Archive for the 'Navy' Tag
The following article is cross-posted from an article originally written by Rob Almeida over at gCaptain.
It’s been almost 6.5 years since I resigned my commission in the US Navy where I served 2 tours at sea on board west coast-based warships followed by an instructor tour at the US Naval Academy. Since leaving the service, “civilian-life” has kept me pretty busy. I’ve traveled the world, met thousands of people, and even worked for a year on a drilling rig floor! It’s really been an incredible learning experience and I certainly have a much greater sense of self than I ever did before.
It’s also given me an extraordinary perspective on my time in the US Navy, and how completely backwards and inefficient the US Navy operates at times.
It has been said that in a world intricately and inexorably connected, individually, we seem to draw apart from one another. That those connections we have are tenuous, virtual and of little lasting substance or effect. Like spiderwebs on the wind, we connect and (temporarily) bond with whatever object we come in contact with, only to be pulled apart and float until the next object enters our space. We see this in our personal and professional relationships on a regular, daily basis. And yet, every now and then we are reminded of the ties that bind – that survive the immediacy of the moment no matter their outward, gossamer appearance; which bespeak a deeper level of common interest and shared values. We are reminded, if you will, that no man is indeed, an island.
The events of the past few weeks have underscored the above for me. In no short order, I learned of the loss of three persons of note to myself, and to many others around them. They were many things to many different people – writer, poet, leader, aviator; but in the end they each, in their own way, made a difference. There was CAPT Carroll LeFon – Lex to almost everyone, whose legacy and loss has been chronicled here and across the web. His writing is timeless, coming from the head and heart with the rare ability to find common points of intersection with his readers and relate a story in such manner that even those who never tasted salt air or viewed the world through sun-drenched canopy could readily relate. We saw that gift brought to life last night at our gathering in DC and across the nation and the world as people from all walks of life came together to pay honor to his legacy. But did you know that three of the JOs under him when he was a VFA squadron CO so many years ago screened for command this past week? There’s a living legacy for you.
On the way to the wake last night I also learned of the passing of CAPT Ed Caffrey, USN-ret. Himself a gifted aviator, CAPT Caffrey was a leader and pillar of the Hawkeye/Greyhound community. The term “people person” is overworked to the point of material failure in this day and age, but he was an original in that manner. There are today, many a former VAW and VRC CO, XO and Department Head who were mentored (again, an overwrought but apropos word here) during his tenure as CO and AEW wing commodore. More than a few of us, myself included, owe a deep debt of gratitude for his support and advocacy on our behalf and on the behalf of the VAW/VRC community. Easy words to say now, but there was a time when the community had, shall we say, less than enthusiastic support at the CVW level and higher because of the “support” label broadly brushed on anything that didn’t have an “F” or “A” in the 2-letter designator (and if it had an “H” or ended with a W or Q, well, bonne chance mon ami and don’t let the hatch hit you on the way out). More than that, he cared deeply about people – his people, be they residents on the Breezy Point seawall, his nav division on JFK, students at Naval War College or even later, students at Valley Forge Academy. Just ask the recipients of the VAW/VRC Memorial Fund which he took the lead in establishing. He made a difference.
And there was Jeff Huber – a retired Hawkeye NFO and writer with a pen of steel and a mind of sharper wit. Jeff was another ground breaker for the Hawkeye community, as Skippy-san so very eloquently lays out in a fine tribute over at his site today. Jeff had the courage and determination to drag E-2 tactics out of the moribund 50′s and 60′s and lay the foundation for the missions that lay just over the horizon — Kosovo, Desert Shield/Storm, Southern Watch, OEF and OIF. Later he took that same determination and sought to be a conscious for a Service and country that seemed determined to ignore its roots and founding principles. I didn’t always agree with his assertions – but they provided a reference point and more importantly, a prompt for me to evaluate and re-evaluate my own assumptions and analyses. Too often today people want to reside in the “amen” section and decline to think critically for themselves – deferring instead to the opinions and assertions of others whose best or only attribute is their shrillness.
