The 3-Mile Club

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It’s so named for those who don’t run, or in some cases don’t work out at all, except when required by the Navy’s semi-annual PRT, which includes a 1.5 mile run.

I have no particular love for the Navy’s physical fitness programs. I agree that there needs to be some kind of program, but I doubt I would choose the current one were it a one man vote. Building it into something that suits me would take a month or two of careful thought and research. I don’t have the time, and no one is asking.

Hearkening back to our recent discussions about strategy, I would have to first ask what it is that we want to accomplish. I’m telling you from experience, this strategy stuff really works!

  1. Is it to make sure that members of the Navy are physically fit?
  2. Is it to keep down medical costs?
  3. Is it to make sure members of the Navy have the physical ability to do their job?
  4. Is it to make sure members of the Navy look good in uniform?
  5. Is it a force-shaping tool?

Again, you can’t build good policy if you don’t know why you are building it. If you try, you will wind up chasing your tail, and we have a proven record of that.

Why all the fuss? OPNAVINST 6110.1K is coming. It’s the latest revision of the Navy’s Physical Readiness Program. You can read about the major touch points in the embedded document below.

Here are some highlights:

  • You can’t get a “bad day” re-test.
  • Everyone gets taped, regardless of their height/weight measurements. Everyone. if you have a waist over 40 inches (male) or 36 inches (female) you automatically go to FEP.
  • If you fail the PFA, you get an automatic mark of 2.0 for military bearing on your EVAL/FITREP.
  • Passing on the bike and elliptical will become more difficult.
  • The CO’s current responsibility is to “integrate PT into the workweek, consistent with mission and operational requirements.” It will change to “commands SHALL integrate PT into the workweek and during working hours.”
  • Random BCAs will be conducted in conjunction with the daily urinalysis list.
  • There will be restrictions on the use of tummy-tucks and liposuction to pass the BCA. Really.
  • Those who exceed a certain threshold on the PFA may get to wear a special t-shirt.
  • A Navy Fitness Ribbon is under consideration.

I think we can all agree that these changes range from sublime to ridiculous, with a shortage of the sublime. If it affected me, I would be most irritated by the SHALL dictate and the random BCAs. If I had the authority to make just one change, it would be that you could bail on the fall PFA if you scorched the spring PFA. Instead, you’ll get a nifty new t-shirt.

Never you worry, this is all part of the plan to reduce administrative distractions.

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Periphrastic Noise – 8/28 Edition

AlicexMadHatter

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where –”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”

Upon further reflection, I’d like to clarify and expand some of the thoughts I expressed in yesterday’s Strategy and Messaging. It was, after all, a blog post and not a submission for Joint Force Quarterly.

After any global event significant enough to demand our national attention, we can ask ourselves two questions.

  1. What do we want to do?
  2. What do we want to accomplish?

Question 1 is very instinctive, but it’s the wrong question to ask, and acting on the answer is not only foolish, but it can also be dangerous. It is a large-scale equivalent of taking a drunken swing at the 250 lb bouncer who has gotten on your nerves for reasons you don’t remember and couldn’t articulate if you could. Question 2 is the only one that matters. It is the question asked by professionals who are willing to take the time to reflect, for they realize that you can’t solve a problem you don’t fully understand.

Our lack of a coherent grand strategy, whether written or commonly understood amongst a small group of power-brokers, is the primary reason our country scrambles as each new development hits the world stage. Grand strategy doesn’t give you a blueprint, and it surely doesn’t give you a playbook, but it does give you boundaries and guidelines. It keeps you consistent, and being consistent is often better than being right. Instead, it’s like the first day of school every single day. Syria? Starting from scratch. Ukraine? Starting from scratch. ISIL? Starting from scratch.

A natural extension of a solid grand strategy and the policies it produces is consistent strategic messaging. Inconsistent policy breeds inconsistent messaging, even though they are not one and the same. They are, however, tightly interwoven, and you won’t see many entities that are good at one but not the other.

Thus endeth the lesson.


Unless you’ve spent the last few weeks untethered from the burdens of the internet, you’ve seen folks dumping water on their head to raise awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. There is all kinds of controversy surrounding this venture, as there always is with any endeavor for good, not the least of which was a DoD ban on participating in uniform.

