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The Salty Millennial

The Salty Millennial has 36 articles published.

An Open Letter to the Sailors of USS John S. McCain

in Navy Stuff

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Shipmates,

First, apologies are in order. I apologize for feeding into a media narrative that has caused you to become objects in a political game. I’ve tweeted and posted, and here I am writing this blog post, all because I was outraged by images, articles, and hearsay that indicate you complied with orders to hide your ship and yourselves during President Trump’s recent visit to Japan. Who knows what is actually true? (well, you do, but we’ll get back to that) It turns out the old Navy adage still applies: the first report is always wrong. According to our Navy Chief of Information, Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, the picture of the tarp over the ship’s gangway banner is not from the day of the POTUS visit (unrelated maintenance . . . I want to believe, I really do). CHINFO’s return to Twitter after a five-year hiatus is an amusing surprise in all of this melodrama, and I have to say I think he handled it well. He provided a nice anchor point in all of the spin by making it crystal clear that neither the ship nor her name were obscured during the visit. He later acknowledged the White House did in fact request that the Navy keep the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) “out of sight” but, apparently, somewhere along the line the Navy stood up for itself. I can only hope that happened before the request (order?) reached your ship.

Second, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. You owe the American people nothing but faithful dedication to your Oath. I’m sure many people are trying to contact you. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you were told by your chain of command to not comment on the story to anyone. It’s all white noise. What happened, happened, and it’s not your job to help people sort out the truth from the lies. If the Navy did agree to hide you and your ship, it will all come out eventually. If not, then there’s no story here except some staff weenie who no longer has a job. Our Acting Secretary of Defense says he doesn’t want the military to be politicized, and unfortunately that’s exactly what happened to you. You deserve better. You are United States Navy sailors, and I have an appreciation for what you endure. On the other hand, some of you were on board for the fatal collision in 2017 and I have no idea what that must have been like. I do know that none of you should be made to feel like your Commander in Chief can’t stand the sight of you.

Third, we can do better. Strange, stupid requests are made of the Navy all the time (I once received a phone call on the quarterdeck from a gentleman asking how he could arrange the filming of a motorcycle jump from one aircraft carrier to another . . . kinda wish I made that happen), but our job is to respond unfailingly with honor, courage, and commitment. I think we can take the President at his word that he was not involved in the request (although using the words “well-meaning” does sting . . . I don’t understand how hiding a U.S. warship in shame could be interpreted as well-meaning), and there also is no reason to doubt Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan when he says he knew nothing about it. CHINFO says the Navy didn’t act on the request. So, some White House staffer made a stupid request and initiated some staff churn in DoD, which is not surprising. The only relevant question is where did the insanity stop? How far it went is a good measure for the health of the Surface Navy culture. I can dream that the first SWO to see the request reacted with indignation and respectfully declined; however, I’ve made no secret that I believe Surface Navy culture needs reform and I don’t think we’re there yet. I guess I can take solace in that it’s not so bad that your shipboard chain of command never received any orders (or at least acted on them), and possibly never received the request in the first place.

V/r,

Salty


P.S. If you’d like to tell me otherwise, feel free to reach out at tsm@saltyherald.com. 😉 #keepitsalty

The Caine Mutiny 2019: #NavyLegality

in Classic Literature

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Following the death of Herman Wouk last week, authorities reportedly discovered that he had recently completed a modern update to his 1951 classic, The Caine Mutiny.  The new story follows Ensign Keith and Lieutenant Maryk as they try to survive the tormenting command of Commander Queeg aboard the brand new DDG, USS Caine, in 2019.  Rumor has it DeNiro is already signed on to reprise Humphrey Bogart’s iconic portrayal of Queeg in the movie version.

The Salty Herald managed to obtain an exclusive copy of the manuscript and I’d like to share an excerpt with my best friends. The following is an excerpt from the Court Martial of Lieutenant Maryk for his attempted mutiny on USS Caine, this time reimagined for how it might unfold in 2019:

(The courtroom stands as Judge Blakely enters and silently proceeds to his place)

Judge Blakely: All right, let’s get started. Lieutenant Maryk, you are charged with mutiny under Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with intent to usurp or override lawful military authori-

Lieutenant Commander Challee (Judge Advocate): <interrupting> Your honor, the government would also like to add a charge of treason against the United States!

