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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lack of security at Notfolk Naval Station

I read an article from the Virginia Pilot about the shooting on a Navy DDG last year.  The report partly blamed security on the Naval Station which did not catch the individual.  That is a no brainer!

There is no doubt that security has been reduced to a cursory ID check and a wave.  So, let's look at the time we used to have security on bases.

When I joined the Navy, only Second Class Petty Officers and above could park on the base.  That immediately raised the specter of security.  Why, because Second Class Petty Officers and above we well vetted since they probably had at least 4 years of Good Conduct  in the Navy.  Second;  We had few "Contractors" that were granted access to the base.  Now, we have contractors that do everything! We even use contractors to haul stores onto our ships.  A job that was previously done by Ship's Force.  Third;  The second line of security, the Pier Gate Guards, are ill-equipped to deal with any threat.  Clearance Lists of authorized visitors are out of date, lost, or unreadable.  In the day of computers and immediate electronic communications, this problem should not exist.  Of course, if we did not used contractors to do everything that looks like manual labor on our ships, this problem would not exist.

The forth reason is more systemic.  We simply do not train our people to pull the trigger in a stressful situation.  Instead, they are always looking for "Permission to Fire" from a superior.  That is one of the major reasons the USS Cole was bombed!   We should either train our armed watch standers to recognize a threat and then use  Deadly Force to neutralize that risk or, use Marines to provide all shipboard security which is not going to happen.

Our good sailors, are afraid they will get in trouble if they use the weapon they have provided to neutralize a threat.   This problem is not new.  When I was stationed at the Arlington Annex in Washington D.C. an armed, informed, civilian security officer watched as an enraged, estranged husband stabbed his Civil Service wife 14 times!  When asked, the Officer stated he did not know if the situation warranted the use of Deadly Force.  Really?!

So, functional security requires a complete revamp of our training and the mindset of those who are charged with the security of our Sailors, Ships, and Bases.  We must completely do away with the fear of using Deadly Force to ensure the security of out installations  and replace it with well trained, confident, decisive, individuals determined to secure our ships, sailors, and bases.  Or, we can wait until an even larger body count happens.  But, I thought the USS Cole bombing would have been enough.  Silly me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just because it is sexy and high tech, doesn't mean it is RIGHT for the Military!

A good friend of mine sent me a You Tube video of the new F-35 doing testing on a Navy LHD.  Nice looking airplane.  It has Vertical take off and landing capabilities and can fly supersonic.  That is a quantum leap from the AVM-8 Harrier.  But, jet because it is sexy and high tech, doesn't make it the best fir for the Navy or the Military.

I replied to my friend and asked three important questions.  First, how much ordnance can it carry?  The Navy desperately needs an Attack aircraft to replace the A-6E.   Second, what is the range?  The LAST thing the Navy needs is another short leg fighter trying to fulfill the strike mission.  Third, how low can it fly?  Yes, the F-35 has Stealth capability.  But, nothing beats being able to fly under the radar at top speed and full ordnance load!  And finally, is it a true all weather aircraft.

The same logic applies to electro-magnetic guns, electro-magnetic catapults, and electric drives for war ships.  Just because we can make something does not mean we should.

I have complained loud and long about the direction the Navy's Engineering Duty Officers are taking the Navy.  But, we continue to parade technology that is not tested, costs more than we can afford, and limits the number of ships we can buy.

For instance;  Admiral Rickover campaigned that the Navy needed an all nuclear submarine force.  Why?  Efficient Diesel Boats can to things in shallow water that Nukes are just not capable of.   Diesel boats coast less to build and maintain, and they require a much smaller crew!  Again, nuclear power IS a good idea and has it's place in the Battle Force structure.  But not every submarine needs to be Nuclear Powered!  The same strategy was employed by Admiral Meyers with AEGIS.  He sold the Navy on an all AEGIS surface combat fleet!  We scrapped ships that were at the time, superior to AEGIS ships in capability and had at least a decade of life left in them!  Trust me, AEGIS is good and has capabilities we need.  But EVERY surface combatant does NOT need to be AEGIS.  So, in both cases, we are saddled with budget busting ships, full of capability, that are expensive to maintain, require high levels of highly trained people, and end up reducing the size of the fleet!

There are other examples.  Like the M9 Beretta Service Pistol.  Yes, a 15 round magazine is cool, if you practice spray and pray as a shooting technique.  But, as a Marine Officer educated me, drawing your pistol is the same as drawing your sword.  It is a last ditch defensive weapon and you save the last bullet for yourself!!  And, our brains in Washington did not learn from our own history.  Remember, we went to the 1911Pistol in .45 caliber because the .38 revolver would not knock down the natives we were fighting in the Philippines!
Then, in the 1980, we went back to the .38 caliber.  Yes, 9MM is .38 caliber!!  The result is, our ground forces continually complain they have a side arm that cannot kill the enemy, 15 times!!

