Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Calling Robert Heinlein

There are few people on this planet that have the ability to imagine and dream about possibilities better than Robert Heinlein. If you have ever read any of his stuff you are soon amazed to learn that he was predicting things back in the 1950's that were really impossible at the time.

Just like Jules Verne's predictions of submarine warfare, Heinlein, a former naval aviator, weighed in on the future of the military. In 1959 he wrote Starship Troopers, a wartime epic set in the somewhat distant future. The book details combat with alien races using powered armored suits. (Thirty years later, Japanese animation used the idea for the Robotech series.)

He also wrote about advanced prosthetics used by veterans that had lost limbs in action. Israeli inventor Amit Goffer has made science fiction science fact. His ReWalk device enables paraplegics to rise out of their wheel chairs and walk with the aid of crutches. Watch the video to see injured Israeli paratrooper Radi Kaiof walk around town and look people in the eye.

I don't know if Heinlein had a crystal ball, but for me, it was like reading DaVinci's notebook. If you have a spare moment, read the book, its fairly short. In addition to his ideas on technology, check out his vision of the government of the future. More to come on this.......

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicom Sub Base Weakness

I don't want to talk out of turn here, but all of this chatter and hand wringing about a secret submarine cave base a la James Bond or Dr. Evil got me to thinking. The Aussies have a pretty good understanding of just what a threat the growing Red Fleet can be. This story appeared over the weekend in The Australian.

While the value of a subterranean base can be huge with regards to shielding the People's (sic) Liberation (sic) Army (?) Navy from US spy satellites just think for a minute about what might happen in the event of hostilities.

During the "Big One", bomber command hit the sub pens at Brest on a regular basis and yet the damn thing is still standing. The major difference is that, today, the arsenal includes a couple of firecrackers that can more than handle bringing down the entrance to the boat garage the Chicoms have built. After the dust clears, you have a very expensive tomb for "...up to 20 submarines..."

So, go ahead, Comrades, keep using all of that Walmart money to build things that would make Albert Speer blush. Fat man & Little Boy's grandsons are waiting. Now, just where is that Man with the Golden Gun?

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Nub Story

Bubblehead over at The Stupid Shall Be Punished got me to thinking about my nub days. For those of you not blessed enough to serve beneath the waves, I offer you the following:

N.U.B. or NUB is an acronym for a long used expression in the U.S. Navy that means Non-Useful Body. Usually a term given to those recently out of school and have yet to learn the ways of being a true sailor.

Submariners in the U.S. Navy usually use this term towards those who have not qualified for submarines, an arduous task which ends in the sailor being presented his "Dolphins" and being accepted as no longer being a NUB.

I had to work hard to qualify. Being a Deck Div. orphan required me to quickly and accurately analyze the social status of each crewman and their divisions and their relationships with everybody else. Half the time, I couldn't get anybody to even talk to me about quals.

After many months of hard work and barter, I had the whole qual card signed off and recieved the object of my efforts: My Fish. (I paid for them dearly, more about that later.) The Boat was headed to Canada for some games with the Canadians and I come down the ladder for the first time as a real live Submariner only to be asked by the COB where was my apron. I was headed back to mess crank.

Now, keep in mind, I had already hit the limit on cranking. I had qualified Helms/Planes, Topside Watch and Lookout. I was well on my way to being battlesattions helmsman. Now I had my Fish and was no longer a NUB. I was now a UB.

I stood there, in upper level, with my mouth open in disbelief. Due to the manpower scarcity, mostly from nukes not cranking as much as the rest of us, Quailified in Submarines or not, I was headed back to crank in the galley.

What made it worse was I wasn't the only one. A QMSN friend of mine that had been on the boat a month or two longer than me was there too. A sacred tradition had been violated and the crew was not happy to see two qualified watch standers down in crews mess with paper hats on.

While most of the crew saw this as a grave injustice, there were a couple of idiots that needed to get their mind right. One smart ass nuke decided to pile on the humiliation by demanding that I refill his drink by saying in a loud voice, "Get me a drink, CRANK!"

At this point a massive Sasquatch from A-gang, known for taping up nukes, stepped in before I could respond and told him to get his own damn drink. The delicate peace between the forward spaces and the nukes lay in the balance. The nuke (obviously wanting to keep his pubic hair intact) backed down and showed some respect.

QMSN and I found a pair of iron-on Dolphins and added them to our teal colored crank's shirts (despite the Chop's insistence that those shirts really belonged to him) and served the rest of our sentence with a steely eyed demeanor of taking no crap from anyone.

