Archive for the 'Coast Guard' Category
By Mark Tempest
There is a fair bit of talk about the rush for the arctic for economic and strategic reasons – and where there is international interest on the seas, the nations involved need to think about what is the best way to secure their interests.
While the initial thought might be Navy – is the natural answer really the Coast Guard? If the USCG is the right answer, is it trained, manned and equipped for the job?
What does it need to do in order to fulfill its role – and why may it be the best answer to the question – who will show the flag up north?
Our guest this Sunday for the full hour from 5-6pm EST will be U.S. Naval War College Associate Professor James R. Holmes. As a starting point for our conversation, we will use his latest article in Foreign Policy: America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight: As the Arctic becomes an arena for conflict, the United States’ forgotten naval force will need to cowboy up.
Join us live or later by going to Midrats on BTR or picking up the show later from our iTunes page (lately there has been some delay in getting the show to iTunes, though, and the link may require iTunes).
I can hear the backlash from that title from here. However, before you put me in a position to be stoned by the masses I’d like to make my case and open the floor to your thoughts too.
My military service has been good to me. I have fairly good healthcare, I get paid well, I’ve learned a lot of life skills, and my jobs haven’t been all that bad either. I’m sure we can all agree that our education benefits over the last ten years or so have been rather awesome too. As a matter of perspective, if not an admission, I was able to pay for about 90 percent of my bacholor degree by way of tuition assistance (TA) while serving in the Coast Guard.
As a one-time Education Services Officer and full time education evangelist I can say that TA was an awesome tool. Times were great, until March 1st, 2013 came and messed that all up.
The deed known as Sequestration became a reality at the beginng of this month and immediately started changing things. From travel to schools and conferences in between life as I/we knew it had begun to alter.
In the Coast Guard alone our operational budget had to be cut by some 25 percent. As I actually type that out it doesn’t seem too bad. That is, until I remember that the word “operational” means search and rescue, among other things. As a measure to ensure the Coast Guard is able to continue saving lives and protecting the nations shores our leaders had to look around to find ways to fill that 25% gap with “non-operational” funds. It’s no surprise that TA was eliminated. I am surprised, however, it didn’t happen sooner if only as a cost saving measure.
Over the last year, give or take, the question of when/if TA is going to be cut or reduced had been broached by many. Though I had no official word from higher authority my gut told me it was in trouble; with or without sequestration. Nonetheless, in the end four of the five military services, USCG included, killed their TA funding.
Aside from obvious fiscal savings- the act of dropping TA may be a subliminal tactic to keep only the best and the brightest in the ranks of our military. I don’t think you’ll actually hear anyone comment on that nor do I think it was a real reason to drop it. However, one has to remember that TA was not only a awesome deal but a recruiting and retentention tool too. How better to thin the ranks outside of the avenues already being taken?
So this leads me to why this ordeal is good. As mentioned this may be a way for the Coast Guard, and others, to retain only the best of their service, or at least the best educated. From my personal observations, with no real data to back it up, I’ve noticed that most of our senior Enlisted folks, as well as most Officers above O-2, hold some sort of degree or are perusing such. With the TA program currently dismissed, and the next fiscal year expected to bring only a fraction of the funds back for use, only those who are truly dedicated will get their education on their own dime*.
As I understand it NAVADMIN 263/04 (the link is broken to the actual message) from the Navy states, in so many words, that beginning in fiscal year 2011 an associate degree or equivalent that is rating-relevant will be a prerequisite for advancement to senior chief petty officer for active and reserve personnel. If this were true across all services then only the best educated would be the leaders.
It’s true that an education doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great leader but one has to admit that if we were required to get a degree in our specialty our military would be better for. We don’t need a retained workforce, we need an educated workforce to move forward in today’s world.
So the removal, or reduction, of tuition assistance will allow the Coast Guard to keep only the best and brightest in its ranks. If they were to go one step further and require certain degrees for certain jobs or certain ranks then we could truly be one of the best educated fighting nations in the world.
