It’s been awhile since I last checked into USNI blog! Since commissioning on May 28th from the Academy, I visited Italy for leave with my brother and saw my great-uncle’s grave at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial. After leave, I spent a few (great) weeks at a stash/TAD job with the Information Technology and Systems Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, VA.
Most recently, I’ve been becoming familiar with Rickover Center, Charleston, SC, and the view from my 6 ensign house (power in numbers). But really, lots of Rickover Center. As part of the submarine training pipeline, I am attending Nuclear Power School, a 6 month crash course giving us an academic background in the hot rock that makes the boat go. Right now, I’m in what is fondly referred to as “pre-school,” a 3-week course designed to acclimate students who graduated with a non-technical major to the rigors of nuclear engineering.
It’s been a lot of work. Our class periods start at 0700 (muster at 0645) and can run until 1615. They crammed the ~3 semesters of calculus I’ve had into about 2 class sessions. We have a 3 hour preschool “final” on Thursday. Of course, this will be followed by a class outing that evening to the Class-A Minor League Charleston Riverdogs where hotdogs topped with bacon can be found.
While pre-school has kept us busy, it’s also been a great opportunity to meet fellow students. My pre-school class of ~50 includes LTjgs who are coming from a SWO (surface ship) tour and are in training to operate the plants onboard our nuclear-powered carriers and ensigns from OCS, ROTC, and the Academy. One of the classes before us have PXOs, the prospective executive officers of carriers, who also have to attend nuclear power school before assuming their duties. While they get their own study room (with a “NUCLEAR AVIATION” sign over the door) and their own pre-filled sets of notes, the instructors tell us they tend to be the hardest working students in the class. After all, they have gotten to be PXOs for a reason. The entire Class of 1006 will comprise of ~100 students to include the majority of the Navy’s first female submariners.
I will update you MUCH more regularly now that I am here. Let me know if you are curious about anything in particular!
I’m afraid I’m no longer a midshipman blogger. On Friday, May 28, I was commissioned as an ensign along with ~755 of my closest friends and classmates (255 more became 2LTs in the Marines). My brother, USMA Class of 2012 (West Point), gave me my first salute.
I started blogging for the Naval Institute during the second semester of junior year and I’ve had the pleasure of conducting several interviews (including with (then) VADM Harvey) and writing about topics from pirates to sleep deprivation to interviewing for nuclear power.
It’s been lots of fun and I plan on sticking around–just not as the resident midshipman blogger! A replacement is in the works, but nothing official yet. In late July, I’ll head down to Charleston, SC to report for nuclear power school and start the next part of my journey!
A plebe just informed me that I have 31 days until graduation…not that I haven’t been counting on my own.
It’s amazing how fast time flies. A 2008 graduate who selected SEALs and who was most responsible for my plebe training and indoctrination is coming back in this weekend to have lunch with all the plebes (now firsties [seniors]) who used to be under his charge. Another 2008 graduate from my company just returned from Afghanistan. I know plenty of recent graduates who went SWO who have done deployments. Soon the Class of 2010 and I will be joining them.
I’ll be graduating May 28 and will be reporting to Nuclear Power School in late July, but it’ll be awhile until I’ll get to a boat (tentatively late 2011). Feel free to share good ensign (or O-1 forthe other services) “moments” in the comments…standing by for anchors away, here!
The role diversity ought to play in the Navy’s personnel policies has been the subject of much attention in the blogosphere (CDR Salamander’s Diversity Thursdays) and traditional media. I hope to examine the potential effects of diversity in the military and offer a new way forward in the public debate regarding diversity in the military.
First, let’s establish that the Navy’s policies should propel the service in the direction of effectiveness. Furthermore, diversity is a means to an end and advocates of diversity should realize its hard to sell the circular logic that “efforts to diversify personnel are good because diversity is good.” Using this language, diversity is both the means and the end! However, can a connection be made between diversity and effectiveness, which should be the ultimate goal of every policy? I think so.
I, too, was skeptical of this claim regarding the benefits of diversity, but the core arguments in favor of meaningful diversity are rather simple. Dr. Scott Page, a researcher in modeling complex systems, explains: “Diverse groups of people bring to organizations more and different ways of seeing a problem and, thus, faster/better ways of solving it. People from different backgrounds have varying ways of looking at problems, what I call “tools.” The sum of these tools is far more powerful in organizations with diversity than in ones where everyone has gone to the same schools, been trained in the same mold and thinks in almost identical ways.”
