Are There Just A Few Good Men?
See K. Hunter, p. 10, April 2017 Proceedings)
Ms. Hunter excoriates the Commandant for taking “nearly three days” to issue a formal condemnation of the “Marines United” scandal. Apparently only immediate action, without time to investigate and make an appropriate response, is permissible. She would have her idea of social justice take precedence over addressing issues such as the Corps’ personnel shortfall of 3,000 Marines or the 60 percent of F/A-18s that are unusable for combat. Is the primary objective readiness or social justice?
Ms. Hunter writes that she “will fight with my dying breath for my Marine sisters.” The fate of her Marine brothers goes unmentioned. Surely many photographs on Marines United were taken by mutual consent, so both parties are accountable for their existence. If female Marines are hesitant to disclose “intimate and embarrassing details,” perhaps they should consider their conduct ahead of time.
Since both Marine/Navy leadership and the author seem oblivious as to why this incident of blatant disrespect toward female Marines occurred, I’ll lay it out. You disrespect people for whom you have no respect.
You can’t mandate respect. Respect is earned, and the female Marines are not earning it. Female Marines are accorded preferential treatment throughout their entire careers. Is a male Marine going to respect the female who only has to hang from a bar for a few seconds while he has to pump out pull-ups? Is a male Marine going to respect females who get preferential postings and assignments? Is a male Marine going to respect a female who can leave a forward-deployed duty station because of pregnancy and pull light duty for months? (Pregnancy is a choice.) Until female Marines demand unconditional adherence and accountability to male standards for themselves, they won’t earn respect from males.
Worse, this article was an egregious example of the worst kind of political correctness and female victimhood. Is what the male Marines did right or excusable? No. But where is the leadership’s outrage over the incredible lack of judgment exhibited by the “thousands” of female Marines who took or allowed nude photos of themselves? Where is the female response condemning their fellow females who exhibited such poor judgment? There isn’t any.
The response to this scandal has been all one-sided. This political correctness has been compounded by a lack of courage by Marine leadership to equally criticize the female Marines’ behavior.
In the case of Marines United, one brave individual stood up against thousands of his peers. That individual realized he had a duty to say, “This is wrong.” The deplorable conduct of Marines United likely will continue elsewhere, to be reported in some way in the future. But where we have created a culture in which people speak up in defiance of disrespect, we are triumphant. Self-policing is a hallmark of a healthy profession. As professionals of warfare, we must encourage and reward self-policing behavior. We cannot lose this success in the noise as we prosecute Marines United.
Military leaders at all levels must serve as examples of good values and judgment. Values-based leadership requires living by a strong moral compass that reflects service values. Our leadership centers of excellence, including the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center, the Coast Guard Leadership and Development Center, and the Marine Corps Lejeune Leadership Institute are working diligently to tackle the problem.
Terrorists Attack: Port of New York
(See J. Skinner, pp. 22–25, April 2017 Proceedings)
The biggest threat to New York or other seaports not specifically mentioned is that an adversary would ship, via normal channels, a standard container with a nuke in it. Captain Skinner specifically mentions that only 3.7 percent of all shipping containers are checked. Setting off such a “weapon” would take out not only the port but also its associated city.
Let’s recall that our adversaries were clever enough to turn airliners into kamikazes. Other clever enemies may be able to build a weaponized container and learn all the ways it could be quietly dropped, tracked, and controlled in the worldwide logistics system. The containership becomes a delivery system!
Let’s not let an attacker strike the homeland due to our “failure of imagination.”
76th SecNav Will Lead Resurgence of Naval Forces
(See P. Bilden, pp. 74–75, April 2017 Proceedings)
Mr. Bilden is on target to call for an increase in the size of our fleet and provide better support to our ships. From an operational standpoint, the Navy continues to be stressed with continuous deployments to the Persian Gulf.
I remember my first deployment to the Gulf, in November 1979 in command of a frigate. We departed Norfolk just after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized control of the U.S. embassy. In addition to our flagship, a converted amphibious ship, we and another frigate patrolled for days, then weeks, then months on end in the northern Gulf. Aircraft carriers followed after the Iraq-Kuwait war played out in 1990–91. (A carrier’s presence has not stopped since.) In 1994 I made my second deployment to the Persian Gulf as the battle group commander on the maiden deployment of the carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73).
