Friday, May 31, 2013

Better late than never

At last ... some sanity WRT shipboard uniforms;
Within the next nine months, the average sailor deploying on a ship will have a flame-resistant coverall in his or her pack, something most don't have now.
To date, only sailors with specific jobs in engineering or other hazardous locations are issued flame-resistant clothing to do their jobs.

The Navy Times reported recently that the panel found there weren't enough fire-resistant coveralls issued even for those specialized sailors, which led to the panel's conclusion that all sailors needed their own.

While Fleet Forces cannot change what is issued to a sailor in the sea bag - that falls under the domain of the Navy Uniform Board - a command can issue its own gear to sailors.

"This is a piece of organizational gear that every sailor should have at their disposal should a fire break out," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, a Fleet Forces spokesman.

A Navy official said the fire-resistant coveralls will come out of a command's budget and, at least for now, sailors will not incur a cost.

A second working group is using the first group's findings to review whether all Navy uniforms, particularly the standard "aquaflage" uniform, should be flame-resistant.

The Navy does not require flame-resistant working uniforms for general sailors on board. Officials say the standard uniforms are safe because major shipboard fires are rare and fire gear is available.
While we seem to be tripping over our own red tape - good to see positive progress.

A couple of notes though; how long, really, does that second working group really need to work? Just get a good coverall for at sea use - and get on with it. Need money? Our Diversity Bullies seem to be flush with it. Ditch NWU completely.

Read the last part of the quote above; aircraft fires are rare and fire gear is available at airfields - but that doesn't stop the aviation community from wearing their nomex flightsuit every time they fly. Ponder.

Hat tip Herb.

Fullbore Friday

I had a new FbF ready to go ... but decided to delay it a bit, as it was a bit personal and needs time to settle.

Instead, I want to go back to one of the more quirky ones. I still like it - and the lessons it has for us even today.

From 2007;

The Imperial Austrian triple-decker wooden battleship Kaiser. Yes the AUSTRIAN Navy, again.  

Why her for Fullbore? Well, the year was 1866 and this wooden warship held her own in the first major naval battle of ships of iron and steam against the Italian Navy at the Battle of Lissa.  

Sure, she was outdated and the Fleet Admiral Wilhelm Freiherr von Tegetthoff was only 39, but what a glorious effort for a Navy that had only a little more than a half a century left.
Encountering the Italian fleet early on the morning of 19 July 1866, Tegetthoff sailed straight for the center of the Italian fleet, hoping to ram the ships to make up for his own fleet's lack of firepower. The smoke from the Italian ships made visibility very poor, however, and the Austrians missed the Italian fleet completely. Swinging around, Tegetthoff again charged, this time setting two Italian armored ships on fire and damaging several more.

After Tegetthoff's flagship, the Erzherzog Ferdinand Max, rammed and sank the armored Italian frigate Re d'Italia, the Italian fleet retreated the next day. Tegetthoff returned in triumph to his base at Pola (Pula). Nevertheless, his victory did not materially affect the outcome of the war, as Italy emerged victorious.
Seeing things going badly, Persano found the courage to throw himself into battle, deciding to ram the unarmoured screw battleship Kaiser rather than one of the armoured ships engaged with the Italian 2nd Division much nearer him. However, Kaiser managed to dodge Affondatore. Taking heart from his admiral, the captain of Re di Portogallo decided to hurl his ship at Kaiser, maintaining a heavy fire with her rifled guns as he did so. At the last moment, von Petz turned the tables on her and turned into the ram, in effect conducting a counter ram. The impact tore off Kaiser’s stem and bowsprit, leaving her figurehead embedded in Re di Portogallo. The Italian used the opportunity to rake Kaiser with fire, putting her mainmast and smokestack into the sea. The smoke was so great that as they backed off for another ram they lost sight of each other and ended the duel.
It's all here. Using 2,000 yr old tactics to win. Making the best of the Fleet you have. Aggressive action. Leaders who lead and win without waiting for specific direction to do so. More on the Kaiser, she survived the battle, here and here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Diversity Thursday II: Electric Boogaloo

Watch the whole thing if you wish - but to hear a very mature point; go to the 2-minute mark and replace "Baseball" with "Navy."

Show this to the Diversity Bullies and the metrics pushers. So well put.

Hat tip Tom.

Option 24

In the swirl of scandalmania and the build up to Memorial Day Weekend, you may have missed the 24 May 2013 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. You can get it at the link above, or read it below.

Well ... wouldn't you know. Where we reaped, we now sow. Remember back 5-8 years ago, we brought much of this on the front porch - along with a few selected moles on the inside and in the press - everyone tut-tut'd away.

You need to read it all, but for me it is all a sad read. Like reading the accident report from you friend who you could not stop getting in their car and driving home. You warned, you cautioned ... but could not stop him.

Well, so be it. Like I shared with some friends yesterday, with LCS; my thoughts remain unchanged. The time to kill it has passed over three years ago when I cried uncle. Making the best of the sub-optimal should be the driver right now, but if budgetary issues kill it, so be it.

All the warnings about program and technology risk 5-8 years ago have come to pass and born fruit. You didn't have to be a genius to figure that out. We got here because of ego, professional brinkmanship, bullying and a large measure if simple ahistorical arrogance typical of the worst of the transformationalists.

If we did what other generations did, via other classes of ships also in production on either side of LCS, we would have a hedge to mitigate coming out on the short end of program & technology risk that we have with LCS. But no, no, no - we were so much smarter than everyone else that one-size fits all and through sheer force of will, will make it work.

Fools, and our Navy and it's Sailors will suffer for decades because of this wholesale failure of stewardship. But .... y'all are probably as sick of reading my rants on the topic as I am giving them.

What to do now? Someone open a bottle of scotch, turn off the phones, and wheel in the white board ...... better people have had harder problems to fix, this is fixable.

Until then - here are my Top-5 hits; see if you can find your own.

In no specific order:
- Unrealistically low original estimate. Some observers believe that the original cost estimate of $220 million for the LCS sea frame was unrealistically low. If so, a potential follow-on question would be whether the LCS represents a case of “low-balling”—using an unrealistically low cost estimate in the early stages of a proposed weapon program to help the program win approval and become an established procurement effort.

