Archive for the 'Coast Guard' Category

Episode 158: 3rd Anniversary Show 01/13 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio at 5pm Eastern U.S.:

Join us this Sunday to celebrate Midrat’s 3rd Anniversary with a free-ranging panel discussion with some of your favorite guests from the past three seasons.

Join your hosts Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “EagleSpeak” with regular guests on the panel; Captain Henry J. Hendrix, Jr. USN; Captain Will Dossel, USN (Ret); LCDR Claude Berube, USNR; and YN2 H. Lucien Gauthier, III (SW) USN.

We will be asking each other questions on the above-the-fold subjects of the last year and what we see in the next.

Join in the chat room for to suggest your own questions as well.

Listen in live here or download it later from here or from our iTunes pages here.



I admit that in the past I’ve dreaded this time of year. Not because of Halloween, the fall season, or even the nearing of winter. Nope, I feared the annual arrival of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) leaflet that, without fail, shows up on my desk- even with the door locked- like magic.

The fear isn’t of giving money to a cause but instead the act of doing so. I find that actually filling in the form with a pen is somewhat cumbersome and, well, outdated. In fact, while attempting to fill out the form just today I had some trepidation of doing so for the fact that I may be doing it wrong. If there were only a website I could use…

Enter the modern age of the world wide web and the CFC site CFC Nexus. This was so much easier. The site touts that it only takes about 10 minutes to complete the process- I did it in seven. The hardest part(s) was finding your local donation site on the map or perhaps finding a worthy charity… which is fairly easy (might I suggest the Coast Guard Foundation (10514) or perhaps the Wounded Warrior Project (11425)).

CFC Nexus still allows you to do payroll deduction as most of us have done in the past or you can do a lump sum credit card gift.

So if you haven’t given yet I’d suggest giving the site a try. It’s easy. It’s time saving. It’s the season to give (no, really, it is.)



11th

9/11 + 11

September 2012

By

Eleven years. Typing that out makes it seem much longer than it feels. I’ve written several accounts over the years regarding “where I was, what was I doing” on 11 September 2001; however, most of those accounts have been removed for one reason or another. So…

Where were you and what were you doing on 9/11/01?

I was sitting in class at the Coast Guard’s C-130 Navigator course in Elizabeth City, NC preparing for my first test of the four-week instructional period. I remember having a chart on my desk going over some last-minute cramming on way point designations and search planning plots.

We were just finishing filling out our answer sheets when someone stuck their head in the door telling us a plane hit one of the WTC towers. It was more of a nonchalant “by the way” telling us so and not a “by the way… OMG there are terrorists taking over the nation!” tone. A fellow classmate, appropriately suited for the moment, quickly blurts out “what kind of idiot hits a building in New York?” Again, perfectly suited given the situation and environment of being in an aviation navigation course.

Not thinking anything about it we finished our tests and went on break. As we were walking out to the designated smoking area (I was still chewing at the time) we passed by the teacher’s lounge which had quickly overfilled with people trying to watch the television. My moment of pause to gawk at the TV too resulted in my witnessing the second plane hitting the second World Trade Center tower. Only this time it was obviously not a little plane- but a passenger jet.

I was kind of taken back for a moment. ‘How does someone accidentally run into a high-rise on the skyline of NY?’ It’s obvious now of course, but at that moment it wasn’t.

My classmates and I continued to the smoke deck; but the mood had changed from the relief of finishing a test to wondering if what we just watched was done on purpose? Our ten minute break easily turned into a 45 minute one as all of the schools instructors were called to a meeting. By the time they returned we’d already figured out what was happening. The instructors only validated it.

“The United States is under attack. We’re not sure how bad it is yet but we do know that two planes hit the WTC towers and one has hit the Pentagon; more attacks could be coming.” Said our lead instructor.

It wasn’t a moment that any of us thought we’d witness in our career. This is the United States after all. Sure we’ve had our issues with pseudo-terrorism before (e.g. Oklahoma City bombing) but nothing like what was being discussed here.

Later in the morning we’d learn that all commercial flights throughout the U.S. were being grounded until further notice and the base was temporarily on lockdown. The immediate thought in my head at the time was something along the lines of ‘um… we’re in Elizabeth City… what could happen here?’ However, by lunch time my imagination began to go wild- along with everyone else- and I was wondering if something really could happen in this sleepy town?

