The Navy's traditions live on in the hearts of those who serve

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Past regrets

As most of you know, I have a disease called Lewy Body Dementia.   It causes me to mentally live in the past more than the present.  Because of that, I think, constantly, about what I did in my Navy career.  My successes and my failures.  The failures look worse than the may have been and I suspect the people I wronged don't even remember it now.  But I do.  And those events cause me grief and angst.

Today, I was talking on the telephone with my best friend, Jerry, in Virginia Beach.  We talk every week for as long as we can think of things to talk about.  He is my lifeline!  We were talking about an individual that we were both stationed with, at different, widely separated, times.  I knew this individual for almost all of my Navy association, in uniform and as a Civil Servant.  He was an exceptional professional.

When Ed and I were at MK 42 Mod 9&10 "C" School at Great Lakes, I was a GMG3 and he was a GMG2.  We were both already in competition!  Then, we both went to the Pre-Comm unit of the USS Stein (DE 1065).  Naturally, he was senior, so he became the Leading Gunner's Mate and was the Work Center Supervisor for the MK 42 Gun Mount.  I had more MK 42 experience than he had, but he was senior.  That did not set well with me!  I was very competitive.  So was he.

The FTG1, Gary Babcock, was the Divisional Leading Petty Officer and had to play referee for our competitiveness.  Sorry Gary!  Our Chief, was Bill Mowery.  My mentor and friend.  He had his hands full also.

But, we survived that time and became friendly.  After I was married, Linda and I went to his home when his son was born.  I suspect I was the first non-family person to hold Brian.  That was so long ago.

Jerry knew Ed when he was a Master Chief.   Much of the gruffness and competitive nature was gone by then.  I was in contact with Ed then too.  I was at his retirement.   Between our years together and now, Ed an I did some Navy business together.  I was his Detailer and sent him to run the MK 26 School in Minneapolis because the Navy needed a no bullshit Leader to square things away.  He did a great job!

Ed knows my sins and I know a few of his.  None of them matter now.  I regret our years of competition and wish I had it to do over.  But I don't.   That is one of the issues with Dementia.  You see the past in 3D!  Sometimes it is not as good as you once thought and you were not the knight in shining armor you thought you were.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The USS Zumwalt

I see the USS Zumwalt has bee christened.  This ship has been a long time coming and has had numerous designs and classifications.  As the plan is now, the Navy is only going to build a few of them.  However the article I read lead the reader to believe we were going to have 100 of them and that they were faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and bullet proof, if the enemy could even hit it!

The article also talked about the Navy putting the "Rail Gun" on the Zumwalt class DDG's.  The article went on to describe the electric propulsion power plant and how that would be enough power to run the electro-magnetic rail gun.  However, the Zumwalt has two new generation, slow fire, 155 mm Naval Guns.

All of this wonderful, untested, never used before, technology, is on a small hull ship.  The rest of the world's Navies are building heavily armed, heavy cruisers and big aircraft carriers.  Oh, and attack submarines, bot nuclear and diesel powered, by the droves.  Just saying, 4 Zumwalts, at the cost of the national economy of Germany, EACH, seems like putting pour eggs in one, small, thin hulled, basket!

If you read my blog, you know I am not big on new technology at the cost of combat readiness.  The Navy has been working on the design of the Zumwalt for 15 years that I can document.   The ship is all electric.  And EMP is the biggest threat to our Defense capabilities!

So, while the christening of a new class of war ship should always be a happy event.  But so is having children!  But the nurturing of those children is many times, painful.  I am in fear that the Zumwalt will be as painful as the San Antonio.

Increased Sea Pay!

I saw a report on the site Hamptonroads.com informing me that the Navy needed to increase sea pay $200!  I think that is great!!  Sea Duty is tough on the body, the marriage, and the pay check!

When I joined the Navy, sea pay was $12.50 per month!!  It stayed that way until the mid 1980's.

I had a friend that was a Master Chief Gunner's Mate.  He served 34 years on active duty and had  plenty of sea duty.  I once asked Jim, why he stayed at sea.  He told me his sea pay was his car payment!  I rather think it was his bourbon payment, but I did not argue.

The thing that surprised me in the article was that we only have 100,000 personnel at sea!  That is approximately one/third of the Navy's manning!!   My Uncle John Kampf joined the Navy in 1940, served as a Submarine Torpedoman, and retired in 1960 as a Chief Electronics Technician.  He had one, two year, shore tour!!

When I joined the Navy, most sea shore rotations were 7 years sea duty and 2 years shore duty.  Yes, some rates like PN, YN, had more shore billets than sea billets, so they were more shore based.  Admiral Zumwalt became the CNO in the 1970's and made 5 years the maximum seat tour for anyone, unless your volunteered to stay at sea.  Now, it appears we need more folks at sea, so they are being offered more sea pay!  Again, good.

