Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Please join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on Sunday 5 January 2014, for Midrats Episode 209: “Kenya and East Africa with Alexander Martin”:

Many continue to focus on the “Pacific Pivot” and/or IndoPac, but the news seems to keep finding its way back to Africa.

This Sunday we’re going to leave IndoPac and all that in order to focus the full hour discussing the eastern part of Africa with a returning guest Alex Martin who will give us a first hand report from a personal and professional perspective.

Alex graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to lead infantry, reconnaissance and special operations units in multiple combat deployments. Upon leaving active duty, Alex started a private maritime security company that served commercial shipping interests in the Indian Ocean. In July 2013 Alex joined Nuru International and currently serves as a Foundation Team Leader in Kenya.

The last time we talked to Alex was shortly after he and his Marines were involved in retaking a ship from Somali pirates.

Join us live if you can (or pick us up later if you can’t) by clicking here.



seacontrolemblemMatt Hipple is joined by Zack Elkaim and James Bridger to talk about rebellions in Africa: the Central African Republic, Mali, and Nigeria, as well as the future prospects for Somalia. Today’s podcast is one of our best, and we highly encourage you to give it a listen. Enjoy our latest podcast, Episode 14, My Other CAR is a Mali (download).

Remember to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Stream Radio! Leave us a rating and a comment!



The lead ship of the magnificent Iowa-class battleships, the fastest and most advanced gun ships every to put to sea, has arrived at her new home, Berth 87 in San Pedro, opposite the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, itself newly renovated.

Iowa (BB-61) was saved from her Suisun Bay purgatory, and the cutting torch, and will be open for visitors on 7 July. The veteran of World War II and Korea was recommissioned in 1984, and suffered the tragic explosion in Turret 2 in 1989, which killed 47 sailors.

She now is the last of the four of her namesake class to be preserved, with New Jersey (BB-62) in Camden NJ, Wisconsin (BB-64 and Scott’s beloved Big Badger Boat!) in Norfolk, VA, and Missouri (BB-63) at Pearl Harbor, near Arizona (BB-39), forever in her watery depths at Berth F-7.

As a museum battleship, Iowa joins her sisters, and USS Massachusetts (BB-59) at Fall River MA, and USS Alabama (BB-60) in Mobile Bay, the two surviving South Dakotas, and the Grand Dame of US battlewagons, the venerable USS Texas (BB-35) at Galveston, TX. (Texas is the lone second-generation Dreadnought still extant, and saw service in both World Wars following her commissioning in 1914.)

Iowa began her journey from the “Mothball Fleet” in Suisun Bay in October 2011, to Richmond CA to repair and restore, scrape and paint, and replace rotted teak decks that are the inevitable result of twenty years’ time at the mercy of the elements. She also received the sprucing befitting a lady whom will be in the public eye. From there, she passed under the Golden Gate one last time late in May, and arrived off Los Angeles on Friday.

Many thanks to all those folks whose pictures I used in this post.

******************************************************************

As Mr. Robert Evans points out, I am guilty of a most egregious omission. USS North Carolina (BB-55) is preserved beautifully in Wilmington NC. Shame on me for missing the “Showboat”. Especially since it was a favorite destination during my two tours at Lejeune!!!



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.

Captain and Mrs. LeFon

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

At Blackfive:
Subsunk – Godspeed, Lex
Pinch – Lex
McQ – God Speed, CAPT Carroll LeFon (Neptunus Lex)

At USNI:
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

At Argghhh!!!
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

FbL (Fuzzilicious Thinking) – Captain, Departed & The Hole in Our World

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



26th

Instant Karma (v 2.0)

February 2012

By

It’s gonna get you! (At least we hope it does.)

From the Associated Press (via N&O):

LAS VEGAS — Marine Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt is crediting karma for landing a $2.9 million progressive slot jackpot in Las Vegas.

Degenhardt was accepted as a bone marrow donor to an anonymous patient only a couple of days before hitting the jackpot Sunday at the Bellagio, the Las Vegas Sun reported (http://bit.ly/ABQ02J).

“They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it because it’s kind of painful, but what’s a little pain if it will save someone’s life?” Degenhardt said. “I look at this jackpot as kind of good karma for that.”

You might think the young Devil Dog NCO will blow it on all sorts of stuff, like new clothes and new cars. Nope.

He decided to buy some clothes after the jackpot – at a thrift store, where he buys all of his clothes. He said he won’t part with his car that has rolled up some 250,000 miles, either.

“I plan to keep driving it until I can’t anymore,” he told the Sun. “No sense in wasting money. I’m really pretty thrifty.”

What, then?
Degenhardt, who will receive about $100,000 a year over 20 years, said he plans to first help his pregnant sister and his mother catch up on bills.
Semper Fi, Devil Dog! Here’s betting that there will be a whole stack of Marine units requesting training at Nellis AFB!


