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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What did I do for 40 years?

I spend a lot of time reflecting on what I did during my Navy career.   Did I do a good job?  Was it worthy of the people I worked for?  Was it worthwhile for the people I supported?   Those are the measures of service.  Did I do my job to the best of my ability and did I help the people I supported.  So, I look at the various events in my career, my duty stations, the operations, the people, measuring myself.  One of the good things I was involved in happened during the Ira/Iraq war in 1988/89.

You may remember that the Iranians were mining the Straights of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in general.  A number of ships hit these World War II mines and paid the price.  Three of them were U.S. Navy war ships.  The Navy and National leadership decided to send some mine sweepers to the Persian Gulf.  Good idea, if we had ships up to the mission.  But we had World War II wood hull mine sweepers!  They were worn, and left for dead.  They were used as reserve trainers and had not operated in a combat environment since the end of the Viet Nam war during Operation End Sweep!  But, we sent them after a quick maintenance availability.  The ships from the east coast were towed  by an amphibious support ship.  They were bridled together and ran their main propulsion engines once a day.  I was told by the crews that it was a miserable trip.

The West Coast ships were loaded on a heavy lift commercial ship and rode over high and dry.  I arrived a week after the east coast ships had had their first operational period in the Gulf.  The main complaint from the Commanding Officer and the crew was that the extreme heat zapped their energy and severely limited their time on deck operating the mine sweeping gear.  I was tasked with finding a solution.

When I returned to Norfolk, I talked with the SURFLANT Science Advisor.  A smart man with more degrees that a thermometer.  I mentioned that NASCAR used chilled vests under the driving suits to keep the drivers cool.  It was a vest with gel packs mounted into the cloth.  It worked.  NASCAR was switching over to the cool suits that operate from a cooling system in the car.  So the Science Advisor contacted NASCAR management and asked them if they could help.  The answer was a resounding YES!!  They gave us the old style cool vests and we shipped them to the Gulf. The vests were distributed to all of the Mine Sweepers and I was told by numerous individuals that they worked extremely well!  It doubled the time they could stay out on the rigs!!  And since these Mine Sweepers had small crews, this was a big advantage.

This is how I measure my 40 years with the Navy, in uniform and as a Civil Servant.  It is important to me that I made a contribution.  I love the Navy and appreciate every opportunity the Navy gave me to serve.  And I cherish the time I spent with shipmates.  Those professionals that always gave their all!  Those were a fast, but great, 40 years!

Real Leadership

You can make someone do what you want them to do or make them want to do what they need to do!  Both ways get the job done.  The second way builds esprit de corps!

Did you eve wonder why the Marine Corps does not send their senior Enlisted personnel to the Navy's Senior Enlisted Academy?   Because the Marine Corps does not believe in management!  They believe in LEADERSHIP!   I have preached on this topic before.  I believe you manage assets, things, money, ammo, but not people.  The effective individual LEADS people!  It is an interesting fact that you cannot lead from the rear!  That is a strange concept to today's military suits!  General George Patton was in the front of his troops!  General eisenhower was in Great Britan, with his mistress, on silk sheets!  Get my point!

I have also said in numerous venues that: "You cannot manage a man into a burning engine room."   Normal people run from danger, but properly lead, they will do anything regardless of the danger.   Again, look at any mass conflagration, and there are many written in Naval history.  In every case, some strong willed LEADER stood up and  showed the way!  Look at the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  A Navy Steward's Mate named Dorey Miller, manned a 20 MM Machine gun to defend his ship and his shipmates.  He had little or no 20mm training but he knew he had to do something and he did.

Look at history and let the successful, honorable, example of our past heros be your guide.  You will never see anyone managing the situation.  You will see LEADERSHIP.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Navy memories

I have written before that I retired from the Navy and then went to work for the Navy as a civil servant at a Command that repaired ship board systems, worldwide!   The men and women I worked with, some still on active duty, were the most caring, professional, patriots, I have ever met.   They all treated me better than I deserved.  One story about their caring, loving, attitude came back to mind while I was in Church this morning and I wanted to tell you about it.

When I turned 50, my doctor insisted that I get a base line colonoscopy.  I had completely forgot that my maternal Grandfather had died of colon cancer when I was 13.  That would have caused me to start colonoscopies earlier.  But, there I was, prepped and ready to have a television camera driven up my back side!  It is really an easy test, because you are asleep!  The prep is the hardest, most uncomfortable, part.  When the procedure was over, and I was starting to wake up, I saw my beautiful wife and then the Doctor came over.  He looked very solemn and concerned.  He told us that I had a tumor and it was big and ugly!  The tumor was in the ascending portion of my colon.  That was Friday, and I was in a surgeon's office on Tuesday!

