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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The ship that won't die!

I read yesterday, that the Navy is NOT going to decommission the USS Ponce and instead, turn her into a floating SEAL base! My first reply was, WOW!!  The USS Ponce has been scheduled for decommissioning at least twice that I know of.  Once just after I retired from the Navy and most recently, last year.   The Ponce is old, rode hard, and put away wet!  She has been neglected because of her age and pending decommissioning.  Federal law prevents spending upgrade funding on any ship that is within five years of decommissioning.  So, Ponce has missed many upgrades.  I believe she has also missed overhaul attention because of this.  The bottom line is, the USS Ponce is the ship that refuses to die.

But the other side of this story is the floating SEAL base.  We had two floating SEAL bases during the Iran/Iraq war.  I have written about this before. This concept worked then and will work now.  But, those bases were oil drilling rigs that were big and designed to anchor in deep water and remain stable. However, while they were self propelled, they were slow.  Additionally, they had no installed self defense systems and very little command and control capabilities.  So, the Ponce is much better equipped to meet these needs.

So, because of the need to provide a mobile base for our SEALS in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce lives again.  We have historically done this exact thing,  You may remember we recommissioned a couple of LSMR's to act as floating bases for the brown water Navy in Viet Nam.  It worked then and it will work now.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Old, but GREAT, story!

Every now and then, a story from the past pops into my mind. That is exactly what happened a few minutes ago.  So, I decided to sit down and write it down before I forget it again.

When I was a civilian working for NAVSEACENLANT, I did a temporary assignment job at SURFLANT.  I worked in the N6 directorate and worked directly for N63, who was a Commander.  He was a great manager and leader and I respect him to this day.  We were having an open, raging, debate about the life expectancy of MK 45 gun mounts.  Many of us believed that, with planned, phased, maintenance, the MK 45 gun mount could stay on a ship for the life of the ship.  The In Service Engineering Agent, at Louisville Kentucky, held the belief that these gun mounts required depot level overhaul every 7 years or so.  The expense of removing these gun mounts and replacing them was high.  Also, since there were NO spare gun mounts, the replacement had to be done during a major overhaul.  The plan was, remove the gun mounts, ship them to Louisville, over haul them, ship them back to the ship and install them.  This worked as long as the yard periods were one year or more in duration.  However, operational schedules in the early 1990's precluded these long overhaul periods.  So, a meeting of the various players was planned.

Now, the original manufacturer of the MK 45 gun mount is the FMC Corporation of Minneapolis.  They have a new name now, but I forget it.  They were at the meeting too.  As the meeting progressed, each group stated their position.  the ISEA contingent told the N63 Commander that they had to keep the ships in the yard at least a year.  Of course, SURFLANT had other orders and could NOT change them.  In the heat of the argument, the N63 Commander, slapped a large stack of paper on the table.  Complete with Fax cover sheet, all properly made out to and from FMC and SURFLANT.  All bound up with a big bull clip.  The Commander said to the ISEA; " Your  say we can't do a pierside over haul, but I have hear a complete pier side Overhaul proposal from FMC and it costs less than removing and replacing the gun mounts!"  At that, the ISEA changed their tune and softened their position.  WE got our pier side overhauls and kept MK 45 gun mounts running without issue for ten years.  Then the political structure changed and the replacement program was re-instituted.  But, the funny part of this story  came after the meeting.  After everyone had left, the Commander came over to me and said; "It is a good thing that they did not look at that proposal."  I asked him why?  He replied as he fanned the pages for me;  Because this is a stack of blank paper with a Fax routing sheet!"  I am glad I never played poker with him!  But, his bluff saved the tax payers millions of dollars.  Now you know why I respected him so much.          

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Troop reductions and Base closings. Do you feel safe?

SECDEF Panetta announced today that the Obama administration planned to reduce troop levels, including completely doing away with two Army Brigades in Europe.  In addition, there will be base closings, and a reduction in pay raises for active duty troops.  Additionally, they want to raise the cost of health care to retired military personnel and their families!  All of these cuts in a time of the economic depression, high unemployment, and a depressed housing market.  These moves will only result in more economic depression.  remember that each dollar spent on the military means 5 dollars spent in the economy in homes, groceries, cars, military equipment, and other consumer goods.  All this spending results in jobs for other people.  And all of those jobs will be gone with these cuts!

But, that is not the most dramatic part of these cuts!!  I have written before that the world is turning against us.  Just look around, look at the news.  Today, the Islamist government in Egypt detained the son of an American Diplomat.  They prevented him from leaving the country!!  When we look weak, our enemies react, and that reaction is always bad for America.

Cutting the military will reduce America's ability to maintain a world wide presence, maintain open sea lanes for trade, prevent pirates, and prevent nations from imprisoning
free people.  We will loose more influence than we have already.

