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, November 25, 2010

My Old Boat In The News

A couple of blog posts, here and here, mention my old boat USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) and what she may or may not be doing. From Galrahn:
There appear to be a few security holes somewhere in the US National Security information loop, because very credible sources have reported the first US ISR on the scene over Yeonpyeong was UAVs launched from the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). While I appreciate the idea that leaking submarine activity might be part of a well orchestrated information campaign against North Korea (North Korea couldn't detect the USS Jimmy Carter short of using a minefield, even if they used every sonar in their entire inventory), I don't think that is actually the reason for the leak.
I have absolutely no comment on any supposed UAV capabilities of the Carter.

[Admin note: Sorry for the light posting this week; I rolled my truck when I hit black ice about 15 miles north of the Idaho/Utah border in the storm that came through the west this week, driving back from picking up my son from college in Provo on Monday night. Everyone is OK, truck not so much.]

Update 02 Dec 1150: Made another round trip to Provo, this one with better results. Here's an account of the accident last Monday from one of the participants.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another One Bites The Dust

Sorry, but this is getting old...
The Navy has fired the commanding officer of the attack submarine Memphis as 10 members of his crew are under investigation in an alleged cheating ring involving shipboard training exams, according to a Navy release.
Capt. Charles Maher was relieved Thursday by Capt. William Merz, commander of Submarine Development Squadron 12, because of a “loss of confidence in Maher’s ability to command.”
The release noted there was no evidence Maher was involved in the cheating ring, but stated his command had “fostered an environment which failed to uphold the high standards of integrity of the submarine force.”
More information here from The New London Day. The articles go on to say that CAPT Carl Lahti, former CO of USS Nebraska (SSBN 739)(Gold) and an old friend of mine, has been assigned as the new CO (I assume temporarily, until they can get a new regular CO). CAPT CDR Maher took command of USS Memphis (SSN 691) in January 2010. He was a Notre Dame graduate (but I really don't think this is more evidence of the Navy firing NROTC-graduate COs as part of a plot to make room for women COs, as at least one commenter here has claimed previously), and was XO on USS Tucson (SSN 770), Eng on Memphis, and did his JO tour on USS Bergall (SSN 667).

Are you just getting tired of this crap? I know I am...

Update 1119 19 Nov: OK, here's my unofficial count of submarine COs fired this year: Chicago, Henry M. Jackson (G), Ohio (B), and Memphis, plus submarine-related CO firings at NWS Charleson, Norfolk Naval Shipyard and TTF Bangor. Did I miss any?

Bell-ringer 1249 19 Nov: A commenter points out that the fired CO of the Memphis is most likely a Commander vice Captain. I pulled the CAPT part from the Navy Times article I excerpted above, but note that the article in The Day says he's a CDR, which makes more sense. Therefore, I've corrected the probable error above in my text, but left the quoted portion in the Navy Times excerpt alone (until they correct it, if they do).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Submarine Officer Board Results Announced

The FY12 Submarine Major Command Board and FY12 Submarine Department Head Selection Board announced their results today. Congratulations to all selected!

It looks like the Major Command Board was for my year group. Man, I'm old...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

USS North Carolina Arrives In Pearl

USS North Carolina (SSN 777), commanded by one of my old shipmates, arrived at her new homeport of Pearl Harbor yesterday. Here's a video of the arrival:

Do you have any good Change of Home Port stories?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is Military Service An Important Preparation For Political Leadership?

It looks like it's starting off as a slow week in submarine news, so here's an article from Politico saying that, for the first time since 1944, it's likely that neither major party nominee for President will have military experience. I'd disagree with that premise a little bit -- by 2012, President Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, will have almost four years of experience as Commander in Chief during wartime -- but it's definitely an indication that, as the post-draft generation continues taking the reins of power, there are fewer and fewer politicians who have worn the uniform.

Personally, I think that having an understanding of military culture is an important preparation for those who will make decisions about national security matters, but lack of same is clearly not disqualifying -- as long as the prospective officeholder is willing to recognize that they need to make an effort to learn.