Blakely: <becoming visibly frustrated> Uh, that’s not how this works, and you haven’t presented any evidence to support such a charge.  There is no historical precedent.  You haven’t even identified a unique article or specification to apply.  If anything, you seem to be equating acts of mutiny and sedition with treason.

Challee: We know, but we’re really mad at him, and <whispering> we were going to offer to drop the treason charge if he accepts a plea deal!

Blakely: I’m just going to ignore that.  Lieutenant Maryk, how do you plead on the charge that you committed mutiny in USS Caine?

Lieutenant Greenwald (Defense Counsel): Your honor, we move to dismiss the charge of mutiny on grounds of unlawful command influence! <gasps from the gallery>

Blakely: <sighs> Continue…

Greenwald: Your honor, I argue my client has been robbed of the opportunity to receive a fair trial due to comments made by senior Navy leaders.  On more than one occasion, admirals who have influence over this court made public statements implicating Lieutenant Maryk’s culpability in the incident.  For example, one said, and I quote “He’s guilty.  He’s stupid, crazy guilty.  He’s more guilty than Bill Cosby after a night at the disco in 1978.  I’d expect the judge to sentence him to 20 years at least!”

Blakely: Judge Advocate, do you have a response?

Challee: Sir, to be fair, I believe those remarks were made by the admiral’s PAO.

Greenwald: <interjecting> Your honor, one more thing…

Blakely: <sarcastically> By all means, continue!

Greenwald: I further allege the government engaged in illegal surveillance of my correspondence. I discovered a data recording software embedded in an email from Lieutenant Challee. 

Challee: PREPOSTEROUS!

Greenwald: Your honor, I also found this camera hidden in my office fern, clearly stenciled “PROPERTY OF U.S. NAVY. IF FOUND, PLEASE RETURN TO LCDR JOHN CHALLEE, JAG CORPS”

Challee: <nervously> I’ve never seen that before in my life!  Besides, it is common practice in today’s Navy to secretly record your shipmates!

<Judge Blakely buries his head into his hands and sighs>

Blakely: Be that as it may, I have no choice but to grant the motion.  All charges are dismissed.  This trial is concluded.

<Challee and Greenwald walk out of the courtroom>

Challee: That’s fine, we’re just going to write him a strongly worded letter and be done with it.

Greenwald: Yeah well, the President would’ve pardoned him anyway, so there!

Blakely: <back in his chambers, slumping in his chair, speaking to himself> Well, I guess this is what naval justice looks like today.  Amazingly, that still wasn’t the most disappointing ending of 2019.

R.I.P. Herman Wouk (Author’s Note: I have no idea whether Herman Wouk would have found this funny, but I’m quite sure he wouldn’t be laughing at the state of the naval justice system today.)

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.

A Man’s Guide to Leading Women in the Sea Services

in Leadership

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Take a look at this picture.  This is (probably) a White House summit on women in the military.  Notice something about the people around the table? It’s pretty obvious who’s missing… that’s right, me!  Clearly, you men need my advice on how to lead women in the sea services.  Women are an important, congressionally-mandated part of our force, and we need to figure out how to lead them so they stay in the military and stop writing books.

Army Colonel Jo Rusin set the standard with his book “Women on Your Team: A Man’s Guide to Leading Women.”  Colonel Rusin lays it all out like only a man could do, so I thought I’d adapt the guide to a naval audience.  Now, we’ve all heard the terms “mansplain” and “hepeat,” which are blatant attempts to poke fun at men and undermine our authority.  Since these tried-and-true leadership techniques are under attack, here are some new tips for getting women to contribute to your lethality.

