While Lieutenant Commander Meadors is unquestionably correct that cyberwarfare directed against the maritime sector is an extremely serious threat, his proposed solution to create a naval cyberwar force leads to the familiar duplication, waste, and needless interservice competition that already confounds military readiness.
As the author says, what Cyber Command does, if anything, is hidden “behind a veil of classification.” One thing it should be doing is providing tactical cyberwar teams to each military service. Just as Air Force combat controllers are embedded with Army infantry units, and Navy corpsmen provide the Marines Corps’ medical capability, Cyber Command personnel should be stationed with the naval, ground, and air combat units that need them. That would enable one training process and facility (physical or virtual) and expedite communication of new attacks and defenses—or even better, counterattacks—among cyber warriors who speak the same language and use the same hardware and software. Rotating the cyberwar teams among the services would provide them with a broad range of experience that would offer knowledge that would help them do their jobs.
In other words: more tooth, less tail.
—Mitchell R. Miller
The Rise of Wokeness In the Military
Recently I was asked my opinion on an article entitled, “The Rise of Wokeness in the Military” (by Thomas Spoehr, director, Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation). I am flattered that I was asked, given that I have been retired for more than 30 years and virtually no one wants my opinion; but I was asked, so here goes.
First, note that Lieutenant General Spoehr has also been retired for quite some time. It may be that he keeps up better than do I, but you can bet the active-duty hierarchy will pay as much attention to him as they do me, which is not a lot—although what they do pay is a lot of politeness. What he writes will have no impact on force readiness; his audience is the “worried well” in the retired ranks.
Regarding my own background. I was commanding officer (CO) of an A-4 squadron in combat, and that was easy. Despite the risks, everyone from the lowest-ranking mess cook to each pilot in the squadron knew we had a mission to execute, and they all turned to on it. Even those few who thought we were wrong to be involved in that war in that place did so.
A few years later I took command of the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), a command ship homeported in Norfolk when Admiral Elmo Zumwalt was Chief of Naval Operations and race riots were breaking out throughout the fleet. How did I handle that? By communicating with the crew. Daily informal morning briefs on the 1MC telling everyone at once what we were doing, why and when we were going to do it, and assuring them that their lead petty officers, their chiefs, their division officers, and I were all on the same side. There were diktats from on high in those days, too, but we managed to incorporate them into our daily briefs and walkarounds.
Specifically, in port or at sea, I would walk the ship daily and have all kinds of informal conversations with the crew, individually and in groups. That worked in the Mount Whitney and later in the USS Saratoga (CV-60), too. Yes, we had a lot of crazy programs levied on us from Washington in those days, but a crew—almost any human being—puts most trust in those closest to it. Don’t misunderstand: We complied with the programs dictated out of Washington, but we relied on good old leadership and common sense.
Things may seem different now, especially with women and many races, colors, and creeds on board and in new roles. No matter the differences, they are all people. Fads such as “wokeness” will come and go, but any leader who keeps his people informed as to what the unit’s mission is and what is expected of them, provides the proper training and tools, and then cheers them on will succeed.
As for all the other stuff toward the end of Lieutenant General Spoehr’s piece, I suggest they are part and parcel of leadership. With very limited exceptions, leaders get the people they are assigned. (To put it another way: They must deal with the deck they are dealt). It is up to the leaders to be sure everyone—regardless of creed, class, sex, or color—has the necessary training, keep them informed, and cheer them on. They don’t need the administration, or Congress, or staffers, think tanks, or even retired people to tell them how to do it. If any of them do, there is always relief for cause . . . a good cause.
—VADM Robert F. Dunn, USN (Ret.)
Readers of this publication’s mine warfare offerings know the formula for beginning such articles: Provide several paragraphs intended to communicate the significance of the mine threat. Use historical references within these paragraphs as evidence. In this evidence, include statements such as “More ships have been damaged by mines than by any other type of weapon system since World War II”; or “We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre–World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ;” or “A $10,000 mine took out a billion dollar warship.”