- ... the challenges the Navy faces today in terms of developing an LCS concept of operations (CONOPS), LCS manning and training policies, and LCS maintenance and logistics plans were increased by the rapid acquisition strategy, because these matters were partly deferred to later years (i.e., to today) while the Navy moved to put LCSs into production. Supporters of this perspective might argue that the costs of the rapid acquisition strategy are not offset by very much in terms of a true reduction in acquisition cycle time, because the first LCS to be equipped with a mission package that has reached IOC (initial operational capability) will not occur until late FY2014—almost 13 years after the LCS program was announced. Supporters of this perspective could argue that the Navy could have avoided many of the program’s early problems and current challenges—and could have had a fully equipped first ship enter service in 2011 or 2012—if had instead pursued a traditional acquisition approach for a new frigate or corvette. They could argue that the LCS program validated, for defense acquisition, the guideline from the world of business management that if an effort aims at obtaining something fast, cheap, and good, it will succeed in getting no more than two of these things, or, more simply, that the LCS program validated the general saying that haste makes waste.

- In the years that have passed since the LCS program was first announced in November 2001, countering China’s maritime military modernization effort has become an increasing concern. Countering improved Chinese maritime military forces will involve procuring ships (such as destroyers and attack submarines) that are oriented toward ballistic missile defense, anti-ship cruise missile defense, countering larger surface ships, and countering submarines that are operating far from shore as well as in littoral waters.

The LCS is not optimized for most of these missions. The LCS’s three primary missions of countering mines, small boats, and diesel-electric submarines, particularly in littoral waters, remain valid, but in a period of constrained defense spending, resources devoted to these missions must be balanced against resources devoted to ships with mission orientations that are
more closely aligned with the goal of countering China’s improving maritime military capabilities.

- While the Navy would not release the OPNAV report, a number of sources familiar with both LCS and the report said it lays out in greater detail the problems and issues confronting the entire LCS effort, including the concept of operations (CONOPS), manning shortages, maintenance and training concerns, modularity and mission module issues, and commonality problems between the two LCS variants.

It also cites problems with how the LCS is perceived in the fleet, how leadership presents LCS capabilities, and the need to effect changes in virtually every operational area. “As I looked at some of the draft documentation to say how we’re going to run LCS, what I thought we needed to do was a rebaselining, understanding how much information we’ve generated on how we’re going to operate these ships, and take that and build a foundation,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, OPNAV’s director of surface warfare, during an interview at the Pentagon. “I will call this a concept of employment, or CONEMP. ”Rowden is leading the work to coordinate and compile the LCS analytical efforts.

“The reality of it is, it’s time to step back and say, what did we get wrong here?”

- Planners originally envisaged the LCS as a replacement for the fleet’s frigates, minesweepers and patrol boats, but the new assessments conclude the ships are not equal to today’s frigates or mine countermeasures ships, and they are too large to operate as patrol boats.

The LCS, according to the assessments, is not able to fulfill most of the fleet missions required by the Navy’s primary strategy document, the “Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” and included in a 2011 revision of the LCS CONOPS document.

Equipped with a surface warfare or maritime security mission package, the ships were judged capable of carrying out theater security cooperation and deterrence missions, and maritime security operations, such as anti-piracy. But the LCS vessels cannot successfully perform three other core missions envisioned for them—forward presence, sea control or power projection missions—and they can provide only limited humanitarian assistance or disaster relief operations, sources said.

The shortcomings are well known in the fleet, prompting a perception that service leaders are looking for missions to fit LCS, rather than the other way around.
That about says it.

So, what if Congress decides to cut LCS at 24? After the cheers, laughter, and tears (depending on who you are) - you have a real problem on your hand. SLEP the MIW ships? What about the PCs? Does anyone really think Congress will build any non-USA designed ship? Even if they would - with what money? That step and others would quickly bring you to a sub-250 ship Fleet.

You are close to an "East of Suez" moment - something at that point will have to give. Without a grand strategy though, we will just look like a drunk teenager trying to mow a two acre field with a 24" mower.

I'll say it again; all avoidable. All the fruits of the lost decade of the bloated-budget, distracted, fonctionnaire transformationalists.

And who has been held to account? The sacrificial CAPT and RDML do not count. We know who has been promoted.

What next? Sad to say - unless you have someone in Congress that is willing to do something off script - I think we are exactly where our leaders in the lost decade wanted us - corrective action delayed until we are painted in a corner so we have no choice but to keep LCS going. They are just waiting for everyone to finally see the light, or from sheer exhaustion - give in and embrace what is the irresistible force of their will.

They will, in the finest traditions of psycho high school girlfriend, make us love them and their sub-optimal Little Crappy Ship.

Diversity Thursday

If sequestration has limited you or your Sailors ability to get the funding needed for training required to safely deploy; do not read this.

If you are a vendor that did your 2013 business plan including airshows cancelled because the Blue Angles were pulled back; do not read this.

If your spouse or children are being impacted by a short fall of funds; don't read this.

If you want to understand what are the real priorities - then yes .... BEHOLD!
R 241432Z MAY 13




RMKS/1. This NAVADMIN announces the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) 26th Annual Joint Women's Leadership Symposium (JWLS) which will be held 6-7 June 2013 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. This year's symposium theme is "Stronger Self, Stronger Service."

2. Participation for this conference has been approved on a limited scope. Navy will sponsor 400 service members by funding their registrations to the conference. All Navy-funded registrations will be coordinated through the Navy Office of Diversity and Inclusion - Women's Policy. To obtain a conference registration reservation, contact OSC Jessica Myers, at (703) 604-
5482 or

3. Commands shall not fund registrations. Commands are not authorized to expend travel funds, including transportation, lodging and per diem. All other participation is at the service member's expense.

4. Recipients of the Captain Joy Bright Hancock (officer) and Master Chief Anna Der-Vartanian (enlisted) Navy leadership awards will be recognized during the symposium awards luncheon on 6 June 2013.

5. More information can be found on the SSLA website at

6. Released by Vice Admiral S. R. Van Buskirk, N1.//

Let's do VADM Van Buskirk's math for him.

