Archive for the 'Navy' Category

“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.

Members of the U.S. 6th Fleet staff listen to a presentation at X-ray beach that describes the Allied actions in the invasion on Anzio Beach code-named Operation Shingle. Photo courtesy VADM James Foggo III photo

Members of the U.S. 6th Fleet staff listen to a presentation at X-ray beach that describes the Allied actions in the invasion on Anzio Beach code-named Operation Shingle. VADM James Foggo III photo

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.

Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, poses with Alfredo Rinaldi, an Italian national who embedded with a U.S. Army infantry unit as a translator after the Allied landing at Anzio code-named Operation Shingle. Photo courtesy of VADM James Foggo III

Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, poses with Alfredo Rinaldi, an Italian national who embedded with a U.S. Army infantry unit as a translator after the Allied landing at Anzio code-named Operation Shingle. Photo courtesy of VADM James Foggo III

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.

Troops with U.S. Army’s Fifth Army wade ashore from HMS LCI-281 during the first day of landings, near Anzio. HMS LCI-274 is extracting from the beach, in center. Smoke at far right is from the burning USS LCI-20, victim of a German air attack. National archive photo

Troops with U.S. Army’s Fifth Army wade ashore from HMS LCI-281 during the first day of landings, near Anzio. HMS LCI-274 is extracting from the beach, in center. Smoke at far right is from the burning USS LCI-20, victim of a German air attack. National Archives photo

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.

Cmdr. Erik Pittman, U.S. 6th Fleet Deputy N6, retells the story of his grandfather, Gunnar Erik Mettala, who landed on Anzio the second day of Operation Shingle part of the 36th Combat Engineers and alongside the 45th Infantry Division. Pittman retold the story while the U.S. 6th Fleet staff toured the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy, 10 May 2016. U.S. Navy photo/Lt. Adam Cole/em>

Commander Erik Pittman, U.S. 6th Fleet Deputy N6, retells the story of his grandfather, Gunnar Erik Mettala, who landed on Anzio the second day of Operation Shingle part of the 36th Combat Engineers and alongside the 45th Infantry Division. Pittman retold the story while the U.S. 6th Fleet staff toured the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy, 10 May 2016. U.S. Navy photo/LT Adam Cole

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.

Veronica Stasio, Interpretive Guide of the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, explains to the U.S. 6th Fleet staff the history of the cemetery and about the ground where more than 7,861 Americans are memorialized. VADM James Foggo III photo

Veronica Stasio, Interpretive Guide of the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, explains to the U.S. 6th Fleet staff the history of the cemetery and about the ground where more than 7,861 Americans are memorialized, 10 May 2016. VADM James Foggo III photo

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.

U.S. Marine Corps Captain. Tony Bates, deputy Executive Assistant to Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, reads the citation of Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, a medal of honor recipient for his actions in Operation Shingle at Sgt. Antolak’s headstone in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery., 10 May 2016. Personal. VADM James Foggo III photo

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Tony Bates, deputy Executive Assistant to Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, reads the citation of Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, a medal of honor recipient for his actions in Operation Shingle at Sgt. Antolak’s headstone in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, 10 May 2016. VADM James Foggo III photo

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.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tony Bates, then as 1st Lt. advisor team leader for the Afghan National Armed Forces, poses with Afghan forces he was advising in Sangin, Afghanistan. Bates was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor device for combat action and Purple Heart, for his bravery in several actions while serving in that role. He was wounded in one patrol by an improvised explosive device (IED), which resulted in serious injury and his left leg being amputated below the knee. U.S. Marine Corps Photo/CAPT Tony Bates

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Tony Bates (center), then as 1st LT advisor team leader for the Afghan National Armed Forces, poses with Afghan forces he was advising in Sangin, Afghanistan. Bates was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor device for combat action and Purple Heart, for his bravery in several actions while serving in that role. He was wounded in one patrol by an improvised explosive device (IED), which resulted in serious injury and his left leg being amputated below the knee. U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy CAPT Tony Bates

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 . . .

Sailors commemorate Memorial Day.

We remember . . . U.S. Navy photo/MC1 Christoper Stoltz

k1In 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_3160_zps002a59aePart 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.

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).

