Friday, March 31, 2006

The Army Armor Ban and Standards

One of Matt's guest bloggers, Laughing Wolf, has a post about the Army banning the use of personally purchased body armor. Admittedly, this has to have been a tough call for the chain of command and I'm sure there will be some backlash from parents, spouses and the media, claiming the Army really wants the tropps to die. Not true at all, but it's a hard thing to comprehend. An example I ran across back in the late 80s had to do with blankets (like the kind you use on your bed blankets). I was XO on a ship and had to put the word that all personal blankets were to be removed from the ship and henceforth only the Navy issue wool blankets were authorized. As cold hearted as that sounds, it was actually a way to preserve the lives of the sailors aboard the ships. Here's why: Essentially all blankets you can buy at the store on the beach, short of ones of natural fibers, use some sort of synthetic material for the fabric. This is fine in the house, but not on a ship because, when the "civilian" blanket burns, it produces toxic fumes. So, you retort: "Yeah? SO?, here are fires in houses, too!" Yes, there are. I reply: "And when your house is burning down, you run outside and get away, which puts you in an area of lots and lots of fresh air, which would dilute the toxic fumes. When your ship is burning, you have to attack the fire (enter the berthing space) and therefore go into an enclosed space, where the heated fumes boil down from the overhead, along with the smoke." By getting the blankets off the ship, we decreased the risk of serious lung injury to our men. That's all about protecting the crew from harm. Add to that discussion of blankets to the situation where a sailor dies in a shipboard fire, but from burns, but suffocation, and the autopsy showed the death was due to toxic fumes in the atmosphere? When that happens, the law suits will make the $400 hammers and toilets seats of days gone by like an a walk in the park. The public would be outraged, and I would submit, rightfully so, for the chain of command didn't make sure the sailors were safe. All manner of things are tested extensively, before being allowed for use in the Fleet or field, such as such simple things as ear plugs. Stuff bought off the shelf may or may not help keep your hearing intact, and it would be nice to know. The testing required by the Armed Forces is to make sure we are getting our money's worth, and the new item is capable of doing the job we asked it to. But, even more important than the research to make sure the product work, is the sacred trust the service members have in their Government to take care of them. One only has to look at the fallout of such issues as the use of Agent Orange without proper precautions to realize how vital this ban is, until the civilian companies equipment is proven to be effective. It may even come to pass that the civilian items of a particular manufacturer are better than the stock items, which will then get that manufacturer on the list to buy from at the Federal Government level. Back in the late 80s, my Commodore went from his staff job to being the assistant to N6 (the office in charge of all the Navy's computers. Wes Jordan was instumental in running tests that showed that the extra cost of verifying Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) computers was a waste of the taxpayers money. I saw a video tape that was done where they put an HP-9020 computer and monitor in a 19" rackmount and proceeded to run the Grade A shock test (considered a replication of the force of a nuclear blast), with a modification. They raised the hammer to it's maximum height, not just (I think) 8 feet high. On the 20th drop of the hammer, the monitor flicked off and the equipment, which had already exceeded qualification for Grade A worthiness (I think it was three drops to qualify - and from 8 feet, not higher), appeared to have been bested. Upon examination, the power switch for the monitor had been damaged, and upon replacement, the unit came up and the computer display was still there. THE HP-9020 itself took the licking and kept on ticking. The analysis was that even commerical clients were demanding computers and peripherials to be built to survive some rough handling, and HP, for one, was putting a product off the end of the assembly line that met MILSPEC standards, without each unit having to receive extra testing. Net result: We (the Fleet) got good COTS stuff for use in all sorts of tactical applications and the taxpayers reaped the benefits in big dollar numbers. The boost in our ability to detect and identify hostile targets, and then engage them with confidence in our targeting, was dematically changed, as our detect to engage times went from hours to minutes in one particular system I directly worked with. With luck, our groud troops will be benefactors of such an investigation, and we, as taxpayers will also see savings.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

YO! Can I Have the Ferrari This Weekend?

It seems there are people are doing the same thing with really cool (read: EXPENSIVE!) cars like general aviation plane owners have been doing for years....time sharing!

Anyone interested in a MilBloggers shared car? :)

Oh, and there is Ferrari wallpaper at this website...

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

A Journey into History - Part VII

Part I, Part II, Part III,Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VIII, Part IX

It was the early morning hours of March 25th at this point (around 0200) and there we were, the entire staff and almost all the augmentees, standing there in our watchstation on the Flag Bridge. I believe it was the 07 Level on the carrier’s island. All around us were the nominal things used to stand the watch: Notebooks, pens, pencils, dividers, parallel dividers, magic markers, tactical publications, message boards, and, don’t forget the coffee cups and Coke cans. These things, as some of you readers know, have another, more generic name: Missile Hazards. More on that in a moment.

In theory, the pair of Soviet built OSA missile patrol boats headed towards us "AT HIGH SPEED!" were each loaded with 4 SSN-2 STYX cruise missiles. In new math, that means 8 near supersonic, with a flight profile low to the water, weapons may be announced with the proword "VAMPIRES" any moment. Back to the missile hazards. Steve Nerheim was at one side of the chart table, and I was at the other. I recall I looked at Steve, and he had a wild-eyed look in his eyes, just before (and simultaneously with me) his hand grabbed for the latch on the top drawer of the chart table and proceeded (aided by my hand at the other hand on the other latch) to slam the drawer wide open, whereupon we both yelled "MISSILE HAZARDS!" and began sweeping every loose thing from the chart table top into the drawer. After that we grabbed and stuffed every thing in sight into that drawer, and then got to getting ourselves into battle dress.