From the linked site:
Symposium Fee

Non-SSLA Members: $399.00

Discount for SSLA Members

O7 and Up: $375.00
E4 and below:$199
Let us hope that almost none of the attendees are members ... but to use round numbers in case a few are - let us use $350 a person as a planning number.

400 attendees at $350 average price is ... $140,000. OK, let's lowball it at an average of $250 a person as the Navy negotiated a group discount: $100,000.

There you go. That doesn't even include the lost time for travel, sitting in the seat and watching the ice cream lick itself.

I guess the Navy branch of the Diversity Industry didn't get the memo.

The Gay-Fracking-Lord. Make sure the peasants give a few more tons of grain out of their seed corn - we have tournaments to play.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Retro Wednesday

Did you know Don Rickles in on Twitter?

Of course - he is a Sailor!

Dr. Stewart, your diagnosis is sound ...

Even more than usual ... this week is just a big pile of grumpy-pants.

Dr. Stewart, your diagnosis is sound ...
I understand that it is anathema to view DoD as a corporation, but at some level, the comparison is apt since a large part of DoD’s mission is to produce or supply war fighters with the best equipment. Unfortunately, if one listed the management practices of successful vs. unsuccessful companies in the 21st century, it is likely DoD would have more marks in the latter category, specifically:

* A heavily centralized corporate governance model where control is concentrated at the very top, creating enormous complexity, driving up costs, slowing decision velocity, and stifling agility and innovation.

* A culture where bad news is filtered out as it travels up the chain of command.

* Expending resources on non-core activities or capabilities.

* Multiple overlapping layers of redundant management.

* Taking too long and paying too much to acquire needed capability.

* Having labor skills continuously atrophy since there is little infusion of fresh talent above entry-level.

* Increasingly expensive cost of labor and benefits.

* Little understanding of the cost of doing business or of the major cost drivers.
There's the "what." Then one has to ask; what about the "so what" and the "what next?"

Sure, some of these things are just going to be a natural part of being a military - but even if you accept that, there has to be room to at least nibble around the flabbier edges.

If you are serious about maximizing what money you will be getting - then you need to economize. Looking at the bullets above, which we can all nod our heads at - is one.

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

On the Navy side, it is insane to wring your hands over an extra 20 Sailors on LCS "costing too much" when you have layer-upon-layer of Staffs reporting to Staffs, hundreds of manhours spent on self-licking ice cream cone awards, three LCDR creating Diversity PPT slides for CNSL with a ADSW USNR CDR on recall for a year to do nothing but that for another UIC, and larger DESRONS managing fewer numbers of ships than in the past with no modern technology. We could go on for pages. 

Now is the time - lead from the front. Start cutting DC Staff and work down. Slash the bloated GS and SES clusters. Make Shore hurt before Sea. Justify every report, every brief, every billet.

Do the above - then go after the teeth. You will have to go after the teeth, but you will be respected for throwing off the excess tail first.

That is the green eye-shade stuff that is actually an advantage to the new SECDEF. If he is focused right - he can do much. There is something else he needs to do - he needs to stop helping those who are attacking the military culture left and right with bad science and worse politics.

No excuses - just stand up and defend the 99.5% of the people in uniform that are serving with honor. Do that, and people will move mountains. The general climate is so bad - Duffleblog seems reasonable.
President Barack Obama offered hearty congratulations ... to an exultant field of 1047 graduates
“Today – in this single, fleeting moment – we all are just so proud you,” the president said in his commencement address. “Remember this, because it’s probably all downhill from here.”
“Let’s face it,” the president told the expectant young officers. “The few of you that will be any good at your job at all will get out. The rest of you will be pushed through a broken promotion system that rewards mindless compliance with outdated standards over anything even vaguely resembling conscious human thought. As you rise through the ranks, you’ll receive awards and honors you don’t deserve and develop a wildly inflated sense of self, until finally you arrive in a position to grossly abuse the power and people in your charge. Give yourselves a round of applause.”
“As I look out at your bright, naïve faces, I see criminals on the cusp of realizing that none of this shit is anything like what you’ve seen in the movies. You all are in for crushingly early mornings and truly meaningless bureaucratic nonsense that will suck your soul dry. Life will suddenly seem very gray, and you’ll probably start needing a drink just to get through the day.”

“But still, a tip of my cap for the bang-up job you’ve done here at Annapolis.”
“I’d tell you not to disappoint us,” Obama told one future naval aviator, “but at this point it’s probably inevitable.”
Even SECNAV Mabus got in on the spirit;
“Cherish these first years of your career,” Mabus advised the midshipmen. “Work hard but don’t forget to breathe in that fresh ocean air, because in the blink of an eye, twenty years will be gone and you’ll find yourself on the front page of the Navy Times for f(redacted) an enlisted person.”

“Oh, and to the 80 percent of you fools who will be married in the next month, a heartfelt Mazel Tov,” Mabus added. “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

“Frankly, if last year’s figures were any indication, an overwhelming number of you are headed for broken hearts and drawn-out custody battles – which makes sense when you consider the frequent deployments, dollar (redacted) in Guam, and the fact that you’ve basically been prisoners on this campus for the last four years and have developed no social skills to speak of whatsoever.”
Yep. DuffleBlog; TheDailyShow for the military. Ignore it at your own peril.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In AFG, the Inevitable

After we announced our intentions to go away from a Conditions Based OPLAN to a calendar based retreat - the die was cast.

I look back to all the work for Shape, Clear, Hold, Build, district by district, that would be the best path to create the conditions for success - how the minute after that DEC '09 speech at West Point by the President; it was all thrown away.

The path was unknown after that speech, but the end result simply required a basic understanding of human nature, Afghan history, and a few thousand years of sound military practice.

Behold, the wages of the Obama AFG strategy. This did have to be inevitable, but it is now.

Make yourself watch this. Every. Single. Minute.

We had a good workable Plan, but as is always true - Plans ain't worth shi'ite without the right leadership.

I'm going to go pour a drink and work on tomorrow's post. Be warned; I am in full Eeyore mode this week.

LCS Battlefield Prep

Well .... this is interesting.

