Archive for the 'Coast Guard' Category
Thursday morning, Under Secretary of the Navy (and more importantly, former Marine artilleryman) Robert O. Work skilfully executed his own “pivot”. Secretary Work had intended to deliver remarks regarding the program choices associated with the recently-released Defense budget. Well, you go to the podium with the speech you have, not the one you wish you had. It seems SECNAV was not going to publicly comment until later in the day, so Secretary Work chose not to publicly do so ahead of that, and instead delivered an enthusiastic and decidedly upbeat address on the challenges and opportunities facing the Navy-Marine Corps Team in the coming century.
Secretary Work referenced former CJCS Admiral Mullen’s talk of the previous day, and lived up to his well-deserved reputation for his grasp of history and its relevance to future events. Diverging from Admiral Mullen’s views of the uniqueness of the path ahead, Secretary Work outlined the challenges faced by President Eisenhower in 1953, an ongoing war far larger than the current and recent conflicts combined, an existential threat from a peer enemy about to detonate a thermonuclear device of their own, faltering allies asking for assistance in remote regions of the globe, and an electorate very tired of war. Indeed his example speaks to the tendency to consider present challenges as groundbreaking and unprecedented, when in point of fact, they are usually not nearly quite so.
Secretary Work proceeded to provide a Huntington-esque perspective on the history of America’s military eras, as defined by salient policy events. That perspective is worth summarizing here.
The Continental Era
July 4th 1776 to December 1, 1890
America’s Army was dominant, with an intermittent and largely coastal (with notable exceptions) Navy and small Marine Corps, no overseas bases, and a focus on western expansion across the North American continent. The era ended with the tragic events at Wounded Knee, which was the last of the frontier fights. During the Continental Era, for every month the United States was at war, she spends approximately six months at peace.
The Trans-Oceanic Era
December 1, 1890 to March 12, 1947
America becomes a two-ocean Mahanian maritime nation once and for all, and after massive military commitment to winning two world wars, is a world power with overseas bases, with far-flung interests, and security commitments to allies and former adversaries (whom we have to build up from virtual ruin) on almost every continent. The era ends with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, and the beginning of the Cold War. For every month of war during the Trans-Oceanic Era, there are 5.2 months of peace.
The Cold War
March 12, 1947 to May 12, 1989
Containment of the Soviet Union, a peer adversary, which dominates Eastern Europe and makes serious inroads in Asia, southern Europe, and Latin America. Large wars in Korea and Vietnam, the respective growth and contraction of the US Military in the aftermath of those wars, and lots of little wars by proxy, and an existential threat of Soviet first strike. The Cold War is declared over on May 12, 1989, by President George H W Bush. Indeed, in 1990-91, forces from Europe are sent to Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War, more than a year before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. In this increasingly active era, aside from a Cold War for the entirety, for each month of hot war, the United States is only at peace for 2.67 months.
The Global Era
May 12, 1989 to December 31, 2011
Two wars in Iraq, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, protracted and expensive efforts at nation-building are the events of the most active time for America’s military in her entire history. For every month at war during this Global Era, America will have just 1.08 months of peace. The Global Era ends, according to Secretary Work, with the end of the war in Iraq
The beginning of 2012 is the beginning of the “Naval Century”.
This era, says Secretary Work, will be one of global American sea power, focused on the western Pacific, always a maritime region, and the Middle East, which is becoming increasingly so.
Secretary Work asserts that this nation’s military, its people and equipment, are tired out. They need to be refreshed, revitalized, and allowed to recover from the strain of two protracted wars. And the military needs to shrink. Especially in manpower, the single highest cost category.
I reproduce Secretary Work’s perspective in near entirety because I believe it is cogent and well-thought, from someone whose grasp of history is superb, and because it is worthwhile. It also allows us to put current conditions in context. Some of his points are excellent, and provide an insight into how Mr. Work thinks of what he calls the Total Force Battle Network and its shape in the coming decades.
This Total Force Battle Network will be characterized by a Navy-Marine Corps team capable of forcible entry and power projection globally, and an ability to keep vital SLOCs open to freedom of navigation. This Naval force will be characterized by thoroughly networked platforms and weapons, unmanned systems in all three dimensions, with technology-enabled combat power second to none. An increased emphasis on SOF throughout the services, Navy and Marine Corps included, and a more capable maritime domain awareness using unmanned and manned platforms to cover vital areas nationally and globally. Forward presence in vital regions will be credibly maintained. This force will be maintained and sustained by personnel strengths equal to the task, a break from the “optimal manning” experiment that went “too far”.