Does removal tuition assistance suck? Yes. But will it help the Coast Guard and other services in the long run? Also yes, if it is leveraged correctly.
Any thoughts on the matter?
Update 22 March 2013: The Coast Guard also reinstated its TA (http://www.uscgnews.com/go/doc/4007/1732873/)
* Rumors are tuition assistance in the Coast Guard is going to be back, but not nearly as robust as it once was.
I still remember the first time ME1 (formerly MK1) Sean Lawler called me up to tell me about this guy who decided he was going to run the Keys 100 (in Key West, FL) in remembrance of Coast Guard members who’d fallen in the line of duty. To put it bluntly I thought it was a crazy idea- ambitious- but crazy. However, as I started to work with ME1 on getting the word out, the more I realized that I actually knew little about those who’ve died in the line of duty. Short of Douglas Munro, and the smattering of Shipmates lost during the 2011 timeframe, I was ill equipped to know who they were.
LT Brian Bruns, that ambitious individual, had a goal of not only bringing awareness to those who’ve fallen in the line of duty but was also looking for a way to bring awareness to the Coast Guard Foundation’s Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. Bruns’ and Lawler’s plan worked. Enter the 2011 Coast Guard Run2Remember; in the end LT Bruns ran the 100 mile ultra marathon in memory of 90+ Shipmates who had fallen since 9/11. Donated funds came in at around $2,000 all of which were donated to the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. Not too bad for a single runner and a few followers.
Last year’s second annual Coast Guard Run2Remember (2012) got a whole lot bigger, and LT Lucy Love entered into the coordinator’s seat. After seeing the impact the first event had on the families of the fallen, LT Love stepped up and took the initiative to ensure a 2nd event took place. With LT Bruns deployed, she assumed the reins and transformed a one-man event into a movement. She continued to work with ME1 Lawler and together they renewed a campaign to bring further awareness to the Foundation’s scholarship fund and the Coasties we’ve lost.
Their hard work paid off. LT Love involved not only some 93 people to run the Keys 100 but also individual events at units throughout the Coast Guard. Units from Virginia to Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, and even Kuwait were holding their own Run2Remeber events. While Love worked to coordinate the actual running in Key West (yes, another crazy one!) and help the individual event holders at units around the globe, Lawler was (and still is) hard at work getting the word out via their Facebook page, unit event pages, Twitter, and in general online social interactions. Lawler is also the designer, three years running, of their logos and images. It’s a lot of work on top of their day jobs.
As a member of the Coast Guard, I was part of our local Run2Remember here in Juneau, AK last year. We had a turnout of about 50 or so people all wearing the t-shirts with the names of the fallen on the back. I still wear mine knowing someone is reading the back. At the end of the 2012 campaign, LT Love and ME1 Lawler’s work enabled them to donate $12,000 dollar to the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. Awesome!
The event has kind of taken a life of its own without a doubt. I admit I never saw it getting as big as it has. With that in mind I wondered if the Coast Guard as an organization would have taken notice- they have. Though the event isn’t sponsored by the Coast Guard it definitely is supported. Which is good enough for me.
The 2013 campaign has changed a little. After listening to both participants and wishful participants of last year’s event the duo set in motion a change of name and a change of participation. Starting this year the formerly named Run2Remember has officially been changed to CG Remember (it will be held 17 & 18 May 2013).
Why the change to such a successful event? Well, in short, not everyone runs or can run. So the name change opens up the event to not only runners but also bikers, rowers, rollers skaters, house sitters, and your backyard Bar-B-Q. “Virtually any event can be used as a remembrance event. It’s not about the exercise or running, it never was, it’s about remembering.” says ME1 Lawler.
The goal hasn’t change though. The event is still here to help the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. What has changed, along with the name, are the t-shirts. Over the past two years the shirts have listed the names of the fallen since September 11, 2001; 90+. This year that number has risen to 126 fallen Shipmates going back to
1982 1978. It will also include the most fallen Shipmate, [Senior] Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, who died in 2012.