Then answers will be even more interesting ... especially to #2 and #4.
From the May, 23 2013 House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee mark: ... Given the central role of the LCS for the future of the surface fleet, the committee has concerns about the Navy’s long-term sustainment plan. Therefore, the committee directs the Comptroller General of the United States to analyze and review:
(1) Plans to collect and analyze data during the USS Freedom’s Singapore deployment, as well as any mid-point or final reports of lessons learned from the deployment;
(2) Projected costs associated with providing preventive and depot maintenance including, but not limited to, an analysis of the alternatives considered in the use of contractor fly-away maintenance teams and U.S. Government and commercial shipyards;
(3) Progress on meeting targets established in the LCS plan of action and milestones;
(4) Lifecycle cost estimates for the variants of the LCS and their associated mission modules compared with other Navy ship classes; and 190(5)Any other issue that the Comptroller General determines appropriate with respect to the sustainment of the LCS platform and its associated mission modules, including modifications and improvements to reduce long-term sustainment costs and improve efficiencies. The committee directs the Comptroller General of the United States to provide to the congressional defense committees a preliminary briefing by March 3, 2014, on the above factors, with a report or reports to follow by May 30, 2014.
Hat Tip USNINews.

You just indicted yourself, Navy

OK, call me a simple man - but - if you feel that the selection process you presently use had issues, then you should correct those things feeding in to the system before you get the finished product, right?

Let's look at a manufacturing process. If you are examining the things coming out of the production line - a line you completely own and control - and that you designed; and you find an inferior product coming out the other end, what do you do.

1. Stop the production line, find out where the errors are taking place, correct or replace those things causing the errors; or ..

2. Keep the same process in place, hire a bunch of guys with hammers and files, and toss the finished product to them to correct and smooth the product before delivering it to the customer.

Guess which choice our Navy has chosen? Via our friend Sam Feldman;
Many of the Navy’s communities have upped their command screening rules after the Navy’s top officer ordered an overhaul last year that requires boards and leadership school for every future commanding officer.

These steps are all part of the latest effort to pick better skippers.

Some of the new hurdles come after the officers already have been selected for command.
Stop. Rewind that and read again.

Note to Sam and the Navy; you have not adjusted your Command Screen Board process if nothing changes until after the results come out. That is second guessing, CYA'n, and just adding layers of bureaucracy to spackle over something that is not working.

I used to give the benefit of the doubt - imperfect as all human institutions are - to the Command screen process; if the Navy is doing this post-Board, then no more.

I always thought the problem was more one of perverse incentives pre-Board that did not direct our officers towards things that best prepared them for Operational Command - and I think that is still the case. After the below, one or two things is going on;

1. I'm wrong. The career path is fine the Board is broken.
2. I'm right. The Board is fine, the Navy just is too in love with its "select in our own image" non-operational focus, ticket punching, Millington Diktat process that it is inventing new ways to correct the symptoms, as opposed to fixing the illness.

... all officers training to be COs must attend the Command Leadership School in Newport, R.I., where they now take a case study-based exam that tests their knowledge and judgment in essay-style answers.

There is no failing the exam, but those whose responses are found lacking get more help. It’s an extra step that’s rarely required: Fewer than 10 of the 450 officers who’ve taken the test have needed extra help,
OK. I want to see the details on the 10 folks in the Dream Team. Designator, career paths, questions missed, full demographic outline, regression analysis on personal and professional characteristics, and FITREP review.
Surface COs also have a test requirement. Starting in June, black shoes must pass a multipart assessment once they’re recommended for command. This includes a written test that quizzes them on management, materiel readiness, shiphandling and combat at sea.

Officers must correctly answer at least 75 percent of the questions to pass — 90 percent in the “rules of the road” section. Since December, when officers were limited to two chances to pass it, the pass rate has risen to 73 percent for each test, said Capt. Richard Brown, the head of the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, where the test is given.
No, this isn't the DuffleBlog. A solid "C" and you're set!  Good to see, "2.0 and go" still works when you are in your late 30s and early 40s. 

Somewhere in Portsmouth, UK - Royal Navy officers are laughing their arses off. Does explain some of the shiphandling challenges we have seen - something that more time at sea on the bridge would help, maybe. 

Also, if we are going to have a SWO "Perisher Course," could it be done pre-Board? Oh, either that or we could have FITREPS that actually give as much weight to such knowledge as ... well ... you know.
Surface warriors also must tackle a virtual trainer, safely steering the type of warship they served aboard on their most recent department-head tour through a scenario designed to test their skills and judgment.

Brown said the scenario will assess issues like, “What’s the officer’s command presence? Is he or she listening to what their watch team is telling them? And what kind of decision-making process are they going through?”
So, they are ready for Command .... and we don't know that yet? OK.

Now, over to the 13XX side. If as written, this is pre-Board - this makes sense.
Prior to being chosen for squadron command, brown shoes will have to pass a new board made up of current and former skippers. Board members will gauge that officer’s grasp of topics ranging from aviation combat and decision-making to their personal behavior and ability to handle the stress of command.

The system aims to “enhance the candidate’s preparation” for command, states the April 19 Naval Air Forces instruction implementing the board, which starts in June. “It also serves as a mechanism ... to identify candidates who are not yet ready.”
I guess they assume they have mastered the flying part ... as if not, well .... 

So, are they going to do this for every LCDR ... or are they going to have a "pre-Board Board" for those who are "in the bucket" so to speak?

As for the 1120s,
While some communities have changed their rules and other small, specialized fields have standardized their command track, other branches haven’t changed anything.

Submarine skippers, for example, are already selected via a board of senior officers, a setup that will continue. They’ll also go through the same process at CLS as their peers.
Their call. They seem to be doing things roughly correct though.

So, doing something is good, and all snarkiness aside, it will be good to do this a few cycles to see if we actually gain anything from this. Is anyone actually "washed out" who otherwise would have gone on to Command? Or, is this just another insert in to an already very long Command pipeline?

On balance, I'll call this a patch to what is a systemic problem. Especially on the Surface side - if you are still trying to determine that answer at this stage of their career - the process that brought you to this point is not suiting your needs. The aviators seem to be doing "something" that they probably wish they had been doing for awhile. The sub-bubbas have said, in essence, "No, we're fine."

