Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yesterday, Plus Sixty Years

The USS Nautilus joined the Fleet. She was commissioned on September 30th, 1954.

Nautilus was an experiment from start to finish. As an operational boat, about all that she could do was stay submerged for long periods of time.  She was noisy and her passive sonar was noise-limited to speeds that could be easily surpassed by submerged diesel boats.  But she was a success at her main task:  Giving the Navy experience in operating nuclear power plats at sea.

After Nautilus, the Navy kept tweaking sub design with class sizes of between one and six boats until the construction of the Thresher/Permit class, which was the first SSN class of more than ten boats.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You'll Never Get Any Sleep

One-section watchstanding, me hearties!

And you can forget about ever going on liberty!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stick-Shift Boilers

(Might want to read this first.)

Let's say that you're on a steam ship and the order comes down to increase speed. The throttleman in the engine room acknowledges the bell change and opens the throttle. More steam is admitted to the turbines and they spin faster.

The real fun is in the fire room. When the throttle is opened, the first thing that happens is that steam pressure drops in the main steam line. Because of that drop in pressure, the level of water in the boiler goes up. But that's just a momentary reaction.

In response to the lower steam pressure, the automatic combustion control (ACC) on a modern 1,200lb. steam plant[1] did three things and, in a well-maintained system, did them very well: It would add water to the boiler, increase the firing rate at the burner front and speed up the forced draft blowers. The Burnerman would, as ordered by the Boiler Tech of the Watch (BTOW), cut in more burners.

The Blowerman (or "Lower Levelman") would, if ordered, start an additional forced-draft blower. Each boiler had two blowers, but in normal peacetime steaming, only one blower per boiler would be running.

It took the boiler techs a long time to come to Jesus on ACC systems. There was a special Naval Enlisted Classification code for an ACC technician. One of the things that got Insurv riled up was the failure of surface ships to properly set up, maintain and run ACC systems. When things like that happen, the way that the surface line community[2] handles things is to publicly fire people until everyone gets the message.

The thing was, of course, that the senior boiler technicians had learned their jobs on World War Two-era ships. Those ships had 600lb. steam plants that were manually controlled. The Upper Levelman stood watch by the boiler water-level gauge glasses and he controlled the rate that feedwater was added to the boiler. The Burnerman controlled both the number of burners and the amount of fuel oil that was fed to the burner front. The Blowerman controlled the speed of teh blowers.

So now the Throttleman opens up the throttle. The Upper Levelman sees the water level rise in the gauge glass, but he knows that is a temporary effect, so he makes ready to add feedwater. The Burnerman sees the boiler's pressure drop, he increases the firing rate. The Blowerman speeds up his blowers to feed more air to the firebox.

Those three men, naturally, were told what the speed change was and they could react based on experience. But the Blowerman and Burnerman rarely were able to harmonize exactly during big speed changes. Given the choice between too little air and too much air, the Blowerman always opted for too little. Too little air meant that the boiler would emit black smoke out of the stack. Too much air and the boiler would emit white smoke. White smoke was finely atomized fuel and, as you might suspect, a white smoke condition was dangerous, as you would get a fuel-air buildup in the upper works of the boiler and the stack and then, if it were not brought under control quickly, very bad things would happen.[3]

If a boiler that was run on an ACC emitted smoke on a power change, that was a sign that the ACC wasn't working properly.[4] So if you see photos or video of a Navy steam-powered warship blasting out smoke as she accelerated, you probably were seeing a ship with a stick-shift plant.
[1]"Modern" being "post Korean War".
[2] Our motto: "We Eat Our Young".
[3] The rule was that if white smoke couldn't be eliminated in a minute or less, the boiler's fires were pulled and the boiler wrapped up.
[4] There was a test called a "boiler flex" in which the Throttleman would rapidly spin the throttle open or shut in order to change the steam demand across 80% of the boiler's operating range, in order to stress-test the ACC system. This was an OPPE fail item.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dead Horse

Not this kind:

When a sailor (or officer) was changing permanent duty stations and had to move, they were allowed to take up to three months' pay in advance to help cover the incidental expenses of the move. Many of those costs would be later paid back after a claim was submitted, but by having the cash on hand, people could avoid having to pay credit card interest (if they even had one, back then).