Some things never change. The heat and the dust go on forever. Ship systems were not, and probably still are not, designed to handle the high heat or seawater temperatures. And to get carriers and destroyers on station in the Gulf takes forever. It’s a long haul from Norfolk or San Diego to the Gulf.
The nation needs many more ships than it has, because the current deployments are simply too long. With the Persian Gulf acting like a ship magnet, we simply do not have the numbers to support the correct rotation in the Gulf and in other areas of the world. And we should!
Regarding Mr. Bilden’s comments on budget disinvestment, such resource reductions have occurred longer than the past decade. It started in the early 1990s with the first Clinton administration. The collapse of the Soviet Union was considered by our political leadership as the end of a major threat. As a result, the second Clinton administration imposed major reductions in defense. Just when the Bush administration prepared to invest in defense again, the nation was attacked on 11 September 2001. First we responded in Afghanistan. Then came the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. These actions refocused the defense budget. The resource expenditures were extensive, but they were not for new ships or support for existing ships. Then the Obama administration arrived and introduced us to “budget sequestration,” automatic cuts to federal government spending that included extensive reductions to defense spending. To meet the budget numbers, the Navy gave up ships. Instead of a “decade of disinvestment,” I suggest it’s been two-plus decades.
President Donald Trump recently submitted a call for a $54 billion increase to the defense budget. Let’s divide by three (Navy, Army, Air Force) and say each service will get about $18 billion. A good part of that increase for the Navy Department must be divided between sailors and Marines. Let’s assume the Navy side is $14 billion. Admiral Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, recently said $150 billion was required over current budget plans to “jump-start” shipbuilding to meet the 355-ship total recommended in the Fleet Structure Assessment. To achieve 355 ships means closing an 80-ship gap (275 to 355). An increase of $14 billion to the Navy budget simply will not close that gap. If we are going to build up our combat power—aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines—we need to embrace the right number. Admiral Moran’s $150 billion for the Navy makes more sense than $14 billion.
I will be the first to admit that you cannot close the gap in one or two administrations. You can establish the correct change rate so we can reach 355 ships inside a decade. Such a plan must first include at least one additional Gerald R. Ford–class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. We can horse around with all the right words to state the correct number of carriers the nation needs, but my math says it’s an even dozen. The number of additional Arleigh Burke–class destroyers and Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines should total about 35. The remaining 44 ships to close the gap can be new frigates, amphibious warfare ships, or support-type ships.
To get the most bang from these new dollars, the new ships should come from current building plans. We want the shipbuilders to use existing production lines to generate cost reductions that should and must occur from the added volume of work.
Finally, while the 76th SecNav must lead the Navy to close the existing combat capability gap, the service’s three-star leaders for naval air, naval surface, and submarine forces must spearhead keeping the goals to increase the numbers, maintain a tight building discipline, and ensure that both the Navy and its contractors stay on the new course.
Embracing the Dark Battle: Electronic Warfare, Distributed Lethality, and the Future of Naval Warfighting
(See D. Stefanus, pp. 26–31, April 2017 Proceedings)
The author articulates that a critical aspect of distributed lethality is the execution of “more warfighting decisions down to the unit level with well-understood commander’s intent.” With the widespread incorporation of high-speed communications satellites and advanced computing capabilities into military operations, well-intentioned senior leaders have usurped the autonomous authority and spirit of the on-scene commander by meddling in the commander’s affairs while he or she is executing combat operations or assigned duties.
As Lieutenant Stefanus sagely elucidates, “The veil of ambiguity will be the key to victory in future conflicts.” I proffer that the Navy embraced this mindset quite fully during the Cold War. Emissions control (EMCON) skills atrophied after the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, as the Navy shifted its focus from sea control to precision power projection.
As a tactical-level solution, electronic warfare warfighting tactics instructors (EW WTIs) represent a step in the right direction, but the concept of this billet is still far from the solution for naval supremacy. Operating in the “lethal shadows” means everyone—not just the EW WTIs—needs to focus on attenuating electronic emissions to the barest levels as the normal way of doing business. We must use every tool and tactic to discommode our adversary’s ability to locate our forces and interrupt our command and control of our forces.
The astute use of WTIs still falls short of addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room—i.e., shifting the Navy’s larger strategic mentality back to emphasizing sea control and doctrine first. Our power projection and sea basing will fail if we lose effective control of the high seas. A tactically solid EMCON posture is worthless without a common baseline knowledge of doctrine, which provides a common, well-vetted approach to handle enemy threats while integrating lessons learned from history.
