The Bow Ramp

Friday, July 22, 2005

Amphibian Bites Goat (Details at 11:00)

Happy Birthday Cdr. Salamander, one year old today. However, instead of receiving presents, he decided to give me one instead. The dreaded Meme strikes again! Here's what this one is all about:

List 3-5 things that you would put in a "Back to the Future" type letter from you now, to your younger self you, say 20-21 year old you about to graduate college or any other similar pursuit. There are only two caveats here: 1) you cannot direct your younger self to do anything or violate the principle of free will in decision making and 2) you should not try to reveal specific events in the future since, in theory, if any of your advice is accepted it will already screw up the time line and the events won't happen at all. This should, however to allow you to give your younger self some advice, and in the process force some introspection into your own existence. It can be as shallow or as revealing as you like, and feel comfortable with.

So without further ado, here is the letter to myself on my 22nd. Birthday.

Happy Birthday me,
Isn't this a kick-ass party you're throwing? Rooftop of the President Hotel in beautiful downtown Saigon. The whole Starboard watch section (or is it the Port section? Damn, I'm getting old!) is there. Food, booze, girls, and what a view. Check out those illumination rounds over by "The Cemetery."
Yep, this is yourself from the future sending you a little Birthday Present. Please keep the following in mind:

Start saving -- if you don't do anything I wouldn't do (as if you could,) you'll live through your tour in country. Might as well start thinking about your future.

Your youthful idealism is about to take a few hits. Don't worry about what others do. Keep focused on your duty--you will come through ok.

You know it in your heart already, but I'll confirm. You WILL be blessed with a wonderful love. Don't push it--it will come at the most unexpected time. You'll know it when it happens.

Start saving every conceivable bit of memorabilia. Collect it in boxes and ship it home to the folks. You have no idea how precious all that crap will be to you/me in the future.

Now go have a '33' beer on me and enjoy yourself shipmate!

p.s. Don't worry about that rocket that hits the hotel tonight. Nobody gets hurt and you'll have a great Sea Story to add to your collection. "Charlie" is a lousy shot.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Copy Cat Bombing - I Don't Think So

Glenn at Instapundit and others were talking about why the bombs in London weren't as deadly as the ones two weeks ago. Different scenarios were discussed, but here is what I think. Al Qaeda activated two different cells for the attacks. The members of each cell do not know the members of the other cell--this is basic operational security. If members of one cell are captured, they cannot compromise the other cell. Thus, each cell has a different bomb maker. The bomb makers received the same training, so the bombs will be of similar construction (latest reports point toward this.)

My guess is that the second bomb maker either forgot some of his lessons, or that he obtained some bad components and did not conduct a test detonation of an extra bomb because of fears of detection. My take is that this will corroborate evidence pointing to Al Qaeda as the instigating group.

It takes time to put these operations together. I doubt that some other "copy cat" group could take the process from start to finish in two weeks. There was undoubtedly central planning, but diverse execution.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Travel Blogging

The lovely Mrs. 74 and I are currently at Portland Intl. Airport waiting for our flight to Dallas.
We will visit with our eldest daughter near San Antonio for a few days and hopefully have a mini blog gathering with Sgt. Mom from the Daily Brief. Then we will drive back to Dallas for my annual Navy Reunion.

I've always liked the Portland Airport--a little better than the usual cattle chutes we typically experience when flying.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh, Bloody Hell

On the one hand, we knew it was coming--somewhere, sometime. On the other hand, what the terrorists managed to accomplish was not even close to what they would have preferred to do. These Wahabists don't have the strength they would like, nor what many on the Left believe they have. They are still trying to provoke a general backlash in the West against Moslems. They want to polarize the war into an us vs. them, jihad or die situation. If they keep this crap up, they are liable to get what they want--stupid bastards.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The 4th of July in Corvallis

First thing this morning, I stopped by the Benton County War Memorial at the local National Guard Armory. I spent a few minutes in reflection. Soon, there will be more names added. These are the men who helped make our holidays possible.

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This Next photo is a close-up of the inscription.

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Bravo Co. just got back from Iraq three months ago.

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Now on to the festivities. These ladies were advertising a fund raiser for our new museum building.

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My Niece, Naomi and I with a couple of cool ones. Naomi came down for the weekend from Seattle.

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Each year the city throws a party down by the Willamette River. Here is the Lloyd Jones Struggle Band.

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Just befor the fireworks start, the Community Band kicks in with patriotic music.

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Finally, the fireworks. The public display is sponsored each year by the local American Legion post.

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Click here for a Quicktime movie of the finale. (3.75 MB)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

What'll we do with the Gunboat Sailor...?

This relates to a couple of posts here and here, over at Chapomatic.

As it says on my sidebar, I consider myself to be a "spitkit" sailor--Spitkit meaning a small vessel. Despite ending my Navy career on the USS Ranger (CV-61) an aircraft carrier, I managed to spend about 9 years aboard REALLY small ships and craft.

I started talking about the new Littoral Control Ship (LCS) a couple of months ago here, but didn't get around to the next part of the story. As Chap and others have pointed out, the Navy has a tendency to shed itself of smaller ships. When money is tight, the Navy has traditionally cut back on the number of ships in it's inventory and built more capability and endurance into each one; hence the larger size. This strategy has worked well in peacetime where the mission is more about presence. Unfortunately, there comes a point where you don't have enough hulls to cover all of your commitments. As has been said many times, quantity can be a quality of its own. Additionally, not every mission requires a major combatant. It’s easier and more efficient to use a hammer than a sledgehammer when driving nails. Save the sledgehammer for busting concrete.