Different paths, with seemingly random co-mingling or intersections – what are the ties that bind? In each case you are witness to someone who deeply cared about their nation, their Service and the people under their charge or in association. Each, in uniform and in retirement, sought to continue to serve, in their own way and do what they could to better their fellow humans and the Navy to which they had dedicated a substantive part of their life in its service. Some few years back the Navy was casting about for a definition of ethos. I and several others demurred on the end, corporately derived and committee driven statement that emerged from the “process” preferring instead to point to the 200+ years of example driven ethos and the principles detailed therein. Of things like service before self, courage in the face of overwhelming opposition – of conviction and standing firm for principles when all else was sinking beneath the waves. If I were asked today for more recent examples, I can think of none finer than the three I highlight above — outstanding aviators, naval officers without peer and human beings who cared deeply about and for their fellow mankind.
And I am honored to have worn the uniform and served with them.
(crossposted at steeljawscribe.com)
This summer there were two posts here at USNI that grew out of Professor Joan Johnson-Freese’s article “Teach Tough, Think Tough: Three Ways to Fix War Colleges”. At the time I paid little attention as the subject was tangential to my own interests. Days later the subject became directly relevant to me and I have been able to spend the last five months thinking about the article, posts, and comments and propose that it is neither the faculty (alone) or the administration (alone) who bears review…it is the assignment policies in regards to military faculty AND students that need review. My commentary is geared directly at the Naval War College and should be considered items of discussion and items for improvement. Should none of what I address be accomplished, the school will not suffer. It just won’t be as good as I think it could be.
To begin with, Professor Johnson-Freese’s criticism of the Navy faculty “retire-in-place” concept is dead on. While some of those retired Navy officers provide interesting viewpoint, many of them are inhibiting the hiring of professors with different viewpoints than the ones provided by 20 to 30 years of naval service. Her comments on hiring practices should be closely reviewed by the War Colleges, and those practices kept in mind when contracts are renewed by the school.
But, aren’t those RIP Navy officers qualified? Well, yes. On paper. They have PhDs. They are published. But by and large those PhDs are earned after retirement at local Rhode Island Schools. Publications are done internal to the War College in either faculty papers for student consumption or in the War College Review.
To my knowledge none were published, had doctoral degrees, or any advanced education outside of the Navy prior to attendance, assignment, and retirement at the War College. In and of itself that is not unusual for Naval Officers. But should we be placing “usual” Naval Officers as faculty at the home of Naval thought?
What about active duty faculty? Well, the same problem resides there. Of the Navy officers, most have not published. The one officer who had published prior to assignment at the War College is not a member of the teaching faculty. Wait? Not a member of the teaching faculty? The Naval War College website lists 375 faculty members. 104 are identified as “Military Professor”. Of those, 70 teach one of the three core courses. The other 35 are either in the International Law department, Assist and Assess Team Members, or part of the War Gaming Department (there are some other cats and dogs, but these three have the bulk of those 30 officers. Those 30 are also almost all Navy officers and make up almost half of the 67 Navy officers on faculty as “professors”.
What kind of officers are those who are assigned to the faculty? The Army sends rockstars who have had both command and possess doctoral degrees. The Navy? Frankly? They are mostly broken careers. At least three are 2xFOSd Commanders coming up on high year tenure. There are more reserve officers on Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW) than there are post-command line officers. Rumor is that the Selective Early Retirement Board hit the College “hard”. Unpublished. Non-due course. No longer upwardly mobile.
There is not a single serving Flag Officer who served as faculty on the Naval War College.
Now, none of this makes these individual faculty members bad people, or bad Naval Officers. It just limits their ability to work as peers with the civilian faculty – both while on active duty and RIP.
Wait, the critic argues, those officers are there to provide their operational expertise. Their savvy, their saltiness. Not their academic credentials.
OK. Again. 2xFOSd for Captain. Not upwardly mobile. No command experience. But, discounting those data points there are these.
