seaboard. (Later, it turned out that there were several high-ranking officers in Groton, if not Norfolk, who didn't realize that DEFCON 1 required all available boats to head out to sea without further orders. After the first couple got out, they stopped the others that were getting underway from leaving.)

Eventually, we secured the watch. I went home about 1900 that night, and for the first time saw images like this that remain seared in the nation's consciousness:

A probably apocryphal story from 9/11 says that as a person was taking pictures of people falling from the building, someone came up to them and told them to stop out of respect for the people dying; the photographer responded that we had to document it so we could remember if our resolve ever started to flag. While that may not have actually happened, the lesson is true, and the time has long since passed when many of us have forgotten the unity we felt after than tragic September morning. This war will be a long war, and I fear we're still only in the opening rounds. Much as the conflict between a Germany seeking to establish hegemony over Europe with the other European states lasted almost 80 years (of which over 65 of them were "peaceful"), the current War will last a long time. One problem is that it's hard sometimes to tell with whom we're actually at war. Despite the misguided beliefs of some commentators, we're not at war with Islam, although our enemies are almost entirely of the Islamic faith. There are many, many people living in South Asia and Africa -- the vast majority of them, in fact -- who don't want to kill Westerners. However, the ones who do are hiding among the peaceful people, which makes the job of killing those who need to be killed more difficult. We have won a recent war, relatively quickly, against a similar enemy driven by a religious fanaticism that put a low value on human life; unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) the tactics we used against the Japanese Empire aren't available to us now, precisely because of the stateless nature of our enemies.

I fear that, as the war continues (and more and more people refuse to recognize even the existence of the war; as I've said before, it only takes one side to wage a war), the divide among the American people will become greater. Already there are people of good intentions who believe we should treat all Muslims as the enemy, even those who are good American citizens. To people who say that Muslims cannot be good Americans, I offer this visual evidence that they can:

As well-meaning Americans of differing opinions strive to reach a national consensus on how we should deal with security threats in the 21st Century, I encourage all my readers to reflect upon the sacrifice of those who have given all since the horrific attacks of September 11th, and rededicate themselves to the American Ideal.

Where were you when the world changed nine short years ago today?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

POD Notes

1) For those still on active duty, NAVPERSCOM is worried that some Sailors don't know that up to 75 days of leave can be carried over past the end of the year, rather than the standard 60, for many Sailors. (It has been up to 120 days in the recent past.) This authority, most recently granted in October 2008, has been extended out to 2013 for "service members assigned to hostile fire or imminent danger areas, certain deployable ships, mobile units, or other duty..." If you don't know if these limits apply to your command, ask your YN and he'll give you a stupid look. (Just kidding! Much respect to the admin weenies! Please don't mess up my retirement checks!)

2) A disturbing report came out today about a submarine contractor who falsified QA records. Excerpts:
The metal was intended for use in Virginia-class subs, which are built by Northrop Grumman's Newport News shipyard in partnership with Electric Boat of Groton, Conn...
...Bristol Alloys, a metal broker, was a third-tier subcontractor in a chain of companies contracted to build 14 subs for $22.7 billion. Bristol Alloys sold metals to Garvey Precision Machine of Willingboro, N.J., a subcontractor that manufactured parts for Northrop Grumman.
The fraud allegations involve such parts as snorkel hoist pipes, piston tailrods and tailrod bushings shipped between 2004 and 2008. Bristol Alloys is accused of submitting fraudulent heating test certifications indicating that the metals had been heat-treated when they had not been.
(The story also says the company is no longer in business.) A major assumption of the QA program is that the material being used meets required specifications. If the base material is not up to spec, there's a chance it might be caught during initial retests, but issues that would only show up under cyclic stress wouldn't. As one QA instructor said, "We have an extensive material control topic. One of the things we cover is verifying that the material is good. With manufacturing fraud like this, even the best boat QA can't prevent installing bad parts and putting our boats at risk." Just another example of why Submariners deserve extra pay.

3) USS Hawaii (SSN 776) arrived in Japan last week for the first deployment of a Virginia-class boat to the Western Pacific. Here's a picture of her sailing in Tokyo Wan:

4) Finally, and completely off topic, I've always wondered why there are TV shows celebrating "bounty hunters". They generally seem like a bunch of not-very-smart no-neck bullies to me, as illustrated by this story from Tennessee.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Sorry for the light posting; I've been celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary this week.

The new Selective Re-enlistment Bonus message came out today as NAVADMIN 300-10. I'm not patient enough to see if any of the submarine rates had their levels go down since the last message came out, but it looks like Submariners, especially the Nucs, are continuing to do well. (A summary of the changes overall between the two messages is as follows: 26 skills have been removed, 34 multiples have decreased, 101 skills (~63%) remain unchanged. It looks like the Navy is cutting back on SRB payments.) With more senior nuclear-trained enlisted personnel being eligible for up to $100,000 through the Enlisted Supervisor Retention Pay program (ESRP), and more junior Sailors in Zone A getting up to $75K and Zone B getting up to $90K, it looks like there's some good re-enlisting money to be had for Submariners. (Through the ESRP, there are even some SRBs available to those in Zone D, 16-20 years.)

The big thing on my boat was always re-enlisting in the war zone, where the whole bonus was tax free. I'm assuming that's still the case, and I hope some of the Submariners on USS Norfolk (SSN 714), who just returned from deployment, were able to take advantage of that.

What's your best story about re-enlisting?

