Archive for May, 2016
“The Battle of Anzio shows both the agony of command decisions and the heroism of men who carry them out.”
—Gen. William H. Simpson (U.S. Army, Ret.)
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. These words, spoken by the philosopher George Santayana, have enduring truth. Though daily operations claim much attention in a dynamic Europe-Africa theater, it is important to revisit the battles of the past, to contemplate the critical decisions made by military commanders, and reflect on the will of those who fought these battles. With Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2016, the premier Baltic maritime exercise that will feature amphibious landings in Finland, Sweden, and Poland, just around the corner, the staff ride was especially fitting as we applied the lessons learned from Anzio to our final exercise PLANORD.
There is no substitute for walking the beachhead like those who came before us. More than 50 members of my U.S. 6th Fleet staff and I conducted a Staff Ride in early May of Anzio and the battle fought there during World War II, code-named Operation Shingle. We visited X-ray beach and the Sicily-Rome Cemetery, incorporating stories of bravery along the way.
Anzio native Alfredo Rinaldi is a living history of the standoff at the beachhead in Anzio and was the cornerstone of this staff ride. The only way to understand these battles is to step in the shoes of those that have gone before—and hear directly about what they experienced. And Alfredo gave us that essence in a truly touching way.
In 1944, Alfredo was an adventurous soul, a 16-year-old with an insatiable desire to live all that life had to offer. To him, in the thralls of a German occupation, war was a playground, an open door for new experiences. Alfredo Rinaldi and the many residents of the Italian seaside town of Anzio were relocated to Rome when it became obvious that the shorelines were going to become battlegrounds. Alfredo became sort of a transient in Rome, a teenage wanderlust hoping to see action and aimlessly roaming the cobbled streets of Rome in search of it. He was lucky to avoid the ranks of the German Army, apparently because he was young and scrawny; his brother had been drafted into the Wehrmacht, but he deserted and was hiding somewhere in Italy. And then the news came in that the Americans [and British too] had landed at Anzio.
With the Allied Italy campaign at a standstill, Allied Forces struggling to gain ground up the Boot, an amphibious operation—Operation Shingle—was hatched to land behind enemy lines. On Jan. 22, 1944, at an H-hour of 0200, a combination of U.S. Army, British Army, and British Special Forces came across a 15-mile stretch of beach between Anzio and Nettuno.
As the reports flooded the hopeful Roman populace, vibrant with excitement that liberation was at their doorstep, Alfredo chose to start marching toward Anzio, a 20-kilometer journey roiled with barbed wire, snipers and German booby traps. He left in the early morning and arrived late that night, somehow steering clear of German munition dropped from above and well-laid land mines. Alfredo’s first contact with Allied Forces was with an African American U.S. army soldier who said, “What in the world are you doing here kid?,” and ultimately gave Alfredo a ride to Anzio in his jeep. Alfredo told us that until this point in his life, he did not realize that America included “people of color” and that this man had changed his life forever . . . Along the way, Alfredo saw his family’s abandoned house, unscathed despite the wreckage from the German air bombing campaign, elevating his mystical belief in America and its forces even more.
Alfredo ended up introducing himself to a group of soldiers, an infantry company, and instantly befriended them. Without any formal paperwork or agreement, he was essentially enlisted. The soldiers told him it was unsafe to for him to go back to Rome, and he preferred to stay anyway. And so he became their translator and their ‘mascot,’ a cheerful soul in a grim and beaten war.
Alfredo retells his story of those days on the beach in great detail. He remembers crouching in what where manmade fox holes as shells from “Anzio Annie,” the German 218-ton railway gun, pounded the beach. He describes hearing the whistling sound of the big rounds as they screeched by his makeshift bunker.