 Lt. David Myles,performs an exam on a Belizean child at the Independence Polyclinic in Independence, Belize during Continuing Promise 2015. US Navy Photo

LT David Myles performs an exam on a Belizean child at the Independence Polyclinic in Independence, Belize during Continuing Promise 2015. U.S. Navy Photo

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

USNS Comfort

USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) during Continuing Promise 2015. U.S. Navy Photo

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

Capt. Christine Sears, commanding officer of the medical treatment facility aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), speaks with a patient during Continuing Promise 2015. U.S. Navy photo

CAPT Christine Sears, commanding officer of the medical treatment facility aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), speaks with a patient during Continuing Promise 2015. U.S. Navy photo

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.


  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Patel, V. “The Future of Psychiatry in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Psychological Medicine 11, No. 39 (2009): 1759-1762. doi:10.1017/S0033291709005224.
  1. 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.

The Commandant’s “Connection Challenge”

37th CMC Official PhotoCommandant 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

150116-Z-ZZ999-002Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy’s “Big Idea for America” was to “change the narrative — veterans are civic assets, not victims.”

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.”

Increasing numbers of post-9/11 veterans are dedicated to “changing the national narrative” — veterans are civic assets and not victims. Key leaders in this initiative include Chris Marvin and Todd Connor.

Chris Marvin flew U.S. Army helicopters in combat in Afghanistan until a crash near the Afghan-Pakistan border that ended his military career and began a four year recovery from his wounds. In 2012 Chris founded and was the executive director for the national veteran campaign Got Your 6 — a coalition of entertainment industry companies and nonprofits focused on veterans and military families. Chris and the Got Your 6 Team commissioned a 2014 report, “Strengthening Perceptions of Americas Post 9/11 Veterans.” [.pdf] The report described how America’s current view of veterans is fundamentally defines by a duality that allows people to view veteran’s as concurrently damaged and heroic, a combination that tends to produce charity rather than opportunity for continued leadership.

Source: Strengthening Perceptions of America's Post-9/11 Veterans: Survey Analysis Report (Drew Lieberman and Kathryn Stewart / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Got Your 6, 2014)

Source: “Strengthening Perceptions of America’s Post-9/11 Veterans: Survey Analysis Report” (Drew Lieberman and Kathryn Stewart / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Got Your 6, 2014).

The 2015 Veteran Civic Health Index for Chris Marvin and the Got Your 6 Team [.pdf] defined civic health as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems — the degree to which people trust each other, help their neighbors and interact with their government.

The 2015 report indicated that veterans strengthen communities by volunteering, voting, engaging in local governments, helping neighbors, and participating in community organizations— all at higher rates than their non-veteran counterparts. Key findings include:

  • Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually—the equivalent of four full workweeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually.
  • Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix problems in the neighborhood, and fill leadership roles in community organizations.
  • 17.7% of veterans are involved in civic groups, compared to just 5.8% of non-veterans.
  • Veterans vote, contact public officials, and discuss politics at significantly higher rates than their non-veteran counterparts.
  • Compared to non-veterans, veterans are more trusting of their neighbors. 62.5% of veterans trust “most or all of [their] neighbors” compared to 55.1% of non-veterans. Veterans are also more likely to frequently talk with and do favors for their neighbors.

I spoke with Chris Marvin on 4 May 2016. His assessment was that the veteran narrative was becoming more of one of empowerment at the national level but that traditional veteran agencies were focused on service and charity.

Former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer Todd Connor, the CEO of Bunker Labs, is changing the veteran narrative by supporting veteran entrepreneurs: “Military veterans are builders, dreamers, and doers — who are committed to lives of service. Bunker Labs is committed to creating the place, across the U.S., where military veterans can realize their greatest potential, launch businesses, and build the next greatest generation.”

Since its founding in June 2014, Bunker Labs has raised over $23 M in total capital raised, generated more than $17 M in total revenue, supported more than 70 companies and created more than 290 total jobs. On 10 May 2016 JPMorgan Chase announced a two-year, $1.5M commitment to Bunker Labs for the Bunker Builds America Tour of twelve cities showcasing local veteran entrepreneurs and heralding new chapters of Bunker Labs.

It’s just before 6 P.M. on 11 May 2016. Millions of Chicago’s commuters are bound for home. Here in Bunker Labs (HQ), things are just getting going with young veteran volunteers who have just finished their 10+ hour day jobs are here to get ready for The Muster tomorrow on 12 May. This second annual Muster includes over 450 participants; keynote speakers, via Skype, include Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy and Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller; thirty three veteran entrepreneurs pitching their businesses; An Idea Lab for expert talks and panel discussions about defense innovation trends, veteran contributions to civil health; and Marketplace for Bunker member product and services.

