Archive for December, 2010

From Proceedings Magazine, June 2008:

…I never have to strain my memory to recall the day I decided to join the Navy. It was 7 December 1941. I was driving from my home in Van Meter, Iowa, to Chicago to discuss my next contract with the Cleveland Indians, and I heard over the car radio that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. I was angry as hell…

…But it makes a difference when you go through a war, no matter which branch of the service you’re in. Combat is an experience that you never forget. A war teaches you that baseball is only a game, after all—a minor thing, compared to the sovereignty and security of the United States. I once told a newspaper reporter that the bombing attack we lived through on the Alabama had been the most exciting 13 hours of my life. After that, I said, the pinstriped perils of Yankee Stadium seemed trivial. That’s still true today….

Read the rest here

Posted by admin in History, Navy | 4 Comments

Great, short, poignant piece on the US Naval History Blog.

Chief Gunner’s Mate Feller represents a time when our heroes were, well, heroes. Williams, Spahn, Robinson, Bauer, Doby. And many others. Almost all gone, now. Their ilk will never be seen again.

As the media environment continues to fragment in the future, engaging ever-diversifying platforms and channels will become more difficult for the military. But, as General Creighton Abrams reputedly once said, “If you don’t blow your own horn, someone will turn it into a funnel.” Under conditions of the current new media blitz, his possibly apocryphal words might be paraphrased to say, “If you don’t engage, someone else will fill the void.” Surrendering the information environment to the adversary is not a practical option. Therefore, the military must seriously consider where information and the new media lie in relationship to conventional warfighting functions. One thing seems sure: we must elevate information in doctrinal importance, and adequately fund and staff organizations dealing with information.

The “era of persistent conflict” that characterizes today’s operational environment is likely to endure for the foreseeable future, “with threats and opportunities ranging from regular and irregular wars in remote lands, to relief and reconstruction in crisis zones to sustained engagement in the global commons.”

Learning to Leverage New Media, The Israeli Defense Forces in Recent Conflicts (PDF), Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, U.S. Army; Mr. Dennis M. Murphy; and Mr. Anton Menning

I believe the Wikileaks organization, with the recent release of diplomatic cables, represents a form of cyber attack against the United States of America. In that context, the information contained within the leaks, information classified and originally owned by the United States, is the weapon being used in the attack. I have long argued and I still believe the DoD treats information as a weapon and that viewpoint represents an Achilles heal of the DoD. Because information is treated as a weapon, the DoD often resorts to old doctrine when dealing with an information threat – and the tactics used to deal with the threat become remarkably predictable. I have been expecting an overreaction like this.

The Air Force is blocking computer access to The New York Times and other media sites that published sensitive diplomatic documents released by the Internet site WikiLeaks, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Air Force Maj. Toni Tones said more than 25 websites have been blocked and cannot be viewed by any Air Force computer. The ban does not apply to personal computers.

She said the action was taken by the 24th Air Force, which is commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Webber and is responsible for cyberwarfare and computer security for the service. The move was approved by Air Force lawyers, she said.

The Army and Navy say they have not taken similar actions.

The United States Air Force has done a wonderful job here undermining the confidence of the American people regarding the ability of the USAF to be responsible cyberwarfare practitioners for our nation. Wikileaks is, among many things, an interesting study in cyberwarfare because it represents a direct information warfare campaign against the United States in the cyber domain with the intent of undermining the relationships between other nations and the United States, and it does this by undermining the trust required for good working diplomatic relationships. The 24th Air Force has undertaken a self-defeating approach that casually tosses away all lessons learned by fighting other online adversaries in those cyber domain information wars.

In the context of information being seen as a weapon by the DoD, and thus a threat to the DoD; it is hardly surprising that the first major public action taken in response to Wikileaks by the United States Air Forces elite cyber command is to build a big wall – after all, when you are under attack one is supposed to build a defense, right? The US Air Force cannot possibly be criticized enough for this action, because it goes against everything the DoD has supposedly learned about information warfare. In the quote that led this article, this portion sticks out.

“Surrendering the information environment to the adversary is not a practical option. [T]he military must seriously consider where information and the new media lie in relationship to conventional warfighting functions. One thing seems sure: we must elevate information in doctrinal importance, and adequately fund and staff organizations dealing with information.”

Whether the 24th Air Force realizes it or not, the DoD has functionally surrendered the information environment to the Wikileaks adversary because the DoD refuses to engage the adversary, and to compound the problem the results of a lack of engagement has predictably led to a great deal of vigilante justice.