The catch, of course, was that you had to pay it all back in a year, which was taken out of your pay. If you took the full amount, you then had a 25% pay cut for the next year.

The story back then was that you were paying for something you no longer could use, so it was like making payments on a dead horse. But we didn't have the internet back then, so who knew that the origin was something else entirely?

Sunday, June 8, 2014


The Navy has PT standards.

It once wasn't that way. Physical fitness was generally ignored or given short shrift, like small arms training. Sailors were supposed to be fit enough to do their jobs and if they weren't, that's what evaluations were for. There really wasn't a height and weight standard, other than for sea-going sailors, being able to fit through a 18" scuttle.

There was one sailor on my first ship who was pretty damned obese. The XO told him that if he became too fat to fit through a scuttle, that he'd be medically discharged. So the sailor went on an eating program to get that fat. When he got too fat to get through a scuttle, the XO didn't have him discharged. The sailor was bitterly disappointed and felt that the XO had broken a promise.

That began to change in the mid-`80s. An annual PT test was ordered into effect. First-class petty officers had to submit full-body photos of them, standing sideways, against a contrasting background, because the Navy had gotten tired of making chiefs out of fat-assed PO1s. They might still end up sitting in the Goat Locker on the ROAD program, but not because they were too fat.

The initial reaction from the Fleet was basically one of: "OK, get into shape, but do it on yer own goddamned time." I can recall one (count it) one command PT session on two ships. A command PT session took a hell of a lot of time, from changing out of the work uniform into PT gear, going to the exercise field (not enough room on most ships for this), warming up, doing the exercises, ending with a run, then going back to the ship, taking a shower (for the office pukes, anyway) and then getting back into the working uniform.

Other than the command PT coordinator (if there was one) and maybe the XO, everyone hated it. It took to much time out of the work day on ships that really needed a 30-hour day to get done what needed to be done (except for the Ops pukes and most of the Pork Chops, that is). So command PT was seen being done by those commands that had the time: Airdales and shore pukes.

I don't imagine that things have changed overly much.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A/C Boundaries

Ships are divided up by air-conditioning boundaries, which in civilian life, are often called "heating zones." Each area had its own fanroom that supplied either cooled or heated air, depending on the season. The zones were divided by interior bulkheads and there were doorways with joiner doors on pneumatic closures to permit passage between the zones.

XOs were often pinging on the department heads to keep the joiner doors in their spaces in good working order. If the passageway on one side of the door was maintained by a different division than the passageway on the other side of the door, the door belonged to whichever division maintained the space into with the door opened.

Some of those joiner doors took a hell of a beating. The pneumatic door closers in the Navy supply system didn't seem to be up to the job. The closers got pulled off and fixed or replaced and then mounted back so many times that the base metal under them gave out from the strain.

If you wanted to see real hell on earth, try running a set of gas-welding lines through an a/c boundary when it was hot or cold out, especially if that open door was at the edge of Officer Country. The XO would want to know why those lazy-ass HTs couldn't be bothered to move the gas bottles closer to where they were working (or use a portable rig). When there was serious repair work going on where the doors had to be rigged open, if not removed, XOs often went into max-fret mode.

And if you wanted to see real fireworks, watch what happened when an XO began harping about air-conditioning boundaries on a Chief Engineer who was dealing with a boiler casualty or who had an OPPE coming up in three weeks.

Still, if you wanted to keep the ship either heated or cooled, air-conditioning boundaries had to be respected.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Meeting Fail

From the Duffel Blog:
THE COMPANY OFFICE — A complete and total fucking asshole that everyone wishes would just die already actually has a goddamned question at the end of the operations meeting we’ve been in for six fucking hours, sources confirmed today.
I can't tell you the number of meetings that I've been (both in the Navy and afterwards) in which dragged on interminably and then were extended because some fucking tool asked a question that was designed to show how brilliant said tool was, rather than to clear up some misunderstanding.

The various school commands seemed to be loaded with students who acted like this. Legal continuing ed classes are also a rich ground for such tools. On the ships, at least for the smaller ones, somebody eventually communicated to the tools that they should shut the fuck up in meetings.
At press time, multiple people in the room were seen in their daydreams pulling out nickel-plated .45 caliber pistols and shooting the lieutenant right in the fucking face because he needs to die right fucking now.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Some Damn Football Game is Being Played in Philly

Big effing deal.