Alfredo was most likely the only Italian patriot embedded in an American unit, but he was not the only one from a fractured Europe to join the ranks for the Allies. Gunnar Erik Mettala was a Finnish-born U.S. Army combat engineer with the 345th Engineer General Service Regiment and the grandfather of my Deputy N6 Cmdr. Erik Pittman. Gunnar left Finland for the United States just before Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union invaded Finland in what was then known as the Winter War in 1939. He would join the U.S. army shortly after immigrating, enlisting in 1941, around the age of 23.
Gunnar landed on Anzio the second day of Operation Shingle landing with the 36th Combat Engineers and alongside the 45th Infantry Division. From the landing until the German counter attack on Feb.11, Gunnar’s Treadway Company was engaged in repairs near the port. He would later pass on to his son, who passed on to Erik: “Every day the German Luftwaffe would strafe and bomb the port; every day we’d rebuild and resurface the docks and the roads leading to the docks. Such was the tit-for-tat, hold-your-ground fighting that was the essence of a long period of entrenchment at Anzio.”
Gunnar was wounded after taking machine gun fire to his thighs, as he and others of his company were pushed to the front lines to defend the Allies extended perimeter from German counter attack. He recovered and would serve out the rest of the war in Allied Forces Headquarters in Naples as a staff judge advocate—ironically in the same place his grandson would serve 70 years later…
Despite the attrition faced by Treadway Company and a handful of other companies on the front lines during the initial German counter attack, four months passed with neither side giving or getting an inch. An Allied breakthrough occurred on May 23, 1944, in an operation known as Operation Diadem. While a combination of forces from Britain, Canada, Poland, and the U.S. broke through the Gustav Line, the United States’ VI Corps, controlled by 5th Army, took advantage of a reeling German force to race somewhat unfettered to Rome.
Meanwhile, our man Alfredo traveled with his unit, returning to his exiled home of Rome to raucous cheers from fellow Italians. Alfredo lived a storybook life from there, transitioning from military service to become a driver/caretaker at the American cemetery in Nettuno, constructed to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Italian campaign. From there, he drove buses for ten years, then opened up a photography business with his son, and ended up returning to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery as an official photographer, where he met then President George H.W. Bush during the cemetery’s annual Memorial Day commemoration.
Alfredo, now 88 and retired, continues to come every Memorial Day to the commemoration at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno. And this is where I first met him and became enchanted with his story, just as those Army men were enchanted with him in 1944. Alfredo still has that spark in his eye and spring in his step.
Walking through the cemetery—either on Memorial Day or just a beautiful spring day in southern Italy as was the case for our staff ride—one is reminded of the sacrifices made on behalf of freedom. The cemetery sits in the zone of advance of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division as part of Operation Shingle. The perfectly cut lawn now dotted with headstones sits beneath a mountaintop – the same perched position that allowed the Germans to hold so tightly to position with their counter attacks.
There are nearly 7,861 Americans memorialized in the Nettuno cemetery, a majority from the landings on Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio.
During our time at the cemetery, my deputy Executive Assistant, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tony Bates had the privilege of reading the citation of Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, who heroically stormed a German machine gun nest on day two of the Anzio invasion, racing into enemy fire despite warning from his own troops. His heroics allowed the Allies to secure a perimeter and save countless others.
Tony is sixty years removed from these men but is a living hero in his own right. He was an advisor team leader for the Afghan National Army serving in Sangin district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2011 working to equip Afghan forces to defend their homeland from the Taliban. Much of the work was patrolling and clearing neighborhoods of the Taliban, while working to build trust from communal leaders. From their Forward Operating Base in Sangin, they would often experience Taliban machine gun fire but withstood multiple ambushes through determination and combat skill. Improvised explosive devices were a common tactic used by the Taliban in this time as Marines and Afghan troops would set off IEDs while conducting routine patrols or even in the vicinity of where kids were playing, as it was common for children to lay parts and pieces of the IEDs. Tony’s unit discovered the maker of these IEDs in a remote village in Sangin and sought to apprehend him. During that mission, Tony stepped on an IED, which resulted in serious injury and his left leg being amputated below the knee. Tony was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor device for combat action and Purple Heart for his resolve in leading those Afghan forces, and he continues to serve with the utmost pride and honor.