Vigilante Justice

The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.

Wikileaks Twitter Account

I would argue it would be responsible for the Chairman of the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to hold a hearing on the legality of hosting in the United States, and it would be within the roles and responsibilities of the Chairman to sponsor a bill that prevents US companies from hosting government classified information released by Wikileaks on private, commercial servers in the United States. That democratic process laid out by the Constitution towards developing law is what makes the United States great.

But instead of performing such a legal process, Senator Lieberman – who is the Chairman of the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – pressured several US private companies and forced Amazon to drop in an intimidation action well outside the law. Any American who doesn’t have a serious problem with the actions of Senator Lieberman needs to give serious thought regarding the dangers of government officials leveraging their position of official authority to pressure private industries outside the limits of law under the constitution. What does it mean for our freedoms and representation in a democracy when the protections of those freedoms can be casually tossed aside in the name of political agenda and expediency? The action ultimately taken by Senator Lieberman is one of vigilante justice, which is ironically how one could describe many of the actions taken in the name of Wikileaks by both supporters and critics.

The Chairman of the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would normally, in this case, be responsible for oversight on whether the United States government is being attacked and what the role the Department of Homeland Security would, or should, be in this situation. Wikileaks does not represent cyberwarfare by the definition I would use, rather information warfare leveraging cyberspace as the domain, but perhaps it is a form of cyberwarfare? I think many, like I, have wondered where the lines between DHS and US Cyber Command exist in the cyber defense of the United States, what constitutes an attack in cyberspace against the United States, whether information warfare can also be cyberwarfare, and what the role of government is in protecting private economic infrastructure like Visa, Mastercard, or Paypal when online vigilante’s organize to attack those services most Americans are dependent upon for commerce. Under better leadership, Wikileaks would represent a good reason for the Senate to debate and discuss towards a better understanding of these issues. Does anyone actually know what DHS is supposed to do in the many situations unfolding around the Wikileaks drama? The only thing we know for sure is that most Americans cannot answer these important questions, and to me that communication failure represents a failure in political leadership in dealing with the Wikileaks issue.

Influence Warfare

Does Wikileaks represent a form of cyber attack? Wikileaks is certainly a very interesting study of information warfare in the cyber domain that the United States government needs to be learning from instead of reacting to – or being influenced directly by so easily. I see strategy and tactics, and we are seeing the shadow spaces acting with vigilante justice in the absence of unified government leadership and command engaged with and informing the public. The governments response to Wikileaks has been to build a wall around itself, leaving the people outside the wall to marvel at what takes place inside the wall, and there has been a remarkable lack of engagement towards either Wikileaks or the American people.

As outsiders, we the people find ourselves in the same trenches as those who are operating as a vigilante. To understand what the vigilante’s not named Senator Lieberman have been doing so far, this PC Magazine article discusses the shaping operation by a vigilante that ultimately set up Wikileaks for a major strategic defeat.

When WikiLeaks released another collection of secret U.S. government documents this weekend the site came under attack from a hacker styled th3j35t3r (the jester). In announcing the hit, th3j35t3r tweeted “TANGO DOWN – for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations”. A now-deleted tweet clarified that the WikiLeaks hit was a simple denial of service attack. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, Mikko Hypponen, had this to say about the attack.

“It was a weird case,” said Hypponen. “Everybody assumed it was some large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attack, but the guy himself says it’s not. It’s a protocol-based attack from a single source.” Hypponen explained that WikiLeaks recovered by changing its hosting providers. At the time of the attack they were hosted in France. Now they’re using two different servers hosted by Amazon’s cloud, one of which is physically in the United States.

Asked if this type of attack could take down any arbitrary site Hypponen said “We just don’t know. The guy isn’t giving any details. But over the past months he has been quite successful taking down pro-Jihad forums and such. When he claimed responsibility for WikiLeaks I believed him right away. He had both the know how and the motive.”

Based on my own research, it appears to me that th3j35t3r has a military background, probably a retired officer of a western nation between the age of 35-45. As he explains on his own blog, there was a strategy behind the tactics.

As you may know I normally target Jihadist sites, but recently turned my attentions to Wikileaks.

So what was I thinking?

Initially, hitting Wikileaks servers hosted by OWNI (France), PRQ (Sweden), and BAHNHOF with ease, had the desired outcome of ‘corralling’ the Wikileaks operation onto a US hosted platform that could resist XerXeS – Amazon EC2.

