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Life Hacks

The Navy Email User’s Guide

in Life Hacks/Navy Stuff

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Email is great. I love it so much! It has everything . . . laughter, tears, blinding rage, mind-numbing boredom, utter confusion . . . everything! You can spend all day reading and writing emails, then when you come back in the morning, you have a whole new batch to plow through! For some of you, this is literally your entire job. Its extra fun when your inbox is full and you get to decide what emails to delete just so you can be granted the privilege of sending again. Bonus!

The Navy loves email too. There’s low side, high side, REALLY high side. If you’re lucky, you get a Coalition email account on one (or more!) of our many multinational networks. And don’t forget about message traffic! Oh, and there’s your personal email. Gotta keep tabs on that for things like DTS, TSP, and NFAAS that won’t follow you across the various NMCI, shipboard, fleet, schoolhouse, and joint command email addresses you’ll accumulate over your career. Its such a hoot when you PCS to a new duty station and you forget your password to a Navy website, so you request to reset your password and it sends the reset link . . . to an email you can’t access anymore! Ha!

But, as great as email is, I think we need to establish some ground rules. I’ve noticed some disturbing trends recently. The other day I saw a supervisor debrief his entire team in person instead of sending a blast email. I even heard of a sailor checking out of a ship without sending an All Hands email (Rule #3)! Shenanigans!

  1. Always, always, ALWAYS include an inspirational quote at the bottom of your emails. Preferably one that belies your extreme political beliefs. Jefferson Davis and Che Guevara are gold mines!
  2. Speaking of email signatures, the length of your signature block is inversely proportional to how important your job is. As an Ensign, you should include your name, title, organization, four email addresses, three phone numbers, twitter handle, and blood type. Conversely, as a four-star Admiral you should just sign your emails with a single lowercase letter. You need to assert your dominance over those lowly staff officers who might actually need to forward your contact info to their boss.
  3. Use the All Hands distro liberally! Trust me, everyone needs to know that your directorate is going down to minimal manning Friday afternoon to attend an offsite team building exercise at Buffalo Wild Wings. If you’re departing the command, by all means do not pass up the opportunity to tell everyone how much they’ve impacted you, and if you have drama with certain people, include that too! If you want to go all out, send an All Hands email when you check in (or even before!) letting everyone know how excited you are to join the team and contribute to the mission! #positivity!
  4. Immediately after you send someone an email, go straight to their desk and ask them if they received your email. They may be in the middle of reading it and they’ll really appreciate you interrupting them to explain what they haven’t finished reading. If you’re really fast, you might even be able to beat the email as it goes through multiple firewalls and satellite relays. People really like when you hover over their shoulder waiting for your email to pop up in their inbox!
  5. In the military, we address our emails with “Sir” or “Ma’am.” If you’re not sure whether the officer you’re emailing is male or female, take a chance! Much better than stupidly using the officer’s actual name. If you’re addressing multiple male superiors, its “Gents,” and for multiple female superiors, use “Ladies!” Don’t worry, you won’t sound creepy at all.
  6. In today’s Navy, we believe in flat communication and junior empowerment. If you’ve got something to tell the CNO, email him directly! You don’t need to bother CC’ing your boss. The chain of command is so old school! If you do CC your boss, I’m sure they’ll support you! If they don’t, just claim they’re a toxic leader and initiate an IG investigation. You don’t have time for that negativity.
  7. It can be frustrating when someone “replies all” to a large distro. The best way to let them know you don’t want their replies clogging up your inbox is to “reply all” to theiremail, and tell them exactly how you feel! That will show everyone how much more valuable your time is than theirs.
  8. If you’re a liaison officer, you’re only allowed to forward emails and type four letters: FYSA. That’s IT! Don’t get cute.
  9. Email is a great place for emotional rants, and to showcase your unique humor—preferably with nautical jargon, tactical metaphors, and acronyms nobody really knows. “Deck Division once again failed to splash the vampires at inspection. Get all of their BFS’s DPC’d by COB today, or I’ll KEELHAUL YOUR FAMILY!!!” You’ll never regret sending that.

A final note on ghost emails, or GEMs: if you work really hard, keep your head down, and get a few lucky breaks, you could one day rise through the ranks and receive the privilege of writing emails for someone else. Congratulations, you’ve made it! My only advice is to fill in the TO line last on your drafts and, once it’s filled in, be very careful with your cursor. You now have a locked-and-loaded, Condition I email. You don’t want to be that staff officer who misfires an operational report to the Fleet Commander with God and Country on the CC line. Or maybe you do! If so, I wish you fair winds and following seas!

