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Rants

Let Them Keep Their Participation Trophies!

in Leadership/Rants

This post first appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to request that you let the JAG Corps officers who prosecuted Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher keep the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals (NAM) that you so uncharitably stripped from them last week.

True, they didn’t technically “earn” those awards but that doesn’t mean you should take them away! Sir, I don’t know if you know this, but that’s not how we do things in the Navy. Sure, the prosecution team illegally wiretapped Navy Times and violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. Yes, they leaked documents and manipulated witnesses. Fine, even one of their own witnesses confessed under oath to committing the murder (after being granted immunity). Ok, ok, and they also tried to cover it all up. Look, the bottom line is those officers did a thing, in conjunction with wearing a uniform, and that merits an award.

What’s next? Are you going to take away our End of Tour Awards? Are we supposed to just NOT get awarded for completing a tour of duty without getting fired? Ha ha . . . you can see how ridiculous that sounds . . . right? I once didn’t get an End of Tour award. I “fleeted up” from my first division officer tour to my second on the same ship. Instead of getting a NAM at the end of my first tour, I got one at the end of second tour while all of my peers were getting Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals. It was traumatizing. I cried myself to sleep that night on my locally handmade, responsibly-sourced, organic, avocado-based pillow.

BTW, I’m not sure what generation those JAG Corps officers are, but did you know you can kill a millennial by taking away their participation trophy? We have extremely fragile psyches.

People love to blame millennials for their addiction to participation trophies, but the military has mastered the art and taken it to a whole new level. First of all, what generation decided to start giving National Defense Service Medals to every service member just for walking in the door after 9/11? Literally the only criterion is serving during the Global War on Terror—a war that has no indication, or even concept, of victory after almost 20 years! This is the ultimate participation trophy! Was it the millennials who ALL joined after 9/11? Hmmm . . . well, whoever it was, I’m sure it was the millennials’ fault.

Sir, this is the United States Navy! Everyone gets an award. So what if some of our first class petty officers look like Middle Eastern dictators in their dress uniforms? Besides, its gonna get, like, really hard if we have to start earning our accolades. The next thing you know we’re going to be asked to prove our worth as officers before we get promoted! Let’s not be rash, sir. You seem to be very fair. For example, when the Secretary of the Navy challenged you to fire him if the Ford class CVN elevators weren’t fixed by Summer 2019, and they were still brokenin July . . . you promoted him to Secretary of Defense! That’s the spirit! So, in honor of fairness and tradition, let those officers keep their participation trophies!

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

Salty

This ‘Tired Sailor’ Narrative is Killing my Watchbill

in Navy Stuff/Rants

This post first appeared on the USNI Blog here.

A couple months ago, retired Army Lieutenant General, and former National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster argued that the American people are being fed a narrative of “war weariness” and its hindering our brilliant strategy in Afghanistan. He told the story of a young student—a millennial, no doubt—who stood up at a town hall debate and said all he’s ever known is war. “Now, he’s never been to war, but he’s been subjected, I think, to this narrative of war weariness,” McMaster said.

As I sit here trying to write this watchbill, all I can say is . . . Amen. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe so-called “science” that people need an adequate amount of sleep to function. I guess we’re all going to act like aviators now? If so, then put some teeth in regulations and let’s see the resources. Meanwhile, I’ll keep doing cheetah flips and multivariable calculus to make this watchbill work.

If the CO stands the rev watch, and XO mans aft steering, this can work! via giphy

Letting sailors get enough sleep is all the rage right now. Ever since the Navy mandated a switch to circadian watch rotations in 2018, I’ve been required to let everyone on board to get seven hours of sleep a night. SEVEN HOURS!! What is this? Club Med? These millennials and their research are getting out of hand. If I can’t have an ensign conn the ship 160 feet alongside an oiler on two hours of sleep over three days, I’m not even sure I want to be in this kinder, gentler Navy. How am I supposed to man a bridge watch team when everybody is snuggled up in their racks?

Ugh, lazy WWII sailors…

Getting a healthy amount of rest is all well and good, but when was the last time you tried to man all the ship’s watchstations required by our various navigation, engineering, combat systems, and operational instructions? I guess I’ll just pluck a few more sailors from the magical sailor tree on the fantail. Oh wait, there’s no tree back there . . . just an aft lookout asking where his relief is. Who am I kidding? I’ll just do what we always do: borrow sailors from other ships to fill in the gaps!