Leaders and watchstanders should view doctrine as a starting point from which to deviate based on the tactical situation, rules of engagement, laws of armed conflict, and commander’s prerogative to pursue the enemy. Subordinate commanders should be empowered with sufficient latitude and appropriate means of accountability to act independently with sound discretion, thus reducing the temptation to unnecessarily or accidentally break EMCON.
Paint Them All Yellow
The U.S. Coast Guard painted 14 aircraft in “throwback” colors to celebrate the Centennial of Coast Guard Aviation in 2016. The MH-60 helicopter paint scheme recalls the chrome yellow livery used by Coast Guard helicopters in the 1950s and 1960s. The MH-60s painted for the centennial will remain yellow until their next planned depot maintenance in approximately three years.
Instead of looking forward to repainting the centennial aircraft in their next depot cycles, what if we considered moving in a completely different direction? Why not go all in and paint the entire Coast Guard helicopter fleet yellow?
Adopting the chrome yellow paint scheme across the MH-60 and MH-65 fleets opens up many interesting possibilities. Standardization across the two fleets simplifies the paint procurement and the actual painting process. There is also potential in realizing additional efficiencies in the overall depot maintenance process as a result of a shorter paint periods because the aircraft are a single core color.
Bright yellow was the standard color for all U.S. military search-and-rescue aircraft through the early 1960s. It also is a workable paint scheme for all ocean weather environments, from the tropics to the polar regions.
As proven during the numerous public outreach events during the Centennial of Aviation, chrome yellow is a fetching livery. It is a great starting point for conversations with the public and government decision makers regarding our history, the Coast Guard’s missions, and the exceptional value the service provides to the nation.
Going to the chrome yellow paint scheme for the entire helicopter fleet calls attention to the Coast Guard’s missions, has the potential to make our internal maintenance processes more efficient, and shows the country that we are striving to provide them with the world’s best Coast Guard for an affordable cost. If anything, we should consider doing this for the kids; because, as the Coast Guard Aviation Centennial year proved to me, kids love a yellow bird.
Good Leaders Follow Golden Rule
(See W. Monk, pp. 78–80, April 2017 Proceedings)
The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Lieutenant Commander Monk’s emphasis on “Jesus” as the ideal leader certainly brings that amendment to mind.
Monk’s statement that the “U.S. Sea Services have a strong tradition of character based leadership founded on a world view rooted in Judeo-Christian values” is not only unproven, but flies in the face of President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, in which he noted that both Blue and Gray “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. . . . The prayers of both could not be answered.”
The author describes effective leaders as “modeling their leadership philosophy and principles after Jesus Christ.” One wonders how many senior officers—such as Admiral Ernest King (“I don’t care how good they are. Unless they get a kick in the ass every six weeks, they’ll slack off”)—would qualify.
Monk emphasizes the “Golden Rule,” to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But this ideal is incompatible with the strongly hierarchical military system of command; leaders following the Golden Rule would have difficulty ordering personnel to perform dangerous duties, which may well involve extreme peril, perhaps death. Military leaders, after all, are often tasked with breaking things and killing people.
The author poses but is unable to explain the interesting statement “It is important to differentiate moral leadership from effective leadership,” implying that military failure is acceptable if it is “moral.” The idea that “good leadership is the courage to stand up for what is right regardless of the consequences” avoids the crucial issue of effectively defending one’s personnel and succeeding in the mission. A military leader is judged by his or her success in combat, not by succeeding or failing “morally.”
Admiral Chester Nimitz may have said “good always trumps evil,” but more important, he understood the “principle of calculated risk” and did not hesitate to act ruthlessly when subordinates failed in battle. Moreover, who is the judge of “good” and “evil” on the battlefield? The author’s emphasis on being “a leader of character” does not include a definition of character. Who defines “the right moral character” and decides whether personnel have developed it? Do effective military leaders such as General George Patton or General William Tecumseh Sherman fulfill the author’s unexplained definition of “moral” leadership?
Educating officers to become effective strategists and leaders is a longstanding issue confronting all the services, which address the task throughout the professional military education system. It is a constant, if generally unspoken, element of training and educating officers in the field and on the deckplates.