What do you think? Are you more likely to vote for a veteran over a non-veteran, all else being equal, for elections to national office?

That Explains Everything!

If you're one of those people who believes nothing is a coincidence, here's a theory that explains both of the maritime news stories of last week -- the cruise ship power loss and the airplane contrails off the coast of Los Angeles. Excerpt:
A new report circulating in the Kremlin today prepared for Prime Minister Putin by Director Anatoly Perminov of the Russian Federal Space Agency states that an Arkon-1 military satellite monitoring the western coastal regions of North America detected an “EMP anomalous event” occurring on November 8th at 0600 Pacific Standard Time (-8 hours GMT) that bore the “direct signature” of a YJ-62 subsonic anti-ship missile fired from a Chinese People’s Liberation Navy Type 041 submarine (NATO code name Yuan-Class) known to be patrolling approximately 200 kilometers off United States coast.
Nearly 11 hours after this EMP “event”, this report further says, Arkon-1 then detected a BGM-109 (Tomahawk) subsonic cruise missile launched from a US Navy Ohio-Class submarine operating off the coast of California [photo bottom left] on a “training mission” from its home port located at US Navy’s Kitsap Base in Washington State and was enroute to the largest American Naval Base on the US west coast in San Diego, California.
Note: A Russian military intelligence (GRU) addendum to this report states that the “training mission” the Ohio-Class submarine was on is related to a new US law passed this year allowing for the first time in history for women to serve on US Navy subs and was an “operational exercise” testing female Naval Officers competence prior to their first “operational deployment”.
The “immediate effect” of the Chinese Navy’s firing of their EMP missile, this report continues, was the “catastrophic crippling” of the US based cruise ship Carnival Splendor [photo 3rd left] that stranded its nearly 4,500 passengers and crew in a “dead in the water” boat and prompting the Americans to send the US Navy’s Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, warplanes, and supply aircraft to protect it from further attack after all of its electronic systems were destroyed.
It must be sad to be so divorced from reality that you have to look for a "hidden hand" behind every event. Sometimes, stuff breaks, and sometimes atmospheric conditions create an interesting-looking contrail.

What are your favorite conspiracy theories?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Benefits Of Serving

I've been touched by all the good wishes from Facebook friends and family members this Veteran's Day -- it seems like people are more aware of the holiday this year than in years past. While serving in the Armed Forces is undoubtedly a sacrifice, many of us enjoyed benefits other than the good feelings of our fellow citizens. I'm thinking, of course, of boondoggles.

"Getting the good deal" has two contradictory meanings in military culture. It can mean that one is getting a bad deal, but it can also mean that someone has lucked into some TAD job that is rewarding from either a financial or life experience perspective. Generally, more junior military personnel don't see that as much; about all they can hope for is some sort of "stash" duty while waiting to class up for a school where they "work" 20 hours/week while getting lots of time off in a nice city. The more senior you get, though, the better opportunity you have for a real good deal.

I got my "good deal" right before I retired, when I volunteered for IA duty with CENTCOM in August 2003. I wrote about the background here; here's an applicable excerpt for those who don't want to click on the link:
They set me up in a two BR apartment in St. Petersburg and had me take over the "Coalition Financial Ops" desk in the Iraq Coalition Coordination Center from a Navy CDR who was leaving in three days. As I was turning over, I found out that I was basically in charge of figuring out how to set up a system for handling over $500M of funds to help support the 30-odd countries getting set to provide troops in Iraq in August '03. I had a memo from Condoleezza Rice saying we could use the money, a four page memorandum of understanding between us and Poland that was mostly generalities, a slightly longer MOU between Poland and the other countries that had even more generalities, and an E-mail cache -- and that was about it. Needless to say, it concerned me a little that there weren't any procedures set up ahead of time, and I was even more concerned that a Navy O-4 with no real financial training was supposed to come up with these procedures.
The whole time I was in Tampa, I got regular food per diem plus a car, along with the 2BR apartment (that cost the Navy more than what I was paying for rent for my 4BR house in San Diego -- the contracting people out there weren't very good negotiators.) I also got three 5 day trips to Warsaw as part of my duties. While I worked hard during those trips for several hours a day (and I got stuff done that I wouldn't have been able to do from Tampa), I really enjoyed having them put us up in a really nice hotel and have enough per diem money to enjoy the folk dancing and other cultural activities.