I later found out why the COB had nobody left on the list to crank. The Chop had moved a new cook from cranking early and some douche bag Sonar Tech had altered his service record to show that he had cranked while he was TAD during training. If I could have TDU'd that bastard, I would have.

Just remember:

"One Boat, One Crew, One Shaft, One Screw."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

U-Boat Losses Visualized

I often get bogged down in discussions with sailors from the target fleet about just how crucial the sub force's efforts were during "The Big One." When I try to explain just how unarmed the US was on December 8, 1941 and that a redheaded stepchild that was only 2% of the fleet managed to inflict 30% of the enemy's shipping losses, I usually get a blank stare.

It can be worse when speaking, respectfully, of course, with some of the old WW2 surface vets who tend to complain about how Submariners had "better pay, ports o'call, liberty and those damn fish!"

You can read the numbers over and over but until you visualize it in you mind, you'll never get your arms around it.

A friend just sent me a link to a little gadget that will give you one of those "Eureka" moments. Some noble soul with far more time on his hands than I has taken available reference information such as lats & longs and dates, combined it with a mapping program and produced a visual record of all of the U-Boats sank during WW2.

At first, I thought this was a clever little toy until I tinkered around with enough to get it to display all losses at once. Once you grasp the idea of 641 submarines sunk with the majority of their crews dying, it hit me like a hammer. (Hint: enter "dead" in the search box)

My only question: Has anyone done this for the American Fleet Boats?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Combat Action Medal Urged

The VFW passed a resolution urging the SECNAV to create a medal to accompany the Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) noting that the Navy and Marines are now the only service without a combat decoration.

The CAR was authorized for naval personnel by SECNAV John Chafee (who went on to have a mediocre career as a liberal GOP Senator from Rhode Island) back in '69 and made it applicaple back to '61. Clinton retroactively applied it back to 1941. (Amazing how the only thing this guy ever did militarily was drop bombs on Christians in Serbia and yet he gave out decorations to some albeit very deserving people that fought in wars long before his term.)

The Air Farce came up with a gawdawful medal for their shot at airmen that looks like something Hermann Goering would have cooked up:

The Army has an entirely different view of recognizing combat service. The Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Medical Badge and the new Combat Action Badge are awarded to soldiers that meet the requirements of coming under fire in combat. Additionally, Soldiers wear the unit patch that they served with during wartime on their right shoulder while the left shoulder displays their current unit.

Never having served in "combat" per se, and only having served on "peacetime" "training" missions I can only speculate here but it seems to me:

While there can be a degree of medal "inflation" during conflicts (Supply O-3's getting a meritorious Bronze Star), the amount of personal awards being given out to Marines and Sailors who are under the gun on a daily basis is terrible. Given the numbers of combat incidents in both Iraq and Afghanistan, our naval (and military) forces deserve far more awards for heroism and valor. Sometimes, I think the Bush Administration conspires with the DoD to keep recognitions low in order not to let the folks back home that there is a war on.

Bravo Zulu to the VFW for standing up for our men and women afloat and afield!

Now, if we can just get this Navy Expeditionary Medal for federal veterans preference question settled......

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hezbollah Sub Force?

Reports have been popping up for the last 2 years about the existence of fiberglass submersibles used to smuggle narcotics to the US and Europe. Now comes word that there is a new play in the drug sub game: Lebanese based muslim terrorist group Hezbollah.

Smuggling is nothing new for the so-called Party of God (sic). Back in 2002, Hezbi convenience store workers in Charlotte got busted by the ATF for smuggling low tax cigarettes to Michigan. They appear to now have graduated from Marlboros on the highway to cocaine on the high seas.

Now why would a religious based group smuggle drugs? Its a lot like what Willie Sutton said: Cause that's where the money is. My guess is any cash Hezbi can raise on its own, it can spend on what it wants without any conditions from its Iranian sugar daddy. Additionally, the destination is western Europe, so who cares?

Back in the 90's, the Coast Guard made a point to remove its ASW sonar gear from its cutters since the Russians were no longer a threat. Hopefully Admiral Allen will take care of this problem.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In the Navy, With the Marines

After my time in the Submarines, I thought it might be interesting to see what life was like in the "other" Marines. OK, it really wasn't my idea, but the reserve recruiter thought it would be fun to see what happened to a bubblehead dropped in to the middle of the Fleet Marine Force.

