Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em...

...except if you're on a submarine, as of today.

Happy New Year to all the Submariners and their loved ones.

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2010

(The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)The much missed Jon Swift/Al Weisel left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. Blogroll Amnesty Day (co-founded with skippy) is a celebration of small blogs that's still going strong, and coming up again the first weekend in February. Jon/Al also put together a roundup of the

Submarine Science School Demo

A reader writes in and says:
I "volunteered" to do a science demonstration for my son's elementary school. When they found our I was an ex-submariner (642B) they requested something sub related. I've thought about the following:
**steam cycle demo, but am having trouble coming up with a way to make steam safely at a high enough pressure to turn an old computer fan (simulating a turbine)... the whole condenser part would need to be on the white board.
**buoyancy demo using pen caps in a sealed 2L bottle - squeeze the bottle, increase the pressure, reduce the bubble size, cap sinks... lacks a certain pizazz
**the old blindfold them and let them play submarine hunter with wet sponges sonar demo - fun, but lacking ideas on where to take it after the first couple kids get smacked with a wet sponge.
Any ideas - either improvements on the above, or new ideas? (I'd like to keep the cost under $50.)
Every idea I came up with -- except for the old "raisin in a glass of water with vinegar and baking soda" idea to demonstrate buoyancy -- cost a lot more than $50, so I figured I'd throw it out to the Peanut Gallery for comment. Have any of you ever done something like this? What ideas do you have?

Merry Christmas!

Check out this photo of Santa Claus on the bridge of a Virginia-class submarine:

You can find more pictures of Pearl Harbor-based submarines all dressed up for the season here.

From my house to yours -- Merry Christmas.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." -- Luke 2:11

Night Before Christmas -- Submarine Style

Here's a Submarine-themed poem that's been running around the 'net this year...
T'was the Night Before Christmas-Submarine Style
By Sean Keck

T'was the night before Christmas, and what no-one could see,
The men with the dolphins were under the sea.
Most of the crew was flat on their backs,
Snoring and dreaming all snug in their racks.

Those men on watch were making their rounds,
Some manning the planes or listening for sounds.
Back in maneuvering or down in the room,
They all hoped the oncoming watch would come soon.

I'd finished some PM's whose time was now due,
And hoped for some sleep, even an hour or two.
Against better judgment I took a short stroll,
And found myself wandering into control.

The Nav had the Conn, the COW was in place,
The COB had the Dive and a scowl on his face.
The helm and the planes were relaxed but aware,
The QM and ET were discussing a dare.

To comply with the orders the Nav told the Dive,
To bring the boat up with minimum rise.
The orders were given and soon they were there,
At periscope depth with a scope in the air.

The QM confirmed our position with care,
The broadcast was copied, we brought in some air.
The Nav on the scope let out a small cry,
He shook his head twice and rubbed at his eyes.

He looked once again to find what it was,
That interrupted his sweep and caused him to pause.
Try as he might there was nothing to see,
So down went the scope and us to the deep.

I asked what it was that caused his dismay,
He sheepishly said, "I'm embarrassed to say."
It could have been Northern Lights or a cloud,
Or a meteorite he wondered aloud.

But to tell you the truth I guess I must say,
Whatever it was it looked like a sleigh.
And though it passed quickly and never was clear,
I almost believe it was pulled by reindeer.

We laughed and teased him and I got up to go,
When our moment was broken by "Conn, Radio."
They told us a message was just coming in,
We looked at the depth gauge and started to grin.

"Radio, Conn, I feel safe to say,
Your attempt at a joke is too long delayed.
If it had been sooner it might have been neat,
But I doubt we're receiving at four-hundred feet."

"Conn, Radio, you can come down and see,
We're not playing games to any degree."
I headed aft with nothing better to do,
Surprised by the fact it was still coming through.

It stopped and was sent to control to be read,
The Nav read it slowly and scratched at his head.
Then again he began but this time aloud,
To those that now waited, a curious crowd.

"To you Denizens of the Deep and men of the sea,
Who risk your life daily so others stay free.
I rarely have seen you on this, my big night,
For far too often you are hidden from sight.

But purely by luck I saw you tonight,
As your scope coaxed the plankton to glow in the night.
And lucky for me I've finally won,
The chance to say thanks for all you have done.

I know that you miss your families at home,
And sometimes you feel as if you're alone.
But trust what I say and I'll do what's right,
I'll take something special to your families tonight.

Along with the gifts I'll take to your kin,
I'll visit their dreams and leave word within.
They'll hear of your love, and how you miss them,
I'll tell them that soon you'll be home again.

It might not be much I know that is true,
To thank you for all the things that you do.
But I'll do what I can, while you do what's right,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight."
Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Hallelujah Chorus 2010

This post is mostly a repeat, but for the season, it's hard to beat the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. First up, a neat flash mob version:Next up, Cantillation with the Orchestra of the Antipodes, conducted by Antony Walker:The Robert Shaw version is also quite nice, and then there's this one from the Roches (h/t Steve Audio):

New Submarine Rating

Remember submarine rating consolidation? It seems to be a thing of the past. According to NAVADMIN 406/10, they're coming out with a new submarine rating in April 2011. From the Navy website:
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy released NAVADMIN 406/10, Dec. 17, announcing the creation of the Information Systems Technician Submarines (ITS) service rating and providing active duty Sailors with guidance on how to request an ITS conversion.

"The establishment of the ITS rating will provide the Submarine Force with an infrastructure of information assurance and network professionals who will be fully equipped to resolve future issues and implement new technologies on board our submarines," said Lt. Dan Morrison, Submarine, Non-Nuclear, Enlisted Community Manager. "Overall, the ITS rating is an excellent choice for Sailors who seek challenges in new and emerging technologies, and the opportunity to be submariners

The primary source ratings for ITS conversions will be from Sailors assigned to jobs in submarine Local Area Network divisions and those from ratings in the information assurance workforce, but all non-nuclear trained Sailors are eligible to request conversion. Information System Technicians (IT) with Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) codes of 2780, 2781, or 2735 will be eligible for direct conversion to ITS.

Describing the benefits of converting to ITS, Morrison explained, "Currently, submariners working outside of their source rating in support of submarine LAN requirements are at a disadvantage when taking promotion examinations. Sailors who convert to ITS will participate in ITS examinations and compete with other ITS professionals in their paygrade."

Any E-4 to E-6 active duty Sailor who wants to be part of the initial 180–200 selected for conversion must ensure they are eligible for submarine service prior to submitting their request (NAVPERS 1306/7 form) to Naval Personnel Command (PERS-811) by the Feb.1, 2011 deadline. Sailors possessing a Microsoft (MS) A+ or Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification are highly encouraged to apply and should note these certifications on their conversion request form.

Dependent upon their source rating and previous training, Sailors selected for conversion may require additional schooling and potentially incur additional obligated service. For example, Sailors who require an IT NEC may attend A-school as part of their conversion and Sailors from non-submarine ratings will need to attend Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) prior to being assigned to a submarine as an ITS. Applicants are encouraged to speak with a Navy Career Counselor about the conversion process.
What do you think? Is this the change we need to win the war?

USS Boise Returns Home For Christmas

USS Boise (SSN 764) returned to Norfolk today following a 6 month deployment to the European Command AOR. Excerpts:
During its deployment, USS Boise conducted operations in the European Command area of responsibility while supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. In executing the chief of naval operation's maritime strategy, Boise further demonstrated the submarine force's great capability in providing global presence.
"We were attached to the European Command, which is supported by the Navy's 6th Fleet," said Cmdr. Brian Sittlow, USS Boise commanding officer. "We were assigned exercises and operations by 6th Fleet. These events were conducted with our NATO partner nations in the waters of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea."
Upon returning to its homeport in Norfolk, the submarine will have traveled approximately 23,000 nautical miles. Port visits included Portsmouth, England; Faslane, Scotland; Bergen, Norway; and Brest, France.
Here's a story and video from a Norfolk TV station:

Welcome home, guys!

Did you ever return from deployment in the week before Christmas?

Guest Post: USS Secota YTM-415 Incident

[An earlier post, with video, of the incident is here.]

Guest post from Tango-14:

March 22, 1986 the U.S. Navy tug USS Secota YTM-415 – which was crewed by a contract crew consisting of a U.S. tugmaster and a Sri Lankan deck and engineering crew. The Secota YTM-415 lost power and collided with the starboard vertical stabilizer on the stern planes of the Ohio Class TRIDENT submarine USS Georgia SSBN-729 and sank off of Midway Island.