“A.L.S. Association is a national non-profit organization. As such, participating in this event is subject to concerns about implied endorsement,” the Army issued in a statement from its Office of General Counsel (OGC) Standards of Conduct Office.

Good grief.

Here is a scene that plays out every single day on every Navy (and other services, I presume) base across the world. It’s two guys setting up a fundraiser, in uniform, at 0830. That’s 8:30 AM for those either unwilling or unable to do the math.

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I don’t care either way, but, you know…..

A tip of the hat to reader CF for the photo.

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Strategy and Messaging

I wrote about this in one of my earliest blog posts. As a nation, we have no grand strategy. Loosely defined, grand strategy is a comprehensive, long-term plan of essential actions to achieve major objectives. For a nation-state, it should include factors beyond military means: diplomatic, informational, economic, and financial. To develop a proper grand-strategy, you have to understand the foundation of who you are and what you want to be in the world and to the world. This stabilizes your foothold in the global landscape, because the international system becomes accustomed to your responses and where/how you choose to interject. Inconsistency infuses only chaos and confusion. It makes us, the greatest nation on earth, look aimless and blundering.

The harshest criticism of the 2003 conflict in Iraq, once you get past the did-they or did-they-not have WMD argument, was that the defense establishment failed to foresee and plan for the ensuing chaos that erupted in the power vacuum. Which perfectly explains why we intervened in Libya, and removed a horrible dictator who voluntarily gave up his own WMD and ruled over a country that was inhospitable to terrorists. Libya, though, was a good war you see, because we built an international coalition before intervening. Now we are surprised that the UAE and Egypt chose to conduct airstrikes in Libya, with or without telling us, to neutralize armed militants that are destabilizing the country.

In 2013, President Obama set a red-line for Syrian meddling at the use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels in Syria, and we did nothing. Vlad Putin stepped in and brokered a deal to have Russia oversee the removal of Assad’s chemical arsenal, right before forcefully taking the Crimean Peninsula. ISIL gains strength in northeastern Syria and starts rolling through northwestern Iraq. This finds us flying surveillance sorties over Syria, and contemplating airstrikes in Syria, only now the targets would not be the vile forces of Bashar-al-Assad, but would instead be ISIL militants. It is currently unclear if any of this surveillance or potential airstrikes would be coordinated with the Syrian government, not that anyone cares.

The red-line for the latest round of airstrikes in Iraq that began just a couple weeks back was that American lives were threatened. Ostensibly, this refers to the US Consulate in Erbil, situated in Northern Iraq. Can we stop that foolish rhetoric? If that’s the primary concern, evacuate. You strike groups like ISIL because they are a detestable group of world criminals who are an absolute stain on humanity. You need no other reason.

Kori Schake at Foreign Policy brilliantly described the current administration’s grand strategy thusly: Step Away, Do Nothing, Pat Self on Back.

Obama administration officials spent much of the spring and summer trying to position themselves as grand strategists. The president’s West Point speech was the test drive of their revised national security strategy. It cautioned that “our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences — without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.” The speech was panned by both the right and the left, precipitating a reconsideration of releasing the National Security Strategy on which it was based (thelast was delivered in 2010); it sounds even more laughably self-satisfied in light of the costly mistakes their “restraint” has occasioned in Libya, Syria, and Iraq.

We haven’t done ourselves any favors by using the pulpit to pound home a strong message. This is what the President had to say about ISIL in January of this year.

The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

According to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby (former Blue Angel PAO!), it was all a big misunderstanding.

There’s no divergence. This is August. You’re talking about comments that were made in January. ISIL — and we’ve been watching this for months. They have grown in capability. I’ve said it from the podium as have others. They have grown in capability with speed, helped along by resourcing from some of their own criminal activity, as well as donations and ransoms and helped along by a sanctuary that they have in Syria. So, we’ve all been watching this. They have advanced in capability. And we — we saw the speed with which they gained ground and held ground in northern Iraq earlier this summer.

So, it’s a — the real answer to your question is, it’s a constantly changing, fluid situation, and their threat continues to grow. And that’s what led us to where we are today, which is that we believe it does pose an imminent threat, and it’s a threat that we need to take seriously.

Lucky for Admiral Kirby is that he has State Department Jen Psaki on his team. Remember her?

UnitedforUkraineListen to her explain how natural gas moves through Europe, and then explain to me how she still has a job.