The WL perceived victory was short-lived as enough pressure was now building both politically and technically (by that I mean service providers were aware that WL was now a prime target and couldn’t risk their own operations by providing services to WL).

As predicted, providers to WL started dropping them – first EveryDNS, then Amazon, then Paypal and Mastercard soon followed. The service providers acted as a force-multiplier, leaving the Wikileaks name nowhere to go except rely on volunteer mirrors.

So the head of the snake is almost cut off. The Wikileaks name is something few people, as far as service providers, will deal with. Their supply chain is being cut off.

So, great they have 2000 voluntary mirrors! By the very nature of volunteers providing ‘mirrors’ causes WL to be highly unstable as they will be up and down and sporadic on a day-by-day basis.

I was sitting at my desk at work when moved to Amazon servers, and I remember distinctly the conversation that immediately followed among all of us IT nerds in the office. It was clear to all of us that if the US government was serious about Wikileaks being illegal, something would be done about US companies supporting Wikileaks. If all of us knew it the very second we learned that Wikileaks had been moved to a US server, I do not doubt that th3j35t3r knew it too.

The White Flag

In the vigilante justice demonstrated by th3j35t3r we see actions driving predictable reactions with an overall strategy driving tactics. th3j35t3r had no idea that Senator Lieberman would play the role of another vigilante in the unfolding drama, but I think every one watching understood that the US government wasn’t going to tolerate very long the idea that US companies would host while they were waging an information war against our government. While I am completely opposed to and very troubled by the actions of Senator Lieberman, I am not opposed to the result. It is both predictable and understandable if you believe there is an information war taking place between Wikileaks and the United States – in this case a form of information warfare that Wikileaks has acknowledged is taking place.

The approach th3j35t3r took to drive Wikileaks to the US demonstrated strategic success on the cyber battlefield. The result of the strategy has legitimately damaged the Wikileaks organization by undermining the organizations credibility with businesses like Paypal, Mastercard, and Visa – thus has seriously damaged the organizations fundraising capabilities. True, Wikileaks releasing classified cables while being hosted on US servers was certainly a self-defeating activity, but at the time the organization didn’t see it that way.

By the same theory though we must also ask ourselves whether Wikileaks has found similar strategic success with the 24th Air Force. If Wikileaks forces the 24th Air Force to reject information from 25 sources, including several of the top media sources in the world, we must legitimately ask whether the Wikileaks strategy to get major news sources on board with the release of the cables was the strategy that defeated the US Air Forces premier cyber command, because that action combined with a self-defeating reaction has led to the denial, or concession of, the cyber domain including the New York Times by the 24th Air Force.

To be completely honest, I believe Maj. Gen. Richard E. Webber surrendered and conceded cyberspace like the New York Times and other media outlets to Wikileaks, and I don’t think it is out of bounds at all to question the leadership of the 24th Air Force if during the first major information war – their first public action was to raise the white flag. At best, 24th Air Force has publicly demonstrated the DoD is a long way from understanding the strategies, tactics, and the battlefield involved when cyberspace is the medium for an information war campaign against the United States. At worst, the 24th Air Force has completely ignored or rejected all of the lessons learned over the last decade fighting an information war against the global jihad.

Either way, the DoD has not demonstrated the agility and flexibility necessary to give confidence in the ability of the United States to conduct information warfare in the cyber domain, because Wikileaks has forced our own lawyers to beat our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines over the head by forcing the DoD to conform to the regulations driven by Section 793 and Section 1924, Title 18, United States Code. How is it possible that the American people have seen vigilante’s in the shadows and vigilante behavior among our own political leadership do more to date to address Wikileaks than any organized government effort? Unfortunately, the right answer is lawfare.

The US government is demonstrating a crisis in political leadership with an obvious inability to adapt when confronted with a complex information war in the cyber domain. I’d suggest our nations adversaries are learning quite a few lessons, including how predictable US action, inaction, and overreaction appears to be when certain pressures are applied.

The Department of Defense emphasizes information superiority, or information dominance depending upon slogan, and expects to defeat adversaries by being the smartest military with the right information while capable of being agile and flexible to leverage the information space and achieve an advantage. With that said, in this case the 24th Air Force has allowed the tactics of an adversary to broadly deny the organization access to information of several of the most credible news organizations in the western world. Under such conditions I believe it is a fair statement to suggest the 24th Air Force has been defeated by Wikileaks in this modern information war – even if the method of defeat was a self-defeating policy or surrender to the regulations found in lawfare.