The Salty Millennial
Editor-in-Chief, The Salty Herald
Facebook: @thesaltymillennial
Office: 1-800-555-SALT
Blood Type: NaCl Positive

#Resist Trumprruption!

in Life Hacks

There has been plenty of talk about the Mueller Report over the years. Hell, you’ve been able to pre-order it on Amazon for over a month. After ol’ Special Counsel Bob (herein Super Bob) finished his investigation, it was Attorney General Bill Barr’s (herein Billy-Bar) duty to provide a summary of the findings to congress and the general public has been able to read along. This isn’t good enough! We need to read the entire report and the lack of release can only be explained by one word: Trumprruption (it’s like corruption, but Trumpier … and maybe orange).

So how to we #resist the Trumprruption? That’s easy! Congress needs to pass a new law for this very specific situation without any thought to how it will affect future situations. There is no way that a decision congress makes today, purely about special investigations, could backfire on anyone years later.

#Resist Trumprruption! Pass laws now! This unjustifiable censorship of truth will not stand!

Introducing Public Affairs Lethality

in Life Hacks/Navy Stuff

In today’s Navy, everything is lethal.  Our guns are lethal.  Our missiles are lethal.  Our base housing is lethal.  Now, even our public affairs are lethal.  Whenever we encounter a narrative that’s unflattering to the Navy, we kill it by suppressing negative commentary and boosting positive commentary.  #PAOlethality baby!!!

Our reputation as the world’s greatest Navy is under attack, and we are #semperfortis!  Actual reform and investment?  These things take time.  Our spokesmen and women are ready to #fighttonight!

But we need your help!  This is a #deckplateleadership issue!  Quite frankly, its disappointing that you’ve allowed so many negative stories to surface recently.  From base housing conditions, to collisions at sea, to Fat Leonard…your leadership failures have really let us down.  To fix your mistakes, we created the PAO Lethality Task Force, and we developed 1,396 initiatives, 1,391 of which have already been implemented (what have you done lately?). Here’s a sampling of what we’ve already accomplished:

  1. We directed flag officers to reduce communications with the press. #gagorder
  2. We restricted public access to aviation mishap data. #needtoknow
  3. We stopped publicly announcing the names of officials fired for misconduct. #looselipssinkships
  4. We stopped publicly announcing flag officer nominations. #OPSECIguess?
  5. Our Chief of Information personally boosted commentary supportive to “Big Navy.” #definitelyNOTunlawfulcommandinfluence
  6. We repeatedly quote MCPON verbatim whenever anyone posts a critical comment to the CNO Facebook Live All Hands Call. #overwhelmingforce

And here’s what we need from YOU:

  1. For God’s sake, get your family in line! Just don’t let them talk to anyone, especially not on social media. If they complain about something, just tell them to stop being entitled snowflakes and get #Navytough!
  2. Whatever you do, DO NOT communicate with ProPublica, so help me…
  3. When Grammy asks you what you do in the Navy, look her straight in the eye and tell her “You’ll get the Navy America needs, and that’s all you need to know!” #OPSECsaveslives
  4. Do not post anything online unless its an official story. Commentary from Bryan McGrath is also okay. #BigNavyiswatching
  5. If something happens on your watch that might garner media attention, immediately classify the information in the interest of national security. #AmericaFirst!

Remember, shipmates, winning the battle of the narrative is up to you! To paraphrase one of our great leaders, if you can’t control the narrative and accomplish the mission with the resources you have, we’ll find someone who will!

#corevalues #hooyah #lethalPAOlethality!

SPECIAL EDITION: Coast Guard Survival Guide for the Government Shutdown

in Life Hacks/Rants

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

<sits down at computer, takes deep breath, and prays he can get through this with a straight face>

On 9 January, The Washington Post reported that the Coast Guard was trying to help its members cope with not getting paid during the government shutdown. The Coast Guard Support Program published some financial advice to its members on how to make a little extra money on the side.

Coast Guard brothers and sisters! If you needed advice on how get your side hustle on, why didn’t you just say so?! I GOT YOU!

Here are some innovative moneymaking tips for those of you feeling the pinch while the government sorts out its business:

  • Climb a cellphone tower and strip out the copper to sell on the black market. Apparently you can also cut down power distribution poles to get the copper out of the transformer. Fingers crossed the breaker trips and the pole falls away from you!
  • Respond to various ads on Craig’s List. The most lucrative opportunities are going to be in the sections people warn you about. Take risks.
  • Sell your organs on the black market. You don’t NEED two kidneys, and better to get paid than wake up in a Bangkok hotel room in a tub of ice with shoddy stitching and a note to call 911.
  • Start a bitcoin mining operation. Admittedly, this would have helped you more last year but you can’t afford to be choosy!
  • Pretend to be homeless, stage an incident where you help your civilian buddies as good Samaritan, put it all over the internet, set up a Gofundme account, and ask for donations. Bonus: you may not have to pretend to be homeless much longer!
  • Sell your kids’ social security numbers on the dark web. They don’t need good credit if you’re going to be bankrupt anyway.
  • Steal Amazon packages from your neighbors’ front porches. Just watch out for glitter bombs!
  • Sell your . . .