UPDATE: See Navybo's comment for a better description of what is going on with the SWO changes. As he reports it, it is a much better cart vs. horse positioning than the original article outlined.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Just pull over for a second

In a culture where more often than not, all your neighbors are really just transients - they move in an out every few years, chasing whatever they are chasing.  Their families are scattered hither and yon; few really related to anyone.

I've wondered for awhile what impact the reality of the rolling, self-imposed Internally Displaced Persons has had on our nation - perhaps causing us to miss something. Is it a net-gain, or a net-loss? 

Well, perhaps I am projecting; I have always thought I was missing something.

Sure, post-military I returned to my hometown, the place I was born - and that is nice. Sure, my mother still lives in the home she built when I was five years old. I now have a smattering of relatives and people I grew up with who are still here - so I am starting to feel like I have what I have always wanted; a real sense of community.

Mrs. Salamander is a very rare creature in our boom-town; a third generation native, with another three to four generations going even further back an hour down the road.

Even though this was where I was born, it never really felt like "home" - as community was a different concept for me based on my cultural reference.

My mother was the first of her generation to move from our small town in Mississippi since our family helped found the county and the city in the first decade of the 1800s - she still calls it "home" in spite of the fact she left it six decades ago. 

We would go "home" a lot when I was growing up, I always got a kick out of everyone more or less knowing each other; heck - related to each other. Names had meaning, relationships had meaning - and perhaps a post for a different day; race had a huge meaning in a way in my sheltered color-free upbringing I had no concept of.

A few years ago when we traveled back to Mississippi to lay my father's remains to rest in the cemetery that has my relatives'  remains are going back two centuries, my oldest niece walked in to the local drug store that also has a barber shop and a coffee house in it. She had with her her youngest son and my sister. They just wanted to have a cup of coffee. The server brought it to them and then, not recognizing them, asked how they were and what brought them to town. Well, withing 5-minutes, there were 3-4 people around the table telling stories about my mom in High School, and as talking about that small boy's Great-Great-Grandfather shared some physical characteristics with not just him, but his mom and great-aunt; and how they remembered my sister when she visited during the summers.

In that small Mississippi town, history isn't abstract, it walks with you. Events of a century ago were still there, still waiting for you around every corner, it you look for it and have the right person with you to tell you about it. What your family did or did not do decades or a century ago still matter; still have an impact on the present.

I miss that, and think that we as a nation have lost a bit of something by not having that. At least in the faster parts of the nation, that is missing.

Winding down a decade of war and thinking about the above this weekend (I'm working on a post in an answer to Pawel about why the Civil War is much more than he thinks, especially on a personal level) - I though about community in the context of Memorial Day in a post I did the first year I was blogging.

I lived in Norfolk back in 2005, and I jogged by a hunk of granite all the time. It took me a couple of years until I decided to just stop and read.  I'm going to post in full that bit from 2005 and the follow-on and ask you to ponder your neighborhood; the few blocks to the left and right of where you live. How many of your neighbors have been lost in this war? As many as this small Norfolk neighborhood? Regardless of the number, would anyone have a connection strong enough to lead them to make a memorial for those lost?

Maybe yes, maybe no ... but a good thing to ask yourself today. I am.

Neighborhood Memorials; May 2005:

I have gone past by this monument countless times. As of late, it started to bother me more and more. What is it?

Being that this is an older neighborhood, and the eagle is hard to miss, I realized that this had to be a monument of some kind.

We have all been to the grand monuments. The large monuments. The understated monuments. The sublime monuments. The controversial monuments. The insulting monuments.

What could be more personal than a neighborhood monument that simply states, "These were our neighbors that fought and died for us."

How common are these little neighborhood monuments? I did a quick search for these names on the Internet. Inside a day I found out that in 1935, Robert L. Settle was an Eagle Scout, but that was about it.

I found out more about Sadron C. Lampert Jr. through has close relatives in the area that I managed to find. In a quick email exchange I found out some detail that, when you think about it, every name on every monument has. When you look at these men, struck down in the prime of life, you have to think about the lost potential. For you economists out there, the opportunity costs for a society of those lost in conflict is huge. Earn it we should. With his permission, the grandson of Sadron C. Lampert sent a quick background.

While I obviously never had the honor of meeting him, his father (Sadron Sr.) was alive until I was about nine. Sadron Jr. was killed when my father was just one or two.

He skipped two grades in high school and went to Yale, where he played football and graduated PhiBetaKappa. He went to work for a firm in New York, where he met my grandmother (boss's daughter, if I'm not mistaken).

Sadron Jr. was drafted into the Army in late 1943. He served as a communications officer in Europe. He, like all the Sadrons, had pretty poor eyesight and was constantly breaking his glasses. This may have contributed to the circumstances of his passing. He died in September, 1944 near Empoli, Italy. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.
By going to the outstanding National Archival Research Catalog, I found out that Robert W. Jones was a 2nd LT in either the Army or Army Air Corps when he was KIA. Charles H. Ware and Carl T. Wood; in the digital age they are hidden.

The irony is, the Winona Garden Club no longer exists, but as you can tell, someone in the neighborhood is keeping the monument up. Somewhere, on microfiche I'm sure, is the story. The questions are still there though; did they know each other before they left overseas? Did their families know each other? Did the families stay after their death? Did they serve together?

I've been to the WWII monument in D.C. and this little neighborhood monument had much more of an affect on me. Perhaps it is the personal nature of it, or the depth that Sadron Lampert, Jr.'s grandson provided. Next time I see something like this hidden in a corner, I'm going to walk over and see. After all, that is what they were put there for. The former members of the Winona Garden Club succeeded. Decades later, people are still giving tribute to their neighbors.

Winona Memorial II: November 2005:

With Veterans Day, it is a good time to focus again on something I ran into this summer; something everyone has, I hope; a local personal memorial to those who died in service to their country. In this case it is a small little memorial in Norfolk, VA in an neighborhood called Winona Park.

As a byproduct of my original posting, the family of one of the men on the memorial, Sadron Lampert Jr., has been kind enough to send along some more details on Sadron Lampert Jr. that adds depth to the name. I'll quote from some of their emails below, taking out the names. A reminder that these were real people, with real families, real futures, real desires, real hopes. Everyone that leaves early, sacrifices a lifetime.