This is how our enemies use strategic messaging. These are taken from the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire.

inspire

$4,200 was the total cost of a failed bomb plot on a US cargo jet. That’s the same cost as two hours of jet fuel in an FA-18. Message received?

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This was enough to educate and motivate the Boston Marathon bombers. Message received?

There is little question in my mind that we must deal forcefully with ISIL, and the military should play a large role to that end, but we have to synchronize all other elements of power in order to so with any efficacy. For the time being, it feels more like being embarrassed than it does like winning.

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An Op/Ed Worth Reading

Dissent

The Pensacola News Journal, perhaps rather than accept death by a thousand cuts, finally relented and published an Op/Ed piece with a dissenting opinion on the dust-up at the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. Predictably, some will be made unhappy by this article, but kindly remember, we never mention Voldemort by name.

I’m going to tell you why I think this piece is important, not that you asked. The list of those affected by this debacle (other than the traumatized complainant) is obvious to most: the former Boss, his family, those closest to him, and the current team that has been forced to wade through the aftershocks. There is also collateral damage that is not so obvious. Here is a gentleman whose son was a pilot on the team, and whose entire experience is now tainted. Three years of his fondest memories were stolen from him. Not because what he thought the Blue Angels represented was a fraud, mind you, but because of the manner in which the institution treated an officer he so greatly respected and admired.

Please read on.

With apologies to Winston Churchill: Never in the field of military scandals, has so little justification been the cause of so much pain, for so many, from so few (in fact, from just one).

I am suffering from a severe case of disillusionment.

I spent three wonderful years (2010-2012) following as many Blue Angel air shows as I could; first as “Proud Dad of No. 7,” then as “Prouder Dad of No. 6,” then as “Proudest Dad of No. 5.” I visited the beautiful city of Pensacola probably a dozen times for air shows, practices, visits to the Naval Museum and to visit my son and his family, happy residents of downtown Pensacola. Yes, I am the proud father of a former Blue Angel.

From Pensacola to Anchorage the shutters on my cameras clicked thousands of images of courageous patriots, under the exceptional and principled leadership of Capt. Gregory McWherter. The pilots put their lives on the line daily for the cause of military recruitment. But their risk of death was mitigated by extraordinary leadership. Of course not all officers in the Blue Angels put their lives on the line in the air shows; some deal with no-risk areas such as public affairs. But for those at risk, “Boss” McWherter kept them safe from operational mishaps. That’s important to me.

I think of El Centro Winter Training; I think of the shows along the Chicago waterfront and San Francisco Bay; I think of the fabulous Pensacola Beach shows and the end-of-season show on the Naval Air Station Pensacola and the Seville Quarter celebration following, honoring those leaving the team and introducing new shipmates. Boss would memorize the names and backgrounds of all the officers on the team, and their spouses, for the individual introductions! I loved this added touch that perhaps only we, the families, could fully appreciate. He cares. That’s important to me.

As most of you are probably aware, the former commander of the Blue Angels from 2009 to 2012, Capt. McWherter, is in hot water with the Navy. He is accused of condoning an inappropriate command climate in the Ready Room. He has been found guilty and removed from his command.

Apparently the guys, and one lady, engaged in what most would regard as sophomoric locker-room humor. The Diamond called the Solos gay, and the Solos returned the favor. This inter-team competitiveness was used by the team to increase morale, and tighten performance edge. It may not be politically correct, but it’s certainly not indicative of homophobia as claimed by one sullen soul!

The accuser, a Machiavellian young lady who maintained a log of all the jokes and comments during her two years on the team, never filed a concurrent complaint, and participated herself in some of the childish acts (by bringing some pornographically carved pumpkins into the Ready Room around Halloween 2012). For some unexplained reason, she waited over a year to file an accusation that the jesting offended her. In the present defensive atmosphere from the inexcusably high number of serious military gender issues, the resulting inquiry magnified the good-humored banter into pornography, homophobia and gender discrimination.

A head had to roll — and Boss McWherter became a victim of the politically correct pendulum swing.

Let’s put things in perspective: We are not talking here about rape or sexual assault. We are not talking about behavior or incompetence that endangered the lives of the team. We are talking about locker-room behavior, commonly found across all facets of society where intensely competitive, overachieving hot-shots gather. The accuser voluntarily injected herself into this environment. And then she whined.

