Archive for June, 2011

The greater navy community is trying to figure out how to “get through” to a new generation of Naval Officers. Senior Naval Officers have misinterpreted a lack of new membership at USNI as a lack of desire by young officers to be a part of the conversation when the opposite is true. The rise in sites such as “Sailorbob” is evidence of this. We want to have an impact in the conversation. Senior and retired officers that I have talked to also want us to be involved. Now both sides need to find a middle ground where both sides can communicate.

There are a few myths that I would like to first dispel. We, the millennial naval officers, are in fact proud members of the community. We have many similar stories and experiences. We have deployed to the same places and have enjoyed leading sailors. We still like having a cigar on the bridge wing at sunset, we still enjoy watching a rooster tail shoot up from the back of a Destroyer and we still drink coffee to get through a long watches in CIC. However, there is one large difference. We communicate differently. The Naval Institute is asking the hard questions of why their membership is aging and the younger officers are not joining in droves as they have in the past. The answer is that there is a communication divide which has to be actively addressed. Social media and blogging sites are how our generation communicates. We are less likely to develop our ideas for a magazine where it will take two or three months to see print when we can blog it and see feedback within hours, if not minutes. The Naval Institute Blog is a great step but it needs to go further. I see two avenues that can be addressed: Wardroom Discussion pieces, and Junior Officer advancement.

First of all, direct communication with ships in the fleet about what issues and concerns are facing them in real time is how you become relevant again. The Institute should be trying to drive the Wardroom conversations like they once did. Technological advances in communication should be seen as a step up instead of a step back. Ships can now have two-way communication, while at sea, with USNI. If a controversial issue is in Proceedings, there should be a call out to ships to have wardroom conversations on the piece and provide feedback on the website. A CO should drive this wardroom conversation and be proud to have the points that were raised posted under the ship’s name on the USNI website. I think that senior officers might be surprised at the results that they get back. Who knows, they might hear something new.

Secondly, while JO’s are trying to get qualified they are constantly in need of professional information. “Message to Garcia” tasking comes to mind. The Institute needs to ensure that the USNI website is the place that JO’s turn to for this information. Once JO’s see the Naval Institute as a resource that they can use, they will also see it as something that they want to contribute to. This will drive participation in the Blog as well as the magazines.

The Naval Institute is vital to the future of the professional dialog within the navy. The millennial generation of Naval Officers wants to be a part of this dialog, and already is in its own way. The goal of the Naval Institute should be to ensure that the dialog is happening in their forums.

LT Rob McFall is a Surface Warfare Officer that spent four years on USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL out of Norfolk, VA. He is currently stationed in Washington D.C. and is a member of the U.S. Naval Institute and the Next Generation of National Security Leaders at the Center for a New American Security.

[ADMIN Note: Tell us what you think, how the above might happen and we will engage as a staff to tell you what are trying to do internally. Also, please note we welcome guest posts]

On 8 June 2011, the United States Marine Corps conducted a post and relief of the senior enlisted Marine in the Corps at Marine Barracks 8th and I, Washington DC. SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent was relieved as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps by SgtMaj Michael Barrett, who becomes the 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. The relief brings to an end SgtMaj Kent’s 35 year career in the Corps.

I have had the honor and privilege to serve with SgtMaj Kent on two occasions, on Okinawa in 1996 and in Iraq (Where he was SgtMaj of I MEF) in 2004. He is a legend in our Corps, an inspiration and example to all Marines, but particularly to the SNCO, NCO, and junior enlisted Marines, to whom his dedication was boundless. A story of that dedication was recently in the Marine Corps Times. That story discussed, among other things, SgtMaj Kent’s leadership in the furnace of combat of Fallujah:

After the bloody fight in the house, Kent spoke to him and his fellow Marines at Camp Fallujah. Wounded, dirty and beaten down, the Marines choked up as Kent told them to honor the sacrifice of their fallen brothers, Workman said in his book.

“I know it’s tough right now. I know you’re hurting,” Kent said that day, according to Workman’s book. “We all are. But I want you to keep your heads up. We’re in a fight with a determined, fanatical enemy, and I’m going to need each of you in the weeks to come.”

Such is the man and Marine that SgtMaj Kent has been, each and every day. And it is why the young Marines, hardened by months of combat, looked upon him with a certain reverence which I have seen exceedingly rarely in my 25+ years in the Corps.

Farewell, SgtMaj Kent, and following seas. The impact you have had on countless young Marines in their careers in the Corps and in the rest of their lives cannot be overstated.

Welcome, SgtMaj Barrett, good luck and Godspeed. The boots you fill have made enormous tracks across the storied history of our Corps.