Nothing dramatic here, but next time you hear or see a name, remember each one has some kind of connection - some history - some grieving family. War is an expensive undertaking - and money isn't the currency.

Dear CDR Salamander:

I happened to Google Sadron Lampert and found your article on the WWII memorial in Winona. My name is XXXX. I live in Norfolk, and my father, XXXX, is Sadron's brother. I would like to add to and clarify some of your information regarding the five young men from Winona who gave their lives serving their country.

The only person among the five that my father did not know was Robert W. Jones. Three of the families literally lived next door to each other: the Lamperts, Settles, and Woods. In fact, my grandmother, XXXX Lampert, was next door consoling Mrs. Settle on the death of her son, not knowing that her own beloved Sadron had already been killed.

By the way, my grandparents had already lost a little girl, Doris, when Sadron died, and my father, who was five years younger than Sadron, had gone into the Army before Sadron and was in New Mexico training to go overseas when he heard of his dear brother's death. My father--my hero--went on to fly more than his share of missions over Japan, flying out of Tinian. The siblings had another brother, Ralph, who died at age 56 of a massive heart attack.

To clarify Sadron IV's e-mail, Sadron III was two when his father was killed. Sadron III, of course, is my first cousin.

Sadron, Jr. entered Yale at age 16. He graduated at age 20. He was on a special football team--the 150 lb. varsity team--because of his slender stature.

Sadron, Jr., .... met his wife, Edith, (while she) was working at Farmer's, Inc., my grandfather's company, as a secretary when Sadron, Jr. met her. She was from South Norfolk. ...... After Sadron and Edith married, they moved to New York, where Sadron was the manager of marine and war risk insurance at Johnson and Higgins on Wall Street.

Sadron and Edith were married at Rosemont Christian Church in South Norfolk. The church was on Bainbridge Blvd., the same street where Edith's family lived. Her maiden name was Edith Herbert. Again, Sadron and Edith were a lovely couple. My mother and father can still picture them attending their church, First Methodist, Edith dressed to the nines and Sadron perfectly outfitted in a gorgeous white summer suit.

Sadron, Jr. was actually drafted in early 1944. He was drafted as part of Roosevelt's Limited Service Act because of his nearsightedness. Instead of the Army using his vast intelligence and putting Sadron where he could have made a weighty difference, the Army sent him straight to North Africa and then to Italy. .... He died on September 14, 1944, three days before my father's 21st birthday, because he and a boy from Wisconsin caught a mortar in their foxhole at Futa Pass, Italy, which killed both of them instantly.

Although Sadron Lampert was at Futa Pass at Highway 65 in Northern Italy on September 14, 1944, several WWII websites list incorrect information. For example, one lists him as "Lambert" and another lists his date of death as Sept. 29, 1944. Both are incorrect. Sadron Lampert died on Sept. 14, 1944.

I know that the fighting between Sept. 2 and Sept. 25, 1944, along highway 65 through Futa Pass--known as the Gothic Line--was intense. Between Sept. 10 and Oct. 26, four U.S. divisions suffered over 15,000 casualties. Some sites even suggest that the Futa Pass activity in September 1944 was a diversionary sacrifice to draw enemy fire away from other strategic points.

Sadron was dashing and extremely intelligent; everyone admired him. My mother also grew up in Winona and remembers seeing Sadron and Edith together and thinking what a perfectly beautiful couple they were. They had the aura of movie stars. My grandparents continued to live on Morris Crescent until their deaths. My grandfather, Sadron, Sr., died in 1983. I was lucky enough to know him well into my adulthood. My mother's parents lived on Huntington Crescent until their deaths (with my grandmother living almost to age 97). My uncle and my brother and his family still live in Winona, so my attachment to the neighborhood is quite strong.

Charles H. Ware went by Hal. He and my dad were the same age and were on the high school football team together. My dad believes that he was in the Army Air Corps.

Carl Wood was drafted rather late in life. He was 6 or 8 years older than Sadron. He was the first husband of another long-time Winona resident, Winnie (Mrs. William) Scullion, who died several years ago. Her sons (by her second husband) are still in the area.

Robert Settle was an Annapolis grad. He took Naval Flight Training and was killed in a crash stateside.
Just last year, the Lafayette/Winona Civic League held a special Memorial Day service and dedicated the memorial site with new lights. My mother has photographs of the original dedication service, held in the early 1950s, complete with shots of Sadron, Sr.; his wife, Elizabeth; and their grandson, Sadron III.

To the family of S.L. Jr., thanks again for the email and putting the person behind the name.

Every name has a story like S.L. Jr. Every memorial is huge, even if smallish and in a small park; like the one that should be remembered on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th Month. Armistice Day.

UPDATE: Ninme has a nice tribute to Colonel Bolling from WWI.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Unbroken and Unforgotten on Memorial Day

In case you missed it the first time around, the show we had in July of 2011 was one of our better ones, as it showed two sides of "leave no one behind" from two very different wars.

Especially the second half of the show, you'll shake your head a bit. History does echo, often in the same countries.

This nation has been served by those who come home, and those who never make it back.

Some have had their stories preserved and celebrated within living memory, some are almost unknown.

This weeks episode will cover both sides of our military experience.

For the first half hour our guest will be best selling author Laura Hillenbrand to talk about her latest book Unbroken; an incredible story of survival of Louie Zamperini - Olympic athlete, B-24 Liberator bombardier, survivor of being adrift at sea for months and the as a POW under the Japanese.

Unbroken at the time of the airing of this show was #9 on Amazon in general, and #2 in Military History. Laura's previous works include Seabiscuit.

Our guest for the second half of the hour will Michael R. Caputo of The Intrepid Project - people doing all they can to bring some shipmates home. He is here to talk about 12 Sailors who have been abandoned in a mass grave in a mass grave in Libya.

Join us live if you can this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern Time.
If you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.
Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, May 25, 2013


If you wish to understand America - or at least the Southern bit; here you go.

Hat tip DBIH.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fullbore Friday

I find myself going in to this Memorial Day weekend a bit weary, but I have no reason to be.