One interesting story of serendipity from one of my visits. I was there for a manning conference for the 2nd rotation for MND-CS, and got stuck going to the Administrative Support breakout session because my job didn't really fit in with any other group. It turns out that, unbeknownst to anyone in my group, they were expecting us to say whether or not a contingent of the Illinois National Guard that was providing admin support to the division would be staying for that rotation. Having no clue, I said I'd look into it; unfortunately, I didn't have a secure way of communicating with Tampa. As we were hanging out in the hotel bar that night, we noticed another table of Americans, and started talking to them. It turns out that one of them was the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, in town on a boondoggle completely unrelated to ours. I got my answer, and looked like a hero the next day.

Did you ever get the good deal?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

HMAS Dechaineux Collides With Tug

The Australian Collins-class submarine HMAS Dechaineux (SSG 76) collided with a harbor tug today as it was leaving HMAS Stirling south of Perth.
The submarine was carrying out a routine manoeuvre with the tug when the tug crossed over Dechaineux's stern.
No one was injured but a subsequent inspection has confirmed repairs are needed.
HMAS Dechaineux will undergo repairs over the coming weeks.
As a result, HMAS Dechaineux will withdraw from training exercises off the WA coast.
HMAS Dechaineux was scheduled to participate in Navy's annual anti-submarine warfare exercise off the Western Australia coast. She will be replaced by HMAS Collins which is currently at sea.
Here's a picture of the boat in better times:

Also in the news, and not really submarine-related even though some people say it is, there are reports of a missile launch off the coast of Los Angeles last night that some people suspect was an ICBM launch from an American SSBN meant to show President Obama's Asian hosts that we... I don't know... have submarines that can launch ICBMs. In case they forgot or something.

Update 1300 10 Nov: An idiot Russian general weighs in on the aircraft contrail siting:
In Moscow, Major General Alexander Vladimirov, vice president of Russia's board of military experts, told the Interfax news agency the television image "looks like the launch of a missile from a submarine."
"Most likely we are talking about the launch of a Trident-2 ballistic missile from an Ohio submarine," Vladimirov was quoted as saying.
"There is reason to believe this was an unsanctioned launch of a missile from a submarine. If this is so, then many questions arise about the condition of the U.S. armed forces," he said.
I can't believe we were ever afraid of these guys. On the other hands, Americans (though not military trained) who claim that a North Korean submarine could make it across the Pacific, let alone launch a missile, aren't showing themselves as too smart either.

Monday, November 08, 2010

PCU California (SSN 781) Christened

PCU California (they of the colorful logo and very good motto -- "Silence is Golden") was christened on Saturday at Newport News. Photos are here, and an archived webcast can be found here.

Status Update

Well, it's been over two years since I found out I had cancer, so I figure it's time for a status update. The esophageal cancer was successfully removed by chemo/radiation and surgery, and hasn't come back at all, as shown by semi-annual CT scans. After my next scan, I switch to annual exams, and I'll be "cancer-free" three years after that.

Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes during that time.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Project Valour-IT

If it's Veteran's Day weekend, it must be time again for the annual Project Valour-IT fundraiser. This worthwhile project provides voice-activated laptops and other electronic equipment to wounded veterans who wouldn't otherwise be able to use a computer. Please donate if you can; you can help out Team Navy in the competition as well as the wounded veterans by clicking below:

learn more

If It's On The Internet, It Must Be True!