My first trip to the green side involved being saluted by a lot of young marines and being called "doc" alot. It took a while for me to get used to being asked to look at somebody's rash. Now, keep in mind, when you embark on board a Marine base, you are surrounded by thousands of young killers who worship their corporal (E-4). No scrubbing of the middle level passageway with a greanny on hands and knees in this man's Corps.

The Marines also happen to be the only service worse than the Navy when it comes to handing out uniform fruit salad. When I realized that I had more service ribbons than half of the Gunnery Sergeants, I had to sit down and sort out the universe. (This has been somewhat fixed by the heroism decorations from the war on terror.)

I quickly realized that Marine Corps culture has no place for subdued dolphins and I proudly became one of the fewest of the few and the proud wearing my shiny silver dolphins around Camp Lejuene. Marines would see you coming and try to figure out just what kind of creature you were. When asked about life on the boat, they'd nearly universally make some comment about going crazy underwater.

After I left the Green side, somebody got the great idea to give fleet marine sailors their own warfare device, the FMF badge. This seems to make a lot more since than half of the other "warfare" devices out there on the blue side are nothing more than fufilling your job duties. (Ahem, IUSS) Corpsmen and RP's get shot at on a regular basis these days. So do some Chaplains and Doctors.

Now word has come out that the Marines themselves would like to make sure that the sailors they serve in combat with recieve the same pay that they do.

This only makes sense. When you count on a sailor to risk his life to save yours, you want that risk recognized and compensated. BZ to the the Sergeant Majors of the Marine Corps for doing their part to keep the Navy in the fight.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Making Georgia Howl

I have been thinking a lot about our friends in the western Asian Republic of Georgia. It looks like the old Red Menace is at it again. Russian troops have rolled into Georgia like a field exercise.

Georgia is a little larger than West Virginia and is one of the first Christian countries in the world. Given their loyalty to the US and their strategic position in a volatile region., the US can do better than we have.

We have a friend in Georgia that we will loose if the Russians take it over again.

The photo says it all. These Georgian troopers were praying before going on duty in Iraq.

They need more than our prayers now.

So Long NR-1, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Navy News has a list of this year's ships to be decommissioned. Among the targets is the venerable NR-1. When I was a student at Admiral Rickover's School for Wayward Boys, we used to hear all kinds of tales about this mysterious sub that was soooo secret, it didn't even have a name.

Well, the little lady is headed for retirement. Coincidentally, I just started reading "Dark Waters" a little tale by a former Nuke ICman. (I had forgot all about the Nuke IC rate.) So far, its good.

I wonder what will take the place of the indispensable little boat? And what will they do with the hull after they D-nuke it?

On NR-1, when they say, "Take her deep," they mean it!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Navy Uniforms, Every Man A Chief

Have you seen the new "service" uniforms? Either there was a bad case of chief's envy or we need to look more like the Marines. Just look at it. Now don't get me wrong, I hated the ice cream man service whites. The service dress blues made you look like Heinrich Himmler's valet or LAPD.

These look like either military school rejects or Korean Coast Guard.

I do understand the attraction of the Marine Charlies. I had the opportunity to wear them when I was on the green side. But here's the rub: Marines tend to have a V-shaped torso (as does this nice young catalog model) This probably has something to do with all that extra PT they do.

Now envision what your rotund FTG (SS) that can barely make it through the main hatch will look like with triple chins. Got it?

Although, the new camo's (why camo? who you hiding from? Man overboard should be real fun!) do relegate the dixie cup to dress occasions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CO Firings in the past

Maybe I spoke to soon. Paratrooper.net has a few examples from the near past.

What's up with all these CO firings?

Have you noticed a rash of CO & XO firings around the fleet? There seems to be a huge number of reliefs for loss of confidence. Now, admittedly, you still have those CO's who can't keep their hands off of the help and the occasional grounding, but come on.

Navy Times has a story today about an airdale getting cashiered.

What is causing this wave of firings or is it just me?

One thing that leaves me scratching my head a little is the current state of the officer corps. I went to the commissioning of the USS North Carolina SSN-777 and was very impressed by the number of mustang officers onboard. From the CO on down to the butter bars there must have been a half dozen of them. (When I was on the ustafish, we had one and he had come over from the Army artillery. He was a decent guy but you got the feeling he would CYA a blueshirt in a minute.)

Do more mustangs mean a better fleet? If so, why are so many commanders getting relieved?