14th

Instant Karma…

February 2012

By

It’s gonna get you!

From NBC News.

It is difficult to think of a death too agonizing for someone whose sole objective is the deliberate killing and injuring of innocents. So maybe living the remainder of your short life with the same horrible and painful wounds you wished to inflict on others is closer to poetic justice. A shame he wasn’t sharing a phone booth with Ahmedinejad and Khameini at the time. But fortuitous neither he nor his accomplice made it onto an airplane full of people.



11th

Tough Duty!

July 2011

By

An old Navy Chief and an old Marine Gunny were sitting at the VFW arguing about who’d had the tougher career.

“I did 30 years in the Corps,” the old Marine declared proudly, “and fought in three of my country’s wars.”

“Fresh out of boot camp I hit the beach at Okinawa, clawed my way up the blood-soaked sand, and eventually took out an entire enemy machine gun nest with a pistol and a single grenade.”

“As a Sergeant, I fought in Korea alongside Chesty Puller. We pushed through the enemy inch by bloody inch in the freezing cold, always under a barrage of artillery and small arms fire. ”

“Finally, as a Gunny Sergeant, I did three combat tours in Vietnam. We humped through the mud and razor grass for 14 hours a day, plagued by rain and mosquitoes, ducking under sniper fire by day and mortars all night. In a firefight, we’d fire until our arms ached and our guns were empty, then we charge the enemy with bayonets and e-tools!”

“Lucky bastard,” said the Chief, “nuthin’ but shore duty!”

H/T to Mister Burnett



2nd

Wave Theory

May 2011

By

The last 14-hrs have been a good one for our side in the long war against Islamic extremism. For over a decade, legion of professionals in and out of uniform have been trying to gather enough information on Osama bin Laden to give our leadership an opportunity to bring him to justice. Especially since 9/11, finding this man has been a career field of its own; success is sweet. This is their moment.

In the first wave after the word came out we have seen euphoria, pride, and thanks to all of those who executed an almost flawless mission. Every individual in this chain of professionals can take pride they truly were part of an important event in this war – and reminded the world again the capabilities of our nation’s military when opportunity meets preparation. No other nation could have done this.

Everyone, I hope, is taking time in their own way to bask in this first wave. From the MIDN at Annapolis, to NYC, to the people on my street who were lighting off fireworks at 1am – it was good to be able to celebrate. Enjoy the wave while you can – for most it will peak this afternoon – after that, we need to ponder the second wave.

The second wave is sober reflection.

As the adrenaline wears off, the coffee kicks in, and the mind starts to sort things out – certain facts should come to the front of the sober mind.

  • Check the Operational Diagram. This is not an end state. This is not a “mission accomplished.” This war is not over. Osama’s death is a decisive point – in a way an inflection point. In both a practical and symbolic manner, his death is a victory for us – but only in the proper context. Osama started a franchise operation. When Ray Kroc passed – McDonalds did not go away. There is much more work to be done – this is no time to rest, as the enemy will not rest.
  • Review your Sun Tsu. Though we can define it in any way we wish – often times you are in a war that is defined by your enemy. He wages war for his own reasons, so you need to recognize that so you know the war you are in. This war did not start with 9/11, and it doesn’t end now. This is not a global war against terror – terror is only a tactic. This is a war of culture, religion, world view, and grievance. This is a war with an enemy working within a decentralized, distributed network of command and control – regenerating, morphing, and regrouping with remarkable effectiveness. Their end state is nothing less than the destruction of your culture and way of life. Some may hope that Osama’s death will roll up terror, but hope isn’t a plan and that isn’t how this war will end. Hopefully we snagged enough paper and electronic records at the compound along with his body that we can roll up a lot of Osama’s organization, but that is like picking crabgrass out of your yard by hand – effective in a fashion, but not a cure. The weeds will come back.
  • From FMJ to Tinfoil. Osama body is now in the possession of Hagfish – yet we need to watch how his legend morphs. Most of his followers live in cultures that are soaked in conspiracy theories. Nothing is as it seems, and behind every clear act there is really a back story of intrigue and deceit. With no body to examine – conspiracies will flourish. Take the JFK assassination industry here and add a couple of decimal points, then you might get close.
  • Face and Payback. Things may tamp down a bit as lower level commanders hit the mattresses to preserve themselves until they know the extent of what we got from the compound. Others may want to get revenge for their commander directly or if they have access, they may pull the trigger on sleeper cells. Hard to know, but we should expect that with the killing of their figurehead – the enemy has an extra motivation to get revenge for losing face. Hope that they are too busy saving themselves to plan external operations in the near future – but be prepared for the fact that they can run operations as well as they did in 9/11 and they are a very patient lot.

There we are. A good day. A great day for our Navy SEALs and their supporting commands in Southwest Asia. It is good to remind others about our reach – this is a good Ref. A.