  1. Use their skills wisely. Don’t make them do things they’re not good at, like leadership and math.  Instead, assign them duties in line with their natural skill set, like coordinating social activities, to free up the men to do the hard work.
  2. Choose your language carefully. When communicating with women, replace aggressive or technical terms with emotional words. “This formation allows us to better ‘hug’ the hostile contact and make sure every ship feels supported and valued.”
  3. Be sure to incorporate women’s issues into your command philosophy. Think of things like wedding planning.
  4. Two words: intrusive leadership.
  5. Be careful with mission critical tasks. Remember, to a woman, naval service is just a hobby to give them a break from their work in the home.  So, at any moment, they might just abandon their shipmates and run home to their babies.  Thankfully, we men can tell our wives to take care of those pesky child care issues.  Plus, you never know what a woman will do to get out of work.
  6. Look after their mental health. Women making explosive claims could be suffering from hysteria.  Connect them with a mental health professional immediately.  If this hysteria spreads, the men will become confused and they may begin to question their own beliefs, which would impact their lethality.
  7. Treat them like family. It’s always best to impose your sense of morality and family values on your subordinates.  Treat women in your command like your daughters and wives.  If a sailor’s outfit on liberty makes you uncomfortable, make her change.  Have your Supply Officer stock these handy robes just in case.
  8. Show them you care. As with men, it’s important to let your female subordinates know you’re invested in them personally.  Ask her how the breastfeeding is going.  Tell her that perfume reminds you of your wife.  Forming that close personal bond will pay dividends.  Bonus: you might find out she’s totally into you!

So, gentlemen, hopefully with this guide you’ll be able to wh- oh, wait… shhhhhh!  Here they come!

 

(what?!? Colonel Rusin is a woman? Ugh, fire the Research Department!)

Sir, it’s a flying…

in Uncategorized

What if all the unverified UFO sightings by navy pilots were just the most epic long con in history? Now that the Navy finally stopped ignoring the reports and introduced a new reporting procedure, the con is nearly complete…

I genuinely hope the first report from a naval aviator under the new procedure will be: “it was a long, cylindrical airframe, with two spherical objects at the base, and it seemed to throb as it penetrated our airspace.”

The 5Gs and Poo Parades

in Podcasts

In the latest episode of Salt Force One, we discuss the future of global telecommunications, the relative merits of poo parades, and many other very important issues.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE on your favorite podcast platform!

Ep03 – The 5Gs and Poo Parades

Also, early 5G adopter The Prince of Darkness… “What the hell is a Bieber?!?”

New Opportunity for Young Strategists: Defense Analyst First Tour

in Announcements/Navy Stuff

This is a guest post by Midshipman Briney Von Saltington VIII, which originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Developing the next generation of strategic thinkers is critical to securing our national interests in the Era of Great Power Competition. We need officers who understand global military strategy from Day One. That is why I signed up for the first cohort of the Navy’s new Defense Analyst First Tour (DAFT) program.

A couple weeks ago, World Politics Review published an article by Steven Metz advocating for strategic education early in officers’ careers, and highlighting the value of certain “homegrown” military strategy consortia (although no mention of <cough> the U.S. Naval Institute, or <cough> CIMSEC). This article met strong criticism in the military blogosphere, so I thought I would explain the value of my DAFT career path. This is called “strategic communication.” When talking to senior officers, I find it is most effective to explain strategic concepts using quotes and short sentences.

As a DAFT midshipman, I will graduate with a degree in public policy and immediately join the team at OPNAV N5879X. My job will be to write quarterly strategic assessments, based on random articles from various military blogs I periodically check when I’m curious if any of them cited my published papers. My first order of business as a DAFT officer will be to publish my strategic masterpiece, Lethal Third Offset 5G Offshore Balancing Strategies for Great Power Competition in the A2AD Grey Zone, which is mostly a collection of my hot takes on strategic current events. I expect it to be a roaring success, as I have painstakingly regurgitated DoD and Navy leaders’ favorite buzzwords.

I was selected to be DAFT based on the quality of my senior thesis, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 2017–2019. With DAFT JOs influencing naval strategy in the decades to come, we will have the opportunity to shape the fate of the nation using the news and analysis provided to us by our social media networks. Some would call this “recency bias,” but I prefer to think of it as being unencumbered by the boredom of history.