My question is, what do we need the other two/thirds of the Navy personnel for?!  Sailors belong on ships and ships belong at sea.  Yes, there are some necessary shore billets.  Instructors, Recruit Company Commanders, even Recruiters.  Anything else can be done by a civilian, a contractor, or a computer!

When I was the Gunner's Mate Detailer, a job that can now be done by a computer, the person that did GMG, E-4 and below and schools detailing used to have a special way dealing with people on the telephone that wanted orders to shore duty.  He would say; I suggest you join the Army or the Air Force!!  While I agreed very little with Gene Veldhouse, he had that one correct!

More sea pay is good and deserved.  More shore duty is counterproductive to combat readiness.  My view.

One more thing!  When I was the GMG Detailer, I car pooled with the HT Detailer.  One day, a Master Chief HT, showing 30 years service on his Dress Blue Blouse sleeve, came into his desk area and asked;  Who do I talk with to ask about shore duty.  My carpool mate replied; That depends, Master Chief.  How long have you been as sea?    The Master Chief replied, 33 years!!  That Master Chief had been on bona fide, shipboard, sea duty since he got out of Boot Camp!  Now this was 1982 or 1983.  So he had been at sea since the early 1950's!!  Chief Wayman, asked the Master Chief why he wanted shore duty now.  He replied;  I just got married, for the first time, and I want to spend time with my wife!  Now that was a sailor!!

Memories of the MK 42 Gun Mount

This morning, I was thinking about my past and settled on  the early days of the MK 42 Mod 9, 5"/54 RF Gun Mount.  The MK 42 Mod 9 was a giant step in the gun mount world.  It was the first time solid state circuitry was utilized.   And the 1492 mechanical micro switches used in the MK 42 Mod 1-8 were replaced by Magnetic Reed Switches feeding inverter circuits and logic circuits.  Those 292 Magnetic Reed Switches replaced all 1492 mechanical misdo switches and since the solid state circuitry used 24 VDC instead of 115 VAC, the negative effects of circuit grounds were greatly reduced.  Of course, you may remember the Magnetic Reed Switches were later replaced by solid state Hall Effect Switches.  But this remembrance is on the Reed Switched.

They were actuated by a magnet on the moving piece of equipment.  Sometimes, the magnet would stay over the switch and keep the reeds together for long periods of time.  Then, when the magnet moved, the reed stayed together because of residual magnetism, sending a false "One" state to the Inverter and Logic circuits!  That problem was easily remedied by whacking the Magnetic Reed Switch with a ¾" wrench.  I carried a ¾" wrench all the time because it fit the Solenoid shaft that moved the hydraulic valves.  Sometimes, you had to shift the solenoids to get things back in sequence.  But, you could never do that until you checked the logic lights to makes sure the solenoid was the problem!

So, my early memories of the Mod 9 is whacking Magnetic Reed Switches and shifting solenoids!   Naturally, the Hall effect Switches did away with the residual magnetism problems.  But it is fun to remember the old days.  My, how far the Gunner's Mate world has come.  I miss those days though.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A changing Navy and Military

OK, fasten your seat belts and grab your ass!  I am going in a direction none of you expect.

There has been a lot of turmoil about Congressional testimony from the top enlisted leaders of the Navy and the Marine Corps.  Both of them made statements that support reducing the pay and benefits of our sailors.  Naturally, the first emotion is; How dare you throw our people under the bus!!  But, are they?

When I joined the Navy, Quality of Life was coming home alive and in one piece from a deployment.  If you ask our Wounded Warriors, I believe they would agree.  But, we have taken Quality of Life to new and greater heights.  Good even, great pay, barracks for single sailors on ships, single BAH, and other things that mitigate the stress of living on a Navy ship.  Then, there is the Quality of Life on today's modern ships.  Go to one of the memorial ships in America and look at how our predecessors lived.  The berthing spaces were sparse and crowded.  Locker space was small, there was no crew's lounge, weight room, or library.  Even air conditioning was missing!!  Today, shower hours are a distant memory, we have 24/7 email, web access, and live television.  Entertainment in 1969 was an old movie on the mess decks!

All of this Quality of Life has come at a price.  That price is readiness.  I don't know about you, but I was a Gunner's Mate and being combat ready is more important to me than anything else.  Being able to win the battle is the purpose of that ship we sail on.  Weapons systems, damage control, efficient, capable, engineering systems, sensors, all make surviving and winning possible.  Now I know, none of the systems are useless without well trained, well motivated, sailors.

So, do I agree with the MCPON?  In a way, yes.  When I joined the Navy, you needed a request chit, signed by the Commanding Officer to get married!  Unless you were an E-5, you could not park on the base during the week.  Only Chiefs and Officers could have civilian clothes on the ship.  Those days are gone, and I don't want to go back.  But, we need to find a way to reduce the cost of manning ships while still having a motivated, well trained crew.  The question is how?

