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Epiphanies

Tidying Up: Navy Edition

in Epiphanies

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

People tell me I’m too negative. I AM NOT!!

Buuuuut . . . I’m beginning to wonder: do I focus on what’s wrong too much? Don’t misunderstand me, I have plenty of reasons to be salty. We still haven’t paid the Coast Guard. We still don’t have a force field over the country to protect us from ballistic missiles and terrorists. We’re still at war in the Middle East. We’re still building science projects instead of warships. Tom Brady is still in the Super Bowl. We STILL can’t decide on a !@#$ uniform. I could go on…

Then I watched an episode of the Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, about an enchanting Japanese consultant and author with a knack for decluttering people’s houses and lives. Central to her KonMari method is the concept of tokimeku, or “spark joy.” When helping her clients evaluate what to keep, she asks “does it spark joy?” If so, keep it. If not, discard it. Mind. Blown.

Spark joy, not Class A fires.

The first thing I thought was how funny it would be to watch “Tidying Up: Navy Edition” in which Marie visits a DDG to conduct a pre-INSURV zone inspection. She would giggle daintily and whisper to her interpreter as she discovers fireworks stacked against an exhaust trunk in the MWR Gear Locker. Just the look on her face as she walked through berthing or the “JO Jungle” would be worth the cost of a Netflix subscription. Then, she would return a week later to find a spotless ship after the crew moved all of their excess gear to a PODS storage unit on the pier instead of getting rid of it. Come on people, lets make this happen!

The second thing that came to mind was “What about the Navy sparks joy for me? What do I like about it? What I would I keep if it were up to me?” Scary thought, I know, but there’s a lot, actually. Many of our traditions are rooted in virtue and deserve to be carried forward. Here are a few that have been on my mind recently:

  1. Our sense of service to the American Ideal is amazing. It transcends any one President, political leaders, and superior officers. It drove hundreds of thousands of federal workers to continue to serve their fellow citizens while they were not getting paid for more than a month. We’re not conscripted or drafted—we all volunteer. We swear an oath to defend the Constitution, but even this revered document can be amended to relentlessly pursue the American Ideal. However each of us defines it, our commitment to serve the American Ideal is incredible. Just look at the crew of USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750), and the thousands of other Coasties around the world, who deployed without pay. Ultimately, there will be a price to pay, in terms of their faith in and commitment to the mission, but you better believe their service sparks joy for me. I believe this sense of service to the American Ideal – if we don’t squander it—will be a decisive factor in future conflicts.
  2. Our questioning attitude also has the potential to be a decisive factor in future conflict. There’s something uniquely American about our ability to challenge our superiors and tell them when they’re a little jacked up. Respectfully, of course. It’s also a part of our maritime heritage. Our first lesson in navigation is to not rely on single sources of information. Get multiple inputs. Analyze them. Think for yourself. We have some work to do to gain acceptance of this questioning attitude in communicating up the chain of command, but articles like this from Lieutenant Katelyn Davidson and Commander Josh Menzel give me hope (shipmates, put your knuckles to the screen because I want to give you a fist bump!).
  3. Embracing the “modern warfighter.” Let’s face it. American warfighters don’t look like they used to. So what? Who cares? I don’t. Are you capable? Are you committed? Do you have integrity? Come aboard. We have a long way to go here, but the trend is positive. We’re starting to see studies and policies that support dual-professional couples (not just dual-military or spouse employment . . . spouses with civilian careers that might even be the larger share of household income) and working mom sailors. It’s not just diversity for diversity’s sake. Modern warfighters are highly educated senior officers and empowered junior cyber warriors. We’ll need multiple perspectives to compete and win in future naval warfare.
  4. Leaders matter no more than their followers. I’m probably naively optimistic, because we’re not even close on this one. I subscribe to the General Stanley McChrystal view that leaders should think of themselves as “nodes in a network, rather than the top apex in a triangle.” Leaders serve a unique function, just as every team member serves their own unique function. Our best leaders groom others to fill their shoes if necessary, and our top performers are always ready to step in. Our special forces, whom we regard as the elite of the elite, have senior enlisted leaders who are indistinguishable from officers. In general, the line between officer and enlisted is becoming blurry and less meaningful (a trend we should watch with an intrigued eye). The division of officers and enlisted sailors is rooted in aristocracy, which obviously no longer applies. We’ve all known sailors who we’ve practically begged to apply for commissioning programs because they were already outperforming junior officers.
  5. Leaders matter no less than their followers. On the flipside, we’ve also been known to take the concept of servant leadership too far—some leaders burning out because they neglected to take care of their own wellbeing. Vice Admiral Moran’s directive to flag officers to take the leave they’ve earned is not coincidental, and it’s a beacon of hope. No one can say what led to Vice Admiral Stearney’s (a man with whom I served and deeply respect) tragic suicide, but it shows that none of us are immune to mental stress. I have long said that our slogan “ship, shipmate, self” should be thought of as a triad, not an order of priority. Maybe Navy leadership is starting to listen.