OK! Nope! Can’t do it! LISTEN UP: Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, all of you . . . STOP ACTING LIKE CHILDREN! DO YOUR JOB! You are four days away from breaking a sacred contract with our men and women in uniform, and just because it’s happened before and they’ll likely get backpay (yes, Baby Boomers, we’ve all heard about your late paychecks during the 1995 shutdowns) doesn’t make it ok! Take a look around you! You literally could not have gooned this up any worse. OK, well except for maybe global thermonuclear war, but even that I’m hearing some of you talk about like “oh, well maybe that’s what needs to happen to get fill-in-the-blank country to act right!” WTF?!? The fabric of our Republic is becoming almost unrecognizable. And to those of you saying the shutdown is a good thing: cool, cool, let’s see how it works out for you not paying the people who secure our borders. Read that again. Wait, wasn’t this all about border security in the first place?? Forget it, never mind. You’re done, move aside. You’ve abdicated your responsibilities. We’ll take it from here.

The Command Debate: A Viewer’s Guide

in Life Hacks

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

“Trust in commanding officers is eroding!”

No it isn’t!”

“Well, maybe?”


Ladies and gentlemen, PLEASE . . . wait for me to get my popcorn. OK, continue!

Wait, wait, alright maybe we should set some guidelines for this debate, lest anyone get offended, and you all know how I would hate that! The above linked articles depict a fascinating conversation on the state and nature of naval command. Here’s a recap to get everyone caught up:

“Charting a Course: Stop the Erosion of Command” – Captain Kevin Eyer (retired) argues accountability in commanding officers is increasing, while the Navy’s trust in them is in “near freefall.” He paints a dire picture, likening today’s commanding officers (COs) to sacrificial lambs. He particularly laments the decision by VADM Richard Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, to standardize COs’ Standing Orders across the fleet.

Trust in Commanding Officers Is Not in Freefall” – Captain James Storm counters from the perspective of a currently serving Cruiser CO. His perspective is powerful, given his position, and his experience indicates that today’s CO’s in fact are being given as much as trust and power as in the days of Admirals Nimitz and Spruance. He notes his Standing Orders already were sufficient to meet Vice Admiral Richard Brown’s guidance, so it was just an issue of formatting.

“Mission Command and Zero Error Tolerance Cannot Coexist” – Dr. Milan Vego’s article predates the others, but it is a relevant piece arguing that mission command, an effective wartime command and control system, is incompatible with the Navy’s zero-defect cultural mindset. I won’t offer any commentary here. Dr. Vego has written books on operational art that could be used as blunt force weapons. His opinion stands on its own.

Command Has Not Been Eroded” – Lieutenant Commander Catherine Reppert, currently serving as a minesweeper CO, offers another rebuttal to Captain Eyer (retired). Contrary to a lack of trust, her superiors have given her wide latitude to execute her mission without interference. I will only note here that both currently serving COs offer a positive view of trust and accountability in command. That could be a good sign, but can you really imagine a public expression of the contrary point of view? “I actually agree that the Navy treats COs like sacrificial lambs!” CO, USS Neversail (UPDATE: Former CO, USS Neversail).

Tips to Enhance Your Viewing Experience

Now that everyone is caught up, on to my sage advice. I tried to limit the sarcasm (which is really hard for me, you guys) so you can take these at face value.

  1. Embrace It. This seems like an important moment for the surface force. Whether or not we truly have a systemic problem with command, we are airing out our concerns with this vital function and getting to the root of the issue. That is the kind of gut-wrenching, frustrating, exhausting, blood-boiling, soul-searching, heartbreaking, tear-jerking, full “open kimono” accounting that is the hallmark of learning, high-performing organizations. We could be getting somewhere!
  2. Don’t Be Just a Viewer. If you have ANY stake in the future of naval command, get off the sidelines! Currently in command with an unpopular opinion? Lets see some of that risk-taking behavior we all love to romanticize. Never had command? So what!? Step up and say what you’ve got to say!
  3. Good Ideas Have No Rank. The fact that you are a junior officer, or you’ve never had command, doesn’t invalidate your perspective. State your criticisms and assessments, offer supporting evidence, and give recommendations if you’ve got them. Stop bi***ing behind closed doors and on Sailor Bob message boards, and take a professional stand!
  4. Bad Ideas Have No Rank, Either. You have to give due credit to those who have experience, and are currently experiencing, the burden of command. Be willing to accept that they probably have insight that you do not. That being said, just because you’ve had command doesn’t mean you’ve got this vitally important issue all figured out. The whole merit of this debate is to achieve greater “wartime efficacy” (as Captain Eyer [retired] puts it). That will come from collective wisdom, not a single point of view.
  5. Don’t Take it Personally. Admiral Phil Davidson, Vice Admiral Richard Brown, Dr. Milan Vego, Captain James Storm, Captain Kevin Eyer (retired), Lieutenant Commander Catherine Reppert. These names don’t matter. These names do: Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr. Don’t forget why this debate matters.
  6. Question Everything. I was taught on my first ship that a questioning attitude is a principle of operational excellence. There are others of course, but this one always stuck with me because I did not expect that message in a military environment. Now, I have been known to take it a shade too far (just ask my XO when I was OPS…we had fun), but in general my questioning attitude has served me well, like most of my generation. Millennials . . . ugh, amiright? The key is knowing when it’s time to just shut up and follow orders, especially in tactical situations when time is of the essence and your superior may not be able to explain his or her line of thinking. In an open forum for professional discourse, however, there’s absolutely no reason not to question everything you read, write, and think. If a perspective can’t be defended against questioning, maybe it’s best to consider a new perspective.