When you go DAFT, you get to skip all that tactical and technical detail that many junior officers obsess over. Things like leading a division, flying a helicopter, and running a propulsion system are hardly relevant in the really important matters, such as nuclear brinkmanship and the big data revolution. In the fleet, we will fill shipboard policy and strategy officer (PSO) billets, where we will develop strategic plans for each individual ship. #DistributedStrategy!

DAFT is modeled on naval aviation’s highly successful SERGRAD program, in which highly qualified student naval aviators are selected to go directly to instructor training, and then return to flight school to teach new students how to fly naval aircraft. When an idea works in one particular instance, we all know it’s best to apply it universally. Since SERGRAD has been so successful, it was pretty much a “no-brainer” for the Navy to create an equivalent career path for naval strategists. As in, I am fairly certain nobody gave the decision much thought.

Most midshipmen spend their summers integrating with the fleet to gain firsthand experience with the various Navy communities, complement their education, and help them select their career paths. DAFT midshipmen, however, spend their summers interning with Washington, D.C.-based think tanks, getting indoctrinated into the unique American brand of military strategy. I chose to intern with The Salty Herald, one of the most innovative, cutting edge think tanks around. It’s a great workplace, although Saltron is a pain.

Naval Education, Rich People, and the Future of National Security

in Uncategorized

Dear Rich People,

Thanks. THANKS A LOT. You just jeopardized the future of our national security.

Because of you, now I can’t rely on my parents to bribe officials to get me into Naval University. The Navy has this great new continuous education initiative, and now I have to earn my way in! To be fair, Naval University is actually the logical synthesis of three schools: the Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, and Naval War College. I’m a little old for the Naval Academy, and NPS and NWC are . . . like . . . hard.

You just haaaaad to go and get caught paying millions of dollars to coaches and administrators to get your kids into elite schools. And you got caught EXACTLY ONE MONTH after SECNAV released the results of his Education for Seapower study. SECNAV seems pretty convinced of his intuition that “the intellectual development of our naval leaders is the most critical warfighting capability for our national security.” See the problem here? I’m a millennial. I need my parents to help me get through adult life.

Now what am I supposed to do? Go to Naval Community College? Community college is for people who can’t qualify or can’t afford to get into the big boy schools. Oh wait, I read that wrong. Naval Community College is for enlisted sailors. And Marines.

Even if I don’t go to NPS or NWC, the Navy will soon require me to go to grad school before I can qualify for major command. Who am I supposed to bribe now? Tutors, so I can be admitted based on merit? You want me to demonstrate critical thinking, analytical, and technical communication skills on par with the skills my subordinates already have? Get real.

SECNAV is also creating a Chief Learning Officer and a Director of Warfighting Development. Hey, maybe I could land a job as one of their aides and then they could hook me up with an honorary MBA? The Navy needs more of those, right?

What happens next? Thanks to your recklessness, there’s no telling how far Navy leaders will go in reforming our continuous education system. They might even outlaw gouge! You know . . . those thinly veiled cheat sheets masquerading as study guides in our training centers and schoolhouses. How am I ever going to pass exams without robotically memorizing the entire question and answer database?

Look, everyone knows the normal rules don’t apply to the rich and famous. That’s the whole reason I joined the Navy. So I could become an admiral and get rich and famous. The problem is you all are getting sloppy! There’s a saying I picked up in Annapolis: “You rate what you skate.” Get your act together! We can all agree that meritocracy is a farce, and you’re just making it harder for future generations to skate their way into success.

The War College has a saying: “It’s only a lot of reading if you do it.” That’s the spirit! To succeed in Great Power Competition, the Navy will need proficient, intelligent, ethical, and dedicated professionals in all levels of leadership. Well, that’s not going to happen. So, the next best thing is a horde of career survivalists who accumulated the requisite certifications through intrepidity, innovation, and a tenuous grasp on morality.

Not to be outdone, the fleet has a saying of its own: “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Well, rich people, you need to try harder! Otherwise, I might never get to join you!

With much irritation,

Salty

P.S. Speaking of Great Power Competition, can someone please email me the gouge file for defeating the Chinese PLA Navy at tsm@saltyherald.com? Thanks!

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