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.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Update 1133 26 Dec: My belated Christmas present to you -- the Amazon customer reviews for "How To Avoid Huge Ships". (Yes, it's a real book.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Home For Christmas

While USS North Carolina (SSN 777) got their turn in the barrel and drew the ever popular "leave on deployment during the week before Christmas" straw, two other boats arrived home in time for the holidays. USS Missouri (SSN 780) returned to Groton from her first deployment - what appears to be a northern run with standard concomitant port calls - on Friday while USS Hampton (SSN 767) earlier returned to San Diego, where their Chop won the internet for the day:

While I never did a Christmas return from deployment, I did return right before the 4th of July once, and I had a 12/23 return from a "that's why you always bring all your gear on board even for weekly ops" adventure on Topeka in 1991 after Chicago turned her diesel into a seawater pump and we had to pick up her Nanoose Mk 50 OpEval.

What kind of world are these Submariners returning to? Well, it's one where an XO and CMC of a skimmer can be fired for "collective discipline" or "hazing", depending on your point of view, for publicly shaming an entire group of female Sailors when some of them didn't understand that you shouldn't crap in a non-working shitter. It's also a world where an Aussie boat with female Submariners assigned had a groping and unwanted sexual advances issue (full link requires subscription) that either didn't happen in the way you expected, or exactly the way that you expected. (Here's an article with better news about the RAN Submarine Force; found it while looking for a non-firewalled mention of the story above, a task at which I was unsuccessful.)

What's your favorite holiday return from deployment story?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"What Kind Of (Submarine Officer) Is Best?"

Lots of links to share since I last posted:

1) USS Providence (SSN 719) launched a UAV! The media made sure to call it a "drone" to scare people.

2) In skimmer news, a Chinese LST violated the Rules of the Road in trying to ward off USS Cowpens (CG 63) from collecting intel of a local OPAREA exercise involving the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. I suggest that since the Chinese PLAN has demostrated a desire to play at the varsity level, we take them up on it. I'm gonna guess that Chinese skimmers will collide with each other before anything bad happens to one of our ships. And, in 10-15 years, once the Chinese Navy gets a lot better, maybe we'll need an INCSEA agreement with them like we had with the Soviets.

3) Here's a great 10 minute video on leadership from a Submariner; it's well worth your time.

4) Word on the street is that there are lots of good jobs for former Navy Nukes at the Hanford Vitrification Plant in Richland, WA.

5) The budget agreement will, if it passes the Senate and is signed by the President, reduce the rate of increase for military retirement pensions for those of us under 62 years old and non-disabled. While it'll cost me money and does feel like a "unilateral after-the-fact" modification of the original enlistment contract I signed, I figure that since I support a reduction in the rate of increase of future Social Security payments as part of a "grand compromise" on entitlement reform, it would be hypocritical of me to get too NIMBY with this proposal. YMMV.

6) An article (membership required) in the December issue of Proceedings by a young LT is discussed over at the USNI blog. The article posits that the move to require more (85%) of NROTC scholarships be given to those who will pursue technical degrees is misguided. Excerpt:
The tier system was developed in 2009 as a result of fewer NROTC and U.S. Naval Academy graduates entering the nuclear-reactor community. The Regulations for Officer Development and the Academic-Major Selection Policy direct that a minimum of 65 percent of NROTC Navy-option scholarship midshipmen must complete a technical-degree program before receiving their commissions. A technical degree refers to Tiers 1 and 2, which comprise all STEM majors. Tier 1 includes most engineering majors, and Tier 2 refers to majors in biochemistry, astrophysics, chemistry, computer programming/engineering, civil engineering, physics, and mathematics. All other academic majors are non-technical, or Tier 3.
As a result of the new policy, a high-school senior’s best chance of obtaining a Navy scholarship is to apply for Tiers 1 and 2, since CNO guidance specifies that not less than 85 percent of incoming offers will come from this restricted pool. In fact, an algorithm decides the fate of hopeful midshipmen, balanced in large part with their proposed major selection annotated in their applications.
The post goes on to provide anecdotal evidence of all the History and English and Gender Studies majors who have done fine as Navy Nuclear officers. Most of us know one or two who have done fine. The underlying assumption seems to be that people who get engineering or chemisty or physics degrees only care about science, and are unlikely to be able to find Afghanistan on a map. The good LT goes on to say: "If less than 35 percent of our unrestricted line officers have developed the ability to think comprehensively through critical reading and reflection, what will the force look like in 20 years?"