We started the staff ride at X-ray beach and finished at with lunch at a restaurant that sits beside the beach, a picturesque spot where the waves ever-so-calmly splash over the rocks and sand. Standing there, looking out on the beach of Anzio with Alfredo brings so many thoughts to mind. You imagine each Soldier coming across the beach, uncertain if they’d immediately take enemy fire or if death lay over the horizon.
For my friend Alfredo, he considers himself—and rightly so—a U.S. Army World War II veteran. His patriotism is remarkable for someone that doesn’t claim any official nationality to America. As we part ways, he extends a sentimental, “God bless America.” We in America have come to make this saying cliché but I can tell that Alfredo truly means it, a reflection of the appreciation that he and thousands of other Italians expressed as they were liberated from Fascist and Nazi hands.
The courage of those that took up the call for freedom on the beach of Anzio, and so many other beaches across Europe and the Pacific, should never be forgotten. So many, like Sgt. Antolak paid the ultimate sacrifice, and for this, we must continue to pay homage to their legacy of heroism. As we always do, this Memorial Day, we remember . . .
In 1955 Air Force General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the Strategic Air Command, built the service’s first base hobby shop in Offutt, NE. His vision was to provide a facility with tools, material, and resources to allow Airmen the opportunity to repair, modify, or completely rebuild their personal automobiles. The first hobby shop was an overwhelming success and soon become popular among all ranks, including LeMay himself. Auto hobby shops soon proliferated across all SAC bases and eventually, along with their sibling wood hobby shops, to most American military bases around the globe. Many of these workshops eventually formalized their training, so service members could achieve recognized certifications for their efforts.
These hobby shops were widely viewed as constructive outlets for military personnel to learn interesting, practical skills and to make positive use of off-duty time by tapping into, or fostering, their inherent desire to “tinker” with things. By the late 1990s they began to lose their appeal and many were closed for financial reasons. The causes for their demise is unclear, whether because cars simply became too complex for the “shade tree mechanic” to repair or as a reflection of American society, where servicemen and women would rather pay someone else to do work they no longer wanted to do themselves.
I do not believe the inherent desire to tinker with things, or using individual experimentation as a learning tool, has gone away. It may, however, be occurring today in new forms. Because the cost of technology continues to decline, it has created an environment where sophisticated tools and devices are now at the fingertips of the average citizen, a condition commonly referred to as the democratization of science and technology.
For the past several years the White House has been championing the “Maker Movement” to stimulate innovation across America. Cottage industries in coding, drones, electronics, robotics, and 3D printing are sprouting up across the country in reflection of and to support this renewed interest. It is clear that the naval services are tapping into the resurgence of the tinkerer as well.
The first naval “Fab Lab” was created in Norfolk in 2015. This joint venture with DARPA and MIT provided sophisticated manufacturing equipment, materials, and world class training to Sailors in the fleet. The fundamental premise for this project was that by putting tools and capabilities into the hands of Sailors closest to our operational problems, they would develop new and innovative solutions. Since its inception, for example, LT Todd Coursey has achieved significant results, expanding interest and demonstrating the utility of this capability across the fleet. His outstanding efforts at Norfolk were recognized by the White House and Secretary Mabus. SECNAV’s Task Force Innovation has funded additional Fab Labs and over the next two years additional facilities, some of them mobile, will be operational at Navy and Marine Corps bases around the globe.
An extension of the FAB LAB concept is the Expeditionary Manufacturing Mobile Test Bed (EXMAN) project led by the Marines and SPAWAR. EXMAN offers the ability to digitally manufacture parts in the field, often at a reduced cost and in much less time. This past week EXMAN was successfully demonstrated to General Neller, a strong advocate of fielding these new facilities with the operational forces. This capability has the potential to fundamentally change how we do battlefield logistics, by making items instead of buying, storing and shipping them across the world.