As readers of this blog know, I've not been terribly impressed by the output of the service academies. Some of them were good officers, but too many of them were brainwashed Kool-aid drinkers with an inability to think critically or creatively. The officers who excelled at backstabbing and buddy-fucking were more often than not academy products.

Too bad they both can't lose.

UPDATE: Apparently the Army won the coin toss to start the game and then went right into losing the game itself.

The Duffel Blog has it right: The Cadets would have to call in an airstrike to win.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

No Job Was Too Insignificant, But They Sure As Hell Could Be Career-Limiting

Back in the immediate post-Vietnam era, the Navy, among other services, had a problem in both attracting and holding onto good people. The "General Hershey Volunteer Incentive" (otherwise known as "get drafted and go to `Nam") was done. Lots of ships were sent to the breakers (including almost all of the WW2 builds), but the Navy still had a problem.

One was with filling slots for department heads. The officers with four to six years in service in the mid-`70s were heavily made up of men who had joined to avoid the tiresome duty of slogging through jungles with a pack and an M-16 while being shot at. A number of them had gone onto shore duty after their sea tours with an eye of taking night classes to get their masters degrees while also pulling down a paycheck. They weren't interested in going back to sea.

But the Navy still had to fill those department head jobs. So what they did was offer them to hard-charging first tour junior officers (like this guy), at least on some ships. Cruisers and destroyers were still staffed by graduates of Department Head School, but the auxiliaries and smaller amphibs were partially filled by those young JGs. On a sea-duty ship such as an LST or a replenishment ship, the Operations and Weapons officers would be JGs. The Chief Engineer and Deck Officer (on an LST) was more likely to be a limited-duty officer (LDO). (On "neutral duty" ships, such as tenders, most were LDOs).

Come the early-80s and things had begun to change. Pay had been increased, helping to make up part of what had been lost to high inflation. Morale was up. The economy was still kind of sucky, which made staying in a bit more desirable, especially to young lieutenants with families. So the Navy began filling those department head billets on amphibs and replenishment ships with department head school graduates.

A lot of the captains of the replenishment ships were ecstatic at the change. For a fair number of them were aviators who had been sent to those ships to get some experience in commanding a ship (and driving one) before they were selected to be the captain of an aircraft carrier. They were happy to get officers who had had more training and experience. (The XOs were even happier.) There was one AO or AE captain who had ordered that the Bridge radar repeater display be changed from a 360-degree sweep to a 90-degree sweep, because that's what he was used to seeing from his days flying a F-4, but I digress.

Most graduates of the Department Head School didn't want those jobs. They all knew that the Department Head School had been first named the Destroyer School and that the career enhancing jobs were on destroyers and frigates. They also suspected that the selection boards would know that someone sent to be a department head on a LST or an A-something was filling a job that had been handled by a `JG in years past; no matter how good a job somebody did on one of those ships, they'd not be viewed as favorably as someone who did even a tolerable job on a DD/FF.

But there were guys who wanted those jobs, nonetheless. The other folks, the ones who wanted jobs on DDs and FFs, thought that the folks who bid on the jobs on LSTs and A-somethings were idiots and that while it was one thing to be ordered to do a shit job, it was quite another to volunteer for one.

How it all shook out, I don't know. But in a few minutes of Googling, I didn't find any senior officer biographies that bragged about being a post-DH school department head on those ships (other than Chief Engineer).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Harassing the FNGs

I was in the store and saw this in the sporting goods/boating section:

That was one of the common things to do to a FNG (fucking new guy) was to send him for fifty feet of shore line or water line. Another was to tell a guy to go get a bucket of prop wash from the fire room. The boiler techs would tell the FNG that they were fresh out and send him elsewhere. A common one in Charleston was to send a guy looking for the mast crank so that they could lower the ship's uppermost mast before passing under the Cooper River Bridge.

On some ships, the harassment of FNGs got into the kind of hazing that, in time of war, are called "atrocities". A couple skippers and command master chiefs were fired over that.