Just because it is high tech and sexy, does not mean out is the right fit for the Military.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Do I have to remove THIS, to have it work?!

When I was on the USS Leftwich, (DD 984) we went through REFTRA right after Commissioning.  The crew was young and green and REFTRA was good training.  However, it did not make sense in the case that we were going right back to Pascagoula in less than six months.  But, it was the plan.

I was the Chief Gunner's Mate and I had a GREEN bunch of Gunner's Mates and Fire Controlmen.  No one, except me, had ever fired a MK 45 gun mount, tested magazine sprinklers, managed magazines, small arms, or even took temperatures in ammunition spaces!!   I was in continual instruction mode!

During REFTRA, observers come aboard and train the crew and run Battle Problems.   During a Battle Problem, the REFTRA Gunner's Mate  Observer throws three concussion grenades over the side, at predetermined times, to simulate "Hits" on the ship.   My job was to provide three concussion grenades to the Observer when he came aboard.

The first Battle Problem commenced except Hit "A", Hit "B", and Hit "C" were not announced by an explosion of a concussion grenade!!

I was too busy trying to train my crew to care about why the grenades did not explore.   The ship's Captain questioned me about or grenades and I put him on ignore too.

The Mid-Term Battle Problem was the same.  I gave the Chief Gunner's Mate REFTRA observer the three grenades, and none of them exploded either!  Now, I was beginning to wonder about the grenades.  I did ask the REFTRA Observer if he pulled the "Pin">   He replied with great indignation; "Yes"!!

The Final Battle Problem came at the end of the six weeks of REFTRA and I again provided the REFTRA Observer with the three grenades.  And, no explosion for the first "Hit"!!  I was in Mount 52 and I got a telephone call from Mount 51.  It was the REFTRA Observer.  A Chief Gunner's Mate.  He asked me to come up to Mount 52.   No reason was given why.  So, I was naturally concerned that something was wrong with that Gun Crew!!

When I walked into the loader room, the REFTRA Observer was holding a concussion grenade, looking at it quizzically.  He then asked me;  When I throw this grenade, do I have to remove this cardboard ring around the grenade before I throw the grenade?!?

The concussion grenades have a "Cotter Pin" that holds the spoon, preventing the grenade to arm and explode.   They also come with a cardboard belly band, that holds the "Spoon" closed too.  Why, because some idiots would take the "Cotter Pin" out of a grenade to have the ring and pin as a souvenir!  No, you say.  Well, a GMGSN took a pin out of a Grenade Fuze, and then, after realizing the "Spoon" popped.  Seconds later, the fuze exploded.  The confused GMGSN had placed the fuze between his legs to mute the sound of the fuze exploding.  You guessed it.  He nave fathered any children!!

The thing I did not know, when I was going through this trying time on the USS Leftwich was that the REFTRA Observer was a GMM!  He did not know anything about Grenades!  I taught him how to make a grenade ready to throw and how to throw it.  The second and third Battle Problem hits were announced with the preferred "Boom"!!

The moral of this story is;  New assume the REFTRA Observer knows what he is doing!!    

Monday, March 16, 2015

I remember the men I served with, and it brings me joy!

When I was in the Pre-Commissioning crew of the USS Leftwich (DD 984) we had a small Chief's mess.  The Chief's mess slept 24 Chiefs.  Normal compliment was 20 Chiefs and we had 12!!   We became a tight group because we had so much to do.  One of our Brotherhood was our Chief Mess Specialist, or "Stew Burner" as is the Navy nickname for Navy Cooks.  His name was Edwingo Pangalinia.  He was from the Philippines and he was the consummate professional.  He was also a "CHARACTER"!!

Pangy, as he became known, had a GIANT sense of humor.  We kept asking him to make Lumpia.  He would reply; " I don not make Lumpia!   I am a Royal Filipino!"  He would say this very loudly, in a base voice, rolling his "R's"!  

But, one day, after the ship had been commissioned, I heard the word passes;  "All Chiefs, Muster in the Chief's Mess."   So, I went to the Chief's Mess and there was Pangy, with all sorts of finely chopped vegetables, and Lumpia wrappers, all laid out on the dinning table in the Mess.   Pangy was the Master of Ceremonies and was teaching Chiefs to make Lumpia, for the entire crew!!

None of us were very good at it!  The Chief Boatswain's Mate, Ross Lyons, was terrible!  He was making Lumpia that was as big around as a 5" Towing Hawser!!  It would have taken an hour to fry those!!

Come to think of it, I don't remember Pangy making even ONE Lumpia.  I guess that Royal Filipino thing was real!