This will also be a force that is used less frequently than were forces in the Global Era, allowing for time to train and maintain, and to test and experiment with new technologies and new methods of employment. And, passionately, Mr. Work reminded us that the people who make up our Naval forces, Sailors and Marines, will remain the single greatest asset the Total Force Battle Network can employ. They will remain the professional, motivated, educated young warriors that are exemplified by CDR Ernest Evans, who told his crew of Johnston (DD- 557) “This is a fighting ship, and I intend to take her into harm’s way!”. And at Samar, when eight Japanese capital ships appeared on the horizon, turned his destroyer toward the vastly superior force and interject his little ship in between the Japanese and the escort carriers of his task force. The decision cost him his ship and his life, but helped save the Task Force and possibly the Leyte landings further south. It also earned CDR Evans a posthumous Medal of Honor. Our people and our Navy and Marine Corps will do the things that are required to be the best in the world, because, as in the past, they will be “great by choice”.
Secretary Work’s words should be inspirational to any Sailor or Marine who takes pride in his service. The Navy Undersecretary is definitely on our side. He is a man who says what he means and means what he says. The coming cuts, the $480 billion in the next ten years, are challenging but workable. They represent a drawdown of some 24% of the US Military, which Mr. Work points out is rather less than that of other post-war draw-downs, including the years of the “Peace Dividend” following the Cold War and Desert Storm. His was definitely a tone of confidence in the future of our Naval forces.
I hope he is correct. I hope we have a strategy commensurate with our capabilities, and our reach doesn’t exceed our grasp. And that our focus on SOF and unmanned systems will not require the “Plan B” of conventional forces in great numbers, because they simply will not be there. Whatever the numbers of ships, systems, and personnel we settle on, that cannot be the starting point for the ill-conceived concept of further pinching of pennies by chasing temporary savings (“Optimal Manning”, deferring maintenance, retiring warships at half their service lives) that result in driving up long-term costs and reducing effectiveness.
And I hope he is right about sequestration. Because, as upbeat and slightly sanguine as Secretary Work’s words were, even he admits that the cuts that would come in that event will devastate our nation’s defenses and make any meaningful National Military Strategy impossible.
“…now it is time to think!”
This statement, alternately attributed to Winston Churchill and Ernest Rutherford, was the baseline theme of all of yesterday’s speaking and panel sessions here at USNI/AFCEA West 2012.
But is it a fair statement? And is it accurate?
The implication of that statement is that senior military and civilian officials in the Defense Department have been accustomed to throwing money at problems rather than thinking through a solution. And this questionable practice is the reason for “bloated” Defense budgets in the post-9/11 world.
I disagree. While undoubtedly there are inefficiencies in Defense spending, and more can be purchased for the dollars spent, I simply don’t buy into the notion that the statement implies.
Much is made of the “doubling” of the Defense budget between 2000 and 2011, but little is said of the effects of the “Peace Dividend” and the acquisition “holiday” of the 1990s. In yesterday’s shipbuilding panel, of which more will be written soon, Mr. Mike Petters from Huntington Ingalls Industries (the shipbuilder formerly known as Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock, among other names) gave us some interesting insights as to the effects such uneven procurement and “holidays” have on building ships. The cost to the manufacturer of sitting idle, and of sudden restart at a surge level, is considerable. Elsewhere, in the Navy-Marine Corps Team panel, there was also significant discussion of the very real problems experienced by prime and sub-contractors when production drops below minimums for business solvency, or unpredictable dry spells and cancellations occur.
The costs of fighting two wars that represent a level of commitment of a single Major Regional Conflict (MRC) in 1990s parlance undoubtedly drove up Defense budgets, with personnel increases for the Army and the Marine Corps, operating costs, ammunition and fuel, aircraft and ground equipment maintenance and repair, and rapid acquisitions of vital equipment like MRAP vehicles as the dollar drivers. Many of those rapid acquisitions centered on burgeoning technology and unanticipated requirements, and anticipated requirements that had not been met (up-armored M1114 HMMWVs) in anywhere near sufficient numbers over the previous decade.
However, I cannot agree that the services, especially the notoriously tight-fisted Marine Corps, suddenly spent the last decade as profligate spenders without rhyme or reason, as if they had their parents’ credit card on a college weekend. If they did, then such did not occur at the tactical level.
