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, July 28, 2011

Are Officers Inherently Jerks?

A reader sends in the following:
I was an enlisted nuke MM and following my time in the canoe club, went to [respected university] for my BSME. I have completed all the course work for my Masters in Engineering and am just working on the research to complete it. So I have an education and am not stupid in any sense of the word.

Is there something in ROTC and/or the Academy that they teach officers about in treating enlisted sailors with disdain? I don’t get it. I happened to meet a gentleman at work the other day that was an officer on the Dallas (I was on the Philly). He was engaging and the minute I mentioned that I was an enlisted nuke, the whole conversation turned. Well actually it just ended – abruptly. Since then I have seen him and he has never said a word to me even in a professional sense. I am in a training class currently (two days) and he is sitting right behind me – not a word or even any acknowledgement of my existence.

This isn’t the first time I have run across this behavior, and actually find it quite common.
I've known quite a few officers who seemed to believe that they were inherently "better" than enlisted people; my stateroommate on the carrier on which I was stationed used to thrust his collar device out of mess attendants he thought weren't being sufficiently deferential. I didn't think it was something he'd been taught in an organized way; I figured he was just probably a jerk. Still, I've heard from many people who believe that that probably apocryphal quote about enlisted Sailors being "cunning and devious", allegedly contained in some early 20th century officer handbook, is still being actively taught by commissioning sources. Now, I only went through OCS, but I paid attention in class, and I'm almost positive they didn't teach us that there.

We've kind of discussed this before, but what do you think about this story? Are guys who are officers who are jerks to enlisted men just a-holes, or is there something about the Submarine (or military) culture that teaches them that they should be like that?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

USS Texas Sailor On AFN Korea

A good video from Armed Forces Network Korea about an MM1(SS) aboard USS Texas (SSN 775).

Update 0743 27 July: Here's another video, this one from the Navy website:

Submarine Independent Duty Corpsman Recognized for Efforts

And while I'm at it, for no reason other than I want to get it on the server in case I need to use it for some future unforeseen circumstance, here's the most recent picture of your friendly neighborhood Submarine blogger:

Friday, July 22, 2011

New Hazing Fallout

A couple of stories about "hazing" in the Navy have hit the news lately. The most recent is the case on the minesweeper USS Patriot (MCM 7) where, apparently (this is based on one opinion piece in Navy Times) six Sailors are getting ADSEP'd for "tacking on" crows. It seems to me that, unless the CO had specifically told the crew that anyone tacking on crows would get administratively separated, that seems a little harsh -- especially when one considers this article on the official Navy website about officially-sanctioned "tacking" ceremonies (obviously without the bruising associated with the tradition of 10-20 years ago). I can only imagine what the Navy would do to someone who participated in a dolphin "tacking" (without the backing studs) or "drinking your dolphins" ceremony.

Meanwhile, we're waiting to hear what, if anything, will come of the reported story about hazing on USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) while the boat was in the shipyard. Has anyone heard anything about that one?

Do you think that the old "camaraderie-building" stunts we used to pull had any positive effects, or were they just a way to bully the new guys? I went through Shellback ceremonies both "before PC" and after, and thought the "before" version was a lot better (even though I was the 'Wog for that one).

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Design For Undersea Warfare"

The Submarine Force leadership just released an overview of what they see as "commander's guidance to the Submarine Force on maintaining undersea superiority in the 21st century". VADM Richardson expects to introduce it to the Force on Wednesday (the anniversary of the first launch of Polaris from the submerged submarine USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598)), but they released this advance look a couple days early.

I haven't had a chance to look at "Design For Undersea Warfare" yet (or it's companion piece, "Undersea Warfighting") because I'm in the middle of my workweek and need to concentrate on making the best memory chips in the world. Until the official rollout, please take a look at the Force leadership's vision and start a discussion in the comments.

Update 1020 20 July: Today's the official "rollout" day of the new initiative, as detailed in the first post of the new COMSUBFOR blog. As I understand it, all the boats not at sea will be sending their CO/XO/COB to meet with the leadership in each submarine homeport to get briefed on the changes this new vision will bring. And word on the street is that there will be changes, with a message flying (possibly today) that will cancel several onerous administrative requirements. I think the highest levels of the Submarine Force leadership are buying into it; the question remains as to what the deskbound Captains, Commanders, and Master Chiefs who will never go to sea more than a day or two at a time in the future will do to support (or hinder) the Admirals' vision. I remember back when ADM Boorda cancelled a large number of admin requirements, and the waterfront inspecting agencies basically ignored the CNO. (True story -- one of the cancelled programs back in 1998 was the Diesel Trend. When my boat had its ORSE in July 1999, I showed the instruction to the team member, who acted like he'd never seen it before, and still reviewed my records. I had kept them up, of course, since I didn't expect the ORSE would ever willingly give up a chance to find another "weakness".) Since some inspecting agencies officially work for the Fleet Commander, hopefully they won't "overrule by board precept" the Sub Force's efforts to move their warfighters away from filling out TPS reports and more towards figuring out better ways to deny the ocean to our adversaries.

