The Last Battleship Sailor
(See S. Landersman, pp. 44–47, January 2019)
Captain Landersman’s excellent article was bittersweet for me, as I learned of the passing of Captain Lee Kaiss. I had the distinct pleasure of serving with him while he was “between battleships.” He was confident, charismatic, extremely capable, and the finest natural leader I have ever known. Not afraid to try new things, not only did he effectively employ UAVs during the first Gulf War, he also famously put a video feed from the Missouri’s UAV onto the ship’s internal TV system so the entire crew could assist in spotting potential targets, and he gave awards to sailors who called in valid ones.
Captain Kaiss had a wonderful career beyond the Missouri. His reputation as a leader was such that he was called on to serve as mission task element commander for the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) when that program ran into “challenges.” He and a small handpicked team flew out on short notice and quickly put things right.
Lee also was a great storyteller and a joy to be around. I regret that we do not have audio recordings of some of his many wonderful stories. He was a consummate professional, and the world is a little dimmer without characters like him in it. He mentored many young naval officers in his time, and it is my fervent hope he will not be the “last of his kind.”
The claim that the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) was the first ship to fire its Tomahawk missiles from the Arabian Gulf is not true. I was on the Missouri’s bridge that night. The officer-of-the-deck backs up my memory, and the Navy’s account on its website says in part:
“Jan. 17, 1991: At 1:30 a.m. . . . the guided-missile cruiser San Jacinto (CG 56) fires the first Tomahawk from the Red Sea, while the guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill (CG 52) fires the first Tomahawk from the Arabian Gulf.”
—CAPT Joe Lee Frank III, USN, (Ret.) Life Member
Fighting to Serve
(See T. King, pp. 66–67, February 2019)
An Elder’s Story
(See J. Horton, pp. 68–69, February 2019)
Thank you for publishing the stories of the two African American service members—Lieutenant Commander King, writing of the prejudice his grandfather faced as a member of the “Golden Thirteen,” and Sergeant Major John Horton’s career in the Marines. Their stories of perseverance, self-respect, and love of country—in the service of a country that treated them so poorly—were inspiring. It is a tribute to President Truman and our armed forces that they sought to root out the prejudice still present in much of our culture long before the country itself began to face it.
—Rev. Thomas Rausch, S.J.
It was the privilege and good fortune of the Navy League Massachusetts Bay Council to have Lieutenant Commander Dalton L. Baugh Sr., one of the “Golden Thirteen,” as a member.
Not only one of the first black officers, he also was the first black Navy chief engineer, serving in USS Migrant (IX-66), an antisubmarine patrol schooner, among other assignments in the Atlantic and Pacific areas. After World War II, he continued in the Reserve and served the Navy and the community for more than 30 thirty years through Navy Recruiting, the Navy League, the Boy Scouts, and Little League, among other civic activities. He was a willing speaker at events and opened many a door for the Navy in the minority community. Following his death in 1985, our council established an award in his name to recognize minority officers in the Sea Services who demonstrate inspirational leadership, excellence, and professionalism. Several awardees have attained flag rank.
—CAPT Ivan Samuels, USN (Ret.)
Navy Information Warfare Needs More Resources
(See T. Butera, Proceedings Today, January 2019)
Captain Butera’s views are certainly worthy of critical discussion, following as they do “Naval Intelligence’s Lost Decade” (December 2018) and “Naval Intelligence: Build Regional Experts” (December 2017), both of which accurately frame the problems faced by Naval Intelligence and the broader information warfare (IW) community.
The common issue is the lack of direction in terms of professional development and subject matter expertise, and it’s deadly serious. The results could be catastrophic if a junior officer receives neither the incentives nor the guidance to take a career path sufficiently specialized to develop into an analyst capable of delivering an informed assessment with incomplete information. Such assessments put lives on the line, and a wrong call means a bad day for the blue team. Captain Butera’s call for a mission analysis of the IW community—and the role of its subordinate disciplines—is absolutely the right decision to make.
Further, I’m not convinced that we are doing everything in our power to make appropriate use of the information-dense data available to us. In a hectic operational environment, too many of our common intelligence picture tools require manual inputs, allowing less time to evaluate the information either for accuracy or significance as an outlier.
Foisting information and data on operators and asking them to make their own conclusions is to set them up to fail. They are busy with their pieces of the puzzle. We need to do our part, which requires skill and experience, neither of which come without the professional focus of an expert.
Therefore, Captain Butera’s recommendation to put IW officers in command at sea is not in the Navy’s best interest. The key issue is not the surface warfare community’s morale. The problem is that the IW community does not have the spare capacity to divert its attention to such a role and still cover the core mission set. Shifting the focus of IW officers toward a pipeline that leads to major afloat command seems more likely to set them adrift in a sea of peripheral training about U.S. carrier operations than to put them on course to support the fight. The restricted line was created for a good reason. It should stand as such.