Shortly after Secretary of Defense Gates vented some frustration with NATO and some of its members, we will be diving into the NATO world when on Midrats (BlogTalkRadio) on Sunday, June 12, at 5pm we present Episode 75 “From NATO and Russia with questions”:

At a time when already small NATO defense budgets shrink while it is actively engaged in two combat operations decades after the Soviet treat faded into history – what is NATO and where does it stand? Is NATO “transforming” – and if so in to what?

From the ashes of the former Soviet Union – Russia and its near abroad are starting to re-establish their identity – what are the implications?

Join “CDR Salamander” and me with our guest for the full hour, CAPT Thomas Fedyszyn, (Ph.D.), USN (Ret.) – Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and Chair of the Europe-Russia Studies Group.

It may get lively.

Join us here or download the show later from BlogTalkRadio or iTunes.

Admiral Harvey posted to his blog that SAN ANTONIO is underway again.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was serve aboard SAN, especially during the last deployment and the start of the yards period right after — Afghanistan was nothing compared to the deployment aboard SAN (granted, I was a fobbit out there). I am incredibly proud to have served aboard her, and of my Shipmates in seeing her underway again, especially of those still aboard who checked-in the same year I did (2006).

Galrahn had a post the other day saying that no one has been held responsible for all the challenges SAN and the class have had. I would add a caveat to his statement: The crew has been held responsible for all of the challenges. The crew has constantly worked to meet those responsibilities — no matter what happens the crew returns to the 17 every day, stands their watches, works to fix the problems. There were times when I couldn’t get my head around how the Snipes did it, how they stood all the watches, how they would be so ambivalent over being doused with lube oil multiple times during the deployment, how they were able to keep pushing despite challenge after challenge was discovered. The ITs running all over the Ship dealing with SWAN challenges. The officers and Chiefs earnestly working to manage all of it, and also standing their watches. Through three ‘generations’ of crews I watched and was apart of all this.

Outside the skin of the Ship, you don’t see nor hear it. But, there’s a lot of emotion invested by the crew into their Ship, a lot of emotion. The sweat and tired eyes are just the tip of the iceberg. Coming back from the maiden deployment, I was in a way worse state of mind than when I came back from Afghanistan.

If you haven’t seen the door to the chartroom, it’s well worth it. As it is emblematic of the spirit that has carried the crew through it all. It has never been easy to read Naval blogs as I do being a SAN ANTONIO Sailor. You can’t help but take even the best intentioned criticism of the Ship a little personal. But, because of the crew I will always hold my head high and say I sailed in LPD 17 for the maiden deployment — I was there. HOOYAH SAN ANTONIO!

Over the course of two years, photographer Scott Haefner and friends repeated snuck on board the ships of National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) in Suisun Bay, California. The photographs from their (utterly illegal) trips offer an incredible inside-view of the state of the seventy-plus vessels in the bay, including the Sea Shadow. But definitely don’t try this at home:

We had to overcome numerous obstacles just to get to the ships without even addressing the issues involved in getting on them. To get across the channel, we acquired a small, inflatable raft that was just big enough for the three of us and our gear, along with a small motor powered by a car battery. A raft seemed ideal several reasons: 1. it was not possible to drive up to the drop-in point, so we needed something lightweight to carry across the marsh, along with our camera gear, food, water, and sleeping bags; 2. we needed a boat that we could maneuver through extremely shallow tidal flats near the shore; 3. The raft’s low profile and nearly silent motor would help us evade security patrols; 4. a raft would be the easiest type of vessel to pull aboard the ships once we found a way on, and we could then deflate it and stash it away from prying eyes.

For three years I commuted past Suisun Bay and watched the ships from the train’s window. To finally see them up close is incredible.

We continue to lose too many leaders for something that is predictable, avoidable, and has nothing to do with the warfighting profession; zipper control.

The taxpayers have invested millions of dollars, in some cases tens of millions of dollars, to “grow” someone to the position of Commander Command or higher. With every Command Pin, there is an institutional hope that this experience and subsequent superior performance will prepare that leader for the next level of service to their nation. Each additional exposure to Command builds on the already exceptional talent our system invites to lead. We lose all of that for a simple lack of personal judgement and self-control. How do you mitigate this problem?

We don’t have a perfect system – no system devised by humans ever is – but it is a good system. We demand a lot, we expect a lot. In an era of broader cultural shoulder-shrugging and acceptance of sub-par performance, the Navy especially continues to hold its leaders accountable for transgressions away from accepted standards both professional and personal. This is good.

