Archive for the 'Coast Guard' Category
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.”
Well, I dunno about fun, but certainly easier to understand than the usual explanation. And it ain’t even in Power Point.
LtCol Dan Ward, USAF, from DAU provides nothing short of a brilliant essay that even an 8-yr old can relate to, in fact, can inspire. Worth every bit of the read, as Galrahn has noted at his place. And though Gal also quotes a passage, I will quote a different one, not the least because it has the word “fleet” in it. What, with this being a Naval blog, and all.
The bottom line: Death Stars are unaffordable. Whether we’re talking about a fictional galaxy far, far away or the all too real conditions here on Planet Earth, a Death Star program will cost more than it is worth. The investment on this scale is unsustainable and is completely lost when a wamp-rat-hunting farmboy takes a lucky shot. When one station represents the entire fleet (or even 5 percent of the fleet), we’ve put too many eggs in that basket and are well on our way to failing someone for the last time.
The above seems to describe myriad projects and concepts now being considered by the United States Navy, from larger and larger amphibious ships whose loss would mean instant mission failure, to potentially small (6 or 7?) numbers of supercarriers plying the oceans as a result of the coming fiscal restraint on DoD budgets.
“A Death Star is an Empire weapon that aims to intimidate opponents into submission.
Droids are Republic technology. They don’t intimidate anyone. Instead, they earn their keep by being useful and practical.”
Which current Navy programs are our “Death Stars”, and which, our R2D2s?
The Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 was implemented on 1 October 1986. It has been called the most significant Defense policy change since the National Security Act of 1947. Goldwater-Nichols gave us a globe divided into Combatant Commands, each with a CINC (until 2002, when they became COCOMs). It also made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the principle military advisor to the President, whereas previously the Service Chiefs had a much larger role in providing that advice.
Born of the desire to end inter-service rivalry that was evident in Vietnam, the failed Desert One 1980 hostage rescue mission, and in the invasion of Grenada in 1983, Goldwater-Nichols became the driver for “jointness”, with individual services being tasked as force providers, with the “organize, train, and equip” mission, but without any longer having operational control over their respective services. I was told once that the final driver for Goldwater-Nichols was the adoption of the USAF/US Army Air-Land Battle Doctrine. That without something mandating joint cooperation, even the primary services would not play well enough in the sandbox to make ALBD viable.
The first test of the new landscape was Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and in those operations, the new system under Goldwater-Nichols received high marks. Since, however, opinions have been somewhat less sanguine regarding the effects of the Act.
While supporters of Goldwater-Nichols point to a reduction in unwanted redundancy, critics will point out that some of the redundancy that was eliminated was a necessary and prudent hedge to ensure maintenance of capability.
Supporters also laud the broader focus of our senior officers, having a requirement for a Joint tour that has them work with other services, where they learn to interact and gain insight into other service cultures. Critics charge that the mania for Joint tours has stunted the learning curve for Officers’ own-service tactical and technical knowledge, and that “jointness” is a ticket punch operation with little inherent value.
Goldwater-Nichols was intended, in part, to reduce the inefficiencies at the senior strategic level of DoD, to streamline function and role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a part of the National Security apparatus and the decision-making process. In that way, advocates can rightly argue that the Act has been a success.
Some have charged that, instead of strengthening civilian control of the Military, Goldwater-Nichols actually reduced civilian influence, and created an American version of the Prussian General Staff, setting CJCS as the primary military advisor. They argue that the inherent inefficiency of the previous arrangement was desirable as a means of self-limiting uniformed influence. In addition, the “dual-hatting” of Service Chiefs to both advocate for their respective services AND provide sound strategic input, to be an “honest broker”, was not a realistic expectation.
Certainly, weapons and equipment procurement continues to be a source of anxiety for the Defense Department, even though Goldwater-Nichols required a revamping of that entire system. Whether Goldwater-Nichols is to blame or not, I couldn’t say. Whether the Act has improved anything, I could not say, either.
Goldwater-Nichols encompasses much more than I have mentioned here, including implications for other uniformed services, and even the realm of Homeland Security, which was known as Civil Defense when provisions of the Act were implemented.
So, to open it up for discussion, has the Goldwater-Nichols Act been a success or a failure? Did it do what it was intended to do? If so, were the changes for the better? Did it really change anything as much as touted? What might be revised regarding Goldwater-Nichols after 25 years? Is it time to modify or repeal Goldwater-Nichols? Is it still serving its intended purpose well?