Now that the seal has been broken on poor uniform changes recently thanks to the defenestration of the Blueberries, let’s walk in to the area so few dare to speak and write about; the male combination cover on the female head.

What a mess of mixed message and bad fashion we have made of female uniforms. Uniforms matter. When uniforms appear that are completely out of synch with norms, that is an indication of a deeper issue. Until we address that bucket of goo that may not be possible to fix in anytime soon, can we at least take a fresh look at the shambolic mess we have made of the female officer’s uniform?

From spotty and rather silly uniform involving moving the male combination cover to unisex status, to the questionable decision to endorse the socio-political book sales of Sheryl Sandberg – there is something a little off on the advice our senior uniformed and civilian leadership is getting about women. It isn’t so much as addressing the concerns of our Shipmates who happen to be female, but in using them to make larger socio-political points.

For those who have studied it a bit or watched in in action, it is clear that we have adopted some of the sillier strains of 3rd Wave Feminism along with some of the standard cant from second semester Gender Studies courses as policy, and as a result it is making us all look just, well, unprofessional.

Many of you know where the above picture was taken, and who that officer is. This isn’t about her (sorry Shipmate, nothing personal; your’s was just the latest example), and this is in no way her fault – she didn’t prescribe the required uniform. Anyway, look at it.

We have the old school female summer white coat that has not counterpart in the male uniform vice choker whites, and the men’s combination cover struggling to find purchase on the female skull, thick hair, and bun. Clunky and incomplete. If we are going to go full unisex, we should go full unisex.

What are we trying to do here, and why are we subjecting our female Shipmates to this bizarre experiment in poorly engineered pangenderism? Why the half measures? Especially after it was so thoroughly panned when rolled out? Why?

All you need to know about the birth of the transgender combination cover you you can find out from those it was first experimented on, the female Midshipmen at USNA who were forced to be the first ones to wear it at graduation. Ask them.

Since then, the female Midshipmen and junior officers that have reached out to me with their concerns have also provided me a view of the command climate we have when it comes to discussing this. When I asked them to write about it, they backed off as they don’t want to deal with the backlash.

After I saw the above picture, I thought, “What the heck, I’ll do it. It’s out there in full bloom for a year, why not.”

In waiting, it has folded in to context on other things that have happened recently. For some reason, it seems that our Navy has an issue with being feminine, but only in certain ways.

The U.S. Navy said Tuesday it has scrapped a national recruiting mailer that promised women they can enlist without compromising their feminine side and pursue careers that “most girls aren’t even aware of.”

Navy officials said they made the decision amid criticism that the wording was condescending and perpetuated stereotypes. …

The mailer invites women to take on “the kind of exciting, hands-on work that most girls aren’t even aware of. Making your mark in career areas that certainly aren’t just for the guys. And what’s more, you can do all this while staying in touch with your feminine side – and while bettering your world along the way.”

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national group that works for women’s equality, said the wording undersells a woman’s potential.

“You wouldn’t recruit a boy by saying that,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national group that works for women’s equality. “What does it say about the Navy? It’s relying on old stereotypes instead of a picture of modern women who can really make a contribution to the Navy and how needed they are.”

Apologize for being feminine? What is wrong with being a female? For that matter, what is wrong with a woman who wants to serve her nation, but still be a woman? It is a legitimate concern.

As the father of two teenaged young women, I know it concerns them. As they will be the first to tell you, they don’t think the same as a teen aged young man. They don’t have the same motivations. If you want to reach them, you better not talk to them as if they are some “d0^&%ey lacrosse player.” They are not better (well, they think they are), and they are not worse (honor students both, as a father I am happy to brag about) – they are just different and that should be OK.

If, as an organization, we have issue with that – and the shoe-horning of the male combo-cover sure reinforces is seen as part of getting over “old stereotypes” – then why allow women to keep the hair and bun, and avoid choker whites?

Why do we immediately bow to just one view – and it is just one view – of women, womanhood and what women want? The Navy has used that mailer for half a decade, and now it is a horror?

OK. We want women to wear men’s clothes. We think being feminine is wrong (inside our lifelines I see that 1st and 2nd Wave feminism fighting is with those who adhere to some aspects of 3rd Wave feminism. Well, we hired them as GS and SES to do this, so we might as well enjoy it). We want 120lb women to fight hand to hand with 200lb men … but we want women to still be able to have long hair and a bun to vex their combination cover?