I enjoyed Captain Belt’s retelling of his experience on the morning of 19 February 1991, because it did us the courtesy of recognizing there was more to the USS Tripoli (LPH-10) and Princeton (CG-59) mine strikes than a headline. He provided historical detail from which real lessons could be learned.
Of those, the most glaring was the demand for a capability that could shepherd the wounded Princeton out of the minefield. U.S. doctrine describes a leadthrough as a navigation exercise in which a better navigation system leads a ship with a less capable one through a cleared channel. Perhaps it was with this definition in mind that today’s evolving mine countermeasures force was designed with a decided lack of a leadthrough capability (i.e., a forward-looking hull-mounted sonar) in favor of systems that would keep the “man out of the minefield.”
This phrase points to another lesson from February 1991. The boundaries of the minefield will not necessarily align with the published mine threat area coordinates of the mine warfare commander’s operational task. The Tripoli, Princeton, USS Beaufort (ATS-2), and other ships in company found themselves inside. If our enemy places minefields, it will remain difficult to stay out of them.
—CAPT Elliott J. Donald, USN (Ret.)
If there were just one article from Proceedings I would require Navy and Marine Corps leaders to read, it would be “The Myth of Maritime Counterinsurgency.” China is not engaged in any type of conquest in the South China Sea. It is the United States that has engaged in fruitless wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan while China has improved its infrastructure.
We have no “long tradition of excellence in low-intensity conflict.” We are the best at blowing up anything; what we cannot do is fight a war. Since the Korean War ended more than 69 years ago, we have not only lost nearly every war we have tried to fight, we have lost it decisively and embarrassingly while our military and civilian leaders insisted we were winning.
—CDR Ed Griffith, USNR (Ret.)
I really enjoyed Lieutenant Gillette’s article. I don’t know of a more fundamental topic for our maritime community than being a conning officer and officer of the deck. There is some irony in its appearance in this special edition featuring naval aviation (which I also enjoyed), but I have always assumed—as a surface warfare officer and former ship captain—that all naval officers are ship drivers at heart.
I liked the emphasis on using the senses and not getting your head buried in checklists or in the equipment. Although I do remember desperately hugging the compass repeater on the bridge of the USS Long Beach (CGN-9) on a very black midwatch many years ago, steaming in the South China Sea in a lights-out checkerboard formation of 20 vessels. On our port side was HMAS Melbourne, an aircraft carrier famous for cutting a destroyer in half. So, yes, I did my best to keep my head up and senses engaged.
Let me also commend the Naval Institute for presenting so many excellent articles by active-duty and junior officers. It is refreshing to hear their perspectives and have the community profit from their experience.
—CAPT Thomas M. Keithly, USN (Ret.)
I vehemently disagree with the “drill, drill, drill” mentality, at least until the process by which we drill changes. The current method (at least, the one I have witnessed) revolves around introducing a casualty, responding to the casualty, securing from the drill, conducting a debrief with the damage control training team (DCTT) in which it chides the in-port emergency team (IET) for performing poorly, and then repeating with no change in result. This process only reinforces to sailors that they are doing things wrong without actually teaching them the correct way to “fight the ship.”
Using the training “EDGE” (explain, demonstrate, guide, enable) would provide better results. Here is how we can apply EDGE on board ships:
• Have DCTT explain how to fight the casualty (fire, flooding, structural damage, medical, etc.) via a “talk-through walk-through”
• Have DCTT members demonstrate how to properly respond to a simulated casualty; e.g., dress-out in firefighting ensembles and man hose teams
• Have DCTT guide the IET through a simulated casualty in “training mode”
• Have DCTT run drills with each duty section’s IET in “assessment mode”
The concept of a repair locker in a container is a brilliant idea that all ships can use in maintenance availabilities. However, skippers must be careful so that adding more large boxes does not increase the already terrible congestion on piers. This could make bringing firefighting vehicles to the scene of a shipboard fire even more difficult.
A few other proposals would help improve firefighting capabilities in the fleet:
• Give the Coast Guard the authority and capability (fireboats) to act as an afloat fire service.
• At a minimum, all duty section personnel should be qualified as scene leaders. All officers and chiefs should qualify as repair party leaders (RPLs). Prospective surface warfare officers have only been required to qualify as RPLs since 2019.