The remarks below are from my perspective as a tug captain and are written down in this manner to promote thought and discussion in regards to Safety and Emergency Ship Handling.

These are my unsolicited thoughts in regards to an incident which is somewhat haunting to say the lease as I’ve been alongside both submersibles such as the USS Dolphin AGSS-555 and a wide variety of submarine classes both U.S. and friendly foreign navies. My intent is to submit the Secota video in DVD format to a U.S. Navy contractor charge with Navy ship handling training.

My experience level on U.S. Navy tugs started as a BM-1 NEC-0162 Craftmaster on Harbor Tugs Small (YTL’s). The command I was assigned did not allow anyone starting out on tugs to go to a “Big Boat,” which then were Harbor Tugs Medium (YTM’s) at this particular command until the BASICs were learned on a YTL. The YTL was single screw, 300 s.h.p. and the steering was manual with a five foot diameter helm. If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, “…oh, that’s nothing…,” I bet you can’t operate the tug efficiently right off the bat. The object of placing someone new to tugs on the YTL was first to see if there was any level of boat handling skills and as stressed by the Chief Pilot how to use the engine power in conjunction with the correct utilization of the rudder. In other words, for example, if you were in a maneuvering situation and were running at full speed and attempted to put the rudder over full, good luck as one was trying to manually position the rudder against the force of the propeller discharge. That is, 300 s.h.p. against you “boney butt.” The object lesson to be learned was to momentarily reduce speed to an idle, put the rudder hard over then immediately reapply the speed. Therefore learning how to get the most out of the vessel’s maneuverability and perform competently as the Chief Pilot required for successful vessel movements. A most important lesson I’ve never forgotten, because while learning that lesson the hard way and trying to put brute strength into turning the helm, the propeller force would win and the helm would be yanked out of my hands. I have the cracked wrist bone and still broken nose to prove it. The Chief Pilot saw the blood on my chambray shirt and just laughed and said, “…are you learning yet?...” That lesson learned, and I still employ it today, always put your rudder over before applying speed. Before one comments on this I need also to say with the submarine’s telltale rudder poking up from the surface of the water I note more often than not that the “blast” of the 56,000+ s.h.p. of the “boomer’s” propeller is seen well in advance to the placement of the rudder. All the pilots I’ve known over the years tell me “…those sewer pipes don’t steer worth a damn…,” so I’d imagine if the rudder isn’t places as it should be prior to the order for “Warp Factor 8” steering in the direction intended is even more difficult. So, as I’ve been taught I believe most strongly in learning how to use the rudder and engine in concert for optimum maneuverability is most important regardless of the vessel.

Learning that lesson and many others I was later promoted to BMC NEC-0161 Tugmaster and graduated up to the “Big Boats.” With the Big Boats came a whole other set of circumstances, skill sets and responsibilities where I was most fortunate to be in the (unofficial but allowed) Tugmaster Closed-Loop Community and again was most privileged in being a Plank Owner of the N/V Skenandoa YTB-835. All in all I served as a Navy Enlisted Tugmaster for fourteen continuous years going from BM-1 to Senior Tugmaster BMCM on Navy Harbor Tugs which was up to the time the U.S. Congress killed the Navy’s YTB-839 Class new construction tugs In 1984. Ultimately I witnessed the Navy Tugmaster program slowly faded away. With the new tug program eliminated I finished out my Navy career as Command Master Chief, Major Command, underway.

Upon transferring to the Fleet Reserve I sat for and obtain a Master of Steam or Motor Vessels 1600 g.t. with First Class Radar Observer and Towing Endorsements including STCW, GMDSS and AB Unlimited. After 21+ years all are still current and renewed and I am still employed as a Tug Captain for a contractor at the Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, WA.

As stated above I’ve worked nearly every class of U.S. Navy submarine with the exception of those which were only on the East Coast. Additionally, I had the privilege of being the first Pacific Northwest Navy Tugmaster to conduct a personnel transfer to the then brand new USS Ohio SSN-726 on her first arrival, at night in the Straits of Juan de Fuca with COMSUBPAC and his staff on board my tug and enter into the escorting security convoy. I made the port side of the Ohio and PUT UP A SAFETY LINE on cleat 3 port side and using the SAFETY LINE as a sea-painter riding line with the engine engaged ahead at idle prior to putting over the transfer brow. That is the TRIDENT quartered the swells off of the opposite bow to create a lee for the tug. Cleats 3 rigged for the tug’s riding line and 5 for safety in the event the tug lost power so as to have a possible “second chance.”

Again this was the early ‘80’s so in regards to the Secota incident Safety measures should have already been in place for Navy tugs anywhere.


Search as I may in regards to the Secota incident, I have not been able to find the “Official” report of the incident. I would very much like to know what was said and “…just the facts…” All I heard was unofficial and that the tug captain was blamed. However, I believe that there was plenty of blame to go around from the commanding officer of the submarine, the tugmaster, the Base Services Contract Company’s hiring practices, the Navy Contracting practices and as seen in the video an apparent disregard for “Safety” on all sides.

There are numerous interpretations as to what is happening in the video and depending on whether one might be a “Boomer” crew member, a Safety Officer, or a tug captain one’s personal perspective is primarily based on their position, perspective and experience level.

Before reviewing the DVD (video) please note that I believe the tugmaster of the Secota may have been unlicensed with little experience operating around submarines of any class. This is to say, with the various Base Services Contracts overseas during the time period of the video, someone in BUPERS without official permission released the names of retired Navy Enlisted Tugmasters (NEC-0161) to contractors bidding on the overseas Base Services Contracts. The scam, as I believe it to be, one was hired at the then rate of around $60,000 a year tax free Out-of-CONUS and since the tugmaster would be running a Government Vessel (Public Vessel), in accordance with the Code of Federal Register a license is not required. Therefore, an unlicensed tugmaster is paid under the Department of Labor Wage Determination which is far less that a maritime union’s tug captain’s wages. By far less. Additionally, if the individual agreeing to work for the base services contractor didn’t ask “all” the questions, when he arrived at the island or overseas base he learned that approximately $20,000 dollars was subtracted from the $60,000 for “room and board!”

This isn’t to say that “all” unlicensed tug captains are anything one way or the other. I know of one in particular who did an exemplary job at Diego Garcia for many, many years.

However, in the case of the Secota one possible scenario, submitted for review here is the tugmaster by U.S. law had to be a U.S. Citizen operating a “Public Vessel” while the rest of the crew was made up of Sri Lankans who were paid on an all together different pay scale.

To me, one very telling event regarding the tugmaster’s experience or lack thereof working with submarines is while the Georgia is making bare headway, the tugmaster attempts to back away from the submarine. One most important thing someone new to tug working around submarines is taught regarding operating alongside of a submarine is that 99.9999% of the time “You Never Back A Conventional Tug Away From The Side Of A Submarine Moving Ahead!” Never! Most especially with a conventional single screw tug which backs to port. Not that it can’t be done, but rather when things go wrong, they go wrong quickly with very bad results. In my opinion, as in this case.

You’ll note in the video that the wash of the tug, just before the alarm sounds, appears to be a full backing bell. One can see the wash and hear the engines rev up. I believe this was one of the precursors to the Secota’s death. This is to say that almost immediately after the backing bell is put on and the wash starts with the engines revving up, then quiet and then the alarm sounds. The alarm sounds possibly because either the DC electric motor tripped off the line and/or the main engines tripped off the line.

Please note the Secota is a USS Sassa YTM-364 Class tug and being in the 400 Series is a twin diesel engine, DC electric, single screw tug of approximately 1200 h.p. when new.

A possible answer as to why the alarm sounded just after the backing bell is obviously there was no engine room watch stander.

