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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Division Officers

I remember each of my Division Officers afloat.    I have fond memories of many of them and I learned from each of them.  My first Division Officer on the USS Stein (DE 1065) was a young Ensign named Terry Ulyscheski.  He was a great young Officer.  Not much older than those of us he lead.  His Chief was Bill Mowery.  Bill trained our Division Officer.   I still have the Second Class Gunner's Mate crow Mr. Ulyscheski gave me when I was promoted to GMG2.  The poor Ensign, he had to deal with me going through a windshield, shooting my thumb with a 1911A1 .45 pistol, and hitting a lady walking against the traffic light with a Navy Truck!   He stayed in the Navy and promoted all the way to Captain.  I am glad.

Then, later in my career, my first Division Officer on the USS Caron (DD 970) was a young LTJG named Williams.  When I reported aboard and checked in with the Captain, I was told my Division Officer was a failure and was going to wash out of the Navy.  I reserved judgement and soon discovered the Chief before me did not support the young Officer.  I soon took him under my wing and started to rebuild his career.  By the time we returned to Norfolk, he was a Lieutenant, wearing a Surface Warfare pin and in the Captain's good graces.  The last time I saw Lt Williams he was a Lieutenant Commander and the Executive Officer of a ship!  Mr. Williams was a great Officer that just needed a Chief to help him bloom.

Division Officers succeed when their Chief trains them correctly.  If an Officer fails, it is the Chief's fault!  I was trained by exceptional Chiefs and they bread that into me.  I hope that continues.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Increased SRB!!

A friend of mine sent me information on an increase in the Navy's SRB program.  This is very good news.  Why, because in the time of defense downgrades and reductions in force, the Navy Leadership is recognizing that our Navy is technology centric and keeping those Blue Jackets with the skills and training necessary to operate our smaller Navy is the highest priority.

One of the interesting changes is the increase to $200,000 maximum SRB!  Wow!!  Of course, that amount is reserved for the most critical skill sets.  Again, good!  I would like to see some financial responsibility training made mandatory before that amount of money is given to anyone!  It only makes sense and it may even benefit the recipients of SRB.

I am very glad to see the Navy Leadership's proactive approach to manning.  Keeping good Sailors is always in our best interest.  Keeping the best trained and skilled sailors is necessary to the future of our Navy.

Good job Admiral!!

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!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A wide and varied career

It may be a product of the times I served in, but I had a wide range of experiences in my Navy career.   In the time period of 1969 to 1989, the Navy was in constant change reacting to the constant change happening in society.   Because of that constant societal change, the Navy had to use individuals in assignments outside of their parent rating at the individual command level.  That, along with the fact that we had collateral duties that are now full time jobs of ratings, that passed to us as a matter of fact.  For instance, Chief Master at Arms was always a Chief from one of the "Right Arm" rates!  I was Chief Master at Arms on two ships.

Then, there was the implementation of the Career Counselor duties.  Long before the establishment of the Navy Counselor rating,  ship's and shore stations pressed individuals into Command Career Counselor positions.  At one time, I was the Command Career Counselor and the Chief Master at Arms on the USS Leftwich along with my primary duties of Chief Gunner's Mate.

Then there were the drug days.   The Navy started a Drug Exemption Representative program that offered exemption from prosecution for any "First Time" offender not charged for a drug offense.  These were dark days, drugs were rampant.  We had no way of testing for drug use.  Urinalysis was not permissible in a Court Martial.  We had rudimentary drug testing kits, but they were only for identifying types of drugs and not admissible as evidence.  We had drug sniffing dogs at some shore stations.  They were good and I liked the way they "alerted" on a drug location back then.  They urinated on the locker or place they smelled the scent of the drugs!!

I was a Drug Exemption Rep on the USS Stein.

Then there was the UPWARD program.  Understanding Personal Worth and Racial Dignity.  Again, racial conflicts were causing distention in society and in the Navy.  I am proud of the way the Navy dealt with this issue.   The Navy looked at the issue with focused eyes, admitted that there were racial prejudices in the established Navy policies.  The Navy's leadership changed those rules, had Command Training Trams trained and set up mandatory, all hands, training UPWARD training.  There were three levels of training in my memory.  I was on the Command Training Team on three ships.

There war also Damage Control Training Teams, Weapons Training Teams, Indoctrination Division Training,and ESWS Training.  I did all of that too.

But one collateral duty that I performed only once, was probably the most unique.  When I was on the USS Stein, I was tasked to be e Bailiff  for a Court Martial.  One of our crew members went UA off of Emergency Leave.  He was gone 80 days or so.  The Captain awarded him a Special Court Martial.  The proceedings we held at the Judge Advocate General's facility in San Diego.  The defendant's entire defense was that he was required to pay for his Father's funeral before the nasty undertaker would bury him!  Therefore, he could not afford to return to the ship in San Diego.  He was on the stand, sobbing, and crying through his testimony, being coached buy his attorney.  All of the sudden, the JAG Captain, that was the judge, slams his fist down on the desk he sat behind and asked; "Son, where did you bury your Father?"  The defendant replied; "Orange County sir"  Tears flowing.  The judge then stood up and yelled;  "Orange County California?".  The Defendant replied; "Yes sir."  More tears.  The judge then shouted; "You little lying sack of shit, you could have walked back in 80 days!

I nearly bit my lip through trying not to laugh!!  And I was standing at "Parade Rest" in the front of the court room!!

Instructor, Detailer, every collateral duty on a ship, Command Master Chief, all while trying to be the best Gunner's Mate I could be.  Yes, I had a wide and carried career.  I miss it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Loyalty

Loyalty is a trait I do not hear much about today.  Yet, it is the most important part of unit cohesion.  I was blessed to serve with many great leaders that I became and remained totally loyal too.  Some of them were Navy Chiefs.  Some Division Officers or Department Heads.  Others Executive Officers and Commanding Officers.  In addition, I worked directly for two Vice Admirals who I developed a relationship with that stood the test of time.

Loyalty is the trait that includes absolute trust in that individuals judgement along with their professional knowledge and ability.  It also encompasses confidence in their bravery and how they will react in the heat of battle.

Loyalty is earned through the testing of the battles of life.  Not just actual combat but the trials of everyday living.  How someone handles the stress of training, family, illness, success, and failure, tells me much about their character and if they deserve my loyalty.  Additionally, loyalty is not developed instantly.  It is rather percolated through a number of crucibles and events.

One of the men I held in the highest esteem was my first Commanding Officer on the USS Caron (DD 970).  Captain James Polk was the perfect leader for that time in the ship's life.  He was calm, unshakable, and decisive.  His personality was bright and invoked confidence from the crew.  We were together in Combat and training.  Through rigorous inspections that lead to failures and exceptional accomplishments that brought us fame.

I remember when he departed Caron in Istanbul Turkey, after his departing Change of Command.  Saying good bye to him was like loosing a close friend.  And he was just that.  Historically, the ship never had the success she had with him in command.  That may have been because of the environment we operated in.  But those were great times that live in my memory everyday.

There are many movies about loyalty.  "The Band of Brothers", "The Tuskegee Airmen" and even "U-571".  All depict the loyalty in a crew for they leader and their loyalty to each other!  Yes, loyalty is s two way street.  I believe that is why there is so little loyalty today.  Promotion, self-adulation, and ego, all get in the way of loyalty.

I miss being in uniform.  I miss the men I served with.   I miss being involved in something more important than me.  I miss being involved with professionals working together to accomplish the impossible, and succeeding!

But at least, I have wonderful memories of those times and those leaders that I was loyal too and who were loyal to me.  Thanks!