Friday, June 23, 2017

Fullbore Friday

I missed that at age 98, Ben Steele passed away last September.

In his honor, let's replay a FbF we did from 2009.

Just another old man walking around in his garage, eh?
These days he’s long retired, living with his wife, Shirley, in a trim split-level below a wall of rimrocks near the college where he used to teach. Every day he tramps out to the studio behind his house to paint and draw.
You ever wonder what they have seen? Maybe, just maybe --- you don't want to know.
He is 91 years old now, among the handful of last men surviving from America’s worst military defeat, the fall of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines during that desperate winter and early spring of 1942.
American Heritage magazine has a must read article that personalizes what is often forgotten --- and rarely read in detail like this.
He tried to stay aloof. So many were dropping to the road, he thought, it was better not to get close to anyone. But north of Layac Junction, about 50 miles into the march, he lost his resolve and befriended a march mate. They had talked a bit while walking: about where they’d been, where they might be headed, what might happen when they got there. Talking made the walking easier, the heat a little less intense. Next afternoon on the road, he noticed his new friend beginning to wobble, and a mile or two later the man gave out and went down, grabbing for Steele’s leg.

“Come on, Ben—help me!”

He and another man hauled the dropout to his feet. They hadn’t gone far before a guard rushed up and shouted at them to let go. His helper obeyed, but for reasons beyond all understanding, Steele hung on, and the next thing he knew, his buttocks were on fire. He thought the guard’s blade had penetrated to his pelvis. Blood was beginning to course down his leg, and flies were starting to swarm the wound. He looked at the man he was holding, hoped he’d understand, then let him sink slowly to the road at the guard’s feet.

“No!” the man said. “No. Please.”
Ben Steele; well done on a long, good life. Read it all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Navy Needs its XXX

Now, now, now ... I'm talking about FFG-(X), DDG-(X), and CG-(X) over at USNIBlog.

Come by and ... well ... give it a look.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Time for Rev. 1 to SYR PLAN SALAMANDER Dated 15-SEP-2015

A few basics to start with:
- We are years past any easy solution to Syria, if there ever was one.
- The territorial integrity of what on you map is called Syria is not worth the bones on one American.
- The Islamic State as a land holding & governing entity must be destroyed.
- Soldiers of the Islamic State are better killed in place than having them scatter back to their home countries to re-create terror there. 
- In Syria, Russia is not our enemy, and we should not make her one.
- In Syria, Turkey is not our friend, and we should not pretend she is.

As the remnants of the Islamic State are rolled up and out of Iraq and the last holdouts in Mosul are dealt with, attention is turning to the ongoing investment of their capital in Syria, Raqqa.

When it comes to the Islamic State, there is no political solution. Its complete destruction is the only thing in our national interest we should be acting on in Syria.

Let's look back at what I proposed, offhand, 21-months ago;
Let the Iranians and Russians kill Sunni Arab Islamists in the west of Syria while we kill them in the east. How about this: we'll kill them east of the Euphrates and south of road from Nassib in the southwest, through Damascus to Deir ez-Zur on the Euphrates. The Russians, Syrians, and Iranian proxies can kill them in the rest. Once they are done in the north and west, we can just do CAS for the Kurds on the front lines of their frontier as we all push IS forces in to the Iraqi desert.

There, I've deconflicted the airspace for everyone. End game? TBD.
Well, SECDEF Mattis recently gave us the end game.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday the U.S. has switched to "annihilation tactics" against the Islamic State and is focused on completely surrounding the militants, instead of forcing them to move from place to place.

"Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot," Mattis said in a televised interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

He said the goal was to take out the militants before they could flee to neighboring countries.

"Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We're not going to allow them to do so. We're going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate," Mattis said.
Very well.

We can work with that. 

Now for modifications, as needed in red-bold-italic, but first let's look at a map via Shawn Snow.

That line is about right.

Only a few modifications, here is the D&G for Rev. 1 to PLAN SALAMANDER, bulletized this time for ease of reading.

1. Let the Iranians and Russians kill Sunni Arab Islamists in the west of Syria while we kill them in the east. (no change)

2. We'll kill them east of the Euphrates to include those portions west of the Euphrates in the Raqqa Governorateand south of road from Nassib in the southwest, through Damascus to Deir ez-Zur on the Euphrates.

3. The Russians, Syrians, and Iranian proxies can kill them in the rest. (no change)

4. We will continue to support Kurdish and allied forces inside the area defined in #2 using airpower and advisory liaison forces as needed. Once they are done in the north and west, we can just do CAS for the Kurds on the front lines of their frontier as we all push IS forces in to the Iraqi desert.

There is no reason, I hope, to concern oneself with a vision of tens of thousands or more Americans trying to occupy Syria. The President's inclination is not to do so, and our leadership in the military from the SECDEF on down knows the last 16-yrs well ... and both know the American people have zero support for such.