The surgeon said that I would be happy with the results of the surgery.  Two weeks later, I had the surgery.  When we arrived at Virginia Beach General Hospital for the event, my boss, George Cox, was already there!  Now it was 6AM, and he was already there to help, to watch over my wife as she waited for the surgery to be complete.  Of course, our long time best friends, Jerry and Marcia Hart were there too.  I have long depended on their support and love as they are always there when I need them!  But my GS 14 boss!  I was surprised to say the least.  As I woke up from the surgery in my room, I first saw my wife, and then George.  Concerned and supportive.

As my hospital stay went on, George was there every day to visit and to make sure I was doing OK.  Others from work came to visit too and since I am one of those gregarious people who enjoy company, their visits were a large part of my quick healing.  One day, I was napping and I opened my eyes and the Senior Civilian, our Technical Director, was standing in my room.  Jose Gutierrez came to visit me.  Again, I was surprised and humbled.  I knew Jose, Liked him, and worked closely with him.   But to have him visit me in the hospital was special.

Others came too, Kim, Al, Darin, Jim, Bill, Wayne, Tim, and some who's names are fuzzy now.  My biggest supporter and friend at work, Don Bolick had delayed his visit until I felt better.  On the day he planned to visit me, he came to the hospital, came up to the room I was assigned to, and found out that I had been discharged a few minutes before. I guess the staff figured 4 days with me was good enough!

But stop and think about these acts of kindness and support.  Yes, they sent flowers, care packages, and cards.  All of which I really supported.  But the people I worked with and for, came to visit me, some of them numerous times, to see if I was OK!   They took their precious time, to be with me.  Now that is special and an act of kindness I will never forget.  And while some names slip my mind, their kindness will never leave my conscientiousness.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Nation divided against itself cannot stand!

I received a comment from a reader a few minutes ago and his well thought words are the inspiration for this posting.  He said the present administration is pitting all of us against each other.  Gays against straight, Blacks against Whites, Rich against Poor, Progressives against Conservatives, Men against Women, etc, etc!   I realized that I had fallen into the same trap and it made me angry with myself!   History has taught us, although we continue to NOT learn from that powerful teacher, that any entity, especially a nation as diverse as ours will not stand, will not SURVIVE, if it is divided against itself!  America is falling apart from within!  We are fighting each other!!  The fight we have is with those that want to destroy our country, not with our countrymen!

I believe that we MUSt stop our internal fighting, bickering, and finger pointing.  Yes, we have differences, but those differences are what makes us strong!   We must learn, IMMEDIATELY, to capitalize on our strengths and to totally disregard our differences.  If a Female is a capable warrior, manager, pilot, scientist, let her excel for the well being of our Republic.  The same applies to anyone who wants to join the cause.  Let the bring their knowledge, Abilities, skills, habits, and desires to defend the Republic.  We are ALL Americans and we should treat each other in that manner.

I am not just saying this.  The words of that reader really struck me.  I vow, right now, to live by the principals that I just wrote.  If you are FOR the Republic, support the Constitution, and want to see us prosper, I extend my hand in friendship, regardless of our differences.  Welcome aboard!   If you do not choose to be an American watch out.  You are not my friend.  It's that simple.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Military is not a social experimentd

This has been a tough day of news for me.  First, the President announced that he was throwing out the Constitution, the Law of the Land, and our National Heritage by permitting illegal aliens to stay and get work permits.  But not just any illegal alien.  No, they have to be 16-30 years ols, no criminal record, high school grad or GED or Military service.  Let me digest this for a minute.  He said they are more American than loyal to their native country.  BS!!  Have you ever driven through the Barrio's of Los Angles, San Diego, San Jose, Mac Allen Texas,  San Antonio, Texas, New York City?  The don't speak English, they speak Spanish!  The schools teach in Spanish.  The driving test is in Spanish, the television and radio is Spanish!  BS again.  They have moved the foreign countries to America.  They are no more American that Castro!!