Monk offers no practical, applicable “solution” to developing effective military leadership.
SOLVE TOMORROW’S PROBLEMS TODAY
(See J. Cordle, pp. 16–21, April 2017 Proceedings)
Break Out or Fail
There is no shortage of innovative ideas coming from members in uniform, enlisted or officer. From simple deckplate-level work process improvements to bigger strategic innovations, the ideas are relatively abundant and can be found just by asking around.
As pointed out by Admiral Winnefeld in his article in the same issue, the fundamental challenge is not to get new ideas into the military; the bigger challenge is to get the old ideas out of the military. Entrenched program offices focus on a specific platform or product acquisition and the established and relatively rigid budget process—from the Future Years Defense Program or Future Years Homeland Security Program, followed by departmental and administration top-line allocations and budget development, followed by the annual congressional appropriations process. All this mutually reinforces the stability and enduring quality of the status quo. Once established, old ideas, program offices, or acquisition projects are next to impossible to eliminate.
Innovation will continue to only germinate within the military services until some sort of stable and supportive incubator with top cover can be sustained. It can get these new ideas to develop healthy roots, backed by reliable and predictable funding within the existing budget process. Good ideas and innovation will continue to wither on the vine, as Captain Cordle describes, unless these changes can be instituted.
The Oath Is a Sacred Covenant
(See F. R. White, pp. 30-34, February 2017 Proceedings)
In contrast to what Lieutenant White writes, the oath administered for naval officer promotions today uses the following language: “I, A.B., do solemnly reaffirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will continue to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and the Country whose course it directs, and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation. So help me God.”
The pledge to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic requires a jealous defense of our loyalty against undermining, substitution, or adulteration. Elevating anything else, even our country, to equal status with the Constitution reduces the clarity of this imperative. Unlike the Oath of Office, the promotion or “reaffirmation” oath swears allegiance to the Constitution and to the country, introducing a conflict of loyalties if our country goes adrift of its constitutional moorings. It is of paramount importance that we swear allegiance to our founding document, the supreme law of the land, and not to any executive, party, administration, or indeed, to the current direction of our country.
NAVY DELIVERS MESSAGE
On 6 April 2017, President Donald Trump faced the first foreign-policy crisis of his administration, ordering the Navy—the USS Ross (DDG-71) and USS Porter (DDG-78)—to launch 60 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles against Syrian military targets. Only one did not reach its aimpoint. This strike was in retaliation for Syria’s use of chemical weapons—perhaps assisted by Russian forces—against civilian targets, killing at least 100 people, including women and some 25 children. The U.S. operation killed at least six people and severely damaged several Syrian aircraft and airfield infrastructure.
Syrian President Bashar Assad “choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children,” the President remarked. “It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” U.S. intelligence sources said they believed with “high confidence” that a deadly gas attack on Syrian civilians was carried out by government aircraft at the military air base, southeast of Homs.
THE COMMANDERS RESPOND
(See pp. 32–46, March 2018 Proceedings)
Editor’s Note: The following response from the Chilean Chief of Naval Operations was not received in time for inclusion in the March issue.
As we have said on a number of occasions, in the international system we see continuous conflicts caused by countries trying to extend their influence over marine spaces with vital resources or with adjacent areas offering substantial benefits. In this context, the United States has increased its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, shifting focus to an area of crucial importance to Chile’s trade.
In fact, Chile has a privileged position with a coast facing a region with the most rapid economic growth in the world: The Pacific Rim. In this region, instead of a barrier, the sea has become a link among nations. Since our influence over this area is quite limited, we are aware that to ensure Chile’s prosperity, we must join forces with other friendly navies and countries with which we share a common vision. We must also build a solid naval power capable of achieving a sufficient degree of sea control to maintain stability in areas of vital interest to Chile and deter potential threats.
With this in mind, our main challenges are to continue developing our maritime and naval capabilities and to support actively cooperation initiatives to achieve international maritime security. These initiatives include diverse international agreements on maritime safety and security, the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, the Asia-Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies forum, and exercises such as RimPac, where the Chilean Navy has been entrusted with greater responsibilities over the years.