Posted by galrahn in Air Force, Cyber | 14 Comments

Go Navy! Beat Army!

December 2010


This post leads with an outstanding article from

‘It’s just the brotherhood of the team’

This from the USS Abraham Lincoln:

The USS Enterprise:

USS Scranton (another day at the office)

ADM Miller:

At the invitation of the U.S. Naval Academy Fencing team, superintendent of the academy, VADM Michael Miller, uses one of their swords to cut down a “Go Army, Beat Navy” poster that was found on the door to his office. The fencing sword was appropriately labeled with a note that read “Sir! Cut through the Army’s lies.”

The Pentagon:

The Goat’s View

And from the MIDN themselves:

Have some more to add? Post below!

Big Thanks to the CHINFO folks for gathering all of these amazing videos on their Facebook page

Posted by admin in Army, Marine Corps, Navy | 4 Comments

Everett gets Nimitz

December 2010


Interesting news release from the US Navy this morning. Note the words regarding long-term strategic dispersal of aircraft and carriers.

The Navy announced today that the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) will be homeported at Naval Station Everett, Wash., upon completion of the ship’s docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) maintenance at Bremerton, Wash., in December 2011.

After a thorough analysis and review of related factors, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus decided to homeport Nimitz in Everett following the departure of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in early fiscal 2012 for a four-year refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) in Hampton Roads, Va. Abraham Lincoln is presently deployed to in the Central Command area of responsibility.

Nimitz was homeported in San Diego from Nov. 13, 2001, to Dec. 6, 2010, when the ship administratively shifted homeport to Bremerton for the duration of its year-long maintenance period.

The Navy’s decision to homeport Nimitz in Everett ensures long-term strategic dispersal of aircraft carriers on the West Coast and yields estimated cost savings and avoidance totaling more than $100 million.

“Many factors were considered here, including the quality of life for our sailors and their families, and the considerable cost savings to the American taxpayers,” said Mabus. “Maintaining a carrier in Everett will ensure long-term strategic dispersal and operational readiness of our fleet which is critical to our national security.”

Nimitz crewmembers who opted not to move family members during the extended maintenance period in Bremerton will be afforded the opportunity to conduct permanent change of station moves for eligible family members from San Diego to Bremerton and, subsequently, to Everett after completion of the DPIA.

The first in its class of 10 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, Nimitz was commissioned May 3, 1975, and was homeported in Bremerton from 1987 to 1997. With a planned 50-year service life expectancy, Nimitz conducted a RCOH at Newport News, Va., from 1998 to 2001.

The English language version comes courtesy of Bill Gertz in Inside the Ring. It is worth reading in full, but this is how it begins.

U.S. intelligence agencies are working to track down an alarming report from inside North Korea revealing that the communist regime is secretly developing underwater nuclear torpedoes and mines.

According to a newsletter run by dissident North Koreans, the report states that North Korea’s government has a special group of researchers at the National Defense Technology Institute that is “developing underwater weapons using nuclear warheads.” The report was published Dec. 3 by the Korean-language newsletter NK Chisigan Yondae, or NK Intellectual Solidarity.

The U.S. Navy once had nuclear torpedoes and mines, as did the Soviet navy, and China’s military also has discussed the use of nuclear torpedoes in its military writings as recently as 2006.

The original report in Korean that is being discussed can be found here.

Keep in mind this is an unconfirmed report from a group of North Korean defectors. What seems to add some credibility to this new report is a “secret” Wikileaks cable dated September 26, 2008 when a Chinese diplomat told a US diplomat that North Korea failed to report “critical information about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North Korea’s coast.”

The idea of nuclear sea mines is not a new idea, there are several Chinese articles that have discussed the nuclear sea mine capability over the last decade. In China’s Underseas Sentries, a Winter 07 Underwater Magazine article by Andrew Erickson, Ph.D., Lyle Goldstein, Ph.D., & William Murray, the Chinese discussion is mentioned:

Submarines have attracted particular attention as a deployment platform for rising mines. An article by Dalian Naval Academy researchers suggests significant PLAN interest in SLMMs. A researcher at Institute 705 advocates acquisition of an encapsulated torpedo mine, similar to the Cold War-era U.S. Captor mine, which could be laid in very deep waters to attack passing submarines. Mine belts—external conformal containers designed to carry and release large numbers of mines—can be fitted to submarines in order to bolster their otherwise limited payloads. One article emphasizes that the Soviet navy developed a “mine laying module capable of carrying 50 sea mines on either side of the submarine” and states, “For the past few years related PLA experts have expressed pronounced interest in submarine mine belts…. The PLA very probably has already developed submarine mine belts.” Another source notes, however, that “submarines built after World War II rarely carry mines externally.”