3D manufacturing is not the only field where the tinkerer movement is making its military comeback. The Naval Postgraduate School built its Robo Dojo to allow students and visiting Sailors and Marines the opportunity to tinker with robots and control systems. In the future it is likely we will see coding bootcamps springing up on naval bases as well. These fora provide the opportunity for Sailors and Marines to learn basic coding skills and eventually build smart phone apps or virtual games. Ideally, all of these complementary capabilities will be connected in an integrated ecosystem, properly resourced and supported by senior leaders, and available everywhere.
These emerging capabilities fundamentally draw upon LeMay’s vision – provide the resources, tools and safe spaces to our people and allow them to cultivate their talents and creativity. We have no idea of the great things they will achieve when allowed to tinker with their own bold ideas, such as STGC Ben Lebron.
The Chief had a vision for a new decision aid to improve ASW operations on the USS Fitzgerald. After finding a JO who taught him some coding skills, Chief LeBron designed the Single Leg Bearing Range program, for which he subsequently won a 2015 SECNAV Innovation Award. His software substantially improves ASW sonar solutions by more than half.(SECNAV granted Chief Lebron a waiver to enroll in the NPS Master’s ASW distance learning program in addition to his formal award.)
The military has long practiced such problem solving. In an examination of culture’s impact on military innovation, Dima Adamsky notes the cultural difference between the US and Soviet militaries during the Cold War. One significant contrast was their approaches to technological adaptation. The Soviets would develop concepts and strategy for use ahead of delivering a technology, whereas the US military usually had the technology and then often took a decade to figure out how to turn it into an operational advantage. We may be experiencing the same phenomenon here with the maker movement.
As mentioned, today’s democratization of science and technology is enabling this tinkering resurgence to occur – not only for us, but for our adversaries. Recently, scholars CAPT Mark Hagerott (ret) and Col TX Hammes (ret), outlined their thoughtful visions of the future operating environment, where naval forces will have to contend with the challenges posed by a new reality of destructive, technology-based capabilities operated in very decentralized and unpredictable ways by our adversaries. The naval services must lead this wave, adjusting our strategy not only to counter these decentralized threats, but to use the skills of our creative workforce to create an operational advantage over our adversaries.
We are entering an era where the operational environment will be characterized by complexity, uncertainty, and unpredictability; to succeed, our naval forces must respond in kind. Simply relying on exquisite weapon systems and massed fire power will be insufficient. One way to overcome this challenge is to fully exploit the ingenuity and talents of our Sailors and Marines. The burgeoning naval tinkering movement is just one step in creating a fundamentally important operational capability that is already resident in the naval services. Failing to harness our tinkerers, and recognize their work, will be to the nation’s detriment.
Today, 27 May 2016, the Class of 2016 will be graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval Institute shares the words of a commanding officer to his son on the occasion of his son’s graduation from the Naval Academy in June, 1955.
As today’s graduates enter commissioned service, these words of sixty years ago ring true.
To the Class of 2016, the Naval Institute extends heartfelt congratulations.
Part of our naval mythology is informed by fiction as well as real history. With a few exceptions, as a nation, the USA always likes to see itself as the good guys, the shining city on the hill where good people want to go to do good things. In some ways this aspirational self-reflection is good, but it isn’t reality.
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
– Winston Churchill
In the Cold War fiction The Hunt for Red October, we had our preferred universe,
Capt. Vasili Borodin: I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?
Captain Ramius: I suppose.
Capt. Vasili Borodin: No papers?
Captain Ramius: No papers, state to state.
Capt. Vasili Borodin: Well then, in winter I will live in… Arizona. Actually, I think I will need two wives.
Captain Ramius: Oh, at least.
That is nice to read, but that isn’t where we are today.
We need to be ready for our co-existing parallel universe where the USA and specifically its forward deployed Navy is not seen as the good guys worth running to – but a high value unit worth everything to destroy.