—LT Andrew Fobes, USN
Don’t Restrict SWO Qualifications
(See E. Rankin, p. 33, January 2019)
As a retired chief warrant officer SWO, I would like to add a thought to Commander Rankin’s article regarding restricting SWO qualification. CWOs and limited duty officer (LDO) designators are line and staff officers respectively. The history of naval warfare shows numerous instances in which a junior officer has gone to the bridge of a ship engaged in battle only to find the bridge crew and captain dead or dying; the officer would then take charge and continue to fight the ship.
If we’re not going to train our CWOs/LDOs to qualify as SWOs, at least show them where the 1MC microphone is on the bridge. That way they can make the announcement to abandon ship while the ship sits waiting for the next round of incoming ordnance.
—CWO3 Brian Fogarty, USN (Ret.)
Smooth the Transition to Freshwater
(See M. Diaz-Rolon, pp. 16–17, November 2018)
I read Petty Officer Diaz-Rolon’s contribution with interest. He discusses a subject that is not usually given high priority—leaving the service. I would like to add a question: Is a person who has elected to leave the service for whatever reason unconsciously or even consciously penalized?
I once listened to a meeting where recommendations for end-of-tour awards were being evaluated for submission. One participant objected to a recommendation because the individual under consideration was planning to separate. She stood highly among her peers, and though she was not in my department, I knew her work ethic to be superlative. The recommendation was withdrawn and her exceptional performance was dismissed.
I suspect this was not a unique occurrence. Irrespective of a person’s destination on leaving a command, shouldn’t exceptional duty performance be recognized? I strongly feel that it should.
—SCPO Paul H. Sayles, USN (Ret.)
Correct the Navy’s Character Problem
(See J. Moore, pp. 70–73, February 2019)
In the mid-1980s, I was serving as a damage-control assistant on the USS Worden (CG-18). Following a grueling but successful training cycle and a deployment which included short-notice assignment to the Middle East Force in the wake of the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark (FFG-31), we returned home to face an inspection and survey. Our ship and crew were exhausted, and the 25-year-old Worden failed miserably.
I expected a poor fitness report because of damage-control failures but instead received a good report from my commanding officer (CO). During my detachment interview, the CO (who had won the Stockdale Award during his O-5 command) smiled and said, “Not long ago, I was regarded as one of the best COs in the fleet. Now our superior in command says I can’t steam, I can’t shoot, and I can’t fight fires; asking me, ‘What can you do?’”
I had a reputation as a harsh CO, but I also seldom fired anyone who could correct his mistakes, accepting accountability myself. I learned that lesson from my CO in the Worden.
During a tour as operations officer on the USS Ouellet (FF-1077), an incident occurred when we were at sea training near Hawaii. The Ouellet was a Knox-class frigate with a single screw powered by a superheated steam plant composed of two boilers and one steam turbine. Our first night out, one of the boilers suffered severe salt contamination due in part to operator error, forcing plant shut down.
One possible course of action would have been to light off the plant with the other boiler. There was, however, a small but very real chance that doing so would have contaminated it.
The CO, therefore, faced a choice. He could risk damaging his ship further but—if the light-off was successful—potentially return to port with no one the wiser. Or, he could limit the damage but endure the ignominy of being towed in. The CO chose the latter, so that his ship could be repaired and returned to service more quickly, even at the cost of public humiliation.
I faced a similar dilemma in my own command and made a similar choice. My CO in the Ouellet taught me to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and to endure the personal consequences to serve a greater good.
These two COs and many other men and women with whom I have served taught me this basic lesson over and over again. They, and others like them, far outnumber those who have failed the character test. Before we tamper with a system that continues to produce such outstanding naval leaders, we should also examine the causes of our successes, building character with as much vigor as we examine the causes of our failures.
—CAPT Thomas Beall, USN (Ret.)
The February Proceedings
The cyber issue was interesting. One clear lesson is that the military must be prepared to operate without cyber capabilities. Thirty years ago, we aviators practiced operating without many of our instruments and radio aids because we knew, at some point, we would find them not functioning. In advanced training we learned to recover from spins without external references using just the three most basic instruments: needle, ball, and airspeed indicator. Our aircraft navigators even practiced celestial navigation.
The articles had nice scenarios; I only hope they actually can be accomplished.
—MAJ Michael D. Woods, USMC (Ret.)
Focus on the Main Tasks
(See L. Picotte and K. Larson, pp. 12–13, February 2019)
I agree with the authors’ recommendations and would add the following:
As a surface warfare officer (SWO) maybe one-third of a generation younger than the authors, I had the opportunity to serve through the transition from refresher training (REFTRA) to the current methodology, which involves a series of periodic visits to the ships, progressively increasing combat readiness.