Second, the Pentagon announced Gay Pride Day for the Military!!  What do I say?!  I am a Slovak, when is Slovak Appreciation Day?   After all, Dick Marcinko the founding Commanding Officer of SEAL Team 6 is a Slovak!  The answer is, no special day or month is needed for any specific group in the Military.  We, man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, oriental, handicapped, gifted, are all on the same team!!  Problems arise when the organization singles out one group for praise.  TQM taught us that.  

If we are to have a successful Military, we need to stay with the tried and true leadership models.  Yes, our society is changing and our Military should reflect that.  I concede that.  But, we still MUST retain our team spirit!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An outstanding Naval Leader!

When I reported on board the USS Caron, off the coast of Beirut Lebanon, the Combat Systems Officer was a young Lieutenant named Ron Bennett.  I immediately liked him, which is rare for me.  He was exuberant about the Navy, the ship, the people in his department and life in general!  I do not believe I ever met an Officer like him before or since!  He actually had FUN being at sea, shooting the Gun Mounts, and being a Leader.  But his most impressive characteristic was that he was a cheerleader!  He was always motivating us through positive statements, pats on the back, and friendly looks.  He really understood intrinsic rewards as a motivating factor.   I really don't remember Ron Bennett ever being negative or harsh.  Even when we made a mistake his retort was, we can do better!!

Ron left the ship about half way through my tour on Caron.  Good Officers like him are hard to replace.  I ran into him again after I retired.  He was on the staff at SURFLANT and I was NAVSEACENLANT's representative to SURFLANT.  We had a happy reunion and I was pleased to see that he was still the positive leader that I knew back on Caron.  While the Navy didn't see fit to give him a Command, I know they made a mistake.  Ron would have been a very successful Captain because he knew the true requirement for success; Team Work!  And he knew how to foster it.

As I travel through my memories, it gives me great pleasure to remember great men like Commander Ron Bennett.  Thanks Ron!

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse!

Every time I watch the news, there are stories about the budget deficit and the national debt.  There is the ongoing battle about government employees pay and benefits including retirement pay.  There was the recall election in Wisconsin and California is in deep financial trouble.  All of that being said, I believe it is the fiscal policy of the government itself, that causes many of these issues.

How can I say that?  Easy!  If you were in the military or worked for the Federal Government you may remember what happened  at the end of the fiscal year.  If there was money left in the ship, units, department, division, check book, it got spent!!  And not necessarily spent on sensible things!!  As the last month of the fiscal year dawned, spending was frenzied!  Why, because if a ship, unit, returned money from the allocated funding for the fiscal year, the ship or unit's allocation for the next fiscal year would be reduced!  Now nobody wants their budget reduced, so spend we must.

The simple fact is, there is NO incentive to encourage anyone to save government money!  There have been attempts at incentivizeing fiscal restraint, but it has never been directed at the Commanding Officers.  Yes, there is the Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Hot line.  And there was a feeble attempt at LEAN, but all these were was lip service to the newest, in fashion, management scheme.

Another fact is, a unit's budget requirements may be different during a deployment year than during a work up year.  Furthermore, turning money in should be lauded and awarded, not punished and discouraged.  If you don't need the funding, return it to the Nations coffers.  Then, award that Command with an award that means something.  But don't punish them by reducing their budget or questioning their budget process.

We need to save government money, the money provided by the taxpayers of America.  All of us, including the leaders of our Nation need to be fiscally responsible and those who are should be held up as examples of good management!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Arsenal Ship!

Tonight, my son and I started a new workout routine.  I need to try to get back into something that resembles less out of shape!  I know I will never be in shape again, my disease precludes that, but I refuse to be fat and weak.  In any case, during the ride home, I started to talk about the Navy and our weapons systems, actual and planned but abandoned.  The arsenal ship came up.  I had not thought about that idea in a long time.

The idea behind the Arsenal ship was to take a large hull, like a super tanker, and install Vertical Launch tubes in the entire hull.  The total number envisioned was 1000!  The, through the Hand Off technology, the mix of missiles waiting in the Arsenal Ship's hull could be fired and assigned by any AEGIS ship!  Think of it, 1000 Tomahawk, SM-3ER, ARSOC, what ever, ready to go.  Since VLS cannot reload underway due to the weight limitations of the installed loader crane, the Arsenal Ship would do away with that problem.  One Arsenal ship on each coast would be all that we would need.  And, considering the Navy's penchant to build two and three ship classes, this would really fit into the Engineering Duty Officer's Mafia way of thinking!