Almost no DC staff experience. Almost no combatant command or major staff experience outside of DC. When there are officers who have DC experience, they end up teaching in the Joint Military Operations Department (and teach the planning course). Operational planner experienced officers are assigned to the National Security Affairs Department (and teach the national strategy and policy course). The Strategy and Policy Department (think Military History Department) is a mishmash of officers who are hopelessly outclassed academically by their civilian peers and in some cases are ignored in the classroom by those same peers.
But, why does it matter that there be a greater breadth of experience among the faculty? Because, unlike civilian graduate programs, the Naval War College student body had no choice in course work or faculty. You can’t wait until next semester to get the “good” professor. The school determines who will teach you. That makes the mix and breadth of experience critical. Or it destroys the credibilty of the faculty in that classroom.
How to fix it? The President of the War College needs to recruit faculty rather than let them just come to him. He needs to partner with the local commands in Newport to find upwardly mobile officers to teach for a year or two and then return to the Fleet. He needs to personally scrutinize every single faculty hire of a retired officer as if that person were to become HIS moderator, instructor, mentor, commander.
If not this, then at the very least end the assignment of billets to the line communities. When an officer applies for a faculty position the President, Provost, or Dean of Academics should review that officer’s record, a writing sample, and curriculum vitae and from there make a decision on which department the officer would be best suited to teach in. This alone would go a long way in matching talent to task at the war colleges.
But, the above only addresses the faculty. The assignment of the student body also needs to be addressed. While the Junior (officially “Intermediate”) course contains significant numbers of upwardly mobile Navy officers, the Senior course does not. Resplendent with derailed careers, Reserve recalls and staff corps officers, the due-course officers from the line communities are underrepresented. Which, of course, they are in the services as a whole. However this is senior level PME. Why can’t Navy get better-qualified officers to the Naval War College?
Well, it does; in the form of Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps officers. Again, it’s the assignment processes for Navy officers that is problemmatic. And here geography and biology tend to win out. For Navy officers completing a command tour it is easier to send them to Norfolk to the Joint Forces Staff College for an eight week tour and get them back to staff or operational duty than it is to sacrifice a year of academic study. Failing that, it is easier to send them to National War College in DC for follow on assignment there (or vice versa) and provide stability for the family. Absent Surface Warfare Officer School, there are no large commands in Newport to draw due-course officers from to fill the Senior Course, or likewise to send them to afterwards and given a choice, many choose one of the alternate ways to complete JPME II.
There’s no easy fix – and this post is intend to foment discussion, not serve as a blueprint to nirvanah. The Navy only has so many due course officers and can only send them so many places. But, what Navy does with its top performing officers tells everyone where Navy’s priorities are. But when less than a third of Flag Officers are Naval War College graduates, and the last Naval War College graduate CNO was Admiral Mike Boorda, there’s a definite signal being sent of where the priorty isn’t.
Please join CDR Salamander and me as we convene Episode 54 “USMC at the Pivot” at Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
A decade as a land army, its future combat systems either canceled, delayed, or under pressure, and a Navy that finds itself getting shore-shy, what is the next step for the USMC? Our guest to discuss will be Dakota Wood, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret), a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He is currently involved in studying the operational challenges of irregular warfare, complex contingencies under high-technology conditions, and proliferated nuclear environments. Before his retirement, LtCol Wood served in a wide variety of operational and staff assignments, including the Corps’ Military Assistant to the Director of the Office of Net Assessment and, provided defense issues analysis support to the Commandant of the Marine Corps on assignment to the Strategic Initiatives Group. Following his retirement, he provided support to the DHS as Operations Officer for the National Biosurveillance Integration System.
That’s 5pm (1700), U.S. Eastern Time, 16 January 2011.
If you miss the live show, you can download the show later from the Midrats page at BlogTalkRadio or on iTunes.
Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio
J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation, has the most thankless job in the Pentagon. This guy, more than anybody else, knows where the bodies are buried on various platforms–and nobody listens to him.
