When I first thought about serving my country, I considered the Air Force, but decided I’d rather be in the military instead. My father told me once that in the Army, you’d live like rats and die like gentlemen. In the Navy, you’d live like gentlemen, and die like rats. I rather counted on living, and that has made all the difference.
Quote Yeats to me and you’ve won my heart…
The guy could write. In three sentences in his first freakin’ post he managed to pull up a forgotten truism, allude to the poet Robert Frost and mention Yeats. It’s not all grunting and emoting in this world, you know; there is poetry in it, and too few military people admit to being poets. CAPT Lefon was a prose poet. He referenced Guinness and The Hobbit and poetry and classical history. He treated people as equals and kicked the tails of fools. There was a beloved wife, two daughters and a son, a beloved Old Dominion and a San Diego, California house draining him of extra money, his sincere dislike of the night trap. All of these came up in occasional conversation, and would include painfully honest hints–and then a full monty confessional description–of a troubled child on the brink. We remembered that he was once XO of TOPGUN, and that it was one word and all caps. We knew how much he hated being competent in a cubicle, and the joy of being able to escape the rule that “once you retire you never are in full grunt again”. We know enough of his family to mourn along with them. Could write, I tell you.
He even linked me every once in a while, inspiring me to better work on my now-defunct blog (I work in a bit of a sensitive field nowadays, thankee–I used to be okay at writing, I suppose). He was gracious when I called him on things (even a defense of Mr. Rogers). I could depend on the man. Lex had an unashamed faith and had beliefs as well. He even has–crap, had–an entirely separate site, the Flight Deck, for people to hang out at the bar and jaw about whatever.
He took care to support and help out newer milbloggers. That support was needed in the 2005-2007 timeframe. I remain firmly convinced that the milblogs were essential to combating information warfare and the narrative of the 2005-2007 Iraq kerfuffle, putting truth out there when untruth was on the airwaves, and providing stories and comments you could not find anywhere else.
And he talked of homecoming. From 2003:
At that moment, everything you have experienced is almost worth it. The moment will not last forever, but it is enough.
I miss him already. I’m unable to write more; too many deaths close to me hit home this week. He’d like some Yeats. So, some Yeats and thoughts of his family. I don’t know if it’s a good choice or not–it might hit a little close to home. It’s Yeats. He liked Yeats.
TO A CHILD DANCING IN THE WIND
W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
DANCE there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?
More – So much More
Chap – Pardon Him, Theodotus: Neptunus Lex: Carroll LeFon
UltimaRatioReg – A Remarkable Man Has Stepped Into the Clearing; Captain Carroll LeFon USN (Ret.) 1960-2012
CDRSalamander – Neptunus Lex: Thank You and Farewell
LCDR Benjamin BJ Armstrong – Laughter-Silvered Wings and Chasing the Shouting Wind
A Note from CEO Pete Daly to the LeFon Family
Susan Katz Keating: Neptunus Lex / Carroll LeFon: 1960-2012
Bill – There is a Universal Fraternity of Aviators…
The Armorer – We were bloggers once, and young.
