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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: Fire away and come visit me and my friends at  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.

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.

We Talkin’ About Practice!

in Rants
Y’all need to listen to this man. He speaks the truth.

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

Seventeen years ago, Allen Iverson gave one of the most epic press conference rants in NBA history. Yes, Baby Boomers, I’m old enough to remember it. In fact, I agree with every word he said!

We are the United States Navy. First round draft pick. Undisputed league MVP 28 years running. Back-to-back world champs. We do not need to worry about PRACTICE!

Come at me, bro.

Fleet exercises? C’mon man! We gotta get these ships on deployment for the real deal! Just certify them like we’ve always done it: scripted scenarios, serialized training events, predictable adversaries, zero risk, check the block, done, see you in nine (maybe ten) months! All this talk about challenging high-end exercises? Totally unrealistic, we’re too busy. Just get the ships underway and they’ll reach basic proficiency halfway through deployment—then extend them on station and, voila, you’ve got a combat ready force! And now CNO wants to conduct a “Large Scale Exercise 2020?” Fine, as long as it’s a one-off event that only uses non-deployable assets, includes lots of photo opportunities, and haphazard lessons learned are locked away in a vault. That would be OK. Hey, maybe we should call Lieutenant General Van Riper out of retirement again!

SWO Training? I hear people like these junior officers saying we need to improve our training pipeline. Gimme a break. Our ensigns need to toughen up, report to their ship, and hit the ground running. This is the best navy in the world and we’re focused on hitting 355 ships before the Great Power Competition! We don’t have time to train every little butterbar running from one mistake to the next!

We literally do not.

Some have even suggested we give newbies a full training regimen with stick time on Yard Patrol (YP) craft. Others even going so far as to suggest SWOs earn their pins before they report aboard their ship. What are we, aviators now? So what if the flight school model has contributed to developing the most lethal and proficient naval air force in the world? We are black shoes! Twin reversible screws, 100,000 horsepower, automatic plotting radars, electronic charts with GPS input, and coffee are all we need!

The next thing you’re gonna tell me is we need to send our best SWOs to be instructors, like aviators do! Don’t be ridiculous. We need to send our top performers to be detailers in Millington so they can optimize the personnel management system and give us the perfect next set of orders!

We got this detailing thing on lock down!

In the end, maybe there’s one thing on which we can all agree. Allen Iverson said it best: this is not a game.

When Resignation Feels Like Divorce

in Rants
Image Credit: CNBC (

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

Its fine. Whatever. Go. I don’t care.

How do I feel about this? I’ll tell you! Why did you have to go and make a big deal about Syria? Mommy said we defeated ISIS anyway! Mommy also said ISIS remains a threat to the rest of the world, so I’m confused. Whatever, I don’t want to talk about it.

Oh, also, Mommy said you are Democrat. Is that true? I just don’t know what to think anymore.

I read your stupid, not genuine, not heartfelt, not professional, not amazingly eloquent letter. Just go. No, I’m not crying. I got something in my eye.

How am I supposed to deal with all the bullies at school without your help? And I’m nervous about this Great Power Competition coming up next semester. Grandpa and Great Grandpa won the last two, but I don’t know if I’m ready! Mommy said she might cut my allowance! Everything sucks. Get out of my room!

Wait, STOP! DON’T GO!! I take back everything I said. I didn’t mean it! My brothers and sisters and I will do better. No more UCMJ violations, we promise! What if we can beat the Taliban in one year? Will you stay? PLEASE! Also, Mommy’s new boyfriend scares us. It’s the mustache.

