Archive for May, 2009
…The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government : of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
If you are like me, you have probably wondered what happens to the old eye glasses that people donate to charity. Well, wonder no more. I am here to tell you that your donated eye glasses are being put to good use.
In just another success story I observed while embarked last week onboard USNS COMFORT, the Navy has partnered with Lions Clubs International to provide free eyeglasses to deserving patients from the host nations of Continuing Promise ’09. To date over 7,000 pairs of eye glasses have been distributed by the USNS COMFORT during CP 09 including 3,000+ pairs in Antigua & Barbuda alone.
According to one of the COMFORT’s eye doctors, Captain Michael Pattison, MSC, USN, eye glasses range between $400-1000 on Antigua & Barbuda thus making them prohibitively expensive for the average citizen. I asked CAPT Pattison about the partnership between the Navy and the Lions Club and he remarked, “Great. They help us a lot.”
So stop what you are doing and start rounding up your old eye glasses so you can help give the gift of sight. For more information on how to donate your old pair of eye glasses, go to www.lionsclub.org
From reader Kent Bertsch – a must read.
I just want to say thank you to all the service men and women that serve on the USNS Comfort. We were in Antigua on a cruise ship last week on May 14th when we sailed right by the Comfort going into dock. We didn’t know until we talked with some of the crew on shore what they were doing there. We saw the hundreds of people standing in line in the hot sun waiting for medical treatment. Here we were there soley for OUR comfort and our military were there sacrificing thier time helping others. It was very humbling to say the least to watch them and to hear them talk of their mission. We witnessed a very touching act of kindness by one of our nurses. We were in a coffee shop on the dock where some of the military people gathered to have coffee and wait for a boat to take them back to the ship when one of the nurses noticed an elderly woman sitting outside in obvious pain with sores all over her legs. She put her lunch down and went over to put her arm around her and asked if she could help her. I don’t know how long she was there because we had to leave but the kindness and generosity this nurse showed to this woman was absolutely amazing. To those who do not think we should be doing this they should be ashamed of themselves. We are the richest nation on earth and it is the least we could do to help others who are not as blessed and fortunate as us. I just thought this needed to be said. People need to know what good our military is doing. Thank you again to all who serve on the USNS Comfort! (emphasis added)
Well said shipmate! Thanks for sharing!
This video, Old Glory, is powerful and poignant, and although not perfectly suited for this holiday, it is a wonderful message of our comradeship - in service to our nation and each other - and the deep respect we share for each other regardless of service.
Happy Memorial Day shipmates!
Semper Fortis, Semper Fidelis, Semper Paratus
There was supposed to be a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the V-22 this morning with the GAO’s Mike Sullivan, CSBA’s Dakota Wood, Marine Corps Lt. General Trautman and Lt Col. Karsten Heckl (CDR VMM-162). But, well…let’s just say it was attenuated. And Edolphus Towns (D-NY) is, well, angry. VERY angry. Read:
Good morning. Thank you all for being here.
We had hoped to conduct today a thorough examination of the Defense Department’s V-22 Osprey, an aircraft with a controversial past, a troubled present, and an uncertain future. However, the Defense Department has evidently decided to stonewall our investigation. On May 5, 2009, I wrote to Secretary of Defense Gates to request information on the Osprey, including copies of two reports on the performance of the Osprey in Iraq, called “Lessons and Observations.” I also requested a list of all V-22 Ospreys acquired by the Defense Department, including their current locations and flight status.
However, to this date, the Defense Department has failed to provide this information, despite repeated reminders from the Committee. This is simply unacceptable.
General Trautman, I want you to carry this message back to the Pentagon: We will pursue this investigation even harder than we have so far. We will not be slow-rolled. We will not be ignored. I intend to conduct a full investigation of the Osprey, not just an investigation of the information that you want me to see. We hope you will provide it voluntarily, but if you do not, we will compel your compliance.
To ensure a thorough investigation and to allow the Defense Department additional time to provide us with these records, we will continue this hearing in two weeks and I am asking the witnesses to return to present their testimony at that time. This hearing is now adjourned, to be resumed in two weeks at the call of the chair.
Ouch. Here’s what Congress wanted–and the Marine Corps did not provide:
1) an inventory of all Osprey, indicating date of acquisition, current location, and whether still in service.
