Psst Sailor, want to buy a uniform?

Were one to aspire to a military career because of the uniforms then, as a sailor,  the U.S. Navy is for you.

I was a sailor during the late 1970s with a Navy dress uniform that one might mistake for a naval officer, chief petty officer or even a Wall Street businessman who snatched the hat off of a doorman.

The Navy uniforms seem to grow in numbers, complexities and pockets over the succeeding years. I would have to suspect that the real Wall Street bidness men who have populated the Department of Defense and Congress in recent years would be just fine with a single Defense Department in both name and action. It isn’t a totally ridiculous proposition.

Nixon and Johnson sitting in a tree ..

Do we need a Navy aviation component while we have an Air Force branch of DoD?  Even the Marines, who would rather be water-tortured than to admit that their branch belonged to the Navy, has their own aviation section. So does the Army, which has a large number of helicopters and other aircraft. Ditto for the Coast Guard, of course, the Coasties aren’t part of the Defense Department.

So as far as the bean counters who run Defense are concerned, why shouldn’t the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — and the Coast Guard guys and gals of Homeland Security Department — all wear the same uniforms?

Why shouldn’t they all wear the same uniforms, you asked? Yes, I just asked. Keep up please! It is called tradition.

In the backwoods of the East Texas Pineywoods from where I was raised, I wasn’t particularly “ate up,” — denoting extreme fondness — with tradition.

My two brothers who served in the Navy during the Cold War and Vietnam era, and my Dad, who was a cook and baker in the Merchant Marine during WWII, certainly didn’t eschew tradition. Speaking of which, I eschewed a few times a couple of minutes ago. No one was around to say “Bless you!”  or “¡Salud!” as my Hispanic friends would proclaim. Okay, if you can’t take a joke …

During my time in service from July 1974 to July 1978 our uniforms were much different from those my brothers wore, collectively, from 1963 to 1970.

Many of the longer-tenured sailors I knew and even some younger sailor who said they wanted to stay “just  a little bit longer … ” were fond of the “Cracker  Jacks.” Those were the dress  jumper uniforms in both blue and white, with a flap on the back and a neckerchief tied in a square knot. Women wore a slightly different uniform. Well, perhaps I should say different.  I wasn’t a woman in the Navy so I shall not even express an opinion on the subject. Why? Oh come on …

I have said before and I will say again, I think some of the Navy uniforms make sailors look like jarheads.  Oh well, does the uniform make the man (or woman), or does the man or woman make the uniform. Don’t go asking me.

John Paul Jones invented the Navy. No, not really. Captain John Paul Jones continental navy 1747-1792 portrait by Cecilia Beaux. The original painting is in the US Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Military uniforms — especially those the enlisted men and women wear — are by and large a product of those who wear them.

I do not say that enlisted, or officer, uniforms are solely decided by those distinct groups. But those who wear the uniform will most often determine if those become the uniform of the day.

Quite often, when I was at sea, I had what was called “duty.” My job that day included typing up and and printing the Plan of the Day on the old mimeograph machine. The POD was kind of like the local newspaper although it told you how to dress. Oh well. This wasn’t the Boy Scouts.

I promise, on my honor to do my best, yadda, yadda …

And, just hope you don’t have a mate named Gilligan.

GOP candidate and Putin sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G …

Well, the GOP presidential candidate managed to draw the ire of one of the most editorially conservative newspapers in the United States. The day after its editorial dissed the GOP-candidate, The Dallas Morning News, today, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. This is the first time in 75 years that the News endorsed a Democrat.

The Republican candidate also flip-flopped on some outrageous utterings he made back during the primary elections. He said today that, upon entering office, he will give the Joint Chiefs of Staff 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. As one TV general said this morning: “That is what (the generals) have been doing for the last eight years.”

Anyone following the Republican presidential campaign might remember the candidate saying “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”

Another mouth-shooting-off memory of this candidate is when he said that he had a plan to defeat ISIS, although it was secret, as he wants to keep the enemy guessing.