If one small harbor boat can take out the USS COLE (DDG 67), put on your red hat and ponder the next act that could follow a successful operation from this cell;
At least five officers of the Pakistan Navy received death sentences in a secret military trial for allegedly trying to hijack a Pakistan Navy vessel to attack a U.S. Navy refueling ship, Daily Pakistan reports.
The attackers allegedly attempted to hijack the F-22P Zulfiquar-class frigate Zulfiqar, the lead ship of its class, with the intention of using the ship’s missiles to attack a U.S. Navy refuel vessel in the Arabian Sea (other sources claim that the target was a U.S. aircraft carrier).
The frigate they were going to take control of was the Pakistani version of the Chinese Type 053H3 frigate. With a crew of 170 and the offensive surface punch of 8 C-802 ASCM and a 76mm gun – not to mention 3,144 tons and 404-ft of ramming if they wanted.
In nations with significant penetration by Islamic radicals, there is a lot of exceptionally capable naval kit for the taking, if you have the right team. How many on a ship need to turn to make a national asset to a terrorist weapon? Depends on the ship and the clever nature of the conspirators.
The more you think about it, the more you see how lucky we have been that compared to the ground, the seas have been relatively secure. Don’t assume, “if,” but “when” we see Green on Blue at sea.
Something to ponder on a when on watch as the ship from nation X is not quite acting right, not where you expected her to be, and – well – makes your skin itch a bit.
Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 22 May 2016 for Episode 333: The Battle of Jutland & the Time of the Battleship with Rob Farley:
We are coming up on the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.
Stop for a moment, close your eyes, and then tell me what image comes to mind.
If your image is of a huge mass of steel coming at you out from the mist at 25-knots belching out sun-blocking clouds of coal-smoke and burned black powder and searing fingers of flame pushing tons of armor-piercing explosives, then this is the show for you.
For the full hour this Sunday we will have as our guest a great friend of the show, Robert Farley. We will not only be discussing the Battle of Jutland, but battleships in general in the context of his most recent book titled for clarity, The Battleship Book
Rob teaches defense and security courses at the Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky. He blogs at InformationDissemination and LawyersGunsAndMoney. In addition to The Battleship Book, he is also the author of, Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.
There have been a number of proposed interventions to address the shortage of psychiatrists for children and adolescents, including telemedicine, the utilization of mental health-trained allied health professionals, and improved mental health diagnostic and therapeutic training of pediatric primary care providers (Becker and Kleinman, 2013). Such proposals have occurred in the context of the significant global burden of mental illness – currently estimated to encompass 7.4% of the global burden of all disease (Murray, et al., 2012).
In a perfect world, a child and adolescent psychiatrist would share the same clinic space as a pediatrician or vise-versa. Such co-location of both pediatricians and psychiatrists would likely improve recognition, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients who have mental health challenges. Far from being a utopian dream, co-location of child and adolescent psychiatrists with pediatricians also is in line with the goals of the patient-centered medical home which seeks to ensure that care is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective. While there are myriad obstacles that prevent the scaling up of such a model, among the biggest hurdles are the lack of psychiatrists (Patel, 2009).
While the United States certainly has a need for more child and adolescent psychiatrists, that need is magnified in many developing countries throughout the world, including our neighbors to the south (Becker & Kleinman, 2013). The need in some countries has been acutely exacerbated by narcoterrorism and its associated increase in the psychological trauma resulting from the extensive loss of life (e.g. El Salvador and Honduras). Although there is a lack of empirically supported models for increasing the provision of mental health services in the developing world, we must act now despite the formidable nature of our challenge (Lewin et al., 2005).
Military Humanitarian Assistance
The U.S. Navy has joined with the Army, Air Force, non-governmental organizations and partner nations under the guidance of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet for the six-month humanitarian-civil assistance mission Continuing Promise 2015 (CP-15). CP-15 is a deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian-civil assistance, subject matter expert exchanges, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support and disaster response to partner nations and to show the United States’ continued support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean. The USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) is the designated medical platform and also served as the hospital ship in 2007, 2009 and 2011 CP missions. USNS Comfort visited 11 countries located in Central and South America and in the Caribbean during CP-15.