Another issues is, the reduction of troops in Europe.  Do you know why we have troops in Europe, primarily Germany?  They are a trip lever.  That's right, if the Soviet Union, again, I refuse to call them Russia, invades the free countries of Europe, the death of our troops will ensure our involvement  in that war.  Of course, they are expected to hold the line against the Red Army until reinforcements arrive!  But, reduced to one Brigade in Europe, well, they can't be expected to hold for long!

This is evidence of a political agenda to reduce America to the status of a third world banana republic!!  A nation without a secure border, and national language, a common culture, and the ability to defend itself and it's interests, worldwide, will cease to exist!!  I believe, and I have said it before, that we are on this path.  America is far along her path to destruction!  Can we stop it?  I doubt it.  The citizens of our country have become SHEEP!  As long as we are comfortable, can watch TV, and drink beer, we are content!  The people who govern us are no concern to the majority of Americans.  Just don't stop their party!  That's why I don't believe we can save our nation.  But, there are some who will fight for our freedom, our national sovereignty.  They will be defeated because the majority of Americans won't stop being comfortable or be interrupted in their pursuit of leisure to join the force.  But, they say Nero fiddled while Rome burned.  I guess we can see how that happened now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The SEALS did it again!

If you read the news today, you know that the Navy SEALS rescued some hostages from the Somali pirates.  That's great! President Reagan, Admiral "Ace" Lyons, and Commander Dick Marcinko made this elite unit, and now we are using them.  Oh, we used them before, but the news media was never told.  This elite SEAL unit was classified higher than "TOP SECRET"!  They did not wear uniforms, grew their hail long, had beards, did not carry Military ID cards, and dressed like bums.  Why, to fit into the populace.  Their headquarters were secretly concealed on a training base, they drove civilian vehicles, used weapons other than government issue, and were the most clandestine unit we ever created.  Not to mention they were terribly effective.

But, based on my last post, I would like to ask the question;  How did the SEALS get to Somalia?  Did they walk, drive, swim?  No, a military unit delivered them.  Maybe a submarine with a SEAL delivery vehicle, or a helicopter flying from an Aircraft Carrier,  or they did a HALO jump from a C-130 aircraft piloted by Navy Pilots.  The bottom line is, their mission was a JOINT mission, coordinated with various units of the Navy or other military branches.  But, all the American public hears about is the SEALS.  And that makes my point!  I am not jealous of the success of the SEALS, I am angry that our leadership ignores the efforts of the rest of the Navy.  So, as I asked a day or so ago,  speak out!  Tell YOUR war stories every where you can and anytime you have the opportunity.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

No one knows what the Navy does!!

I am watching the car auctions at Barrett-Jackson and they are doing a charity auction for an Armed Forces charity.  Good for them!  But, when they talk about the military and what they do, how dangerous it is, how much they sacrifice, they always talk about the Marines or the Army.  That's not bad, what they do is tough, dangerous, and important.    When they talk about the Navy, it is always the SEALS.  And again, I agree they are tough and work in a terribly dangerous professional.  My point is, no one know what the rank in file Navy personnel do.  No one talks about how dangerous it is to be a "Grape" on the flight deck of a carrier.   And no one know how dangerous it is to be a Navy Gunner's Mate, or a Gas Turbine Technician, or a Nuclear Power tech on a submarine, or..., you get the idea.  We sacrifice for the country doing dangerous things, away from our families, in terrible places, including submerged for 90 days!

So, hat do we do about that.   First, we leas the way honoring what our service members from all branches of the services do!  Second, we tell our story, everywhere, every time you get the chance!   Tell people your dangerous stories!  You have them, flight deck stories, fire at sea stories. foul bore gun mount stories, oil spill stories, climbing the mast in the winter stories.   I know they are out there, open you mouth and let your friends and family know what you did or what you are doing.  The Navy needs to let the country know how important what we do is.  And they need to know now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Great day for old shipmates!!

One of my greatest pleasures is to be in contact with old Shipmates.  Today was a banner day.  I was sitting in my home, enjoying the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction on the TV when my phone rang.  I grumbled at the interruption, then gleamed as I heard the voice of Clay Heiser, from my first tour on the USS Stein.  He and I commissioned the USS Stein and made her first deployment together.  I have not talked to him since 1974!!  He and I had a great visit that lasted the better part of 30 minutes!!  At the end of our call, he asked me if I thought our old Chief, Bill Mowery, would mind if he called him.  My reply was; "He will be mad if you don't!!"  We ended that call and I went back to the auction.  Then, three hours later, the phone rang again!  Who could that be?!  It was Bill Mowery!! He and I have not talked in ten years!  We had a great conversation talking about Clay and other old shipmates.  We also compared illnesses and hospital visits.  That seems to be a normal topic of conversation for those of us of a certain age and mileage.  It was great to visit with my Mentor and Teacher.  Bill Mowery, Master Chief Mowery, did more for my career as a Gunner's Mate than anyone else.  He shaped my leadership and technical character.  I respect him to this day!  And I will see him in May when I go to the NASCAR Race in his hometown!!  I can't wait.  It has been a good day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Memories of MY Navy.

