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

Monday, June 28, 2010

Anger from the Military side, Part two

You know, another issue is, those men from my era of service and before thought it was not manly to ask for help. So, applying for a VA Disability was not in their mind. I have friends right now, that have issues, serious issues, directly related to their military service, yet they will not engage the Va for compensation. I love America. I am a true blue, patriot. I would put on my war suit and fight for this country, right this minute. When the war in Iraq began, I sent a letter to the Navy asking for voluntary recall. They said no.

But, the truth is, the military and the country uses it's young men and now young women. And, when that use and abuse leads to a life altering disease, the country owes us just compensation. Let me tell you a true story. When I was stationed at BUPERS in Washington D.C, we lived on the base at Dahlgren Virginia. It was a heck of a drive to work, but a wonderful place to raise your family. In any case, my next door neighbor, was one of the enlisted me, that was on the deck of a Light Cruiser, (CL) for the Bikini Atoll atom bomb tests. He, and most of the enlisted crew were directed to stand on deck, facing the direction of the blast, without ANY protective clothing. They had their hands over their eyes when the blast was set off. The ship was 10 miles from the blast. Jay, and the rest of the enlisted men, were exposed to massive doses of alpha and gamma radiation. They suffered terrible cancers, died young, and lived terrible disfigured lives. They did not volunteer to do this, they were ordered to do this. All. I repeat, ALL of the Officers, were in the depths of the ship in what was called deep shelter, with all external ventilation sealed, until the ship was safely away from the radiation and the men on deck had decontaminated the ship. And people wonder why I dislike Officers so much. Jay would go from active duty, to the Temporary Duty Retired List and back to active duty, as his health permitted. The Navy's goal was to get him to 20 years of active service so they could give him his retirement. As far as I know, he, nor his family, every received any compensation from the VA. In the Navy, and I am sure other services, the enlisted men and women are used, abused, and thrown away. Yes, it HAS gotten better over the last 40 years. Recently, the VA has been involved in the discharge and retirement physical process and some sailors are getting just compensation, but not as many as deserve it. But that still leaves the many, who because they think it unmanly to ask for VA compensation, or admit that they have a problem, do without treatment, mental or physical. Viet Nam vets particularly suffer from this. As I have written about before, my friend and mentor, Master Chief James Smith suffered from combat stress. He was wounded severely twice, exposed to Agent Orange overflight spraying, and in general a mental wreck. After his death, his widow took his records to the VA to get the $255 death benefit, and the counselor reviewing James' record said, "Your husband was 100% disabled! He should have been compensated." , but he never was. James' name should be on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall, but it will never be. And there there are many more like Jim. I can tell you stories about friends, right now, suffering from cancer that is directly related to their work and long term exposure to "Special Weapons" and the military will not even acknowledge that they did what they did. I can tell you about friends that have stress conditions that make them incompatible with living in a polite society. They are not that way because they want to be, they are that way because the gore, stress, fatigue, and terror of real combat made them that way, and they can not get better, EVER.

Then, of course, I see people with no combat time, who worked in an office, ate too much, did not exercise, and now have Sleep Apnea, getting 50% VA disability! Bull Shit! Sleep Apnea is self induced! Loose weight, and the sleep apnea goes away. It's just like AIDS, don't share needles for illegal drug use, don't have homosexual sex, be monogamous, that is have one, life time sex partner, and you won't get AIDS. At least, that's what the center for disease control tells us. Remember, the Government said the blood supply was safe. So, AIDS is 100% preventable. And will someone please tell me how a 100% disabled vet, with a 100% VA Disabled license plate, can ride a two wheel Harley Davidson? Not a trike. I can see that, and have seen one recently with a wheel chair rack on the back. But if you can hold that two wheel beast up, you are not disabled. So their are still disparities in the system.