From this perspective, it is our firm conviction that the U.S. Navy is a powerful ally that can continue to assist us in facing these challenges though achieving greater interoperability, improving the safety of life at sea, and increasing maritime and naval control and surveillance. All this can be demonstrated in the development of human and material factors, from the strengthening of preparation, training, and tactics, to the access to equipment and systems necessary to satisfy the demands of the new scenarios. However, beyond any consideration, the notion of our two navies seeing each other as complementary and essential partners in the fulfillment of shared objectives always will prevail.
— Fleet Admiral Enrique Larrañaga Martin, Chief of Naval Operations, Armada de Chile
Thank you for including Chief of Maritime Staff Admiral Yutaka Murakawa’s remarks in “The Commanders Respond.” In editing it, your staff added an expression that is different from the one Admiral Murakawa used. Where he wrote “DDH Izumo,” the article reads “helicopter carrier Izumo.” The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force does not designate any ships as “helicopter carriers” and uses the term “DDH” exclusively.
—Japan Maritime Self Defense Force
IRAN OWNS THE GRAY ZONE
(See T. Gilmore, pp. 48–53, March 2018 Proceedings)
Commander Gilmore’s excellent article on Iranian gray zone mastery illuminates how we have been outwitted at our own game, i.e., mastery of the seas. The incidents he cites cover a considerable amount of modern history for the Persian Gulf area and continue to occur; we apparently have not learned how to avoid them. The United States must remember that its “enemies” watch U.S. operations, study weaknesses, and exploit opportunities. What to us are minor incidents are to the enemy a great victory; they have confronted us and “won.” We need to think ahead of what an enemy might do to us, marrying knowledge of his capabilities with ours to prevent incidents.
The mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) occurred during Operation Earnest Will in February 1988. Many have bemoaned that the ship was worried about mines, but had no system to detect them save the “Mark 1 eyeball.” Although lookouts saw the mines, it was too late; the ship was in a minefield. Were it not for the heroic efforts of her crew, the Samuel B. Roberts would have gone down. The lesson here is not what many have written, i.e., that damage control saves lives, but that no ship should be exposed to mines without the ability to defend herself against them. Iran knew that we had no organic, mine detection/neutralization capability and exploited that fact. When will our ships have organic mine defenses?
The HSV Swift attack is another example of how the enemy exploits our weaknesses. The Swift was hit by missile fired by Houthi rebels on 1 October 2016, likely a Chinese C-802. This is a repeat of the Atlantic Conveyor sinking, a U.K. commercial vessel which carried helicopters to the British task force during the Falklands War. Argentine Exocet missiles fired at the convoy were deflected from the escorts by chaff but hit the Atlantic Conveyor, which had no defenses. Rear Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, Task Force Commander, later wrote that “Conveyor’s loss left the Land Forces very badly placed for any means of transport other than walking.” The Swift should have had some sort of defense against missile attack.
I predict that the next attack is one that Commander Gilmore doesn’t elaborate too much about (see his footnotes), and that’s the Iranian Sadegh-1 “drones” flying near our carriers and in their air traffic patterns. According to CNN, twice in August 2017 the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Persian Gulf encountered drones flying “within 1,000 ft.” Since that event, crudely made drones with improvised explosive devices on them were used in an attack on the Russian air base at Khmeimim in Syria. The Russians were able to neutralize them either by electronic or kinetic means, but the precedent is there.
It’s time for a different type of plane guard around the carrier. In addition to the plane guard, a “drone CAP” helo should be ready to intercept and down any drone flying too close to the carrier, either kinetically or with a Drone- Defender or similar type of device. We should not wait for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to collide with an F/A-18 in the pattern or hit an aircraft on the deck. The apparent lack of defense against the UAV is something the Iranians or their proxies will exploit.
—Captain Fred Furtek, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)
(See F. Rainbow, p. 6, April 2018 Proceedings)
AMPHIBS IN SEA CONTROL AND POWER PROJECTION
(See J. Caverley and S. Tangredi, pp. 18–22, April 2018 Proceedings)
I am gratified by the kind words on the Editor’s Page concerning my contributions to Proceedings over the years. These words perfectly captured my view of how Proceedings articles should be—considering all sides of an issue and identifying assumptions, costs, risks, and alternatives before coming to a conclusion and recommendations.
As Director of the Institute for Future Warfare Studies (IFWS) at the U.S. Naval War College, I always am interested in ideas from thoughtful, innovative, and motivated individuals who want to improve the naval service and U.S. national security overall. IFWS can provide an additional opportunity to expand and analyze your ideas in greater depth in the company and with the assistance of professional defense analysts and academic scholars.