We also need to give a nod to the Commander in Chief. I am sure he was counseled about Desert One. Some probably advised him to go the route of bombing and cruise missile strikes. He didn’t do that though. Some group in his/our national security team briefed him on what was needed – up close and personal with terminal effect. He approved that action – high risk, high reward. Right call – right outcome.

There is another practical take-away as you get through the second wave – another lesson identified for the professional. Technology has its limits, as do precision/smart weapons. Since Publius Horatius, Spurius Lartius, and Titus Herminius Aquilinus stood at the head of the Pons Sublicius – it has always been a man at arms closing the enemy face to face that makes the difference – everything else is supporting arms. This century it was true with Saddam, his sons, and now Osama.

War is not new. It never has been. It never will be. Tools may change – but the essentials remain.

Celebrate, but prepare.



Surely, many of you are familiar with the news of four Americans who were captured when their vessel the S/V QUEST by pirates a couple days ago while sailing their yacht through pirate-infested waters. This morning their voyage ended.

In a statement, US Central Command said that negotiations were underway between the US Navy and the pirates, when the US forces heard gunfire coming from the Quest about 0600GMT.

They boarded the ship, killing two pirates in the process, and discovered the four Americans shot. The US Navy sailors attempted to provide first aid but the hostages died, the military said.

“As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” Gen James Mattis of US Central Command Commander said in a statement.

“We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest,” the statement added.

The US Navy captured 13 pirates, and found the remains of two other pirates already dead about the vessel, the US military said. – BBC News

I have to say that I am surprised to hear this news, partly because you think that God might be watching over them given the bible mission that they were conducting. But relying on God to protect you as you plan to travel through pirate-infested waters is no plan at all. After-all the pirates pray to God too and are holding hundreds of seafarers hostage, not to mention a ship full of yachts whose owners were not interested in sailing through the area on their own. Their website makes no mention of the threat of pirates in their 2011 travel plans (page here). But given that pirates have been taking vessels as a revenue-generating scheme, and that live prisoners are worth lots more than dead ones, I just expected them to either end up ashore and hidden in Somalia or wait it out while the US Navy prevents them from taking them ashore.

I am not sure what the lessons are to be learned here that are not already known. But for the benefit of those still tempted to run the gauntlet, here is a reminder:

  • Yachts are extremely vulnerable
  • Even if the Navy comes to your rescue, it very well might be too late
  • The close quarters of a yacht keep you in close contact with pirates at all times, including during any attempt to retake the vessel
  • Pirates are very willing to kill their captives
  • If attacked, it is extremely important to keep the pirates from getting access to the crew

Piracy in the area is spreading and turning into a free-for-all for the pirates. The game is over for the 13 the Navy caught while retaking the vessel, but the pirates seem to be running the board at the moment.

So, what criminal charges do the 13 face back in the US and might the death penalty be on the table?

UPDATE:

Here is confirmation that they knew what they were sailing into:

Friends of a US couple aboard a yacht hijacked off Somalia on Friday say the pair knew their journey was risky, but were determined to press on with their Christian mission.

In an email sent days before they went missing, Scott and Jean Adam described plans to stay out of touch to hide their location from pirates. – BBC News

Three more very important lessons here:

  • You can’t hide from pirates in the open ocean. It’s like trying to hide in the middle of an empty football field.
  • The pirates are most likely to be where you want them least.
  • Help is least likely to be where you want it most. A warship 30 miles away is an hour away from helping you. (outside of helo assistance)


Ideas.

Always the most powerful and enduring of Man’s weapons.

How they are spread has always been an obsession with repressive dictatorships, who have traditionally gone great lengths to control or eliminate those means.

Clearly, new media has emerged which accelerates the spread and increases the exposure to those ideas. Just after midnight, Egypt provided echoes of the violent and brutally suppressed Teheran protests following the “elections” of 2009. This from the Associated Press:

Internet and cell phone services, at least in Cairo, appeared to be largely cut off since overnight in the most extreme measure so far to try to hamper protesters form organizing. However, that did not prevent tens of thousands from flooding the streets.

And just what ideas are so powerful, so feared by Egypt’s government? Well, they are not new.

“It’s time for this government to change,” said Amal Ahmed, a 22-year-old protester. “I want a better future for me and my family when I get married.”

Interesting times, these.

Perhaps, also, this should give us pause before handing our own government the authority to have a “kill switch” for the Internet and electronic communications. Yes, the idea is being conceived as a protection of US critical infrastructure in the event of a national emergency. Yet once authorized, such a capability is more or less permanently resident, for whatever purpose, in the hands of the government.

History has shown us that granting overreaching emergency powers to a government is an emergency unto itself. Until the result is a fatal cure for whatever the disease might be. That’s not a situation we should ever be willing to risk.



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