Again, don't read me wrong; Freedom is not FREE. I joined voluntarily, well maybe with the encouragement of a Juvenile Court Judge, but I reenlisted several times of my own accord. But the country should pay those who actually secure that freedom, not the Officers who are in the rear with the beer and the gear, getting chests full of war medals by flying over the combat zone for an hour at 50,000 feet. And we who served, and lost all or part of our lives or our ability to live life, should be compensated first. From my perspective, it's time to pay up America!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Anger, from the military side

I must really be on a rip tonight. Last Friday, my wife and I went out to the Virginia Veterans Cemetery, in Suffolk, to reserve my burial space. Yes, sounds sort of morbid, but prior planning prevents piss poor performance! Not to mention stress on the family at a time that they don't need it. While I was there, I visited the graves of two friends that recently died. Both of them, Electronic Technicians, one an active duty Master Chief, the other a recently retired Chief. Both, hands on the equipment sailors. Not desk jockeys, not shore duty sailors. But ship riders, owners, who worked on their equipment, were proud to keep it running, all the time, trained their junior sailors, hands on, and both died of cancer, way to young. What is the contributing factor, radiation, from high power radars. Tuning the transmitter of a search radar equates to standing in front of an X-ray machine, all day long, 7 days a week! There is another Senior Chief Electronics Technician who had cataract surgery on both eyes before he retired from the Navy. Why, radiation from working on high power radars. There is my best friend, Master Chief Gunner's Mate James Andrew Smith, who had three serious heart attacks, and two bypass surgeries, one quad and one sextuplet, n active duty. He did two in country Viet Nam tours, and was wounded twice. Additionally, he did 7 gun line tours on ship's off the coast of Viet Nam providing Naval Gun Fire support for the troops on the ground. He died of a massive heart attack, less than 5 years after he retired. I believe his death was attributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Oh, he was also exposed to Agent Orange during his two in country tours. Then, there is me, and every other long term Gunner's Mate, guns or missiles, who worked shipboard gun and missile systems through 1994 or so. We were hyper-exposed to Tricryssel Phosphate (TCP)(sp) which the Navy said in 1989 was carcinogenic and neuro-toxic. I know may of my brethren who have serious skin conditions that prevent them from working because of this. I myself have a VA disability for my condition, not to mention my Parkinson's and Dementia which OSHA has stated that TCP show a "Causal" effect for Parkinson's and Dementia. That appeal is pending with the VA and has been for over a year. Just for your edification, in the VA denial letter, they stated; We agree that TCP is carcinogenic and neuro-toxic. We further agree that OSHA has proven a causal effect between TCP and Parkinson's and Dementia. Further, we agree that you were hyper-exposed to TCP over a long period of time. However, we do not agree that your Parkinson's and Dementia were caused by exposure to TCP."

The family of my Master Chief ET friend who died on active duty will get some benefits. My friend who died, shortly after he died, his family will not. My friend, James Smith's wife, did not benefit, and many other will not. There is a pattern here, that I hope gets reversed. It was for those exposed to Agent Orange, thanks to the efforts of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who almost single handled carried the blight of those affected to congress and got them and their families due compensation. But what about the others, like my ET friends, my Gunner's Mate friends, the Gas Turbine Techs who work with celulube, and so on. I am beginning to believe that we serve, and when the government is done with us, they want us to quietly fade away.

Well, much like my post on my other Blog, I am tired of being the quiet, respectful, citizen soldier. The government owes us and our families, and I am going to take the fight to them. Look our Senator Webb, I know where your office is and I am making an appointment to discuss this with you. You were a past SECNAV, if only for 9 months. It's time you earn your keep.

Funny situations.

I was just sitting here, at the computer. It is a nice and quiet, HOT, Sunday afternoon with the exception of my neighbors car alarm continuously going off for no reason. I went down and knocked on his door, politely, to inform him of his problem. He acted like the police were after him. He calmed down after he saw it was me, unarmed. I did think about shooting his new Hyundai with about a hundred rounds of 223 cal ammo, but I thought that would hurt our relationship.