As a weapons tester and evaluator, he is hated by program managers, dismissed as a cantankerous, meddling fool by the programs dinged by DOT&E testers, and yet, sadly, his data-driven critiques are often right.
J. Michael Gilmore was the one who first raised the red flag about the Virginia Class–and it’s issues with troublesome subsystems. The Program Managers pushed back, got their two-hull per year production agreement inked and then, in the space of a few weeks, three Virginia Class subs showed up with their Special Hull Treatment in tatters. I blogged about it, and then the story went national.
J. Michael Gilmore is changing DOT&E. Usually public DOT&E stuff is buried in a hard-to-reach annual catalog for Congress, little-reported upon beyond the cozy confines of the Inside the Navy subscription wall (and, well, this blog and maybe Tim Colton). But things are changing. DOT&E reports are now posted, here.
And J. Michael Gilmore is talking.
1050L 24 Oct 1944. USS St. Lo (CVE-63) is under heavy air attack. After successfully fending off the superior surface force of VADM Takeo Kurita’s Center Force, “Taffy 3” is now defending against a surprise air attack that has lasted some 40 minutes already. One of the features of this attack is the use of suicide attacks.
The “Divine Wind” — Kamikazes.
In the midst of battle, St Lo is struck by a plane flown by Lt Yukio Seki. Penetrating the escort carrier’s unarmored flight deck, the plane and its bomb explode in the port hangar bay, igniting a massive fire with secondary explosions. When the bomb and torpedo magazine detonates, St. Lo is engulfed in flames and sinks 30 minutes later. Barely 6 days later, the carriers Franklin and Belleau Wood were struck by suicide aircraft. Both were forced to retire for repair before rejoining the fleet. This emerging threat, kamikaze attacks, were a hint of what was to come as the Fleet closed on the Japanese homeland. The urgency for getting Cadillac’s capabilities operationally deployed was being underscored by increasing losses in the Pacific…
Development & Production
Recognizing the importance of the Cadillac system, an early decision was made by the Navy to establish production coincident with its development. To be sure, this imparted significant risk to the program, but in light of its benefits this was deemed acceptable. To facilitate this plan, the project was divided into five parts: shipboard system; airborne system; airborne radar; radar transmitter; and beacons and IFF. So far, what had been brought together was still not much more than a conceptual model – it was time for building actual sets. Development was undertaken in earnest shortly after approval in May 1944. Using ground-based radar located atop Mt. Cadillac and operating at low power to simulate the APS-20, work on the airborne elements, particularly the relay equipment was well underway. This arrangement allowed prolonged simulation of the air- and ship-board environment, contributing significantly to the shortened development timeline.
Progress was measured in the completion of each of the first 5 developmental sets envisioned. The first set flew in August 1944 –
barely 3 months after the approval to begin work was received. Each subsequent system saw incremental improvements over its predecessor with the improvements folded back into the earlier models. By October 1944 a full-fledged demonstration was flown for the benefit of USAAF and USN leaders. These demonstrations consisted of 2 aircraft and 1 shipboard set and were flown out of Bedford Airport (later known as Hanscom AFB), Massachusetts. By all accounts, the demonstration was extremely successful, which boded well for the production units, forty of which had been ordered by the Navy in July 1944.
As additional developmental sets were completed, permanent sites were established in Bedford and MIT (originally scheduled for Brigantine, NJ). The latter was established at MIT for the purpose of evaluating the system in the heavy interference conditions expected in the operational environment. It was in this environment that the first major problem was uncovered as the system was found to jam itself – interference was so bad that rotational data as transmitted by the double-pulsed coding and passed over the relay link was virtually completely jammed. An extraordinary effort though on the part of the development team led to a triple pulse encoding scheme. With little time to fully test this new set-up (there was considerable rework in the synchronizers, relay receivers and decoders to be accomplished), the third set was packed off to formal Navy trials at the CIC Group Training Center, Brigantine, NJ that started in January 1945 – only two weeks behind schedule
In December, at the height of the crisis over finding a means to address the interference problem, DCNO(Air) disclosed to Cadillac team leaders the urgency by which their equipment was required to combat the rapidly growing kamikaze threat. Even though Cadillac was already at the top of the Navy’s electronics development requirements, with the increased need, the Navy made available substantial numbers of officers, technicians, draftsmen and even a special air transport system to facilitate delivery of parts and personnel.