2) A list indicating the readiness condition of each aircraft for each day for the period beginning with the Initial Operational Capability date in March 2007 through April 30,2009, and the specific reasons for each aircraft not being Mission Capable or Full Mission Capable.
3) Two reports: MV-22 Combat Operations in Iraq – Lessons and Observations from VMM-263 Deployed October 2007 – April 2008 OIF 06-08.2, dated May 14, 2008; and MY-22 Combat Operations in Iraq – Lessons and Observations from Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-266 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, September 2008 – April 2009, OIF 08.2, dated March 9,2009.
4) Copies of all other memoranda, studies, and reports that discuss, assess, or analyze: (a) the overall readiness condition and availability of the V-22 aircraft; and (b) the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of V-22s used in Iraq since October 2007.
Some of this (particularly #2) is Congressional fishing expedition-type stuff. But failing to give Congress what is, in essence, some simple, already complied information is inexplicable. With all this reluctance to show the unwashed, unspun data, I have to ask–is the MV-22 program up to it’s old habit of massaging away uncomfortable data?
If so, we need to fire some people. (Heads, pikes, the lot…)
Look. We’ve wrapped our whole amphibious fleet around this platform. We’ve spent billions to accommodate this rotary wing platform (all while the carrier fleet has doubled-down on conventional helos…) The least the V-22 program office can do for the country is to stand up, show cards and face the music.
I mean, if there’s nothing wrong, and the MV-22 is as wonderful as everybody claims, then…WHAT DO WE HAVE TO HIDE, eh? Why not show the data and let Congress sing ya’lls praises? (And if you need help, then, well, ask. The MV-22 has plenty of friends…)
Gotta wonder if somebody spilled some beans someplace. What sparked this inquiry? We’ll probably never know, it’s sure fun to see Congress show a little spunk and get riled up. Let’s see more!
Besides bringing medical diplomacy to the Caribbean & Latin America, the USNS COMFORT is delivering some outstanding music diplomacy as an added bonus. Wondering what music diplomacy is? Wonder no more. Music diplomacy is one of the many cousins of cultural diplomacy and is best summed up The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy:
It is difficult to overstate the value of music in bringing people from different cultural backgrounds together for a common cause. Music has an almost limitless potential to unite both musicians and listeners regardless of their age, cultural background, language spoken, or skin colour.
I agree and I think it was a brilliant move to have musicians onboard USNS COMFORT for Continuing Promise ’09.
The task of uniting musicians and host-nation listeners alike on this 4-month humanitarian and goodwill mission fell to the 17 members of the USAF SOUTH Band under the command of Captain Cristina Moore-Urrutia, USAF, who also serves as the band’s conductor.
In a USNI Blog exclusive, Captain Moore-Urrutia said, “I think it has been an awesome experience. It is the first time an Air Force band has been onboard for one of these missions. I think the band has been just the right fit – a versatile group that can play from rag time to jazz to rock& roll to the latest Latin charts and some standard marches to boot.”
One of their most memorable performances to date was at a women’s prison inthe Dominican Republic. According to Moore-Urrutia, the audience was “incredibly receptive and obviously enjoyed the music very much. It was wonderful to see them respond to the music.”
For each stop on the 7-nation tour, the USAF SOUTH bands plays before a wide range of audiences on any given day. On the day that I caught up with them, they were playing outside the Multi-Cultural Center in St. John’s Antigua & Barbuda. While hundreds of patients were waiting in line, the band performed a concert which helped make the wait that much better. The talent in the band is impressive is all i can say – American Idol better watch out for the likes of TSGT Keisha Gwin-Goodin, USAF Band vocalist who you will hear from on this blog in future posts.
My gut instinct tells me that this is not the last time you will see and hear an USAF band on a navy ship! Gut instinct don’t fail me now.
BZ to the USAF SOUTH Band for vindicating time and time again Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s maxim that “music is the universal language of mankind.”
The attack on the USS Stark, the largest naval battle since WW II, tanker escorts, etc are topics of my e-interview with Harold Lee Wise, author of Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf, 1987-1988.
What inspired you to write Inside the Danger Zone?
