Archive for June, 2010


Navy Life

June 2010


Being one of the resident civilians on this blog, I feel certain topics are off-limits. Put broadly, I do not write on internal Navy matters. Grand strategy, strategy, operations, tactics, and politics are fair game, but uniforms and Burger Kings on FOBs are not.

That said, I do have some understanding of what comprises life in the Navy. Or, at least I thought I did until I read this.

Hat tip to Starbuck.

It seems that the Chinese military does not share the same enthusiasm for information technology as the DoD.

“China has issued an edict banning its 2.3 million military personnel from blogging or creating homepages or websites, AP reports. The new rules came into force on 15 June, as part of a People’s Liberation Army Internal Affairs Regulation. Wan Long, a PLA political commissar, told Xinhua news agency: “Soldiers cannot open blogs on the internet no matter [whether] he or she does it in the capacity of a soldier or not.”

I read this article in the context of another article “Diplomacy 2.0” which Galrahn covered as important background in discussing the Marine Corps Operating Concepts (3rd edition). Short term, I believe this will help the Chinese in obscuring both their military and diplomatic intentions. But, in the long term, I am not so sure this will work out for them. What I wonder is, what are the tactical or strategic advantages that Milblogging actually brings to the Nations that allow it. Much the World’s economy is predicated upon shared electronic connectivity and the ability of ideas and information to pass quickly and easily across people and nations. Because of this, are we now starting to see China form the modern version of the Soviet Union’s economic policies of the 20th Century?

CDR Salamander over at his place wrote about the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) program, even posting the NAVADMIN regarding it. This caught me off guard, in that while I have known about the program since shortly after its inception late last year; I had no idea that it was garnishing enough attention to warrant official sanction from OPNAV. Though from the outset, and despite being loath to add any more programs onto the pile, I thought this was and is a good idea, for the most part.

Being a PO2 on an optimally manned ship is not an easy thing. I made PO2 at a breakneck pace: 25 months from swearing in. Once I put on PO2, I knew–and was told–that there were no more excuses, I had to perform. But, to this point (and to this day) I’ve had no one to lead in learning how to lead (not just telling someone what to do while on watch, but to truly be a deckplate leader). Yes, of course there were instances where leadership was demanded and I had to lead and perform my duties as the senior person present, but those times were the exception. Day-to-day leadership I know very little about. Why? Because just about everyone is a Petty Officer in the Navy. On optimally manned platforms the pool of personnel junior to me is minute, and the window in which they are junior to me is measured in months, typically. Some Rates usually show up to the boat as E-4s, or make E-4 the next cycle after they report, and it’s around 75% advancement to E-5 for a few Rates as well. PO2 doesn’t mean much because of this; but, CSADD can change that. Some Petty Officers today seem to be cutting their teeth in regards to leadership once they get to the PO1 level because of how we promote and how man our platforms, let CSADD start to change this as well. It can put us in a position to both be a mentor and learn what it is to lead.

My first thought on discovering CSADD was that it was a program for the junior personnel to own. I also thought the CSADD program was going to stay a grassroots initiative (if it was ever was one). I know we’ve got our talking points from OPNAV, and I am sure we’re going to print them out and have them available. But, talking points from on high probably won’t resonate with the deckplates or many of the situations leading to destructive decisions. The two E-4s are going to talk about the party they all know is going to happen next Friday, and about staying away from that new female E-2 that just checked aboard, at the party. The E-5 will be talking to his fellow E-5, telling him not to blow his reenlistment bonus at the next liberty port (thought it would probably be a hell’uva lot of fun). Those are blanket examples sure, but getting through to a person in preventing a destructive decision, you need to be specific to them, you need to know them and the circumstance. Talking points don’t do that, the shipmate does. I think that is the spirit of this initiative.