Maybe, reducing the pay for E-1 through E-3 personnel is a start.  Then, providing advancement incentives for those who make themselves more valuable to the Navy.  Training, Warfare Qualifications, PQS qualifications, could all play into the pay and advancement formula.  Then, have an increasing pay jump at E-4, E-5, and E-6.  This would make advancing even more enticing.   I knew individuals that did not want to advance to a pay grade because they were comfortable where they were.  That's OK in some cases and I have never been in favor of "up or out".  In industry, if someone wants to be a maintenance person and never promote to supervisor, and continually does a good job, the company is happy to have that person.  In the Navy, we throw them out!    Back in the Navy I joined, I saw Gold Hash Mark Seaman!  Now, I will admit, promotion was very limited then in some rates.  But, they were happy.  So, if they were happy and performing well, why not stay?  But. back t my point.

We must find a way to balance costs and readiness.  Our nation does not have an unlimited pot of taxpayer money to spend.  So, redesigning the way we compensate our Sailors, in a fair and equitable manner, is imperative.  How we do that should be a matter of deep thought, consideration, and debate.  But those mental drills need to happen quickly because if we do not come up with some ideas, the politicians will.  I challenge the MCPON, Fleet Master Chiefs, and Force Master Chiefs to canvass their constituencies for ideas now.  I believe we have the solution.  We just need to seek that solution out and then push it forward.  I am retired and do not presume to have THE answer.  But I emplore those of you who read my dribble to take charge, contact your appropriate Force or Fleet Master Chief, and get this problem solved.  The future of our Navy is in your hands!!

I told you I was going to shock you!

More memories

I was sitting here in my power recliner remembering the Navy.  I was talking about the differences between the classes of ships that I served on with my wife.  That brought back to mind the USS Mullinnix and the Forrest Sherman class Destroyers.  Many of them had three MK 42 5"/54 caliber rapid fire guns.  They served very well in the gun line in Vietnam providing thousands of rounds of Naval Gun Fire Support.

When I was the GMG Detailer, President Reagan and Secretary of the Navy John Lehman were building a 600 ship navy.  The Forrest Sherman class Destroyers were at the end of their life expectancy and were being decommissioned.  Then, the Marine Barracks in Beirut Lebanon was blown up.  The Navy needed Gun Ships again and the call went out to re-commission the three gun Forrest Sherman class Destroyers again!

We had just completed decommissioning them and one day,I received a telephone call from Captain Beggs, at Navsea 62Y1.  He was the Head of the Naval Gunnery.  The Captain said; "Senior Chief, what would you say if I told you we needed to recommission the three gun Forrest Sherman's?"  I hung up!  He called back laughing but serious.  We had just done away with the Navy Enlisted Code for the MK 42 Mod 1-8 Gun Mounts that were on this class of ship.  That NEC was 0873 and I was one.  But we would have great difficulty identifying others other than those I remembered.  But, we went to work identifying those with Mod 1-8 experience.

A couple of days later, Captain Beggs called and said; "Secure from General Quarters!"  It seemed the cost was too great.  Not long after, I was on the USS Caron, off the coast of Beirut, shooting hundreds of rounds of Naval Gun Fire Support to keep the Druse Militia from over running the Marines who were now encamped on the runway of the Beirut airport!    We were as close as 1000 yards off the coast shooting to extend the range of our guns!  That was a great time, but that store will have to wait for later.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Military titles!

Did you ever notice that anytime someone wants to make their title impressive, or want to show they are in charge, the add the Enlisted Navy title of "Chief" to it?!!  It's true.  here are some examples;

Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Staff of the Army
Chief Sargent Major
Chief of Chaplains
Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

No one ever says there are the General of anything, except the Post Master, the Head attorney, and the Nations Doctor.  Now since the Post Officer, the Attorney General, and the Surgeon General's offices are all in shambles, maybe they should reconsider calling themselves by an Officer's title!  Seems to me, a little humility is in order!

Also, I remember the late Vice Admiral Donnell telling a newly promoted group of Senior and Master Chiefs that they were the Admirals of the Enlisted community.

I also remember Captain Beggs from NAVSAE 62Y1 calling the GM?FC Detailer's shop at NMPC 406C and asking for Admiral Dolence!  Our very inexperienced YN3 that answered the telephone replied;  "We do not have an Admiral Dolence here sir.  We have a Senior Chief Dolence."  Captain Beggs shouted; "That's the SOB.  He must be an Admiral, he wears stars and tells ME what to do!!"

ANyway, this is just a series of thoughts that popped into my brain.  It is never good to leave me home alone to think about the Navy!