When lunch rolled around I had an opportunity to finally call my wife who was in Kodiak, AK at the time as that was where we were stationed. She was just waking up (recall it’s a four-hour time difference) and had yet to turn on the news. I explained what I knew and wasn’t sure how or when I’d be home. In reality I still had three and a half weeks of school left anyway but nobody was sure when planes would fly again. I don’t think our TV changed from any news channels for the next several months.

When we got back from lunch the base has begun planning for a major shift in base protection. They were asking who was recently qualified in small-arms who had previous combat training. Odd as it may seem this is/was the Coast Guard… and an aviation centric base so not too many people would have fit the bill. For better, or worse, the call-to-arms never amounted to much. The security contractors, however, were increased and time to get onto base went from about 20 seconds to about 2 minutes.

The days following the attack were weird as nobody knew if there would be more attacks or not- everyone was on edge.

It goes without saying- though I’ll say it anyway- this nation has changed over the last eleven years; without a doubt. Whether you think for the better, or worse, is dependent on your point of view. For me it doesn’t really matter. I’m here to defend this nation; for better, or worse.



Reuters has the story.

Russia has been increasing the reach of its navy in recent years, sending warships further afield as part of an effort to restore pride project power in a world dominated by the U.S. military.

That throws a wrench in our Maritime Strategy, it would seem. Or does it? What should our reaction be, militarily? And what, diplomatically? Should there be any?

 



Almost a year ago, I posted a guest blog here in response to a blog post by “Steeljaw Scribe” about an article on Professional Military Education (PME) I had written for AOL.Defense. Since then, I’ve written an article for Orbis and a book on PME, (forthcoming in October 2012), in which I’ve continued to advocate open discussion as a necessary step toward improving one of America’s most valuable assets: Professional Military Education. A year later the good news is that discussion has flourished; the bad news is that for the most part it’s business as usual in PME.

The initial response from many readers and commenters to even mild suggestions that the academic rigor and practices in PME could be improved was to dismiss them as the ramblings of one or two disgruntled or failed academics, or those who just “didn’t get” that PME “is different.” There was a time when those caustic responses might have shut down the debate, but in the era of new media, many individuals– even if under a pen name or after they leave PME — nonetheless continued to express their views. The ongoing discussion confirms that there are widespread issues common to PME in general that are not limited to one or two institutions, or a few grumpy faculty.

Read the rest of this entry »



During my busy day I had a little time to think about the ruling that was just handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court citing that the Stolen Valor Act shall be struck down as being unconstitutional. In the end I came to the determination that the decision, made by our highest court- though sound, is wrong.

The basis of the 6-3 judgment is a sound one based on the oldest laws of the land; the first amendment may indeed have been violated. However, the spirit of the violation is really what was at stake here. As a blogger I am, by default, for our first amendment rights of free speech. On the same note I’m also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and a former member of the U.S. Army- two of our five military branches; this is where I begin to cringe.

The First Amendment, as read in the Bill of Rights, and interpreted by Cornell Law states (as it pertains to free speech):

The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.

If need-be, reread that and pay attention to the second sentence in particular. The words “substantial justification” can be clearly articulated in nearly all the cases involved with bringing charges against individuals under the Stolen Valor Act. I’m kind of confused on how bringing charges against someone isn’t justified if that someone lies about their military services and/or decorations, and there is substantial proof via an individuals military record, or lack thereof?

I’ve heard people tout that people pretending to be military heroes is akin to those who dress up in those costumes at Disneyland; after all it’s just pretend right?

Wrong.

Impersonating a hero of war, or any current or former military member in general, is of the utmost disrespect to the service members of this nation. Those who’ve sacrificed their daily freedom to be part of a military force, and those who’ve died as part of the same forces have an extreme level of pride in what they do (or did) as the case may be. They’ve worked hard to obtain their position, from E-1 to O-10, they’ve all had to work to get to that place in their lives. For someone to simply walk into their local Ranger Joes or Army/Navy store and buy their way into the service is as low as one can be. If you want a Purple Heart join the military, go to war and get one (that’s from my 9 year-old daughter).

The Supreme Court has taken the side of the people, as they are supposed to. But in doing so they’ve alienated those who protect the freedoms of the United States. They’ve allowed the liars, heart-breakers, thieves, and con-artists of the U.S. win. While they win the service men and women of the United States have seen their sacrifices being lessened. If anyone can claim to have a Medal of Honor what’s the point of even being presented with one (No, I don’t really belive this but I’m trying to make a point). I’m grateful for people like those who run This Ain’t Hell for watching out for the rest of us.