The book grew from my masters thesis. As I researched these events and talked to veterans, it became clear that there was an important story to be told and one that had been overlooked. I saw an opportunity for a book, but the veterans themselves were the ones who really inspired me to write it. Many of them told me that no one had ever asked them about these events. I thought they deserved to be heard. I tried to tell their stories, and the story of the United States in the Persian Gulf at that time, in an entertaining and exciting manner.
The operations and incidents described in the book include the Iraqi missile attack on USS Stark, firefights between U.S. Special Forces and Iranian gunboats, attacks on Iranian warships and oil platforms, the seizure of an Iranian minelayer, and USS Samuel B. Roberts hitting a mine. Iranian missile and gunboat attacks damaged American and allied ships while the mine campaign threatened shipping of all nations. The tense situation eventually resulted in Operation Praying Mantis, America’s largest sea-air battle since World War II, a one-day showdown between U.S. forces and the most feared ships of the Iranian navy.
What do you feel are some of the lessons learned from May 1987 through July 1988?
There were many lessons learned during this period. One important thing is that this period was the proving ground for a new generation of high-tech weapons, most of which worked well with the notable exception of the tragic Vincennes incident. There were several “firsts” for the U.S. military including the first missile exchange between ships and the first use of satellite communication to relay decisions from the White House during combat. The Navy learned many lessons about damage control and ship design from Stark and Samuel B. Roberts. During this period, the military had to adapt to unexpected and dangerous threats, such as mines and armed speedboats, while also dealing with the unique difficulties of operating a large force in the Persian Gulf region for the first time. These lessons served the United States well in later years.
In the bigger picture, the entire period was a welcome change from what had been a long string of U.S. military failures in the region. Many of the diplomatic relationships that exist today were built in this time and the basic framework of U.S. relations to the Middle East took shape. It was a turning point in U.S. global strategy. Besides being the first tentative step toward a lasting military entanglement in the Persian Gulf region, this deployment was by far the largest for the U.S. military in the time between the Vietnam War and Desert Shield.
Have any of these lessons been since forgotten and are in danger of being re-learned the hard way today?
Because of the countries involved, the geographic area, and the continuing importance of oil, these operations should be thoroughly studied. Thankfully, the U.S. military has done a fine job in building on the lessons learned in that period. Many of the tactics and strategies that were important then could be valid in a future conflict and not only in the Persian Gulf. One lesson that should not be forgotten is that low-tech weapons are effective in naval warfare. Small boats attacking merchants is one example that has been in the headlines of late. That was a common problem in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War; only the attackers were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and not pirates. Protecting merchant ships, especially oil tankers, from these small boats was a primary goal of the U.S. Navy in the Gulf back then. The Navy used a combination of ships and special boat units operating from mobile sea bases. These mobile sea bases are just one of several interesting aspects of that time.
Can you tell us a little bit about Operation Praying Mantis?
Operation Praying Mantis was a one-day running battle between the United States and Iran that took place on 18 April 1988. The operation was intended as retaliation for the mining of Samuel B. Roberts. The end result was two Iranian frigates sunk or disabled, one Iranian guided missile boat sunk, two Iranian oil platforms (used as command and control bases) destroyed, and several armed speedboats sunk. For the United States, Operation Praying Mantis was a success on multiple levels. For the U.S. military, it was the largest engagement of any kind since the Vietnam War. There were no embarrassing equipment failures or costly lapses in judgment and U.S. intelligence, using both human and technological assets, was one step ahead of Iran all day. After all of the failures in the region, and overall for that matter since Vietnam, it was a day when nearly everything went right for the U.S. military. There are a few mysteries involved as well. Praying Mantis is the topic of the longest chapter in the book.
Who should read Inside the Danger Zone?
Anyone interested in recent naval history, Middle East history, or those who like a good adventure story will enjoy the book. It is intended to be accessible for a general audience. It focuses on the experiences and viewpoints of the officers and crew who served in the Persian Gulf while presenting background information and economic and political context to put the events in perspective. One reviewer said it read like a Clancy novel, but was “even better.” I’ll let the readers be the judge of that, but I hope anyone who reads it enjoys it. The web site with more info and photos is www.insidethedangerzone.com.
I’d like to thank Vice Admiral Harvey again for giving me 45 minutes of his time! It was a tremendous opportunity and it will always be something I remember.
What qualities do you value most in junior officers?