We are talking about a great leader who managed to mold the high-test environment of young mavericks into a safe fighting team. We are talking about rebuilding shattered team morale after a near-death experience for the Diamond. We are not talking about a Ready Room atmosphere any different from past decades of military and civilian life.

But apparently it was time to make a change. The unlucky one, in the wrong place at the wrong time, was McWherter. There must be dozens of other commanding officers who read the case against McWherter who thank their lucky stars that a trusted fellow officer did not keep a record of ordinary back-and-forth banter during meetings.

So a great leader, superb pilot and courageous patriot is out, while his accuser, lacking any of the accolades justly attributed to “Boss,” is cowering under the wings of a new husband and new command. She remains to form the nucleus of tomorrow’s Navy. I ask why would a young person want to risk building a career in an institution that values unjust accusations higher than loyalty, honor and keeping the team safe? Does this make any sense?

I am disillusioned.

I understand and agree, Dr. Simonsen. Just the same, you should remain justifiably proud of your son (as I’m sure you are), and grateful for the time he got to spend under the leadership of one of our best. Such opportunities are precious and rare.

There must be dozens of other commanding officers who read the case against McWherter who thank their lucky stars that a trusted fellow officer did not keep a record of ordinary back-and-forth banter during meetings.

You got that right.

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At Least They’re Starting Early

USMA_Color_Guard_on_Parade

Most any college or university requires prospective students to write an essay for consideration during the application process. How much weight is given to the essay, and how the admissions board determines what constitutes a good essay, I cannot say. It’s difficult to imagine even a sizable team of people reviewing 25,000 essays and putting them into piles that range between stellar and crummy. However they pull it off, listed below are the topics/questions for various institutions of higher learning:

Barnard College: Pick one woman in history or fiction to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. What would you talk about?

Common Application (used by more than 500 applications): Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is is meaningful to you?

Harvard University: What would you want your future college roommate to know about you?

Pomona College: What does freedom mean to you?

Rhode Island School of Design: Is there something you love, have to do, can’t stop thinking about? Write about a personal passion or obsession other than visual art or design.

Texas A&M University: Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?

West Point: Why will you be successful in working with leaders, peers, and subordinates of a gender, color, ethnicity, and/or religion different from your own?

The common application theme is the best, and most thought-provoking, in my opinion. I would rank RISD’s question second. West Point? Dead effing last. That’s terrible. Wouldn’t the Texas A&M question be a better fit for the US Military Academy? I am much more interested in how tomorrow’s battlefield leaders will overcome adversity than I am how s/he will manage diversity.

One interesting aspect of this is that the military is very much a meritocracy, especially at the lower levels of leadership. It’s only meddling by the grey-hairs that spoils it. Like monkeying with the composition of the color guard at a World Series game. You should click on the link, if only to be reminded that our JCS Chairman called diversity a “strategic imperative” and “our highest personnel priority”. And here I always thought our highest personnel priority was acquiring the right people who could best do the job.

Ask anyone who has been in combat – boots on the ground combat – if they cared about the ethnicity, skin color or religious preference of the person next to him while the bullets were flying. Competence rules in the crucible. We should let it rule all the time.

As for the hotel on the Hudson, this generation of future cadets is far better than that. You should have allowed them to show you in practice rather than requiring that they show you on paper.

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Callsign Hall of Fame

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Each service has its own rules for anointing new members of the squadron with their callsign. Not surprisingly, the USAF has a very ritualized (but raucous) naming ceremony. In the Navy, it varies from place to place. Some squadrons work off the white board. Some squadrons pin a variety of callsigns on an aviator until one sticks. Some squadrons adhere to a very USAF-like process. There are, however, some firm guidelines that very much apply across all services and aviation communities.

  1. The easiest callsign is one that matches a last name. I’ve known pilots with the last name of Kuntsky, and Lingus. That was fun.
  2. Doing something dumb or otherwise noteworthy is the surest way to get a (new) callsign.
  3. The more you publicly detest an interim callsign, the more likely it is to become permanent.
  4. Although it generates some good results, I’m not a huge fan of the acronym callsign. It gives the appearance of being creative without actually being creative. That said, I’m fond of a limited number, and this is a very popular option in the current environment.
  5. If you see a very senior officer with a callsign like Hawk, or Eagle, or Spear, odds are he was called Booger at some point and decided to change it. When this happens, whatever remained of street creed and cool points evaporates immediately.