In the old days, those not passing stayed at REFTRA until they got it right. Today’s shorter visits put nowhere near the same stress on a crew. Nor does today’s program comprise a dedicated period of several weeks or the crew’s sole focus until success.
Does the current process result in a combat-ready ship and crew? Maybe. Does it result in a ship that is as disciplined, trained, and combat stress–resistant as we once had with REFTRA? Probably not.
Proponents of today’s methodology argue the way we train ensures a “continuum of readiness” instead of peaks and valleys. While that view certainly has merit, I believe the level of combat readiness we achieved from REFTRA was much higher, and when a ship finished an intense month of REFTRA, the crew was unified, with a sense of accomplishment I’m not convinced we see today.
The Royal Navy still trains with a first-class program, similar to the old REFTRA, called Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST). The U.S. Navy has occasionally put ships through FOST, in particular destroyers stationed in Rota, Spain. Perhaps FOST should be the model for a new REFTRA.
The authors say that “It takes 20 years to get 20 years of experience and it best not be one year 20 times.” Amen! If middle-of-the-pack SWOs continue to get assigned to important operational afloat staffs while the “fast trackers” are busy tackling joint tours, getting D.C. experience, etc., the SWO community needs to take a fresh look on what tickets need to be punched to keep SWOs competitive.
Command at sea should be the top priority and goal. All else is secondary.
—CAPT Tony Heimer, USN (Ret).
Converting Merchant Ships to Missile Ships for the Win
(See R. Harris, et al., Proceedings Today, January 2019)
Captain Harris and the other authors omit a glaring problem. The current ratio of U.S. warships to Chinese warships is better than the ratio of U.S.-flagged or owned merchant ships to their Chinese equivalents. In 2014, there were roughly 2,000 merchant ships owned and registered in China. In the United States, there were about 300. Trends have continued over the last four years and the ratio is worse now, according to the Center for Naval Analyses and the CIA World Factbook. A U.S. effort to weaponize merchant shipping is an arms race we cannot win—and would do far better to avoid.
In addition, we are already far behind our competitors in the use and creation of maritime paramilitary forces. The Chinese Coast Guard is significantly larger than the U.S. Coast Guard, and China has a third maritime force—the People’s Maritime Militia (PMM). The PMM has hundreds of additional vessels that have been employed in domestic and international disputes. Most notable was an incident where hundreds of PMM ships gathered near the disputed Senkaku islands to confront a single Japanese Coast Guard vessel.
Militarized U.S.-flagged merchantmen set a precedent for blurring the line between commercial and military shipping. The U.S. merchant fleet is so depleted that the head of the Maritime Administration has warned that his agency would be challenged to support sealift operations even in an uncontested environment, let alone a contested one. He added that the United States will run out of qualified mariners before it runs out of ships, a problem for any plan to operate armed merchant ships. A cursory glance at the vessel ratios makes it clear that the United States has nothing to gain from this, and instead should seriously worry about Chinese efforts to carry out something similar.
Proposals to arm amphibious ships with vertical-launch systems are far more reasonable. Arming the Merchant Marine is a proposal that would have made a lot of sense decades ago but the lack of available U.S. shipping makes it a nonstarter today. Naval construction should be focused on rebuilding our sealift capacity and building more capable future platforms.
—1stLt Walker D. Mills USMC
Losing the Great Pacific War
(See D. Burnett and C. McMahon, pp. 40–43, January 2019)
I agree entirely with the authors. The U.S.-flagged Merchant Marine problem is not new. I was executive officer at the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS)—now referred to as Military Sealift Command—offices at Pusan, Korea, and Houston, Texas, during 1966–1967. There was a critical shipping shortage caused by the Vietnam War, particularly for intracoastal movements in Vietnam. To help alleviate this shortage, the MSTS Pusan office implemented a program where Republic of Korea Navy Reserve personnel were discharged one day and hired as MSTS civilians the next, then assigned to USNS vessels.
When I left the Pusan office, Korean crews manned nine LSTs, three Victory class, and one C1-M-AV1-class coastal freighter in support of Vietnam shipping. I believe a similar program was implemented using Japanese personnel.
Proceedings published an article of mine in 1992 where I briefly addressed, among other things, the Merchant Marine crewing problem (“Forgotten Strategy, Forgotten Ships,” December 1992, p. 75). In it, I quoted Ken Gerasimos, National Director for the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, whose remark has stuck in my mind ever since: “I’m going through the graveyard with heat sensors looking for guys.”