The Navy for all of its talk of wanting to engage the World using web 2.0 applications is totally missing the point in how CSADD spread on facebook, through one of the central tenants of web 2.0: Viral marketing. CSADD spread virally across facebook, I was made aware of it when a fellow PO2 posted it on their page. When I found it, I thought it was mine by finding it, I thought it was great because of its seemingly informal nature which in turn gave it an altruistic quality that anything official automatically lacks. Why did the parents big Navy have to get involved and make it ‘uncool’? 

Still, this is OK. This program can still work. Just prevent any administrative requirements which tie into Division In The Spotlight inspections. Let the Chief’s Mess supervise the junior Sailor’s work in CSADD while still letting the junior Sailors lead. As the good CDR already pointed out, we’ve got a safety net eight layers deep behind the junior Petty Officer and Bluejacket looking out for their Shipmate, in case they err while learning to lead and mentor. We have limited leadership opportunities for junior personnel in reduced manning and quick advancement. Please, allow this initiative to be one of the few opportunities where we can lead.

“Sherman, set the way-back machine to 1953, the place, KGB headquarters in Moscow”.

In case we needed a reminder of Russian intentions and character in international espionage, MSNBC published this story this afternoon:

10 alleged Russian secret agents arrested

U.S. alleges they lived as Americans, tried to infiltrate policymaking circles

WASHINGTON — They have American names like Cynthia Murphy, but the U.S. says 10 people facing charges are actually Russian secret agents whose “deep cover” stretched back 20 years and included scenes from a bad spy novel — including corny code words and document exchanges at public areas like New York’s Central Park.

The Justice Department announced the charges Monday, alleging the suspects were tasked with penetrating U.S. policymaking circles and hiding “all connections between themselves and Russia” by posing as civilians.

Most of the suspects were arrested on Sunday. An 11th suspect was on the run Monday.

The suspects allegedly worked for the SVR, Russia’s intelligence service and the successor to the Soviet KGB. They lived across the Northeast:Manhattan; Boston, Mass.; Montclair, N.J.; Yonkers, N.Y.; and Arlington, Va.

The federal complaint details a spy novel-like operation that includes false identities, secret communications, money and document handoffs in heavily trafficked public areas like New York’s Grand Central Station and Central Park.

One of the most interesting comments in the story was this one:

The complaint alleges the defendants were sent to the United States and told not to get government jobs but to set themselves up as “normal citizens.” They were allegedly tasked to get in touch with “influential” Americans — college professors, contractors, congressional staffers.

Read the rest here.

But such activity and attention doesn’t bode well for US policy of late in trying to “reset” friendly relations with Putin’s Russia.

Sometimes the soft approach comes out worse for having collided with realpolitik. Russia remains a rival and potential adversary. We would do well to remember that such has been the case for many decades with the US, and many centuries with Western Europe.


Apparently neither Putin nor Medvedev considered me “influential”. A damned shame.

Somehow, “Cold War” doesn’t seem to be the descriptive term. Just sayin’…..

“When it come to makin’ da rules, NUTHIN’ is understood!”

From WAPO, as if this makes a bit of difference:

Rolling Stone broke interview ground rules with McChrystal, military officials say


Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010; 4:24 PM

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has made no public comment since President Obama relieved him of his Afghan war command Wednesday, silently taking his lumps for disparaging remarks he and his aides made about administration officials in the presence of a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine.

But the command has concluded from its own review of events that McChrystal was betrayed when the journalist quoted banter among the general and his staff, much of which they thought was off the record. They contend that the magazine inaccurately depicted the attribution ground rules for the interviews.

Read the rest here. But it seems to be a post mortem of “how stupid could we be?” And still the point is missed. It isn’t that the disparaging of the General’s seniors was done on the record, the issue is that it was done AT ALL!

The General is quite fortunate that neither he nor any of his staff has been charged under Article 88.

Who knows? Maybe he can eat fifty eggs….



It seems the common question regarding this entire affair is “why”? Why did General McChrystal agree to such an interview/embed? Why did he find nothing objectionable when previewing the article? What did he hope to accomplish with such a commentary?