The candidate, whom I refuse to name due to his previous media over-exposure, also threw out the traditional Republican red meat. He wants to increase the military, build more ships, and more fighter planes. In other words, he wants to toss more money to the military-industrial complex that President and former 5-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation of before leaving the presidency.

That candidate may have sounded “more presidential” during much of his bullshit speech this morning. He still used words to insult Clinton and President Obama.

In looking into the defense industry pandering today, the candidate tosses aside the reality of modern warfare, nasty as it is.

Look throughout history. Once a war is done and won (that not always being the case) a military establishment shrinks. That is the nature of wars and the economy.

People who weren’t born before WWII and do not study history, are doomed to repeat it. But those who don’t study history should do so. There are those who think the nation was just asleep at the switch in 1941 Pearl Harbor. But, as was the case leading up to the previous “war to end all wars,” the U.S. was about the last nation to get involved.

My parents and other elders talked of the great 1940 Army Maneuvers, a.k.a. the “Louisiana Maneuvers,” held in western Louisiana and across the border in the East Texas Pineywoods. Stories abound of George Patton, Omar Bradley and even Eisenhower — setting up commands in the local towns. About 400,000 soldiers participated and some two dozen soldiers died in the exercise, most from drowning in the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana.

Look, even my four years of Navy active duty will attest to the fact that the military never stops preparing for war. The U.S. military has reserve and National Guard troops who have all been involved in our perpetual war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is difficult to see these days where the active service members begin and the reserve and Guard, end.

The GOP candidate is a military faker and he thinks his private military school is similar to military service. Real military service was not even a thought with his deferments during Vietnam. None of his offspring, despite their love of guns, served in the military.

Today there was news of a Russian fighter jet making what was described by U.S. defense officials as an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of a U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare plane. This is nothing new. Such games have been played since we were in the “Cold War.” I even remember our destroyer being tailed by a Soviet freighter while we headed to Subic Bay, only for our ship to turn around and follow the USSR ship for awhile.

The problem is that today, these ships and planes are a whole lot faster and powerful. One of these days a Russian plane or an Iranian patrol boat or North Korean, whatever, will screw with the wrong ship or plane on the wrong day. Someone needs to be steady at the ship of state to ensure such things do not happen. Also,  that the GOP candidate seems to continually play up his bro-mance with Russian President Vladimir Putin is concerning. If something makes us uncomfortable about the GOP candidate, it should be this relationship with Putin.

Perhaps the candidate has in his IRS return that he refuses to release some actual financial link with Putin. But who knows, the GOP candidate is the first since Richard Nixon to not release his tax returns..

Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism: Chaos from Korea (North)

Say “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism” three times, speaking fast. Can’t do it? I doubt many care.

But this seems to be the cult of personality pushed nowadays by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The ever-entertaining Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or KNCA, expounds upon a June 24 “National Seminar on Kim Jung Un’s Ideas and Lines.” The seminar at the Pyongyang People’s Palace of Culture sought “to deeply grasp and thoroughly implement the ideas and lines set forth by supreme leader Kim Jong Un in his report to the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” the KNCA says.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is escorted by NK Army leaders, from left, Larry, Moe and Curly. (North) Korea Central News Agency photo.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is escorted by NK Army leaders, from left, Larry, Moe and Curly. (North) Korea Central News Agency photo.

Okay.

 “Choe Thae Bok, vice-chairman of the C.C., the WPK, and other speakers said that the revolutionary lines set forth in the report including the clarification that the general line of building socialism and the self-development-first principle serve as the strategic line to be consistently maintained in building a socialist power and realizing the cause of modeling the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism are an encyclopedic and political great programme which gives perfect answers to the theoretical and practical issues in the revolution and construction,” the KNCA reports in an amazing one sentence description.