Despite clear evidence that us guys with technical degrees can read charts and discuss the differences between Shi'a and Sunnism and understand that even though "eye" and "symmetry" don't rhyme it's OK for Blake to pretend like they do, the "we need a critical mass of submarine officers who didn't take Statics and Dynamics in college" mindset is, frankly, silly. I haven't seen the numbers in years, but back in the day the vast majority of Ensigns who made it through Nuke School and got their fish were technical majors, and we've done fine. Yes, there are plenty of Poli Sci majors who made it through, but there's no evidence that they make better overall officers -- they might be more popular with the crew and, when they leave, contribute to the "all the best JOs get out after 5 years" mindset, but that doesn't mean they were the best officers with the most long-term command and flag potential. A young officers job during his or her JO tour is to learn the boat, get qualified, learn something about leadership, and not make any huge mistakes. Based on my experience, officers with technical degrees have an easier time doing the "learn the boat" and "get qualified" parts of those, giving them more time to work on the other stuff. It's not like JOs are going to decide whether the interaction we're watching through the 'scope near the Straits of Malacca is piracy or smuggling based on study of the Dutch colonization of Indonesia in the 17th century; that's up to the Captain. And most of what officers learn about how the world works doesn't happen doing keg stands at some frat house; it happens throughout one's career.

Have dumbass COs slipped through the cracks who were great nukes but were flummoxed by references to Montague and Capulet in a Wilson Phillips song that somehow got played in the wardroom? Sure. Does that mean we need to give up populating our Force mostly with officers who are most likely to be able to get qualified and start down the road through the proven winnowing process that generates the COs and flag officers who run the Navy? I don't think so. But I look forward to the discussion.

7) Go Navy, Beat Army:

Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Day That Transformed The Submarine Force

The attack on Pearl Harbor 72 years ago today forced the U.S. Navy to change its perception of how submarines would be used in war, from fleet auxiliary to independent operations. Among the first orders given after the attack was to "execute unrestricted submarine warfare" against Japan. This change in mission resulted in most of the pre-war COs being relieved for ineffectiveness after a couple of patrols, and a new generation of aggressive young skippers was fleeted up; it was these men who established our best traditions. Keep them and the sacrifices of thousands of Submariners in your heart as we face the challenges of the new millennium.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


Here's a story of a Brit Submariner who got caught doing a boondoggle -- a luxury Med cruise with his wife under the guise of "Surface Ship Familiarisation (sic)". Excerpt:
Details of Commander Dunn’s cruise, from October 24 to November 8 this year, emerged after the Ministry of Defence answered a Freedom of Information request, referring to his voyage as a ‘Surface Ship Familiarisation’ mission.
The trip was sanctioned under the Merchant Navy Liaison Voyage Scheme, designed to foster relations between the Navy and commercial vessels. In the past 12 months, 53 Royal Navy and Royal Marines officers have taken advantage of the scheme.
Commander Dunn was the commanding officer of HMS Vigilant, a Vanguard-class submarine that is part of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent. He was awarded an OBE in 2009.
This is a pretty good boondoggle, but this was one that had official sanction from higher-ups who knew what was going on; the story says that over 50 officers have done something similar. Some of the better stories I've heard have come from guys who pulled on over on their chain of command and got the sweetest of deals paid for without taking any leave. (One of our riders on the Topeka '92-'93 Westpac ended up staying in Phukett for several weeks after he left the boat and met us on the beach when we showed up for a liberty call; he claimed he paid for the trip, but I wasn't buying it.) My best boondoggle was convincing CENTCOM to send me and my relief as the Individual Augmentee J5 Coalition Financial Officer to Warsaw for a week to work with the Poles, but I actually got a lot of work done on that trip.

What's the best boondoggle you ever got?