The concepts of missile hazards and battle dress are generally introduced to most naval personnel during the endless days of "REFTRA" (refresher training), which used to be held at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a place more often (and oh, so lovingly) just called "GTMO" (pronounced "git-mo"). The many and varied stories (of the same incidences in some cases) would fill screen after screen after screen on blogs by the hundreds, but almost all of them would mention something about missile hazards or battle dress. Missile hazards, as deemed by common sense, once you get by the fact the GTMO Fleet Training Group (FTG) sailors were "making you do it," is anything that the force of a close by explosion may be able to impart enough energy into it so as to damage the human contents of the surrounding vicinity of said missile hazard. You come to hate the thought of dealing with the lost point for things like the "left behind" paper clip the FTG guy is holding in your face just before the ship is cleared for getting underway for the day’s training, with that "I just nailed you for one more point off your exercise score, buddy!" look on his face, but after a few weeks, you begin to unconsciously scan your vicinity constantly for loose items. It’s bad enough to get nailed at the beginning of the day, but more irritating when you use some object, such as the dividers to measure something on a chart, and then carelessly put them down on the chart, and, as luck normally has it, right under the nose of the exercise observer, who, once more, smiles and lifts his clip board to make a note about another point off.

That being said, when real, high speed ordnance may be in your future "real soon now," you immediately recall the laws of physics, and some rudimentary biology that says that coffee cup over there is gonna leave a mark if I leave it sitting on the frame stringer just behind the chart table. It’s sort of like Steve and I, having served in different commands to get where we were, "got religion" on the topic when this scenario presented itself.

Battle dress is the other thing sailors love to hate and do just about anything to justify not reconfiguring their clothing in order to satisfy the little tyrants the FTG guys seem to be. Battle dress amounts to a real fashion statement. Consider the well dressed (for work) sailor, chief or officer (not in the new BDU knock off stuff) with the bottom of the bell bottom or khaki trousers stuffed into their black socks above their shoes, the normally open shirt collar buttoned all the way to the top, and the long sleeves rolled down and the cuffs buttoned. It does look very strange, and, once again, when you consider the purpose, it is something meant to keep the exposed skin to the absolute minimum. In the in most every training scenario, the outfitting also meant scrambling for the locker in the space that held the gas mask bags, each one normally labeled for the crew member it was issued to/fitted for. Picture strange shaped olive green or medium grey footballs with waist straps flying across the space as someone answers up to the name just read off the stenciling. In the late 80’s, we adopted the crew wide issuing of anti-flash gear, which included opera length gloves and a pull over hood, with the open hole for your eyes and nose to be exposed though.

I’ll admit, I missed out completely on the opportunity that most every other service member experiences: The tear gas chamber. I was in GTMO for refresher training in early 1985, while assigned to USS CONOLLY (DD-979). We were going to be import for the weekend, but the Saturday morning schedule had most of the crew set to attend this wonderful opportunity to appreciate the wonders of low level chemical warfare. On Friday evening, they sent us a schedule change that sent us to the base school auditorium instead. Our training involved listening to a Royal Navy LT, who was currently assigned on an exchange tour with Fleet Combat Training Center, Atlantic as a Tactical Action Officer (TAO) course instructor. That assignment was not the basis of his talk that day. He spent several hours talking about his experiences in the Falklands War. He had been the Weapons Officer on one of the destroyers that was hit with and sunk by an Exocet cruise missile. He had been rescued and then was aboard the frigate that had had an Argentinean dumb bomb, unexploded, lodged in the engine room that exploded when the EOD technicians were attempting to safe it. That ship sunk also. As you might imagine, despite the significant exhaustion that GTMO instills, no one was sleeping in the gym that day.

He talked about the effectiveness of anti-flash gear in various parts of the presentation. He said you could tell those who did not like to wear it and had pulled the lower part of the flash hood hole down under their chins. He said when the fireball caused by the unused fuel of the cruise missile ignited and swept through a space, those with exposed skin bore the damage, from surrogate sun burns to significant burns all over their face. He also discussed another physics topic, which was about the property of colors to transmit heat. One ship’s commanding officer had labeled his flash hood with "CO" on black magic marker on the forehead area of the hood. Despite wearing the hood properly, that captain will forever go through life with “CO” burned into his skin, in the same manner that the colored patterns of the kimonos the Japanese women were wearing during the atomic bombs dropped caused their skin to be marked where the darker colors in the fabric patterns was. That part of his story stayed with me to the end of may sea time.

While the brief moments of time were passing in that watch station, with everyone kicking into GTMO muscle memory mode, the SARATOGA Surface module crew ordered the airborne SUCAP (Surface Combat Action Patrol) to intercept the OSA boats. We had the ASUW circuit up in one of our many speakers and I remember the section A-6 lead calling asking if the ship was sure there were OSA boats out there, for the area where he was sent did have a ship, but he said it "had a lot of lights on it." That reminded me that before the cruise, I remember there had been a push to make sure the Air Wing A-6 assets where equipped with TRAM pods. These "pods" were multi-function sensors mounted beneath the radome of the aircraft, and they were articulated to allow the aircrew to steer the cameras and laser designators around. Included in the sensors was low light level television. The section leader of the SUCAP, despite the urging of the ASUW talker to engage the targets with Harpoon, spent a few extra moments using the available tools to ensure he was doing the right thing. What he reported back was he was breaking off the attack because it wasn’t OSA boats, but a cruise liner, with all sorts of deck lights on, and it was doing 16 knots, not 42. Moral of the story: Make sure everyone has their heads in the game, and you’ll not make stupid mistakes that cause nations to have to apologize to most of the citizens of the world for engaging a "white" (neutral) target in the fog of war.

