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, August 26, 2011

Emergency Sortie

Here's a photo of an unidentified Los Angeles-class submarine pulling out of Norfolk yesterday ahead of Hurricane Irene:

(Official Navy information on the storm can be found here.) Have you ever had to do an emergency sortie for a hurricane? Or been kept in port because your boat couldn't move and had to ride out the storm?

[Admin note: Expect light blogging for the next few days. I'm celebrating four dozen years on earth today, and switch back to day shift at work after that, so I'll need to get re-acclimated to a normal schedule.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Request For Information!

Although we think that our little community here at TSSBP is a fairly insular little group, discussing issues of little attention to the world at large, I can assure you that is not the case. It turns out that people of eclectic interests read what we have to say and would like us to comment on issues of vital national importance. I got this E-mail from "Susie":
I work for an IT company that has extensive contracts with the Department of the Navy. I am looking for information about US submarines that have been damaged by earthquakes while berthed, but preferably while on patrol. Since we just experienced our own 5.9 bit of excitement here yesterday afternoon, this would be a topic of interest to our in-house Team Sub.

Based on your comments and your readership, you seem to have extensive resources; most of what I come up with is speculation about how US subs’ underwater testing has been the cause of whales and dolphins beaching themselves, the island of Sumatra shifting, and a trove of other sins so I’m hoping that you have more verifiable information on this topic. If you can assist me in this quest, please send any links that would provide some details.
So what do you think? Can we help Susie out? I've discussed my ideas on whether or not naval sonar is responsible for marine mammal beachings before (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), so you could say I'm on the side of the "skeptics". As far as submarine operations shifting the island of Sumatra, I had heard that there are some who think that "Bush/Cheney" set off a nuclear bomb to cause the 2004 tsunami to distract attention from their theft of Ohio votes in the election; once again, I'm a little skeptical about that one. I discussed my views on that topic on other websites.

So what do you think? As far as the effects of sonar on marine mammal beaching, there are probably legitimate security classification concerns with revealing too much, but I think we can all agree that the story of submarine operations causing tectonic shifts is much too important to worry about little details like "national secrets", so I encourage all my readers with vital information on this important topic to let us know in the comments!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Malcontents On Submarines

We covered the Memphis cheating scandal in extreme detail back in November, but stories are making the rounds again after the AP got some information (much of which we already had) from an FOIA request. I wasn't going to rehash the old news, but enough people E-mailed me about it that I figured there was some interest. Excerpt from the new story:
An investigation report obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request describes an atmosphere aboard the USS Memphis that tolerated and even encouraged cheating: Sailors were emailed the answers before qualification exams, took tests outside the presence of proctors and openly asked officers for answer keys. One sailor told investigators that test-takers were encouraged to "use their time wisely" during breaks, insinuating that they should look up answers to exam questions.
A submarine force spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, said the Navy holds its officers and crew to very high standards and denied that cheating is rampant.
"The evidence we have shows that it's very rare," said Rousselow, who is based in Norfolk, Va.
But three former officers said the episode aboard the Groton, Conn.-based Memphis was an extreme example of shortcuts that occur aboard many of the roughly 70 American submarines in service.
[I couldn't find anywhere that the AP writer posted the report he got from the Navy; has anyone seen it online?] The article goes on with quotes from one former Submarine officer who claims that cheating is pervasive throughout the fleet, and bragged earlier about how he refused to cheat, resulting in him failing what I assume is the BEQ test several times.

How did you deal with malcontents on your boat who wouldn't "go with the flow"? Personally, I generally liked them and encouraged them to question things (to a degree), but I'll admit it could get old after a while when they just didn't know when to stop tilting at windmills.

Update 0850 23 August: For the purposes of this discussion, remember that "malcontent" is not the same as "disgruntled", as shown in this story about a Sailor off "the USS Springfield submarine". The article was written by the Michael Milea reporter.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Life After A Sub

Just about 7 years ago today, I went on terminal leave prior to my retirement from the U.S. Navy. I went to all the required pre-retirement classes where they talked about the importance of networking, how to write a résumé, and the importance of starting your job search early. I figured, "Well, that's all well and good for the skimmers in the class, but I'm a highly-qualified Submariner. I'm the only guy in recent memory who was initial manning Eng on two new construction submarines, and I know all the civilian companies out there know that NR looks at that billet harder than any other Department Head slot. Plus, I did Coalition Finance at CENTCOM, so I've got the budgeting block checked. I just need to send out some CVs, and the offers will come pouring in."