I am home alone today.  The TV is off, no noise, I have a cup of coffee and my dog is sitting by my side.  This is wonderful!  As I sit here, I am thinking about my years in uniform.   I had the privilege to serve in the Navy during some interesting, but turbulent times.  The first issue I remember dealing with was the racial tensions of the late 1960's and early to mid 1970's.  This was a time of much needed change in the Navy as well as in our country.  I believe that the Navy was head and shoulders above the rest of the country in dealing with this issue.  The Navy had it's sins, but the Navy admitted them and made great strides to repent!  Not to long before I joined the Navy, Filipino's could only be Stewards and not long before that, Blacks could only be Stewards.  You may know that the Medal of Honor recipient, Dorie Miller, was a Steward, and he was Black.  Those discriminatory policies were changed and the Navy was better for it.  I was a facilitator for the Navy's UPWARD Seminars. UPWARD stood for Understanding Personal Worth and Racial Dignity.  It was a great program at the exact right time.  In these seminars, we openly faced our prejudices and fears.  In my opinion, that was the way to quickly deal with long term discrimination.  Did it have it's detractors?  Yes!  But the Navy made it clear that discrimination of any kind was NOT going to be tolerated.  So, you either changed, hid your issues, or got out.  It was that simple.

I grew up in the mid west, and went to school in a completely  integrated school system.  I grew up poor to lower middle class, so I was not of the "Landed Gentry".  Navy Boot Camp was another great equalizer.  We were all "Maggots"!  We all looked the same, skinny, bald, and confused.  We all succeeded or failed on the group's efforts.  So, we learned to work together!  It worked.  The first Chief I worked for was BMC Moses.  He was Black, and one of the best Chief Boatswain's Mates I ever knew.  He was a exceptional teacher and leader.  When I went to Gun Division, I worked for GMG1 Sam Johnson.  He was another exceptional Petty Officer who was Recruiting Poster sharp in appearance and demeanor.  Through out my Navy career, and in fact, through out my adult life, I have not held prejudices nor permitted those who worked for me to express them in any manner.  During my brief tour as Command Master Chief of VA 55 at Oceana, I met Master Chief B.J. Owens, the Wing Master Chief.  He was, in my opinion, the Master Chief's Master Chief!!  He took this young, inexperienced, Black Shoe, Gunner's Mate under his wing and taught me about the Aviation Navy.  He also taught me about Leadership.  Bobby was GREAT!   When he retired, I was Force at SURFLANT, but he asked me to be a Side Boy for his retirement ceremony.  I was honored and said yes.  On the day of his retirement ceremony, I showed up at Oceana in my Full dress Blues and mustered with the other five Master Chiefs that were going to be his Side Boys.  I knew most of them and as the ceremony started we attended to our duties.  When it came time for Master Chief Owens' remarks, he opened his speech by saying;  "When I joined the Navy, over thirty years ago, you would never have seen six Black Master Chiefs standing here."  as he pointed to us Side Boys.  Then, he corrected himself and said; "Sorry Don, Five Black Master Chiefs."  That was one of the greatest complements anyone ever gave me.  That he thought so much of me that he forgot what my race was.  Now, that is how it is supposed to be!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Old technical memories are fading.

From memory, without benefit of a tech manual or even a pencil and paper, I used to be able to take the fire control signal,including train, elevation, fuze setting; and diagram the electrical, electronic, hydraulic, and mechanical systems from error to in-sync!  Now, I can't even trace B-end response canceling the error signal.  In the MK 42 gun mounts, there were Pointing and Non-Pointing Zones that most Gunner's Mates considered Pure Magic.  I completely understood them and successfully taught them when I was an instructor at Gun School.  I have blogged before about understanding, completely, the MK 42 gun mount's carrier control valve block and it's electronic circuits.  But, as many of you know, I have a degenerative neurological disease that is impacting my memory.  Since this disease is progressive, my early memories were not effected until now.  But, try as I may, I am loosing those precious early memories.  And I do try to recall and relive those early days.  Today, I have been thinking, racking my brain, about the power drives of MK 42 gun mounts.  It, does not matter to most people, but it really matters to me because it defined, for so many years, who I was.  I did not do anything recreational, no hobby, nothing but Gun Mounts!  Early in my career, I worked for some great Chiefs and Petty Officers and they strive to be the best at what they did and they instilled that drive in me.  So, loosing what I believe to be a defining part of my being is disturbing.