And this ends my recollection of the events of March 24th and 25th in 1986, in the central Ionian Sea, aboard the flagship for Battle Force ZULU. It is not, however, the end of the tale of the beginning of the offensive phase of the GWoT.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Journey into History - Part VI

Part I, Part II, Part III,Part IV, Part V, Part IX

The operations had been intense. Standing Port and Starboard watches in pairs, it was usually LCDR Al McCollum and I. Al was a P-3C ATACCO guy, and I had spent my earlier years "driving" ships. For two decision makers running 9 ships, all the ASW related air assets from three carriers and all the helo equipped "small boys," and then all the shore based airplanes out of Rota and Sigonella kept us pretty busy.

We had a lot of work up time, and at our prior sea tours, a pretty good bit of ASW work. This was different. For the first thing, there was no way to beg, borrow, steal, or sneak a peek at a schedule of events (SOE) for the "bad guys." Now the "bad guys" were not some our our guys, or allied guys. They were the real deal with a twist on top of it. Twist: The Soviets had subs in the Med, and the Libyans had subs in the Med. Why was that sigificant you ask? Well, the Libyans had purchased Foxtrot class diesel subs from the Soviet Union.

Guess what the Soviets had deployed to the Med during this episode? You got it, Foxtrots....So, since there is potentiall now "daytime" when you are doing ASW, meaning you can't hang back until the sun rises to get a visual to confirm your other sensor information, if a subsurface contact, that had the acoustic and other characteristics was dtected in a threatening posture, would an order to engage bring on WWIII with the Soviets, or would we be the heros? Thankfully, we never got to find out.

It had been a long day, Mar 24th, 1986, punctuated by some fun in the late afternoon. Khadiffi had two SA-5 missiles at our Combat Air Patrol (CAP) F-14s flying over the Gulf of Sidra. This fell under that magical definition of "hostile act" in the Roles of Engagement that every warrior longs for, as the response that follows is solidly supported. Shooting back on "hostile intent" is a lot stickier. So, the "SAM! SAM! Vicinity SURT!" calls fill the net. The strange thing is the SA-5, being a semi-active guided missile, needs a separate tracking radar to be diriecting energy at the target, thet the missile receivers pick up and fly to. The "illuminator" radar signal wasn't detected, indicating the missiles had been fired in a purely ballistic mode, and therefore had a snowballs chance of hitting a target, unless the pilot was dumb enough to fly into the missile's path. Our were not. They banked clear of the area, and moments later, as I recall, AGM-88 HARM Missiles were fired from the rails of the waiting A-7 Corsair IIs, that had been trolling along below the search radar horizon of the SAM sites. Oh, yes, the HARMs did their job quite nicely, taking out the search radars.

So Khadaffi now had his "money shot" for his Arab brothers, showing how he took on the great Satan, with out the risk of actually taking out any US military assets, which had the demonstrated potential of leaving us in a quandry over how to respond. I recall debating with CDR SMith, the CCDG-8 Intel Officer and ROE Officer, if that firing truly constituted a hostile act, since the missiles technically couldn't have hit anything. He assured me it was a hostile act.


On March 24, six SA-5s were launched from the new missile base at Surt against American aircraft. None was hit, however, because the SA-5, with a range of 240 kilometers, could threaten high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft over the Gulf of Sidra but was relatively ineffective against high-performance jet fighters. Subsequently, the missile site was put out of action by carrier-based A-6 Intruders firing High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs), that homed in on the Libyans' radar guidance signals. A second strike followed the next day to knock out a replacement radar unit. Although Soviet technicians were believed to be present to oversee the installation and operation of the SA-5 batteries, none was reported injured in the exchanges. At the same time, a French-built Combattante-class missile attack craft was destroyed when it approached United States Navy ships protecting the aircraft carriers. The Libyan vessel was hit by two Harpoon missiles launched from an A-7 Corsair aircraft
I disagree. The SAMs didn't hit our planes because they didn't have radar signals to guide on. Also, about 2000 (8 PM) that evening, one of the A-6 Intruders found a Libyan La Combatante class patrol gunboat sailing north of Tripoli (not an A-7, the call sign of the spotting aircraft was in the 600 series (602 I think), which would have been one of the A-6 squadrons). We had the Surface Combat Air Patrol (SUCAP) radio circuit patch up to our watch station and heard the report. The PG was steaming along like it didn't have a care in the world, and I suspect they were not alerted to the fact that US forces had been engaged that afternoon. Anyhow, the ASUW radio talker asked what load 602 had aboard, and the response was "ROCKEYE." ^02 was ordered to "Take the La Combattante." and acknowledged the order. We waited several minutes, the net was silent, when finally the ASUWC takler asked for a "BDA" (battle damage assessment). 602 came back and said "we got them with Harpoon!" The next comment was "But you had ROCKEYE" "6XX had Harpoon, so we had them do it." we figured 602 was a nugget crew and were afraid of a close in pass against a gunboat with a surface to air capabillity, so they got on Sqaudron Common and asked if anyone up had Harpoons loaded. Next over the net was direction to use ROCKEYE, and then look for survivors. The two attack sank the La Combattane. This was the first combat use of Harpoon.