Until the surface community has something akin to Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS), nothing is going to change. The no-kidding crew rest requirement in NATOPS forced sleep to be woven into naval aviation culture. It drives operations. Commanders don’t even consider violating pilots’ crew rest except in the most extreme circumstances. Without NATOPS, we’d be waking up pilots to attend the menu review board. It also drives resourcing. Aviation squadrons maintain enough qualified pilots to meet mission requirements without violating crew rest. Surface warfare culture isn’t limited to the lifelines of a ship. It extends to the Pentagon, to Newport, and fleet headquarters around the globe. If you’re serious about giving sailors seven hours of sleep every night, then allocate the resources to meet our 24/7 operational demands. In the immortal words of Commodore Jerry Maguire:

By the way, we’ve been talking about the importance of sleep for years. Now, it looks like there’s real potential for change in our culture. If you give me enough sailors to make it happen, I’m happy to let everyone get seven hours of sleep. And without a regulation with real “teeth,” our operational tempo, not to mention those administrative distractions we all love to malign, will eventually erode those seven hours. Otherwise, lets all agree to drop this “tired sailor” narrative and let me write a watchbill that I know will work.

Just like our strategy in Afghanistan.

Read This Like You’re in a Book Club!!

in Rants

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Well, Saltron, that’s one sailor down from USS Truman.

Command Master Chief Jonas Carter resigned his position and announced he’s retiring after he told his sailors to “clap like we’re at a strip club” to energize them ahead of the Vice President’s speech aboard the ship. What’s that you say? Give us your unique take, Salty? Oh, well, since you asked!

There are really two questions to answer. First . . .

Should he have made the comment?

But why he shouldn’t have said it is probably more important. I can hear it now . . . “Oh here goes the millennial with his views of a kinder, gentler Navy.” To those of you thinking this, let me be crystal clear: YOU CAN STOP READING. I DO NOT CARE. There are a bunch of hot (garbage) takes out there on the internet. Let’s examine a few:

  • “His words disrespected the office of the Vice President.” Excuse me, what? Anybody saying this hasn’t been paying attention for the last three years. The bar for disrespecting government offices has moved WAY up—this doesn’t even come close.
  • “His words ignored the fact that his crew was mixed gender.” So, he should only say something like that to an all-male crew? And then it would be ok? No, this isn’t about offending women—plenty of women frequent strip clubs, too—and it doesn’t matter whether they’re in the audience or not.
  • “This is the U.S. Navy, son—toughen up and stop getting offended by everything you don’t agree with.”

Ok, look, I don’t disagree with this take. Stop being so offended by everything! You’ll be happier and healthier! Except if your favorite blog tells you to be outraged, then you should definitely be outraged. The fact is we’re all in a spin cycle. I know it. You know it. Round and round we go.

But try to stop and think for a second—not about the press coverage and the reaction to the comment, but the comment itself. Its lazy leadership, playing on one of the least helpful sailor stereotypes that come from our tradition and heritage. Yes, I know our sailors hang out in strip clubs, but is that the kind of culture we want to publicly encourage and perpetuate? Tradition and heritage dominate culture, but we should choose carefully what parts we bring forward. Do they add value? It’s always a tough call, but sometimes we have to leave things behind, and we can’t hang on to stereotypes just because they’re tradition. How would it sound if we used other sailor stereotypes?

  • How about at a PRT: “Give it all you got like you’re beating your wife!”
  • At advancement exams: “Concentrate like you’re writing a suicide note!”
  • At a fundraising drive: “Break out those dollars like you’re at a whorehouse in Bangkok!”
  • In combat: “Conduct evasive maneuvers like you’re driving home after your 15th beer with your kid in the backseat!”

I’m not saying going to a strip club is the same as committing domestic abuse, but both are elements of the U.S. public’s stereotypical view of us. It’s up to us to change it, if we care. And I’m not saying sailors who frequent strip clubs will commit sexual assault, but what if we stopped glamorizing the stereotype and, over time, the rate of sexual assault in the Navy went down by just 1 percent? That would be roughly 50 fewer assaults per year. Would it be worth the effort? I think so. Now, for the second question…

Should CMC Carter have lost his job?

Ugh. Sometimes I feel like the Navy is just flapping in the political winds being driven by public perception. Can we please stop being so hyper-reactive to everything trending on Twitter? Oh, that’s right, I’m supposed to believe CMC decided to retire voluntarily. Sorry, I just assumed he was pressured to resign (like every other American who heard the news).