All kidding aside, it was an outstanding idea.  The two Arsenal Ships would be very inexpensive and would require a minimal crew.  They could even be manned by Civilian Mariners with uniformed Navy manning the weapon's controls and the defensive CIWS and RAM systems.  This would make our small Navy a BIG shooter with a virtually inexhaustible supply of missiles!

But, the idea go scuttled!  Why, I really don't know, but someone needs to revive this exceptional idea.  We NEED the Arsenal Ship NOW!!  Call your Congressional Representative and tell them you want the Arsenal Ship!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Suicides up! Why? I will tell you why.

I have read stories reporting the fact that active duty suicides are rising.  That does not surprise me at all.  As a matter of fact, I totally understand and I am surprised the suicide rate of active and discharged and retired military personnel is not much higher.  And it is NOT because these active duty troops are afraid of combat.   Mostly, they have been in combat and server numerous combat tours.

The reason the suicides are up is we who fought for this Nation, active and retired, have realized that what we fought for, believed in, and our friends died for, is being trashed by the leaders of our government.  Recently, some members of the administration have leaked top secret details of the Bin Ladin raid, cyber attacks, and other super secret operations.  Our economy is doing a nose dive and the leaders of our government continue to spend.  Homosexuals and every other deviant life style is help sacred while those of us who follow GOD's teachings are treated with disdain.  Our countries moral compass is broke and we are headed off a cliff morally, financially, and socially.  Our education system is broke to the point that Estonia does better in Science competitions than we do!  What we believed in, trusted, loved, and died for is now held in contempt and those of us who defended the Constitution of the United States are treated as enemies of the State.

That's why our Brother in Arms are killing themselves!  Don't believe me, as someone who is serving or has served if he or she ever considered suicide.  Then ask them why?  You may not like the answer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

DDG 1000, our defense rests on her!

I read an article today that stated that the Nation's defense plans against China in the Pacific are based on the DDG 1000 Stealth Destroyer.  REALLY!!!  The morons in Washington are basing our National Defense against the biggest Communist nation in the world on ONE SHIP!!  And that ship is not built yet, and has not been tested, and has not done anything but cost trillions of dollars in research and development!   Yes, the Navy plans on building three of this class of ship.  Wow, a ship class of a whole tree ships.  I bet the submarine warfare threat plan is based on the USS Jimmy Carter too!!

It hurts me to think that these never been to war, never served in uniform, never had a real job, pin heads are making defense policy based on some video game they play!!  Another issue is, most Naval architects state that the DDG 1000 is NOT very stealth.  And another point.  Germany and Japan, in world war two, based their naval policy on two single ships;  The Yamato and the Bismark.  Now, looking at history, how did that work out?  The adversary navies had ONE ship to attack and they did, successfully!

So, our minuscule Navy is now dependent on one ship!  This truly is a sad, sad, day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pre-Comm, USS Leftwich (DD 984)

I remember the commissioning crew of the USS Leftwich.  We had a lot of fun and some good liberty.  I remember a couple of incidents during the training phase of the Pre-Comm.  We were in San Diego and the barracks space was at a premium. I was the Chief Master at Arms and there were few junior crew members reported yet.  A young Fireman, right out of "A" school arrived one day,  The Chief running Engineering Department at that time, the Hull Technician Chief, too the young Fireman and told him to go to base personnel to get his Per Diem and go out into town and find a place to live for three months.  Hind sight being 20/20, that was probably a bad idea.  In any case, the next morning, the young Fireman was no where to be seen.   Naturally, I had to report the Unauthorized Absence (UA) to the Executive Officer.  We all agreed, to wait until Monday, thinking maybe he overslept, got confused, or something.  We were grasping at straws to give him a break.

Monday, no young Fireman.  So, we thought he may have got confused and went home!  So, it fell on me to call is parents.  I called the telephone number he had provided on his check in card.  His Father answered and I assured him that his son probably got confused since this was all new to him.  His Dad said he would look around home for him.  Check with his friends, check his hang outs.  I said thanks and hung up.  A day or two later, I was driving into work and heard a report on the local radio station that a sailor had floated up in LaJolla shores.  He was wearing a Navy working uniform.  I immediately called the San Diego coroner upon getting to the office and he asked me to provide his health and dental records.  I had a messenger take them over to the coroner.