Why can’t men wear a bun too, if we are going to go there? There are plenty of safety reasons for the short hair, and safety does not care if you are XX or XY – so why the long hair for women if that is to keep things feminine – something we think is bad?

Confused? Of course you are. We all know what is going on here. Reactionary and ungrounded leadership when it comes to addressing the desire for greater numbers of women in the service. Inconsistency and irrational, hysterical, defensive reactions to weak threats are classic indications of a leadership problem in any organization – even if you don’t have any strawberries onboard.

Over and over again in this area we have seen this pattern and it manifests itself in strange ways, from the combo cover to ignoring science based experimentation.

One has to wonder if the same reason that many female leaders – the same ones who put their lives on the line in the Fleet – are bullied in to silence, also explains the response from senior leaders in making decisions; they live in a climate of fear. They fear their own advisors and their own ability to defend their positions. “You have to do this, you have to do that, otherwise you are anti-woman. You aren’t anti-woman are you? So, do this or I will denounce you.

With little to no top-cover, I really don’t blame them for being quiet.

Solution? Well, I don’t think we will have one anytime soon as those who have approved these latest professional fashion horrors are too personally vested in it. At some point, the right leader will show up and will benchmark the best, most professional looking uniforms of other nations, and will approve designs for ours to best adjust to the female form and promote a professional appearance without looking like they are playing dress-up. Will it have to look just like the male uniform? No.

Why should it? Again, as the son of an entrepreneurial women cut from the same cloth as RDML Grace Hopper, USN, what is wrong with being feminine? I think of the 21 years of active duty, all of which I served with women, not one of those Shipmates ever stated, “I wish I could look like a man.” No, they just wished that they could have a uniform that was tailored better and as a result was more flattering at best, comfortable at a minimum. The young women in the Fleet today tell me the same exact thing. Sure, some may want to look like a man, but are they 51%. I doubt it.

As a final data point of one, in the demographic our Navy is trying to recruit from. When I showed the above picture to my daughter just recently home from college finals, she responded in cheeky voice,

“Awwww, poor thing. Just trying to do her best to get by in a man’s world.”

She has a point. By forcing women to wear something that is obviously not designed for their average bone structure, it does put out the message that there is something wrong with being a woman, that you are the “other” and that you have to hide that fact. How incredibly regressive. How incredibly unfair.

Just as we don’t know exactly who it was that forced Blueberries on everyone, so too we won’t know who bullied this unisex fashion faux-pas. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a decade to fix this mistake too.

We can do this better. We can ignore some Russian ideas, but we can do better.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 62 Comments

The Decision Process for Littoral Warfare

Our Navy expects to retain open ocean dominance by superior “shooting” with sufficient weapon reach and accuracy using manned or unmanned aircraft and missiles, and with an adequate set of anti-scouting, Command and Control (C2) countermeasures, and counterforce measures. Our present network of continuous but electronically detectable systems needs only to be kept secure from enemy C2 countermeasures to continue our blue water dominance with carrier battle groups, surface action groups, and expeditionary strike groups. The Navy calls the capability “network-centric warfare.”

In this piece, however, we concentrate on the dangerous environment close to a coastline that the full range of our sensors and weapons cannot be exploited. The threat of sudden, short range attack is a constant concern. We wish to describe an effective mesh network to fight in combat environments like San Carlos Water in the Falklands War, the coast of Israel in the 1973 War, and other waters that led to sudden surprise attacks on ships at relatively short range, like the missile attacks on USS Stark (FFG-31), HMS Sheffield, the British supply ship Atlantic Conveyer, the many missile attacks in the Gulf “Tanker War” of 1982-1989, and most recently against the Israeli missile ship, INS Hanit, off the Lebanon coast.

The littoral environment is cluttered with islands, coastal traffic, fishing boats, oil rigs and electromagnetic emissions. It is further complicated by shoal waters and inlets that offer concealment as well as threats to our warships imposed by land-to-sea missile batteries. In littoral waters the tactics are dominated by the need to be as undetected as possible with ships and aircraft that are small in size but large in numbers. Offensive tactics are achieved not by dominance at longer ranges but by covert, sudden surprise attacks and anti-scouting techniques. The mesh network we will introduce is resilient, agile and self-healing, employing intermittent and hard-to-detect communications to support offensive strikes as its foremost operational and tactical advantage.