Friday, September 03, 2010

SSIP Changes

In NAVADMIN 293/10, the Navy changed the focus of the Submarine Service Incentive Pay (SSIP) Program. The previous requirements can be downloaded from here; here's an explanation of the changes. Excerpt:
After a careful review of the SSIP program, retention trends, and Submarine Force manpower requirements, the Navy determined that an adjustment to the program was required to target a different officer demographic. The goal now is to improve retention of Commanding Officer Submarine Support (COSS) personnel between 20 years of service and 25 years of commissioned service, which ultimately improves the overall health of the submarine force.
"These officers are in extremely high demand in the private sector and we must be able to compete to retain them -- not just for their knowledge, but the leadership they bring to the submarine community," said Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, chief of naval personnel.
Although COSS personnel are no longer qualified for nuclear duty, they possess extensive experience in submarine operations and can continue to provide valuable submarine support functions both at sea and ashore.
New SSIP contract rates have been targeted with contract awards at $15,000 for one year, $20,000 annually for two years and $25,000 annually for three years.
To be eligible for the SSIP, applicants must possess the 1120 designator, must currently serve in pay grades O-5/6, be worldwide assignable, and must be previously nuclear trained and screened for COSS, among other qualifications. Those officers currently under an SSIP contract, who do not meet the new eligibility requirements, will have their contracts honored but will be ineligible for new contracts.
It used to be that SSIP was for O-4 through O-6, so it basically looks like they're taking it from being available for XOSS types and limiting it to be available only to COSS-screened officers.

When I got medically disqualified from submarines as an XO-screened officer, I was kind of surprised to find that I wasn't eligible for SSIP; it seemed to me that having asthma wouldn't remove all the knowledge I had that the submarine force seemed to need only a few short weeks before. I kind of understood the rationale that they didn't want to reward people who shopped for a medical disqual because they didn't want to go out on submarines anymore. Still, I was a little pissed off to see some of the idiots (my opinion, not based by actual facts) who were collecting SSIP while I wasn't. Since I was retiring soon anyway, I didn't think much about it otherwise.

What do you think? Is it a good change? Or should they get rid of the program entirely?

Things That Torque My Shorts

There are lots of things that go on in the world that I find amusing, and it's hard to get me really mad about something. However, some things "cross the line" for me from humorous absurdity to anti-social idiocy that has the potential to be dangerous to the American society I know and love. With fewer links than I normally include in such rants, here's a list of things that have been pissing me off lately:

1) People who refuse to accept someone's word about what their religious beliefs are. A person's religious beliefs are one of the most personal things they have, and it's not up to someone else to decide if their concept of God is "pure" enough to be able to claim membership in a given broad religious classification.

2) People who try to take citizenship away from American citizens. I'm OK with people who want to change the Constitution to affect people not yet born, even if I wouldn't support their proposed change; that's part of the traditional political process. It's the people who want to retroactively change the rules to take away citizenship from those who already have it that piss me off.

3) "Africa" by Toto. I know it's an old song, but I'm still pissed off that a song with insipid lyrics like "I know that I must do what's right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti" could ever be popular.

What's pissing you off nowadays?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Guest Post: USSVI Convention

Another guest post from Trim Pump:
One of the things that USSV”I” does is hold a convention. This year’s Convention is in Cincinnati and in 2011 in the Springfield/Branson area and Norfolk in 2012. In some regards the Convention and the American Submariner magazine is about 90% of what the organization does. Each year’s Convention is hosted by the Base (another word I don’t like) who submits a bid for it 3-4 years previous. Last year’s event was in San Diego at an overpriced resort. USSVI gets 10% of the profits from a Convention. Guess what? That % was “0” in 2009. I don’t know if the Base is solvent or in deep arrears because of it. I don’t know if the Base gets a cut from all events/tours/luncheons, etc. But it does appear to me that the more the Saturday Banquet costs, the smaller the plate of food. They also pay for a band. 75% of the people leave after dinner and only 20 couples or so dance and the rest just sit around drinking and doing the NTINS thing.

The Vendor arrangement is strange. Vendors include submarine book authors, clothing/caps/patch sellers, models, coins, jewelry and others. This is a drawing card and the vendors should be charged minimum. Not so. This year the table (6’ table) rent is $50 for one and $40 for each additional. One vendor estimated he could buy new 25 tables for what they ask. For a large vendor that’s $300 real quick. Then they charge for power, internet connection, and handling merchandise if needed. Add to that the room charge of $95/night ($570-6 nights), meals $175, Banquet ($35), other events from $20 to $65 each, plane tickets ($450 avg), $500 to get merchandise there and back,($100 gift for the Mrs.), much much more if she is with you and you come up with roughly $2300 and you haven’t sold a thing yet! You have to sell $7500 worth of “stuff” just to break even!

LATE BREAKING NEWS: I just heard (not supposed to be divulged until Saturday’s Annual Business Meeting for all members) that the two-year Convention amendment passed!

ALSO LATE NEWS: Figures about 2010 Convention in Cincinnatti Aug 30-4. As of 8-17 there are only 479 registries! 152 are single. The rest are bringing a guest. Of the 806 people signed up, 8 want to play golf!, Only 80 are taking the “Grand Tour” of the city, 25 are taking the Horse Park tour, 25 are visiting the museum, 92 are hitting the Air Force base tour and only 125 are doing the riverboat gambling thing. And only 63% are attending the major event which is the Saturday night banquet and Awards ceremony.

Was it well planned and advertised? Your call!
Trim Pump's first guest post can be found here.