In recognition of the inextricable link between mental and physical health, psychiatrists, psychologists, and allied health professionals with advanced mental health training are a vital part of this mission. These mental health specialists provide care for the crew in addition to being an integral part of the host nation medical civil assistance programs (MEDCAPS). It is during these MEDCAPS that mental health professional’s work alongside pediatricians to provide care to the citizens of the host nation.
MEDCAPS: Medical Boots on the Ground
During the MEDCAPS, which last between eight to 10 days, host-nation residents receive dental, medical, optometric and surgical care, including associated medications, at no cost to the patient. Patient flow at most of the MEDCAPS follows a predictable pattern. Patients are triaged into four groups: adult medicine, pediatrics, optometry, and dental. Most patients see the provider to which they were triaged and return home after being examined and given their prescription. Pediatric referrals to mental health vary including patients noted by caregivers as having symptoms of anxiety, behavioral difficulties, and difficulty with focusing on a given task. After being evaluated, the psychiatrist or psychologist makes recommendations regarding safety, engages them in supportive therapy (when appropriate), and refers the family to the local Ministry of Health (MoH).
Co-Location: Two Examples
In the context of obtaining blood pressure readings, a patient was noted to have healed cut marks across the wrist. Despite the language barrier, the provider asked the patient about the marks and if there was a plan to commit future self-injurious acts. Minutes later, this patient was evaluated by the psychiatrist who was seeing patients in the room next door. This psychiatrist found that the patient had seen a host-nation psychiatrist in the past, was at no current significant risk of self-harm, and ensured that the patient received follow-up by linking the patient to the host-nation MoH.
Other presentations of mental illness have been more subtle. A mother brought her five year-old son to be seen by pediatrician after complaints of chest pain over the past three years. The parent noted that her son seemed to be itching a great deal without any identifiable cause. When the mother was asked whether the child could have some sort of anxiety, she agreed. They were referred to the co-located psychiatrist who was able to obtain a more thorough history. It was discovered that the mother is routinely physically assaulted by the father during his drunken rages. There was no evidence of physical abuse on the child. The psychiatrist referred the family to the host-nation MoH after explaining to mother the link between the physical violence the child is witnessing and the child’s symptoms.
The range and efficiency of medical services provided in these MEDCAPS rivals or exceeds that of many institutions in the United States. However, there are obvious and significant limitations to this type of medical care which are largely attributable to the lack of continuity. Additionally, the reduced availability and accessibility of mental health services in some areas complicates the referral process. Even more pressing is the need to eliminate the conditions that, in some ways, necessitated the request for MEDCAPS (i.e. extreme poverty, violence, drug trafficking, etc.).
Mental health care has historically been viewed as something separate from basic health care. However, there is an increasing realization by both national and international bodies that they are indeed inseparable (World Health Organization, 2005). Being able to obtain a referral to a co-located psychiatrist with patient services rendered and a report given to the requesting provider on the same day is the norm during these MEDCAPS. This pattern is repeated for other subspecialty services ranging from dermatological procedures to echocardiograms. While there are obvious and, in some cases, appropriate reasons that this does not occur in every patient encounter, it is the goal to which all institutions providing medical care should strive.
How the Public Can Help
Those interested in addressing the challenge of providing mental health services internationally can become involved in a number of ways. From the macro level, there is much work that needs to be done determining the efficacy and effectiveness of scalable models for the provision of mental health services. On the micro level, there are opportunities to volunteer your services as a mental health provider on missions like Continuing Promise 2015. Regardless of how people choose to contribute, the important point to remember is that this challenge is solvable and every one can contribute to a solution.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
- Becker, A., and A. Kleinman. “Mental Health and the Global Agenda.” New England Journal of Medicine 369, No. 2 (2013): 67-73. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1110827.