It's clear that money will be the biggest driver of the future of the Submarine Force. This article in The Day says that some people are considering foregoing an all-new design for the next generation SSBN, and just putting SLBMs on a Virginia-based hull. I remember them talking about that at EB as a possibility back when the original Virginia was being built next to my boat, and I thought how they'd have to drastically shrink the missiles to fit with the tiny (33'; it's tiny compared to the 40' of the Seawolf-class boat I was on) diameter of the Virginia, even if they did use some sort of turtleback (with concomitant speed penalties for an already slow boat). I suggested back then that they should base the new SSBN on the Seawolf. The design's already proven, the existing missile would fit in with only a small turtleback, and they already know how to cut a Seawolf in half to add a middle section. The only problem would be that you'd end up with an SSBN fleet that was faster than the SSN fleet.

I'll be interested to hear from anybody who finds out which admin programs they'll be cancelling.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sub Tender CO Fired

From Navy Times:
The commanding officer of a submarine tender based in Diego Garcia was fired Friday after his ship struck a channel buoy in June, the Navy said Friday. He is the 13th CO fired this year.
Capt. Eric Merrill, a career submariner, was in command of sub tender Emory S. Land on June 21, when the ship hit a channel buoy while heading into Mina Salman, a port of Bahrain...
...After an investigation, Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander of Task Force 74/54, relieved Merrill for “loss of confidence in his ability to command,” Hagen said. Merrill was awarded non-judicial punishment on Friday for violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 110, improper hazarding of a vessel.
CAPT Merrill was previously CO of USS Wyoming (SSBN-742)(Gold). Based on item #292 in this Notice To Mariners, it looks like the ship took out Channel Buoy #12. From what I remember, the approach to Mina Salman is fairly tricky, with a tight turn.

Have you ever been on a boat that hit something it shouldn't have hit?

Update 2021 16 July: Here's a picture of CAPT Merrill during happier times earlier in the deployment.

Gotta Be A Misquote

From an Army Times interview with Vice CJCS Marine Gen. James Cartwright, discussing planned DoD budget cuts over the next decade:
“The second three years tend to be on the structure side of the house. So that is forces, changing the number of forces that you have or the character of the forces.
“People generally will look at it and go, ‘That means taking people out of the services.’ Not necessarily. You may just shift the balance of the services from active to Guard or reserve or to — the dirty word — a draft,” he said. “Those are all different characters and they have different costs that you can manage, based on time when you bring those forces into activity. We are looking at all of that full range. We’ll have to look at everything.”
[Emphasis mine] I'm not sure why someone who apparently is supposed to have a clue would be saying that in 4-6 years the military, currently fully-manned and downsizing, would want to bring in a bunch of people who don't want to be there. (Granted, there are plenty of volunteers who end up not wanting to be there, but with those guys you can at least shame them with the fact that they voluntarily signed the dotted line.) I've always said that bringing back the draft is a sure way of destroying the American military; I expect that from people who hate the idea that America should be able to project power overseas, but I'm not sure why someone who apparently doesn't would want that. (If, on the other hand, this was just a scare tactic to try to stop the budget cuts, that means the Administration has some serious message discipline problems.)

Any older guys want to share stories of malcontent draftees who caused problems?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New (To Me) Submarine Videos

Here are a couple of newish "official" submarine videos that I don't think I've posted before. The first is "Why I Joined":

The second is "The Ultimate Stealth Platform":

How do you think the Navy does with their propaganda videos on social networking sites? If you were a youngster, would they make you consider signing up? (Alternate question: Why did you join? For me, it was because I'd kind of quit going to class in the middle of the semester to hang out with girls of questionable character, and really needed a new start in a new place.)

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Nothing submarine-related here, just "proud Dad" pictures of his youngest kid on his mission in northern Chile. He's on the left in these two pictures:

And on the right on these two (his "Mission Mom", the Mission President's wife, is on the left):

He's currently in Calama, Chile, which apparently gets below freezing now while it's winter down there. We sent him with a nice long coat, but based on these pictures he's only wearing the liner that came with it.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Up Or Out -- Good Or Bad?

This story (and a nudge from Chap) got me thinking about the Navy system of "up or out" officer promotions and career gates in general. There are very few other organizations that, once you get good at a job (or not), literally force you to up to the next step of the ladder or else get thrown aside. For Unrestricted Line Officers, there really are no other realistic choices.