It’s important to note that Dr. Page is commenting on cognitive diversity, not identity diversity (although is a connection between the two). His book, The Difference, opens with a discussion of how diversity advanced the ends of the military during WWII. The success of Bletchley Park in breaking the German Enigma code owe in large part to the diverse nature of the team of mathematicians, philosophers, chess champions, and crossword puzzle whizzes! When you have a team composed of individuals who each approach a complex problem in a unique manner, you can find the most effective solution. As the CNO’s Diversity Policy explains, “Diversity of thoughts, ideas, and competencies of our people, keeps our Navy strong, and empowers the protection of the very freedoms and opportunities we enjoy each and every day.”
The Marine Corps’ Lioness Program is a modern example of how diversity in the military is used towards effective ends. ”“I don’t think there was a Marine out there who didn’t understand the importance of having females there,…We didn’t look at them as females serving at a checkpoint, we just saw another Marine,” said one Marine. Would the US military of 50-60 years ago think to engage a foreign population of women? Would it have done so effectively?
When advocates of diversity wander from the task of strengthening the Navy/Marine Corps team and merely understand diversity as a means to itself, then diversity policies are rightfully criticized. However, diversity is clearly a tool we can use to strengthen the Navy and Marine Corps when we understand its power and effects.
Private security contractors killed a Somali pirate Wednesday–and no one seems to know how to react.
Roger Middleton from the British think tank Chatham House commented that there’s currently no regulation of private security on board ships, no guidelines about who is responsible in case of an attack, and no industrywide standards. So what’s next?
“This will be scrutinized very closely…The bottom line is somebody has been killed and someone has to give an accounting of that,” said Arvinder Sambei, a legal consultant for the U.N. In other words, security contractors should standby to be investigated for their actions. It’s just not clear who will be doing the investigation–the ship’s flagged nation (Panama), the owners’ home nation (UAE) or the nation from which the contractors have citizenship (unknown).
All of this is making me wish I attended an open lectureheld here at the Academy by LCDR Berube on private security contractors as a possible solution to the piracy question held here at the Academy a few weeks ago. (LCDR Berube was recently spotted on Midrats talking about DADT.)
Do we want private security contractors helping secure ships from piracy? Sure, ships have the right to defend themselves. The follow-up questions of how closely their actions are monitored (a huge investigation every time there’s an incident could prove unwieldy) and who holds them accountable have yet to be answered. Any thoughts?
While we usually don’t cover the Army on this blog, this piece by Elizabeth Samet, a West Point professor, reflecting on the death of one of her students in Afghanistan, touches on some themes not partisan to any one service.
In the years since his graduation, Dan had become a correspondent–someone whose messages I welcomed, whose insights I valued. When I asked what he needed, he would say he needed nothing: “No specific needs or desires right now, but I’ll let you know if I lose/break anything.” When I asked him how he was, he would say, “[L]ife is good. Except the whole Afghanistan thing.”
On Thursday The Department of Defense issued a memorandum setting the ground rules for accessing social media sites. All components of the DoD “shall be configured to provide access to Internet-based capabilities” which include “collaborative tools such as SNS [social networking services], social media, user-generated content, social software, e-mail, instant messaging, and discussion forums (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google Apps).”
In short, social media sites shall remain unblocked. The most interesting part of the policy concerns the maintenance of “personal, corporate or subject-specific” blogs, to which the DoD now grants access service-wide. As long as servicemembers pay due respect to operational security, the policy formally allows them to update and run a blog. However, commanders are allowed to temporarily restrict activity to “address bandwidth constraints,” a clause which might prove vague enough to allow arbitrary blocking of sites.
I’m excited that the DoD is defaulting to “yes” when it comes to social media; however, we’ll see how the policy becomes enforced.
Lots of snow this week in Annapolis and conditions are perfect for some arctic warfare training.
The reflective bands were the markings of 2nd Regiment.
Mids Snowball Fight video.
A late night rumination…
I was recently in Philadelphia, attending (of all things) a West Point Society meeting. The meeting was held at a restaurant on the water near the SS United States, the world’s fastest cruise liner, maintaining 30 knots as it regularly cruised across the Atlantic (38 knots max). Moreover, it could hold 1,900+ passengers during its speedy journey. And it’s for sale.