Our primary products are a series of specific-issue working papers. These contributions are designed to analyze an existing or potential issue impacting the Navy/Department of Defense (DoD) into the future that is not being examined by the Navy Staff, Joint Staff, or other DoD organization (such as amphibious warships in sea control), and we circulate the papers among these staffs. We try to avoid duplicating other efforts while adding unique ideas and analysis.
Those who are interested in participating in our program can contact us at [email protected].
— Captain Sam J. Tangredi, U.S. Navy (Retired), U.S. Naval War College
One has to be blind not to notice that today’s U.S. Navy has some two dozen aircraft carriers, equally divided between supercarriers and oddly-named “big-deck amphibs” or “CVLs” in the more-sensible new term.
All—repeat, all—are commanded by blue-suit Navy officers and are operated by blue-suit Navy officers and crews. As a bonus, the smaller CVLs carry U.S. Marine Corps air and infantry/ground forces with unique capabilities. What’s not to like?
Those who grumble that “destroyers are the only surface ships” call forth memories of the interwar “battleship navy” whose “gun club” priesthood resisted the war-winning aircraft carrier (large and small). Sound familiar?
—T. R. Murphy, former Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, and senior associate, Center for Strategic & International Studies
(See J. Cordle, October 2017 Proceedings Today; See F. Pezeshkian, pp. 18–19, February 2018 Proceedings)
ELEVEN MONTHS REMOVED from the tragic and heroic day on the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), and nine months for the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), it is important to remember that post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and its effects remain for some sailors and might yet manifest for others. Seven of my Fitzgerald shipmates gave their lives on that day, and 267 more gave everything they had to save everyone else.
After the initial recovery period, the Navy decided it would be best to break up the crew to help the surface force recover from a spiraling manning deficit in Seventh Fleet. While many of these sailors have returned to normal lives, some have experienced manifestations of PTSD brought on by returning to sea. I personally know of a number who have held their hands up and said, “I need more help.” Some of those may never see a ship again.
It is important to reemphasize the lessons from the USS Cole (DDG-67) bombing and other incidents with loss of life at sea. [Editor’s Note: Then-Commander Cordle served as executive officer of the Cole until shortly before she was attacked by terrorists. He knew most of the crew members injured and killed.] We as a Navy need to recognize that PTSD and the mental anguish of survival are real, debilitating, and need to be treated as such. All commands in the months and years to come need to examine their sailors for signs of PTSD and mental health issues related to these collisions tragic events in the summer of 2017. At the same time, our sailors need to remember there are many resources available to help them cope with the tragedy.
Mental health providers in the Navy Medical Corps only can do their job if we go and talk with them and if we allow our sailors to seek help. Most commands will, but some will not. For many, “getting back on the horse” will not be enough to restore them when to how they were when they went to sleep the night before the collisions. I sincerely hope the Navy will take this article’s recommendations seriously and establish a formal program to follow these John S. McCain and Fitzgerald sailors as they learn to live with the aftermath of these catastrophes.
The twin tragedies have served as a wakeup call for the surface fleet in many ways. Let’s make sure it includes awareness of the mental health requirements of our most irreplaceable assets, our sailors.
—Commander Sean M. Babbitt, former executive officer (March–August 2017), USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62)
I READ WITH SADNESS and frustration of Petty Officer Pezeshkian’s battles with PTSD. Sadness because he describes the turmoil that many veterans struggle with each day, usually for the rest of their lives. As Petty Officer Pezeshkian indicates, the challenges are varied, and those suffering and treating PTSD often must go back to the proverbial tool box for help.
And frustration because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as a federal agency, cannot administer cannabis as a treatment until the Food and Drug Administration or Congress removes this medicine from the schedule of controlled substances. Of the 29 states that have approved medical cannabis so far, 25 specifically name PTSD as an approved condition (the remainder stipulate “chronic or persistent medical conditions”). PTSD is neither a “red” or “blue” issue, nor does cannabis’ effectiveness change with geography; cannabis is recognized universally as a suitable treatment for this disorder.
I am not suggesting that cannabis use for active-duty personnel be permitted at any time or that all PTSD patients start using cannabis. But when a patient comes to a VA hospital and is told, “Cannabis might help with your symptoms but is not an option here. Go next door or to the next state to get it,” reasonable citizens must speak out to try to accelerate Federal action.