What does it mean? Well, the crack(ed) writers at the KNCA further explained by reporting:

“They (the speakers) noted that the programme for modeling the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism clarifies the correct orientation and ways of firmly preparing those in charge of accomplishing the cause of the popular masses for independence, the socialist cause, and the driving force, enhancing their role, transforming all fabrics of social life as required by Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and triumphantly advancing the revolution and construction.”

Clear as mud? Here is more:

 “They (the same they) pointed out that the WPK and the Korean people will straightly advance along the immutable orbit of independence, Songun (military first) and socialism and discharge their pioneer role in the struggle to realize global independence as the defenders of independence and justice under the leadership of Marshal Kim Jong Un no matter how the situation may change and relations with neighboring countries may alter.”

Ah yes, that great struggle to realize global independence as the defenders of independence and justice under the leadership of Marshal Kim Jong Un. Sounds a little like Superman. I wouldn’t want to imagine Kim in the blue, skin-tight costume. And by the way, how many titles do Kim Jong Un have? A totalitarian for all occasions.

I truly wonder who this mouthpiece for the Pyongyang leadership — again Kim Jong Un — believes that it is addressing? If this is the crap being fed to the masses, then this nation is in worse shape than it seems.

I’m sure a President Trump would understand though. Perhaps The Donald and his Secretary of State Dennis Rodman will make the historic first visit to this closed society.

 

The Dick’s philosophy for graduating, future, leaders.

Bloggers note: As sometimes happen, I accidentally hit the “Publish” button long before the post is ready to publish. Thus, I have to start editing and “Update” and on and on and on. Thank you. I hope you all  have a nice day!

160527-N-SQ432-026 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2016) -- Newly commissioned Navy Ensigns and Marine 2nd Lieutenants from the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2016 throw their midshipmen covers in the air at the end of their graduation and commissioning ceremony May 27 at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. The U.S. Naval Academy commissioned 788 Ensigns into the U.S. Navy and 256 2nd Lieutenants into the U.S. Marine Corp. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Jonathan L. Correa/RELEASED)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Newly commissioned Navy Ensigns and Marine 2nd Lieutenants from the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2016 throw their midshipmen covers in the air at the end of their graduation and commissioning ceremony May 27 at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. The U.S. Naval Academy commissioned 788 Ensigns into the U.S. Navy and 256 2nd Lieutenants into the U.S. Marine Corp. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Jonathan L. Correa.)

Okay, I ran a similar — actually, the same photo subject, before, only it was taken 11 years ago — picture before. It’s Memorial Day. We are supposed to memorialize our warriors who died in battle. We can do that. But we can also wish the best for our future Navy and Marine Corps officers.

Having served as a Navy enlisted man during the Viet Nam Era, I can also remind our future officers, don’t be a dick. Well, my name is Dick. But I mean don’t be an asshole or a horse’s ass.

Many of these officers suddenly find themselves in command over a certain number of enlisted people, from the most senior enlisted to the lowliest boot camp sailor. Some of these officers will prove to be great leaders. Others, who graduate from either Annapolis or from the various other college and service programs, should get out of the military as soon as possible.

One does not automatically take the reins of leadership just because they are commissioned as ensigns or second lieutenants. That is, just as becoming a petty officer does not automatically thrust the mantle of a great leader of men or women on any one person.

Most of the time during my short stint as a third- and second-class petty officer didn’t involve leading men. The times I did have to step in as a leader was mostly successful because, I mean, come on, it wasn’t like I was leading in battle. Still, for even the simplest of tasks, one must order someone to accomplish what can often meet with stubborn objection.

One time while serving on a Navy destroyer, for some reason, I was told to take a few less-senior sailors, who were already picked although they weren’t tasked by me, to install new “non-skid ladder safety treads” on the inclined ladder which we walked up and down from our berthing area up to the mess decks. These were treads fastened by screws on the inclined ladder that took us from our berthing area up to the mess decks or the forward head. We would also have to ascend another ladder to the main deck, but we were only told to do our treads. It was surprisingly simple.