There are a number of factors in play that drive the numbers vs. capability mix. Money is a huge factor. The various communities (advocacy groups) are another. I would like to spend some time discussing another factor that I have not seen mentioned before. That factor is the personnel system. Look at the large officer communities in the Navy (submariners, aviators, surface types.) An officer will spend multiple tours gradually learning his or her trade. The typical commanding officer of a ship or squadron has spent decades getting there. The higher you go, the fewer billets there are. There are a lot of really great officers that are forced out by a system that is cruel by necessity.

Now, it takes time to learn any trade. Operating and maintaining a small ship is quite a bit different from how you do it on a larger one. Fighting them is very different. One of the great benefits the Patrol Gunboats homeported in the Med back in the ‘70s had was teaming up with their Greek counterparts. They had a wealth of experience that we could tap into. Back then, we would always be tasked as the “bad guys” during fleet exercises. In the U.S. only exercises, the head bad guy was usually either the Submarine Commander, or the fixed-wing Aviation Commander. Whenever we came under their control we got killed (soon and often.) On the other hand, during the NATO exercises, we would be under the control of the Hellenic Patrol Forces Commander – major improvement! The difference was that the Greeks knew how to deploy us in the best fashion.

In the past (since WW I,), a small combatant with a crew of 20-40 people has traditionally been commanded by a Lieutenant. He would have been in the Navy maybe eight years and served as a Division Officer and probably a Department Head on a Frigate or Destroyer. He would spend two years as the skipper, and then move on and never be associated with small combatants again. During that tour, he would have to learn a great deal about the employment of small combatants; which are used and handled quite differently from their larger sisters. He would also have to unlearn quite a few things as well. Just about the time he stopped being dangerous, away he went; back to his “real” career. For a Department Head or XO, the story was similar, except they didn’t have quite as much to unlearn. Enlisted folk were a bit different. There, you might be able to coax two or three tours on small-boys (depending on your Rate/NEC) before facing the same thing—seniority takes you out of the game, because (a) Congress has decreed that you are either promoted or discharged. And (b) there are very few senior enlisted billets aboard small ships, and no senior officer billets at all.

Today, the Navy is planning on commissioning relatively large numbers of the Littoral Control Ship (LCS.) These ships will be as large as a WW II Destroyer, but will have a very small crew. I haven’t seen the manning documents, but I’d guess five officers, tops. You could start someone out as a Department Head and the next tour maybe 30% of them could stay on as Executive Officers, with a follow-on tour as Commanding Officer—if you wanted to kill their career. Under the present system, you would have to rotate people in and out with the rest of the fleet to give them any competitive chance with their peers under the current promotion system. I know from experience. Deviation means death. The people in Washington don’t know you from Adam

The lesson learned from the above is that you can’t just fill a billet on a small combatant with a warm body from the fleet and assume that everything will be fine. To have a truly effective (i.e. the kind that won’t get killed as soon as the shooting starts) force of small combatants, you must be able to build up and maintain a large pool of personnel that stay in that community for possibly their entire career. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with our current personnel system.

Creating a separate warfare community for enlisted personnel might be beneficial. On a crew that small, enlisted personnel need to be cross-trained in other specialties at least as much as submariners do—if not more so. A First Class OS who had spent his whole career in a CIC the size of a broom closet would not be competitive against a First Class on a Cruiser when going before a selection board, because the one on the small-boy would not have the leadership experience of the other. The only way to protect his chances of promotion would be to have the quota a warfare community would grant him. Then he would only have to compete against his peers in the small-boy community.

One possible solution for the officers would be to do what the Army has done with their ships (yes, they have a lot of them) and place warrant officers in charge. This would need a lot of attitude adjustment to work in the Navy. Any ship that is armed with a large caliber gun and missiles can do a lot of damage. Historically, the Navy placed commissioned officers in charge of warships. The more capable the ship was, the higher the rank of the commanding officer. However I don’t see a Commander as the CO of a ship with a 30-40 man crew. Also, it is a big prestige thing to have that Command Pin on either breast of your uniform. As I said, it’s just a thought.

Whether the Navy plans for it or not, placing a large number of LCS or other minimally crewed ships in service is liable to create some waves in the personnel system with positive and negative consequences for our Navy men and women.

Hopefully, this post will draw some fire and generate some discussion on the matter.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Life Inside a Can

Yesterday, I read a series of posts by Lex about life aboard an Aircraft Carrier. Boy, that sure brings back memories as I finished up my career by spending 3 1/2 years of a 2 year tour aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61). I remember one Change of Command ceremony aboard Ranger where the guest speaker, Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific (COMNAVAIRPAC) began his remarks by saying that people often asked him why the tour of duty for Commanding Officers of Aircraft Carriers was only eighteen months long. He said he always told them the reason was that they could only stay awake that long. That was really funny to us because it was almost true. The effort necessary to make a carrier function is unbelieveable. I was always amazed that we could just get underway on the old girl, much less go out and operate her at the opposite ends of the world. Go and read the posts. Here, here, here and here. lex tells it better than I could.

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