Disturbingly, there is some discussion of a theoretical nature in Chinese naval analyses concerning arming sea mines with tactical nuclear weapons. One such analysis, in the context of discussing Russian MIW, notes that nuclear sea mines could sink adversary nuclear submarines from a range of 2000 meters…. A second article finds that a nuclear payload is one logical method to increase the destructive power of sea mines, while a third analysis argues that nuclear MIW is especially promising for future deep-water ASW operations. It concludes: “At this time, various countries are actively researching this extremely powerful nuclear-armed sea mine.”43 An article in the July 2006 issue of Modern Navy (Dangdai Haijun), published by the PLA Navy itself, in the context of discussing potential future PLA Navy use of sea mines, also notes the potential combat value of nuclear-armed sea mines. While there is no direct evidence of the existence of such naval tactical nuclear weapons programs in China, these articles do perhaps suggest the need to closely monitor any Chinese efforts in this direction.

The specific citations for the nuclear mine discussion are below:

焦方金 [Jiao Fangjin], “双头鹰的水中伏兵” [The Double-Headed Eagle’s Ambush at Sea], 国防科技 [Defense Science], July 2003, p. 91.
王 伟 [Wang Wei], “历久弥新话水雷” [Enduring and Yet Fully Relevant: A Discussion of Sea Mines], 国防 [National Defense], November 2002, p. 58.
陈冬元 [Chen Dongyuan], p. 45.

Is North Korea a signatory of the 1971 Seabed Treaty? I don’t think North Korea takes such things seriously, but use of a nuclear sea mine would be a clear violation.

In the focus of the Iranian nuclear program, I have discussed red lines that once crossed, means a military attack will likely come soon after. We have never really seen where a red line was crossed in regards to an Iranian nuclear program, but I am starting to wonder if someone in Seoul has decided North Korea has crossed that red line with the North Korean nuclear program. If so, it might help explain why the Obama administration seems to be committed to the new South Korean led strategy in dealing with North Korea, even if supporting that strategy takes the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.


Happy Anniversary!

December 2010


This blog. Two years. Wow.

Has it been that long?

A very short time in the amazing history of the Naval Institute…and a time to announce that we have a really great project this next year: the endeavor to put every article from Proceedings and Naval History online.


More than a century of great thought about the Sea Services.

We support the proposition that you should dare, which is not always a popular proposition.

That’s okay.

We’re in the position of publishing reasoned thought. Right or wrong? Challenge it…please. Our place is a venue, a forum (they said that in 1873 – cool).

The thoughts of the military are some of the most reasoned, difficult and controversial things to express.

Dare: to read, think, speak, write and blog.

A very big thanks to all who have taken the time to write and comment here – you Are Our Sea Services.


Posted by admin in Naval Institute | 21 Comments


Sixty-nine years ago those words ushered in a period of unbelievable agony, trial, effort and sacrifice. What was once before was forever changed afterward. Jack-booted thugs bent on their “Final Solution” strode cobblestone streets of the land distantly remembered as the forebear of a new nation, a New World. And across the broad expanse of the ocean called “peaceful” – because it’s discoverer found such contrast to the stormy passage he had recently survived, rampant nationalism was advancing at the tip of bayonet and crushing naval power.

The warnings were there – it’s just that being so far away; over the horizon in distance and mind, that what happened in the dim, exotic lands of East Asia just didn’t map to the concerns of Pennsylvania Avenue, Wall Street, or 5th and Main. The Old World was in flame yet again, though by now it was beginning to appear that once more, the oceans would serve as a guardian to keep the Ancient Evil – Over There and our boys home, over here. No more Beallau Woods, no more Marnes — no more Flanders. The plucky occupants of a small island off the coast of that continent – protected again by the seas, had apparently staved off the onslaught of the German air force, which washed across the Channel and appeared to break on the rocks of “the Few” who rose in their isle’s defense. Cause for muted celebration – but not really of our concern. And now that industrial war machine had turned its attentions to the riches of the Eurasian heartland and engaged in battle with yet another statist foe. Fascist against Communist, German against Russian; West vs Oest /Восток против Запада. Let them slug it out and bleed each other white – not our concern. Let the Old World and the Far East dissolve in flame and fury – we have our own problems and the great distances of the oceans to protect us…

Sixty-nine years ago a lesson was seared in a generation’s conscious and would underpin the awakening of a giant, heretofore unseen or much thought of.