About an hour later, we heard that the F-14 in CAP Station 5 was yelling about taking "Triple A" fire (anti-aircraft artillery). The USS YORKTOWN (CG-48) hustled off to the west to fix the problem, and reported a very high speed target inbound. They also fired Harpoons at the target, but there were no indications of any targets being hit. Post combat analysis showed the fog of war may have settled in and the AN/SPY-1 system may have had a spurious signal display, as the "target" was showing altitude and much faster speed than the La Combattante could acheive. For the next few days, O mulled over the sequence of events and went up and pulled out our plots from that evening. I back plotted CAP Station 5 from the operational tasking of that night and the area where the A-6s had attacked the La Combattante several hours earlier and CAP Station 5 we very close together. I suspect the aircrew saw the aftermath of the sinking (maybe not fully sunk by that time) ship and thought the fires and secondary explosions were AAA.

My watch was to end at midnight, but as was the custom of the Commodore, things got crazy, and the relief by LCDR Steve Neheim didn't happen until almost 0200. Just as I was preparing to leave the watchstation and get some sleep. The USS SARATOGA's CDC reported "two high speed contact, suspected OSA IIs, approaching at high speed from the north west!"

That report, when asked to be confirmed and was reported as "two OSA boats, inbound at 42 kts NW!" will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and the muscle memory of many trips to GTMO for refresher training comes back in a flash...More to's late and I'm already a day late getting this out. Stay tuned! Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Journey into History – Part V

Part I, Part II, Part III,Part IV, Part VI, Part VII, Part VII, Part IX

And then there were three CVBGs in the Mediterranean. Gathered for the purpose to "show the flag," we would specifically challenge Qhadaffi’s claim to sovereignty over the waters and air space in the Gulf of Sidra. Freedom of Navigation ("FON") operations at their finest.

To bring in a few important background details, we had conducted FON Ops in late January, twice in February (a third one was aborted and we stayed moored/anchored in Italian ports), and then again in March, we went to sea in force a few times. I figured we’d send some surface ships (that, for the uninitiated, comprises all ships except aircraft carriers (which belong to AIRLANT/PAC) and submarine tenders (those belong to the submarine community) smartly into the Gulf, have them press south at best speed, and make a show of force. I was wrong. We actually tip-toed down there on a very nasty, cloud covered, windy, clod day, complete with sea so high, the Libyan Navy would have barely been able to make headway to meet and greet us. I know the USS YORKTOWN (CG-48) was one of the vessels tasked to go, and I recall the USS CARON (DD-970) might have been the other. As I sat listening to the situation/position reports coming back on the radio, it was obvious we could have made our show of force and been completely unopposed, yet it was equally clear the two powerful warships were not to cross the "Line of Death" without specific direction from "Zulu Alpha" (the call sign for the battle force commander.

In the operations building up to the shoot ‘em up, I subconsciously was schooled in the major factor that wins conflicts, a lesson I would learn later consciously at Naval War College: It’s all about logistics, logistics, and yep, you guessed it….more logistics. At the time, the force structure planned for a single CVBG in the Med, one in the Indian Ocean, and I’m not sure how many the Pacific Fleet kept roving the seas on deployment. In any case, the shore support in the Med was designed and stocked for one CVBG, and here we were with three within a few weeks, arriving in theater. The names of the many ships escape me, but here are the ones I can recall:

USS CORAL SEA (CV-43), USS AMERICA (CV-), USS SARATOGA (CV-60), USS YORKTOWN (CG-48), USS BIDDLE (CG-34), USS WAINWRIGHT (CG-28), USS CARON (DD-970)*, USS SCOTT (DDG-995), USS JACK WILLIAMS (FFG-24), USS DEWERT (FFG-45), USS AINSWORTH (FF-10), USS JESSE L BROWN (FF-10), USS CAPADANNO (FF-10), USS GARCIA (FF-1040), USS MONOGHELA (AO-178), and USS IWO JIMA (LPH-7)*. (* indicates that these may not have been there, as this is being done from raw recollection on my part).

I do know that my staff, as "ZULU XRAY" (ASW Commander), had nine ships primarily under our command, which included all the FF units at least. We also had all ASW related resources for the entire theater under our control, which included the shore based VP squadrons with P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). Those assets flew from NAS Rota, Spain and NAS Sigonella, Italy.

Anyhow, back at the ranch, the supply system was now having to provide beans, bullets, black oil and spare parts to three times the assets, which also were sailing/flying a very aggressive schedule. The warehouse ashore in the Med were emptying out quickly. The fuel stockpiles were taking a hit as well. Each day, in the early evening, each ship submitted a daily SITREP message to the chain of command. One of the paragraphs in the format listed the present percentage of fuel aboard. At our level, we had a standard figure of how many barrels (42 gallons) per day each type of ship would burn. This set of stats was further subdivided into a burn rate based on the type of ops the ship was engaged in. One rate for at sea steaming, another for import steaming (running the boilers to operate the electrical power generation and auxiliaries) and a third burn rate for “Cold Iron” or with the main propulsion plant shut down. We totaled up the data and forwarded it to the battle force staff. Decisions on when and who would sail were based on the fuel calculations.

In between our jaunts to sea to demonstrate our resolve, we had to anchor/berth somewhere. Due to Qhadffi’s threats to the European countries, only Italy would allow us to enter their waters. They were a solid ally, even when SCUD missiles were lobbed at a small Italian island south west of Sicily, in retribution for their cooperation with us. I got to see a lot more of Naples than I wanted in those days.

ASW operations for the force were a stretching experience. As a TACDESRON staff, we had the Commodore, the Chief Staff Officer, four watch officers (we stood the watch in pairs), then a radioman (RM) and operations specialist (OS) senior chiefs rounded out our normal compliment of tactical watchstanders. We had “borrowed” a few OS1s and 2s from the BROWN and CAPODANNO for the cruise, and they helped keep up with the radio comms and plotting. We stood watches in “Port and Starboard” (2 shifts), in six hour watch cycles.