Those of you who have already been through the post-service job search already are probably laughing your butts off, and rightly so. When they tell you that you need to completely convert all military terms to their civilian equivalents when talking with recruiters, they're exactly right. I was able to get a job here in Idaho, but not just by sending in a résumé and having them be so excited by my qualifications that they hired me on the spot; I needed to network. Luckily, there's a very senior Submariner who moved to Boise after he retired who takes us under his wing, shows us the ropes, and introduces us to the right people. If your town doesn't have a former Fleet Commander, however, that option might not be open to you. If you don't have an "in" with a given company, your best option might be to target a group that understands the Navy culture.

From what I've heard, one such company is Bechtel. I found this over at the NavyCS blog, and wanted to repost an updated copy here:
Time to leverage your shipboard nuclear power and submarine warfare knowledge and translate it to land based power plants and other projects in the US, Asia, Middle East and other regions? Bechtel Corporation, one of the largest Nuclear Power engineering, project management and construction firms in the world, is prepared to help transition qualified engineers – Naval Officers and NCOs for engineering leadership positions, into their business. Bechtel currently has many projects and needs for Navy Nuclear Power trained engineers. Bechtel is prepared to help transition qualified engineers into their business and allocate resources to do this.

Bechtel has 100’s of openings, many in the field of Nuclear Power Generation and are aggressively seeking the usual suspects; US Navy nuclear propulsion trained officers (ranks of O3 – O5 preferred); US Navy nuclear submarine qualified officers (ranks of O3 – O5 preferred); US Navy nuclear propulsion trained Warrant officers – submarine or surface ship; US Navy nuclear aircraft carrier nuclear propulsion trained officers; US Navy Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) nuclear propulsion trained – submarine or surface service; US Navy Reactor Operators (RO); and US Navy Shutdown Reactor Operators (SRO) – submarine or surface, US Navy nuclear propulsion trained Petty Officers (E-6 and up) qualified in Submarines (i.e., Engineering Lab Technicians [ELT’s], Machinist Mates [MM’s], Electronic Technicians [ET’s]) (AS degrees preferred); US Navy nuclear propulsion trained US Naval Petty Officers (E-6 and up) surface Navy (i.e., ELT’s, MM’s, ET’s) (AS degrees preferred); US Navy nuclear propulsion prototype instructors (officers and enlisted); US Navy nuclear propulsion power school instructors (officers and enlisted).
Starting base salaries are high - can range from $95K to $175K and up, not to mention the potential for bonuses, depending, of course, on your qualifications and the position you fill.

Interested? I highly recommend that you contact Erik Plesset, a Senior Recruiter at Bechtel directly at Hotjobs[at], or if you are on Linked-In, hit him up there at – .
I was intrigued when I read that post, and since I was planning a series about "getting a job after the Navy", I contacted Erik to see if he'd be willing to share some pointers. Hopefully he'll be able to, because I think one of the best uses of this blog, with its combination of active duty and veteran readership, is to help guys transition back to civilian life when their time on the boats is done, and having the perspective of a senior recruiter of a major company would be helpful. For those who want to see what kind of jobs Erik is talking about, the Bechtel career page is here.

For the guys who have re-entered the civilian workforce -- what was your experience in getting a job on the outside? For those looking to get a job over the next few years, do you have any questions for Erik or those of us who have made the transition?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life On A Sub

For some reason I missed this official Navy propaganda video when it first came out in January:

At least one of the guys in that video is from my old boat, Topeka. A couple other videos I missed about that time (I did share two of them that came out in January) were "Fast Attack", focusing on Virginia-class boats, and "Experience". All five videos are aimed at getting people to visit the official Navy submarine officer recruiting page.

Have you ever been in an official Navy video?

Update 0957 13 August: Here's another one I missed, from back in February, featuring a simulated battle on a Virginia-class boat:

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Posts On The COMSUBFOR Blog

Both RADM Caldwell and VADM Richardson have new posts up at the COMSUBFOR blog. Hopefully they'll keep writing and responding to the comments they get.

Update 0830 10 August: VADM Richardson has been busy getting his views out in the public eye; he wrote this response to a post from a Naval War College professor over at The Diplomat.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Steel Beach

Here it is -- the video that's causing all the controversy on Facebook! The picture causing the questions, at about the 2:40 mark, is apparently of midshipmen on USS Michigan (SSGN 727):

Other (longer) videos by the same poster can be found here and here.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Bell-ringer 0818 8/9: Some people are saying in the comments that the female JOs aren't going to be filling existing billets, but that the wardrooms are getting +2'd in the manning document. Word on the street is that those commenters are telling the truth. If so, it looks like PERS-42 isn't going "all in" on this experiment working out.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Proposed Change That Will Adversely Affect Future Submarine Manning

By the end of the year, we'll be seeing a dramatic change in the makeup of some submarine crews. The first women submarine officers will be arriving at their boats as early as November, and even before that, prior to the end of the summer, homosexual or bisexual Submariners will have legal cover to be open about their sexual preference. (Note that I don't say that gay Submariners will start arriving after that time; anyone who's honest about it knows they've had gay shipmates in the past, and current Submariners have gay shipmates now, and it will continue in the future.)