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!!!



First, congratulations to the graduates of the various programs offered by the Marine Corps University who were honored on 6 June. You are an impressive group, you mid-career Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Army officers, along with the remarkable group of foreign military students from Afghanistan to Ukraine who were your classmates.

For those of you who could not attend this ceremony, part of the MCU is the Command and Staff College (CSC) which enrolls Marine/AF/Army majors and Navy/Coast Guard Lieutenant Commanders who have taken on the challenge of a military career.*

If not all future generals or admirals, these CSC grads will be part of that core around which forms the U.S. military. And, yes, I know that there are those other Command and Staff schools who also annually send a couple of hundred of graduates out into the field for field commands but I was at this graduation.

For the graduates, a career milestone has been checked off. The first PME has been fulfilled.

Of the 204 or so 2012 graduates of the CSC about 164 received Masters of Military Science degrees. Unknowing civilians may scoff at such a degree, noting its apparent lack of usefulness in their civilian world.

That civilian world misses the point.

You want your military to have read Clausewitz, to have walked the fields of Gettysburg, to have studied logistics and read John Boyd, because that is the world of the military professional.

You want that hard-charging young major or LtCol to draw on more than just personal experience when the nation’s defense is in his or her hands.

So, again, congratulations to the grads. And a further congratulations to the American people. You should take pride that in the service of your country are such amazing young people.

Second, let me talk about the graduation speech for the class of 2012. The Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps delivered it.

It was short as such things go, but a couple of things struck me. In the absence of a transcript, you will have to live with my recollection (and I was not taking notes).

General Dunford pointed out that for some time there were few changes in the way in which the Marines went to war. He noted that when he entered the Corps, he was issued the same “cold weather gear” that his father had used in the Korean War (“not like the gear my father used, but the same gear”) and that a platoon leader in Korea or Vietnam would not have had difficulty, if magically transported to the future, with the tactics first employed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He then noted in past few years that great changes have occurred in the ways of war. Changes such that a Marine who fought in Afghanistan 6 years ago would not find things the same – there had been such a rapid revolution in tactics and equipment that the American battlefield was off in a new direction. A platoon once responsible for a limited front, now has coverage of a vastly larger area. Better communications, better equipment, and (I assume) better Marines allow such an expansion of responsibility.

So, Lesson #1: “Things change”

Then the challenge – he had a couple of good yarns about things that seemed, well, “unnecessary” at the time they occurred. He spoke of an effort he led, as a young colonel, to assess the threat to and protection of various key national infrastructure assets – ports and bridges and highways and the like – which his boss did not really appreciate the need for, at least in early 2001.

He also spoke of a paper written by a young officer that addressed the threat of “improvised explosive devices (IEDs or roadside bombs)” and suggested a look at the South African response to such weapons. All of which ultimately led to the MRAP vehicle. The paper was written in 1996 by an officer taking a “what if?” look at things.

Things change. You never know exactly how, so you need to be flexible and ready.

So, Lesson 2: “Challenge the conventional thinking.”

We no longer line up in box formations and attack in broad fronts. The aircraft is not just used for spotting targets. Submarines are not interesting novelties. Anti-ballistic missile systems can work. OODA.

Revolutions in military affairs were not led by assuming things have to be as they have been.

 I don’t know how many of the graduates were listening to the speech.

I can’t remember a single line of any graduation speech I have ever heard because, well, I had other things on my mind. Like getting the heck out of there.

But, if they were listening they should have heard the warning order implied in the softly delivered speech, which I took to be:

We do not know what you will face in the future, We only know that you will need to use your education and experience to face those challenges that come your way. We have added to your tool kit and trust you to put those tools to good use.

Our national defense is- well – you and your band of brothers in arms.

Be flexible, be ready, be strong.

Because you never know.

 

 

*And FBI/DEA/BATF/DOS and others



Over at OpFor, old comrade LTCOL P asks some thought-provoking questions as he links to an article by AOLDefense’s Sydney Freedberg. The article covers the happenings at UNIFIED QUEST, the United States Army’s Title 10 Wargame being held at The Army War College at Carlisle Barracks.

Go there. Ponder his questions, and read the article. Well worth your time.