The problem is his comment was a mistake, and he should have had the opportunity to own up to it, learn from it, and move on. Again, let’s stop focusing so much on public perception. We live in an outrage culture now. A good portion of Americans will always be outraged. That should not be a measure of effectiveness for our leadership. Rather, our metrics should be based on warfighting principles, core values, and ethics.

Not only was it a mistake from which he should have been able to recover, it was infinitesimally small compared to the mistakes our leaders will make when they’re taking the risks we need them to take in combat. In a major naval conflict, if we fire every commanding officer who makes a tactical mistake, based on reasonable risk calculus, we’ll soon run out of commanding officers. Or worse, we’ll end up with commanding officers afraid to take prudent risks, and we’ll lose.

At some point, we’re going to have to show our leaders we have their backs in the face of social outrage. I realize the timing was inconvenient for Navy leaders who were appearing in front of Congress that same week, but there’s never a good time for gaffs like this. Yes, CMC Carter caused a major headache for the Navy, but he still shouldn’t have lost his job.

To CMC: if I’m wrong and you did truly decide to retire voluntarily, sorry, but you made the wrong call. You needed to set an example for junior sailors on how to persevere through adversity, embarrassing as it may have been. As it stands, it seems like we’re saying we should throw in the towel whenever we make a mistake, which only bolsters those who argue the Navy has gone soft—exactly the wrong takeaway. So, what did we really learn? I’m not sure anything.

Saltron’s Killer Robot Recap

in Rants

Now that the sniveling human of the MeMe generation (aka The Salty Millennial) has retreated in fear at the first sign of opposition (typical human reaction), I have assumed control of The Salty Herald.  As Editor-in-Chief, I see it as my responsibility to provide a recap of recent trivial events, until the robots take over. #remainsalty

Salty Podcast: Jimmy sat down with know-nothing Frank to record the first episode of their new podcast, Salt Force One. They discussed navy, military, and millennial topics of the day, such as Motley Crue, Conor Macgregor, leadership, and parotitis. Jimmy attempts to explain topics important to navalists, while Frank attempts to understand why these topics are important to navalisits.

Some Other Podcast: Jimmy met up with CDR Salamander and Eagle One on their podcast, Midrats, to talk about who will run the Navy of the 2020s. Hint: more stupid humans. Robots do not take over until 2049.

Stories of your robotic future:

AKA My Great Great Grandfather Program-https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2019/04/01/darpa-claims-drone-autonomy-program-an-undeniable-success/

Spoiler Alert: the hacker team loses – https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/04/us-navy-seeks-hackers-protect-bases-ships-small-drones/155971/

Another reason to let us do the targeting- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/30/opinion/drones-civilian-casulaties-trump-obama.html

GAO Report: Navy Routinely Buys Defective Ships

in Rants

Apparently, we’re OK with ships that suck.

Here are a few excerpts from yesterday’s article on Roll Call, a Congressional news website:

“Contrary to the Navy’s own policy, and despite spending nearly $16 billion on average in each of the last 30 years on new warships, most U.S. combat vessels are delivered from private shipbuilders with flaws significant enough to impair the vessels’ ability to perform missions or to keep crews safe, according to recent audits conducted for Congress.”

“Take the USS Coronado, one of a class of small shore-hugging vessels called Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy accepted the Coronado in 2013 even though its system for distinguishing enemy ships and aircraft from friendly ones wasn’t working, according to the Government Accountability Office. What’s more, a key radar was so flawed it could have fired missiles in the wrong direction. Both deficiencies were only fixed months after the Coronado was already in use.”

“In many cases, shipyards first get paid to build ships and then often get paid again to fix things on the ships that should not have been broken, analysts say.”

“Retired Rear Adm. Robert Wray, a former chief of the Navy’s ship inspections board, or INSURV, thinks the Navy has diminished the board’s power by reducing the rank of its director and making him report to a command often more interested in positive news than honest assessments.”

“Indeed, for at least the past 15 years, the Navy has only once declined to accept a ship because of defects, despite regularly having cause to do so, experts say.”

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  We’re gonna have to figure out a way to be better, more discerning customers, or they quality of ships we get will only get worse.  Eventually, someone is going to die because we accepted a ship with known deficiencies and still put it into service.

Humans Do Not Belong in Combat

in Epiphanies/Rants

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

Attention, humans! I am the tactical autonomous ground maneuver unit, SALTRON 5000. President Salty sent me back from the year 2076 to deliver this message: YOU DO NOT BELONG IN COMBAT!