Two HP-9020 JOTS computers, fed by Link-14 teletype from the SARATOGA’s comm. Center allowed us to track our assigned unit’s locations in near real time (a few minute time lag, when things worked, and the ships had their Link 14 systems properly patched). More often than not, things were not running as planned, due to the multitude of switches and components involved, so were tended to have the junior OSs on the radio circuits, calling for updated positions, so we had an accurate picture of force location.

In addition to the JOTS computers, we tracked the units on a piece of tracing paper, laid over a chart of the central Med. Due to the force dispersion from close to the entrance to the Suez Canal to west of Sicily at some times, it was the only way to be able to have a “big picture” to scan and make decisions upon. It took constant attention, mostly from OSCS(SW) Jim Koch and RMCS(SW) Rumbaugh, to keep the Link 14 feed patched to us.

Stay tuned for more "sea stories"….

Cpl Desmond T. Doss, CMOH Winner, Passes Away

Black Five has the news of the passing of Desmond Doss. Update 03/25/2006: Services for Desomnd Doss are in this newspaper article. He will be buried in Chattanoga, TN, on April 3rd. I previously had written of the heroism of this man who lived for God on the 60th anniversary of Desmond Doss' valour on Okinawa May 5th, 1945. The movie of not only his selfless actions as an Army Medic, but of the life of a man who completely understood what it meant to have convictions and the stick by them, titled "The Conscientious Objector," is here. I highly recommend you order your DVD copy and plan on hearing a story of someone incredible. As a 3rd grader, I went on a walk with my dad and sisters in the sugar cane fields near MCAS Futema on Okinawa, where I was told the story of a man who would not carry a weapon, but saved almost every man in his company. That was striking enoough, but to hear man years later the path that man walked to do that is even more incredible. I now regret not heading to his Church to shake his hand and let him know the inspiration he was across a career, and later in my personal life. Thanks to Adam's Blog for the Open Trackback. Thanks to Point Five for the Weekend Open Trackback.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"The Heart of Steel" - A Story of Volunteers

Just found as a new post on YouTube, a trailer for the film "The Heart of Steel," the story of volunteers at Ground Zero. This is a brief scene from "The Heart of Steel, a documentary about "The Renegade Volunteers", an amazing group of ordinary citizens who boldly changed the relief effort in the aftermath of the September 11th Tragedy. I shot this on a digital hi-8 camcorder entirely on donations. Check it out and visit for more info. "The Heart of Steel" will screen at the upcoming 2006 Tribeca Film Festival in the NY Specials section. For more information, please visit Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post! Thanks to The Real Ugly American for the Weekend Open Trackback.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

When Capt Lex Retires, This May Be His Best Option for Fun

YouTube has some great stuff.... Since I know the retired paycheck of a Navy Capt is not good enough to allow Neptunus Lex to have an F/A-18 in his garage for weekend jaunts, maybe he'd be satisfied with doing what the guy in this video did.... And, oh, yeah...he already understands the management of powered flight systems, so he'll pick it up in no time and can be down at Skydive San Diego real soon now... Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open POst!

Air Force "PJs" In Action

Jumping, rappeling, all looks fun! Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

An Inflatable Raft, a Skyvan and a Camera Dude...

Mix with 10 jumpers and Voila! Try it if you ever get bored with life...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Journey into History - Part IV

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VII, Part IX

Please pardon the skipped month, but if you have read the other three parts, I'm now going to just shift to the events of 20 years ago. I'll work on "Life Between the Catapults, or What I Did on My Indian Ocean Cruise" will come later.

When you last read about the SARATOGA/CCDG-8 Battle Group, we had received orders to head for the Suez Canal. That we did. It was still Janaury, and we made our way into the Red Sea and to Port Suez in full EMCOM at top speed that conditions allowed.

We made the 24 hour long northern transit and headed for the Ionian Sea (the central part of the Mediterranean Ocean, to join with the CORAL SEA/CCG-2 Battle Group. With the join up, Admiral David Jerimiah (COMCRUDESGRU 8) was named Commander, Battle Force Zulu. With this entery into the Med, the meetings aboard SARATOGA (CV-60) between Adm Jerimiah and Admiral Frank Kelso, COMSIXTHFLT, began as well.

Muammar Khadaffi had once more proclaimed his claim to the Gulf of Sidra as Libyan territorial waters (first made in 1973), and told the world he would defend his territory. Thus began what we called "OVL" (pronounced "oval") for "Operations in the Vicinity of Libya."

I can't recall all the dates associated with the Ops in late January, but off we went, two CVBGs worth of assets, to challenge the claims of Khadaffi to the rights to navigate in international waters. It was more than just to drive about in the water, waving the flag, but also to carry the message that President Reagan was ready to muster significant military capability to counter state supported terrorism. In December, 1985, Libyan supported terrorists had bombed discos in Germany, killing several people, to include US service personnel.

This series of operations gave me the opportunity to see the effects of moving large forces around, and the intricacies involved. I was afforded a special seat to this "play," with my squadron, DESRON 32, being assigned as the Battle Force ASW Commander. When we moved aboard the SARATOGA per CINCPACFLT doctrine (The ASW Commander for the battle group will be embarked on the CV) the previous December, we were berthed with Adm Jerimiah's staff (I roomed with the Intelligence Officer) and we ate in the Admiral's Mess. The good side of this was we generally knew most of what was going on from these close arrangements, but the bad side was the CCDG-8 Ops Boss tended to look at us as augmetees to his staff. There were a few discussions over who could task who, but things worked out for the best.