This is no shit: On one ship, there were some gunner's mates doing some maintenance on the after 5" mount. One of the junior petty officers told a FNG that they were fresh out of relative bearing grease and that the FNG should go to the forward fire room and get a tube of it. The kid did. The boiler techs grabbed the FNG, rubbed grease in his hair and on his face and sent him back to the gun mount.

The XO found out about it and did some ass-chewing of the Weapons Officer and the Chief Engineer. The truth of the old saying that "shit flows downhill" was demonstrated to all concerned.

About six months later, the same petty officer told the same kid to go down to the fire room and get a tube of true bearing grease. The FNG said: "There ain't no such thing as true bearing grease." The petty officer said: "Yes, there is, it comes in a tube like this" and held up a tube of DC-4. The FNG said: "Oh, OK."

Off he went to the fire room. The boiler techs told him to get the fuck out. They told their chief, who passed the word up to the Chief Engineer. Who then informed the Weapons Officer.

About three weeks later, the Weapons Department had to send four sailors mess cranking. A certain junior petty officer was one of them. He was made to understand that the alternative was to be taken to Captain's Mast, where he would be busted down to seaman, have half of his pay taken away for two months, be restricted to the ship for 45 days, get 45 days of extra duty and be sent cranking on top of all that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fighter Pilots

Some self-inflicted jabs by the folks who wear re-dyed Army uniforms:

(Posted in lieu of original content.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Movie Night

Back before the installation of closed-circuit TV systems (and for many years afterwards), movies were shown on Navy ships. There was a service that sent them out to the ships, which then traded them around the Fleet. The prints were in 16mm format, they were almost all second-run movies. So if you had been deployed for a few months, they were new to your crew.

Movies were shown beginning at 2000 in three places: The Mess Deck, the Wardroom and the Goat Locker. For officers, unless you were the Captain, the XO or one of the no-loads (Supply, airdales on LAMPS ships), you didn't watch movies underway. If you were a pre-qual SWO, attending a movie was a sign to the XO that you didn't have enough to do, something that the XO would be sure to remedy for you in short order. If you had the time, you should have been working on your PQS, divisional paperwork, standing watches or getting some sleep.

In reality, every line officer below the XO, including Department Heads, skipped movies underway. If you had that much free time, you got caught up on sleep, which was a precious commodity underway, or you dashed off a letter or recording to your family back home. In port, if you didn't have duty, you went ashore rather than stay aboard the bloody ship and watch a movie. Unless, of course, you were in some Third World shithole of a port.

The movies themselves generally came on three reels, so there was always a break while the reels were changed out. I think it was SOP not to rewind them after viewing, so that the next user could see that the film was intact. But I'm a little hazy on that, as I didn't see too many movies. Most of them seemed to have the scratches that one would expect from a second-run grindhouse.

If porn was available, that would be shown after Taps. Wise captains conditioned the showing of porn under a "no complaints" policy- if one person objected, it was banned throughout the ship. (Which meant that it might still be shown in the Goat Locker.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Night Witches

One of the last of the Red Air Force's "Night Witches", Nadezhda Popova, died earlier this month. She was 91. She was one of the first women to serve in the Soviet Air Force, she flew over 800 missions

"Night Witches" was the German term for the. The Russian pilots adopted it as a badge of honor. They flew Po-2 biplanes over German lines at night, engaging in harassment and interdiction missions to disrupt the sleep of the German soldiers. The Po-2 flew so slowly that enemy fighters trying to pace them would stall and crash (the Po-2s flew rather low). They also flew supply missions to drop supplies to Soviet troops who were cut off at Malaya Zemlya and Stalingrad.

The debate over whether women are capable of serving in combat should have been settled in 1945.

Friday, June 14, 2013



OK, it made sense back in the 1850s when teletype machines were first put into use. And it kind of made sense through the Morse code and HF TTY broadcast days, for at least you knew that the way it read when you sent it was the way that it would be read.

But yeah, it's about time that the all-caps format died.

Speaking of dying an unlamented death, it appears that Aquaflage may also be doomed. Can't happen soon enough. It was a stupid uniform when it was adopted and it's only gotten worse.

Monday, May 13, 2013

All True. Mostly.

Over at the Lexicans, there is a post about how to simulate being in the Navy. Some of it is playful exaggeration, but a lot isn't.