Sub-par professional performance will occur regardless of what cohort you select; internal & external imperfections will always exist. Abusive personalities can advance on occasion, the weak will fall to a criminal inclination, lack of at-sea time or inadequate flight hours by strong players deemed to have “other priorities” for their career path than sea-duty can run aground or off a runway, and yes – bad things happen to good people with horrible luck – but this is as it has always been. That isn’t the issue.

There is one area causing explosive bolts on Command Pins to activate that is beyond the pale, one with no excuse or acceptable explanation. Though it impacts female leaders now and then – let’s be honest and speak as adults with each other; this is almost exclusively a male problem. Yes it takes two to tango – but the person in a position of authority has 100% of the responsibility for an inappropriate relationship. Full stop.

It seems like a simple concept to talk clearly on why and how to keep your base nature under control, but it isn’t for reasons partly social, partly socio-political.

In a perfect world, all that would be required in any Leadership 101 course would be an audio loop of Grandmother Salamander’s admonition, “Don’t sleep with the help!”, but obviously that doesn’t work. It doesn’t seem that what we are doing now is working either. I’m not sure what the answer is, but we need to find a better way to talk about these things. We have accountability right – we are failing on prevention.

Perhaps it is that people are just uncomfortable talking about people doing things they should not with their tender vittles. A silly reason for people who spend decades perfecting the art of breaking things and killing people – but the subject does strange things to people.

On a personal level, somewhere the 15-yr old boy short-circuits the middle-aged higher brain functions preventing self-control and focus; on an institutional level we find it verboten to openly discuss a well known sexual dynamic.

There is the problem – to talk honestly about this you have to talk about uncomfortable realities concerning how people interact on a very personal level – and not in a good way. Facts that are not in alignment with some people’s pet theories. I’ve never had much respect for people with PhDs in Sociology or Psychology, but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for women who have been married for decades, successfully to very powerful men. They understand well what is going on. We should listen to them.

The best of that rare breed can speak with the clarity and directness this problem requires. Here is a shot at boiling it down their advice and applying it to the maritime services.

All you need to do is to look at the coupling habits of the very powerful (see any 3x or more married man in his 60s/70s+ as a reference) to see that one of the greatest aphrodisiacs for women towards men is power. It doesn’t have to be great power – just relative power. The greater the difference in relative power – the greater both sides of the problem; the sexual attractiveness of power and the resulting unrealistic ego-driven sense of entitlement (Charlie Sheen, Schwarzenegger, DSK, WJC, etc)

The sexual attractiveness of power is personified – though not exclusively experienced – by a sub-set of usually younger, insecure women who have a very dangerous combination of personality traits; they are sexually attracted to men with power and they have an innate understanding of a man’s ego and the social weaknesses of insecure men. They know how to use one to get close to the other.

This meets a personality trait that almost all men have – a weakness for the fawning sexually-tinged advances of a younger member of the opposite sex, and an ego that craves to think that even at middle age they are as attractive as they were two or more decades earlier – that yes, they are all that and a box of chocolates.

When one side meets the other, the results are predictable.

We have all seen this and know – some more than others – that when this situation happens and the senior man steps through that open door, it is harder and harder for them to step back out of it the longer it goes on.

Almost all male leaders, it doesn’t take a Commanding Officer, will run in to this. As we are all weak and fallen – the key to avoid falling where countless have fallen before is to make sure that you try to prevent that “heart-beat-thump moment” from ever taking place.

Over at NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez shared some advice that a longtime congressional spouse offered to new Congressmen. Modified slightly by me to fit our profession – I think it offers a sound roadmap.

Ponder with me:

1. Live in the right place for the right reasons. Be sure the decision on where to live — de-camp the family to the new duty station or to be a geographic-bachelor – is based on what is best for the marriage and family, not on your Navy career. It must be a joint decision. Marriages and families need to be the first priority in all decisions.

2. Keep your spouse close to your side. When at all possible, run your non-daily social events by your spouse and include him or her whenever possible. Ensure that evening and weekend events do not interfere with family schedule except for exceptional mission related events.

3. Social events and liberty are a danger zone. Attending social events is important, but very few require for you to be there after 2300. Avoid alcohol use in public, and private conversations with members of the opposite sex – especially when they are married to someone you own paper on or are your subordinate. Do not give out or request private contact info. You have ombudsmen and the Fleet Family Support Center for a reason. If the person you are talking to is intoxicated, walk away. If you find yourself alone with someone, immediately find a crowd. If on overseas liberty you violate the 2300 rule and have had a few drinks, remember your mother’s rule, “Nothing good every happens after midnight.” Remember, your job isn’t to be popular, fun, part of the crew, or to have a good time – your job is to lead.