I had another one of those conversations that I just try to avoid and walk away from. Almost four years since I left active duty and now working far away from all things military - in a fashion I enjoy just being Mr., and no one really needs to know the once-was CDR - and that is fine. You can't hide it though, it comes up now and then as a natural part of the conversation.

Even in a very military friendly town, you run in to those who just, well, just don't know - or what they do know is wrong. It started innocent enough earlier this week at a networking event - doing what one does and talking to someone who, unknown to me at the time, was a person who seems to live in one of those world-view bubbles; expected results followed.

When I stated, "When I returned back home ... " it was another back an forth until she gathered I was retired military. She asked when the last deployment for me was, and I mentioned the shortened one in late '08 and early '09 to AFG - which I told her just finished things up for me as AFG was "my" part of the Long War, nosomuch IRQ. 

Oops. My fault. Well, that set her off. I don't recall everything, but in the course of a few minutes all I heard was stuff about lies, WMD, Bush, and Abu Ghraib - and that is when I stopped her. I just asked her, "Is that all you think of?" 

Well, she rewound her elevator speech on IRQ again, so I interrupted with mine. Mostly I talked over her and said, "We turned the corner in '07 and achieved most of our goals and end states by late '08 where we could declare victory and let Iraq choose their fate with an even chance. It was worth it - and good people gave their all for that victory."

I walked away with her still talking at me. No one raised their voice on either end ... I just couldn't stand it any more. Soured me on the whole networking event.

I guess good people can argue both sides - but I was there from beginning to end in the AOR. From Bahrain in SEP01 to Kabul through '09. I know the facts as we knew them. I am at peace that history will eventually tell the story correctly. I will not let the uninformed and unbalanced like that woman define IRQ for me.

On the drive home and on and off this week, I kept thinking about '07. I was remembering that conversation Bill Ardolino and I had either on or right before Midrats last Sunday about the discussion I had with Papa Salamander in '07 about IRQ and AFG - Papa Salamander and I may have been very different men who did not agree on much, but I do miss him.

Anyway, enough of me. '07 was the year with the greatest casualties in Iraq, 904. 2007; I kept thinking of it, and then it hit me. Captain Harris and her MEDIVAC flight. Seven of that 904.

Capt. Jennifer J. Harris, USMC, 28 years old and on her third combat tour, was killed in action 07 FEB 2007 flying the PHROG with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (HMM-364), Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, from Camp Pendleton, Calif. She was shot down while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Her crew was: 1st Lt. Jared M. Landaker, Sgt. Travis D. Pfister, Cpl. Thomas E. Saba, Sgt. James R. Tijerina, Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr. and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Manuel A. Ruiz.

Below is a tribute video I surprisingly found. I almost did not post it - as it includes video from the enemy of the shoot down - but the more I thought of it, the more I saw it as a tribute. After taking two SAM hits, she managed to keep her aircraft under control for an exceptionally long time - and was close to getting it on the ground when it all came undone.

We often see names and places on Memorial Day weekends - but we rarely show what sacrifice is - what we ask our men and women to do in our name. If you don't want to see an American aircraft shot down, then don't watch the video. But if you, like me, think you honor Capt. Harris and her crew by seeing their last full measure - then watch the tribute video.

While you do that, this Memorial Day Weekend - think of Jennifer, Jared, Travis, Thomas, James, Gilbert, and Manuel. Look at those on the beach to the left and right. Look at the parents with small children running about the aisles while shopping. Look at the young man or woman pumping gas as they get ready to hit the road. Then look at the empty spot at the beach, the quite open aisle at the store, the empty gas pump; that is where they are supposed to be, but aren't. That is what we are supposed to remember on Memorial Day. 

Because they took off that day for us, Jennifer isn't at the beach, Jared isn't having dinner with family, Travis isn't shopping, Thomas isn't mowing the yard, James isn't pumping gas, Gilbert isn't on the phone with relatives, and Manuel isn't on duty this weekend so his Shipmates could have the long weekend off.

It as been six years since the shootdown. Think also of the possibility that in that time, we also don't have the pleasure of what children those Marines and Sailors may have fathered or given birth to.

Such it is; such as it always been; such shall it always be.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hey Skipper, about para H ...

You're a reservist, you say. Need a little active duty time, you say. You're a patriot and want to do your share in the Long War, you say. You get an email titled, "Mobilization Opportunity for a 105x (O-5) in AFGHANISTAN (NE-1670-0001)" to your home email address and think .... hmmmmmm ....

You're a reader, so you read. You get to para H ...
Syria ... Iran; who didn't get the memo? Either someone isn't reading the paper very much, or isn't doing a very good job keeping the wall between RED and GREEN properly. I vote for the first.

That, or in the finest traditions of the Naval service, we are just putting everything out there just because, just because.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Concept of the Day: Reserve Bouyancy

With contracting budgets bringing discussion of the industrial base to the front, remember that intellectual capital is the most important part of the industrial base, from welders to engineers. 

When your bench is thin, you are more likely to have this happen.
One of Spain’s largest defense splurges may also be one of its most embarrassing. After spending nearly one-third of a $3 billion budget to build four of the world’s most advanced submarines, the project’s engineers have run into a problem: the submarines are so heavy that they would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Miscalculations by engineers at Navantia, the construction company contracted to built the S-80 submarine fleet, have produced submarines that are each as much as 100 tonnes (110 US tonnes) too heavy. The excess weight sounds paltry compared to the 2,000-plus tonnes (2,205 US tonnes) that each submarine weighs, but it’s more than enough to send the submarines straight to the ocean’s floor.
.... and then you have to call for help.
It’s a costly mistake on many fronts. The state-of-the-art submarines were meant to be the first entirely Spanish-designed and built. Incompetence is likely going to cost the country at least some of the glory. Electric Boat, a subsidiary of US-based technology firm General Dynamics, has already evaluated the project and could be hired as a consultant to save the job.
Hat tip Chap.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why you need to find original sources whenever possible

It also helps to understand a Naval Aviator's sense of humor.

If all you did was do a surface skim of reading today, you would have read this;
Senator John McCain just interviewed Apple CEO Tim Cook about the company's taxes and offshore profits.

But the kicker came at the end, when McCain stopped his line of questioning by asking, "Why the hell do I have to keep updating apps on my iPhone?"