When I was the Command Master Chief on the USS Caron and at Attack Squadron 55, reenlistment and retirement ceremonies were orchestrated by me. I got them set up, made sure everything was there and in order, met the wife, the kids, the parents, got all the names and the descriptions of all the players, before I went and got the Captain for the ceremony. Why descriptions? Well, the Captain of the ship or squadron needs to know who's who in the zoo. It's good to know that the 350 pound woman with the parrot on her shoulder, an eye patch, wearing skin tight leopard skin leotards, a tube top, 6 inch stiletto heals, with more tattoos than Master Chief T.C. Oneyear, is the wife of the 120 pound Third Class Boatswain Mate who is reenlisting. The Captain probably never saw this man's wife before, but he needs to control that shocked look that may come across his face as he first sees her. It would be embarrassing. Of course, it's also good to let the Captain know that the sailor's father came to watch his son reenlist, without telling anyone, and oh, by the way, his father is a Brigadier General. Yes, both of these happened to me, and many others. Like the retirement we held for a Chief who brought his new wife. The Captain wanted to change the certificate to the wife to recognize her for her faithful support to her husband over the 3 months of his 24 year career. I advised him that would not be proper.
So, ceremonies can be fun, funny, and stressful, if you don't do your homework.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Second Class messes?!?

I was in the commissary yesterday and I was reading the Navy Time in the check out line. The headlines were something to the effect of Second Class messes are being formed and the MCPON is thrilled!

OK, I know that I am a dinosaur, living in the past, that I do not understand the "Modern" Navy, and that times change. But good leadership does not change. There is a section in "Proceedings" magazine titled; "Nobody asked me, but.." and that is how I feel on this topic.

During my 20+ years of active duty, including two Command Master Chief assignments, it was my experience that the senior petty officers were most effective if they lived with, ate with, relaxed with, and interacted with, the younger sailors. The Second Class Petty Officer or young First Class Petty Officer is closest to the age group of the new sailor. He or she is more culturally attuned to this group that any other enlisted person. Living in the berthing space, meal time, and those few down hours after the work day are precious times to shape the new sailor. I believe I have written before about my own experiences interacting with some very influential GMG2's during my first tour on the USS Mullinnix. I listened to their "Sea Stories" and learned how to be a successful sailor. We discussed professional issues, in a fun and entertaining way. This lead to me, and the other junior sailors, learning more about our jobs, when we though we were just relaxing and having fun.

Of course, there is also the discipline factor. Many issues, disagreements that could turn into something worse, and just housekeeping issues, can be solved by that Senior Petty Office living the berthing space with everyone else. I remember when I became the Command Master Chief of Attack Squadron 55 (VA55). The ship was deployed when I arrived and the First Class Petty Officers had some how set up their own berthing space. A small berthing space, with nothing but First Class Petty Officers from the squadron. It was a pit. The ship's Executive Officer held a messing and berthing inspection, not long after I arrived, and their berthing space failed miserably! I met with them, in their berthing space, to discuss the problem. I listened to their perceived problems and their idea of a solution. They wanted mess cooks to clean their berthing space, like the Officers and Chiefs had. While I was getting upset inside, I kept my cool and said;" OK, I agree. Which one of you will provide the people to do this job?" I said that because I already knew they were all stretched to the max. No one volunteered. So, I explained to them why I was against separate First Class messes and berthing. And I closed the meeting with this: You have to keep this space clean on your own. I will inspect it regularly. If it fails again, all of you move back into your respective divisional berthing spaces." They kept the space clean for a few days, and then the ship's XO held a surprise Messing and Berthing inspection and they again failed badly. The so called "President" of the First Class mess came to me and said; "We lost it huh." My reply was, when are you all moving.

Another experience I have with First Class messes is on a Spruance Class destroyer that I was the Command Master Chief on. It seemed every time we had an evolution like replenishment at sea, sea detail, or a working party, that the division that did not provide the proper personnel, I could find their First Class sitting in the First Class mess. I solved that problem with a padlock a couple of times!

There is a way to get a messing and berthing space of you own, Make Chief or become an Officer! The opportunity is there and it is plentiful. Yes it requires work, dedication, extra hours, and desire. But that is how my parents taught me to earn things. My personal view of First Class messes, and now Second Class messes, it that it equates to the trap in the bottom of the dishwasher where all the junk gets trapped. The good stuff keep flowing, and the stuff you don't want stays there.