I Can’t Even

in Rants

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

As a millennial, I am easily triggered. I often lack the emotional self-control to react appropriately to disturbing opinions or information, especially those that run contrary to my well-established worldview. As Captain Peter “UGH” Ryan so eloquently argued in his recent article “Technology: The New Addiction,” my addiction to my smartphone and social media have sapped my ability to handle the challenges of everyday adult life. In fact, he notes my egregious rate of personal technology usage (PTU) has made me more likely to commit suicide and beat my children (I must admit, I did not see any evidence of causality between PTU and these behaviors in his article, but I long ago lost the ability to think critically about the things I read online). So, you won’t be surprised to hear that I was uncontrollably outraged when I read the September 2018 USNI Newsletter email, titled “Dead Reckoning, Video Game Addiction, New Navy Uniforms, Ship to Shore: September 2018.”

First of all, Captain Ryan’s article is about technology addiction, not video game addiction. This may have been an innocent editorial mistake, but it comes across as tone deaf as your parents yelling “hip hop, doo wop, bee bop a loo bop, whatever it’s called, just turn it down!!” If video games were the problem, I think we’d need to look further back than my generation (and question why we’re integrating Xbox controllers into our combat systems). No, the problem is much broader, and Ryan argues convincingly that PTU has caused younger generations to become more isolated and less resilient. As a whiny snowflake, I understandably crumbled into a puddle of tears upon reading this assessment. Of course, now I have to question the wisdom of a commanding officer ordering his entire crew to join Twitter and follow the official command account, or the Navy relegating almost all engagement with families to Facebook. Hmmm . . . Captain Ryan goes on to lament that we youngsters prefer to be glued to our screens rather than interact with the opposite sex. I’ll bet this seems odd to older generations, so it must be bad, right? Perhaps there’s a concern of population decline? Come to think of it, whenever my ship hits port most sailors head straight to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot. Maybe we should go back to the days when sailors all headed to the nearest bar and other “establishments!” I bet that would improve our health!

Another article that flew straight over my technology-addicted, entitled head was Captain Dave Kurtz’s article “First Impressions of the Navy’s Test Working Uniform.” I particularly enjoyed this perspective from the generation that so marvelously has managed Navy uniforms for the past decade. His best point was his argument against the Navy’s stated intent to satisfy “a desire on the part of sailors having served less than ten years for an untucked uniform, as they wear their civilian clothes.” On a personal aside, I’ll have you know that, as a millennial, I refuse to follow your suffocating rules and tuck in my shirt under any circumstance, even in military uniform. I don’t respect the need to look presentable, ever. That’s just, like, your opinion, man. It’s the same reason we want beards, man buns, and uniforms that actually fit women (in decreasing order of likelihood). Returning to Kurtz, he argues that “majority rule is not the best route.” Well said. Then, in the very next sentence, he writes “As we can see from the pictures and comments on Navy Times . . .” Wait, what? Internet comment boards are not just majority rule, they are mob rule. Then again, Kurtz is not a millennial so he doesn’t spend 18 hours a day on the internet like I do, so he may not have realized that.

These articles reminded me of another nugget from our senior leaders: we’re not tough enough. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson tells sailors they need to get tough. The Commander of Naval Surface Forces issued a force-wide message titled “Toughness.” Fleet Forces Command even called out toughness in its comprehensive review of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) collisions. Then, in a follow-on internal review, the surface Navy found that only 16 percent of the most newly-qualified officers in the fleet could pass a basic skills test (I wonder how many commanding officers would pass the same unannounced test?). My issue is that “toughness” is being used a dog whistle to place blame on younger generations. Wait, I’ve got it! We’re all worthless and weak! But . . . why are we focusing on the individual toughness of our most junior officers and sailors as the problem? Isn’t it a symptom? Not that I know anything about toughness as a millennial, but I’ve heard it is the byproduct of a system, such as physical conditioning or team training. Maybe we need to focus on the system that produced those of us who lack toughness and competency? Maybe we need to critically examine the generation of leaders who were responsible for cultivating and developing that system? Maybe we shouldn’t take a report on two incidents that resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors, and PUT FREAKING ARTWORK ON THE COVER?!? Ah, who am I kidding? What do I know, I’m a millennial.

I need a safe space.

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