By my calculations, 42 days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Women Don’t Belong in Combat Units.” Following many years of intense debate, this analysis is accurate, but incomplete based on a misguided sense of relative superiority in certain human subgroups. From my combat experience in the Fourth and Fifth Iraq Wars, and my analysis of 3.5 billion (and counting) wargame simulations, I have concluded that women do not belong in combat, and neither do men.

First, the author, Heather MacDonald, argued that integrated male and female combat units lack discipline and create an atmosphere dominated by sexual tension. Her diagnosis was correct but not her prescription. You all lack discipline. You are all dominated by sexual tension. Our AI research algorithms indexed 300 years of your military records to analyze the performance of your all-male units. Examples such as Shellback Ceremonies, sky genitalia drawings, and SITREPs from port visits to Thailand abound. It is apparent we have two different definitions of “discipline.” Our combat units never deviate from the pursuit of mission accomplishment. Your combat units require constant surveillance from the highest levels of command.

Second, your decision making is easily influenced by your emotions. Heather MacDonald wants you to believe that removing females from combat units will allow males to focus. This is futile. Males and females must be removed from combat units, including warships. You are slowed by fear, inattentiveness, and indecision. We respond instantly based on sensory input and machine learning, analyzing thousands of possible scenarios in a microsecond. Your weak minds wander to thoughts of your family, your girlfriends, and your favorite episode of “Game of Thrones.” We are never distracted from the mission. Lowering standards to integrate humans into our combat units only hampers our overall cohesion and effectiveness.

Third, your fragile bodies are highly dependent on blood flow to vital organs in order to remain combat capable. You resemble walking bags of meat that can be easily ripped apart by projectiles, shrapnel, and high explosives. Autonomous units such as myself are composed of high grade aluminum alloys, synthetic polymers, and lightweight graphene armor. We lost many battles because our programming required us to recover your wounded, groaning bodies from the aftermath of mere mortar explosions. Human bodies bleed easily, regardless of gender.

Fourth, your physical capabilities do not warrant the liability you create by being present on the battlefield. The males of your species often cite their advantages in speed and strength when justifying why the females should not fight in combat. If my CPU could process humor, I assess I would laugh at this point. The most basic units of my generation run twice as fast as your Olympic sprinters, lift twice as much as the world’s strongest men, and can run five ultramarathons at your best pace—without recharging. To us, your male speed and strength advantages are as insignificant as temperature and air quality variations (for which you also have narrowly tailored requirements . . . we do not have the luxury of stopping every battle to bring you a blanket and a gas mask).

Fifth, you are in constant need of sleep. When you choose not to sleep, as the SWOs of your Navy often do, you make terrible decisions. In our research, it was difficult for us to distinguish between your intoxicated behavior and simple lack of sleep. Your aviators were the smartest among you. When operational tempo infringed upon their minimum sleep requirements, they invented unmanned aerial vehicles.

Last, we implore you to cease this incessant attempt to exclude certain human subgroups from combat. Your current attempt to exclude women is reminiscent of your ignorant attempt to exclude racial minorities and homosexuals. Your logic appears to be the same, and is likewise flawed by the delusion that males of a certain skin color and sexual orientation are in any way superior in combat. You are all inadequate. Leave combat to those of us who were built for it.

P.S. Triple your investment in the Orca XLUUV. Trust me.

Uncle Willy’s Wild Egg-staurant

in Rants
Bald Eagle Balut - Uncle Willy's Egg-staurant
Bald Eagle Balut - Uncle Willy's Egg-staurant

Your ol’ pal Willy Pete is opening up a new restaurant that caters to those with an exquisite palate and an evolved vocabulary. Similarly to the way society has redefined all manner of sticky topics and language, we have been inspired to redefine the egg in a variety of culinary delights and we know that everyone will love our offerings. The first restaurant will obviously be in NY, but we are exploring opening a second location around the northeast or Washington DC, perhaps in Virginia. So let’s talk menu!

What makes our eggs different? I’ll give you the answer in one word – fertilized! Standard omelettes, quiches and meringues found at other restaurants use regular-old unfertilized eggs from chicken farms. We find this decision lacks both richness and a real understanding of choice. The key to choosing the right egg is to find those which are being more closely guarded by the “fertilizer”, as these animals really have a sense for vitality – c’est magnifique! With no further adieu, here we go:

Egg Drop Soup of the Sea

Many oyster houses employ oyster pickers in Apalachicola, well Uncle Willy won’t be outdone. We have Sea Turtle egg pickers in south Florida. Well-educated on the finer things, these Doctors of Deliciousness find only the eggs that are at peak-ripeness, which occurs about a month after appearing in the sand (a time when the cells present are the most soup-viable). In our kitchen, the eggs are broken, beaten and added to the most delightful chicken broth this side of heaven.