The Armorer – Lex doing what Lex did best, and enjoyed the most. Flying
FbL – Hole in Our World
Milblogging – RIP Milblogger Carroll LeFon (aka Lex) of Neptunus Lex
Bouhammer - God Speed to a Warrior and a Milblogger
CDR Salamander – Neptunus Lex – Thank You and Farewell
AW1 Tim – One of our own
Grim – Sic Transit Lex
Steeljawscribe – Ave Atque Vale
Homefront Six – Fair winds and following seas…
Steve (The Woodshed) – Don’t Blink
Taco (The SandGram) – Carroll ìLexî LeFon, you are cleared due West
Teresa (Technicalities) – A Story Has Ended
Kanani (Kitchen Dispatch) – RIP Neptunus Lex: One writer pays tribute to another
Jonn (This Ain’t Hell) – RIP, Lex
MaryAnn (Soldiers’ Angels Germany) – Fair Winds, Lex
Cassandra (Villainous Company) – Lex
The Sniper - RIP Lex
Mark Tempest (EagleSpeak) – Beat the drum slowly
caltechgirl (Not Exactly Rocket Science) – Fair Winds and Following Seas
Navy Times – Crash kills pilot who blogged as Neptunus Lex
Soldiers’ Angels – Captain “Lex” Lefon
Tailhook Daily Briefing – Neptunus Lex
U.S. Navy Aircraft History – Well, That Sucks
Carmichael’s Position – Talk Among Yourselves
K-Dubyah (Little Drops…..) – Mourning…
Boudicca’s Voice – Lex
James Joyner (Outside the Beltway) – Captain Carroll LeFon, Neptunus Lex, Killed in Crash
streiff (RedState) – Milblogger Neptunus Lex Killed In Plane Crash
Bookworm (PJ Tatler) – Another Light Went Out : Milblogger Neptunus Lex Died Yesterday
xbradtc (Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid) – RIP- Carroll LeFon ìNeptunus Lexî
ALa (Blonde Sagacity) – In Memoriam: Capt. Carroll LeFon, Ret. a.k.a. Neptunus Lex
Sean (Doc in the Box) – Remembering Captain Carroll, Neptunus Lexî LeFon USN (Ret.) 1960-2012
Bullnav (Op For) – RIP CAPT Carroll Lefon, USN (ret), aka Neptunus Lex
LTC John (Miserable Donuts) – A Milblogger passes on…
DrewM. (Ace) – Captain Carroll “Lex” LeFon (USN, Ret)…RIP
Villainous Company: Lex
Serious people need to be looking at Aboul-Enein’s work, I think.
Policy is all about implementation. Ideas aren’t useful until actually in place, and implementing any policy is a lot harder than thinking up the policy. There are several implementation issues that I highlighted in ’05 that I think are still germane. Here’s a summary:
- Publicity will make it harder, not easier. We’ve already risked having too active a public affairs posture on the decision in my view, and the Air Force pilot experience shows that the extra pressure on people due to being in the spotlight is not good for them, the mission, or the policy. Do it ethically, do it right, do it with proper risk controls, do it quietly until it’s no big thing and the first woman selected for COB or command or TDU operator doesn’t have to have eight news articles to deal with, and the nagging feeling late at night that she got picked because of her X chromosome and not because she’s the best leader and most ruthless undersea knife fighter. Or worse: remember LT Hultgren, remember others.
- Leadership will make or break implementation. Picking the right people, setting them up with the right sticks and carrots, in a focused effort will be better than throwing one poor female sailor on each boat at random.
- Sustainability is important, and hard. One of the reasons submarine demographics is the way it is, is because of the entry pool of people before the Navy gets to see them. Nuclear engineering takes a certain kind of skill set, enlisted and officer; those skill pools skew male. High-demand demographic groups in engineering are disproportionately valuable to our manpower competitors in business and they’ll recruit hard and pay more, making it still harder to get the numbers we need to sustain mixed crews. To get mixed-gender crews more than once as a stunt, or as a token few, requires a pipeline. I would bet PERS-42 and the officer community managers are popping the Motrin over this one.
Details are at the 2005 link. You can tell me how wrong I am here or at the other site.
Update: Navy Times gets word on some of the implementation: accessing division officers and supply officers. No word on other sailors.
CDR Aboul-Enein’s finally done it. I’m going to rave about it sight unseen, based solely on his reputation.
Back in the mid-nineties, the Navy tried to build a Foreign Area Officer program. It didn’t work due to structural problems, but I was selected for the subspecialty along with a few other officers. I built a professional relationship with a few, including one guy with an unusual name who seemed to know a lot about the Middle East. As soon as I got back into port after 9/11, he was the first guy I emailed; I was worried about the potential for him to get caught up in harassment or trouble.
Turns out the opposite happened. He wound up being the guy who in the E-ring. He taught his fellow Americans about the insidious nature of islamist ideology and how normal folks in the Middle East think about warfare, a quiet, professional voice between the appeasers and the overly Jacksonian militants. This is very hard to do when so many people who oppose American values speak different things to different audiences, and lie to calm rational concerns about threat to people very willing to accept a reasonable-sounding voice. (Other officers I know have failed at this. Perhaps you remember a particularly ugly catfight between two in ’07 in the Pentagon from people who may resemble this.)