So are these the changes that will adversely affect submarine manning? Well, there could be some issues. Since Congress never modified or removed Article 125 (Sodomy) from the UCMJ, it's possible that an overzealous chain of command could bring a media sh*tstorm on themselves by writing up a gay Submariner for telling too much about whatever penetration -- however slight -- he may have enjoyed over the weekend. Likewise, it's possible that the 10% of military members who said in a 2009 Military Times survey that they'd leave the military if DADT was repealed weren't just blowing smoke, and they'll take their chances in the current job market. Of course, the old method of getting out quickly -- the "phrase that pays" -- won't exist anymore.

As far as women on submarines goes, of course that will introduce new challenges. I'll admit I'm a little concerned reading about one of the young officers getting ready to get to her boat saying "I have a feeling more people will be focused on us. Our mistakes and successes will be magnified more than they deserve." When women were being integrated into the surface and air arms of the military, the stories you saw make the press were Senators ending the careers of Admirals for dropping women out of flight training. While it's possible that some Submariners will try to make it harder for women to qualify, I think it's more likely that one of the women just won't be able to cut it, and despite the fact that about 1 of 25 male submarine officers can't finish their qualifications after they get to the boat, the press will make a huge deal out of this happening to the same percentage of women. Hopefully the senior Submarine Force leadership won't overreact when that happens.

So are these two changes going to be too much for the Submarine Force to handle? Of course not. We'll handle it the same way we've handled other changes in the past -- by making a commitment to doing it, and then carrying out the plan. Any dislocation will be minimal, and certainly not Force-wide. I mean, c'mon, skimmers could do it; of course we can make it work. (Speaking of skimmers, when I was on the Stennis in 2000 I laughed about the ship's "no dating" general order; now, if I were a submarine CO, I'd be thinking seriously about implementing one on my ship sometime in the next few months.)

So what is the "Proposed Change That Will Adversely Affect Future Submarine Manning"? It's this one -- the proposal to radically restructure military retirement from the Defense Business Board. Their presentation can be found here. Excerpt from the first-linked article:
In a massive change that could affect today’s troops, the plan calls for a corporate-style benefits program that would contribute money to troops’ retirement savings account rather than the promise of a future monthly pension, according to a new proposal from an influential Pentagon advisory board.
All troops would receive the yearly retirement contributions, regardless of whether they stay for 20 years. Those contributions might amount to about 16.5 percent of a member’s annual pay and would be deposited into a mandatory version of the Thrift Savings Plan, the military’s existing 401(k)-style account that now does not include government matching contributions.
I can seriously see this proposal being adopted, and if it is, I think we'll see significant attrition of experienced Submariners starting about the 10 year point, the time when they should be running divisions or departments. With the attacks we've seen on public employee pensions from some who subscribe to Tea Party principles, I fully expect to see them move towards attacking military pensions -- not now, but as we finish with the "easy" cuts and they realize that people like me have been getting over $35K/year since I was 41, along with free health insurance. If this proposal is adopted, that's when we'll start seeing problems with getting enough qualified Submariners to man the boats. And then we'll be glad we haven't eliminated 51% (or so) of the population from serving on submarines, like we do now.

So what do you think? Will having women on submarines cause a plague of locusts o'er the land? Will having openly homosexual Submariners cause the Earth to stop spinning on its axis? Or will the sudden change in centrifugal force fling all the locusts into space and result in a wash? (Yes, for Dilbert fans who thought that sounded familiar, I didn't come up with that on my own.) Personally, I think the only result of having "out" homosexuals on board will be a reduction in overt acts that any observer not familiar with submarine culture would classify as "gay" (e.g. "swordfights" in the tunnel, various spit games between the ERUL and ERF watchstanders, etc.) as people don't want to be accused of actual gayness. Having women onboard will probably cause more issues, but I don't think it's something we can't overcome with minimal effort. Let us know what you think in the comments. (I'm not planning on running any more "gays/women on submarines" posts unless some specific incident makes the news, so this could be your last shot. Have at it.)