Why is that point important one might ask. Having myself run several types of U.S. Navy diesel electric YTM’s, namely General Electric and Westinghouse where there were differences in the excitation and time delay for rung up orders to actual propeller rotation. My preference was always for the General Electric diesel electric YTM’s as there was finer and more responsive controls. Regardless, the real success in running any diesel electric YTM’s was setting the “Restricted Maneuvering Doctrine” when operating around ships, submarines, barges and making landings or during various maneuverings. This means that an Electricians Mate, when the Restricted Maneuvering Doctrine was set, was at the DC Electric Switchboard in the engine room and had the Rheostats knobs (2), one in each hand standing by to answer all power demands. That is, while maneuvering the Electricians Mate’s primary mission at the switchboard was to keep the Rheostats Red-Lined at 1500 Amps. Additionally, there were 2 Rheostat repeaters mounted in the overhead of the pilot house just forward of the helm station so the tugmaster could monitor the settings. Keeping the Rheostats Red-Lined provided the full power requirements for whatever bell was being utilized during maneuvering, but most importantly kept the over speed tripping breakers from tripping the DC electric motors or main engines off the line. Meaning a reset was immediately required. Resetting the breakers wouldn’t be much of a problem if there was a watch stander at the switchboard. Also, restarting the engines requires someone in the engine room.

As noted in the video “something” trips off the line requiring two crew members to go aft apparently down to the engine room. Something “tripping off the line” could be the DC breaker(s), one or both diesel engine’s over speed trip or other such problem.

I also have a problem with the two crew members seen going aft and down into the engine room because that access is an Escape Trunk with a vertical ladder. I’m willing to bet that they didn’t secure, close and dog down, the Escape Trunk water tight door on their way down into the engine room. This may very well have exacerbated the rapid flooding of the engine room after the contact of the tug’s hull with the vertical stabilizer. Additionally, may very well have been the main cause of those two crew members going down with the tug.

The original video which was on VHS tape and appears to be underway documentation of repairs and events until the moment of the incident. After the incident the video runs for seemingly a long time while the USS Georgia SSBN-729 is attempting to recover the tug’s crew.

I recommend viewing the DVD (video) three times and also looking for three separate sections or events. The first event is the “Sky Diving” personnel, Mail and Guard Mail transfer; second is the sounding of the alarm and that approximate 60 seconds of time until “contact” and then the finale where the tug is on the vertical stabilizer prior to being entrusted to Davy Jones’s Locker. In all, depending on the video player an approximate time lapse of 3 minutes 20 seconds.

First it is recommended to watch the DVD (video) through just for content once, starting just prior to the “Sky Diving.”

During the second viewing however, it is recommended to have a pen and paper and list all the Safety Violations. That is, no cleats rigged on the submarine. The transferring of the departing sailor by the “Sky Diving” method plus tossing of the Mail and Guard Mail over to the tug is of particular note. Why did anyone allow that to occur? So, how many violations can one list? Please note that this includes the fact that the submarine wasn’t “quartering the swells” taking the seas on the port bow in this case which would have created a lee on the starboard side while moving ahead at approximately 5 knots which may have made things somewhat easier for the tug to be “in-step” to conduct the personnel transfer. From my past experiences this “quartering” works well and does help.

View the DVD (video) a third time with a stop watch handy. At the sound of first tone of the tug’s siren start the stop watch. You will note the two engineering crew members heading aft on the tugs port main deck. The tug captain is hanging out of the port window and there really doesn’t seem to be any urgency to the alarm as if, “…oh, this happens all the time…” From my experience this is how the scene struck me. Note also that the submarine is on a slow ahead bell and the tug is sliding aft. This portion takes almost a full minute with, as stated with seemingly little or no concern BY ANYONE.


Why no “real” concern from anyone?

Again, please note that the Secota is diesel electric. Did the “tripping-off-the-line” of the main engines constitute a routine event?

Then, all of a sudden, into the second minute after the alarm is the “…oh SHIT …” moment where you can hear, I believe, the submarine’s commanding officer issue the order, what sounds to me as, “…right full rudder. Ahead full.”

It is my firm opinion, as a prior Senior Navy Enlisted Tugmaster and now a licensed tug captain working Ohio Class submarines on a regular basis, that the order for a full ahead bell and full rudder was the death sentence for the Secota.

That is, look closely at the starboard quarter of the submarine and notice with the full bell and full right rudder ordered there is a tremendous suction at the starboard quarter of the submarine which physically sucks the Secota into the vertical stabilizer.

Keep in mind also that the Ohio Class beam is 42 feet and the aft diving planes with their vertical stabilizers extend out from the side of the hull an additional 4 feet on either side. In the tug community working the Ohio’s those are referred to as “Can Openers” and “we’re” ever mindful of the fact that not only they’re there, but they also stick out further than the side of the hull.

Again, and most importantly, this is submitted for review, consideration and discussion. I don’t have all the answers.

However, with all the new advancing technology and simulators this incident is still most relevant not only to submarine crews but also for tug captains and harbor pilots working in close proximity to submarines.

The Wrong Cure

Here's a good video from the British group False Economy on proposed economic "solutions":Why cuts are the wrong cure from False Economy on Vimeo.(Via Cookie Jill at skippy's place.)

Sunday Caption Fun!

Caption this photoshopped image of a Seawolf-class boat hanging ten!

While you're thinking of a good caption, check out this classic Rickover funny over at 'Phib's place.

DADT Repealed

President Obama says he will sign the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" when it reaches his desk next week, and the new policy will be implemented in a few months.

For all those who oppose the change, like this guy, please provide specific predictions of all the bad things that will happen, along with a timeline, so we can come back later and see if you were right. "A plague of locusts o'er the land" is too general -- please predict something like "10% reduction in legume production in the southeastern U.S. due to Orthoptera infestation in 2011". Likewise, rather than "re-enlistment rates will drop like a rock" say "re-enlistment rates will be down 45% by the end of 2012" or something to that effect. (Anecdotal, non-statistical predictions like "I'm going to be molested by a phantom pole-smoker in April" are also accepted, but please be prepared to provide verification if your prediction comes true.) Anyone on active duty who plans to leave the military because of this are especially invited to comment -- let us know your EAOS, and please check back in when you follow through.

On the other hand, if you think the military will adapt to this change as it has all others, you can say that too.

Bell-ringer 1411 20 Dec: Here's a statement from the CNO on the Senate vote.

Update 1743 21 Dec: Closing comments.

Bertolucci on Bertolucci

A former teacher of mine kindly passed on this neat feature: "Bernardo Bertolucci Dissects Ten of His Classic Scenes." I still need to see a couple of these films, and I'm overdue for watching The Conformist (Il conformista) again. (Somewhere, I have a handout showing the non-linear narrative structure of the film.) If you happen to live in the NYC area, the Film Forum is screening The

Belle & Sebastian - "I Want The World To Stop"

Aristocrats and Peasants

Digby's been writing a great deal of good stuff on plutocracy and the insular Villager mindset recently. Her post "Yearning to be Subjects" touches on the Estate Tax, and quotes from an intriguing essay by Phil Agre:From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society

Submarine Sailor Injured

A quick post from my son's roommate's computer as I'm packing my son out of his dorm...

There are reports of an injured submarine Sailor out in the Atlantic. Excerpts:
The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush was ordered Wednesday to make "best speed" to assist an injured sailor onboard a U.S. Navy submarine conducting operations in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mayport, Fla.-based USS Boone was also dispatched to aid the submariner...
...The Navy says the sailor has a head injury and, according to the last medical assessment, appears to be stable.
Here's more information from Navy Times. Galrahn discusses some of the OPSEC concerns from this announcement.

Do you have any MEDEVAC stories?

Staying at PD...

Update 0850 18 Dec: The injured Submariner has been flown to Charleston:
A MH-60S Knight Hawk assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 transported a Sailor from a U.S. Navy submarine operating in the Atlantic Ocean to USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) for medical evaluation Dec. 16.
A Navy neurosurgeon, assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, assessed the Sailor to be in stable condition and both have been transported to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., for further evaluation and treatment as necessary.
"Mariners at sea take care of each other," said Vice Adm. Daniel P. Holloway, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet. "There is no better way to show our Sailors and their families the extent the Navy will go in order to take care of their own."...
..."The saying that we never leave a shipmate behind was proved today," said Capt. Chip Miller, George H.W. Bush commanding officer. "There was a Sailor out there who needed our help, and we were honored to receive the call. I am very proud of the professionals on board this ship and our families at home who provide constant support."
Bush was scheduled to return to its homeport of Norfolk Dec. 15 when the ship was tasked by Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet to return to sea.