I had a similar list awhile back.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Uniform Stupid Shit; Headgear Dept.

This is the cover that male junior officers wear. Similar ones are worn by senior officers and chief petty officers:
It is reasonably weatherproof. The gold strap is a chinstrap. In high winds, the wearer would loosen up the strap and slide it under his chin, in order to not lose his cover.

This is the cover that female junior officers wear. All women in the Navy wear similar ones:
The chinstrap doesn't do jack shit. It is as useless as a promise from a politician. Worse was that the cover is not anywhere near close to being weatherproof. If you got it good and wet, the damned sides would droop and there was fuck-all that could be done about it. Oh, you could try to starch it up or something, but it never looked right. So if you thought that the weather was going to be good and you left your plastic rain-cover at home, well, that was a hundred-buck mistake.

The good news is that those stupid covers for women may be going away.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sub Sunk + 50

USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank fifty years ago.

To say that there were significant changes to the construction, maintenance and operation of nuclear-powered submarines in the years following the accident would be like calling a plasma torch "warm".

All well before my time and it wasn't my community. But it was one of the reasons why the supply priorities were what they were.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

USS Akron, +80 Years

The USS Akron crashed in a storm eighty years ago.

A lot of people don't know that when the Navy built three dirigibles, that they were commissioned as active naval ships (a fourth was taken from the Germans as war reparations). Only one of them survived to be scrapped, the other three were all lost in storms.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dreaming On

This is no shit: I had this dream several nights ago:

Time: Far into the future.

Place: Aboard an unnamed DDG, far out at sea.

One of my nephews/nieces is an officer on the ship. The ship was doing a Tiger Cruise on the way back from her deployment. I was invited to go and I did. My relative had proudly informed the rest of the wardroom, before I got there, that I had been an engineer back in the steam Navy.

So one day, the XO pulls me aside and says: "Look, the Captain wants to hold an all-officers meeting tomorrow morning. You're OOD qualified, right? We're independent steaming, do you mind taking the watch for an hour or so?"

I allowed that while yes, I had been OOD qualified, I knew nothing of the ship. But she assured me that she'd personally make sure that the enlisted Bridge and CIC watchstanders for my watch would be the best-of-the-best. And I should feel free to go spend some time on the Bridge to get familiar with things.

Of course, the Bridge was, to my old eyes, a confusing array of computerized gear. Hell, the helmsman sat at a console, which was heresy back in my day.

On the appointed morning, I went up there, only to find out that I was going to have both the Deck and the Conn. No big deal, independent steaming, and no planned course changes for three days. I took the watch and mostly tried to amuse myself by having the Quartermaster of the Watch show me how all of the computerized shit really worked.

Two hours into the watch, the word came up: "Man overboard, port side!"

I yelled out: "Left full rudder, all ahead Flank II, set maneuvering combination! Combat, Bridge, mark position! Boats, pass the word: 'Man overboard, man the boats. All hands not involved to quarters, submit muster reports to the XO on the Bridge.'" The ship by then had turned about fifty degrees off its original course, I ordered: "Shift your rudder!" Then, "Boats, pass the word: 'Commanding Officer, your presence is requested on the Bridge.'"

All over the ship, there was the sounds of doors slamming and people moving around. Combat was feeding up range and direction to the spot they marked. As the ship came around, I ordered the helmsman to steady up on the reciprocal bearing and to reduce speed to 2/3rds. I was out on starboard bridge-wing, I could see the smoke from the float thrown overboard by the After Lookout and I tried to guess how this gas-turbine pig would handle when she came closer.

That's when I heard some applause from inside the Bridge. The Captain, XO and some of the other officers were there, smiling. The XO passed the word to secure from man overboard stations.

The Captain said: "Nice job. 50 years later, you still got it."

The first word through my mind was: "Asshole".
Given that it has been so long since I last was on a Navy ship, I have to wonder why that dream came up.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Seventy Years Ago Today

The Four Chaplains gave their life jackets away so that other men aboard the SS Dorchester would stand a chance of surviving the sinking of the ship from a torpedo that had been fired from a German U-Boat.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oh, the Horrors of Being in the Air Force!