I disagree withe the MCPON, but it is not the first time I have disagreed with a MCPON. Young sailors need 24/7 leadership, and that cannot be provided when you seperate the mid grade, seasoned Petty Officers from the newly minted sailors. This idea, if it is permitted to take root, will only further lower the technical proficiency and military bearing of our sailors.

"Nobody asked me, but I said it anyway"

Monday, June 14, 2010

The order of battle

General George Patton, is famous for his salty language and his determination in battle. The beginning of the movie "Patton", George C. Scott, portraying General Patton, gives Patton's speech about dying for your country. Without directly quoting the General's speech, his point was, killing the enemy, in large enough numbers, to make him quit fighting, is the objective of war. No military man wants a war to go on for years and years. No military man, unless he is suffering from mental stress, wants to die for his country. War is HELL. On a ship, on the beach, in an aircraft. Yes it's exciting, yes, there are minutes of exhilaration, I know from personal experience. But, living every minute, knowing it might be you last is not enjoyable. In modern history, the American military has never lost a war. Read what I said! I wrote, the American military has not lost a war in modern history. Yes, we lost in Korea, but we may get A REMATCH soon. Yes, we lost in Viet Nam. We are loosing in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We lost in Somalia, We lost in Haiti, We lost in Panama. Why, because politicians, who never wore the uniform of the United States, never fought in a war, never saw a man die a gruesome death, prevent the American military from doing their job.

We are wonderful, and completely trained. Out equipment is top notch, our motives are, for the most part, pure. But the American politicians put is in situations, with rules of engagement, that prevent us from taking the war to the enemy and making him hurt so bad, that he no longer wants to fight. Think for a moment, if a small female, wants to stop a large man from assaulting her, what does she do? That's right, she kicks him in his private parts. If you have never been hit there, trust me, you no longer want to fight.

In Viet Nam, we were prevented from hitting the enemy in many places that would have crippled him. We could not pursue the enemy over the borders of Laos or Cambodia, even though that was where his safe place was. In Afghanistan, we cannot bomb places because civilians might be hurt. Remember the bombing raids in World War two on Germany, Japan? If you kill enough civilians, they will rise up against their government and stop the war themselves, even if they have to over throw the government.

But, I have a simple solution to this problem. I know it will never be enacted, because the Chicken Hawk politicians won't do it. But, a constitutional amendment requiring military ACTIVE DUTY for at least 4 years should be added to the requirements to hold a House or Senate seat and also for the Presidency and Vice President. That ought to sort out the good guys from the bad guys.

I am tired of unqualified, landed gentry, rich boys, governing MY country. I dedicated 40 years of my life actively "defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. " I now know who the domestic enemies are, and I believe we need to take the offensive against them. So I ask you to check the service record of those you vote for, and if they have not ACTIVELY served this great nation, vote against them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Timber!!!!...

Another true, funny story about the hard working, well educated, Gunner's Mate came to mind today, after my afternoon nap. When I was the GMG Detailer at BUPERS in Washington D.C., the Chief that was the one and only GMT Detailer lived on a farm that he and his family rented at the corner of Stafford and Faquier Counties. It was at the end of a street called "Rainbow's End". Aptly named. It was a very large old, but well preserved farm house on 5 cleared acres, set in about 1200 acres of corn and trees. The house had two large fireplaces and they used them to supplement the oil furnace heating system. Many of us from the FT/GM Detailing section would go our to the GMT's rented homestead on the weekends and have a good time shooting firearms, eating good food, drinking beer, and falling trees for the fireplaces. The latter is where we almost got in trouble. the GMT and I were our in a stand of trees, cutting down some dead trees. At least they looked dead, it was December and they did not have any leaves on them. The GMT used a 1980 or so, Chevy Malibu station wagon as a farm truck. He also commuted in it, drove his family around in it, and took it on trips back to Texarcanna. In any case, he was cutting this fairly large tree and I was looking at where the Malibu was. I said, "Don't you think we should move the car?" He said, with his thick Arkansan drawl, "No, I know what I am doing, it won't come close to the car." But, I insisted on moving the car. So, I backed the car up just in time to have the tree miss the front of the car by inches! The GMT said; " I didn't expect that!" I guess not. But that was all that was said, until now. I guess even the now extinct GMT is a hard head.