Wikileaks Guidance

A message recently went out in the Navy community about how servicepeople should deal with the urge to read the Wikileaks website. Excerpts:
Per ALNAV 055/10, DON personnel are directed not to access the WikiLeaks website to view or download the publicized classified information.
Doing so would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks.
There has been rumor that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the public domain. This is NOT true. Executive Order 13526, Section 1.1(4)(c) states "Classified Information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure of identical or similar information."
The subject information was neither properly nor improperly "declassified" by an appropriate authority and requires continued classification or reclassification. It is "apparently classified information" that appears to have been disclosed without appropriate review and authority. The information posted needs to be reviewed by the appropriate Original Classification Authorities (OCAs) to:
determine if it is classified, conduct damage assessments, and make a determination regarding continued classification.
Despite circumstances surrounding the WikiLeaks, all DON military, civilian, and contractor support personnel must continue to protect similar or identical information commensurate with the level of classification assigned per SECNAV M-5510.36, until the information is assessed by the appropriate OCAs. DON personnel shall:
A. Not confirm or deny the existence of potentially classified NSI in the public domain, and report the incident per SECNAV M-5510.36, Chapter 12.
B. Not contribute to the further dissemination of potentially classified NSI on DON unclassified IT systems by accessing websites or any other internet based capability (IBC) (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to view, copy or forward this information.
C. Ensure classified NSI is only shared with personnel with an authorized clearance, access, need to know, and only via authorized channels and systems.
D. Protect classified NSI commensurate with the level of classification assigned per SECNAV M-5510.36, until the information is declassified by the appropriate OCA.
E. Adhere to the services systems authorization access request form (SAAR; i.e., user agreement form) for the protection of information residing on DON networks.
F. Adhere to their non-disclosure agreement (SF-312) when granted a security clearance.
Please remember, Government information technology capabilities should be used to enable our war fighters, promote information sharing in defense of our homeland, and to maximize efficiencies in operations. It should not be used as a means to harm national security through unauthorized disclosure of our information on publicly accessible websites or chat rooms.
Attempts to the WikiLeaks site are being monitored by the OSD Computer Network Defense Service Provider (CNDSP).


1. Visit the Information Assurance Support Environment website and read the DoD WikiLeaks guidance,
2. Do not attempt to access the WikiLeaks website or access WikiLeaks information using search capabilities.
3. Inform other DoD military, civilians, and contractor personnel of the DoD WikiLeak guidance.
[Emphasis mine] It mostly seems common sense and in keeping with the intent of the classified material handling programs in place -- namely, don't put classified material into UNCLAS systems. That statement I highlighted does sound a little creepy, however.

Regarding the current situation, I'm amused that there are people who are calling for asswipe Julian Assange, an Australian (not an American), to be charged with treason. The real villain is the person who took the classified material and gave it to Wikileaks. If it turns out that PFC Bradley Manning was the person who did it, it seems to me that he knowingly stole classified information that could be of aid to the enemy during wartime, and knowingly gave it to someone he knew would disseminate it to the enemy (by posting it on the Internet). This seems to me to meet all the elements for conviction under the "Giving intelligence to the enemy" section of UCMJ Article 104 (Aiding the Enemy). I believe that he should get the maximum penalty for this charge if found guilty, which would kind of obviate the need for a civilian treason trial.

What I don't like are these calls for censorship coming from the right directed towards the media who published the leaks originally provided through Wikileaks, especially from Tea Party hero Rep.-elect Allen West (he of the "clearance that even the President... cannot obtain"). While there may be times a newspaper should hold off on printing something because it's the right thing to do, I think it would set a bad precedent if they were prosecuted for publishing classified material when they have not signed a non-disclosure agreement. Let's face it -- it's the government's responsibility to make sure classified information doesn't get out, not the press's job.

[Admin note: For those who are wondering why I'm posting the message above , I'm taking the guidance of the last quoted paragraph to heart and informing interested personnel.]

Friday Fraternization Funnies

It's good that the Navy is open about announcing whenever someone in a ship's senior leadership -- CO/XO/CMC -- is detached for cause, but I bet this one is one they wish they could have kept quiet:
Lt. Cmdr. James Rushton, who commanded MCM Crew Constant aboard the ship Chief, was relieved of command “due to misconduct” following an investigation by his boss, Capt. Robert Hospodar, commodore of Mine Countermeasures Squadron 2 in San Diego, Naval Surface Forces spokesman Cmdr. Jason Salata said Thursday.
Rushton appeared at mast to face charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of violating a lawful general order and conduct unbecoming an officer. Hospodar found that Rushton “violated the Navy’s fraternization policy by engaging in an unduly familiar relationship with a subordinate female member of his crew,” Salata said.
Hospodar on Wednesday also fired that crew member, Lt. Cmdr. Anne Laird, who has been serving as the XO, for “misconduct.”
Hospodar made the decision to relieve both officers “as a result of an investigation into a violation of the Navy’s fraternization policy,” Salata said.
I guess this gives new meaning to the phrase "The XO is sucking up to the Captain".

Bonus points for any comments that don't use bad words.

The Rich and Wealthy (Now in Video!)

Here are three rather different approaches to explaining how the game just ain't the same for the rich and wealthy. First up, some animation (from October 2004) by Lee Arnold explaining "The Bush Tax Cuts." (Via Linda Beale of ataxingmatter and Angry Bear.)Next up, via David Dayen, here's Al Franken's floor speech from last week on tax cuts, unemployment and wealth:Finally, Chris Rock explains

Fundraising around the Web (Nov. 2010)

For those with the means and inclination:The Washington Monthly is holding their annual fundraiser. Their site features the ridiculously prolific Steve Benen, one of the best debunkers and fact-checkers out there.Meanwhile, the ridiculously thoughtful Lance Mannion, who covers film, books and politics, is also holding a fundraiser. Finally, we have the ridiculously vituperative Blue Gal and

Los Angeles City Donating to Food Banks

It's nice to hear some good news for a change. From the Los Angeles Times:In what one official called a giant step toward "eradicating hunger" in Los Angeles, tons of surplus food from city-sponsored events would be donated to the needy each year under a new policy enacted Wednesday by the City Council. “Today we are taking a historic step in eradicating hunger in the city of Los Angeles,” said

KT Tunstall - "Uummannaq Song"

Here's her KCRW session.

Provo, UT Girls

I have two boys in Provo -- one at the Missionary Training Center, another who is finishing up the semester at BYU and reports to the MTC next month.

For anyone who doesn't think us Mormons can't laugh at ourselves, check out this video:

"Silent Strike"

Here's a long video that The Pentagon Channel put out this month about submarines:

I haven't seen it yet (just got home from work, and need some sleep) but I assume it's pretty good. Let me know.

Update 1225 08 Dec: The submarines featured in the video are USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) and USS New Mexico (SSN 779).

Future Submarine Numbers

Here's a decent overview of the issues surrounding submarine new construction budgeting and planning over the next 30 years. Excerpt:
The Navy operates 53 attack submarines, 44 of which are Los Angeles-class boats, with another 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and four Ohio-class guided missile submarines (SSGNs). Beginning in 2015, the service is embarking on a massive retirement plan, with remaining Los Angeles-class subs mothballed and replaced by Virginia-class attack vessels.
The Ohio-class SSBN’s will reach the end of their service life in 2027. Plans call for replacing 14 Ohio SSBNs with 12 new SSBNs starting in 2019. The Navy doesn’t plan on replacing the four SSGNs, converted from SSBNs after the Cold War, when they retire in the late 2020s...
...When it comes to replacing SSBNs, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated earlier this year that “the lead ship of the Ohio replacement class in 2019 will cost $13 billion,” with each successive ship coming in at about the $6-7-billion range, bringing the cost of the 12-ship replacement to about $99 billion. “That may leave scant room in the Navy’s stretched shipbuilding budgets to afford other vessels [on its] wish list,” the CBO stated. That $6-7-billion price tag comes to about half of the Navy’s annual $15-billion shipbuilding budget, which means that during the 15-year period (Fiscal 2019-33) when the Navy plans on building these ships, its ability to build other vessels would be severely restricted.
Under the Navy’s 2011 30-year Shipbuilding Plan, the service says it requires 48 attack submarines and four SSGNs “to sustain our capabilities in these areas.” Still, the service’s current plan puts it on course to purchase 44 attack submarines through 2040, which would not reach its desired number. According to CBO estimates, the number of attack submarines would sink to a low of 39 in 2030 before rising to 45 in the last five years of the plan. The number is expected to drop so dramatically due to the retirement of the Los Angeles-class submarines, while the Virginia class will not be built fast enough to replace them.
What do you think will happen? I expect that we'll see the 2 sub/year buy rate go away quickly as budgetary pressures increase, and eventually an SSBN based on the Virginia-class hull -- which will require a much smaller missile and concomitant R & D costs, along with a decision that we'll have to keep the subs closer to their targets to make up for the decreased range of the smaller missiles. (Here's a CRS report from last year with some detailed background information.)