Today, with US military involvement with Iraq at an end, and Afghanistan employing a small fraction of the US Military (90,000 of 1.44 million, just 6.2% of personnel), the “pivot” of the focus of our military to the Pacific region and the execution of the Cooperative Strategy requires meaningful commitment of adequate resources to counter the capabilities of a fast-rising near-peer in China.
While comments from each of the speakers and most panel members were couched in terms of required and critical capabilities, there was acknowledgement of the budget axe that will be the final arbiter of which capabilities we can afford, and which we cannot. Where and when that axe falls will determine this nation’s ability to execute its National Military Strategy, and by extension, its National Security Strategy.
Doing “more with less”, another phrase often heard yesterday, is a hackneyed and trite bit of platitude that is a signal that what we truly have is not a capabilities-based Defense budget, but budget-constrained Defense capabilities. You do not do more with less, you do less with less. That, whether it is a popular sentiment or not, is an inviolate fact of life. To the vast preponderance of the men and women of the US Military, who have always done as much as possible with what was given them through two protracted wars, the idea that thinking only takes place when all the money has been spent is an affront to them and is dismissive of their courage and commitment.
If I don’t hear Churchill’s words applied to our Military ever again, it will be too soon. If there is a ringing of truth in them, it should be in the ears of those who wear stars and wide gold stripes. The rest of us have been thinking all along.
The morning panel discussion at USNI West 2012 was entitled “The Navy-Marine Corps Team: Hang Together or Hang Separately?”
Excellently moderated by Frank Hoffman, the panel members were:
VADM Gerald Beaman, Commander, Third Fleet
VADM John Blake, DCNO, Integration, Capabilities, and Resources (N8)
BGen Dan O’ Donohue, Capabilities Development Directorate, HQMC
MajGen Melvin Spiese, Deputy CG, I MEF
Panelists were unanimous in their comments as to the new appreciation of the truly integrated nature of the Navy-Marine Corps team, and the necessity of that close and long-standing relationship as US focus “pivots” toward the Western Pacific. The unique combined capabilities of the Navy-Marine Corps team to project power globally and to gain entry, as Admiral Vern Clark once stated, “without a permission slip”, was acknowledged to be as important in the coming decade as it has ever been in our nation’s history.
As such, the integration of Navy-Marine Corps fixed-wing air, the maintenance and enhancement of amphibious assault capability, and the return of the Marine Corps to its nautical roots after two protracted land campaigns, all were indicators of the new-found sense of teamwork between the services. Several panel members commented pointedly on just how closely the guidance of CNO Admiral Greenert and Marine Commandant General Amos align. This is not coincidental, as in the coming budget challenges the Department of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, needs the capabilities of each of the respective services to execute the Maritime Strategy in the growing A2AD environment. Joint Operational Access must indeed be accomplished jointly, with each service enhancing and complementing the capabilities and mission sets of the other.
This represents a much more harmonious situation than the somewhat discordant voices (behind the scenes, at least) which were heard in the last several years. That is good news. Because the assertion of how much each service needs the other to operate in the vast expanse of the ocean to our west is difficult to overstate.
There was much discussion regarding the F-35B, which General Spiese termed the most important program in the Marine Corps. He stated that its capabilities to operate off big-deck amphibs and high sortie generation rate are keys to USMC warfighting doctrine. With a current and near-future paucity of sustainable Naval surface fire support, General Spiese’s assertion is spot-on.
A question to the panel from your humble author regarded identified capabilities gaps, lack of viable NSFS, and mine warfare, specifically counter-mine capabilities. As the Amphibious Operations Area expands exponentially, a necessary result of fielding of longer-range systems of delivery (MV-22, a future ACV), those two tasks in particular have been flagged as being an even greater gap than exists with current systems and methods. (Simply, the farther from shore the amphibs launch the landing force, and the farther inland the Ospreys can execute vertical envelopment, then the larger the mine-clearing task and the more expansive the target list. This is true even if the landing area is lightly defended.)
The answers were instructive, as Admiral Beaman asserted that prioritization of systems in the current budget environment might mean modification of requirements. Moderator Frank Hoffman identified the need for a low-cost and high-volume FS system to fill the gap until newer systems are fielded (rail gun, possibly) and existing systems improved. (An ability to UNREP VLS, perhaps?)
BGen O’Donohue talked in positive terms about the mine-clearing module of the LCS, and it is clear there is a tremendous amount riding on the success of that system. Admiral Blake explained that the migration is taking place from current methods of mine clearance where the sailor is in the mine field to methods where the sailor is not, and the clearance is performed remotely.