Let’s open up for discussion. I would love to hear some perspectives on Goldwater-Nichols as we approach the quarter-century mark of its implementation.
Oh, and Uniform of the Day will be Service Dress Purples.
Galrahn has a very interesting post on the subject of a story by Reuters that a low-profile UN report verifies the link between Somali pirates and, you guessed it, Al Qaeda. Go check it out. Well worth the read. I will elaborate here on some things that have been bandied about from time to time.
In that Reuters story, some revealing words from the UN Special Envoy to Somalia:
John Steed, the principal military adviser to the U.N. special envoy to Somalia and head of the envoy’s counter-piracy unit, said links between armed pirate gangs and Somalia’s al Qaeda-affiliated rebels were gradually firming.
“The payment of ransoms just like any other funding activity, illegal or otherwise, is technically in breach of the Somalia sanctions regime if it makes the security situation in Somalia worse,” said Steed.
“Especially if it is ending up in the hands of terrorists or militia leaders — and we believe it is, some directly, some more indirectly,” said Steed, a retired military officer.
To any who doubt that this money-making venture has grown exponentially of late, the next paragraph should erase that doubt.
Ransom demands have risen steadily in recent years. According to one study, the average ransom stood at $5.4 million in 2010, up from $150,000 in 2005, helping Somali pirates rake in nearly $240 million last year.
Certainly, the discussion of where the money is going is pertinent. However, the most salient remark from Galrahn’s post is his assertion that “Piracy just took a strange turn, and it would be nice to hear from someone whose title begins with “Admiral” or whose name is Ray Mabus.” While I might disagree with the word “just” in the first part of the sentence, the second assertion surely is true. Certainly this had to be an eventuality that we were planning for. If not, then serious examination of our Navy’s uniformed and civilian leadership is in order.
As far back as August, 2009, the issue of such a link was discussed, along with the true intent of the Somali pirates. Comments there, and at USNI’s Piracy Conference in the fall of 2010 were at times dismissive of the link between the pirates and Al Shabaab, even though connections between Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda had been trumpeted by both organizations more than a year earlier, and Al Shabaab control of the coastal villages was alo well known .
Our hesitation in making the logical connection between a very-high-payoff, low risk venture and those who seek funding sources for their operations (and would not hesitate to coerce the unwilling into cooperation) always struck me as extremely naive. To discount the likelihood of the eventual link between Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, and the Somali pirates is to refuse to understand the nature of our enemies, the ways in which international criminal enterprises work, and the lengths to which the United States and other nations should be willing to go in dealing with the pirates themselves and those who pull the strings ashore in Somalia and elsewhere. I remarked in August of 2009 that,
The old phrase “you’re known by the company you keep” is pertinent here. Al-Shabaab, and by proxy, Al-Qaeda, have major influence here. If the situation didn’t start out that way, it has certainly evolved there. Natural enough, to this point there has been immense profit to be gained with very little risk.
Indeed, according to the UN, there is proof that precisely the above has come to pass. It should be a surprise to nobody, but likely will be a big surprise to many. All I can prescribe for those folks is viewing The Godfather, Part II over and over again. It was simply a matter of time until Al Qaeda tapped into the revenue stream of Somali piracy. And it has likely been occurring for far longer than we can offer “proof” of.
Back to Galrahn’s point. What say you, Navy Leadership? State Department? Why are we finding out from Reuters? Let us hear from you on the subject, and what the intent is to deal with it.
You will see the words in many places on many sites today. But this day, of all of them, take the time to really read them, and understand their context. The words were written by highly educated men who stood to gain most (except liberty) by not writing them, and lose all by signing the document that contained them. Along with Lincoln’s speeech at Gettysburg, and his Second Inaugural, our Constitution’s preamble, Martin Luther King’s great oratory, and the Inaugural words of John Kennedy, these words are American political scripture. And despite only being two sentences in length, they comprise the greatest political treatise ever written by man;
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Our precious freedoms are the envy of the civilized world, and the nemesis of the uncivilized. With all the time for family and friends, hot dogs and fireworks, say a prayer of thanks for these blessings, and for those of courage who secured them over the 235 years of this nation’s existence.
Happy Independence Day!