- Murray, C., T. Vos, R. Lozano, et al. “Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) for 291 Diseases and Injuries in 21 Regions 1990-2010: A Systemic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.” The Lancet 380, No. 9859 (December, 2012). doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61689-4.
- Patel, V. “The Future of Psychiatry in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Psychological Medicine 11, No. 39 (2009): 1759-1762. doi:10.1017/S0033291709005224.
- Lewin, S., J. Dick, P. Pond, et al. “Lay Health Workers in Primary and Community Health Care”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1, No. 1 (2005). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004015.pub2.
The Navy has forgotten the STARK. As a comparison, a quick Google search will take you to the USS COLE homepage, with a link to its memorial. Each year, ceremonies span our shores and ships as we remember the lessons learned and the lives lost during that terrible incident. Social media explodes with articles and words demanding that we “Remember the COLE.” And we should remember the COLE and the Sailors we lost that day. However, replace USS COLE in a Google search with USS STARK and Wikipedia is the first to pop up, followed by articles from small local news outlets.
Twenty-nine years ago, the surface navy learned a hard lesson aboard STARK. In a matter of minutes, two Exocet missiles from an Iraqi Mirage aircraft made real the dangers of insufficient training and complacent watchstanding. Sailors were ripped violently from their racks as the missiles’ impact tore into the port windbreak; others ran to contain the flames and save the ship. In a true testament to the Navy’s fighting spirit, the crew battled the damage for over twenty-four hours, and miraculously, managed to return the ship to Bahrain under its own power. Ultimately, USS STARK (FFG 31) lost thirty-seven Sailors, with twenty-one more wounded.
Yesterday in Mayport, FL, a small ceremony took place honoring STARK and her crew. The STARK incident hits close to home for Mayport Sailors, as she was homeported in and returned home to Mayport after her attack, and some of today’s Mayport Sailors once served aboard her, carrying on her legacy and wounds alike. As a Frigate Sailor myself, I have walked similar passageways and layouts to those torn apart twenty-nine years ago. I learned more about the STARK incident as I prepared to take charge of the Fire Control division on a cruiser, a division whose sole purpose was to ensure excellence in Air Defense…the same air defenses that were lacking when STARK was hit. The STARK incident resonates with most of us, but to the “Big Navy” she seems to be all but forgotten. There was not a single article from OPNAV Public Affairs, nor a post or photo in honor of the incident from the Navy’s social media team. Instead, articles and posts appeared lauding the anniversary of Top Gun and the impact the movie had on the Navy. The only mention of STARK was as a footnote on the Naval History and Heritage Command website.
Yesterday, rather than showcasing the tenacity, dedication, and resilience of the Surface Navy – especially the STARK crew, and honoring the lives of the thirty-seven Sailors who paid the ultimate sacrifice, the Navy’s public affairs office chose to honor the thirtieth anniversary of the movie Top Gun. While Top Gun had great recruiting value for the Navy in the late 1980s (and perhaps does today), it bears far less weight than our own naval heritage. Our heritage, from the Barbary Wars, to the battles of Midway and Leyte Gulf, to Operation Praying Mantis, plays a profound role in who we are as surface warriors, and as naval professionals. These milestones helped develop our doctrine, refine our systems, and strengthen our resolve. We have an obligation to honor those who came before us, those who showed us what real sacrifice is, and those who led the way in making the Navy the fighting force it is today. We failed to uphold this obligation yesterday.
Not only did we not uphold our obligation to learn and remember the lessons of our history, but we trivialized those lessons. Yesterday’s video advertised the Surface Navy’s new “Top Gun” cadre, its Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTIs), equating the antics from the movie Top Gun and the aviators’ success at Fighter Weapons School to the new cadre of surface WTIs. But the video misses the point. Top Gun was created out of necessity, not vanity. After suffering devastating kill-to-loss ratios in the first part of the Vietnam War, and after the publication of the Ault Report that concluded that insufficient training in Air Combat Maneuvering was the root cause of Naval Aviation losses, the Navy created Fighter Weapons School in 1969. We applied history’s lessons at FWS: it is more than just the systems that win the fight – most of all it is the “man in the box.”