McCain does have a point. It's really annoying to pop open the App Store every time there's a new update. We wish iPhones worked more like Android phones in that respect, letting you update apps automatically.
You know, updating apps means that the developers are improving them and there's a new version and it's gonna do more, and it's gonna maybe be faster, and it's gonna use less of your battery, it's gonna have more features to it. App updates, I can't wait to get app updates. I love getting app updates. I don't get enough of 'em. I wish Apple was updating the iPhone far more often than they are, but McCain is just one of these just buy it... never mind.
... crotchety old John McCain wanted some answers on another matter while he had Mr. Cook’s attention: “Why the hell” does he have to keep updating the apps on his iPhone?

Bill Gates might want to steer clear of D.C., in case Senator McCain decides he needs an explanation for why Microsoft Office doesn’t include the funny little talking paperclip any more.
Come on people. You can have your issues with Sen. McCain (R-AZ), heck I do ... but at least make the effort.

Here, watch the video yourself. Even TPM got it right for goodness sake, he's having fun.

Psychotic Sex Fiends

Think there is a little something "off" about the non-stop stream of stories about the broken vet and armies of PTSD time bombs, and the "rape around every corner" sexual assault environment?

Me too ... and I'm chatting up the subject over at USNIBlog. Come pay a visit and tell me what you think.

60-year Evolutionary Success

You may have missed this yesterday - but you should at least give it a passing nod;
The Navy successfully tested its short range ballistic missile last week, destroying a complex moving target that soared over the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, May 15.
“This test scenario was designed to challenge the discrimination capabilities of the SM-3 Block IB,” said Dr. Mitch Stevison, Raytheon SM-3 program director. “What we learned from this mission gives me great confidence in the missile’s production readiness.”
The test, code-named Stellar Hecate after a Greek goddess of magic, marks the 23rd successful intercept for the SM-3 program.
Ungh ... the media really needs to have military people edit their stuff. It was a test of a anti-ballistic missile against a short range ballistic missile ... but let's move past that goof.

Here is why you may have missed it; success. Why? Success, the proven way - and with the Standard Missile program, the expected outcome.
"Because we've been perfecting this technology for 60 years, we've seen it expand from defending ships to defending continents,” said Dr. Taylor Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems. “As we look back on all that has been accomplished in the last six decades, we can't help but recognize that what was impossible yesterday, is possible today."
It will get better and better - giving us some push back to the A2AD challenge; perhaps even getting ahead of it.

We should look at that timeline for surface-to-air missiles as we now look to laser and rail-gun technology. It will take time to reach great promise, but accept what it can offer now, and then build on it.

The best weapons systems are never "revolutionary;" they are products of sound evolution. More work to get done, but we're getting there.
On Tuesday, production is set to begin on a batch of missiles at the company’s new Redstone Missile Integration Facility in Huntsville, Ala., that will be deployed out to U.S. Navy ships.
Here; wallow in the SWO pr0n.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Navy-USMC Team ... Animal Team

In case you missed it, there were two stories that came out over the weekend that are a reminder that as we get all PPT'd up about technology that may or may not work now and then - and for a kings ransom, that some things just "work" - and they love you for it.

One warms the heart;
When Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach served as a dog handler in Afghanistan, he told the yellow lab who was his constant companion that he'd look her up when he returned home.

"I promised her if we made it out of alive, I'd do whatever it took to find her," Gundlach said.

On Friday, he made good on that vow with help from some sentimental state officials in Iowa who know how to pull off a surprise.

Since leaving active duty to take classes at the University of Wisconsin this summer, Gundlach, of Madison, Wis., had been seeking to adopt 4-year-old Casey.

The 25-year-old learned Casey had finished her military service and had been sent to the Iowa State Fire Marshal's Office, where she was used to detect explosives.

Gundlach wrote to State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds, explaining the connection he felt with the dog. He even has a tattoo on his right forearm depicting Casey with angel wings and a halo, sitting at the foot of a Marine.

"He's been putting a case together for the last two months, sending me pictures ... it just tugged on your heart," Reynolds said.

Reynolds decided to arrange a surprise.

There is also a story of even more seriousness. Now and then, people come out to get rid of the Navy Marine Mammal program. The usual suspects come out from the goofy-clueless left, but another threat are - as it is with many things that actually work - the transformationalists.
In a bit of good news for dolphins – but bad news for robots – the Navy's roster of mine-hunting marine mammals is going to be replaced by unmanned underwater vehicles starting in 2017. The reason? It's not that the Navy's team of 24 mine-hunting dolphins is doing a bad job. It's just that it's a lot easier to manufacture and program a, "12-foot, torpedo-shaped robot," as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, than it is to stick a dolphin in a multi-year training program. That, and we presume it's a lot easier on the conscience if a hunk of lifeless parts gets blown up versus a… well, anyway. It's not as if the specially trained dolphins are being given a pink slip and sent out to a watery pasture. Rather, it's likely that the 24 mine-hunting dolphins – of 80 total dolphins within the Navy's $24 million marine mammal program – will be reassigned to different aquatic tasks. It's also possible that the dolphins might be retained to find bombs placed on the bottom of a body of water, a different kind of mine hunting that could still make use of the dolphins' unique skills.
Great. Getting rid of something else for the PPT promise of LCS. 

I think they'll be back though, not so much that LCS MIW won't be able to do their job in an OK manner, just that they won't be as good as that big mammal brain. Lee Pattinson can tell you;
Do you see technology phasing out the use dolphins?
I worked very closely with the UUV platoon, and it is amazing what the machines can do. However, I don’t believe they will ever surpass the capabilities of the animals. My animal never ceased to amaze me with his detection ranges of underwater objects. Unlike the UUV, the dolphin can think and decipher on its own what is what. The UUV just gives you back data and the human still has to sift through it all and decide if it is a “mine” or any object they may be looking for.
Case in point;
The discovery itself is notable enough: Navy specialists found a rare torpedo off the San Diego coast, an 11-foot brass gem called the Howell that dates back 130 years or so and was one of the first torpedoes to propel itself. Only 50 were made, and only one other one still exists. But what makes the story even better is that the Navy specialists who found it were trained dolphins, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Steampunk torpedo. Well done.