Our light footprint on the ground with support from the air is about right for this phase. We should let the locals take, hold, and then bicker over the dirt, as long as they keep taking ground from ISIS.

We need to be content with good enough, and avoid the neocon trap of wanting to make people what they are not in a part of the world where there is no place for the enlightenment to take root.

To wind things up - none of this last part is new. I often say that if you want to understand Syria, then watch Game of Thrones

In honor of the show I leave this with you; it is known. This works for both Arab and Kurd in Syria; always remember the great T.E. Lawrence's Art.15;
Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.

Monday, June 19, 2017


This Fathers Day Weekend brought to us a reminder of the nature of the sea even in times of peace. She is unforgiving, thoughtless, and can bring out the best and the worst in men. She is huge and vast, until she isn't. She can make you feel all alone in the world on one day, and then crowded, surrounded, and with no place to turn the next.

There is no such thing as a normal watch. At any moment, through acts of commission, omission or simply the pure randomness of fate, the laws of time, motion and physics can bring tragedy, death, and sorrow.

There is a lot of speculation going on with regard to the collision between the USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) (length 154m; displacement 9,000 tons) and the merchant ship ACX Crystal (length 222.6m, gross tonnage; 29,060 tons), and I think on balance in events such as this, it is unhealthy to speculate much on specifics. Generalities, sure ... but wait for facts. 

Make no mistake, the damage is worse than it looks in the pictures seen of the outside. Inside and below the waterline it is most likely far worse. There will be many lessons to come from this incident - and for me the most interesting will be the story of how the crew, with their CO out of action, were able to fight to keep their ship afloat.

On Sunday in USA Today, Bryan McGrath and Jerry Hendrix outlined about as much as we need to know right now until more information is released;
“This is big news because it happens so rarely,” said Bryan McGrath, a retired Navy commander whose last command was the USS Bulkeley, a destroyer similar to the Fitzgerald. “It happens rarely not because ship movements are so simple and straightforward — but because a high degree of professionalism is demanded from both military and commercial operators."
“A U.S. ship is damaged in a collision to my knowledge, only every couple of years,” said McGrath, who is now managing director The FerryBridge Group, a national security consulting firm. “Loss of life, as we’ve had in this instance, is even rarer.”

Ships have nautical rules of the road established by the International Maritime Organization. Ships have technology such as radar and crew members to lookout for other vessels.

“It is far too early to speculate as to the cause of this particular accident. We just don’t have the evidence in yet,” said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain who was director of naval history. “In the past, these circumstances generally are attributed to some error in navigation on the part of one bridge crew or the other.”

McGrath warned that electronic systems don’t always conform to what crew members see, “especially at night.”

“What I can say is that because ships are large and somewhat lumbering, it takes time to turn or change speed,” McGrath said.
“Whatever mistakes were made by either ship, those things will be collected, they will be synthesized, and then they will be taught to future generations of navigators and mariners so that we can learn from them and not repeat the mistakes of the past,”...
McGrath provides a very good "how can this happen?" primer over at WOTR that helps get everyone on the right page as more information is released.

Until then, let's do what is appropriate at this time. Let's give a nod to the crew of the FITZ who kept the ship afloat, and recognize our Shipmates who lost their lives while at sea;
- Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia

- Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California

- Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut

- Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas

- Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California

- Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland

- Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
When it comes to keeping your ship together, if you have not seen the USNA Museum's Naval History Panel from August 22, 2014 with panelist CAPT Paul Rinn, USN (Ret) and CDR Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret) on leadership and damage control, here's the video.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Stuff like that just happens to other people.

Just another trip.

Just another day.

I wonder when I can get another cup of coffee.

Then there is the sound of the guns, and the training kicks in.

There can only be one FbF today; two public servants who saved this nation from what could have been a massacre of political violence unseen in this nation's history.

No more words from me are needed. Their actions speak.

Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey are special agents on Rep. Steve Scalise’s security detail. Scalise was standing near second base in an Alexandria, Virginia park when the bullets began flying from behind the third base dugout, striking Scalise. While Scalise dragged himself to safety, Griner and Bailey lept into action. In an extended firefight, the two agents took down shooter James Hodgkinson while battling through injuries of their own. Both were taken to the hospital after the gunfight, and are recovering from their injuries, officials say.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Testifies at Senate Hearing on Violent Extremism.

A giant of our age in so many way, and a hero to your humble author, is Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Please take time today to hear her testimony at yesterday. Go to the 12:30 point.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

If you like your carrier ... well ... you probably won't be able to keep your carrier

What if I told you that you should expect that half our CVN will be sunk in the first year of the next war ... and that should be OK?

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog ... come by and see.

There will be math.