This is just a start. Maybe I’ll follow up with more next week. Email me at tsm@saltyherald.com with the things about the Navy that spark joy for you. Or tell me about the things that you think we should get rid of . . . you know I like getting riled up! Oh, and if you know how to reach Marie Kondo’s agent, let me know! I can see it now: “Clamping Down with Marie Kondo.”

Mr. President, You Want Money for a Wall? Don’t Pay Back the Federal Workers!

in Epiphanies

Ok, just hear me out.  You are asking for $5.7 billion from Congress to build a wall along the southern border, right? While the government was shut down for 35 days, 800,000 federal workers missed two paychecks.  On Friday, you agreed to reopen the government as you continue to negotiate with the Democrats.  I get it.  Compromise can be a powerful thing…well done!  Now, your administration is on track to pay back federal workers’ salaries sometime this week.  Wait just a moment and think about it.

Sir, you can use the money from the unpaid salaries to fund the wall!  The math checks out.  The average federal worker’s salary across the U.S. is $80,142.  That’s $6,678 a month.  So, for 800,000 federal workers, you’re about to pay out $5.3 billion!  That 93% of your wall budget right there!  You could find the remaining $400,000,000 in Pentagon couch cushions.

Worried about political blowback?  Sir, these people are going to vote for you ANYWAY!  You said it yourself.  You could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and you wouldn’t lose any votes!

And if they’re Democrats?  Well, lets face it, you were never going to get those votes.  Do you even want them?

As an alternative to my proposal, you could also just fire those 800,000 federal workers.  I mean, what happened during the government shutdown?  We survived, didn’t we?  The economy thrived!  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 1% during the shutdown.  Meanwhile, fewer Americans filed for unemployment than any time since 1969.  You are right to be proud to shut down the government!  You just learned you were paying $5 billion in excess workforce.  FIRE THEM ALL!  They’re called “non-essential” for a reason, after all.

I hope you will consider this earnest plea to take an innovative approach to funding border security.  Please reach out if you have any questions: tsm@saltyherald.com

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very respectfully,

Salty

A Bold Proposal

in Epiphanies

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

In 1729, my spirit guide, Dr. Jonathan Swift, penned “A Modest Proposal” to the people of England to solve their widespread poverty problems. Tragically, his thoughtful suggestion to sell Irish babies to the aristocracy as food has been widely ridiculed as some sort of joke, even to this day. SMH.

In honor of Dr. Swift’s 351st birthday, I would like to try to salvage his legacy as an innovator with a bold proposal to solve one of the biggest problems facing the U.S. military today: misbehaving veterans. Every day it seems veterans are becoming more and more of a menace to society. The President even sounded the alarm after the latest veteran mass murderer killed 12 people in Thousand Oaks, California. When they are not killing people, they are scamming thousands of people out of their hard earned money! And if they are not a threat to others, they are a threat to themselves. On average, 20 veterans a day commit suicide, bringing undesirable scrutiny on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration (VA).