Fast ship + capacity to hold large amounts of people = super-expeditious hospital ship? Acquiring the SS United States and converting it to a hospital ship would give the Navy and even greater ability to rapidly respond to humanitarian crises. Thoughts?
This past Friday I had the great opportunity of attending the 12th Annual American Veterans Center Conference at the Navy Memorial in Washington DC. With its mission to “preserve and promote the legacy of America’s servicemen and women from every generation,” the American Veterans Center had an amazing array of speakers. Moreover, my fellow attendees ranging from World War II veterans to JROTC high school students demonstrated the center was remaining true to its motto, “From the greatest generation to the latest generation,” although GEN Petraeus would later challenge this notion.
The day started with a panel on the current operations of SeaBees. It’s really quite amazing to see all the work that’s being done by this small force 16,000. CDR Odenthal, Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, First Naval Construction Division, spoke about his time in Southwest Asia where SeaBees served in 13 countries on 4 continents. Now that’s keeping busy! During their time in Asia, SeaBees were responsible for building schools, clinics, and other structures to satisfy local needs. During the Q&A portion, one audience member asked, “Who provides security for you while you’re building?” Those who are familiar with the SeaBees know they build and fight, but this question highlighted to me just how incredible their capabilities are.
GEN Petraeus spoke next. FbL at The Castle Argghhh! has already given a complete play-by-play of GEN Petraeus’s talk and I won’t repeat it here. The most interesting point GEN Petraeus made was regarding the surge of 2007. In his opinion this was most importantly a “surge of ideas not just troops.” Ideas such as living in the community, instead of only in the large, luxorious bases went a far way in GEN Petraeus’s opinion. For example, Coalition Forces took to 77 additional locations in Baghdad–77 of the most violent spots. GEN Petraeus emphasized that the key to success in Iraq was the increased risk we were willing to take, a sentiment echoed by the battalion commanders at the Counterinsurgency Leadership event I attended in September.
GEN Petraeus also spoke fondly of today’s servicemember. While the event used the phrase “From the Greatest Generation…to the latest generation,” GEN Petraeus suggested that sacrifices and efforts of the newest generation have deemed the worthy of the title “the Next Greatest Generation.”
It was extremely humbling to witness the panel of Marines who fought on Iwo Jima. It was also interesting to see how each of them shared a different impression of the battle. COL Caldwell, who was the commanding officer of F Co., 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, which suffered the highest KIA rate of any unit in Marine Corps history, was present. COL Caldwell recalled one incident in which a Japanese soldier came running ablaze in fire at his men. The soldier was promptly shot by Caldwell’s men and upon searching his body, the Marines found a picture of the man with his five children standing at attention. This scene caused Caldwell’s “salty,” tough gunnery sergeant to break down in tears. Ralph Griffiths was a veteran of E Company, 28th Marines and served with the flag raisers of Iwo Jima. Unfortunately, he was wounded by the same shell which killed flag raisers Sgt. Strank and Cpl. Block. He also spoke of how hellish the island itself was.
After COL Caldwell and Mr. Griffiths spoke, Mr. Donald Mates and Mr. James White recounted their time together on Iwo. Part of an eight man team sent to disable Japanese mortars, White was credited with giving aid to a severely wounded Mates as well as beating back a Japanese attack. Laughter broke out in the audience as White recounted dispatching Japanese soldier after soldier. It was quite a different tone than the talks by COL Caldwell and Mr. Griffiths!
For me one of the most interesting moments of the day was Maj. Theodore Van Kirk’s presentation. As the navigator of the Enola Gay, Maj. Van Kirk dismissed any arguments against the dropping of the bomb. While he noted the nuclear bomb and war are terrible things, it was his firm belief that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved Japanese and American lives. Members of the audience who lived through World War II broke out into applause. In an academic setting it’s great to discuss President Truman’s decision, but as I sat there it became even more clear that this was the right decision. It ended a war through which many members of the audience suffered.
History and heritage seemed much more alive and personal to me, a midshipman, as the veterans of wars past and present shared their experiences at the American Veterans Center’s Conference. It was a fulfilling experience and a great reminder of the wisdom our veterans have to share.
NavyTV.org has put video of the event online:
Click here to watch the remarks by the veterans of Iwo Jima. The first speaker is COL Caldwell, followed by Mr. Donald Mates.