PTSD is forever, and far too often, it becomes a death sentence. As President Donald Trump said in the State of the Union address, “People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure—I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.’”
If Petty Officer Pezeshkian and others suffering from PTSD desire the “right to try,” the VA should be able to honor their requests.
—Commander Paul Amrhein, U.S. Navy (Retired)
To Carry the Weight of Nagasaki
(See H. Zisselman, p. 27, March 2018; J. Hannon, pp. 10, 84, April 2018 Proceedings)
Prudent planning for each succeeding generation’s flight of fact, fiction, and fancy regarding the mission that ended World War II in the Pacific theater of operations should require input to the weight-and-balance sheet from the pilot who planned and executed that mission. Anything less results in an asymmetrical flight and/or a crash. This pilot was Major Charles W. Sweeney, the training officer of the 509th Composite Group, pilot of the instrument plane at Hiroshima and command pilot of the Nagasaki mission. I note proudly that Charlie Sweeney was a Quincy, Massachusetts, boyhood neighbor, friend, fellow parishioner, and hero of mine.
As the nation approached the 50th anniversary of the end the war in 1995, now–Major General Sweeney felt compelled to give testimony to Congress regarding his missions. The Smithsonian was in the process of producing a revisionist, anti-American, false account of the story of the Enola Gay (the name given to the B-29 used to drop the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima, under the command of Army Air Force Colonel Paul Tibbets). The thoughts the museum was enshrining as facts were falsehoods and distortions.
Charles Sweeney’s testimony should be required reading for anyone who seeks to understand and/or comment on this event ending the war. His testimony is available on the internet.
The only weight I carry from Nagasaki is the deep sorrow I have for the loss of the widows, orphans, Gold Star parents, and unborn children of those KIA/MIA/POW/WIA Americans who sacrificed their all.
When I stand over the hulk of the Arizona and sit on a bench at the Punchbowl, I am overcome by awe with the demonstrated courage of “The Greatest Generation.” God Bless America.
—Captain Richard A. Stratton, U.S. Navy (Retired)
It is important for U.S. commissioned officers to study every aspect of past military operations, including their rationales for action as well as the impacts of our organized violence. We also must understand that as a military, our primary function is to manage organized violence on behalf of our nation—and that invariably means human beings die because of our actions.
The atomic bombing of Nagasaki resulted in fewer initial dead and wounded than the firebombing of Tokyo the same year. At Nagasaki, around 75,000 to 87,000 people died in the initial blast. However, the 9–10 March 1945 fire-bombing of Tokyo resulted in 97,000 killed directly, according to an estimate of the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department. The atomic bomb shocks because of the quantity of instantaneous death and resulting radiation sickness as well as the post-war social and political reactions (and exploitation of the events).
The rationale for the attack was guided by U.S. conclusions on the role of the Emperor. Emperor Hirohito was the ultimate target of the attack for an indirect effect—to convince him to surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen for a mixture of factors related to their wartime roles as well as the range limitations of the B-29. Kyoto was specifically removed from the target list overall because of its cultural importance to the Japanese and the risk of enraging the populace. At the time, President Harry S Truman believed that taking this the action led to a swifter termination of the war and saved both American and Japanese lives.
Seeing those killed and wounded from our action, enemy action, accidents, or nature is part of what we must be prepared to face. Foreign humanitarian assistance and rescues at sea are not our primary purpose. Our core function is to enact our national policy through force, which includes overt and implied threats of violence against other nations and people. We also must be prepared for the possibility that we will be the ones directly causing death intentionally in the course of our duties, and that is something that we must each reconcile to effectively lead our sailors in combat.
—Commander Frank Cowan, U.S. Navy
Overuse Devalues Personal Awards
(See P. Kingsbury, p. 14, March 2018; B. Tillman, p. 10, April 2018 Proceedings)
Fleet Master Chief Kingsbury does not cite any empirical evidence to support his supposition that awards are being overused. Instead he brings up one anecdotal situation after another. I learned long ago that the term “anecdotal” means this is just another damn story and does not necessarily apply to the universe under study.
Barrett Tillman’s response is seeded with much the same biases as the Kingsbury article. The remote observation that some airman cannot remember what a specific ribbon represents should not indict an entire system.