The development of a mesh network that enables us to Attack Effectively First with a distributed lethal force in the littorals is essential to the full spectrum of future naval operations and tactics.

Command and Control Structures

All networks for Navy Command and Control must function within the context of twelve fundamental tactical processes. The mesh network we describe below fundamentally is intended to achieve what the late VADM Arthur Cebrowski espoused: a command system that is a network of people and things to perform three processes:

  • Sense (detect, track, and target enemy units)
  • Decide (make tactical command decisions and execute them with a communications system for control)
  • Act (which for simplicity we will treat as the acts of combat maneuvering and shooting at something to good effect. Other purposes include antipiracy, defeating drug runners, or conducting humanitarian operations, each of which requires other forms of action.)

What is the purpose of the sense-decide-shoot sequence?[1] Keeping to basics, the purpose in naval tactics and in this paper is to Attack Effectively First. Now we see why there are not three but twelve elements of tactical decision making. With the above examples in mind, it is clear that to Attack Effectively First a Tactical Commander must perform his three processes better than the enemy who simultaneously is performing his own Sense, Decide, and Shoot processes. Furthermore, each side is trying to interfere with his enemy’s processes, stopping or slowing them enough so that we can act (shoot) first. In Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, Hughes calls these network-supported actions: anti-scouting, command and control counter-measures, and counterforce.[2]

Table of the Twelve ProcessesUntitled-1

Each commander governs only six of the twelve processes with his network. He does his best to interfere with the enemy’s activities and network but he can’t control them. A complete discussion of what comprises the combat actions and what measures help achieve an advantage—to attack effectively first—can be found again in Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat.[3]

Also observe that timeliness is an essential ingredient of the tactical commander’s networked decision process. Rarely is it possible for him to wait for a complete picture before acting. The Battle of Midway, the night surface battles in the Solomons, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War’s sea battles all demonstrate the extreme pressure on leadership and the genius by which a victorious tactical commander chooses the right moment to launch his attack while mentally assimilating twelve interacting processes.

What Is a Mesh Network?

Fully-connected_mesh_network.svgThe definition of mesh originates in graph theory language describing flexible self-forming, self-healing, and eventually self-organizing networks. From a pure mathematical standpoint, mesh network topology is described as a complete or fully interconnected graph. For a system of N nodes the mesh topology is represented by N(N-1)/2 links in which the every node is connected to all the others. From the computer and information networking standpoint, mesh networking could take place at every critical layer of network functionality, which is typically structured through the 7-layered hierarchy of cyberspace. At the lowest physical layer populated by moving assets such as platforms and their antennas, it could be viewed as a directional or physical network of highly dynamic components. Here advances in computing technology, signal processing, and transmission open up new opportunities we are exploring at the Naval Post Graduate School

Altogether, across the layers of cyber-physical space the mesh network of LCS nodes could be implemented as an interacting set of Hubs and Relays (physical layer, layer 1) interconnected by Bridges (link layer, layer2) and governed by Routers (IP space layer 3 and above) . The set is assisted by Gateways (application layers 5-7) that interface with other networks, for example those of other Services and nations, that use different protocols. In the Navy application the network is a Decision Support System for efficient but intermittent, hard-to-detect transmission of information (processed when desirable); complex orders; and compact commands, in order to conduct almost undetectable actions by the force components in the network. A key advantage of a mesh network is its mobility in (a) physical, (b) cyber, and (c) functional domains simultaneously to enhance our command-and-control (or decision-execution) process, and to degrade an enemy’s attempt to interfere with our command-and-control countermeasures.

Mesh Networking Effects on the Decision Process in the Littorals: C2 Migration to Cyber-Physical Space

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was designed to operate in the global littorals. Today’s LCS configuration with its sea frame and mission module capabilities provides a set of defensive surface, anti-submarine and mine warfare capabilities. Plans under way to boost the LCS to frigate like offensive capabilities presume survivability in contested waters.