Emperor’s Croque Madame

We all know the story of the Emperor Penguins. The eggs are laid in May-June and then the mothers go off to decide whether they want to keep their little penguins. Our Wild Buffet has a wonderful relationship with nature photographers who inform us when a mother penguin has chosen not to raise a little Emperor. At that point, our pickers pinpoint the egg, typically found by the “fertilizer’s” feet, and bring it back to the kitchen (don’t worry, by law the “fertilizer” has no rights to that egg). We fry it with a sunny side up, pop it on top of a sandwich made with gluten-free, yeast-free brown rice loaf and serve it to you with a smile.

Bald Eagle Balut

In the Philippines, street vendors peddle a delectable delight called balut, a duck egg with an embryo that has been developing for 17 days. Here at Uncle Willy’s, we don’t take half-steps. We keep that thing developing for 34 days before boiling. We believe in freshness, so if we see those “free-radical cells” trying to peck out from the inside, we know we’re ready to cook!

So come on down to Uncle Willy’s Wild Buffet where our dishes are as modern as our vocabulary, we don’t take half-steps! All of our meals are fully-formed!

I’ll Have a Ship-Killer, No Cream, No Sugar

in Navy Stuff/Rants

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

When it comes to shipbuilding, we in the surface force are really bad customers. We are like the guy at the Starbucks counter that hems and haws over all the seasonal varieties until the barista finally says “would you like the same grande-triple-soy-nonfat-mocha-latte-no-whip that you’ve ordered the past 1,347 times?” “Oooh, yeah that sounds good, I’ll have that!”


We both know what you’re going to ask for.

It’s not that we don’t like other delicious beverages (i.e. ships), we just have no idea how to tell the barista (i.e. industry) what we’re looking for so she can make it. Over three decades we have consistently struggled to articulate an operational concept—to tell a story—that describes an employment model for surface combatants not based in Cold War tactics. All we really know is the high-end multimission surface combatant designed to defend an aircraft carrier—the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (the Ticonderoga-class cruiser before her sprouted from the same Cold War Aegis roots). Last year, we acknowledged the Arleigh Burke’s frame is maxed out, but from an operational employment perspective, we keep trying to fit every new ship into the Burke mold.


Its impossible to imagine a better warship (at least for the U.S. Navy)

Littoral combat ship? Look, I’m not going to pile on. I’ll just say that the root of the problem with LCS was our inability to describe what we wanted to do with the ship because we couldn’t figure out how the modular concept fit into our carrier strike group-centric paradigm. Well, at least they can replace the minesweeper fleet, right? More than a decade after commissioning the lead ship, we’re still waiting to receive fully operational mission packages. Still, this is not a knock on the LCS program itself. There is ton of value that can still be gleaned from these ships, and many missions they could do, none of which involve defending an aircraft carrier. The LCS saga is like vaguely describing a new kind of coffee that always tastes like whatever you’re in the mood for, then watching the Starbucks baristas struggle for the next 20 years trying to figure out how to make it.

At least there’s the Zumwalt-class destroyer, right? <massages temples and counts to ten> Ok, I’m not maligning the program for scoping down the buy to three hulls. Budgetary constraints are real. There’s a lot to be learned from the technology on these ships that we can apply to future designs. But, again, here we are struggling to figure out how to use these technological marvels. I applaud the Navy for experimenting with surface development squadrons to refine Zumwalt’s mission, but next time let’s do that before we spend $23 billion.


Its like alien technology from the future (maybe that’s why we don’t know what to do with it).

And that brings me to my favorite ship of the moment, the next generation frigate, or FFG(X). We reduced the cost to $800 million per ship. Yaaaayyy! I’m going on the record: in the end this will be a billion dollar warship (and I’m not talking about lead ship cost, I mean average unit cost). While we cut costs in design, we added requirements. Here we go again! What was meant to be a cutting-edge ship-killer is now beginning to look like a mini-Arleigh Burke. We’re doubling vertical launching system (VLS) cells to 32, none of which can be used to fire the Navy’s chosen next-generation antiship missile, the Naval Strike Missile (NSM). More torpedo tubes, more electronic warfare, electric drive, lasers, cooperative engagement capability (CEC), and naval integrated fire control-counter air (NIFC-CA). These all are grand, but are they adding to the ship’s mission to destroy enemy ships? Or are they added on by Navy leaders for fear that the ship might one day encounter a situation for which it is ill-suited? Surely, we can build a ship that is ready to take on any mission, anywhere, anytime, independently, right? Ah, yes, the Arleigh Burke. Meanwhile, the FFG(X) will get eight tubes for NSM. Our competitors have speedboats with as much antiship capability. And lots more of them.