Awards are not about what the viewer perceives them to be about but instead what they mean to the wearer. Some recipients are more than deserving and some less so. For my money the current system is working as well as it can. If anything, we should strive for all potential awards to get a fair (and honest) hearing, and our goal should be to award any and all that we can. Recognizing our troops costs us virtually nothing. There is no evidence that even remotely suggests that overuse (if it does exist) jeopardizes morale or diminishes readiness.
—Commander Richard G. Allison, MSC, U.S. Navy (Retired), Life Member
Build a Warfighting Edge
(See J. Lushenko, pp. 78–79, March 2018 Proceedings)
I endorse Lieutenant Commander Lushenko’s recommendation that surface warfare officer (SWO) billets be established in all aviation squadrons. From a SWO’s perspective, such an effort would provide myriad potential advantages and help improve overall tactical prowess and cohesion of the comprehensive (both the ship itself and embarked aircraft) afloat fighting unit. It is standard practice for submarine and aviation officers to be billeted to destroyer and amphibious squadrons—the surface community should adopt a similar practice.
Pipeline SWO tactical training at Surface Warfare Officer’s School (SWOS) and the Aegis Readiness and Training Center rightly focuses on organic ship systems and only tangentially covers embarked and carrier air wing aircraft. As antiair warfare coordinator on an Aegis cruiser, my pipeline training helped me feel confident and competent concerning the tactical capabilities and limitations of the SPY radar, Aegis combat system, and the Standard family of missiles, but I lacked a rigorous introduction to the various systems fielded on embarked carrier strike group aircraft.
In the coming fight, rapid, effective, and efficient employment of all aspects of naval power will be required to prevail. Watchstanders on the ship and aviators in the sky should be comfortable that their shipmates on the other side of the net understand their expectations, concerns, and intentions when conducting real-world operations.
For most junior SWOs, involvement in aviation operations goes little further than following the air-ops checklist and getting permission for a “green deck” from the commanding officer. While embarked detachments on cruisers and destroyers offer opportunities for aviation cross-training/exposure, competing duties such as watchstanding, administration, operational requirements, and earning warfare qualification preclude in-depth study and appreciation of aviation capabilities and operations. We can do better.
—Lieutenant Brendan Cordial, U.S. Navy
What Happened To Our Surface Forces?
(See K. Eyer, pp. 24–29, January 2018; L. Jones and J. Hinkle, pp. 10–11, March 2018; T. Pinney, p. 86, April 2018 Proceedings)
Captain Eyer wrote about “the [surface force’s] tendency to ‘get underway at all costs.’” If the command is not ready for sea, the commanding officer must say so. Better to injure pride than lose lives. My first NROTC instructor emphasized: “Know your job. Do your job. And look after your men.”
Where is your backbone?
—Commander Charles R. Burke, U.S. Navy (Retired)
UNRAVELING THE THRESHER’S STORY
(See J. Yurso, pp. 38–42, October 2017; K. Highfill, pp. 87–88, January 2018; J. B. Bryant, p. 87, March 2018 Proceedings)
IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY that we can determine the moment that the USS Thresher (SSN-593) began slipping beneath her test depth (1,300 feet). However, there is no “enigma” about the meaning of the message “experiencing minor difficulty”—or “minor problem” according to some recollections—that was transmitted from the dying submarine.
During lengthy interviews in the summer of 1963 with the first commanding officer of the Thresher, (later) Rear Admiral Dean Axene, the only problem that he said he would describe as a “minor difficulty” at test depth would have been a shutdown or “scram” of the submarine’s nuclear reactor. Axene enumerated all of the potential problems that could have occurred—from jammed diving planes to a pipe failure—and discounted all but the reactor shutdown.
The scram probability was confirmed in my follow-on discussions that summer with (later) Vice Admiral F. J. Harlfinger, at the time Commander, Submarine Flotilla 1, and (later) Captain D. A. Paolucci, then Commander, Submarine Division 71. Both officers were intimately familiar with the Thresher-class submarines. (Previously they were the head and deputy head of the Submarine Warfare Branch in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.)
Further, a short time after the Thresher disaster, Vice Admiral H. G. Rickover, the head of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, reduced the time required to restart a scrammed nuclear reactor.
—Norman Polmar, author, Death of the USS Thresher (Lyons Press, 2004)