Listed below are a few of my favorites.

SUMAT – (Shut Up. Men Are Talking.) Sorry, ladies. Misogynistic or not, that’s funny.

Chunks – Many squadrons have a variation of this guy. If you are enjoying inport liberty on an island, and your return to the ship involves a taxi cab, a water taxi, another taxi cab, and then a ferry, and you leave parts of your stomach in each mode of transportation, you have earned a new callsign.

Gretzky – Like Chunks above, but The Great One is highlighted by three expulsions of the stomach in a finite period of time.

Spank – For the guy who is convinced he has to voluntarily produce a 10cc sample to be analyzed in the medical department on account of freak radiation exposure.

Knob – This pilot, after close coordination with the schedules officer, retires to his stateroom on the ship for some personal time. Very personal time. When his roommate’s flight gets cancelled, he is interrupted in the most awful way. “Dude. Why didn’t you just put a sock on the doorknob?!” Both are forever scarred, because it’s okay to do it. It’s okay to talk about doing it. But if you get caught doing it, you’re a freak.

NATTY – Not Allowed To Talk Yet.

Catfish – A bottom feeder. Low standards. Exercises those low standards frequently.

Vespa – There is a saying about mopeds and girls with a higher-than-average body mass index. A Vespa? Even worse.

pink-vespa

Skip – They say the ground has a Pk of 1.0. Not true. The also say you can only tie the record for low altitude flight. Very true. If you bounce the belly of your plane off the ground and flyaway, you’ve not heard the end of it.

Jaws – So named is the guy who has a shark-neck. You know, when the skin makes a straight line from the chin to the top of the collar-bone. Kinda mean, I know. It’s meant to be.

I’m just scratching the surface here. I’ll bet you have one or two you’d be willing to share. If so, please do!

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Periphrastic Noise

This is a real-life Twitter battle between Amnesty International and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the latter being a DC-based think tank.

AI: US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clean up its own human rights record.

CSIS: Your work has saved far fewer lives than American Interventions. So. suck it.

Uh oh. Someone left the keys to the Twitter account in the hands of a twenty-something. I’m only half-sorry to admit I’m glad they did, because that right there is funny. I don’t care who you are. The intern in question did not see fit to tell me why s/he didn’t capitalize the  word “suck” in the last sentence.


 

I’m always hesitant to send you to other blogs. I operate under the assumption that there is a very finite number of words that can be read by a human being in a single day, and words read elsewhere are words that will not be read here. A zero-sum game, if you will. Ah, well. If that’s true, and you are better off at another site, I should elevate my game accordingly in an effort to win back your allegiance.

Please check out John Q. Public. Want a sample?

I left active duty because everything the Air Force had ever taught me told me that the service was on the road to institutional disaster, and there was nothing I could do from within to influence this fact, despite being reasonably favored, connected, and positioned to have an institutional voice. It wasn’t that the exhortations I and others advanced were ignored or discounted.  It’s that they were completely unwelcome.  They were unsought.  The service had not just stopped listening to its own officers, it had stopped wanting to hear from them in the first place. 

Most disturbing about this wayward culture is the tools abusive leaders are using to advance it.  The Air Force’s core values are supposed to be unifying, aspirational ideas around which airmen can rally and establish a shared identity.  Of late, this value system has been too often used as a cudgel with which to beat airmen into mental compliance.  On any given day, the pages of official Air Force websites are filled with commentaries penned by commanders and senior NCOs.  While some of these are thoughtful and useful, most are propaganda instruments hijacking the service’s value system as a literary device in the constant push for intellectual commonality. Perhaps without realizing it, the service’s own people are sowing the seeds of its potential destruction by demanding groupthink, and using the values they’ve sworn to uphold as fertilizer.

Is that not a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day? I knew you would like it. He doesn’t write all that frequently; he saves it for when he has something very important to say. Hey! Bite your tongue.

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Too Big to Fail

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As blog-worthy topics go, the F-35 is way too big. Any meaningful and/or productive dialogue would have to occur in bite-size chunks. Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because the chances of that program getting cancelled are the same as my chances of winning next year’s Masters at Augusta. We’re getting that aircraft. Some day. Eventually. Just not fully operational in 2009 as we were told in the mid-1990s.