On the production side, a flexible system of generalized target dates were crystallized as designs firmed up, permitting incorporation of changes as experience was gained with the development units. Though this was undoubtedly the least economic process in terms of cost, the brute force development/production method was necessary to ensure delivery of the critical sets in time for the invasion of Japan — anything less than the very high priority Cadillac carried would have hampered successful completion. Nevertheless, a production schedule was agreed to in June with BuAer that would start deliveries of operational systems with two in February 1945. This was subsequently modified in November for initial delivery of 1 set in March 1945 followed by 4 in April and then 8 per month afterwards.
Not long after starting operational evaluations at Brigantine, more problems were discovered, centered primarily on interference issues in the shipboard environment. Again, most of us today are well aware of the hazards the witches’ brew of RF in the CV environment. Mixtures of high-powered radars operating at different frequencies overlaid with HF, VHF and UHF voice comms provide an extremely challenging environment to develop and deploy a new system, even with the benefit of fifty plus years of experience. Without the benefit of that experience, the roadblocks encountered are not surprising. More modifications were made to the shipboard system with filters to screen out the extraneous radiation. Additionally, as more experience was gained with the APS-20 radar, it was determined that anti-clutter filters were needed to reduce the effect of large clutter discretes from the sea’s surface in and around the immediate vicinity AEW platform (typically out to 20 nm from ownship). Mounting the antenna above the airframe would have resolved this problem, using the aircraft itself to screen out large clutter discretes encountered from returns within 10-15 nm from the platform, but that was not an option for the Avenger platform.
On the West coast, training in the TBM-3W for pilots and crewmen was undertaken by the Fleet Airborne Electronics Training Unit (FAETU) in preparation for deployment. While the crews were in training, the USS Ranger (CV-4), recently returned from delivering aircraft to allied forces in Casablanca, entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard 17 May 1945 for a six-week overhaul, during which a CIC and the Cadillac shipboard equipment were installed. Underway again in July, she arrived at North Island on July 25th where she loaded aboard her airwing. This airwing was different from the conventional wing in that it included several developmental concepts; among these were the Cadillac configured TBM-3Ws and the Night Air Combat Training Unit from Barber’s Point. By August 1945 she was in Hawaiian waters conducting final CQ prior to leaving for Japanese waters when the war ended.
With the end of the war, Cadillac was almost, but not quite completed. While the carrier-based component did not have a chance to prove itself in combat, the utility of carrier-based AEW was so clear and its applications so far ranging in impact that further development and deployment would continue post-war, with deployments on Enterprise and Bunker Hill. In addition to the carrier-based component, a second development was begun under Cadillac II for a more robust airborne capability. That will be the subject for the next installment.
Wing span: 54.2 ft
Length: 41.0 ft
Weight (empty): 11,893 lbs
Weight (max): 14,798 lbs
Max Speed: 260 mph @ 16,450 ft
Cruise: 144 mph
Svc ceiling: 28,500 ft
Range (scout): 845 miles
To Be Continued…
Every year since 1961, the Royal Navy has held a photography competition open to both members of the Navy’s Photographic branch and amateurs photogs in the service. This year’s competition attracted 480 entries showing various parts of Royal Navy life. Last week, the Royal Navy announced the winning entries for 2010. Enjoy.
Last week, Galrahn and I separately discussed the power of rumor in US warship movements. Specifically, how the rumor of an eleven warship American fleet passing through the Suez channel might affect the behavior of certain Mideast states. This week, we have a second example of this type of rumor. Two days ago a Global Post blog reported that 46 US Navy warships and 7,000 Marines were on their way to Costa Rica. Yep, you read that right, 46 ships.