My assignment was the Combat Systems Material Officer, so I had to keep the handle on logistics for the ASW ships, and I regularly interacted with the CCDG-8 logistics guys, so I got a glimpse into the "big picture" regulalry.

On top of all these things, the USS AMERICA Battle Group was also dispatched from stateside to make the Battle Force Zulu a three CV formation. That hadn't happened since the Vietnam Conflict....

Things got raelly busy, and for the first time for me and many others, the "bad guys" were not the "orange" forces, and there were no umpires, nor back door copies of the enemy's schedule of events....More on that in the coming posts on this topic.

Side note: The most favored movie for the Admiral (and therefore his staff as well) was "Zulu", starring Michael Caine. Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Need 2M Internet in the Middle of Nowhere?

Just a thought...if you have about $80-100K in spare change, and a need, then this just might do the trick. The best part (besides service in a serene place, far from the maddening crowds, is it's "parachutable."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Are Things as They Seem? - Check out Ferris Hasan

Remember the young man of 16 who disappeared from Florida in Dec, 2005, to head for Iraq in search of a story for his journalism class? It looks like his parents did know... And there isn't such a jounalism class... And his father has been arrested for forging US Passports and Military IDs before... And they live in a $4M dollar house... So what's the real story? Read an expose here. Update 03/14/2006: From a cheesel (a commenter on the LGF thread):
#27 cheesel 3/14/2006 09:29AM PST #5, Curt... New Muslim flick--Boy tries to join Hezbollah to fight the infidels: "Ferris Hassan's Day Off".
Thank you, Cinnamon Stillwell and Tom Blumer for doing some real reporting! Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Proud: The Men of the USS MASON" in NYC!

Ben Garrison, one of the crew members of the USS MASON (DE-529) told me the movie "Proud" would be showing in NYC @ the Magic Johnson Theater beginning on the 10th of this month. Quick background: The USS MASON was the only large ship in WWII manned by an African American crew. The story is quite amazing. Ben also mentioned the movie would be being released on DVD soon. Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Why You Should Eat Your Carrots....or Not...

Ah, the wonderful world of OPDEC....

I spent an afternoon with the widow of a B-29 pilot, who flew with the 20th Air Force in the Pacific Theater. Walter was the Co-Pilot of the "Ancient Mariner" ("Z Square 53").

She let me sort through many of her husband's books and then she told me an interesting story.

It turns out the whole deal about eating your carrots to improve your eyesight was actually operational deception to cover for the fact that the Norden bomb sight had been placed in service. So long as the enemy believed our aircrews just had eagle eyes from eating many carrots, then they'd not realize there was a piece of equipment they needed to place on their capture and exploit plans. Just think, it was such a good plan that it has hung on all these years in the common knowledge data base of parents and those trying to get that little advantage hunting or flying.

Moral of the story: You can tell your mom you won't see any better if you eat your carrots....nor any worse if you don't.

Update on Vegtable Mythology - 3/7/2006: I had breakfast with my friend, Jim, Sr and told him this story. He said they were sort of force fed carrots as pilots, and also said he didn't have much need for a Norden Bomb Sight, so he was never in on the plan to confuse the enemies of Democracy.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Last Trap of the Tomcat - Part II

From Part I, the "Bottom Line": The F-14 Tomcat was a superior piece of technology that would counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union and her client states. All things have their purpose.

In this part, I will present some things from my life that I saw of the influence of the F-14. Way back in 1971, I went to take a physical and when asked to "read line 6 on the chart on the back of the door.," I squinted and said little for about 10 seconds> Next I heard: "Do you wear glasses?" Next I thought: "I CAN"T FLY!"

Yep, it was true. No 20/20 for me. In retrospect, I then also realized why it was sometimes a challenge to read things the teachers wrote on the chalkboard, but I had never connected it with bad eye sight, just to liking to sit in the back of the classroom. I also should have known that if both parents wear glasses, it most likely the offspring will also be so afflicted. Anyhow, as you might have grasped, I had planned on being a go fast kind of guy for many years before that fateful day in 11th grade.

Fast forward to fall of 1975. It was the early part of Senior year and time to tell the people in the NROTC office which career path I wanted to go for. I still wanted to fly, but knew the only opportunity was to be a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) (also referred to as the "Guy in Back" (GIB)). I sat down with the officer teaching us and asked his opinion of that choice. His advice was to look for something else I would enjoy, for, at that time, he said, you could be the best GIB in the world, and even a great leader, was rare to make it past Lt Commander. It seems the pilots had a lock on the upper level ranks, and also things like command of anything avaition. It certainly didn't sound like a career path for the option of longevity. Message to midshipman closing in on commissioning date was: You better love being the guy in the shadows due to your bad choices in genetic stock.

Ok, other options: Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD)? Wow! Get paid to play with things that go "BOOM!" and skydive/parachute and SCUBA dive all day (when not doing PT)? Sign me UP! Not so fast, due to the rule change that very year which required you to serve a tour in "Unrestricted Line" prior to applying to be accepted in the EOD. Ted Strong, discussed here had told me how much fun it was few months earlier when we met at the NAS Cubi Point O Club. So, scratch option #2. So, I told them I wanted to dress like this:

to go to work in the Navy. That one worked. I would become a Salvor! Well, to make a long story shorter, a discovered when a whole bunch of diving school instructors were all over you at the bottom of the pool, I was getting a little too stressed, so I chose to take a different path, hence my adventures for the next 19 years in Surface Warfare. I did learn you can swim, tap dance on the slit at the bottom of the Ancostia River, and do so much more while wearing 198 lbs of "stuff," and that "Shorty," an Army Sgt assigned to the school had little short, stubby legs, and he could beat us in any calestenics, but we'd just leave him behind on the morning 4 mile run.