What do you see in your crystal ball for how the submarine force will look, hull-wise, in 30 years? (If we can avoid talking about the gender or sexual orientation of the crews of said submarines for the purposes of this discussion, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.)

Give the Millionaires More Money or the Country Gets It

This post title pretty much sums up the Republican approach to economic and fiscal matters for the past ten to thirty years. However, the latest shameful but unsurprising development came with a Republican letter last Wednesday, 12/1/10:ALL 42 SENATE REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE HOSTAGE PLAN.... The AP had an item late last night, noting that Senate Republicans were circulating a letter, "quietly

Submarines In Media -- Good And Bad

This weekend, there was an article in the Virginian-Pilot about a new book that's coming out about the raising of the Soviet submarine K-129 back in the mid-70s. It looks pretty good.

On the bad side, here's a trailer for a new direct-to-video movie that re-imagines the Moby Dick story wherein Captain Ahab commands a submarine:

Starring the guy from Rocky Horror Picture Show, this could conceivably be the worst submarine movie of all time, supplanting Full Fathom Five.

What do you think is the worst submarine movie of all time?

Glasser - "Apply"

Submarine Memorial Hits Snag

Efforts to put the sail of the USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN 658) in a park in Vallejo, CA, have apparently hit a snag. Excerpts:
Before the city can consider a plan to move part of a former nuclear submarine to Alden Park, the island's master developer must report on the park's setting to determine the appropriateness of any proposed changes.
Lennar Mare Island and city officials say the report is being prepared. City officials say it is anticipated in March, but a company spokesman said no schedule for its completion has been set..
Meanwhile, the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation's proposal is on hold. It was submitted to the Vallejo planning department in August, when the requirement was discovered.
The project involves placing a 43-foot-long, 18-foot-tall section of the Mariano G. Vallejo -- estimated to weigh 65 tons -- in a corner of the park. The sail, its periscope and control room are all that's left of a submarine that was longer than a football field when launched in 1965 and mothballed in 1995.
The article goes on to say that they hoped to have the sail in place by the boat's next reunion in July, but that now looks problematic. Here's the crew website for more information on the Save Our Sail project.

Have you ever been involved in an effort to get a memorial established?

The Federal Budget Puzzle

The New York Times has a cool interactive feature where you can balance the federal budget, addressing both the medium term deficit of 2015 and the more long-term deficit of 2030. It gives a set of options, most of them based on actual proposals that have been made. It will also show you the percentage of your savings that come from tax increases versus spending cuts. David Leonhardt has

Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010)

Chalmers Johnson, best known for the Blowback trilogy, died recently. He was extremely insightful on foreign policy, especially as it related to American imperialism, which he saw as both unsustainable and incompatible with American democracy. He started as a conservative Cold Warrior, but over time, his views changed. The Wikipedia article linked above lists his books and links some

My Old Boat In The News

A couple of blog posts, here and here, mention my old boat USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) and what she may or may not be doing. From Galrahn:
There appear to be a few security holes somewhere in the US National Security information loop, because very credible sources have reported the first US ISR on the scene over Yeonpyeong was UAVs launched from the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). While I appreciate the idea that leaking submarine activity might be part of a well orchestrated information campaign against North Korea (North Korea couldn't detect the USS Jimmy Carter short of using a minefield, even if they used every sonar in their entire inventory), I don't think that is actually the reason for the leak.
I have absolutely no comment on any supposed UAV capabilities of the Carter.

[Admin note: Sorry for the light posting this week; I rolled my truck when I hit black ice about 15 miles north of the Idaho/Utah border in the storm that came through the west this week, driving back from picking up my son from college in Provo on Monday night. Everyone is OK, truck not so much.]

Update 02 Dec 1150: Made another round trip to Provo, this one with better results. Here's an account of the accident last Monday from one of the participants.

"If I Rise" - A. R. Rahman and Dido

I've often run Dido's "Thank You" for Thanksgiving, so this pick is kind of appropriate. As the graphic shows, this is from Danny Boyle's new film 127 Hours, starring James Franco. I imagine most people know the story of Aron Ralston going in. The film's vibrant and very good, but a few scenes are not the squeamish.

Food Banks - November 2010

I'm donating to my local food bank again. Local NPR show Which Way L.A.? has more on the situation out here. The Feeding America site has a useful food bank locator for anyone seeking such information. Best wishes to all those in need.

Another One Bites The Dust

Sorry, but this is getting old...
The Navy has fired the commanding officer of the attack submarine Memphis as 10 members of his crew are under investigation in an alleged cheating ring involving shipboard training exams, according to a Navy release.
Capt. Charles Maher was relieved Thursday by Capt. William Merz, commander of Submarine Development Squadron 12, because of a “loss of confidence in Maher’s ability to command.”
The release noted there was no evidence Maher was involved in the cheating ring, but stated his command had “fostered an environment which failed to uphold the high standards of integrity of the submarine force.”
More information here from The New London Day. The articles go on to say that CAPT Carl Lahti, former CO of USS Nebraska (SSBN 739)(Gold) and an old friend of mine, has been assigned as the new CO (I assume temporarily, until they can get a new regular CO). CAPT CDR Maher took command of USS Memphis (SSN 691) in January 2010. He was a Notre Dame graduate (but I really don't think this is more evidence of the Navy firing NROTC-graduate COs as part of a plot to make room for women COs, as at least one commenter here has claimed previously), and was XO on USS Tucson (SSN 770), Eng on Memphis, and did his JO tour on USS Bergall (SSN 667).

Are you just getting tired of this crap? I know I am...

Update 1119 19 Nov: OK, here's my unofficial count of submarine COs fired this year: Chicago, Henry M. Jackson (G), Ohio (B), and Memphis, plus submarine-related CO firings at NWS Charleson, Norfolk Naval Shipyard and TTF Bangor. Did I miss any?

Bell-ringer 1249 19 Nov: A commenter points out that the fired CO of the Memphis is most likely a Commander vice Captain. I pulled the CAPT part from the Navy Times article I excerpted above, but note that the article in The Day says he's a CDR, which makes more sense. Therefore, I've corrected the probable error above in my text, but left the quoted portion in the Navy Times excerpt alone (until they correct it, if they do).

Henryk Górecki

Polish composer Henryk Górecki died last week. He wrote one of my favorite pieces of music, the moving, powerful Symphony #3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). I've introduced it to a few dozen people over the years. I'd recommend the Zinman/Upshaw recording that's excerpted here. (I featured this clip before in a post about music and composers connected to the Holocaust.) RIP.

The Debt and Its Origins

(Click for a larger view.)The chart above comes from budget hawk Chuck Spinney, and was posted by James Falllows. Head over to his blog for a larger view and more explanation. (H/T to reader Ursus.)

Submarine Officer Board Results Announced

The FY12 Submarine Major Command Board and FY12 Submarine Department Head Selection Board announced their results today. Congratulations to all selected!

It looks like the Major Command Board was for my year group. Man, I'm old...

USS North Carolina Arrives In Pearl

USS North Carolina (SSN 777), commanded by one of my old shipmates, arrived at her new homeport of Pearl Harbor yesterday. Here's a video of the arrival:

Do you have any good Change of Home Port stories?

Is Military Service An Important Preparation For Political Leadership?

It looks like it's starting off as a slow week in submarine news, so here's an article from Politico saying that, for the first time since 1944, it's likely that neither major party nominee for President will have military experience. I'd disagree with that premise a little bit -- by 2012, President Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, will have almost four years of experience as Commander in Chief during wartime -- but it's definitely an indication that, as the post-draft generation continues taking the reins of power, there are fewer and fewer politicians who have worn the uniform.

Personally, I think that having an understanding of military culture is an important preparation for those who will make decisions about national security matters, but lack of same is clearly not disqualifying -- as long as the prospective officeholder is willing to recognize that they need to make an effort to learn.

What do you think? Are you more likely to vote for a veteran over a non-veteran, all else being equal, for elections to national office?

That Explains Everything!