In discussions with a friend who deals daily with issues involving the “new social media”, blogging, Twitter, Tweet, non-traditional media sources (of which RSM could definitely be considered one), the phrase used that seemed to sum up such a major faux pas was this:

Old dudes trying to be hip.

Senior officers trying to embrace and use these new and wide-open forms of social media to accomplish traditional messaging tasks. Without understanding that these social media exist and are so popular and powerful precisely because there is very little control and exchanges are free and unregulated, with all of the good and bad inherent in such a platform. A blog ain’t a replacement for skillful strategic messaging. One might reach the intended audience, but will also reach everybody else, whose subsequent input, comment, distortion, agenda, and legitimate alternate viewpoints will dilute or even destroy the precise effects intended.

Sounds like my friend has something there. What does the MILBLOG mafia think? Was Sagst du?

My jaw dropped when Iran boldly announced that it was sending a Red Crescent flotilla of its own to Gaza. This was going to be a high seas confrontation between Iran and Israel, two bitter enemies. However, the entire time I was thinking about the flotilla, a little voice in the back of my head kept saying: “This is Iran, the masters of inaction, beware”. But I did not listen. The Iranian flotilla was going to happen, and it was going to be a big freaking deal.

Now, it looks like I should have listened to that little voice. The Iranian Red Crescent quietly announced last week that two ships of the flotilla were being delayed due to lack of coordination and a change of cargo with “no definite” date of departure. The third ship of the flotilla seems to have to disappeared entirely, or at least is unworthy of mentioning. The real message is clear: the Iranian flotilla is not happening.

Lastly, there is one interesting sidebar to this story. On June 21st, media outlets reported a fleet of one Israeli and 11 American warships passing south through the Suez Canal. Later that day, Galrahn serendipitously discussed the phantom fleet reports and the power of fleets to change national behavior. Why serendipitously? Because Iran announced the delay of the Red Crescent flotilla on the same day as the phantom fleet’s Suez passage. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

The horrors of the trenches of the Western Front have all but vanished from living memory with the passing of the last few Veterans of “The War to End All Wars”. But it is important that we remember, and that we honor the generation that bled so terribly on the soil of France to make the world “safe for democracy”.

One of those brave souls is surely remembered still in the family lore of succeeding generations, a United States Marine who went to France and never returned. He has been found at last:

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War I, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

U.S. Marine First Sergeant George H. Humphrey of Utica, N.Y., will be buried on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery. On Sept. 15, 1918, Humphrey participated in the first U.S.-led offensive of the war under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. The battle with the Germans became known as the St. Mihiel Offensive. There were 7,000 Allied losses during this offensive and it was the first use of the American use of the term “D-Day” and the first use of tanks by American units.

Humphrey, a member of the U.S. 6th Marine Regiment, attached to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, was killed in action during the battle and his remains were buried by fellow Marines the next day. In October 1919, a Marine who witnessed the death wrote a letter to Humphrey’s brother recounting the attack near the village of Rembercourt. He included a map of his recollection of the burial site.

Attempts to locate Humphrey’s remains by U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel following the war were unsuccessful. In September 2009, French nationals hunting for war relics found artifacts near Rembercourt-sur-Mad they believed to be those of a World War I American soldier. A month later, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the area, recovering human remains and military-related items including a marksman’s badge with Humphrey’s name engraved on the back.

Welcome home, First Sergeant. The democracy that you fought to save remains, and those of us who know what you did are eternally grateful. Our admiration for your courage and that of your comrades bridges the generations and the decades.

Semper Fidelis. May you rest in eternal peace.

While most of the defense community’s attention is firmly fixed on McChrystal-gate, my focus is on the softer and often overlooked side of US Navy operations. Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in an annual series of humanitarian and civic assistance operations projecting US soft power in the Pacific Rim. This year, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is visiting six nations, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste. To give these servicemen the credit they deserve, below is a series of photos from Pacific Partnership 2010. Enjoy.