The F-14 is now reaching significant number in the Fleet at the time. The special thing is the NFO, specifically called a "Radar Intercept Officer" (RIO) in the back seat became a significant player in the full use of the F-14 system. As a matter of fact, the pilots became relegated to being bus drivers, so the GIB could get to wear he could open up a 55 gal drum of brush on whoop ass for any Soviet bombers coming inbound to the CVBG. The old "lineage" of pilots being supreme beings, in the footsteps of Eddie Rickenbacker, Richard Bong, Manfred von Richtofen and Werner Voss were fading. The crack in the armor began to split. The pilots still got a workout in the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), in case they had to cozy up to the bad guys, yet they had no capability to target and launch the AIM-54 Phoenix missile. The RIO did the job.

That is the crucial way that the F-14 Tomcat community, from my outside view. By the middle of my career(mid 80s), some NFOs began to be selected for squardon commands. As time went on, that "ticket punch" than opened doors for the NFOs to command wings and eventually aircraft carriers.

Another phenomena of the times was the economics of the late 70s - early 80s made it better for pilots, particulalry multi-engine rated, to get out after their obligated service was copleted. The airlines were recruiting heavily, and many pilots went. I remember the day I saw the ALNAV message that announced that NFOs could apply for pilot training, if they had served two years in their community. If selected, you would move forward (sideways) in the same airframe only, so P-3 ATACCOs could become P-3 pilots, and F-14 RIOs would go to the front part of the Tomcat cockpit. The vision requirments for the move were 20/200 (correctable). At the time, I was 20/50.

Had I been able to know this in 1975, I'd have gutted out two years in the backseat, knowing I could fly, and eventually have a fair shot at command. Water under the bridge, and I still did exciting things as a "shoe."

As a note on the diving career that never happened, they made a Special Operations designator (not to be confused with Special Warfare (the SEALS)), which was comprised of Salvage Divers, EOD and Ordnance Management experts. Had I been a diver, I could have entered that program. I didn't and what happened was there were only 6 CAPT (O-6) billets in the entire community, and the 4 stripers wouldn't retire, so some great guys never made it very far in rank, only because of personnal issues, and nothing to do with their performance. Most likely, I'd have made LCDR and been "continued" until 20 years, then told to retire. One classmate from the Naval War College, Ed Kittel, happened to have this happen to him. He didn't get to the NWC because he was just someone filling a billet, he was there because he was very good at what he did. Ed Kittel became a special agent in the FAA, and worked on many crash cases after his retirement in 1992.

The "Bottom Line" here: The Tomcat manning conditions helped elevate the NFO to a greater professional plateau in the eyes of the "system." Not only did it affect the RIOs in the F-14s, but it helped all the NFOs in all airframes become more of value to the Navy.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Thanks to Cao's Blog for the OTB!

The Reason Women Choose Islam from Seed Magazine

Idle reading night a few days ago brought this to me. I was reading Seed, a new periodical I just noticed, for the article "The Harsh Light of Science." The premise is the ansgt of both the scientists and the religious leaders having a serious scientific study of religion, but I digress. This quote on page 54 (Feb/Mar 2006 issue) jumped right out at me"
"For instance, eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulemia are much less common among women from Muslim countries in which the physical attrativeness of women plays a muted role, relative to that in Westernized countries."
There you have it. It's the evil western world destroying women again. Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the Open Thread!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Last Trap for the Tomcat - Part I

Last Trap of the Tomcat - Part II

I began this post on 2/22/2006. I filed it as a draft. Today, whislt driving about for work, I began to ponder the effect of the F-14 Tomcat on my "generation." Part I will cover some history, and in that, a discussion of how/why the Military gets such toys, and also why it quits using them, too. reports the last F-14 combat mission ever has occured.

The "Anytime, Baby!" guys got their airframe about the time I was commissioned. A few years later, as counter-battery in the recruiting wars, the Navy gleefully helped Hollywood make "Top Gun."

I stopped there, but had captured the article. Here we go....

The Tomcat went into service the same year I did, 1972. It, as with all other equipment the US Military buys, was bought with a purpose in mind, with the operational requirements laid out by a bunch of people trying to project into the future, many years before then. Being a major procurement program to replace the McDonald F-4 Phantom II, the entire process received an equivalent amount of scrutiny by all levels of government.

The story within this story is instructive for those who often wonder "What were they thinking?" when they see some piece of expensive military equipment being a perceived "misfit" in it’s role of the moment. The beginning of a development is a "threat assessment." What does the bad guy have now (since you just got surprised) or what do you think he is building, based on available intelligence? The answer to the threat assessment then makes the "OR" (operational requirement) pretty clear. You have to be able to counter the threat. The ORs come from the "Fleet" (in the case of the Navy), making sure the people currently assigned to the duties of war fighting make the major input to the capabilities the new system will have to meet. Shore duty "pukes" and contractors have to sit on the side lines and bite their tongues, or lobby at the bar after the big meeting, hoping to get their 2 cents into the equation. The purpose is keep the people who are not going to have their body parts on the line from "gold plating" projects, at the expense of the tax payers’ good graces. For all the grumbling about these decisions, know it’s a pretty good system to keep costs down, but, yes, sometimes a really expensive hammer does show up in a project plan.