If you're one of those people who believes nothing is a coincidence, here's a theory that explains both of the maritime news stories of last week -- the cruise ship power loss and the airplane contrails off the coast of Los Angeles. Excerpt:
A new report circulating in the Kremlin today prepared for Prime Minister Putin by Director Anatoly Perminov of the Russian Federal Space Agency states that an Arkon-1 military satellite monitoring the western coastal regions of North America detected an “EMP anomalous event” occurring on November 8th at 0600 Pacific Standard Time (-8 hours GMT) that bore the “direct signature” of a YJ-62 subsonic anti-ship missile fired from a Chinese People’s Liberation Navy Type 041 submarine (NATO code name Yuan-Class) known to be patrolling approximately 200 kilometers off United States coast.
Nearly 11 hours after this EMP “event”, this report further says, Arkon-1 then detected a BGM-109 (Tomahawk) subsonic cruise missile launched from a US Navy Ohio-Class submarine operating off the coast of California [photo bottom left] on a “training mission” from its home port located at US Navy’s Kitsap Base in Washington State and was enroute to the largest American Naval Base on the US west coast in San Diego, California.
Note: A Russian military intelligence (GRU) addendum to this report states that the “training mission” the Ohio-Class submarine was on is related to a new US law passed this year allowing for the first time in history for women to serve on US Navy subs and was an “operational exercise” testing female Naval Officers competence prior to their first “operational deployment”.
The “immediate effect” of the Chinese Navy’s firing of their EMP missile, this report continues, was the “catastrophic crippling” of the US based cruise ship Carnival Splendor [photo 3rd left] that stranded its nearly 4,500 passengers and crew in a “dead in the water” boat and prompting the Americans to send the US Navy’s Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, warplanes, and supply aircraft to protect it from further attack after all of its electronic systems were destroyed.
It must be sad to be so divorced from reality that you have to look for a "hidden hand" behind every event. Sometimes, stuff breaks, and sometimes atmospheric conditions create an interesting-looking contrail.

What are your favorite conspiracy theories?

This Mortal Coil - "Song to the Siren"

This is a cover of a Tim Buckley song. For this song, the side project This Mortal Coil was essentially the band Cocteau Twins, produced by Ivo Watts-Russell.

The Benefits Of Serving

I've been touched by all the good wishes from Facebook friends and family members this Veteran's Day -- it seems like people are more aware of the holiday this year than in years past. While serving in the Armed Forces is undoubtedly a sacrifice, many of us enjoyed benefits other than the good feelings of our fellow citizens. I'm thinking, of course, of boondoggles.

"Getting the good deal" has two contradictory meanings in military culture. It can mean that one is getting a bad deal, but it can also mean that someone has lucked into some TAD job that is rewarding from either a financial or life experience perspective. Generally, more junior military personnel don't see that as much; about all they can hope for is some sort of "stash" duty while waiting to class up for a school where they "work" 20 hours/week while getting lots of time off in a nice city. The more senior you get, though, the better opportunity you have for a real good deal.

I got my "good deal" right before I retired, when I volunteered for IA duty with CENTCOM in August 2003. I wrote about the background here; here's an applicable excerpt for those who don't want to click on the link:
They set me up in a two BR apartment in St. Petersburg and had me take over the "Coalition Financial Ops" desk in the Iraq Coalition Coordination Center from a Navy CDR who was leaving in three days. As I was turning over, I found out that I was basically in charge of figuring out how to set up a system for handling over $500M of funds to help support the 30-odd countries getting set to provide troops in Iraq in August '03. I had a memo from Condoleezza Rice saying we could use the money, a four page memorandum of understanding between us and Poland that was mostly generalities, a slightly longer MOU between Poland and the other countries that had even more generalities, and an E-mail cache -- and that was about it. Needless to say, it concerned me a little that there weren't any procedures set up ahead of time, and I was even more concerned that a Navy O-4 with no real financial training was supposed to come up with these procedures.
The whole time I was in Tampa, I got regular food per diem plus a car, along with the 2BR apartment (that cost the Navy more than what I was paying for rent for my 4BR house in San Diego -- the contracting people out there weren't very good negotiators.) I also got three 5 day trips to Warsaw as part of my duties. While I worked hard during those trips for several hours a day (and I got stuff done that I wouldn't have been able to do from Tampa), I really enjoyed having them put us up in a really nice hotel and have enough per diem money to enjoy the folk dancing and other cultural activities.

One interesting story of serendipity from one of my visits. I was there for a manning conference for the 2nd rotation for MND-CS, and got stuck going to the Administrative Support breakout session because my job didn't really fit in with any other group. It turns out that, unbeknownst to anyone in my group, they were expecting us to say whether or not a contingent of the Illinois National Guard that was providing admin support to the division would be staying for that rotation. Having no clue, I said I'd look into it; unfortunately, I didn't have a secure way of communicating with Tampa. As we were hanging out in the hotel bar that night, we noticed another table of Americans, and started talking to them. It turns out that one of them was the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, in town on a boondoggle completely unrelated to ours. I got my answer, and looked like a hero the next day.

Did you ever get the good deal?

11/11 Armistice Day 2010

(Click on the comic strip for a larger view.)In 1959, Pogo creator Walt Kelly wrote:The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still

The Stupid-Evil-Crazy Vortex

It's a perennial question for those following American politics and movement conservatism specifically – is this or that political figure evil - or stupid? Maybe he or she's just crazy? Or is it some mix?Sometimes the answer's moot, but it can be important to figure out for accurate political analysis - or at least on-target mockery. Roy Edroso included a stupid-evil ratio for all the

HMAS Dechaineux Collides With Tug

The Australian Collins-class submarine HMAS Dechaineux (SSG 76) collided with a harbor tug today as it was leaving HMAS Stirling south of Perth.
The submarine was carrying out a routine manoeuvre with the tug when the tug crossed over Dechaineux's stern.
No one was injured but a subsequent inspection has confirmed repairs are needed.
HMAS Dechaineux will undergo repairs over the coming weeks.
As a result, HMAS Dechaineux will withdraw from training exercises off the WA coast.
HMAS Dechaineux was scheduled to participate in Navy's annual anti-submarine warfare exercise off the Western Australia coast. She will be replaced by HMAS Collins which is currently at sea.
Here's a picture of the boat in better times:

Also in the news, and not really submarine-related even though some people say it is, there are reports of a missile launch off the coast of Los Angeles last night that some people suspect was an ICBM launch from an American SSBN meant to show President Obama's Asian hosts that we... I don't know... have submarines that can launch ICBMs. In case they forgot or something.

Update 1300 10 Nov: An idiot Russian general weighs in on the aircraft contrail siting:
In Moscow, Major General Alexander Vladimirov, vice president of Russia's board of military experts, told the Interfax news agency the television image "looks like the launch of a missile from a submarine."
"Most likely we are talking about the launch of a Trident-2 ballistic missile from an Ohio submarine," Vladimirov was quoted as saying.
"There is reason to believe this was an unsanctioned launch of a missile from a submarine. If this is so, then many questions arise about the condition of the U.S. armed forces," he said.
I can't believe we were ever afraid of these guys. On the other hands, Americans (though not military trained) who claim that a North Korean submarine could make it across the Pacific, let alone launch a missile, aren't showing themselves as too smart either.

PCU California (SSN 781) Christened

PCU California (they of the colorful logo and very good motto -- "Silence is Golden") was christened on Saturday at Newport News. Photos are here, and an archived webcast can be found here.

Status Update

Well, it's been over two years since I found out I had cancer, so I figure it's time for a status update. The esophageal cancer was successfully removed by chemo/radiation and surgery, and hasn't come back at all, as shown by semi-annual CT scans. After my next scan, I switch to annual exams, and I'll be "cancer-free" three years after that.

Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes during that time.

Project Valour-IT

If it's Veteran's Day weekend, it must be time again for the annual Project Valour-IT fundraiser. This worthwhile project provides voice-activated laptops and other electronic equipment to wounded veterans who wouldn't otherwise be able to use a computer. Please donate if you can; you can help out Team Navy in the competition as well as the wounded veterans by clicking below:

learn more

If It's On The Internet, It Must Be True!

There are reports that Sen.-elect Rand Paul is spending $8 trillion on his transition expenses! Super cereal!

The Secret Sisters - "Tennessee Me"

I'm a sucker for good vocal harmony, and the Secret Sisters delivered a great KCRW session recently. This one's an original, but they also do fantastic covers.