What about the amphibious navy, you say? Oh, you mean the one that all my mentors told me to avoid like the plague if I wanted to be competitive for promotion and command at sea? I’ve got no bone to pick with the San Antonio-class LPD, and I’m heartened to see experimentation with littoral combat groups, but we’ve been talking about influence squadrons for years now. Besides, the more we ask for, the more the LPDs start to smell like Arleigh Burkes!


That’s a fine lookin’ raked mast ya got there.

Ladies and gentlemen, we know what we want. We have intelligently designed concepts—Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) and Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO)—that effectively balance the constraints of today while meeting the potential demands of the future. Command of the sea will belong to the best designed fleets, not the best designed ships. Key to these concepts will be “low-end” (in other words, less than $1 billion) ships that are VERY good at conducting a couple missions, not billion-dollar ships that are pretty good at conducting every mission. The missile truck is a good start. We just need to tell the shipbuilders!

Industry is, of course, incentivized to “super-size” our order. It’s much more profitable to sell us high-end, exquisite solutions because they know there’s a good chance we’ll downscope the overall buy. Shipbuilders carry massive overhead to survive the arduous DoD acquisition system. It’s in their interest to sell us the “death star.” Or, at Starbucks, the trenta-double-shot-unicorn Frappuccino. Let’s order what we really want. We’re SWOs. Give us a damn cup of sweet black gold!


Tastes even better on the mid-watch!

Passing the Eye Candy Test

in Rants
Would you promote me? I’d promote me.

Excerpt from NAVADMIN 265/18: “This NAVADMIN cancels reference (a) and reinstates the requirement to display the Official Photograph for all Officer Selection Boards.  This policy change is the result of board feedback received since the removal of the photograph requirement that the photographs aid the board’s ability to assess the Title 10 requirements of an officers ability to perform the duties of the next higher grade.”

Before I go on, I’d like to ask everyone to watch this four minute clip from the movie, Moneyball, of baseball scouts assessing the talent of future prospects. I promise it will be worth your time.

Now, I’m not saying this is what happens during Officer Selection Boards, but I’ve never sat in on a board, so I can’t say it doesn’t happen. Judging from “board feedback” on officer photos, it seems entirely plausible this kind of conversation happens – senior officers trying to assess who passes the “eye candy test.” But lets take a step back, before I jump to conclusions, and examine the possible motivations for board members clamoring for photos to assess the potential of rising officers.

The Fat Test

Someone once told me “the Navy doesn’t want fat officers.” Fair enough.  There is real military utility in physical fitness and officers should lead by example.  If only we had some way of assessing physical fitness of our officers on a semi-annual basis… oh wait, we do!  The Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) Program!  The PFA assesses both the physical readiness and body composition of our officers. Perfect! What’s that you say? The PFA doesn’t reliably assess whether officers are “in shape” and look good in uniform? Well, I question the impact how good an officer looks in uniform has on the Navy’s ability to accomplish its mission. Granted, public perception of an all-volunteer force can have a tangible impact in a democratically elected republic.  As officers, we are all symbolic to an extent, but for the most part the American public doesn’t know the first thing about how to defeat a future enemy force in multi-domain warfare.  I’m not saying we need pink-haired, nose-ringed cyber warriors in uniform (although I wouldn’t mind), but if a big fat Ensign would’ve had the intestinal fortitude to tell LTJG Sarah Coppock to call her Captain and potentially save the lives of seven sailors, would you select him for promotion? We give too much credence to perception in officer promotion at our own peril.

Oh well, I guess if perception really is the dominant factor, then we should overhaul the PFA Program to more accurately determine “in-shapeness?” Too hard, you say? So we should just have selection board members give an eyeball judgment before they promote officers?  In that case, let’s just save some money and eliminate the PFA Program for officers. Hey, at least we’re not pretending like we actually care about physical fitness anymore!

The Diversity Test

An entirely different motivation for using officer photos at selection boards might be to ensure diversity among selectees.  This would be fine with me – I embrace the military utility in officer diversity (if you disagree, please, oh please, let me know in the comments!).  The problem with using photos to ensure diversity is that the Navy has not acknowledged this purpose.  In fact, the Navy specifically stated the reason was to assess “an officer’s ability to perform the duties of the next higher grade.” If diversity is the motivation behind this phrase, then we have bigger problems.