Caption: The daughters of Cantorna, chief hospital corpsman, wave good-bye to their father aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy at Naval Base San Diego. Mercy’s mission is designed to enhance relationships through medical, dental and engineering outreach projects along with host and partner nations. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark August


Caption: Maj. Brian Glodt, a doctor embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, treats a Cambodian child during a Pacific Partnership 2010 medical civic action event at Sihanoukville Hospital, Cambodia. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison


Caption: A Cambodian child plays jump rope with a Sailor from the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Goodwill School. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Husman


Caption: Lt. Brad Clove, embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Goodwill School. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Husman


Caption: U.S. Pacific Fleet Band members play and dance with Vietnamese children during a concert at the Nha Van Hoa Lao Dong cultural center in Quy Nhon, Vietnam, supporting Pacific Partnership 2010. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Martin


Caption: Royal Australian Navy Lt. Elizabeth Livingstone and Singapore army Maj. Paul Zhao, both doctors embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, perform cataract surgery on a Vietnamese patient aboard Mercy during a Pacific Partnership 2010 visit to Quy Nhon, Vietnam. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison


Caption: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Hunt, hospital corpsman, embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, blows bubbles with children during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service project at Starfish Primary School in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Joshua Martin


Caption: Cmdr. Charlotte Yuen, a Navy doctor embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, paints with with children during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service project at Starfish Primary School in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Joshua Martin


Caption: A Cambodian child plays jump rope with Petty Officer 1st Class Yissel Castanon, embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Goodwill School. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Husman


Caption: Cambodian children play games with Sailors and non-governmental organization volunteers embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Enfants du Cambodge orphanage. Photo by Seaman Jon Husman


Caption: Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, holds a Vietnamese child during his visit to the pediatric ward aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison

I am fine with the notion that enlisted benefits will be reduced. That is with a caveat: as long as it leads to a positive impact in our ability to win wars.
When I returned to my home town for the first time as an E-4, I discovered I made more money than my close friends, as well as my mom who is an elementary school teacher. Granted I am much more trained and perform much more demanding skills than most of my friends. But, even with those who are skilled and trained in their demanding tasks commensurate with my own: I am still earning more, and will have a pension and an IRA when it’s all said and done. As an E-5 with BAH, I make significantly more than my friends. Now, in Afghanistan I cost something like a million dollars a year by just having my boots on the ground. How is that sustainable?

What concerns me the most is that we’re in an adaptation race with terrorists; the cost of their adaptation is orders of magnitude lower than our own. If we do not change the costs of our adaptation and/or our ability to afford adapting, we will not be able to win this war. Just as the Soviets could not sustain their efforts against us in the Cold War. We had the Anti-ballistic Missile treaty which put an end to the most visible aspect of our adaptation race with the soviets. But, we will have no such a treaty with terrorists, nothing is sacred anything can be used to defeat us. To stay competitive against this in our current war on terrorism we need to make our ability to adapt sustainable, possibly for generations. I think the Secretary of Defense knows this, and I believe that is why he said nothing is sacred and everything must be looked at to see if we can cut costs, or if we really need it. If a reduction in enlisted benefits directly contributes towards winning, then it must be done. However, when it is done, it will be a challenge to make sure the deckplates understand this fact and it should be directly demonstrated to us how the Navy is better off for it.

Like seeing a chop saw taken to a 1966 Mustang convertible. It is a damned shame that a garage couldn’t somehow be built for this vintage 2,200-ton sports car of the sea. And that we couldn’t pull it in there and tinker with it on weekends until it looked like new and we could take it out for a spin.

Well, I spose you could. For only a few tens of millions of dollars, and with 200+ highly trained best buddies.



UPDATE: Calling all ship sleuths out there! Methinks the vessel in the above picture is ex-USS Aulick (DD-569), ex-HNS Svendoni (D-85). If so, here she is in her glory days of Greek service:

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Navy | 13 Comments
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