Submariner And Non-Submariner In The News

A retired Navy submarine Captain has pled guilty to a conflict-of-interest violation for his dealings with a defense contractor before his retirement:
Patrick Seidel, 51, a veteran submariner, was negotiating with the defense firm about a job while also helping the firm potentially receive a contract with the Navy to provide technology enhancing the service's anti-submarine program, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
At the time, Seidel was major-program manager for maritime surveillance at Naval Sea Systems Command in San Diego, involved with contracts for ocean surveillance systems.
After negotiating with the unnamed firm for several months, Seidel retired in late 2005 and took a job with the firm, receiving a $25,000 "signing bonus," according to documents.
Seidel had invited the defense firm to send employees to inquire about Navy contracts, sent Navy personnel to the firm to discuss possible contracts, and talked with Navy officials about the firm, according to documents in the case.
Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal on Friday sentenced Seidel to one year of probation and a $15,000 fine.
Also, an Ensign at Sub School who will never be a Submariner is asking the ACLU for help getting a discharge:
(ENS Michael) Izbicki, 24 and based at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Hartford on Wednesday asking for an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector, a request the Navy has turned down twice in the past year.
According to the lawsuit, the Navy's investigations of the legitimacy of Izbicki's beliefs were deeply flawed and, in one case, "showed extreme religious bias" against his Christian beliefs, especially when it came to his increasing interest in Quakerism.
"My Christian convictions preclude the use of violence; I cannot take someone else's life, nor can I aid others in doing so," Izbicki wrote in his application. "Therefore, I cannot participate in war in any form."...
...He had to take a psychological exam when he started training to serve on a submarine. He was asked if he could launch a nuclear missile and he realized he could not.
I remember another case of some goober officer asking to get out back in the early 90s, but I think it was because he'd hooked up with some group of politically-oriented peace activists instead of Quakers. I discussed the "psychological test" Submariners have to take back when I first started this blog, so I guess it's a good time to bring it up again to get people's thoughts on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of same.

Skimmer XO Court-Martialed

Check out this story from about the ongoing court martial of the former XO of USS San Antonio (LPD 17) for dereliction of duty relating to the death of a Petty Officer in February 2009 during a small boat mishap. Excerpts:
Prosecutors contend that Kearns did not ensure effective training or supervision of small boat operations on Feb. 4, 2009, when the amphibious transport dock ship -- the first in its class -- was operating in the Gulf of Aden.
That morning, an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat with three Sailors aboard was lowered to the water. Its engines failed to start, and it flipped over soon after hitting the water. Two Sailors were rescued. Petty Officer 1st Class Theophilus Ansong, the small boat's engineer, apparently drowned. His life vest, too large for his frame and improperly closed, was recovered; his body was never found...
...Kearns, whose duties as second-in-command included supervising small-boat operations, was not on the bridge for the launch of Ansong's rigid-hull inflatable boat, Burby said. Instead, he was in his stateroom, checking e-mail...
...Kearns refused the option of facing non-judicial punishment in an administrative hearing. Instead, he opted to have a jury decide his fate.
More information can be found in this Navy Times article. Based on what I've read (XOs almost never personally supervise RHIB ops on amphibs, there is still no standardized procedure for this class for this evolution) I don't see how they could win a conviction, but remember the jury is a bunch of O-5s and O-6s who might buy into the Big Navy philosophy of "blame individual Sailors on the deckplate so we can avoid having to acknowledge and fix systemic problems". I personally have a problem with the attitude that people should be punished for doing what everyone else does if there's an accident involved, but it's clear the Navy leadership does buy into that idea.

Update 1613 08 Nov: LCDR (soon to be CDR) Kearns was acquitted. Money quote:
Prosecution witnesses, for instance, had said the “best practices” gathered from general experience on systems common to many Navy ships, including small boat operations, were known to and disseminated to shipboard leaders, an apparent defense of the lack of formal training guidance.
But, Carmichael said in his closing statement, “Are best practices the standard that we hold somebody criminally negligent for?”

Marshall McLuhan and Socialist Teddy Bears

The only thing worse than inane political analysis and obtuse cultural criticism is combining the two. John Cole of Balloon Juice finds this stunning example of "Bad Punditry":If indications hold true, voters Tuesday will deliver a powerful rebuke to the Obama administration and its plans to transform America. Also, “Toy Story 3” will come out on DVD. These two events are not unrelated. The

GOTV 2010

These are the most compelling Get Out the Vote ads I've seen so far. The first one comes from Steve Benen and Bill Simmon: I actually saw this one, "I Remember," proliferate on one of them thar social media sites before the blogs really picked it up:Digby passes on this cool one, "We Vote":Lastly, here's a longer MoveOn ad with a sci-fi dystopian theme, and featuring Olivia Wilde. Apparently

Brown in the Final Stretch

Jerry Brown didn't start running ads seriously until pretty late in the election - or maybe it just felt that way because Whitman spent so early and so heavily. Regardless, Brown's strategy seems to have worked. This one minute ad, "Echo," has been in heavy rotation on TV since mid-October. It's received a fair amount of national press as well. The concept is pretty simple, but the end result

Rise (and Fall?) of the eMeg

At last report, Meg Whitman has spent an unprecedented 163 million on her campaign. Much of the first blast went to airing this one minute ad, "Confidence," starting in early April, as part of a juggernaut-momentum strategy. It seemed like it ran at least once per hour on TV:It's a well made spot, it's positive, and a good "introduction to the candidate." For those seeking a change and not too

The Case Against Fiorina by Boxer – and Fiorina

Continuing our look at California political ads, here's two attack ads against Carly Fiorina aired by Barbara Boxer's campaign. I've probably seen this Boxer ad, "Outsourcing," the most. Apparently it started running about mid-September, and it's run a lot since then. I think it's pretty effective. (Update: Here's more on the ad.) So is this similar one, "Workers," which started running '

Fiorina's Demon Sheep Ad

I would be remiss if I didn't include this web-only Fiorina ad from the GOP primaries, the infamous "Demon Sheep" ad from early in the year. Political junkies will have already seen it, and perhaps a parody or two of it. But ya gotta see this one if you haven't. I dare you not to laugh – or think of Monty Python.

Ignore the Culprits, and Vote Non-Partisan – Republican!

Here's five more ads from Carly Fiorina and her allies. The first one is called "Day" and it started running heavily early in October:The ad depends on voters not following the news and not knowing (or caring) which party is primarily responsible for their economic woes and running up wasteful spending (roughly five trillion added to the debt under Bush, for instance). My favorite part is

Courting the Right-Wing

Continuing our look at Fiorina ads, this one is called "Sir," and started playing in late September. At this point, she'd ditched the tobacco/jaundice filter:I think this was aimed mainly at right-wingers to prove her bona fides with them – and the community at conservative site Red State responded favorably. I wonder how effective this was with other people, though. This exchange (from June

Discontent, Fear and Jaundice

Here's three ads from Carly Fiorina, the Republican challenging Senator Barbara Boxer's seat.This one is titled "Work." It was posted in May, and it was running all the time on TV back then:I refer to it as the "jaundice ad." I think some of the people look pretty ghoulish with that yellow/rose filter. I suspect it, and the soft-focus effect, is to make Fiorina look more vibrant and young.

California Midterm Money 2010

If you don't live in California, you're lucky you miss the election year onslaught of political ads. Normally, it's ballot measure ads around the clock, but this time, the candidate ads have been non-stop all year. I thought I'd try to look at some of the ads in a few posts before the election is over, in, um, two days. First though, I thought it'd be useful to look at the money. The spending

CA Ballot Propositions 2010

Yes, it's that time again if you live in California (unless you already voted early). Which ballot propositions are good, and which are horrible? And what about all the other races? If you didn't receive the state's official Voter's Guide, which has arguments for and against the propositions, you can view or download PDF versions in several languages here.Liberal site Calitics has a list of

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and now I have an even better reason to like it -- a brand new niece. Happy Birthday Allie Grace Ogren, the newest resident of Ashland, Nebraska!

As is my norm, I did my best to depress property values in the neighborhood with a garish display of gaudy inflatables. Here's the result (the new ones were my 25th wedding anniversary gifts from my wife, who understands priorities):

Unfortunately, it was windy and rainy this year, so discretion won out over valor and I didn't install the roof inflatable like I normally do. I really need a bigger yard, because I didn't have room to install the haunted pirate ship.

Ralph Stanley – "O Death"

In honor of Halloween. I prefer this version, but it can't be embedded.