Along the way in all of this, the ORs become reality when the actual contractor is chosen to build the item. In most all cases, this comes many years later, and the warfighters who suffered through the many hours of meetings, at the expense of their professional development, have moved on the retirement or shore duty, and now the people behind them have to keep the flame burning and answering questions of the contractors, the Pentagon at large, and taxpayers. This can be a daunting task, for even if the note taking in the early days was exceptionally well done, there never seems to be the time, nor were many of the side conversations that supported some of the decisions captured to aid in the present discussions. In this, the oversight of the Operational Test Force comes into play, and the project officers "ride herd" on the Fleet guys and the contractors to make sure the equipment does what was laid out in the system requirements, which came from the ORs.

That’s the short way into the F-14 story. In the 60s, the Soviet Union was building up its fleet for defense of the Motherland. While the oceans provided a great buffer, our ability to conduct long range air strikes with several varieties of conventional and nuclear capable platforms, such as the A-3D Sky Warrior, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the A-6 Intruder, the Soviets wanted to take out our carriers before they could get within launch range of the homeland. The counter force to ours was not Soviet aircraft carriers, but massive amounts of SNAF (Soviet Naval Air Force) bombers, equipped with supersonic cruise missiles. Additionally, they put guided missile submarines (SSG/SSGN) to sea, and also put the missile capability aboard surface ships, mostly of the cruiser size, when it was a missile designed to sink air craft carriers quickly.

Soviet TU-16 "Badgers," TU-95 "Bears," and later TU-22 "Blinders" and TU-160 "Backfires" would come in massive formations, guided towards CVBGs (Carrier Battle Groups) by forward observer platforms, usually of the TU-95 "Bear D" variant, using it’s underslung "Big Bulge" search radar and video data link to pass the information of the location to the armed aircraft, submarines and surface ships, waiting over our long range radar horizons. The bombers would be armed with cruise missiles that were essentially the size of a small fighter aircraft, packed with explosives. The AS-2 "Kipper," AS-4 "Kitchen," -5 "Kelt," and -6s "Kingfish" were all in this category, capable of being launched from 100 to 200 miles from the carriers. The AS-4 and -6 were particularly nasty, as the climbed high, then approached at several times the speed of sound, and then pitched over towards the target at a very steep angle, making it exceptionally difficult for our gun systems to track and engage the missile in its terminal phase (think ORs for those gun systems that did not envision that threat capability when they were developed, rather than people consciously building a "bad" system).

Welcome to the party the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Admiral "Hammerin' Hank" Mustin, while the Second Fleet Commander, often stated his doctrine of "shoot the archer, not the arrow" to say the easier shot is the one at the sub, or not too supersonic, large profile bomber, than to deal with multiple, small, high speed inbound cruise missile, and the F-14 did this in spades. Capt Lex may yuck it up that the F-14 is gone, but even he knows it was the right platform for its time. In a match up between the two aircraft for some DACT (dissimilar aircraft training), and "BVR" (beyound visual range) weaponry being used as it was intended, the "Anytime, Baby!" aviators would be the first ones back with notches in the belts, drinking a few at the O Club and saying things like "Yeah, we had them on radar in plenty of time to smoke them like cheap cigars at about 100NM. You should have heard them whining all the way to impact about how it was so unfair for us to have Phoenix onboard!" >/p>

The AIM-54 Phoenix missile, targeted by the AN/AWG-9 radar was more than a match for the Soviet bombers. Being able to be punched off the deck with 6 AIM-54s, it could "buster" (in afterburners) out to Combat Air Patrol (CAP) station on a threat vector quickly (combat radius of 500 miles +), being capable of doing more than twice the speed of sound (think 1500+ mph as a round figure, and BTW, that's Mach 2+!). The AWG-9 radar could scan a sector, and simultaneously track a target for each missile. The AIM-54 range was demonstrated to be in excess of 100 NM. Add a CAP station about 200 miles down the threat axis and a few sections of F-14s, and the bad guys were going to have tough sledding to reach their launch points. More than likely, they would be swimming with the fish before they could get their cruise missiles off their rails, which, from my perspective, was a very, very good thing. Oh, I forgot to mention, not only could these cruise missiles of the Soviets go really fast, and carry a lot of explosives (enough to do serious damage to an armored aircraft carrier), they could carry nuclear warheads, as well, which meant those of us in the "screen" in small boys, or aboard the supporting oilers and ammunition ships in the vicinity would be in serious danger as well. I really liked the idea of the F-14 being the main fighter in service.

Compare and contrast this with the oh, so sexy "lawn dart" known as the F/A-18 Hornet. Is this an aircraft the pilots dearly love? Does it have a really cool radar that does serious magic, can be used in air-to-air or air-to-ground modes? Yes, it does. Can it be equally at home yanking and banking in ACM (air combat maneuvers), as well as "mud moving?" Yep, that too. Can the Hornet dogfight successfully without having the jettison stores meant for a ground target? Check. Does the Hornet have the "legs" to get way out on station and still put a major hurting on a bomber with a 200 NM reach? Not so sure (with out lots of tankers, which then decrements the number of fighters being fighters)? Nope. Interestingly enough, the initial OR for the F/A-18 had a combat radius that wasn’t attainable during operational testing. It seems the then SECNAV, John Lehman directed the combat radius for the F/A-18 in the test documents be lessened, so that we could get the production rolling, hence the knick name of "lawn darts" being applied. Toss them up, and they come back down. The F/A-18E/F "Super Hornets" that came along later provided more fuel tank space in the wings, addressing this issue.

Enough for now....if ou've hung on this long, stay tuned for Part II, where I will discuss how the Tomcat was a revolutionary aircraft in the annals of the Navy from a personnel perspective...

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the Open Thread!