ME1 Sean Lawler said it well in a letter to 2012 participants writing, “To the families of the fallen members, we know that nothing will ever ease the pain you have from losing a loved one, but you need to know that every member of the Coast Guard is with you, thanks you, and will always remember your sacrifice. Our uniforms have our names on the right side, but bear the words [U.S.] Coast Guard on the left…and that makes us all family. We will always remember our family.”
I look at the work that is being done here as Coasties helping Coasties. We’re known as an organization that is always there to help the public; however, we’re also just as capable with helping each other.
Now the easy part: getting involved. If you’re in the Coast Guard it’s likely that your unit is already planning something. Check the list of participating units at event page which will have your local point of contact.
If you’re not in the Coast Guard, or you’d rather not participate in an event but still want to help Coast Guard Foundation Fallen Hero Scholarship fund, you can purchase your own t-shirt for $20. The best part is 100% of the proceeds go to the scholarship fund. If you’d rather just donate without anything in return you’ll also find the address to mail donation on that same page. Either way it’s a great cause.
Thank you LT Love and ME1 Lawler for keeping this annual remembrance in motion.
LT Lucy Love was the Coast Guard’s Shipmate of the Week on 15 March 2013.
This morning I found out, via Facebook of all places, that an arrest was made in the case of two Shipmates that were murdered in Kodiak in April 2012. Yesterday- 15 February 2013- James Wells, long thought to be the principal suspect in the case, was taken into custody by the Coast Guard Investigative Service and Alaska State Troopers.
The murder of ET1 James Hopkins and retired BMC Richard Belisle on 12 April 2012 came as a huge blow to the Coast Guard family. With a service as small as ours- and getting smaller- it was easy to know someone who was connected one way or another to ET1 or BMC.
With the murders taking place on the isolated island of Kodiak it was thought that the case was going to be an easy one to solve. After all, where could one go when there’s nowhere to go?
The FBI immediately took on the investigation as the crime took place on federal property (the murders took place inside Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak buildings). The fact that that FBI was on it also brought down the anxiety level of many as this case was right in line of the FBI’s work. That is, the solving of murder cases. However, with weeks turning into months and murmurs and rumors within the small island town starting to dwindle away it suddenly became a question of “if” and not “when” the FBI was going to charge someone.
After all was said and done though it looks as if the FBI has got their man. Though he’s been detained in connection with the murders of our Shipmates we won’t know why Wells was actually taken into custody until next week when the sealed affidavit is opened and discussed in court.
So until then we continue the waiting game… but now we don’t have to hold our breath.
However, the big offender on the list today (actually yesterday now…) is Navy Times. Yesterday on the site’s news pages I read two headlines stating “Ex-Navy SEAL” and “Ex-SEAL…” both are differing subjects (screen shot right). However, within the article they correct themselves to use the proper label of “former.” Yes, there is a difference.
Perhaps those at Navy Times know there is a difference and they’re only link-baiting… maybe not. Matters not if they are link-baiting to get your attention- they should at least give the individuals they’re discussing the respect of proper labels.
So what’s the difference? Well, if you ask a Marine they can tell you outright; however, for some reason it’s not as prevalent in the other services. The label “ex” (e.g. ex-Coastie) should lead one to believe that this person was once a Coastie but it no longer because they were discharged for wrongdoing or some other ill thing (actual title: Ex-Coastie commits wire-fraud). Whereas the label of “former” spells out that the individual was once a member of said service and left on good terms (good conduct discharge, retired. etc.). For example the Navy Times had a story of an “Ex-Coast Guard member” who wrote a book (I’m reading it with a review soon); however, this was NOT an “ex” Coastie but, in fact, a “former” member of this great service.
The soapbox was there, I stood up and said my piece, now I’ll get down.
By Mark Tempest
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.
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.)
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.
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.
- Back to Basics: Restoring the United States Merchant Marine
- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN
- Five Enduring Lessons from Arabian Gulf Patrol Craft Operations
- Solution to the Russian Mistral’s Conundrum: NATO Flagships
- Expanding the Naval Canon: Fernando de Oliveira and the 1st Treatise on Maritime Strategy