• Assign enough members to the IET so members can still stand watch without needing a relief. Antiterrorism force protection watches have been successfully manned this way.
• Base firefighters must spend more time on board ships becoming familiar with their general layout, perhaps drilling once per month on ships of different classes.
• Send sailors to Basic Shipboard Firefighting more often. I know this will stress the schoolhouses, but nothing beats the learning opportunity afforded by being able to put actual agents on a live fire.
Think of these as the firefighting equivalents of sending bridge watchstanders to the navigation, seamanship, and shiphandling training simulators.
—LT Anthony Carrillo, USN
Chief Null’s excellent article reminded me of an experience I had many years ago as a crewman on a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat. A distress call came in for a commercial party boat on fire with 30 persons on board. The nearest harbormaster declined to respond, as the position was well outside his jurisdiction—five miles offshore. The nearby Coast Guard station sent a 41-foot utility boat (UTB). But my 25-foot boat was already underway, was two miles closer, and had a significant speed advantage.
We knew that we would be on our own for at least 10 minutes. I started to plot a course, only to put away my chart and parallel rulers when we rounded a headland and spotted the column of black smoke.
We had a crew of three, plus weight of equipment equivalent to a fourth, on a boat rated for no more than 13 people. There was no way we could have taken 30 individuals on board without swamping or capsizing. We did have a nonstandard portable pump, a length of hose, and a firefighting nozzle, capable of pumping maybe 50 gallons per minute (GPM). But any firefighter will tell you that 50 GPM is hopelessly inadequate for an established fire.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary does not fight fires. It is in our boat crew manual, and it is drilled into us in training. We knew we did not have the resources to fight the fire. Our plan was to approach from upwind and place a stream of water between the fire and the passengers. We hoped just to buy some time until the passengers could be evacuated. The limiting factor was the feebleness of the stream of water. It was a great comfort to know that the UTB was coming up behind us with a 250 GPM fire monitor.
Fortunately, our plan was not tested. The fire was confined to the engine room. After expending all their fire extinguishers, the master and mate had the presence of mind to close the hatch and stuff wet rags into all the ventilators, cutting off the supply of oxygen. It was a wood hull vessel, but despite the heat, the engine room maintained structural integrity and the fire was extinguished.
From this experience I drew two conclusions: (1) There is no clear line between rescue and firefighting—sometimes you need some firefighting capability to complete a rescue successfully, or even to safely approach a burning vessel; and (2) The book is your friend—know the book because it will give you a tool set. But also realize that real life doesn’t follow the book, and sometimes you must improvise with the tools you have.
I concur completely with Chief Null that the Coast Guard should maintain a significant firefighting capability as one of those tools.
—John Mellen, USCG Auxiliary
Chief Minor’s article hits on the bureaucratic nature of our crews today. We need to shift to a focused warrior culture in which everything we do enhances our warfighting competence and our capabilities.
The “what” of the threat is essential for focusing on the “why” and “how” of preparation. I am an old senior chief fire controlman who has seen the shallowness of combat information center (CIC) Conditions 3 and 1 watchstanders over the decades since Vietnam. When you walk onto a bridge underway, you know the focus and sober attention to detail; this discipline needs to be reestablished in our CICs. I believe surface sailors want to be more professional and competent warriors. They should get the professional training they need, and it is of value they recognize it.
—Frank B. Judah
Mr. O’Rourke’s article was most interesting. Aside from rain, fog, high sea state, and spray on the lens, the new laser sounds quite neat.
The question is why all this investment since the Navy has had a potential alternative since 2014 in the development of the electromagnetic rail gun. With the appropriate transformer, condenser, battery, and the like, this “fire and forget” weapon could do the same job with less investment in electric supply, etc.
—C. Henry Depew
Lieutenant Booth and Auxiliarist Snell’s excellent essay discusses the need for the service to share more information about the Coast Guard’s history with its service members. As someone who served in the Coast Guard and is the great, great, great-granddaughter of a Coast Guard service secretary (who named the original Harriet Lane), I agree that more can be done. But a shoutout is needed for everyone who is currently working 110 percent to share the service’s story.