Today, Warfare Tactics Instructors exist to improve the tactical skill of the Surface Navy and sustain our warrior ethos. Instead of glorifying a movie, we must show how history has taught us that uneducated and complacent leaders and watchteams will get Sailors killed. Much like the graduates of the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center’s Weapons Schools, we do not do this job to pay homage to a Tom Cruise character, we do it to ensure our Sailors and teams have the tools to come home safely from the fight. It’s high time the Navy recognized that this is why we’re here. Thank you, but we don’t need Tom Cruise references to be relevant.
Predicting the future is spotty at best, and predictions can change as rapidly as their inputs. As any economist will tell you thought, you have to try to understand what the numbers are trying to tell you if your are going to be ready for what is right around the corner.
A primary driving force through history is demographics. Demographics framed by economics is an irresistible force for change. The future belongs to who shows up, and those people who show up need a way to survive and prosper. All else flows from that.
Lets say we have to long range planning groups that we want to give an assignment to given the above entering argument. There are lots of options on what we can have them focus on. Here are my top two.
Team OAK: Managing China’s rise is not the challenge, managing their rapid decline relative to India will be.
Team PINE: AFRICOM will be next decade’s most important Combatant Command.
The Commandant’s “Connection Challenge”
Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller joined The Muster via Skype. Unlike previous speakers at the Idea Lab who had answers to the question what is your “Big Idea for America” the 37th Commandant had a request. He asked veterans to “stay connected” with those they had served with. “Too many of our friends are still struggling . . . . Please stay connected via any means possible.”
Speaking to a standing-room only crowd, “stay connected” was the only answer he had for a junior Marine’s question some months earlier about what the Commandant was doing to help those veteran Marines that were killing themselves.
While the “great majority are doing well,” the Commandant said, “the technology” was “probably there” to help veterans stay connected. Bunker Labs CEO, Todd Connor, told General Neller that Bunker Labs would take on the digital dimension of the Commandant’s “Connection Challenge.”
The Marine for Life Network is designed to connect “transitioning Marines and their family members to education resources, employment opportunities, and other veterans services that aid in their career and life goals outside of military service.”
Chicago’s Marine for Life community is strong, well supported and holds monthly meetings that alternate between the city and suburbs. In at least one case, however, there was a disconnect between Marine for Life and a Chicago Marine veteran who was told during his official transition to call Marine for Life only if he was considering suicide. Months later discovered Chicago Marine for Life was ideally suited to help Marine veterans stay connected and find jobs.
Changing the Narrative
The Secretary noted that the veterans as victims stereotype was factually inaccurate and a barrier to recruiting all volunteer forces. Compared to their civilian counterparts, he noted, “veterans are more likely to run their own businesses and to succeed.”
Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 15 May 2016 for Midrats Episode 332: August Cole, Co-Author of Ghost Fleet
The best fiction doesn’t just entertain, it informs and causes the reader to think.
Our guest for the full hour this week is August Cole, the co-author with P.W. Singer of one of the best received military fiction novels on the last year, Ghost Fleet: An Novel of the Next World War.
August is an author and analyst specializing in national security issues.
He is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council where he directs The Art of the Future Project, which explores narrative fiction and visual media for insight into the future of conflict. He is a non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy (West Point). He is also writer-in-residence at Avascent, an independent strategy and management consulting firm focused on government-oriented industries.
He also edited the Atlantic Council science fiction collection, War Stories From the Future, published in November 2015. The anthology featured his short story ANTFARM about the intersection of swarm-warfare, additive manufacturing and crowd-sourced intelligence.
He is a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Washington and an editor and a reporter for MarketWatch.com.
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