4. Get over yourself! Give your designated parking space to the Navy Relief auction or other such event on a regular basis. Keep any use of “I” or “me” in public speeches to a minimum. Don’t have subordinate’s spouses address you like their service-member husbands/wives. Invite them to call you by your first name if they do otherwise. Be humble. If you don’t have an XO or CMDCM who walks in and speaks frankly with you – then you may have a problem. If your Dept Heads never challenge you and win – then you may have a problem.

5. Remember, you are there to serve the nation; not to be served. Keep focused on your Sailors and your mission. If your head is nice and spotless but you have no idea what condition the other heads are in, you may have a problem. While deployed, if your uniform is complete and in good condition while those you are speaking with look worn out and are as a whole a mix-matched mess, then you may have a problem.

6. Keep in touch with your spouse and family every day at home and deployed C4I/operations permitting. When on liberty stay away from places junior personnel frequent. If it is 2330 and you are at a mixed table of junior officers, all of a sudden you realize that 4-years-older-than-your-daughter LTJG YogaInstructor is sitting hip-to-hip next to you with your legs in contact down to the toe, and everyone has a beer in front of them with more on the way – then you may have a problem.

7. Treat all people with respect and dignity. Junior enlisted, junior officers, Chiefs, CMDCM, XO, the civilian guard at the front gate, the Commissary bagger, the person you just sent to CCU, the JO who just downed his board – you are known by the words said behind your back.

8. In the end – you are just a government employee. Irreplaceable until you leave – then forgotten. Once you hang up your uniform – 99.8% of the people you meet won’t know or care. Remember that the final vote tally takes place far from your Administrative and Operational Chain of Command – all that matters is the record presented to God. If you don’t believe in God then at least know that every AM you will have to look at that person in the mirror.

9. Heed Micah 6:8 — “What then does God require of you? Seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

10. Remember the angels … “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” G. K. Chesterton.

11. If religion isn’t your thing – then remember Ben Franklin; “To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.

The Allied invasion of France began today 67 years ago, on June 6, 1944.

The Allies were already in Europe (Rome had been liberated a couple of days earlier after a hard-fought campaign up Italy) but through France lay the fastest path to Germany from the West.

As always, behind the landing craft carrying the Allied forces and behind the paratroopers was a huge logistics support train. It was not enough to get troops into France – they had to be sustained, fed, provided with ammo and fuel to allow them to hold and expand the beachhead.

One aspect of this support effort was the creation of artificial harbors to allow for the smooth flow of supplies and fresh personnel into the newly occupied areas. Part of this effort included the intentional sinking of old merchant ships and war ships off the landing beaches to form breakwaters. These ships, called “Corn Cobs” created “Gooseberries” which allowed “Mulberries” to perform their mission. See my home blog post here for more background. Photo below shows a beachhead with the sunken Gooseberries offshore.

A force of Navy personnel manned anti-aircraft weapons on these Corn Cobs/Gooseberries – members of the Naval Armed Guard and suffered attack by air and from shore.

In additions, the Naval Armed Guard also rode ships carrying supplies from Britain to France and fought off air, surface and submarine attacks, as set out here.

While today we pause to remember the courage of the invasion force, take a few seconds to think of those who served in support of the landing forces as the Allies pushed into France.

Update (June 8): UPDATE: Interesting read from the Navy Department Library: Miracle Harbor

Posted by Mark Tempest in History, Navy | 10 Comments

Just woke up and am getting ready to head in. I’m currently working the midnight shift and will be standing my first watch in the simulators today. Hopefully the scram switch will go untouched!

James Arness, a World War II veteran beloved by millions for his iconic portrayal of Marshal Matt Dillon on the long-running Western TV series “Gunsmoke,” died June 3 after a long illness. More Here

It’s a radio!

Episode 74 A Day Without Sea Power 06/05 by Midrats 5pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio:

Almost a decade of involvement in two land wars in Asia combined with a series of costly and ill timed shipbuilding programs that have yet to produce ships anywhere near promised cost and performance has brought our Navy to the growing budget crisis in a delicate position.

The national security arena suffers from SeaBlindness about the critical requirements of seapower to the long term economic and security needs of a maritime, mercantile republic.

Battle of Midway, June 3-7, 1942

Sunday, June 5th at 5pm EST, using their work at The Heritage Foundation, Thinking About a Day Without Sea Power:Implications for U.S. Defense Policy as a starting point, join Sal from the blog “CDR Salamander” and me with our returning guests Mackenzie Eaglen and Bryan McGrath for the full hour to discuss the long view on the future direction of our Navy and Marine Corps team.

Part of the Invasion Fleet, D-Day Normandy, June 6, 1944

Join us here.

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