A slogan was born and a promise made.

For the better part of the remaining century that followed, as plans were drawn, metal cut and bodies counted; that phrase lay, oft time unspoken, deep within the hearts and minds of men as they prepared for a war they hoped and prayed would never come.

It didn’t – and now, the problems at home seem so overwhelming. An economy that can’t seem to pick itself off the deck. A work force embraced by hopelessness of ever finding a job in a land of plenty. And across the broad oceans, beyond the visible horizon old forces are stirring once again in different lands. Scores to be settled – philosophies to be paid homage; resources to be gathered and sent homeward.

And a promise which rang with clarity across a land and through generations is but a fading whisper upon the ear.

Remember Pearl Harbor.

Last Wednesday, the 1/C midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy found out the community that they will become a part of after graduation. The 1/C entered the company wardroom, and one-by-one, nervously opened up the intimidating manila envelope detailing whether they would report to a ship, sub, flight school, The Basic School, or BUD/s after graduation. Waiting out the wardroom, we underclass could here cheers coming from the other side of the door- obviously a good sign. “Tradition” has it that each 1/C going Marine Corps gets his head shaved by the Plebes, and each 1/C going SEALs or EOD gets his head and eyebrows shaved. My company had six midshipmen go Marines, four go SEALs, and one go EOD; the Plebes had their work cut out for them.

The process for service assignments has changed in recent years. In the past, each community would have a set number of slots. The 1/C ranked in the top 100 of their class would pick first, then the next 100, and so on, until the anchorman picked. This process left little choice for those in the bottom quarter. Now, senior officers help midshipmen find the best match for them. For example, a higher ranked midshipman enters aviation as their first choice and surface warfare as their second. This midshipman would be okay with either aviation or surface warfare. A lower ranked midshipman enters the same choices, but has always wanted to be a naval aviator. The selection board would attempt to sway the higher ranked midshipman towards the surface community. Rankings still matter, but the new process does a better job at factoring in preferences. From an economic perspective, this maximizes utility for the entire class of 2011.

In my company, every midshipman was satisfied with their assignments. As the 1/C filed out from the company wardroom, I realized something… I only had one more year.

I’ve been looking through the couple of EVALs I’ve had. As most of you know, it’s one EVAL for every year of service, with the possibility of a special EVAL due to exceptional circumstances. Going IA and transferring in the same year has given me three EVALs this last year… I’m pretty sure that PERS 32 is getting sick of seeing EVALs with my name on it.

The most interesting thing I noticed in my EVALs comes from my first EVAL as a YN2. The reporting period is from 08MAY23 – 09MAR15 (first two digits are the year). This covered all but a few weeks of SAN ANTONIO’s maiden deployment. Block 29 is where a Sailor’s “Primary/Collateral/Watchstanding duties” are listed. Here is how mine reads:

Primary Duty: TADTAR MANAGER [Official travel funds manager]. Departmental YN-5 [I was responsible for Combat Systems and Health Services departments]. Coll: Legal YN-4, Official Mail Funds Manager-8, Registered Mail Courier-10, Assistant Dept PFA Coordinator-6, Dept RPPO-4, Dept Training PO-10, Asst Dept ESWS Coordinator. Watch: SCAT-10, POOW-10, SRF Team Leader-10, Navigation Detail-10, Repair 5S Investigator-10

I’ve had to reformat from how it looks on an actual EVAL so that it can be more readily understood. The numbers after the tac mark are the number of months I performed that duty during the evaluation period. You’ll notice a lot of ‘4s’ up there, this was due to a fellow Yeoman having to go cranking. While he was gone, I was the best one to take up the duties he could no longer perform. The ‘8’ next to Official Mail Funds Manager is due to SAN not requiring this program prior to deployment. “SCAT” stands for “Small Caliber Action Team”, we manned the 50cals when required. “PFA” is the Physical Fitness Assessment, as a coordinator I had to assist in making sure everyone did the ‘paperwork’ prior to the PFA. “SRF” is the Security Reaction Force, basically the ship’s SWAT team. “Repair 5s Investigator” was my General Quarters station and Condition II Damage Control station, I would have to go out and investigate for damage after a casualty and report what I saw to the repair locker officer, basically.