Damage to Port of Cherbourg

UNIFIED QUEST is usually a pretty illuminating event, a “futures game” which posits the incorporation of as-yet unfielded technology or force structure, and the effects of that technology or structure on tactics and doctrine. Occasional bits of self-delusion occur (tactical “offensive cyber” being launched at a Bn Commander’s say-so with a server dropped into a remote airfield comes to mind), but overall, the game is well conducted and has had (in my years of participation at least) a very sharp and aggressive “Red Team”. This year appears to be no different.

What stands out in the AOLDefense article, fairly leaps from the page, is this exchange:

“You needed ports, [the enemy] knew you needed ports,” he said. “They were ready for you.” While the US-led task force maneuvered elaborately by sea and air to deceive the enemy commanders where they would land, ultimately the coalition had no way to bring in the supplies its own forces needed, let alone humanitarian aid, without controlling a handful of major seaports. So the enemy commanders ignored the feints — their militiamen lacked the kind of mobile reserve force that would have been needed to try to counter them anyway — and simply dug in where they knew the US would eventually have to come to them.

“We had to go here; we’re very predictable,” sighed one US Army officer later in the briefing. The military has invested in the capability to bring forces ashore where there is no port — formally called JLOTS, Joint Logistics Over The Shore — but the Army and Navy together only have enough such assets to move supplies for one reinforced Army brigade, while the Marines can land another brigade-plus. That’s only a fraction of the force required in this scenario. While the the resulting dependence on established infrastructure — seaports, airfields, bases in friendly countries — is often thought of as a purely logistical problem, in this kind of conflict it can have bloody tactical consequences.

We have spent a decade and a half (or more) talking about seizure of ports as the cheap and easy alternative to landing over a beach. Time and again, the refrain that port seizure was the far preferable alternative to coming ashore at the surf line was drummed into our ears. “Ports are smart, beaches are dumb” was how one senior Navy Officer explained it, somewhat condescendingly. Problem is, seizing a port which is surrounded by built-up area, under the noses of an enemy that knows you need it and knows it is, in fact, your critical vulnerability, never was going to be as easy as those port seizure advocates assumed it would be. (I did happen to notice none of them ever seemed to be infantrymen.)

Urban combat is never easy in the best of circumstances, but becomes especially challenging when you have a limited ability to transition forces from afloat to ashore without securing the very objective you are fighting for. Even an unsophisticated and largely immobile adversary can defend effectively if he knows where you are going and why. Cherbourg was destroyed by second-rate German garrison troops in June of 1944, even as US forces drove into the Cotentin Peninsula. The loss of that port affected the Allied drive across Europe into 1945.

One other point worth mentioning: The aforementioned JLOTS is not a system that can be used in an assault echelon. The loading of the ships and craft are not according to the Commander of the Landing Force’s (CLF) Landing Plan. JLOTS is a national asset which requires a secure beach over which to transit. The brigade coming ashore isn’t doing so in fighting trim. Very effective for bringing in follow-on assets, but not for forcing an entry.

So once again the value of landing combat-ready forces over a beach is highlighted. As is the paucity of current capacity to do so, which includes the near non-existent Naval Gunfire capability of the United States Navy.

Kudos to the Red Team at UNIFIED QUEST. Their job is to poke holes through the invalid assumptions in Blue Forces’ planning and execution, and they have done so here in a major way. Our assumptions regarding port seizures are at the top of this year’s list.

With a “Strategic Pivot” toward the Pacific, let’s hope those who read the Lessons Learned from UQ 12 are paying attention.

 

 



Every era has had something that service members came of age with. From the Dreadnaught era to the advent of submarines; the Sailors of the interwar period saw naval aviation come of age; Jets after the close of the second world war, guided missiles and nuclear propulsion.

For my generation, among the first of the 21st Century, we have seen the initial steps towards cyber capabilities and the mass adoption of unmanned systems. But, we’ve seen something more as well tangentially related to cyber: blogging and the online discourse writ large concerning the maritime services.

I am willing to say that at no other time has the discourse been as important for the maritime services as it is today. Certainly, it has never been more well appointed or contributed to. From those with an earnest interest in naval and maritime affairs, to deckplate Sailors and junior officers, to even the most senior admirals and generals. Their voices are present and count towards our understanding of ourselves, profession and the way forward for the Nation and Services.

For five years Information Dissemination has played a vital role in this discourse and enhanced discourse at USNI/USNI blog. To Raymond and the gang at Information Dissemination thanks for five years of great posts and for adding much appreciated voices to the dialog. Cheers!

 



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