Introducing the Retroactive Immediate Dishonorable Discharge (R.I.D.D.)

The R.I.D.D. program fundamentally changes the equation for veterans’ affairs in the United States. When veterans commit an act of misconduct, as determined by the DoD Public Affairs Office, they immediately will receive a dishonorable discharge, retroactive to their last day of honorable active service. In addition, service members discharged under the R.I.D.D. program no longer will be considered veterans—alleviating the need to include them in inconvenient statistics. For example, by enacting R.I.D.D., the veteran suicide rate will drop to zero percent overnight.

Precedent exists for R.I.D.D. From 2007 to 2012, an intrepid team of psychiatrists reversed 40 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses at Madigan Army Medical Center in an attempt to save taxpayers the immense cost of treating veterans with PTSD, which they documented at $1.5 million per soldier. Imagine the savings they could have provided if they had taken this program force-wide. Even academia seems to be getting on board. In November 2016, Yale removed a depressed student from campus over concerns she may commit suicide and bring unhelpful media attention to the school’s high suicide rate. Brilliant. Most recently, the Commandant of the Marine Corps signaled his support for this type of program by labeling the Thousand Oaks shooter as an “ex-Marine,” effectively excommunicating him from the Corps. Under the R.I.D.D. program, this person in fact would no longer be a Marine, or even a veteran, and therefore no longer a concern for DoD and the VA.

And let’s not forget the ingenious “secret waiting lists” of the VA. First reported in 2014, this creative approach enabled the VA to meet strict timeline requirements for providing medical care to veterans. Undeterred by prying media and congressional investigations, the VA continued to employ secret waiting lists as recently as 2017 to alleviate the strain on overworked physicians and bureaucrats. This is exactly the kind of relentless innovation upon which the R.I.D.D. program aims to expand.

Critics no doubt will dismiss a bold initiative such as R.I.D.D. in favor of more traditional approaches. They will claim that more funding should be allocated to veterans’ wellness programs to provide preventative mental health care and research into next-generation medical treatments for PTSD. They will argue that DoD and the VA need to be logically integrated to provide veterans a smooth transition from active service to civilian life. They might even have you believe that 17 years of war takes its toll on an all-volunteer force. Do not listen to these haters! A modest proposal such as Dr. Swift’s made sense back in his time. Today, a bolder proposal is appropriate. Aggressive, innovative action is required to address misbehaving veterans. Get R.I.D.D. of them!

The DoD Policy on Marijuana Finally Makes Sense, Because I Am Way High

in Epiphanies

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

I just vaped some CBD oil, and I am out of my mind high right now. Now I totally get why DoD and the VA don’t want me, or anyone ever affiliated with U.S. national security, to get anywhere near marijuana, cannabis oil extract, hemp necklaces, patchouli, blacklight posters, or Wiz Khalifa songs.

Firing this civilian military professor for using CBD oil to help him deal with the effects of prostate cancer makes total sense now. So does Inception. Everything is so clear now.

After staring into a bowl of Lucky Charms for half an hour, I understand now why we don’t want our veterans using medical marijuana to help them overcome PTSD and recover from physical injuries. Veteran suicide and homelessness could become real problems!

No, no, my shih tzu is telling me they should stick to the medicine their doctors prescribe them, and I agree! Marijuana is just too dangerous!

Chemically altering your brain is bad, and DoD should hold the line on its current policies. Period. Now please excuse me, I have to catch a cigarette while the smoking lamp is lit, and XO ordered me to catch the sale on gallons of grain alcohol at the package store for the grog bowl at the ship’s Dining In tonight.

P.S. You know what I can’t stand? Anonymous writers taking pot shots at hard-working people (lol, sorry, terrible weed pun)! I’ll “come out” soon enough. Salty just has a few more things to say. Stay tuned!

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