The truth is more mundane. There are Marines on their way south, but not to fight. The 600 Marines are part of Operation Continuing Promise 2010, which set sail with USS Iwo Jima on July 12. USS Iwo Jima will be home to 1,600 personnel conducting medical assistance, construction, and other assistance programs in Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Panama, and Suriname. Why did the Global Post misreport the story? There are many possibilities: bad fact checking, sensational reporting, etc… However, my personal favorite comes from a commenter on Daniel Lamothe’s Marine Times Blog, Battle Rattle: “Well Dan,” the commenter says, “that’s because 1 marine is worth about 700 other military fighters”.
Last week, 600 activists aboard six ships attempted to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza. IDF commandos stormed the ships 68 miles off the coast of Israel, killing almost of dozen activists in a botched raid. In the aftermath of the raid, both Turkey and Iran Revolutionary Guard (IRC) have proposed sending armed escorts to protect a future flotilla to Gaza. However, few believe either Turkey or the IRC will follow through on their rhetoric and run the Gaza blockade.
However, now it looks like another faction in Iran might try. Today, the head of the Iranian Red Cross (not to be confused with the ICRC), Abdolrauf Adibzadeh, announced on Press TV that Iran is sending two ships with humanitarian supplies and a “Navy hospital ship” to Gaza at the end of this week. I do not know of any Iranian hospital ships, but that is likely besides the point. If true, this sets Iran and Israel to face off in the largest naval confrontation in recent years.
In every battle there is a moment when the combatants, and the world, seem to catch their breath. It is a fleeting moment, lost in the blink of an eye. But in that same blink, everything changes. Such moments are borne of desperation, of courage, of plain dumb luck. But they are pivotal – for what was before is forever changed afterwards. – SJS (June 2007)
Three years ago I wrote that at the end of a series of posts (which are collected here) that began on the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, and culminated on the anniversary of Midway with some modern day observations and what we might take away. For even today, with all our technological sophistication there are still things we can learn at all levels, be it at the Fleet or in the cockpit or on the bridge. One of those lessons is the role of the individual and seizing the initiative when everything else seems to be going to hell in a handbasket around you. That was something impressed upon me as a young LTJG E-2C Mission Commander and I found resonance and inspiration from the JO’s and petty officer’s actions that pivotal day.
And sometimes it means pressing ahead into a situation from which you know there is no way out — but to do otherwise would result in a greater loss.
There aren’t too many of them left — the original Midway vets that is. Same for the Doolittle Raiders. Ditto Medal of Honor awardees from that era. These modern day Samuel’s raised their Ebenezer in our darkest hours – and what was before was forever changed.
The job wasn’t finished yet though, and the way ahead was still perilous — Guadalcanal, Savo Island, Bloody Tarawa (can it ever be though of as just Tarawa?), Iwo Jima, Anzio, Normandy, Bastogne and the Meuse — Okinawa; all lay in the future. But it was a future made possible by the fighting spirit of the Navy, Marines and Army Air Corps in a far flung theater whose battlefield was but a featureless, sun-dappled sea of blue. Still, more would come and follow in their footsteps. And you and I today carry their proud heritage forward.
The far horizon is difficult to discern these days and it may well indeed hide gathering storm clouds – from whence direction I can not say for certain. But it would do us well to heed their lessons and remember their deeds when the warning flags are broken and we are called to battlestations once again.
– SJS, June 2010
- Midrats this Sunday, May 17 2013 – Episode 167: Intellectual Integrity, PME, and NWC
- Remembering our Fallen Coast Guard Shipmates and their Families
- On Midrats 10 Mar 13, Episode 166: “Expeditionary Fleet Balance”
- Guest Post by LTJG Matthew Hipple: From Epipolae to Cyber War
- For Strength and Courage: Neptunus Lex