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.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What Makes A Good Submarine CO?

Recently, a series of articles in the online edition of Time got me thinking about what makes a good CO. The articles don't directly address the topic, but they make one think about the mindset, attitudes, and morals of submarine COs. The articles are here, here, and here, for those who want to read them. An additional post by a sometime TSSBP commenter is here.

*** IMPORTANT ADMIN NOTE: It's likely that some of you will be able to figure out which former CO is being discussed. That's not the point of this post, and any comments speculating on the identity of said CO will be deleted. ***

As we all know, some COs are jerks, some are nice guys, and most are somewhere in between. We can see which type(s) are rated as most successful by the current Navy hierarchy by seeing who gets the Squadron command and eventual flag slots after their command tours. In generally, the absolute jerks and the "nice" guys don't do well -- it's the middle-of-the-road guys who are most likely to get their own flag aide to pick up their dry cleaning. My question is: Are the kind of officers we're selecting for command the right kind of COs we'd need were we to go to war?

At the beginning of WWII, the U.S. Submarine Force, to be honest, didn't do very well. Sure, our torpedoes were sub-optimal and we hadn't developed the tactics that would eventually win the war, but the existing batch of COs in December 1941 tended to be too timid and didn't press home the attack on the enemy. Only when they were replaced by young, sometimes hard-drinking and partying firebrands did we successfully wage war on the Japanese Empire.

Are we that way today? Are the "young firebrands" of today's force being passed over for command, or leaving the Navy early? Would we pay the price were we to find ourselves in a submarine war in the near future. I'm going to answer the last question first: I don't think so. Our technological supremacy for the foreseeable future (next 10-15 years) is so formidable that we'd still easily defeat any potential enemy. It just might take us a couple of weeks longer than it might if we had more aggressive COs, but we'd be less likely to lose a boat.

So that brings be back to the original question in the previous paragraph -- is the NR-dominated CO selection process and the "zero defect" policy of firing COs at the drop of a hat making us too timid in submarine operations? Have we forgotten that sometimes you "want a man with a tattoo on his dick" to do the job? Or are the people who can't live by the Navy Core Values not trustworthy enough to be given the responsibility of command in the modern world?

The original linked articles described, from one side, a CO who seems to have issues being honorable in his dealings with at least some other people. But does this mean such a person is by definition a bad CO? Or do we need COs willing to skirt the rules (of the Navy, or of decent society) once in a while? Read this study and let us know in the comments (without mentioning names! Anecdotal evidence carries the same weight whether you name the boat/CO or not).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Riding The Bow Wave

Here's a cool propaganda video from the PCU Minnesota (SSN 783) sea trials, with some dolphins riding the bow wave:

IMHO, surface OOD is the best possible watch on a submarine. I've had dolphins make a beeline to the boat from over a mile away to ride the bow wave. I found that they got bored fairly quickly with a 2/3 bell, and a standard bell was a little fast for them and they tired easily. My last surface OOD watch on the Connecticut coming into Groton, we were a little ahead of schedule, so I was able to slow down to "turns for 12" which is right in their sweet spot, and the dolphins rode the wave for about 10 minutes. A most excellent watch.

Any nominees for "best watchstation" on a submarine other than surface OOD?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Why Do People Believe Unbelievable Conspiracy Theories?

From the beginning of writing TSSBP, I consistently railed against two things: idiotic people who believe in unbelievable conspiracy theories and submarines flying "clean sweep" brooms when returning from 2 day underways for Alpha Trials. Somehow, I missed a post from the "Israel did it" 9/11 Truther website with the stunningly deceptive name of "Veterans Today" published a couple years ago that combined both elements: they claim that the "Jimmie" Carter caused the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by firing "air guns" into the sea floor near the fault line, then bragging about it by returning from their "Alpha Trials" after a couple of months flying the broom. (They actually flew the broom on conclusion of Alpha Trials on 19 November 2004, but actual facts never stand in the way of conspiracy theorists.)

I've always been amused by those whose worldview would lead them to believe that the government could successfully plan, and keep quiet, conspiracies to deprive American citizens of freedoms just because they secretly work for either Nazi fascist oil companies or Nazi fascist Muslims (depending on which party is in charge). This leads people who apparently have enough on the ball to hold their psychoses in check long enough to get elected to public office to believe, for example, that the government staged the Boston Marathon bombings and used actors to portray the "alleged" wounded, or that President Bush let 9/11 happen apparently as part of a plot to build a gas pipeline across Afghanistan.

I'll admit I get concerned rather than amused when I see Submariners on Facebook -- men who've earned dolphins and therefore have shown that they are able to function in a fact-based world -- expressing agreement with conspiracy theories that clearly have no basis in reality. (The current favorite is that the President had a secret plan to get our Libyan ambassador kidnapped before the election so he could trade him for the "Blind Sheikh" -- as if somehow this would help the President get re-elected.)

Here's the deal... yes, it's clear the government lies to us sometimes. A good example was when we announced that the reason we had buried OBL at sea right after he was killed was to follow "Muslim practice and tradition", when it is clear to even the most casual observer that we did it to make sure we didn't have custody of the body when court buildings opened on Monday morning on the East Coast, and some lawyer would find some bin Laden family member they could represent and sue for custody of the body -- a suit they would probably win. This is the kind of lie the government can keep secret -- the ones where everyone figures they're doing it anyway, and no one would be surprised if it were to come to light. That's the reason we can keep submarine operations secret -- sure, there would be some hand-wringing by the usual suspects, who would say "I can't believe we're spying on Country Orange", but the vast majority of everyone would say "Good, we should be doing that", or "It would have been a bigger surprise if we weren't" and give a big collective yawn. That's why we don't see submarine ops on the front page of the New York Times; not because there aren't Submariners who would be willing to tell their story, but because the NYT doesn't want to deal with the national security lawbreaking implications of publishing a story that wouldn't really change anything. A story about how the government intentionally killed their own citizens and blamed it on terrorists would make a big enough splash.

Some things, like "rich people get together and talk about how they can make the world economy better for rich people like them"  would invite a mass shoulder shrug, so it's not unreasonable to believe that happens; it is unreasonable to believe that they emerge from the meeting and carry out a plan to use chemicals deposited in the upper atmosphere from airplanes to make people more docile. Other things, like killing President Kennedy or hiding alien spacecraft or packing WTC-7 with thermite or having the Navy shoot down TWA Flight 800, are things people would care about, and therefore things that couldn't be kept secret. If you wanted to do something like those things, you'd need smart people to help you do them, and these smart people would also be smart enough to 1) retain proof of what had been done, and 2) know the right people/press to go to such that they wouldn't be killed if they were going to spill the beans. At least one person involved would recognize those points, and also that they'd become a rich celebrity in the process. Conspiracy theorists can't believe this, but it's true. That's just the way the real world works.

Update 1625 06 May: Speaking of Alpha Trials and brooms, here's a pic of PCU Minnesota (SSN 783) completing her initial sea trials today. I note there is no broom visible. BZ, Minnesota!