But, what bothers me even more is that I do not believe today's sailors are getting the same leadership that drives you to be the subject matter expert in your chosen technical field.  At NAVSEACENLANT, or what ever name they went by, I saw sailors come and go.  Some were exceptional, but most were adequate.  And as my career there went on, the ration of great verses adequate, went down.  I hate to say this, and I don't say it lightly.  Furthermore, it may not be the entire fault of the senior sailors.  Our "A" and "C" school system is completely broken.  It is computer based with NO hands on experience.  The instructors are not sailors from the fleet but ex-sailors and retired sailors who's expertise has grown stale because of years out of the fleet.  When we had fresh, young, fleet sailors as instructors, the level of instruction was very high.  Why, because the instructors knew we were going to see those students in the fleet when we returned to sea duty!  That in itself is a motivational factor.

So, while I am sailing into the sunset of my life, the Navy must re institute Live, Fleet Return, Lock-Step instruction for all service schools.  This is the only way to salvage our technical base.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What are they doing now? Part Two!

I read that the President and the Secretary of Defense pan on cutting 500,000 troops and replace them with drones!  What are they thinking?  Now, I know that I am an old, stupid, retired enlisted man, from a bygone era.  But, I know that drones do not win wars.  You win wars by destroying the enemies equipment, supply chains, killing their men, and then occupying their country!  We seem to have lost that truth in the midst of our kinder, gentler, military!  Our troops are crippled from winning by the politicians, in uniform and in $5000 suits.  We have been since World War Two!  It's true. If General Patton was given the go ahead, we would have defeated Hitler two years earlier.  But, President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower wanted to assuage Brittan and there incompetent idiot of a General, Montgomery.  So, Americans died and were crippled to make "Monty" look good.  Then, Eisenhower had Patton KILLED to make sure he would not make trouble when Ike wanted to run for President!  Korea was the same way, and so was Viet Nam.  Then came Desert Storm, and the present two undeclared wars.  We kill our people and prevent them from winning a war, to make someone look good.  I am sick of it.

Now, we are gain faces with at least three major enemies and most likely many more.  There is a real probability that the entire Arab world will join ANY country that attacks America.  Then there is North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, all three with nuclear weapons.  Add Iran that may now be armed with nuclear weapons and a possible EMP weapon, and you can see that the entire world is massing against us!  SO, it really flummoxes me when the President and SECDEF decide to decimate our military and replace it with drones.  Drones that can be simply defeated by computer hackers or EMP weapons!

I question the loyalty of anyone who is setting us up for defeat.  I remember Henry Kissinger saying, during the Viet Nam peace talks, that his job was to negotiate the best second place finish for the US. Second place is the first LOOSER!!  And that is what Kissinger and Nixon did to us, lost the Viet Nam conflict.

History is wrought with recent examples of the leaders of our country selling us out, I have brought but a few back to your memory.   Honestly, I don't know what else to do.  Maybe, America's time is over.  I know mine is.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We have lowered the standards!

Look at the records being set in sports and awards being given i many areas and you will quickly see that America has lowered her standards, across the board.  For instance, the sportscasters make a BIG deal out of a running back having a 1000 yard season.  Jim Brown had ten, and the NFL season was 10 games back then.  If the standard was the same, a 1600 yard season would be the goal.  In baseball, the same issue exists.  A player hits more home runs than Babe Ruth and the sports world gets all excited.  Big deal, they play 40 more games per season that when The Babe was belting homers!   Not to mention the fact that they are pumped up on performance enhancing drugs!

Everyone in a little league baseball league gets a trophy, just for showing up!  We don't want to hurt any one's feelings, do we!  Some schools have even done away with the failing grade of "F" because it may traumatize a child!  If you fail to meet the minimum, you should be traumatized!!   In combat, if you fail to meet the minimum, you die.  Of course, our societies answer to that is to lower the minimum!

I have been told that even dress sizes have been changed to make over weight females feel better about them selves.  That's right, today's size 8 was yesterday's size 12!!

The same disease is effecting the Military!   I remember when one ship in the class got the Battle efficiency "E".  One Cruiser, one Destroyer, one Aircraft Carrier.  Now, anyone who completes the required exercises get an "E"!!    What measure of excellence is that.  In the Navy, inspections are a thing of the past!    That's right, PMS inspections, OPPE, NTPI, even INSURV has become political.  How, because the President of the INSURV Board now reports to a Four Star Admiral instead of Congress!   Just how independent and forth right will an officer be when putting his seniors on report?  I remember the decades that a retired, Medal of Honor recipient was the President of the INSURV Board.  Now HE was independent!!

I used to have a saying about dating females that were not the vision of beauty.  I used to say;  "You never lower your standards, you grant waivers."   But that is not the way the society thinks today.  We will lower the standards to avoid the possibility of offending anyone!  It does not matter what that lowering of standards might effect, just as long as everyone is happy and not offended.