No matter, it was great bonding time and I enjoyed it.  I remember laughing and joking through the entire time we were making Lumpia and it became one of those things that came up for a laugh, time and time, again.  I wonder where Pangy is now.  Thanks Buddy, for the good memories.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Leadership

I have had a recurring thought to write this post.  I take Leadership very seriously.   I believe Leadership is the one, single, component to a successful unit, at any level.  I was taught Leadership by some exceptional Chiefs and First Class during my Navy career.  During my Civil Service career, there was a dearth of actual Leaders and effective Leadership Training.  

One of the traits I was taught and I adopted as the center of my Leadership style was being a part of the work group.  Yes, I was in charge, but I never put myself "ABOVE" anyone in the group.

I rankle every time I hear a Supervisor talk about the people "below" him or hear!  No one is "below" you, no matter where you are in the Chain of Command.  "Below" is a statement of subservience!   That idea breeds contempt and is directly against Good Order and Discipline.

I remember, when we Commissioned the USS Stein (DE 1065).  We were in the gun mount and Chief Mowery was setting the "norms" for our Work Center, and "HE" broke an air line going to a gage.  The Chief then said;  "If you break it, you fix it!"  And he did, right there and then.  In doing this, Chief Mowery set a "norm" for our work center and established himself as one of the group.  If he would have done the opposite, he would have placed us in a position of "subservience".

To this day, forty years later, I would do anything Bill Mowery asked me to do.  And I believe the majority of the men in that work center feel the same.

The "Leader" is the LEAD member of the pack.  Not the one that stays behind and collects the accolades.  You LEAD from the front!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

If I meet one more self-absorbed Navy airplane driver...

Here at Azalea Trace, Naval Aviator are a dime a dozen and Enlisted personal are few and far between.  Not only that, they are quiet about their background.  Now, I am not bashful about my Navy Career and I am not smart enough to hide it!  Everyday, we eat with different people.  We plan it that way, to meet new people and introduce ourselves to the community.   And, as it is, we eat with a Naval Aviator almost everyday.  Most are in their 70's and 80's.  But they are as self-absorbed, cocky, and arrogant as the new pilots over at Pensacola.  All of them look down their nose at Enlisted personnel even though their airplanes would never leave the deck without them.

My nose has always been a bit bent out of joint by the manner that Officers conduct themselves.  It is also why I hate the performances of the Navy Band, the Drill Teams, and any other type of performance that "Parades the ignorant enlisted men to show they can be trained in menial, repetitious tasks.

Now, I have known and worked for some exceptional Officers that treated Enlisted Personnel with respect, and professionalism.  Some were young junior Officers and some were three and four star Admirals.  And these Officers came from all Navy communities.  But, they are in the minority, by far.

For instance, on the USS Leftwich, (DD 984) the commissioning Operations Officer held Enlisted personal in disdain.  He actually wrote in the Quarterdeck Pass Down Log;  "Since it is proven that wearing hats causes baldness,  And, since the appearance of Enlisted men is not important, but Officers MUST maintain their appearance, Only Enlisted Personnel are required to wear Covers on the Quarterdeck."!!

Now, I live with a bunch of men, almost all Aviators, that think they won the Cold War, single handed!  Will it ever end?!

PS:

When I was Force Master Chief at SURFLANT, VADM Dunleavy was AIRLANT.  He used to tease me for being so young, and I used to return the tease by telling him he was too stall to fit in an A-6 cockpit!  Then, I would ask him when he was going to put women on his Tenders!  The Admiral would reply that he did not have Tenders!  My reply: Yes you do, they are Airplane Tenders!!  You cal the Aircraft Carriers but they are Tenders just the same!  

Think about it, the CVN stays away from the combat area, sends the planes to do what they do, and than the crew of the Tender has chow, coffee, and repairs ready when they get back!  Sounds like a Tender to me!

The annual or semi-annual trip to the Tooth Fairy!

If you enlisted in the Navy before 1970 or so, you probably remember that first trip to the Tooth Fairy in Boot Camp and the semi-annual or annual trips.

I particularly remember standing around a round trough sink.  Chewing up those "Disclosing" tablets and seeing the areas I need to do better brushing with.  Then, they gave us a toothbrush that was industrial strength.  As a matter of fact, I see them for sale at Gun Shows in the tools section!  We would scrub out teeth with that coarse toothbrush and PUMICE!!

Yes, the blue or purple stain came off, along with the plaque that was supposedly there, and at least one layer of enamel!  The dentist I now see says he can see the brush grooves in my teeth and he has seen this many times before in prior service adults my age!

Then, a dentist, usually the least experienced to the career dentist that was banned from working on patients due to complaints of severe pain, would examine your teeth and find enough work to keep them busy until the got transferred!!