Retention: Good Boat Vs. Bad Boat

It looks like JO retention numbers have been pretty good lately for the Submarine Force, as evidenced by this announcement that PERS42 is going to a "Two Look" Department Head screening system. Excerpt:
The primary driver for changing the Department Head screening process is strong retention trends among our junior officers for the past two years. This strong retention has the potential to significantly impact Department Head tour lengths, which are already at the minimum required to provide adequate operational and leadership experience, and has the potential to reduce Executive Officer screening opportunity. As a result, we are shifting to a two-look Department Head screening process and will not return to a one-look screening process.
The screening board will look at each year group (YG) twice, in May of the fifth and sixth year of commissioned service. Since YG05 has already passed its first look date under the new process, YG05’s first look will occur in November 2010, followed by a second look in May 2011. YG06 will have its first look in May 2011 and its second look in May 2012.
The Submarine Force will always provide high quality officers an opportunity to serve as Department Head. Officers who have performed well during their Division Officer tours should not be concerned about Department Head screening. We anticipate that few officers will be placed "not cleared" on their final look. However, the Submarine Force must maintain control on the upper limit of the number of Department Heads in order to ensure each officer who does serve gains the experience necessary to develop professionally and be fully prepared for follow-on assignments.
This announcement, plus getting the retirement announcement for one of my fellow JOs on USS Topeka (SSN 754) back in the '90-'93 time frame, got me thinking about my JO experience and how the boat "command climate" impacts retention. Topeka during this time was almost legendary for having an "unpleasant" CO -- "He Who Must Not Be Named". The thing was, we ended up having good enlisted retention, and JO retention seemed to be above average. Of the cohort of 10 JOs who did all or most of the boat's '92-'93 WestPac/Arabian Gulf run, we ended up with three who got out of the Navy before their DH tour (one of whom was transferred off the boat early when he made a 1MC announcement to the effect of "I'm LTJG XXXX, and I'm drunk off my ass" when he was brought back to the boat off liberty when they were pulled into Bangor for voyage repairs), and two did lateral transfers to other communities before their DH tours (Medical and JAG Corps). That left 5 of 10 who went on to serve as Submarine Department Heads, and three of those went on to command. My theory is that the above average retention was due to a couple of factors: 1) We all developed a very strong sense of "Team", in that we were united against the common enemy (the CO), and 2) We knew -- as an absolute fact -- that we would never have it worse in the Navy in any future assignment. It would all be downhill from there.

What do you think? Does the command climate of a submarine influence the boat's retention rate? Or is it mostly the ship's operational schedule that's the driver? Or a combination of factors?

(USS) Florida Beats (USS) Georgia

The Navy website has a story about a command flag football game between the crews of USS Georgia (SSGN 729) and USS Florida (SSGN 728):
Crew members from USS Florida (SSBN 738)[sic] and USS Georgia (SSGN 729) participated in the a flag football tournament held in St. Marys, Ga., Oct. 23 days ahead of South Eastern Conference battle between Universities of Florida (UF) and Georgia (UGA).
Florida's flag football team was victorious, 53 to 41, against Georgia's team.
Friends, family and crew members attended the game at St. Marys Middle School football field.
One of the primary reasons for the game was to promote camaraderie between the two boat crews. The spirit was high and the competition fierce.
"I run all the time, and we practiced this week as a team to prepare for this day," said Electricians Mate 2nd Class (SS) Sean Schoememan, Florida's cornerback and lineman. "This is a good game with a challenging team."
Georgia's team started out strong and slowly allowed the crew from Florida to catch up and tie 34 to 34 prior to winning the game.
"This is a fantastic game," said Sonar Technician 3rd Class (SS) Whitt Condit, Florida's wide receiver and corner. "This is a great opportunity for the boats to get together and have a good time."
Condit's wife and best friend from the boat were in the stands cheering for Condit and Florida's crew.
There used to be a traditional flag football game between the staff and graduating students at NPTU Idaho back in the mid-80s that ended up being officially banned when too many people were getting medically disqualified from submarine duty because of injuries suffered during the game. (One of my housemates was one of them.) Have you ever participated in a football game amongst Submariners that didn't result in a major injury?

Tax Cuts to the Rich Don't Raise Revenues

The economic and fiscal policies of movement conservatives have been proven disastrous and do not work as advertised. Like many core conservative positions, they have little to no basis in reality. None of these factors have dissuaded conservatives from stridently fighting for them, though. One of the most pernicious and destructive of these falsehoods is the position that tax cuts –

It's Funny Because It's True

From the "Got Dolphins?" Facebook page:
What's the difference between the Chilean miners and submarine sailors? After 69 days without sunlight, fresh air or seeing your family no one tells a third of the Chilean miners they have to go back down below because they've got the duty.

HMS Astute Aground

According to this article in the Telegraph, Britain's newest submarine, HMS Astute (S 119), ran aground off the coast of Scotland, and remains hung up:
It is understood that the boat, which is first in its class, ran aground by its stern in a manoeuvre that “went slightly wrong” after it had dropped some sailors ashore in tidal waters off the Isle of Skye.
As the tide rapidly ebbed it is thought the skipper of Astute, Commander Andy Coles, decided not to power it off the obstruction as it would risk damaging the hull that carries some of the most advanced acoustic tiles that make Astute virtually undetectable beneath the seas...
...No one was injured in the incident that happened earlier today. It came the morning after Trafalgar Day, where sailors celebrated the 205th anniversary of Nelson's victory.
“Astute ran aground by her very stern earlier this morning as she was transferring people ashore,” a Navy spokesman said. “There’s no nuclear issue or no environmental issue that we are aware of and no one has been hurt.”
The submarine, which carries a crew of 98, will now wait until later today for tug boats to pull her off when the tide comes in.
Hopefully all works out well for the boat and crew. More information, including a chart of the grounding area, is in this BBC report. I am amused by the British press calling Astute, commissioned August 27th of this year, the "world's most advanced nuclear submarine". Newest submarine class to be launched, yes, but considering she was ordered in 1997, I think I'll take the Virginia-class boats as being more advanced, and the Seawolf-class as being immeasurably better.

Bell-ringer 1015 22 October: Here's a video of Astute aground:

Update 1445 22 Oct: Looks like they floated her off with the high tide.

Update 1858 22 Oct: Here's an update from a local paper. Looks like the crew's going to be getting the Brit version of a RIM (Rectallly-Inserted Microscope) - jobbing. I feel for the poor guys. Having a bunch of press people who don't understand how tough it is to maneuver a single-screw ship without a real keel around in sketchy waters making a bunch of dumb comments, followed by politicians with the same level of input, doesn't make it any easier for for the people who really want to fix the problem. Being the lead boat of the class, this is probably one of the Brit's top CO and crew combos. Sucks to be them.

Update 1808 23 Oct: Looks like the problem may have been old charts.

Joan Sutherland – "Spargi d'amaro pianto"

Coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland, one of the great bel canto singers, died last week. The New York Times has an excellent obituary. Her most famous role was probably Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, which has a famous, showcase mad scene. (As we've covered before, mad scenes were all the rage in 19th Century opera.). As the video's narrator explains, this is the final section of

Maddow versus the CW on the Midterms

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economyIf you follow politics a bit, you're bound to get exposed to the Beltway Conventional Wisdom. If you follow politics closely, at some point you'll notice that the Beltway Conventional Wisdom is often badly wrong - and impervious to facts or reason. Rachel Maddow is doing some superb work in fact-checking and investigative

Submarine Personnel News

From the New London Day, RADM John M. Richardson has been nominated to be the new COMSUBFOR. He will replace VADM John J. Donnelly, who has previously announced that he will be retiring.

With trepidation, here's a Navy announcement of which boats will get the first women officers:
USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) and USS Georgia (SSGN 729) homeported in Kings Bay, Ga., and USS Maine (SSBN 741) and USS Ohio (SSGN 726) homeported in Bangor, Wash., are the initial four submarines that have been selected to integrate female officers into their crews.
The blue and gold crews of the four submarines will each be assigned three female officers.
Two of the women will be submarine officers, and the third female officer will be a warfare qualified supply officer.
They will be assigned to their first submarine duty station after completing training, which consists of nuclear power school, prototype training and the Submarine Officer Basic Course. They are expected to report to their assigned submarines beginning December 2011.
More information can be found in this Navy Times article. If we could possibly keep the discussion from devolving into a series of gratuitous sexual terms, that would be great.