The panel espoused the distinct and realistic view that the current proliferation of A2AD systems make for a very challenging operating environment, and the emergence of a near-peer potential adversary in China raises the ante for getting it right with our Naval forces. But at least those challenges will be met together by the Navy-Marine Corps team.
This week in San Diego, USNI/AFCEA West 2012 will be examining the issues and challenges associated with a US Military that has reached a “crossroads”.
As has happened so many times in the last century, the signposts to that crossroads are fiscal and not operational. Even with the drawdown in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan employing just a small fraction (about 90,000) of the 1.44 million US servicemen and women, the driving forces for the coming cuts are budget shortfalls, and spiraling national debt.
Panel sessions include discussion of the future of the Navy-Marine Corps Team (which doubtless will encompass amphibious capabilities), information and INFOSEC requirements for Naval forces, the balance between the warfighting head and the logistics tail, and the looming question of our new Pacific orientation, China.
Speakers include former CJCS Admiral Mullen, Navy Undersecretary (and former Marine Artilleryman) Robert Work, David Hartman, and Medal of Honor Winner SFC Leroy Petry, USA.
As usual, USNI will have a reinforced fire team of bloggers to tell you about it. The unit symbol is below. We will begin in a wedge formation for all around security and flexibility, and then we will do whatever SWMBO tells us to.
If you are going to ask tough questions, and give tough answers, San Diego in January is a pretty good place to do it. The forecast in Vermont is for snow.
Ya-Hussayn. Photo: U.S. Navy
Last week the VBSS team from the USS Kidd (DDG 100) boarded the Al Molai, an Iranian flagged fishing dhow, and freed a 13-man Iranian crew. The 15 pirates, ‘suspected pirates’, were using the dhow, ‘allegedly’, to conduct mother-ship operations in the Indian Ocean.
At the sight of the SH-60s and the mighty warship Kidd, the pirates decided discretion was the better part of valor and threw their weapons overboard and surrendered at once. Images taken after the boarding show an extremely grateful Iranian crew hugging American sailors and being sent on their way with USS Kidd ballcaps, water, food, and a smile.
Yesterday, there was yet another story of American vigilance and courage at sea as US Coast Guard cutter Monomoy saved six Iranian mariners from their disabled dhow, the Ya-Hussayn, in the North Arabian Gulf.
According to a statement from George Little, Pentagon Press Secretary, the Monomoy’s attention was alerted by flares and flashlight at 3am (local) from the crew of the Ya-Hussayn. The engine room was flooding and things were going south fast, said the dhow’s master, “without your help, we were dead.”
Of course Iranian “news agencies”, are reporting these incidents are mere U.S. propaganda.
High stakes theater or not, as Iran threatens to block Hormuz Strait, Washington is pushing right back on Tehran in all the right places…and while it’s unlikely that the effects of sanctions will have the desired result of turning the Iranian people against Khamenei, it might set the conditions for the necessary Persian Gulf two step that is about to ensue.
Does Tehran really want a conventional surface warfare showdown in the Indian Ocean or Persian Gulf?
No matter the affects of sanctions on the true sentiment (and living conditions) of the people on Valiasr Street (and it will affect them), I have to think that the institutional memory from the 1987/88 tanker wars remain and the Admiralty surely wishes to avoid a conventional surface engagement with any grey hull in 5th Fleet.
But then again, ‘unlikely’ battles are often begun with the inverse of just that logic. Cannons fire when we operate under the assumption that prudence, institutional memory and history have any real leverage over politics, emotion, and cynical, desperate fear mongers with too much power and too little time.
On this very important day in our nation’s history – the 7th of December – we must give pause and remind ourselves….
Has there ever been a month in the long history of Man’s wars that was as decisive as that of the thirty days of November, 1942? It was during this month that, in every theater in the Second World War, the tide turned decisively against the Axis.
The collection of “turning points” that are commonly offered when examining the Second World War in Europe, the Pacific, and on the Eastern Front, have the most familiar of rings to them. The Battle of Britain and the failure of the Luftwaffe in 1940 to subdue Fighter Command and set the conditions for SEELOWE. The failure of Army Group Center on the Eastern Front to take Moscow in the autumn of 1941. The carrier clash at Midway in June of 1942 which wrested the initiative from the Japanese in the Pacific. Without doubt, all these events were momentous. But it is only with hindsight certainty of all that followed that we might point to them and call them “turning points”.