Then, a new Dental Tech, probably DTSA Schmuckatelly, would spend about a week in your mouth, or so it seemed, cleaning your teeth with another tool I find at Gun Shows, now used to remove baked on powder residue.  That curved ICE PICK caused me more pain than I ever experienced before or after!

Of course, we went though this oral torture at least annually.  And, if you were a Submarine Sailor, your torture was even worse.  Especially in the beginning!

This is one of my fond memories of Navy medical care!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Best Friends, my anchor to happiness

I have told you before that I have Lewy Body Dementia.  I spend much of the time thinking about my time in the Navy.  What I have not told you is that every week I spend at least an hour on the telephone with my dearest friend, GMC Jerry Hart.

I first met Jerry as a student at Gun School.  He was a NAVVET student converting from Corpsman to Gunner's Mate.  We were stationed together later in our career when he became the Gunner's Mate E-5 and below and schools detailer.  Jerry is a consummate professional.  A dedicated Navy man and lover and he and I became life long friends.

Jerry knows what I am going through and every week we talk for as long as I need to get back on an even keel.  It does not matter what we talk about, Navy becomes the topic.  Most of the time, Jerry mentions an event that I remember and off I go.   Cussing and discussing the events of my Navy experiences as I remember them.  Then, when I wind down, Jerry skillfully interjects another issue that HE KNOWS I will react too.  And off I go again.

Jerry is better at therapy than my Psychologist was!!  Today, as is the norm, Jerry called me and we talked for an hour and 26 minutes!!  It is heaven for me.  A release from my LBD problems and a trip down memory lane.  

Jerry has his own health problems, yet he is such a good friend, that he worries about me more than himself.  There is a Bible verse that says: "a friend sticks closer than a brother."  Jerry is that friend for me.

Jerry has put up with my ambitions, my self-centered nature, and all of my quirks and never complained.  He is closer to me than any blood relative.  Jerry has carried me farther than I have gone on my own.  I appreciate him, respect him, and love him as a brother.

This is a topic I should have written on before.  Tonight, my head has been full of my thoughts of Jerry and our friendship.  I am a luck man to have him as my friend.

Show me your check book, and I will tell you who you really LOVE!

This is an adage from Christian Ministry.  If a person proclaims to love Christ, yet never tithes to the Church to prosper the Gospel, they probably do not REALLY Love Christ.  They may love what Christ can do for them.  But that sacrificial love, is not there.

The same can be said about your spouse.  If you spend money to make your spouse happy, secure, feel loved, you are showing he or she is important to you.  Now, of course, you spend lots of money on the person you are courting.  But, once you are married, sometimes that changes!  I have seen husbands deny their wives things they really wanted or NEEDED, and then spent frivolously on themselves.

I bring this up, because I got in a discussion at a Men's Prayer Breakfast today with a retiring Navy Captain about Survivor Benefits for this wife.  I am a BIG proponent of Survivor Benefits.  You wife, or husband, supported you during your Military career.  They dealt with deployments, raised the kids, solved home issues like broken appliances, cars, children's bones, and other catastrophic issues!  All, while we were deployed and some times, completely out of touch.

Then, when the member retires, he or she says;  "Survivor Benefits are too expensive, I will get a life insurance policy to make up the difference."  Well, First of all, how many actually get that life insurance policy.  Second, how many continue to pay for that life insurance policy.  And third and MOST important, how many life insurance policies have inflation protection?!

Most of you do not remember the ravages of inflation.  Back during the Jimmy Carter years, inflation was 18% for over four years!!  Actually, that $200,000 insurance policy would be worth $90,424.35 in actual purchasing power, after four years of 18% inflation!!   If your wife had to survive on a $200,000 life insurance policy that was loosing a minimum of $36,000 per year in purchasing power, how is that providing for your spouse?!

The Survivor Benefit program provides automatic COLA's every year.  Yes, it reduces your Retainer pay.  So what!  You are going to get a job anyway, and if you are smart, you will bank your Military retirement and live off what you make in your new career.   Yes, I know most of us won't be that disciplined.  But, we should be.  And, we do not have to get the maximum amount of Survivor Benefits.  It is adjustable, so you can make SBP fit your individual budget.

Another argument is; "If my spouse dies before me, I will loose that money from my retainer check forever."  Not TRUE!!   If the spouse dies before the service member, the SBP payment stops and is reinstated to the member's pay.   

No, my view is, if you do not provide Survivor Benefits for you spouse, you are saying;  "Your just not that important to me."  Which is another way of saying I don't love you that much.

So, look at your check book, and ask yourself;  "Do I spend my money on the one's I love?"  If not, maybe you need to adjust your budget, and your thinking!

Just my view.