There are reports that Sen.-elect Rand Paul is spending $8 trillion on his transition expenses! Super cereal!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Submariner And Non-Submariner In The News

A retired Navy submarine Captain has pled guilty to a conflict-of-interest violation for his dealings with a defense contractor before his retirement:
Patrick Seidel, 51, a veteran submariner, was negotiating with the defense firm about a job while also helping the firm potentially receive a contract with the Navy to provide technology enhancing the service's anti-submarine program, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
At the time, Seidel was major-program manager for maritime surveillance at Naval Sea Systems Command in San Diego, involved with contracts for ocean surveillance systems.
After negotiating with the unnamed firm for several months, Seidel retired in late 2005 and took a job with the firm, receiving a $25,000 "signing bonus," according to documents.
Seidel had invited the defense firm to send employees to inquire about Navy contracts, sent Navy personnel to the firm to discuss possible contracts, and talked with Navy officials about the firm, according to documents in the case.
Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal on Friday sentenced Seidel to one year of probation and a $15,000 fine.
Also, an Ensign at Sub School who will never be a Submariner is asking the ACLU for help getting a discharge:
(ENS Michael) Izbicki, 24 and based at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Hartford on Wednesday asking for an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector, a request the Navy has turned down twice in the past year.
According to the lawsuit, the Navy's investigations of the legitimacy of Izbicki's beliefs were deeply flawed and, in one case, "showed extreme religious bias" against his Christian beliefs, especially when it came to his increasing interest in Quakerism.
"My Christian convictions preclude the use of violence; I cannot take someone else's life, nor can I aid others in doing so," Izbicki wrote in his application. "Therefore, I cannot participate in war in any form."...
...He had to take a psychological exam when he started training to serve on a submarine. He was asked if he could launch a nuclear missile and he realized he could not.
I remember another case of some goober officer asking to get out back in the early 90s, but I think it was because he'd hooked up with some group of politically-oriented peace activists instead of Quakers. I discussed the "psychological test" Submariners have to take back when I first started this blog, so I guess it's a good time to bring it up again to get people's thoughts on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of same.

Skimmer XO Court-Martialed

Check out this story from about the ongoing court martial of the former XO of USS San Antonio (LPD 17) for dereliction of duty relating to the death of a Petty Officer in February 2009 during a small boat mishap. Excerpts:
Prosecutors contend that Kearns did not ensure effective training or supervision of small boat operations on Feb. 4, 2009, when the amphibious transport dock ship -- the first in its class -- was operating in the Gulf of Aden.
That morning, an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat with three Sailors aboard was lowered to the water. Its engines failed to start, and it flipped over soon after hitting the water. Two Sailors were rescued. Petty Officer 1st Class Theophilus Ansong, the small boat's engineer, apparently drowned. His life vest, too large for his frame and improperly closed, was recovered; his body was never found...
...Kearns, whose duties as second-in-command included supervising small-boat operations, was not on the bridge for the launch of Ansong's rigid-hull inflatable boat, Burby said. Instead, he was in his stateroom, checking e-mail...
...Kearns refused the option of facing non-judicial punishment in an administrative hearing. Instead, he opted to have a jury decide his fate.
More information can be found in this Navy Times article. Based on what I've read (XOs almost never personally supervise RHIB ops on amphibs, there is still no standardized procedure for this class for this evolution) I don't see how they could win a conviction, but remember the jury is a bunch of O-5s and O-6s who might buy into the Big Navy philosophy of "blame individual Sailors on the deckplate so we can avoid having to acknowledge and fix systemic problems". I personally have a problem with the attitude that people should be punished for doing what everyone else does if there's an accident involved, but it's clear the Navy leadership does buy into that idea.

Update 1613 08 Nov: LCDR (soon to be CDR) Kearns was acquitted. Money quote:
Prosecution witnesses, for instance, had said the “best practices” gathered from general experience on systems common to many Navy ships, including small boat operations, were known to and disseminated to shipboard leaders, an apparent defense of the lack of formal training guidance.
But, Carmichael said in his closing statement, “Are best practices the standard that we hold somebody criminally negligent for?”