You know CDR Aboul-Enein if you took JPME II and studied the region, or were in the E-ring after 9/11, or in a variety of jobs we shall not mention here. He has written regularly in a number of publications, and has a particular skill in reviewing a book and giving you the essence of what’s going on–and he does that with books in Arabic that normally we would have no idea about. I’ve learned a lot about the region from his scholarship–and this has served me well when I got yanked from my previous warfare community into a new FAO community, language training, and work in the Middle East, where I’m deployed.
So he’s a friend of mine. I trust his instincts and read what he has to write.
And the guy snuck up on me and finally wrote a book. It’s a summary of years of work he’s done, looking at who these people we’re fighting are. How do these people think? What’s the pump that draws from the pool of normal people and spits out these jerks? What’s the scholarship trail?
Here’s the book, published by USNI. Admiral Stavridis has written the foreword. Can’t get much higher recommendation than that.
Popular Mechanics has a post describing what they see as the method Air Force is using to fix its three biggest problems. I wonder what that article would look like if the word Navy were put in there.
So it’s midnight on “Monday” where I’m working…
CDR Salamander recommends that I post here about a discussion several folks have been having about the recent details of General Motors’ troubles. There may be something worthwhile to map onto the Navy of today. Phibian provoked some good comment earlier this week with a quote changing “GM” to “Navy” just to see how it fit. It fit rather too well in places. He then asked:
Here is a question; is there a parallel between the path of the USN over the last two decades and that of GM of the last four?
As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles. Of course, there are times when the suits must sign off on the company’s more prosaic products. Since 1953, this intersection between high flyer and mass market occurred at GM’s Mesa, Arizona, Desert Proving Grounds (DPG). The execs would fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, limo out to the DPG and drive the company’s latest models.
Our agent says that all the vehicles the execs drove were “ringers.” More specifically, the engineers would tweak the test vehicles to remove any hint of imperfection. “They use a rolling radius machine to choose the best tires, fix the headliner, tighten panel and interior gaps, remove shakes and rattles, repair bodywork—everything and anything.”
Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line. That’s why Bob Lutz thinks GM’s products are world-class. The ones he’s driven are.”
I asked Agent X if the GM execs would ever drive the cars again. Did he know if Wagoner or Lutz dropped in at a dealership to test drive a random sample off the lot? He found the idea amusing.
Well, did the DPG at least send a list of changes to the design and production teams? “The tweaks were never reported to anyone,” he says. “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”
What things in the Navy today do we do now that go down that path? I have a possible example or two listed in that post.
Also, I argue that if we can use business cases and rules for some things, we can use them for embarrassing things too. I think there would be value in studying the late-80s Navy like that, and CDR Salamander’s drawing upon GM-related examples might serve as a cautionary tale for our Navy.
This interview with a Cold War submariner from 2001 reveals a little about what fast attack boats did during the Cold War. It was done in conjunction with a Smithsonian exhibit that had missile hatches and a declassified maneuvering room and some very interesting related displays.
PHILLIPS: Why don’t we begin, Admiral, with you. Take us back to March 17th, 1978 and set the scene for us.
EVANS: Batfish had gotten underway from our home port of Charleston, South Carolina on the 2nd of March, proceeded up north to the upper end of the Norwegian Sea about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where we established a patrol zone and searched to look for the next Soviet ballistic missile submarine deploying from the Barent Sea (ph).
On March the 17th in the afternoon we got our initial contact on the Yankee class ballistic missile submarine and then proceeded to track and follow that submarine south through the Iceland Farrow Strait (ph) into the North Atlantic and down toward the east coast of the United States and then followed her through her entire patrol and back up into the Norwegian Sea as she headed back home into the Barents.
This could have been your view throughout the entire deployment:
This is PFC Chance Phelps.
The blog Blackfive originally posted and then published (in the book The Blog Of War) the essay Taking Chance in 2004. They have followed the amazing response to LTC Strobl’s heartfelt piece over the years, and today have letters from the corpsman who was there when PFC Chance Phelps was killed in action and the Marine general who was with them in that battle.
You owe it to yourself to read the original 2004 essay if you haven’t already.
Previously highly classified, and the source for much of the books out there. John Clear EMC (SS), USN (Ret.) and Dan Martini EMCM(SS) USN, (Ret.) are credited for providing the digits. Now they’re on line at the Historic Naval Ships Association website.
The official USS Gonzalez blog has a thoughtful CO’s comment about the recent events aboard San Antonio and Port Royal.