The British, for example, would lose their Far East strongholds of Hong Kong and Singapore in the early months of 1942, and see her crude oil reserves drop to only 60 days’ supply during that summer as German U-Boats slowly strangled her Atlantic lifelines. The abortive Dieppe raid in August of that year did not portend well for regaining a foothold on the Continent of what would become Festung Europa.
In the East, the Wehrmacht shook off the disappointment of its failures before Moscow, and the effects of the brutal winter of 1941-42, to drive their forces ever more deeply into the Soviet Union, albeit against a Red Army that had saved its critical heavy industry with a miraculous evacuation from the so-called “Moscow-Gorky Space” into the safety of the Ural Mountains.
In the Pacific, the surrender of almost 13,000 US troops at Corregidor just a month before Midway, and the uncertain success of the Solomons offensive, meant that the initiative was not in firm possession of either the US or Japanese forces, instead up for grabs like a spinning football. Any significant setback for the thinly-stretched US Navy and Marine Corps might have had disastrous consequences.
In context, the Battle of Britain, Moscow, and Midway, represent not decision, but entry of each respective theater of war into a period of indecision. The course of the war to that point had gone almost entirely in the favor of the Axis, except for temporary and somewhat trifling Allied successes. With the above events, the war reached a juncture in which the needle of the compass stopped pointing toward the Axis, and was wandering. The great happenings around the world in the month of November 1942 would ensure that the needle settled in the Allies’ direction, never to spin back to its original heading. The war, which had to this point gone almost universally badly, turned decisively for the Allies.
By November of 1942, The United States had been at war with the Axis for eleven months; the Soviet Union, for sixteen months; Britain, for more than three years during which she had stood alone (and suffered alone) for an entire year. What occurred during those thirty days of November in 1942 constitutes one of the most remarkable months in all of Western military history.
During the last week of October, 1942, in the Western Desert of North Africa, the savage Second Battle of Alamein raged between the German and Italian forces of Deutsches-Italienische Panzerarmee and Montgomery’s 8th Army. On 2 November, Montgomery’s armor slashed its way through the German-Italian defenses (at heavy cost to both sides) and turned Alamein into a rout and a decisive Allied victory. Though Rommel made good his escape (returning from illness to re-assume command on 25 October), the forces at his disposal were no longer combat effective.
Also during that last week of October 1942, an Allied invasion force gathered for the purposes of putting 65,000 American and British troops ashore on the northwest coast of Africa. The purpose of Operation TORCH was to engage the Germans wherever practical and theoretically relieve the hard-pressed Soviets in the East. On 8 November, 1942, those forces landed and overcame Vichy resistance. This would be the first instance in which US industrial and manpower would be brought to bear directly against the Germans. While the green Americans learned a great many costly and difficult tactical lessons against the veteran German formations, the invasion was there to stay, and the clock was ticking on the remaining life of Rommel’s once-magnificent Panzerarmee Afrika.
In the Solomons, the US effort to seize the initiative from the Japanese, to decide whether Midway was a temporary or permanent halt to Imperial momentum, hung in the balance through the summer and autumn of 1942. When at last the Japanese made their most serious effort to eject the Marines from Guadalcanal and the US Navy from the adjacent waters, a number of savage naval engagements sometimes collectively known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, were fought over the days and nights of 12-15 November. These battles were bloody and costly affairs for both sides, but they resulted in the destruction of the relief force from the 17th Army and the blunting of the IJN, and ultimately, the Japanese decision to evacuate Guadalcanal.
In the titanic struggle in the East, throughout August, September, and October of 1942 the exhausted and gaunt survivors of Chuikov’s 62nd Army clung desperately to the remaining acres of rubble inside the city of Stalingrad. Their story is one of the great tales of heroism in any theater of that war. The consequence of their fanatical defense was the necessity to weaken the flanks of the German 6th Army by pouring additional formations into the city, leaving the northern and southern lines largely in the hands of poorly-led and ill-equipped Hungarian and Rumanian units. When Operation URANUS was launched by the Soviet Don Army Front on 19 November, the 5th Tank Army and 21st Army blasted into the Hungarians and Rumanians north of Stalingrad, shattering those units, and driving deep into the rear of the German 6th Army. A day later, the southern flank was smashed by 64th, 51st, and 57th Armies, and when the Soviet forces met at Kalach on 22 November, Stalingrad was encircled and the fate of more than 300,000 Axis troops was sealed. It was a blow from which the Wehrmacht would never quite recover.