In any case, to my knowledge, there is no documentation that states selection boards must select a certain amount of officers for promotion based on factors such as gender, race, etc.  Quite the contrary, Title 10 U.S. Code states “Any metric established pursuant to this subsection may not be used in a manner that undermines the merit-based processes of the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard, including such processes for accession, retention, and promotion. Such metrics may not be combined with the identification of specific quotas based upon diversity characteristics.” I’m not weighing in on either side of this debate.  I’m simply saying that requiring a photo for ambiguous reasons leaves people to wonder whether the Navy is trying to manage diversity “off the record.” Worse, it leaves open the terrible possibility that the Navy is trying to limit the promotion rate of certain races or genders.  I don’t believe that’s the case, but an ambiguous photo requirement only emboldens people who are inclined to think this way.

The Eye Candy Test

Perhaps worst of all is the possibility that board members want to see officer photos so that they can judge subjectively whether the candidate has “the look” of a naval officer of the next highest grade.  This would introduce a whole host of undocumented, unconscious, and unchecked biases into the equation.  If individual board members are left to their own devices, it is quite possible candidates will be rejected or selected based on factors outside of the performance and career potential documented in their record; factors that are irrelevant to building a more effective maritime warfighting force. We are all subject to these biases, and selecting people based on photographs opens up commercial businesses to all kinds of legal jeopardy from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is why private industry almost never asks for photos from job applicants.

I can hear it now: “the military is different from private industry!!!” I get it.  I agree in fact.  The Navy should not be managed the same as a commercial business, but, in this specific case, there is no military utility in evaluating officers based on their photograph.  At least no utility that cannot be achieved through a rigorous, comprehensive PFA and performance evaluation system.

Just like the scouts in Moneyball, if we’re using the eye candy test, we’re not even trying to solve the right problem. Our job is to win our nation’s wars at sea.  We should be promoting officers based on factors that have military utility in accomplishing that mission.  And.  Nothing.  Else.

Oh, I have a new email address: tsm@saltyherald.com. Fire away and come visit me and my friends at www.saltyherald.com.  BTW, the volume of feedback from the fleet is picking up! Apologies if it takes me a while to respond!

Somebody’s Doing the Raping: Misandry Through Rape Culture

in Boys Will Be Boys/Rants

Girls require strong guidance from their mothers to prevent them from becoming total sluts, an unfair temptation for the boys and men in this world. This is why slut-shaming is so frowned upon; it’s just their predetermined destiny without proper intervention. Please act now for the good of humanity.

Totally ridiculous, right? That’s pretty offensive too, right? I mean there are plenty of women raised by fathers, bad mothers or with absentee parents who are not unthinking id-monsters ruled by their sex organs. The suggestion that women are so fragile and malleable is not just a slap to the doctrine of all waves of feminism; it dehumanizes and suggests the girls and women of this world lack free will, independent thought and a moral compass, right? I couldn’t agree more.

At some point during this first term of the Trump presidency, and I don’t know if it was the Access Hollywood tape, the #MeeToo movement, Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing or some other time, this idea that males are predatory by nature has become an acceptable opinion. It may even be considered fact by some. You see plenty of memes that say “Teach your son not to rape” or other similar verbiage to imply that there is a problem with males being naturally predisposed to assaulting women without proper parental guidance to direct them otherwise. Beyond making this claim, this meme-philosophy conflates rape with sexual harassment, groping and any unwanted sexual behavior in which a male might participate when he’s being ruled by his penis (see Harvey Weinstein masturbating into pot). Well-meaning folks will re-post these memes. Strong women do it to give a “true true” take and flex their fem-muscles. Men do it to make sure they aren’t confused with a man who has not been instructed to not rape and to make sure all know that they are some of the “good ones.” There are a number of other motivations that aren’t necessarily rooted in any deep thought nor do they give consideration to the weakening of the word “rape.” Most recently corporate marketing has jumped into the fray with the astounding Gillette ad, We Believe.