One proven method for solidifying the ground on which a major program rests is securing a broad, geographically-diverse investment base. International? All the better. This is only one of many reasons the Joint Strike Fighter is too big to fail.

The F-35 has already had $100M+ economic impact in 18 states. There isn’t a Congressman alive who would give that up, regardless of how otherwise principled s/he may be.

Here is an eye-chart that perfectly illustrates the steel-reinforced concrete foundation of this program.

f-35 map

Think of it in terms of our non-existent Pacific Pivot. Looks good on paper. Not happening. If we, as a nation, were really serious about the Pacific Pivot, and not just in theory, we would move an aircraft carrier out of Norfolk and put it on the West Coast. Just don’t tell the Virginia defense lobby, eh?

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A Mission Statement

If you are not one of the legions who take The Matt Walsh Blog for a spin every day or two, I highly recommend you consider joining them. Matt brings his writing from a very conservative point of view. I tell you that only so you visit under proper advisement. He’s wicked smaht, and a superb writer. He comes straight at you. There is no William F. Buckley-esque requirement to read the same sentence over and over just to understand what he is trying to say. He also takes very bold positions that make many ordinary folks wince – our collective sensitivities heightened over the years for fear of offending this group or that.

One of the aspects of Matt’s writing that I enjoy (admire?) most is that he presents his case very logically and unemotionally. He’s not unemotional; you can very clearly tell that he has an emotional investment in his topics. It’s that he doesn’t let emotion cloud the defensibility of his position. This often leaves dissenting readers grasping for bogus arguments and ad hominem attacks.

Matt posted this picture of himself on his Facebook page about a month ago. In the aftermath of this highly controversial photo, he felt the need to make a statement.

OigI1k0R

I put up this new profile photo yesterday. I figured this picture is a better representation of who I am than some of the others that I use, so I decided to put it up. No big deal. It’s just a picture.

But over the last day I’ve actually received numerous messages and emails from longtime readers ‘outraged’ and ‘offended’ by this scandalous image. I’m not kidding — they actually used those words, specifically. They don’t like the booze and the tattoos, and a few people even criticized my posture and my clothing. Too bad they didn’t notice the cigar on the stand next to me, I suppose that really would have set them off.

I wonder how one functions on a day-to-day basis when they are so fragile that a guy sitting on his porch with a glass of bourbon can cause them to experience pangs of rage and anger. It’s a sad statement about our society, and it shows that the habit of being way too easily offended isn’t necessarily unique to one side of the political spectrum or the other.

He is so right. Our ability, as a nation, to conduct civil dialogue is all but gone. Here are two links to recent articles. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about black people.

If you want to prove you don’t hate gays, all you have to do is worship at their feet.

Matt Walsh makes a living off his blog. A handsome living, I suspect, when combined with his other ventures. For the rest of us, why bother with a blog, especially given the ever-present potential for invective? That’s a great question, and one I ask myself often. In my case, I think it’s to offer an avenue for discourse. It’s a way to vent. It’s to present opposing viewpoints that would not otherwise be heard. It’s to say what many others want to say but can’t or won’t. It’s to build a community, of sorts.

I have received some back-channel reports that “these blogs” can be inflammatory, negative, and misleading. I prefer to think that “these blogs” can be energizing, truthful and accurate. Let’s start with misleading. If I write something that is incorrect, which I work very hard to avoid, I want to know about it. You can use the contact tab or the comments section to let me know. Please note: when I say “I believe intervening in Libya was a bad idea”, you are welcome to disagree and tell me why, but that’s not wrong in the clearest sense of the word because I am expressing an opinion. When I say “Only 42-percent of in-zone NFOs were selected for promotion to O-4″, and in truth, 49-percent were selected, I am wrong and would like the chance to set the record straight. I believe we’ve done a good job with that here (see what I just did?).

Back at the trade school on the Severn, I was told that the intent to deceive was a necessary component of a lie. So if an upperclassman asked you if you shined your shoes two weeks ago, and you told him that you did because that’s what you recall, then you are not lying if it turns out you took that day off from shining duties. On the other hand, you can cherry-pick a few facts in order to convey a narrative that is not at all an accurate representation of the truth. It’s not necessarily a lie, but it is still an intent to deceive because the full story is not presented. Withholding select information is every bit as misleading as sharing information that is not completely true.