The Coast Guard history team—
Scott Price, Bill Thiesen, and others—are doing an incredible job sharing information about the service on their website. They are aided by Lieutenant Commander April Killian, Donna Vojvodich, and retired Commander Gary Thomas. Gary is the executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History. April and Donna are the “Semper Paratus–Always Ready” (SPAR) experts, and they are sharing the stories of the amazing women who served in World War II.
Last year, the Coast Guard organized a panel at the McMullen Naval History Symposium about women in the Sea Services. Donna talked about SPARs, and a similar panel could be hosted next year to share more information on Coast Guard women. Tony Munoz has published several articles about Coast Guard history in Maritime Executive, educating the greater maritime community about the service. Coast Guard history is also shared at a variety of professional conferences, thanks to retired Navy Rear Admiral Sinclair M. Harris, retired Captain Roy Love, and Captain Emily Bassett.
I encourage all Coasties to write. I started writing and publishing essays about women in the Coast Guard a couple of years ago because I wanted to preserve their stories. No one else was doing it at the time, so I put pen to paper. Others should do the same.
—K. Denise Rucker Krepp, former Coast Guard officer and former Maritime Administration Chief Counsel
I read this article with increasing frustration. I fully agree with the basic premise that to be strategic in its vision and effective in its planning, an organization must learn from its history. Where I differ from the authors is their thesis that the Coast Guard does not take its history seriously. I maintain that the Coast Guard does indeed teach its history to its members in important ways.
Their evidence is that there are no formal college-level academic Coast Guard History courses required for graduation at the Coast Guard Academy, nor at other officer development courses, and that the same is true in the enlisted education and training programs.
At one point they denigrate the value of the history course taught during swab summer, which is “taught . . . by junior officers, not history professors.” First, this statement needs correction. Dr. Amy Donohue, Coast Guard Academy Provost, informed me that “the summer Coast Guard history course is taught by a team that includes senior officers, junior officers, and civilians, with design oversight by a civilian full professor (now dean of the School of Science, Mathematics, and the Humanities).”
Second, the authors imply that the officers of our service are incapable of learning and understanding college-level material and teaching it to undergraduates. I wonder how the Academy has survived all these years with rotational Coast Guard officers teaching cadets in all academic disciplines from math and science to management and government and still maintained its high academic credentials and standing.
But to the main point—that the learning of past actions and events is important to ensure the same failures do not repeat themselves—I agree, and so would the Coast Guard personnel that I have known throughout my career.
The Coast Guard is largely an incident response service. It does not carry out major military movements nor conduct major battles like the Army or Navy, although the Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane did fire the first shot from Union forces in the Civil War. The history of our service includes the heroic rescues by the Life-Saving Service, the mundane but critical operations of the Lighthouse Service, the important if routine regulatory inspections of the Steamboat Inspection Service, and, of course, the antismuggling and coastal protection operations of the Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard, all of which continue to this day. We know our missions, and we have developed strategies and tactics over the years to improve and enhance the effectiveness and safety of our operations.
Ask any aviator about the crash of the C-130 CG-1600, which crashed on Attu with loss of the airframe and two crew, the lessons learned, and how those lessons are reinforced by improved cockpit procedures today. Ask a cutter CO or executive officer about the tragic loss of the USCGC Blackthorn (WLB-391) and the 23 Coast Guard souls who perished, what contributed to the confusion on the bridge that night, and the key lessons learned about critical priorities of operation and command at sea. There are many other examples from our history of critical incidents after which the service has taught the lessons learned from them.
There are also actions in our history with positive outcomes that are taught. For example, those of Signalman First Class Douglass Monro, who sacrificed himself to save a platoon of Marines on Guadalcanal, the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor. Other heroic outcomes include the extended 2005 rescue operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 1952 lifesaving rescue of the crew of the SS Pendleton by CG-36500, and the 1980 rescue of the 500 passengers from the SS Prinsendam by three cutters, the helicopters of USCG Air Station Sitka, and Canadian forces.