Looking back on it…I’m thinking of the David R. Ray or Cape St. George… (I was a CO of a destroyer and cruiser); I think I really looked for number one: integrity, which goes without question. If you’re my JOD or Engineering Officer of the Watch, CIC watch officer, or helicopter control officer and you report something to me and I don’t feel that I can rely upon what you told me because I question your integrity, then the system falls apart. A ship is held together by trust. The bonds of trust are very, very powerful—they form the basis for everything else that happens. First, last, and always is people have to believe you and you have believe in them…They don’t necessarily have to like you…but they gotta believe that they can trust you when you look them in the eye and say, “This is it. This is what I need. This is what I have to do.” They gotta believe that it’s true—or at least you think it’s true. Integrity is the foundation for everything else.
After that, I think I really appreciate a belnd of loyalty and persistence. What becomes very, very valuable to me is someone who I know, I know, I can depend on without checking up on them. They don’t have to be brilliant. It’s great to be really smart—it’s better to be smart than dumb, that goes without saying. There’s always going to be someone out there who is smarter than you are and have skillsets you don’t have…You can be the absolutely most persistent, dedicated, stay-to-it officer—the kind of person who will get it done…I really, really enjoy being with those types of officers who will just go after that job or whatever the task may be, however difficult it may be—‘till it’s done or they’re dead, one or the two.
I don’t exaggerate. That level stick-to-itness coupled with loyalty (intelligent loyalty, not blind loyalty)…Those are the kind of things I really look for—they’re the kind of things that make ships good and keep them good.
When you were Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower and Personnel, your office released a document about language skills, regional expertise, and cultural awareness. Another article recently in the Naval War College Review [found here] suggested a three-tiered track for officers. How will my generation of officers look different than previous generations?
Yeah, I think that’s fascinating. As Chief of Naval Personnel, I had the benefit of being able to take a look at the Navy as a whole…and reflected on how we’ve organized that [human] talent in the past—various warfare communities, various enlisted ratings and specialties. Really, we’re focused on the world that doesn’t exist anymore: the Cold War world with a far more predictable set of circumstances and well-defined roles for everybody in the Navy, whether you were officer or enlisted, warrants or LDO. They were set to deliver a very large, blue-water Navy focused on a war at sea, whether it was in the air, on the surface, or underneath and what it took to support that. So now we fast forward to where we are and we see many, many roles and missions we are expected to carryout, ranging from high-end bluewater conflict to the stuff we’re doing today: riverine squadrons in Iraq, suppression of piracy in Somalia, supporting the Comfort on a swing down South…The scope of activity has exploded on us, yet we still have the same structure to bin our talent as we have had for the last 30-40 years.
So, I think, in my little view of the crystal ball, the Naval War College Review article…[is] a pretty good sign of what our future may be…You will see fundamental changes in the construct of the officer corps that gives us a lot more flexibility to put the talent where we need it, when we need it and then make sure those folks are really optimized.
The Navy is a classic battle of jack-of-all-trades versus deep expertise in a particular field. At various times and places, you got to have those deep experts and other times you need people who know a lot about a bunch of things and are able to swing from one particular skillset and field to another, depending on what the situation demands. I see a real unlocking of the career paths and restructuring to open it up to give our talent a chance to get more focused on the wider range of areas; we’ll see how that takes us.
It’s going to be a heck of a challenge, obviously. The structure of the officer corps has deep roots and to change those things take an awful lot of guided effort. You don’t do it lightly at all, you’ve got to give this very, very careful thought…With that said, we have to make some fundamental changes and you all will be in the midst of it.
The Navy and the Naval Academy value diversity and while we emphasize cultural diversity, how important is to maintain a force with a diverse economic background? How can the Navy reach out to underrepresented groups?
I think it’s very important to talk about diversity…People automatically assume it goes to some magic percentage of racial, ethnic, or religious background…The most important thing that people bring to the Navy is their talent, their God-given skills and abilities. We need access to the talent of the nation no matter where that talent is: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, upper-east coast, the heartland, south Florida—doesn’t matter. We need access to the best young men and women this country has to offer and to come in and do the kind of things the Navy needs to get done. For us, access to that talent and then retaining that talent once we bring it in to the Navy and showing those young men and women that, “Hey, you’ve got a future with us and will only be limited by what you bring and not because of any artificial barriers in our organization.”