For those who aren't aware of the system, here's a short primer (in addition to the link above), using submarine examples. For officers, if you don't get promoted, you're asked to leave the service within a few years. Once you make LCDR (O-4), you're generally allowed to stay around until you're retirement-eligible, but a Lieutenant who fails to promote to LCDR usually has to leave once you fail to select (FOS) twice. This isn't that big a deal -- at the lower ranks, one generally has to be a major screw-up to fail to promote, so you'll normally be doing everyone a favor by taking your talents elsewhere. (On the enlisted side, they kind of have the same concept, but once you make E-6 you're good to go until 20.) It's the officer job career path that, I think, results in some people who are really good at their jobs being forced into jobs where they're not so good.

For a submarine officer's sea tours, you get three years as a division officer, then shore duty. Then you get about 3 years as a Department Head, then more shore duty. About 60% of DHs get selected to do about 2 years as Executive Officer, and about 2/3 of XOs get three years in command. And then, unless you go to new construction or get to fill in for someone who got fired, that's the last time you command a submarine. The best COs get the same three years as the worst, with no time left to start again. (There are obvious exceptions to the above -- I did 5+ years as Eng on two NewCon boats -- but those are exceptions that prove the rule.)

What this results in is people who are really good division officers, but who might be lousy Department Heads, not being able to serve the Navy doing what they do best. On the other hand, if you leave a guy doing Main Propulsion Assistant tours for three out of every five years for 20 years, you take away that slot from a new guy coming up. If the Navy were ever having manning problems that would be an option, but we aren't nearly at that point yet. By constantly injecting "new blood", you end up with people not necessarily filling the job they're best at, but you do get a chance to evaluate all the talent to see who might have what it takes to be a CO. Of course, once you do that, you still get only 3 years out of those guys in command. Is this the best system? The Brits will get guys who are good Engineers be the Eng on several ships for a decade or more, but he'll never get command. There are pros and cons either way.

What do you think? Is "up or out" the way to go, or should we let guys do the jobs they're good at (which would also allow us to reduce accessions)?

Personally, if they would have let me, I would have been happy being an Eng forever.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tea Party Boise Dons Tin-Foil Chapeaux

As the novelty of the Tea Party wears off and people begin to realize that candidates espousing the doctrinaire beliefs of that group are completely unelectable on a national level, you're starting to see the "true believers" who remain active reveal their true colors. One such group seems to be the leadership of Tea Party Boise. Here's a flyer for a meeting they're holding this weekend in Nampa, for which getting people to attend seems to be a problem.

One problem seems to be the "Featured Keynote Speakers". The guy they have on Saturday is listed on the flier as an "Expert in International Conspiracies", but it's the Friday guy who seems to be causing (deservedly) the most backlash. It's Dr. Steven Jones, who I've been mocking and belittling since 2005.

Both of them are "Truthers" -- people who believe that 9/11 was a U.S. Government plot. And by having them as featured speakers, Tea Party Boise is legitimizing this crackpot theory.

I'm not doubting that the government lies -- they clearly did when they said that Osama bin Laden was buried at sea so as to satisfy Muslim traditions that burial take place within 24 hours when it was obviously done before Monday morning (U.S. time) to make sure that some lawyer couldn't file suit for possession of the body on behalf of some family member. People like the "Truthers", however, believe that the government always lies, and anything that doesn't match their own narrow worldview must be the product of some huge conspiracy. People like the leadership of Tea Party Boise just can't understand how President Obama hasn't tried to confiscate their guns yet -- after all, didn't all those people who jacked up the price of ammo in December 2008 say he was going to? The more their predictions of doom fail to come true, the more they retreat into a delusional world where it's all part of an even more sinister and detailed conspiracy (usually led by Jews). The 9/11 Truth movement is the apex of this line of thinking, so it's not surprising that they're headed into that territory.

It's not just Tea Party Boise that's fallen into this trap. Even a respected group such as the Elmore County Republican Central Committee has started to eat their own, passing a resolution calling for the State GOP to investigate Gov. "Butch" Otter and his "Project 60" because of fears that he's supporting a Chinese enclave just south of Boise that will be a perfect base for a "Red Dawn"-style invasion. (Of note, then-Rep. Otter proved his Libertarian bona fides by being one of 3 Republicans to vote against the original Patriot Act -- even that isn't enough to protect him now from xenophobic Idaho Republican activists.) Like most Tea Party ideas, this one spread quickly via E-mail, finally hitting the Drudge Report, without anyone stopping to verify facts or realize that the whole idea was so far-fetched as to be unbelievable -- it was enough for them that it was more "evidence" of the government being evil.

I find it interesting that many of these people, when confronted with irrefutable evidence that a given pet conspiracy theory is wrong, will defend themselves with words to the effect of "Well, Obama is such a horrible person that I'm justified in believing he'd do that"; or, in other words, "It's Obama's fault that I believe this unbelievable thing". Coming from adherents of the philosophy of "Personal Responsibility", that's quite amusing. (Progressives did the same thing during the Bush era, but it's not as hypocritical coming from them because they aren't generally into "not blaming others for one's mistakes" so much.)

