Category archive


The Low-Water Mark

in Rants

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

I was doing pretty well. Doing my goat yoga. Thinking positively about our culture. Seeing an upward trend. New CNO. New outlook on life. Future so bright I had to wear shades . . . that sorta thing.

Then I read that the Navy is convening a Board of Inquiry for Commander Bryce Benson, commanding officer (CO) of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) during the 2017 collision, to make him “show cause” as to why the he shouldn’t be kicked out the Navy. Here we go again . . .

My positive outlook

Ok, as you know, I’m a millennial, so I offer my unsolicited opinion on all sorts of random topics and I wield a questioning attitude like a dachshund wields a roman candle in his teeth. So eventually I’m going to go too far. Well, this seems as good a hill as any to die on. Plus I’ve had about five kombuchas so I’m feeling extra salty.

Let’s recap:

  • Last month, the Commander of Naval Special Warfare (NSW) admitted publicly “we have a problem” after a series of discipline-related incidents involving SEALs, going on to say they “have failed to maintain good order and discipline, and as a result and for good reason, our NSW culture is being questioned.” Excellent!
  • Two weeks ago: “Departing top admiral acknowledges Navy’s struggle with character issues”. Good!
  • This week, at the Naval Aviation Tailhook Convention, the moderator asked a panel of eight junior aviators whether they thought their community was ready for a high-end fight. They all answered “No.” At least the junior part of that community is willing to say something!
  • Submariners? Well, who the heck knows. There’s a reason they’re called the silent service. Well played, bubbleheads.

Meanwhile, the surface force quickly issued a comprehensive review two years ago, then almost as quickly declared “mission accomplished” and went back to focusing public comments on great power competition. It seems like Navy leaders are talking more to Congress than sailors. It’s hard to listen to our leaders tell us we’re facing serious threats for the first time in decades, when the last few years show us we have more work to do on the basics. I guess “we need to practice our basic shiphandling, navigation, and unit self-defense” just doesn’t open up congressional pocketbooks. For example, how goes the Readiness Reform and Oversight Council (RROC)? And why was it formed in the first place if the events of 2017 were isolated incidents? A steady drumbeat of comments on the RROC’s work would instill confidence in sailors, Congress, and the American people that we are committed to improving on a fundamental, cultural level and earning the title of “World’s Best Surface Navy.”

Culture is the bedrock of any organization. We KNOW this. Yet, here we are, on the heels of the darkest four years in recent memory for our Navy, and we are more focused on defending the Navy’s “good name” and going after a single person who (I will concede) fell short royally but, more importantly, stood up to the Navy when our leaders drug his “good name” through the mud injudiciously. I mean that literally—the Navy dropped all charges against Benson when leaders realized they had tainted the court martial process so badly with public comments of condemnation that Benson could no longer receive a fair trial. The whole process was such an embarrassing farce that the whole Navy justice system is now under review. The Eddie Gallagher case didn’t help. (Spoiler alert: its broken)

Remember that Commander Alfredo Sanchez, the CO of the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) at the time of the collision that killed ten sailors, received a no basis ruling in his “show cause” Board of Inquiry. In other words, the Navy didn’t kick him out. The big difference between Sanchez and Benson is that Sanchez didn’t fight back. He pleaded guilty and the Navy retained him. On the other hand, Benson took the extraordinary measure of issuing a public rebuttal to his SECNAV Letter of Censure. That’s egg in the Navy’s eye, for sure, but it doesn’t make him any more guilty. To what end does the Navy seek this officer’s separation? What signals and strategic impacts are we creating, especially if the board finds in Benson’s favor?

To cut straight to the point, HOW does the Navy see this Board of Inquiry as anything other than retribution? We already took him to court-martial and failed to find him guilty. What is constructive about pursuing his administrative separation? SECNAV said he dropped legal charges in “the best interest of the Navy, the families of the Fitzgerald sailors, and the procedural rights of the accused officers.” Yet, here we are again in the headlines. Perhaps we’re still convinced that his ship’s collision, and the other three in 2017, were individual problems and not part of a systemic issue. Despite the National Transportation Safety Board report. Despite the ProPublica investigation. Despite Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin’s article. Despite what ANY officer serving in Seventh Fleet in 2017 will tell you!!! Sure, ok, just a bad apple.