Later that afternoon, the coroner called me and said; " It looks like your guy."  Just as I was digesting that information, another person in the office answered the telephone and said, that young Fireman's Father is on line two!!  Wow, now I was in a pickle. I just heard from the coroner that this Fireman was probably dead.  Probably robbed because he had a large amount of money in his pocket to find an apartment or hotel to live in for three months.  We sent him out in a strange city, alone, with no experience, an 18 year old kid!!  The guilt was overwhelming.  Then, I thought, I have no training to tell a parent their son is dead.  What do I do?!  Panic set in!  I was again informed; "Chief, Line 2!"  So, I punched line two and said; Hello Mr. young fireman's Father."  Before I could say anything else, then Father said; "I found Him!  He was spending your money here in his hometown with his friends! I put him on a Airplane and he will be there soon.  This time, don't loose him!"

I had a few things to do now.  First, call the XO and tell him the young Fireman was found, safe and sound.  Second, call the coroner and tell him he needed to get better at body identification!  And third, find a bunk in the "Restricted Men's" Barracks for that young Firemen.  I was not going to looser him again!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A tribute to a GREAT Captain

I was sitting here watching the great movie;  "Run Silent, Run Deep" with Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, and Don Rickles.  Yes, Rickles WAS in the movie.  Run Silent, Run Deep was a great book written by Captain Ed Beach who himself was a World War II submarine Captain.  It is a movie about leadership.

As I watched this epic fight unfold, I first thought of my uncle, who lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Navy and served on submarines in the Pacific during World War II.  I remember a story he told, they were suffering a depth charge attack at the hands of the Japanese Navy.  My uncle said he ran to the Captain and told him; "You have to get me out of here, I am not 18 yet!!"  "The Captain told him, you will be if WE surface!"

The second thought that came to mind was of my first Captain in the USS Caron, Captain Jim Polk.  He was an exceptional leader, a skilled Naval tactician, and an inspirational figure for the entire crew.  I truly held him in awe then and I do now.  We went through a number of high and low spots in his time in Command.  We performed flawlessly providing Naval Gunfire Support for the Marines in Lebanon after they were bombed in the barracks in Beirut.  We were the only ship permitted to relieve the USS New Jersey in the gun line.  One night , we fired 491 rounds in a matter of a few minutes, keeping the Druse Militia from over running the Marines at the Beirut airport.  At one time, we were less than 1000 yards off the coast to shoot as far inland as our guns could!   We also had low times.  Like our difficulties with the Operational Propulsion Board.  No matter what the circumstances, he never lost his focus or his concern for the well being of the crew.  I marveled as he navigated the issues of command, never showing concern for his career and always putting his crew first.

I write this now, because I really appreciate what Captain Polk taught me.  His style of leadership is one that I emulated for the rest of my Navy career, in uniform and as a civilian.  You see, real leaders make the crew their focus and they trust the crew to make the ship come to life.  Real leaders encourage their crew members.  They empower their crew to excel to new heights.  I remember, we had been in and out all week and pulled in late on a Friday night.  I went to the Executive Officer, another great leader, and asked if we could expire liberty for the on coming duty section at NOON Saturday to permit those who had duty Saturday more time at home with their families.  Why, because we were getting underway Monday again.  The XO said, Maybe you should ask the Captain.  Of course, he was setting the new Command Master Chief up!  I asked the Captain and he agreed.  I told the Captain I will tell the XO so he can tell the crew.  Captain Polk said; "No it's your idea, you tell the crew!"  That's a leader expanding the skills and confidence of his crew.  He or the Executive Officer could have taken the credit and the crew would have been happy to give it to him.  But, he had me make the announcement.  That is leadership.

I also remember a time when Captain Polk made the simple mistake of asking the Chief Cook, Chief Al Williams, why he did not buy ready made bread and deserts in home port.  Al always made all the baked goods from scratch and they were great!!  In any case, Al asked the Captain; "Do you have a minute Captain?"  Naturally Captain Polk said yes and Chief Williams took him back into his small office and showed the Captain, to the penny,  how much money he saved baking instead of buying baked goods.  Al then explained that with that saved money, he could buy better quality main courses like steak and lobster!!  Captain Polk later told me how impressed he was with Chief Williams.  He said no one had ever explained, in the detain Al did, how to better manage the money given to the ship, per person, for food.  Again, instead of ordering something to happen, Captain Polk listened and learned and in turn, further empowered a member of his crew.

I appreciate all that Captain Polk did for the Crew of the USS Caron and for me personally.  I have many stories like these, and I know others do also.  Captain Jim Polk was clearly, the best Captain I ever served with.  Thanks Captain!