At this year’s Coast Guard Academy Convocation, Dr. Donahue quoted from Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s orders charging the new Revenue Cutter captains with their mission and how they were to behave in carrying out their duties. The message she was imparting to the Cadet Corps was that the professionalism expected and being instilled today has been an integral part of the Coast Guard since its inception. There is no better lesson in Coast Guard history than that.
—LCDR Sam Roudebush, Ed.D.,
The August “Asked and Answered” posed the question of which of the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions could be eliminated. Someone suggested that the search-and-rescue mission could be dropped.
He said it was “outdated given commercial resourcing and technological advances removing the need for ‘search.’” I will just mention three incidents as examples of why that is not a good idea. In October 1980, the MS Prinsendam fire in the Gulf of Alaska took the combined efforts of multiple Coast Guard air and sea assets, the Canadian Rescue Service, and the U.S. Air Force to pluck 520 passengers and crew from the sea. In 2008, a Coast Guard high-endurance cutter and helicopter rescued 42 crew members from the fishing vessel Alaska Ranger 180 miles west of Dutch Harbor in the Bering Sea. In October 2012, during Hurricane Sandy, 14 crew members from the Bounty were rescued 90 miles offshore from North Carolina. TowboatUS or BoatUS and Sea Tow services are not available everywhere these casualties occurred, nor would they likely venture out 90 miles offshore in the middle of a hurricane.
There are thousands more examples that could be cited. To say that SAR prohibits innovation and interferes with combating threats against the homeland is about as nonsensical as it gets.
—CAPT Donald Bodron, USCG (Ret.)
Captain Sanford was wrong when he wrote that the USS Lexington (CV-16) was the first U.S. carrier to receive an angled flight deck. The first was the USS Antietam (CV-36), which went to sea in late 1952 after her conversion; the “Lex” went to sea with her angled deck in 1955.
—Norman Polmar, Author, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events
Lieutenant Bishop is exactly right. Aspiring or incoming midshipmen should be asked if they knew what they were signing up for. “Are you prepared to die for your country?”
The implication in the question, however, may seem too distant, unlikely, or irrelevant to focus their attention. Today, by attending an institution that offers them some 30 majors, many midshipmen are likely considering a career track filling an important position defending their country in valuable, highly specialized combat support, logistic roles, or technical specialties, rather than directly in harm’s way.
Thus, perhaps a better question would be: “Are you prepared to put your life on the line for your country?” No matter what career track they choose, someday they will likely have to answer that question.
When the class of 1955 entered the Naval Academy, many of us had already answered the question, at least subconsciously. Many of our fathers had served in war, war was still raging in Korea, and some of us were prior enlisted. A deliberately stressful and naval-oriented plebe year in Bancroft Hall, the Yard, and academic classrooms made us learn to live and persevere under constant pressure.
There was one Navy. We all were trained in the departments of steam engineering, ordnance and gunnery, and navigation to be surface warfare officers, with some introduction to aviation and the Marine Corps. It was clear from “Victory at Sea” in Smoke Hall and leadership from Captain Joe Taussig that we were being trained to be seagoing war-fighters. Some 30 percent did not make it for one reason or another.
As we settled into a Cold War, I ended up in a combat support role. Yet, on three separate occasions, I was assigned to put my ordinarily comfortable life aside and do something clearly dangerous and perhaps life-threatening. I was not especially expecting to die, but I would be at risk. I found that my Naval Academy experience and subsequent training had enabled me to handle the extra mental stress, demanding physical activity, and difficult personal decision-making to do my duty.
Incoming midshipmen should be asked Lieutenant Bishop’s question and then trained under a tough, stressful, demanding, and naval-oriented regime. Even if they do not choose to be seagoing warfighters, someday they may be called to answer that question. If properly prepared, they can and will answer in the positive.
—CAPT William Manthorpe, USN (Ret.)
“A Century of Carrier Aviation in the Pages of Proceedings” (See A. Clift, pp. 38–49, September 2022)
The diagram provided by the Encyclopedia of Arkansas incorrectly identifies one silhouette as an F4F Hellcat. The correct designation for the F4F is the Wildcat.