Um, but what about Fat Leonard? What about all those senior officers and admirals that compromised their ethics for personal gain? What about the Farsi Island Incident of 2016, and the following investigation that condemned the widespread lack of adequate training in riverine squadrons (the first one, that is)? What about the USS Nitze (DDG-94) not detecting cruise missiles that Houthi rebels shot at her formation in the Red Sea in 2016? What about rising suicidesSexual assaultsBody fat?

My point in asking these questions is to demonstrate that we have a cultural problem. It will not be solved overnight, or even in the term of one CNO. It will take just as long to solve as it took to develop, and we can look back several decades to find its origins. We have to embrace the fact that we have a deep-rooted problem and set ourselves on a course to fix it. Retribution, and a rapid review process to get all our “stoplights to green,” will not help. We can be elite, but we have to be willing to admit that, right now, we are not.

I’ll end with a bit of anonymous feedback I received from the fleet last week, before the news broke about Commander Benson’s Board of Inquiry:

Really there is still a culture that breeds a fear of failure. One screw up, one mistake, one missed milestone and your career is over. There is no path to redemption, no recourse or correction. Too many in critical leadership positions are concerned with meeting the milestone and making it through their job instead of developing future generations and creating a path to excellence. No one is perfect and no one is good at everything right away. Mistakes will happen, it shouldn’t be the end, we should be able to learn and grow and develop.

I’m not defending Commander Benson’s actions in command of the Fitzgerald, but we tried and failed to hold him accountable for the collision. I can’t say the same for those Navy leaders who cultivated a culture that would put such unprepared people on watch that night. Let’s leave Commander Benson in the past or, even better, maybe even learn from him without absolving him of his share of the burden. Let’s learn from NSW and admit we have a problem before it gets worse. Then, let’s look forward and let the last four years be our Navy’s low-water mark.

The Internet Lied to Me

in Rants

Totally unfair. I was duped. Bamboozled. Hoodwinked. I’d been had.

Last week, I read an article on Task & Purpose that describe a policy change by the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) that would impact U.S. servicemembers serving overseas. According to the article, which included a direct quote from the USCIS spokesperson, children born to military parents stationed outside the U.S. would no longer automatically qualify for citizenship. They would have to go through the application process before their 18th birthday.

I, like a good millennial, reacted quickly and, um, strongly…

Well, as it turns out, the internet lied to me. The USCIS was not revoking birthright citizenship for military children after all. The actual policy change was much more innocuous and nuanced. Can you believe it? Something on the internet turned out not to be true?!? People actually pointed this out to me on Twitter. The nerve.

So, what happened? I can’t really blame Task & Purpose, or the numerous other news outlets who picked up the story. I mean, T&P did speak directly to the USCIS spokesperson, who definitely made it seem like military kids born overseas were getting hosed. And I guess I can’t really blame USCIS, either. Headscratching quote aside, when you read the actual policy change, they’re really just getting themselves in line with Department of State policy.

I’m certainly not going to hold myself accountable for my reaction. I’m a millennial, so that’s not possible. I am entitled to my knee-jerk recreational outrage. I even bothered to read an entire article instead of just a headline. What more do you want from me???

So, with no other recourse, I’m left with only one option to right this injustice: the internet owes me an apology.

Since the internet can’t actually issue statements (that I’m aware of), I’m willing to accept an apology from of the following people who run the internet:

  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Jack Dorsey
  • Donald Trump
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Bill Gates
  • Julian Assange
  • George Soros
  • Al Gore

I will also accept a private tour of Area 51, or a chicken sandwich from Popeye’s.

It’s almost like the internet just doesn’t take anything seriously.

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,


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-

Spoiler Alert: the hacker team loses –

Another reason to let us do the targeting-

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!

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