So what do you think? Will the Tea Party finally crash and burn when they eventually get so far into Tin-Foil Hat Land that eventually even the True Believers start having second thoughts? Or will it take the shock of actually nominating a Tea Party Presidential candidate and having them lose by 300 electoral votes?

(And for those who think that the government actually could pull off a stunt like wiring the WTC towers with explosives and doing the rest of 9/11 while being able to keep it a secret -- the world just doesn't work like that. You'll have to trust me on that one. We keep things like submarine operations fairly secret because, in the big scheme of things, nobody really gives a crap. For stuff like shooting down TWA 800 with a missile from a Navy ship or hiding aliens in Area 51, enough people do care, and at least one smart person among the thousands who would have to be involved would figure out a way to smuggle the evidence out in a flash drive.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Promise Is A Promise...

I made a vow in the past to stop tilting at windmills and give up my crusade against the cheapening of a great submarine tradition, so I'll just say "Congratulations" to PCU California (SSN 781) for completing Alpha Trials, apparently sinking all enemy ships they encountered while doing so:

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Navy Independence Day Tribute 2011

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Married BAH

This story from CNN about some enlisted Marines who entered into fictitious marriages so the women involved could live together off base got me thinking about the ongoing battles when I was in between single guys who were pissed off that married guys doing the same job as them got paid more, vs. married guys who laughed in their faces. Excerpt from the story:
Vice told CNN affiliate KGTV in San Diego that she wanted to live off base with her girlfriend, Jaime Murphy, as a couple. Murphy is a civilian.
But on her salary, she couldn't afford it.
So she says she found a Marine, Jeremiah Griffin, who agreed to marry her so she could receive the $1,200 per month living stipend the Marine Corps gives to married couples living off base.
A year and a half later, Murphy did the same thing and married Marine Joseph Garner, Vice and Murphy told KGTV, according to footage that aired Thursday...
...The three Marines are accused of pocketing about $75,000.
"There's no conspiracy here," Murphy told KGTV. "There's no trying to steal from anybody. We just wanted to be together and she wanted to serve her country."
Leaving aside the question about why the civilian girlfriend couldn't get a job to help pay for their off-base apartment, the concept of "there's no trying to steal" in attempting to fraudulently get BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) at the "with dependents" rate is one I've seen before. I personally never had a problem with the cases I saw where a couple who were going to get married after deployment had a "secret" civil wedding beforehand so they could pocket the extra six months of married pay, but other cases I heard about seemed more like stealing. I always believed that the military had good reason to encourage marriage among its members -- married guys tend not to get hauled in for doing stupid stuff on liberty, in my experience -- but my viewpoint might have been skewed because I was married for 19 of my 21+ years on active duty. I knew a lot of guys who were almost violently opposed to the "double standard".

What's the best story you ever heard about someone gaming the BAH system?

Friday, July 01, 2011

"The Charge Of Command"

Check out this letter the CNO sent to all Prospective Commanding Officers last month (and which I assume will be part of all future PCO training). Excerpts:
There are two accountability standards that we use to measure officers in Command. The first is the standard for measuring criminal behavior. This standard belongs to the courts and uses rules of evidence and procedure to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a violation of a specific criminal code has occurred. The second accountability standard is trust. Our Navy's decentralized command and control structure is built on trust. Without trust, we cannot delegate authority. Without authority, we cannot fulfill our responsibilities. Therefore, without the delegation of authority, we simply cannot effectively operate our Navy. Trust is a fundamental building block of our command and control structure and our ability to achieve mission success.
As a Commanding Officer, you must build trust with those Officers and Sailors under your command. You build trust through your character and in your actions which demonstrate professional competence, judgment, good sense, and respect for those you lead. This trust can only be built through personal interaction on a daily basis at every level in your chain-of-command. Human interaction remains the dominant factor in leading Sailors; do not fall prey to the belief that a variety of contact through electronic media can substitute in a meaningful way for the direct contact afforded by daily Quarters, Officer’s Call or similar “face—to—face” leadership opportunities.
Once built, that trust is sustained by personal accountability — accountability to those same standards to which you hold those you lead. When trust and accountability are institutionalized in the routine of a command, the result is long—term success. When accountability is not enforced, the command and control structure, which is held together by trust, falls apart and the command eventually fails.
So what do you think? What upgrades would you make to the CNO's directive to PCOs?

USS San Francisco DV Embark

USS San Francisco (SSN 711) took a group of educators and community leaders out for a day trip last month; here's the video:

It looks like whatever prohibitions against DVs operating ship's equipment, at least in the Torpedo Room, have gone by the wayside.