The job took a little elbow grease, but other than that it was no problem. There might have been some other little j0bs around our berthing area. It wasn’t really difficult. I was never told to do a lot of jobs like “swabbing the deck.” Even when I was stationed at a Seabee training center, we had students who were on extra duty from punishment to clean the offices. I happened to be the senior petty officer around that day in our living area on the ship, so I was in charge. One of the guys in my division, who was I suppose an E-3, or Seaman, didn’t want to help out. He just flat out didn’t want to do it. I tried reasoning with him. That didn’t work. I could have just done the job by myself and the others. That just didn’t seem right. Finally, I had to threaten to “write him up,” which means filing a report which would likely send this young guy to  captain’s mast, or before the commanding officer, for what is called “Non-judicial punishment.” I happened to be the Legal Yeoman, or the person who handled the legal work and forms on the ship. So I knew very well how to write someone up. I would have charged him with Article 92 — failure to obey an order or regulation — of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. Now this wouldn’t go on the guy’s permanent record, unless he decided to make a career of the Navy or if for some reason the Old Man (the CO) decided to refer this to a court-martial. That could be serious — think felony charge by the U.S. government.

So the dude was pissed off at me for threatening him but he ended up doing his task. He got over it.

Thus, I congratulate those who are graduating, either from college or high school, and for whatever reason want to join the military. If and when you may be called to lead men or women, just remember, don’t be a dick!

 

 

Welcome to the Cold War II: How to prevent killing annoying foreign military forces

And so it goes, we are officially into Cold War II. I never even got my certificate for serving in the first Cold War. Perhaps this morning Vladimir Putin got really hopped up on vodka and Red Bull. There has to be some reason why the Russians would send two unarmed fighter jets for strafing practice against a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Whatever the reason that is what happened Tuesday. At one point the Russian warplanes were flying within  75 feet of the guided missile destroyer U.S.S. Donald Cook. The Military Times reported that the Cook crew members saw the plane within 30 feet of the destroyer.

The ship was practicing deck landing drills in the Baltic Sea with an allied helicopter, reportedly of Russian origin, according to an official Navy news report. Some media said the helicopter was with the Polish military.

 A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea. (U.S. Navy photo)
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea. (U.S. Navy photo)

“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.

The Navy issued a statement saying:

“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death.”

Whether the pair of Russian SU-24 jets were 75 or 35 feet away, having an event with an aircraft — regardless of whether they are U.S warplanes or those from another country — when you don’t expect it can scare the hell out of you. I remember an exercise when I served on a destroyer somewhere out in the Pacific. We were steaming not far off our port side by the carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. I was kicked back on the fantail watching the stars when all of a sudden this fighter appeared out of nowhere. It was screaming above our ship probably 50 feet above the stacks and radars. I only saw it for a few seconds, when all of a sudden its lights came on and the jet’s pilot kicked the plane in the ass and it was gone faster than it appeared. My guess was that the plane was a F-14 Tomcat launched from our neighbor, the bird farm that was affectionately known — sometimes — as the “S**tty Kitty.” No matter from where the loud jet launched, the aircraft certainly got my attention.

I likewise recall the first time our ship went to our “home port away from home port,” Subic Bay, Philippines, out of our starboard office porthole, we noticed that  some merchant man flying the Soviet Union flag was following us. Our CO decided to make a game of chase. The destroyer was brought about, passed the ship and turned back to follow the U.S.S.R. vessel until we got closer to port. Such interaction with Soviet ships and aircraft back in the day was routine.

This event was a little more menacing than in the Cold War I days. It looks like either Putin wants to play — with fire — or he is looking to start something. That isn’t a good idea either way. The Commanding Officer of the Cook stayed cool, which was good, because shooting up unarmed Russian planes would surely have stirred up a hornet’s nest, no matter that the planes were endangering our ship.

Perhaps that isn’t fair. But what is fair isn’t usually a large consideration when it comes to military forces, especially the biggest ones.

Here is a good quote I found from Navy TImes about why the Cook didn’t shoot:

“You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying,”said retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded two frigates during his time in the service.