Posters! Signs with "unprofessional language"! Displays of "historical nose art"! R-rated movies!

What a bunch of drone-driving pussies.

This is no shit: I knew of a ship that was moored abreast to and outboard of another nation's warship in a foreign port. The ships were part of a small NATO task group, they were operating together for a few months.

The inboard nation's ship was holding a reception for local dignitaries on its forecastle. The captain of the USN ship ordered his Command Duty Officer to keep sailors from the forecastle of the USN ship during the duration of the event.

The CDO thought on how to do that without posting guards. His solution was to take some blank copy paper and tape four sheets together to make one large sign. On the sign, with a heavy black marker, he printed these words:
Stay the Fuck Off the Forecastle!
and he signed the sign as CDO. He posted one such sign on each door onto the forecastle and put smaller signs on the hatches going up to the forecastle.

Nobody went on the forecastle. Even the armed security watch, which was supposed to check all deck areas, requested his permission to go onto the forecastle.

But clearly, that young officer would be in a world of shit in today's Air Force. If you can even use the word "shit" in the Air Force.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Career-Limiting Move

Running your ship aground.
USS Guardian (MCM 5) ran aground on Tubbataha Reef at 2:25 a.m. local time, Jan. 17, while transiting the Sulu Sea. The Avenger-Class ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred.
Never a good move. If the chart was accurate, then good excuses for running aground are rarer than honest congressmen. That'll kill the career of the CO and it almost always has. The XO and the OOD also should be planning on transitioning to civilian life sooner rather than later.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kvetching About Uniforms

Look, I understand the "we are at war" crap. But seriously, folks, field (cammie) uniforms as travel attire within CONUS?

When our soldiers fought in the Second World War, they looked like this in the field:

When they were traveling in CONUS, they looked like this:

Now, they look like this:

The wearing of cammies for travel seems to be an Army and Air Force affectation. The Navy apparently does not put up with that shit. Neither do the Marines, which, while as much as it pains me to admit it, are the most squared-away when it comes to uniforms.

The soldiers and airmen traveling in cammies look like shit. Enough said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Uniform Disasters: Burn, Baby, Burn

Now it seems that Aquaflage is not fire resistant.

My full rant is here, because that blog has more readers and this shit needs to get out.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fo'c'sle, Bridge, Breaker, Breaker, One Nine

In an earlier post on anchoring, I alluded to a sound-powered phone circuit between the Bridge and the Forecastle. Sound-powered phones are telephones designed to take their power from the energy of the incoming sound waves. While the handsets and headsets had receivers and transmitters, they were really bidirectional in that you could, if you wanted to, listen and talk over the same unit.

The advantage of sound-powered phones was that they were dirt-simple and they didn't require power. All you had to do was string two wires and hook a handset up at each end. For example, as part of the rigging lines between ships during underway replenishment, two sound-powered phone lines were sent across to the two ships could talk Bridge-to-Bridge and Unrep Station to Unrep Station.

All installed circuits were designated with at least two letters[1] and then maybe numbers. For this post, I am focusing on the maneuvering circuit, the 1JV. In open-ocean steaming, the 1JV connected the Bridge, Main Control and the After Lookout. On the Bridge, the Lee Helmsman served as the phone talker; in Main Control, the Throttleman did.

Coming in and out of port, there would be more stations on the 1JV. For mooring alongside a pier or another ship, the Forecastle would be on the line, while the After Lookout served as the phone talker for the Fantail line handlers. If boats were to be operated, the boat davit stations had phone talkers.

Communications could be slow. The Conning Officer would give an order, such as "Foc's'le, Bridge, slack Line One." The sailor on the Lee Helm would repeat the order, verbatim, and the phone talker on the Forecastle would shout it out. The officer/chief/petty officer in charge would yell back: "Slack Line One, Foc's'le, Aye!" and that would be repeated back up the phone circuit. And if you had a couple of sailors as phone-talkers who were not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, it could be a real clusterfuck with lots of "say again" responses.

Back in the `70s, during the CB radio craze, a number of CB walkie-talkies began to hit the consumer market. Ships bought them, figuring that the Conning Officer (or the Captain) could then talk directly to the person in charge of the Forecastle and/or the Fantail. All it took was to find an unused channel[2] and use that. It was believed that as long nobody said their ship's name, that using the CB radios didn't compromise operational security.