The LCS already is a multimodal networking platform that carries small, deployable manned and unmanned components. Adding dynamic short lifetime mesh nodes will enable the LCS to operate in time and space with intermittent transmissions. We describe an extremely dynamic mesh which doesn’t rely on time-space continuity but instead executes the Sense-Decide-Act (S-D-A) C2 cycle in highly discrete moments in time and space.

lcs1In a mesh network the Sense, Decide, and Act processes operate in both the cyber and physical domains. The C2 correspondence between the S-D-A phase in physical space and similar S-D-A steps in cyberspace can be exploited to create new options for concealment and surprise. For example, by turning on the Sense Mine Counter Measure component, we start collecting surveillance feeds from organic unmanned vehicles and other fixed or aerial-surface mobile assets in the physical space. Then the LCS commander will repeat the D and A steps in cyberspace. It could be as simple as prioritizing the sensor feeds or turning the situational awareness views “on” and “off” to save on bandwidth that is shared with many partner boats. Or the MCM mesh capability can be as complex as switching all assets feeding data to LCS from on or over an island with strictly directional peer-to-peer links, meshed in a less detectable non-line of sight (N-LOS) mode. The Physical “Sense” capability meshes with multiple, nested “D-A” performed in the cyber domain.

On the other hand, suppose we are fusing feeds on a peer’s activity in the LCS physically with N-LOS to the peer concealed behind an island. Suppose as well the radar or optical sensor feeds from a patrol boat in view of the site only intermittently. Now it becomes a priority data feed. The LCS commander shoots a projectile (physical space action) with a miniature wireless hub in its payload. The projectile’s compact communications unit reads the data from the boat sensor during the descent and sends it to the LCS, while in the line of sight. It is a process of a few seconds carried out in physical space, while the C2 process improves on the patrol boat’s cyberspace data feed. Meanwhile if the adversary is able to observe the act he is unable to decide whether it is threatening or not. There are other opportunities as we approach an enemy coast while we are establishing all domain access with a mesh network. The littorals are where the complexities of warfare all converge and where access to all domains will be required often simultaneously. The Naval Postgraduate School, is exploring the complexities and experimenting with these technologies.

By serving as critical nodes in a littoral mesh network, the LCSs and other vessels and aircraft both manned and unmanned can take on new operational roles. The configuration of information networks—well described in (Comer, 2011), and their decision making variants described in (Bordetsky, Dolk, Mullins, 2015)—will typically be guided by the presence and usage of four major types of critical networking nodes: the Hubs, the Bridges, the Routers, and the Gateways in a hierarchy of protocol layers, of which the Open System Interconnection (OSI), a seven-layered model, is the most popular one. In such a unified picture, stratified nodes perform across a scaled mesh of links, and hubs are connectors of physical layer (OSI layer 1). Bridges (or switches) operate one layer above, becoming the main connectors for clusters of nodes, which share the same type of medium and use the same rules for intermittent or on-demand listening to each other. In information technology vernacular these clusters are known as local area networks. The Routers take packets of data from a local network separately and “navigate” them from cluster to cluster as layer 3 main connectors.

In this mesh network, the LCS’s function is critical as Sense-Decide-Act information flow in connectors to local clusters of manned-unmanned nodes support the mission. They could naturally become C2 flow Hubs, Bridges, and Routers. This contrasts with the usual information network, in which Bridges connect separate nodes and communicate with easily detected transmissions.

The LCS’s self-forming mesh networks are unique due to the fact that their mobile nodes perform as Hubs, Bridges, and Routers all together. Any Router could operate as a Bridge and a Hub, as those become sub-functions of node-layered operations. A Gateway includes the Router function. A special significance of this is that the LCS now becomes essential for reconciling different protocols in partner nation’s vessels and teams. Because of the LCS modular mission architecture, we can map these fundamental connector roles into the LCS C2 mesh network. Each LCS could be a Gateway, a Router, a Bridge, or a Hub, based on rapid Mission Module switching, or it could delegate some of these roles to nearby or remote vessels, depending on the situation. There will be constant reconfiguration of Mission Module functions onboard the LCS as well as reconfigured connections across the littoral mesh.

A Maneuvering Littoral Mesh Network

One of the most remarkable changes that an LCS-based littoral mesh network brings is in redefining the component of “Act” to include “Maneuver” (Hughes, 2000). COL A. T. Balls’ concept of manned-unmanned teaming, which he devised in designing the ODIN Task Force for fighting the IED threats (Task Force ODIN 2009) is similar in performance to an LCS as a flexible Hub, Bridge, Router, and Gateway in an LCS-centered, manned-unmanned force.