The authors also address the lack of escort support for merchant shipping. (Perhaps an “escort module” could be made for the LCS class.) When I was with MSTS, ships of 460–560-foot length were the norm. Now, MSC operates 20 or so T-AKR ships of 850–950 feet; the Ready Reserve Force has about 14 with lengths above 700 feet and about 32 longer than 600 feet. More important, their cargo capacity is monstrous compared to past vessels. For example, the T-AKRs have 380,000 square feet of vehicle space and can carry 1,000 military vehicles, including 60 M1 Abrams tanks.
The loss of any one of these ships could be extremely harmful and tragic to the troops missing their tanks and material, not even counting the lives lost or economic and replacement costs of the ships themselves.
—Winn B. Frank, Golden Life Member
Breaking Faith with America’s Coast Guard
(See P. Zukunft, Proceedings Today, January 2019)
This Senseless Government Shutdown Is Harming Coast Guard Families
(See T. Allen, Proceedings Today, January 2019)
When I entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I believed that I would be proud to serve my country. My uncle was a graduate, and attending the Academy had been a lifelong goal of mine. My intention was to be a professional officer, proud to serve my country. At graduation I felt honored to receive a commission—one which Alexander Hamilton said would “attach [me] to [my] duty with a nicer sense of personal honor.”
I now see that I was wrong. The current administration is treating today’s Coast Guard active duty men and women—and its civilian employees—not as professionals “attach[ed] . . . to their duty” but as hired hands. The administration is not even “attached” to its own duties. It can’t even write paychecks to seamen and junior petty officers who can’t go a week without pay, never mind months or years. It demands loyalty, but it appears unwilling to give loyalty in return.
In other times and other places this has not always been so. In World War II, British Field Marshal Sir William Slim told his subordinates “I tell you as officers, that you will not eat, sleep, smoke, sit down, or lie down until your soldiers have had a chance to do these things. If you hold to this, they will follow you to the ends of the earth. If you do not, I will break you in front of your regiments!”
I don’t expect this administration to meet that standard. I do expect them to write people’s paychecks.
I think it’s time to reconsider if the Coast Guard is a calling or if it’s just a job. I’m no longer sure.
—CDR Peter Olsen, USCGR (Ret.)
Guard the Coast from High-End Threats
(See B. Smicklas, pp. 44–49, February 2019)
Commander Smicklas calls on today’s Coast Guard to do what its name implies, guard the coast! He notes that many in today’s Coast Guard “do not readily understand—or capably forecast—the threats posed by revisionist powers and rogue regimes to maritime homeland defense.”
The Coast Guard’s leaders must revisit the missions and roles of the new cutter fleet and align them as an active partner leading the U.S. Navy in homeland defense. The Coast Guard’s new fleet of highly capable cutters, replacing the 25–50-year-old Legend-class, have been designed to be outfitted with upgraded weapon systems. Now, rather than later, is the time to place them on board cutters in commission and in production. We must focus on training operators and repair technicians and establishing parts inventories. Building the necessary skills to operate and fight the new capabilities takes time and resources—time we will not have when conflict has begun.
Russia, China, or rogue regimes do not have to send fleets of naval vessels to our shores. Replicating World War I and II tactics, commercial vessels with minelaying capabilities (dropping mines as simple as the Mark 5 or ultra-modern ones purchased from an adversary) will close our ports. The Coast Guard must have the capability to reopen them quickly and not sit pier side awaiting the arrival of the U.S. Navy or some ally. Let us build the new cutter fleet with an eye toward the future, prepared to fight tomorrow’s battles, instead of needing to relearn history’s lessons.
The 418-foot national security cutters, 360-foot offshore patrol cutters, and 154-foot fast response cutters must be equipped with antisubmarine and mine countermeasure systems to deal with any current and future threats lurking in our littoral regions.
—CAPT John J. Marks, USCGR (Ret.), Life Member
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) and Charleston (LCS-18) Join the Fleet
The Navy commissioned the USS Tulsa (LCS-16) during a ceremony at Pier 30/32 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California, on 16 February 2019.
The Tulsa is the second Navy ship named for the second-largest city in Oklahoma. The first, a gunboat (PG-22), served from 1923–1946 and received two battle stars for service in World War II. The second Tulsa was laid down on 11 January 2016 at Mobile, Alabama, by Austal USA; was christened on 11 February 2017; and is sponsored by a former mayor of Tulsa, Mrs. Kathryn L. Taylor.
The Navy will commission the USS Charleston (LCS-18) during a ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina, on 2 March 2019.
The Charleston is the sixth Navy ship to be named after the city of Charleston, South Carolina. Previous ships named Charleston dating back to 1798 include a galley, a protected cruiser, a cruiser, a gunboat, and an amphibious cargo ship. The sixth Charleston was laid down on 28 June 2016 at Mobile, Alabama, by Austal USA; was launched on 14 September 2017; and is sponsored by Mrs. Charlotte Riley, wife of Charleston’s former mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr.