Ship driving is the foundation of being a surface warfare officer (SWO). But as you become more senior, you get less and less conning time. My first ship had a very hands-on commanding officer (CO), and all the junior officers (JOs) had a chance in the role of captain’s parrot while conning in and out of port. I wanted to show my CO that I was engaged by giving the bridge crew my intentions before the CO gave me orders. One day, the CO sat down during sea-and-anchor, and I was shocked—I had gained the captain’s confidence.
Within two years, we were in the Persian Gulf, and I was one of the Condition III officers of the deck (OODs). I relied heavily on my junior OODs during those war zone watches. One, in particular, was a great asset. We developed great teamwork while the ship conducted helicopter operations, looked for floating mines, dealt with rogue waves, cleared the foc’sle when the combat information center unexpectedly loaded our Mk 13 launcher with missiles, and maneuvered to unmask our best fire-control radar while closing an Iranian/Iraqi dogfight.
All JOODs should try a similar approach. Show the OOD you are engaged in the entire watch, not just the conning aspects. We assume all SWOs are more-than-capable shiphandlers. Learn by doing!
—CDR Allen Stubblefield, USN (Ret.)
I continue to read articles that subscribe to the notion that the Navy’s goal in mine countermeasures should be to “take sailors out of the minefield.”
That’s wrong. The Navy’s goal is to get ships and sailors safely through the minefield.
—CAPT Robert B. O’Donnell, USN (Ret.)
Each submarine issue of Proceedings brings me two things: new information and a walk down memory lane. Lieutenant Howard’s commentary engendered thoughts of some of the pleasant memories of my time in submarines. Although an officer as young as this could not have met Admiral Rickover, in surprising ways, she knows him (based, obviously, on fine research). Moreover, she sees clearly the place she holds in the submarine force of her time and speaks truth to leadership.
Among the several crisp points she makes, one struck me as words to consider from a 360-degree perspective: “Submarining is a social translation of highly technical material.” A leader of high ability is on her way to being Number Three in SSN-796.
After selection by Admiral Rickover as one of the first dozen medical officers for the nuclear power program, I had the good fortune to serve under and with some of the great leaders of the Cold War, including Hal Shear, Bob Long, Art Moreau, Wally Schlech, Reuben Woodall, and Bob Douglass, among many others. I would have gone confidently to a shooting war with them; I would do the same with Lieutenant Howard.
—CAPT Jack Baker, USN (Ret.), Life Member
I think an error is made in the caption of the photo of Captain McCulley. The caption states he is wearing an enlisted submarine warfare device.
What he is wearing are the dolphins he received when he qualified on submarines. All qualified “boat sailors” are allowed to wear the dolphins.
I don’t know if any submarine warfare pins have been earned since the end of World War II.
—Bob Walters, former FTU3(SS), Life Member
As a foreign area officer (FAO), I read Lieutenant Commander Zeberlein’s article with great interest. While small air wing engagements such as he proposes would undoubtedly yield the benefits he suggests, they are currently infeasible without significant administrative planning and reform to DoD passport and visa practices.
According to the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, most non-allied partner nations require personnel arriving by air to have an official visa in an official (brown) passport. In the Indo-Pacific, this means aircrew and maintainers necessary to launch/recover/repair detachment aircraft can enter only Australia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore on a DoD ID card because of status of forces agreements (SOFA). All other partners require official passports/visas.
Unfortunately, carrier squadrons do not regularly secure official passports for their personnel because there is no requirement to do so, and doing so is administratively burdensome. Even if a squadron designated detachment personnel before deployment, it would need to allow at least six weeks to process no-fee “Special Issuance Passports” through the DoD Passport and Visa Office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
More onerous, however, is that the DoD Passport and Visa Office is the single point of contact (and failure) with embassies in Washington, through which all official visa requests also must go. Given that the international system has yet to transition to electronic passports, securing a visa for an emergent expeditionary opportunity would necessitate retrieving the hard copy passport from the carrier and express shipping it to Washington. There, it will sit at the DoD Passport and Visa Office for at least two weeks (but typically upward of four) for processing, with no military ability to expedite. Then the shipping process must be performed in reverse.
The maritime patrol community regularly deals with such foreign clearance issues and no doubt has much to teach carrier air wings in terms of planning and training for these inflexible bureaucratic processes. Overcoming these hurdles would greatly enhance access to partner nations for operational maneuver in conflict should an air wing have to flush to expeditionary air bases if its carrier takes significant battle damage. It is naïve to think that, in the event of a crisis, the Department of State will be able to expedite permissions for the pervasive/permissive movement of U.S. forces in and out of a partner’s sovereign territory, particularly when China is influencing that nation’s government not to permit any. Much more likely is flexibility on who issues a visa and where. However, personnel will still need a book to stamp it in. For want of a passport, the kingdom was lost.
—CAPT Josh Taylor, USN
In July 1982, as a young lieutenant, I won a medal in the Naval Institute’s annual “Vincent Astor Memorial Leadership Essay Contest.” My essay focused on fusing the traits of charismatic leadership with administrative activity.
I learned years later that Admiral Hyman Rickover, the four-star officer in command of Navy nuclear power, read it closely, underlining many passages. Overall, he seemed to find the article and its author wanting. In one place, he wrote: “After reading all this, I believe [Lieutenant Stavridis] could be a leader in a nut-house—if the rest of the inmates were like him.”
In another place, he underlined a sentence I had written: “There is a place for charisma and a place for administration; but both sides must work and develop together to ensure that we can close the gap in naval leadership.” In the margin, he added, “in the chapel”!
Admiral Rickover would probably have been astounded and no doubt displeased that the young author himself went on to have four stars and multiple commands.
—ADM James Stavridis, USN (Ret.)
As a damage control officer (DCO) who is close to completing the intelligence officer training pipeline, I want to amplify Lieutenant Adornato’s suggestion that the Navy consider using retired littoral combat ships (LCSs) to enhance DCO training.
My training to date has been valuable and enjoyable. In Newport, I fought fires in a “ship’s boiler room” “aboard” a three-story building. I plugged leaks in the USS Buttercup while “sailing” in its custom-built pool. In Dam Neck, by contrast, I analyzed ISR data feeds from my schoolhouse desk that were also being assessed by sailors underway. I identified the ships of adversaries on the screen of my laptop while in my hotel room. However, I am sure that I will feel—and perhaps be—underprepared when I mobilize for duty underway and ask permission to come aboard a ship knowing the ocean for the first time.
Experiential learning opportunities on board a retired LCS would be incredibly valuable—from mastering simple tasks, such as movement on board, to more complex ones, such as coordinating use of ship systems. Such a floating schoolhouse would undoubtedly make me and other prospective sailors better prepared to be of immediate service. I urge those charged with developing the training pipeline—as well as those charged with funding it—to give serious consideration to this opportunity. There are no more prepared sailors than those who know the sea.
—LTJG Graham Chynoweth, USN
Lieutenant Adornato provides some interesting suggestions for the use of LCSs in the future, but, unfortunately, he misses the most obvious one: Transfer them to the Coast Guard! If you compare the general characteristics of the Freedom-variant LCS with the Heritage-class cutter currently being constructed, you will see many similarities in length, beam, displacement, and draft.
The LCS seems well-suited to perform essentially the same missions as the Heritage class. The big advantage is that the LCSs are available now, bought and paid for by the Navy. Transfer to the Coast Guard would avoid the construction costs being essentially wasted by decommissioning them. In addition, accepting these ships would allow the Coast Guard to decommission its older ships, potentially saving ship maintenance costs.
Obviously, the Coast Guard would need to review manning and maintenance requirements to ensure that both are sustainable and cost-effective. In addition, the Navy would need to commit to providing the funding and other resources needed to correct class-wide defects in the propulsion and other systems.
—CDR Lawrence D. Tupper, USN (Ret.)
The change in mindset among naval aviators that Ensign Clark recommends in her insightful essay will be key to the effectiveness of the Navy’s warfighting capabilities in future years. The examples she gave of the Navy’s transition from sail to steam and the resistance of officers reluctant to give up the “white cloud of sail” above their decks are very much on point.
I am not a naval aviator. But as a former surface warfare and public affairs officer, I can identify to some degree with the struggle the aviation community is going through. It is hard to give up your place at the top of the heap after training and working so hard to get there. Ensign Clark cites the failure of the DASH unmanned helicopter program and the competition between pilots and naval flight officers as examples. Some years ago, the operators of Air Force unmanned aircraft systems met fierce resistance from the pilot community when they asked to wear a special badge recognizing their role as “pilots,” because they controlled aircraft from a console on the ground.
Technology can be faceless and impersonal, lacking the human touch. But technology is becoming more and more dominant in certain areas of naval aviation. It is time the Navy’s pilot community—from those in the cockpit to the top of the command structure—recognize this fact, adapt to it, and move forward in unity to ensure that the Navy will dominate the air space in any future conflict.
—CAPT Bill Heard, USNR (Ret.)
Bravo to Lieutenant Commander Walsh for speaking truth to power in this article. I have argued this very course of action in published print since 2014 (Cicero Magazine, “‘Sitting Ducks’: Move Carriers Out of the Gulf, into the Mediterranean”) and then alluded to it again in the Marine Corps’ Journal of Advanced Military Studies in 2020 (“Carriers and Amphibs,” fall 2020). The message bears repeating as the Navy struggles to meet the demands of geographic combatant commanders, who undervalue the capacity of land-based air power to solve many of their “signaling” problems.
If the world were not going through a period of renewed great power competition with China and Russia on the one hand and the United States and the West on the other, then perhaps aircraft carrier deployments to the Persian Gulf would make some sort of sense (if kept under six months). However, the current geopolitical situation, as Walsh points out, does not allow for this, and long transit times for carriers and escorts to and from the Persian Gulf further degrade their material condition, to say nothing of their availability for more important theaters to the east and west of the Strait of Hormuz.
Walsh’s most important point involves “media perception” and how the media often drives the operational bus for carriers and “impedes focus” on the larger strategic picture of competition with China and Russia. Central Command commanders do little to counter unfortunate media narratives, perhaps, as Walsh implies, because they are limited in their strategic vision. In fact, at times, it seems they encourage such narratives. At worst, these commanders are being careerist and self-aggrandizing at the expense of other theaters and certainly to the detriment of the material readiness of the fleet for the larger strategic continuum.
—CDR John T. Kuehn, USN (Ret.)
Bravo zulu! Lieutenant Booth and Auxiliarist Snell hit the proverbial nail on its head.
The Coast Guard does release current events news articles that are widely read internally yet receive near zero distribution through mainstream media. Those who wear or wore the Coast Guard uniform often see this as preaching to the choir.
Sadly, the loss of forward progress and incorporation into any academic training along the line of Vice Admiral Hamlet’s expectations are an injustice to all “Coasties”! If it were not for my desire to learn more about the Coast Guard’s history, I would not have read a variety of publications written on the subject, thus understanding and knowing little other than current events.
I hope and desire that their article inspires Coast Guard leaders to encapsulate and instill within all members of the Coast Guard family—active, reserve, auxiliary, and civilian—an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the 232-year history of the organization.
—CAPT John Marks, USCGR (Ret.), Life Member
The August 2022 “Focus on the Coast Guard” Proceedings encourages the Coast Guard and (ideally) all the Sea Services to remember and reflect on their heritage. So, it is helpful that the photo of the survivor from the USS Lansdale (DD-426) on page 89 provides that very portal.
The Lansdale was one of the screen ships for Convoy UGS-38 (United States–Gibraltar, slow) attacked by the Luftwaffe and U-boats in the Mediterranean on 20 April 1944. The convoy was escorted by Coast Guard cutters and destroyer-escorts assigned to the Coast Guard, including the USCGC Duane (WHEC-33), USS Menges (DE-320), Pride (DE-323), and Falgout (DE-324). As noted, the Lansdale was lost, but the archival photo memorializes the successful rescue of 232 of her men.
Also lost in the attack on UGS-38 that the escorts valiantly defended was the troop-carrying Liberty ship SS Paul Hamilton, which, when hit, was vaporized with the loss of her entire complement of 580 crew and troops.
As Lieutenant Booth and Mr. Snell so aptly note, there is much to honor in Coast Guard history. That single Proceedings photo opens many more passageways to pride.
—CDR John M. Yunker Sr., USN (Ret.)
Well done to Captain Walsh. We should prepare for what is most likely. A massive naval war with China or Russia is possible but unlikely. The disastrous effects of climate change—massive property damage and loss of life from flooding, food shortages, droughts, wildfires, and ever-worsening storms—are here with us right now, and they are only going to get worse.
—CDR Ed Griffith, USNR (Ret.)
The USNS Maury
Recently, retired Navy Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet has provided compelling arguments for naming an oceanographic research ship after the late Dr. Walter Munk, a true giant in our nation’s marine science endeavor. A more fitting tribute would be difficult to envision. However, he went on to suggest changing the name of the USNS Maury (T-AGS-66), an existing research ship. Now, the Naming Commission, tasked with purging names associated with the Confederacy, has made the same recommendation.
Known as the “Pathfinder of the Seas” and the “Father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology,” Matthew Maury founded the Naval Observatory and is credited with organizing what became a worldwide system of assembling, collating, and categorizing ocean data. Collecting and reading through thousands of ships’ logbooks, he published that information in The Physical Geography of the Seas and Its Meteorology, just one of his many publications and accomplishments.
When the Civil War began he, like hundreds of thousands of other Americans, faced a choice of serving with the Union or returning to his home state. He resigned his naval commission and subsequently served the Confederacy as envoy to Great Britain and France. After the Civil War, he was pardoned and began an academic career.
If at that time the U.S. government—with the horrific loss of life from its most destructive war fresh in national memory—could pardon his service with the South, why can’t we continue to recognize and honor his service both before and after the conflict and his phenomenal contributions to oceanographic science? Removing the name of this pioneer marine scientist from the ship would be a cheap, gratuitous, and pusillanimous piece of virtue signaling.
—CAPT Daniel S. Schwartz, USMM (Ret.)
American Sea Power Dialogue
Mr. Hone and Lieutenant Vorm propose that intellectual readiness is critical to formulating a competitive strategy that can prepare the Navy for “technological and doctrinal surprises.” Given the probability that China now has the capability to execute such surprises, the article emerges as an urgent call to action to evaluate the readiness of the Navy’s personnel, especially the intermediate-officer ranks.
When the authors identify the importance of flexibility that emphasizes military options and a finely tuned focus on the preparation of personnel, they are presenting a framework for planners that can produce the intellectual readiness competitive advantage. Although the article’s formula for personnel training appears very general, Lieutenant Vorm has prepared an extensive report, Intellectual Readiness for Emerging Technologies, submitted in June 2022 to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to better understand what intellectual readiness looks like. Using crowdsourcing techniques, Vorm identified 12 characteristics that lay the foundation for future innovative training. For readers serious about strategic planning for greater naval power and effective preparation of personnel, the report is a must-read.
The article proposes that “existing [strategic planning] processes cannot be sacred.” Hone and Vorm see the creation of an effective ecosystem that encourages experimentation, but achieving the ecosystem will be a daunting challenge. To incorporate intellectual readiness, planners will need more direction. Given Vorm’s 12 characteristics, I would like to see the authors create a compelling model for strategic planners and policy-makers to use when creating training and trainers.
The Chinese education system discourages the intellectual creativity and the upending of existing “sacred” processes that are so crucial to intellectual readiness. Indeed, the tradition-based system for centuries was and is exam-based, with a heavy emphasis on rote memorization. Intellectual readiness in Hone and Vorm’s sense is probably one of the last attributes one would expect of China’s military establishment, let alone its intermediate officers.
China’s shortcomings in this area should not distract U.S. naval planners. Hone and Vorm’s advice presents a real opportunity to gain a critical and vital competitive advantage for great power competition.