In the waters of the Atlantic, November 1942 would seem to be an exception to the above events. Indeed, Allied shipping losses in vessels and tonnage reached a wartime high. But the factors that had caused those losses, the CVEs and escort vessels pulled from convoy duty for Operation TORCH in North Africa, and the changing of the U-Boat code machines, were rectified during November 1942. The CVEs and escorts, in ever-increasing numbers, closed the air gaps, and the capture of a cipher book in late-October 1942 allowed for Allied deciphering of U-Boat signal traffic to begin again in the last days of November. Newer SONAR and air-search radar technology began to be felt, as well. As a result, Allied losses dropped sharply, and soon U-Boat sinkings rose to unsustainable levels, the fuel oil and supply crisis in Britain came to an end.
As much as anything on the battlefields and oceans of the theaters of war, it was the industrial and manpower might of the Allies that came increasingly to bear in November of 1942. Merchant shipping construction would enter full swing during that month, as would aircraft, tank, and warship production. The crushing weight of Allied industry would increasingly dwarf German and Japanese efforts, and carry the war to the heart of the Axis.
The war had gone on for not yet half its ultimate duration. It would last for thirty more months in Europe, and thirty-three more in the Pacific. And the bloodiest campaigns were yet to come. The Soviet Union would call the year 1943 their “year of deep war”. In Occupied Europe, too, the long nightmare betrayed no end. Other than the abject failure at Dieppe, not a single Allied force had set foot in Western Europe since the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. Across in the Pacific, the savage fight for the Pacific islands had barely begun, and the Kamikaze was as yet unknown to the US Navy. Yet, the victories across the globe in November 1942 began the inexorable Allied march to victory against Germany and Japan.
For the Allies everywhere, Churchill’s words after El Alamein are descriptive of the significance of those decisive thirty days that were November of 1942.
“Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Suffolk (MA) University Law School professor Michael Avery tells us:
I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings. I understand that there is a residual sympathy for service members, perhaps engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle. That sympathy is not particularly rational in today’s world, however.
But wait, he has more to say:
Since Sept. 11 we have had perhaps the largest flag in New England hanging in our atrium. This is not a politically neutral act. Excessive patriotic zeal is a hallmark of national security states… Why do we continue to have this oversized flag in our lobby?
That kind of “civil-military divide” cannot be breached. Suffolk University Law School should consider carefully just whom they allow in the front of their classrooms. One has to wonder if Professor Avery could explain his views to a man such as this. I have my doubts.
Much like our parents’ generation, whose memories are indelibly stamped with the dates of December 7th, 1941, and November 22nd, 1963, the terrible and tragic events of that beautiful, sunny Tuesday ten years ago have frozen in our recollections just where we were and what we were doing when we first heard and watched the events of September 11th, 2001 unfold.
Mine is otherwise unremarkable, walking onto the editing floor of a now-defunct mapping company, and hearing someone ask for a radio to be turned on, as there had been a plane crash in New York. Just a few minutes later, the newscaster reported that a second plane had struck another building next to the first. Those words were followed by several moments of absolute silence, as all 150+ editors, several supervisors, and other managers, myself included, stood wordlessly comprehending that this was an intentional act, an attack upon the United States.
However, what has stayed with me most, what I have thought about ten thousand times in the intervening ten years, was a very brief but prognostic event that took place a few days before the September 11th attack.
The weekend prior, I had been at the Worcester, MA, Headquarters of 25th Marines, participating in a planning conference for an upcoming Command Post Exercise to be held in late-October at Camp Lejeune NC. I had spent a tour at 25th Marines as the Fire Support Coordinator, and had recently transferred to 3rd Bn 14th Marines out of North Philly, but was attending the conference as 3/14 would be in Direct Support of 25th Marines for the exercise. As fate would have it, the New York-based 2nd Bn, 25th Marines would be major participants in the October event.
That Sunday morning (September 9th, 2001), after attending Father Rocheford’s Mass, I was glancing at the Intel board while we waited for the conference to resume. The page on the top of the clipboard was an image we have all since come to instantly recognize. Across the top of the page were the words “Osama/Usama bin Ladin (sic)”, and a summary of his role as the leader of a little-known group of Muslim terrorists known as Al Qaeda. One of my comrades saw me reading the paper, and looked down at the picture. His comment is forever etched in my mind. “I wonder what HE’s up to,” he said. “That’s one dangerous son of a bitch. It’s only a matter of time until we hear from him again.”
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- Midrats Sunday 8 Dec 13 Episode 205: “A 21st Century Navy” With John C. Harvey, Jr, ADM USN (Ret)
- USNI Happy Hour – Newport