This is no shit: A destroyer was steaming into the naval station at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The ship was heading for an anchorage, and, like a lot of ships, they were using walkie-talkies. When the ship was at the right spot to drop the anchor, the Conning Officer keyed his walkie-talkie and radioed: "Foc's'le, Bridge, let go the anchor!"

That command was heard on two ships. The other ship was an oiler that was heading down the channel at Roosevelt Roads at ten knots. The Bo'sun's Mate on the Forecastle of that ship keyed his radio and yelled: "Let go the anchor, Foc's'le, Aye!" At that command, the sailor holding the sledgehammer at the pelican hook swung the hammer, knocked it free and all hell broke loose.

Fortunately, there were no injuries and nothing serious was broken. But an order went out from the type commanders, in very short order, outlawing the use of CB radios aboard ships.
[1] All included the letter "J", designating the circuit to be sound-powered.
[2] Not 9, the emergency channel or 19, most commonly used by truckers

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Big "E"

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) has been retired.

Much has been written about her service and I won't reprise that here. And it's nice to note that CVN-80, if the Navy builds her, will bear the name.*

But there are a couple of things to ponder. The Big E was so expensive to build that not only were her sister ships cancelled before they were even given prospective hull numbers, the next two carriers built were oil-fired (America and JFK). It was another fifteen years before the Navy built another nuclear-powered CV. With eight reactors, she was expensive to operate. Ideally, she should have been replaced and retired twenty years ago.
* If she is commissioned in 2025, as currently planned, she would also be the first CVN in fifty years not to be named after a politician.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Then and Now

Take a good look at the official portraits of Generals Petraeus and Eisenhower:

General Eisenhower was a five-star general. He commanded the largest multinational force ever put together. Other than maybe Marshal Zhukov, Eisenhower commanded the largest land army in modern times, possibly in human history. He commanded the largest seaborne invasion in recorded history.

Ike reportedly had maybe ten ribbons/awards that he could wear. It was a common custom at the time to wear only the top row. It was a custom that held at least into the 1980s, for I knew a commander who was in the riverine force in the Vietnam War. The only ribbon he wore on his uniform was the Silver Star.

Next to Ike, Petraeus looks like something out of a comic opera.

This is no shit: During the Vietnam war, a Marine unit got into some heavy-duty combat. The company commander and XO were killed. The senior ranking officer was a navy JG, assigned as a naval gunfire spotter. The JG took command of the company and, by all accounts, acquitted himself well in the job until things quieted down enough for the Marines to send in replacements. The JG was given an awards ceremony for his valor and awarded, not a Silver or Bronze Star, but the Navy Commendation Medal.

I suspect it really began going downhill in the `80s. There was a report at the time that the Army had awarded more Bronze Stars for the Grenada campaign then they had boots on the ground. Somewhere along the line, awards such as the Achievement Medal and Commendation Medal began to be awarded, not for extraordinary performance, but for simply doing a good job, something that was previously handled by a command "attaboy letter".

Around the same time, it was explained to me by another officer during a department head meeting with the XO and the Captain that a department head should be awarded a NAM after the first tour and a NCM after the second tour, with a Meritorious Service Medal after the XO tour. I was aghast and I asked, in a rather sarcastic manner, what happened to the notion of doing one's job and getting top marks for that.

The answer was simple, I reckon: Grade inflation. If almost everyone is getting "top 1%" marks, then the way to discern the hard-chargers from the rest of the pack is by who got gonged with a medal or three. Which cheapens the medals themselves.

Ribbons began to be awarded for things such as completing basic training, which is equivalent to giving out diplomas for, oh, graduating from first grade, or possibly a special ed "participating trophy". There is the National Defense Service Medal, which everyone who serves in wartime is awarded (basically everyone since 1990 on), even if all one did was work in a supply depot in Biloxi.

To be fair, this is not only the military's problem. Congress keeps authorizing, or trying to authorize, decorations. The "Cold War Victory Medal" is one such bit of tripe.

It should be reined in. There is precedent for doing so; nearly a century ago, the awarding of almost a thousand Medals of Honor during the Civil War were revoked.