We need to find that talent, we need to be able to recruit them to come in, then go and retain them…So when we talk about this diversity thing, we got to look at this and [realize] that this country is in the midst of one the most significant demographic change in its history…the majority will become the minority by 2038 (or 2042); that figure will probably be accelerated because demographics are changing faster than expected. Perhaps we need to ensure that we have access to that talent and diverse populations…Because you want a young man or woman to look up to an organization and say, “I can succeed here because there are people like me in this organization.” I think that’s so important. We need to be that kind of place where anybody looks at us and says, “I can go there. It’s important, it’s something bigger than me. I can make a contribution, I can serve my country, and I can serve myself and achieve my own goals as well.” If you view this from a big aperture, a big scope, you can see that is not about some kind of affirmative action…this is all about barrier removal within our organization and then reaching out and making sure everyone out there knows…we’re the ones you want to serve with…That’s what we’re trying to get at through going out there and putting the Navy all over this country in places where traditionally we didn’t go. That’s where the talent is.
I wonder if there are still barriers that need to be removed and what do they look like, sir?
An eternal truth that gets relearned in every generation is that as long as you have an organization populated by human beings then there will be issues. That’s just as fact of our life…You’re always going to have issues of some kind when you deal with human beings; it’s part of the territory. Recognize it, understand that, and deal with it. Yes, we have issues, they come, they go, they change and I think…we’re making some very positive steps. These steps are being recognized inside the Navy as well as outside the Navy…Also recognize we have places that we have a way to go…We’ll keep at it. We’re very committed to this from the CNO down in terms of achieving our goals and making sure young men and women know that this is the place to be.
(aka Sejil-2) Iran’s new MRBM and the latest complication in the brewing nuclear arms race in the Middle East:
WASHINGTON (AP) – The missile test-fired by Iran is the longest-range solid-propellant missile it has launched yet, a U.S. government official said sejil-2Wednesday, raising concerns about whether the sophistication of Tehran’s missile program is increasing. The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss technical details of Iran’s missile program, said Tehran has demonstrated shorter-range solid-propellant missiles in the past. Solid-propellant rockets are a concern because they can be fueled in advance and moved or hidden in silos, the official said. Liquid-propellant rockets have to be fueled and fired quickly, which makes preparations for launches easier to monitor and would allow a preemptive strike if necessary.
What’s next? Undoubtedly this only raises Israel’s concern over Iran’s direction and intent where nuclear weapons are concerned and if Ahmadinejad successfully stands for re-election (he faces three other candidates and the launch comes a mere two days after the election cycle began), it is safe to say we will only see more of the same from Tehran. Israel? Given the action versus Iraq and the Osiraq nuclear reactor, how long before Israel decides that the only recourse is a pre-emptive strike? As far as US actions, if there needed to be an underscore to the re-direction that US missile-defense research, development and deployment is taking towards greater regional and theater capabilities, this certainly would seem to fill the bill.
I hope we hear more – specific goals and objectives - from Secretary Mabus soon.
DTG: 192252Z MAY 09
FM SECNAV WASHINGTON DC
MSGID/GENADMIN/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC/-/MAY//
SUBJ/SECNAV MESSAGE TO THE FLEET//
RMKS/1. TODAY I HAVE COME HOME TO NAVAL SERVICE. I WAS PROUD TO SERVE WHEN I WAS YOUNG, AND I AM PROUD TO LEAD IT NOW AS THE 75TH SECRETARY OF THE NAVY. THE NAVY AND MARINES HAVE STORIED HISTORIES AND, AT THIS TIME OF TESTING FOR OUR SERVICES AND OUR COUNTRY, YOU HAVE PROVED MORE THAN EQUAL TO THE CHALLENGES AND TO UPHOLDING THE LEGACY GIVEN BY GENERATIONS WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE.
2. I LOOK FORWARD TO THE PRIVILEGE OF WORKING WITH THE SAILORS, MARINES AND CIVILIANS THAT MAKE-UP THESE UNEQUALED FIGHTING FORCES. I AM PROUD TO BE ABOARD AGAIN.
3. RELEASED BY THE HONORABLE RAY MABUS, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.//