My $0.02

I would be awfully hypocritical if I didn’t offer my own opinion, after all. I believe command, particularly command at sea, is transforming; however, I do not view this change as entirely negative. The autonomy that used to be so inherent in command at sea has gradually diminished over the last few decades, due partly to a greater portion of the kill chain being shifted outside the ship. One could look to the first time a CO launched a TLAM on a target for which he had no knowledge or responsibility, as a key milestone. Today, ship’s weapons can be employed in a variety of ways in which the CO does not have total control. In a networked force, that can be extremely powerful, but, yes, it does reduce the autonomy of the CO. We need to be capable of adapting to communications-denied environments, but operational concepts need to adapt to the evolution of technology, not disregard it. Ultimately, instead of having an emotional debate how much we trust our CO’s, I believe we will need to have an analytical debate about how best to employ technology in new operational concepts to maximize “wartime efficacy.”

As a parting thought, I’m reminded of a quote from the film Ronin, “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.” If you have even the slightest inkling that something needs improving in our system of command, consider trusting your instincts and pursue it. Then, consider the consequences if you don’t.

Salty’s Tips for Returning from Deployment

in Life Hacks

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

Millennials are basically incapable of adapting to anything. That’s why returning from deployment is so scary for us young sailors and officers. We get so used to shipboard life that reintegrating into our families and communities can be really tough on our fragile psyches.

So, I’d like to offer some sage advice to the sailors and families of the USS Harry S. TrumanStrike Group, which returned to homeport this weekend. Instead of encouraging sailors to adjust to life on land, their families and friends should provide a welcoming environment by simulating life at sea. By catering their lives to the sailor, they will ease his or her transition to life on land, and have some fun doing it! Here are some tips on how to make returning sailors feel more comfortable:

  • As much as possible, use nautical jargon like landlubber, scallywag, pollywog, scuttlebutt, starboard, amidships, and keelhaul. They’ll feel a sense of calm when you yell, “I’ll keelhaul you if you leave the dirty dishes in the sink one more time!”
  • Make up words like longslides, and faddlepat, dropshanks. As in, “No, honey, it’s behind the faddlepat!” They’ll be used to feeling confused by words they don’t know and they’ll appreciate the sense of inclusion when they finally figure out what the words mean.
  • Make sure they have at least two buddies with them before they leave the house without you (same sex only!). Be sure to tell them to “enjoy their liberty!”
  • If they don’t make it home by curfew, make them sleep on the couch. Wake them up at 6 a.m. to explain themselves. Don’t believe a word they say and assign them eight hours of family remediation training. Throw in “you could have been dead in a ditch!” for good measure.
  • Call an Uber and when it arrives, tell your sailor “sorry, you’re not on the manifest!”
  • Make sure to have a collection of empty bottles of their favorite condiments, along with full bottles of the ones they don’t like, on the kitchen table. Even if it’s supposed to be refrigerated, leave it on the table.
  • Set alarms in the middle of the night for absolutely no reason at all.
  • Take normal words and change them slightly, like “orientate” and “risk adverse.” Say them with extreme confidence!
  • Create acronyms when normal words would do just fine. For example, instead of “garden hose,” use “Water Delivery Device, Green, Extendable (WDDGE).” Then call it a “widge.”
  • Keep the remote while watching TV. Every few seconds, hit pause then fast forward 10 seconds and hit play. This simulates the way your sailor watches TV onboard the ship. It won’t work as well if your sailor serves on an aircraft carrier.

If you follow this advice, it should be a little easier for your sailor to orientate their dropshanks as a landlubber. If it doesn’t work, don’t blame me! Blame millennials!

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