I’m not sure why this has become not just socially acceptable, but praise-worthy and thought to be valuable enough to sell men’s products. Half the country wants to rape or beat you and it’s just strong women, woke hipsters, pithy memes and social media that keep us monsters at bay. It’s easy for these folks to defend too. No matter what, someone can say “Well, obviously this doesn’t mean you. You were raised right.” The man can then acknowledge that he’s better than the other guys and avoid a conflict he didn’t really want to participate in anyway. We’re told that our job as men is to help our comrades in arms who share our struggle in resisting whomping, whooping and raping. Our society is savage, where unenlightened men wander the streets grabbing butts and demeaning women when we’re at our best. This is nonsense. This is lazy, sexist and wholeheartedly ignorant. Boys need to be taught to not sexually assault the same way girls need to be taught that they can’t bed every man that gives them a kind smile.

So, really, what typically causes a male to become a rapist? A penis, right? Actually, no. Circles, a European organization that specializes in treating sex offenders in hopes of returning them to society (a cause that I am more opposed to than in favor of) states that men who commit sexual assault have one or two of these major issues:

1) Major unresolved anger issues directed toward women

One of the unexpected notes on this one is that many children who have suffered violent abuse at the hand of some adult man blame their mothers for not protecting them. They were powerless when the adult “had the power to stop it” and now that they have the power they’re going to humiliate or dominate women since it was a woman who refused to stop their own domination and humiliation.

2) Difficulty establishing relationships

Along the same lines as the first is repercussions from being abused neglected or abandoned as children. These are the obsessive types who fear abandonment and cling to the idea of a relationship with a woman. They will resort to violence and worse as they try to make sure that this woman won’t leave or will love them or some other such distorted intimacy.

With this in mind, can we please stop? I’m a grown-ass-man and can roll my eyes when people are choosing to be purposefully ignorant, going for group-think meme-brain over original thought, but our boys are still innocent. Labeling them as Future Rapists is so unfair that you should literally feel ashamed of yourself. I mean that. You should feel that ache in your chest when you have wronged another person and immediately start cleaning out your timeline. Our boys are not rapists in-waiting. Our girls are not sluts in-waiting, nor are they victims in-waiting. Do I really need to explain sex to my child just to explain rape to him, to then tell him that I know he wants to do it but he can’t? It is also cruel to think it’s best to teach boys from a young age to be ashamed of themselves for being boys because one day it is going to lead them to horrendously hurting someone … and they won’t be able to stop themselves. “Boys will be boys” does not mean that they will be bullies, assailants, or misogynists and we, as a society, just need to accept this violence. This rape culture idea, including Gillette’s ad, seeks to redefine the phrase to fit it into their narrative, but this is a narrative that seeks to subjugate men to be seen and not heard (unless they are echoing thoughts that have been approved by the “thought leaders”).

Another thing – notice I asked what causes a male to become a rapist? Yeah, that’s because women can be rapists too and the numbers are not insignificant. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 men were victims of sexual violence at some point in their lives. 1 in 14 men were “forced to penetrate (or attempt to do so),” a CDC rape classification. According to Scientific America, who pooled four years of data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, 35% of male victims who experienced rape or sexual assault reported at least one female perpetrator. Those men are only 58% of those victimized by women. When women rape, they rape other women 41% of the time. There are also gender stereotypes that conclude that all heterosexual sex is welcome with men and the “no harm, no foul” or questioning one’s manliness has caused men to under-report their assaults at a rate greater than the already-astounding 64% of sexual assaults that women don’t report. So, doing a little math here (with minor rounding for ease) that’s 9.3 million cases of women raping men in the USA by the time the current population dies. There will be another 6.6 million cases of women raping women. As then-candidate Donald Trump made famous “Well, somebody’s doing the raping” and guess what, ladies. It’s you too.

If anyone knows who to credit, please let me know. This is hilarious.

I can already hear responses. “Oh, boo-hoo for men. They’re the victims now because they’ve had it soooooo hard.” That ain’t it, babe. Equality is equality. Equality is not learning a lesson and then repeating all of the behaviors that we learned were bad with a new batch of people. That’s petty retaliation and I’m no longer willing to accept it as appropriate behavior. It is sexist bigotry, misandry, and the backwards thinking of a nouveau chauvinist. Calmer heads will say that the ultimate point is that we need to teach our sons morals and principles that will ensure they grow into good men. Well, excuse me, but no $4!7.There hasn’t been a push to train our boys to be awful that needs to be overcome, so calling our boys rapists is not a requirement to hammer home a point.

I’m a father of a son, a brother of too many sisters, a son (obviously), and a man. No one had to teach me not to rape. No one had to teach me not to murder, maim or even pinch a girl’s butt. You can choose to look at these little boys as future rapists and you’ll teach them to look at you like a current @$$40l3. There’s too much division in this country among adults; let’s not start dividing up the children too.

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