Inflammatory and negative represent an interesting choice of words. Officers who, for example, have done everything they were asked to do and will still be shown to the door because of a process that was clearly mismanaged have a right to be incensed. Officers who were selected should have similar concerns because this is their Navy, and next time, it could be them. Predictably, there is grave concern, a lot of venting, and use of phrases like “breach of trust”. Such grumbling is both inevitable and necessary. As I see it, those in a position to address it and do something about it have three options:

  1. Pretend as though it’s not happening.
  2. Acknowledge that it’s happening, but ignore it. After all, it’s just whining.
  3. Listen carefully and take action whenever and wherever possible.

The way I see it, and I promise I’m not giving myself too much credit here, is that these online discussions effectively give anyone who is willing to make the effort a tape-recording of JOPA meetings in the ready room. Who wouldn’t want to listen?

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Lessons Learned

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In this case, specifically those Lessons Learned from the Aviation Department Head Screen Board held in June of this year. With the steadily declining O-4 promotion rates affecting the number of officers eligible for this board, and the potentially declining number of officers who desire to serve as Department Heads, I predict next year’s results will be even more…. interesting.

While anyone can get access to the lessons learned, it takes a trained eye (not that I have one!) to cull the wheat from the chaff, and there is also some inside baseball that is only accessible to those who have taken a few more trips around the sun than most members of the ready room.

Before I give you my speech, I will address two matters.

  1. It is not clear in the slide deck whether or not a detaching 1 of 1 EP FITREP counts toward the total of EPs listed. That’s significant. If your detaching FITREP is less than a 1 of 1 EP, something is askew.
  2. These numbers are not broken out by sub-community. I suspect that select rates vary greatly from VFA to VAW to VP, etc.

Let’s assume that we have dispensed with introductions and other pleasantries, and I now stand proudly in the front of the room. I just love a captive audience.


 

“There were 416 officers eligible for Aviation Department Head (DH). 266, or 64-percent, were selected. Another 33 officers selected for OP-T DH, but I won’t spend much time analyzing those. The Navy has made clear that OP-T DH tours have no defined career path or gateway to making O-5. If you are selected OP-T and want to continue serving, I applaud you and encourage you. Just know that – based on history alone – you’d be wise to make other plans or accept that you are likely to retire as an O-4.

Please understand that the published selection rates are not like those for promotion boards. All eligibles are created equal in that selection percentages are calculated against everyone, not just those in-zone.

In looking at the discriminators, and using 64-percent as a benchmark, Fleet Replacement Squadron instructors and those in the various Weapons School programs did very well. That’s no surprise. What is a surprise, at least to me, is that training command instructors selected at only 57-percent, and those with an IA or GSA under their belt selected at only 49-percent. It’s time to forget the bill of goods you were sold, not that you wanted to go to Afghanistan anyway. Taking an IA not only doesn’t help you, statistically speaking, it actually hurts you. I’m sorry to be the one telling you that, especially since so many sent on IA tours are not volunteers.

Multiple competitive EP FITREPs help your chances. That makes sense. One oddity in the numbers is that those with only one EP in their quiver did better by percentage than those with two or three EPs. It’s only 24 officers, which is a small sample size, but still, 83-percent of those with only a single EP selected for DH. I honestly don’t know what to tell you.

The takeaways and recommendations the Bureau offered are not cosmic. Sustained superior performance, and that. They say that all production tours are viewed favorably. I’m not sure I agree. Flying aircraft with the orange and white mafia actually appeared detrimental.

My takeaways are that you should work hard, compete to be your very best every day, and control what you can control. The only guidance I, or anyone, can give you regarding your career path is based on past results. Like any mutual fund prospectus will tell you, past results are no guarantee of future success. If you don’t care how this particular venture turns out, then do what makes you happy and accept the consequences with a smile. If you can’t live with yourself if you don’t do everything within your power to reach the next career milestone, then stay on the path. Please realize that the path may change, so if it doesn’t all come to fruition, find comfort in the fact that you did all you could while you’re picking the thorns out of your heels.

There are other recommendations, but those are mine. I will continue to do everything I can to make sure your FITREPs read well, say the right things, and are commensurate with the level of effort you expend in this squadron. That is my contract to you.

And now, the XO will remind you to pay your mess bills, get a haircut, and shine your boots. Boo.”

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