There were other duties I had as well, though due to the space limitations of an EVAL I couldn’t list every duty I had. There were others; not many, but a few more. I can’t remember exactly what they were, so I will omit them here. Additionally, this EVAL doesn’t mention the things you ‘just have to do’: Equal Opportunity training, in-Rate training, Information Assurance training, ‘don’t get drunk and do dumb things’ training, ‘don’t sleep with your shipmates’ training, medical training, ‘Don’t drive while tired’ training, and of course all the training and qualifications one has to get to earn their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin. To give context and underscore how typical my duties were, my trait average for this EVAL was 4.0. The Summary Group Average for this reporting period (The trait average of all evaluations during this period–all E-5s aboard) was 4.01. In other words, I was completely average.

So, why am I posting this. Because I believe it gives a good snapshot of what it is like for a midgrade Petty Officer aboard an Optimally Manned platform. If we’re expected to be hybrid Sailors, then we are living up to expectations. Often enough, I’d have to be two places at once. QMC (Chief Quartermaster) would be giving bearing taker training up on the bridge wing at the same time that FCC (Chief Fire Controlman) would be giving SRF training in the starboard P-way. I’d have to submit my financial report for travel funds at the same time I would be off ship for SRF-Advanced training. I’d have to submit the monthly training report to my Dept. Head at the same time I was trying to go see EN1 (Engineman First Class) to get my Ballast PQS signed off on for my ESWS pin. It would be up to me–with the blessing of my Chief–to decide what I wouldn’t do, or what I’d do later. “doing things later” sounds rather benign. But, what it amounts to, is having to do something quicker, with less time to QA, and with probably some ‘nasty-grams’ sent to the XO by SURFLANT, or something. Given a long enough time line like this, it becomes just how you operate–‘I will only do this when forced to’. Because, when being forced to do something is when it becomes important enough to be at the top of the pile. A Chief once told me “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”. I will never accept that the Navy charged me with a range of duties I just was not able to accomplish. I ‘won’t give up the Ship’ in a sense. But, I will accept the fact that a lower standard of accomplishment was expected of me.

On MIDRATS I said that one has to quickly internalize the training they were given. Because, sooner rather than later, you would be the one giving training and signing off on their qualifications, let alone being the person who is solely responsible for performing that duty. By that, I meant that a Sailor has to take tacit knowledge and make it explicit knowledge. Hybrid Sailors are demanded to understand the whole system as well as the niche that their Rate fills.

Complexity is a funny thing. Like an Escher drawing, it all depends on how an observer is able to look at it. There are ways to conceptualize it, to where it does not seem complex any more and the salient details become apparent. But, operating in a complex environment demands an amount of tacit knowledge that when tied into the amount of training given in ‘A’ school, the ability of a Sailor to properly perform their duties is far below what is needed. The argument is made over and over again, that tacit knowledge is best given in the environment it is from. You might have heard this argument phrased differently, ‘You’ll learn that best in the Fleet’. But, I believe that many metrics are indicating that more of a baseline and abstract understanding of the tacit aspects of shipboard operations are needed by the Sailor before reporting aboard, or being responsible for that duty/knowledge. I learned to be TADTAR manager by doing, and by doing my old XO used to get quite a few nasty grams from SURFLANT. I learned how to be a Legal YN by screwing up mast packages. I learned how to be RPPO by spending copious amounts of time down in S-1 and redoing orders multiple times, and by ending up not getting what the office desperately needed. I won’t tell you how I got qualified as Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW); it’s a funny story best told in person.

I am not saying that there shouldn’t, or can’t be things that one has to learn aboard ship. But, I do believe that there are far too many things I had to learn by doing wrong. I am saying that I really wish I had more training for duties of mine before I was wholly responsible for them. I am saying that when you add a system (even if automated) to another system, you inherently increase the complexity of that system and there by reduce explicit (opposite of tacit) knowledge of that system. Systems require additional training, additional maintenance. To cover these increased needs for training and additional maintenance, it seems that we’ve outsourced to civilians to accomplish these tasks–giving the impression that workload and training demands have been reduced for Sailors.

« Older Entries Newer Entries »