Such an LCS force operating in cyber-physical space will combine physical and cyber “maneuvering”. The goal for maneuvering is not only to achieve better attack or defensive positions but also to comprise a better network within the LCS modular architecture. Here are two options:

  • Directionality of physical links in the cluttered environment of littorals. For the most part ship-to-ship networking is now dominated by omnidirectional communications. In the cluttered environment of a littoral battlefield, when an intentional enemy attack or unintentional neutral or friendly force interference is highly probable, the usage of highly directional, quickly switching links, from laser to 1.2-5.8 GHz mobile ad hoc network (MANET) radio platforms could make the difference between success and failure. It is physical space maneuvering, by getting “close enough” electronically through fast switching of highly directional links.
  • Relatively swift physical movement by a LCS with its manned-unmanned vehicles to different locations. This is a traditional type of maneuver that creates a non-traditional function: an additional set of virtually undetectable relays and new links to support vessels for plugging them into the critical attack/defense data exchanges. It includes nested directional links to extend reach to one-hop neighbors and deceive the adversary. Within a few minutes the physical configuration changes, confusing the adversary by suddenly appearing at a new location, and seemingly as a new threat. Fast movement and grouping in tight clusters creates a temporary high data transfer rate cluster, in which scouting and firing data can be shared, or alternatively can create cyberspace honey pots deceiving the adversary’s countermeasures and foiling a cyber-attack on our assets.


We have described warfare as a twelve-function process in which our aim is to attack the enemy effectively before he can attack us. We have shown that the interactions of all twelve functions going on simultaneously are especially dangerous when one must fight and win in the confined, cluttered waters off a coast. Defense of ships is much harder than in the open sea where defense in depth is possible and in a relatively uncluttered ocean which has been the focus of the U.S. Navy’s successful campaign planning for decades. On the other hand, physical and electromagnetic concealment is easier in cluttered coastal waters. With practice, and aided by mesh networking, the U. S. Navy can learn to take advantage of the unique aspects of the littoral environment and take the offensive against enemy ships and aircraft.

Ship Chirstening PreparationsWe propose to shift Navy thinking from projection of power from a safe sea sanctuary to a new and different emphasis on offensive operations that forces the enemy to defend his warships and commercial vessels against our surprise attacks. We propose an operational and tactical concealment that compels the enemy to be ever-ready for our surprise attacks from above, on, or below the coastal sea surface at times and places or our choosing.

We then assert that the command and control process is the central one that does the most to coordinate the six processes our commander controls while simultaneously he attempts to confound the six processes under enemy cognizance. We wish to enhance our power of command and control with a mesh network that is hard for the enemy to detect and take actions against. We illustrated with some specific ways to do that – all of which ways are ready for experimentation at sea.

Our fundamental conclusion is that until we deploy and become proficient with technologies that permit mesh networking, the U.S. Navy will not be ready to fight successfully in the cluttered waters off enemy coasts. We urge that the Navy advance quickly from experimentation with mesh network technologies to new combat doctrine, and then to training and proficiency, in order to restore our ability to go wherever and whenever needed against any 21st Century enemy who is aided by precision tracking and targeting, and has also practiced stealthy surprise attacks at sea. We urge a perspective that takes distributed lethality to sea with offensive tactics to force the enemy to respond to attacks when the choice of time and place is not his, but ours.


Hughes, W., Capt USN (Retired), (2000) Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

Bordetsky, A., Dolk, D. and Mullins, S (2015) Network Decision Support Systems: A conceptual Model for Network Decision Support in the Era of Social and Mobile Computing, Decision Support Systems (In Review).

Bordetsky, A. (2015) Networks That Don’t Exist, CALCALIST Newsletter.

Bordetsky, A. and Dolk, D. (2013) A conceptual model for network decision support systems. Proceedings of the 46th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, (CD-ROM), IEEE Computer Society Press.

Bordetsky, A. (2012) “Patterns of Tactical Networking Services,” in: Anil Aggarwal (Ed.) Cloud Computing Service and Deployment Model: Layers and Management, IGI, 2012.

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Shrivathsan, S., Balakrishnan, N., and Iyenger, S (2009) Scalability in Wireless Mesh Networks, In: Sudip Misra (Ed.) Guide to Wireless Mesh Networks, Springer Publishing Co.

[1] Some readers will be reminded of John Boyd’s famous OODA loop. It is a useful benchmark for those who are familiar with it.

[2] W.P. Hughes, Jr., Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, 1999, Naval Institute Press, pp 174-177.

[3] Ibid pp 40-44; pp 180-202.

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