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Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

One hundred and fifty days ago was the last time we saw land. At ninety consecutive days at sea, the CO can authorize beer call onboard a U.S. Naval vessel. Ours didn’t.

One hundred and fifty consecutive days is the reason why sailors drink the way they do when they hit port. One hundred and fifty consecutive days is the story behind my only run in with NCIS.


Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS
You’ll get tired of this view by month 2.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin M. Langer)
 

The mundane sounds of the ship’s bells and whistles could no longer be heard in the distance, but were instead replaced by the zips and zooms of families of five astride scooters cutting through traffic. After a grueling three-hour wait for liberty call, we made it off the ship, let loose on the tropical port.

The first thing I learned in my humble beginnings as a young sailor was to order the biggest alcoholic drink I could find, as soon as I could find it. Today, my five-course meal was four orders of shots and a burger. After months of MIDRATS and MREs, my stomach was torn. Like a true intellectual, instead of indulging on local culture and foods, I stuck to what I know — a place we have back home: Hooters. I traveled 7,326 miles to dine at a fine establishment that I often frequent in the states.

Two shots in and the ship’s coordinates were starting to fade quick. After months of mandatory sobriety, the alcohol quickly replaces the blood in my veins. The bad-decision hamster wheel starts turning and, suddenly, sh*t ideas become the best ideas. I stand in line at the ATM behind a white expat that’s surrounded by girls that were obviously paid to be there, rubbing his back as he withdraws more cash. I punch in my four-digit pin to see seven months of tax-free, pathetic petty officer pay screaming at me, eager to be blown on warm beer, greasy food, and squalid strippers.

Earlier that day, getting briefed on liberty, we were told thatthe most important thing to remember was to never leave your battle buddy. If you don’t check in with the same person you checked out with, you might as well become a deserter. Find yourself a dish-washing job, maybe a wife,and learn the native language. You’d be stupid to do it, but you wouldn’t be first.

Four shots in and we’re stumbling down the streets, stopping at various times to piss the letters “USA” sloppily down alleyways and all over buildings — exactly the opposite of what we were briefed to do. It’s like trying to wrangle kittens. The most responsible of us (or, the guy most motivated to see strippers) is the voice of reason that keeps pushing the group forward. After a seemingly ten-mile hump, we arrive at the gate: AREA 51.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS
Kinda like this… but with strippers.

 

Inside, the smell of a fog machine and cheap perfume attacks my nose. The spotlight is a flood light, the light show looks like a couple of blind kids playing laser tag, and the girls look like a lineup of failed The Bachelor contestants. There was a girl dancing on stage, moving offbeat to the loudest techno song in the world, in between four unused poles. Unprovoked, I suddenly found myself onstage beside the dancer, doing my best Magic Mike impression.

Six shots in and I’m swinging my shirt over my head like a rodeo clown with money stuffed into the lining of my pants. The whole club is cheering me on — the strippers, the servers, everyone. When the song ends, my drunk ass follows the dancer into the back room. I hear a mix of laughs and excited screams coming from all the girls and the madams that are getting them ready. They drop what they’re doing to run over and take a picture with me.

In my drunken stupor, I assumed it was my handsome good looks and my devilish charms. It wasn’t — it was the big, red target on my back. A giant, green money sign.

We rented out a private room for pennies on the dollar. The drinks were cheaper in buckets and we got a complimentary bottle of kerosene disguised as vodka. The drinks came with dancers, and so the night rolled on. Loud music, bad drinks, and worse company.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS
NCIS Special Agents in action.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Thomas Mudd)

Out of nowhere the door flies open.

“NCIS!”

Flashlights wave in our faces, screaming girls run off half naked, and there we are, a circle of drunk sailors thinking we’re f*cked. The team of agents clears the entire club, going room by room, scanning for sailors. My heart is pounding. Sobriety has never hit harder. The brief on off-limits areas flashes into my head, suddenly crystal clear:

Area 51 – OFF LIMITS TO ALL U.S. PERSONNEL.

F*ck. The club manager runs around frantically, trying to collect his money. A couple agents ask us if we’re squared away with our tab. We are and, against all protocol, he sneaks us out the back.

With a throbbing head and fuzzy memories of the night before, I pop the first of many Advils of the day and make my way through the hangar bay of the ship to morning passdown and shift change. I walk by faces I recognize from the night before and I pull down the front of my cover and gaze away.

Over fifty sailors were put on restriction, a handful of them were processed out of the Navy.

It was the only run in I’ve ever had with an NCIS Special Agent and he saved my ass.

Editor’s note: So, you think your sea story is better? If you’ve got a tale that the world needs to hear, send it our way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Air Force’s policy on nose art is actually pointless

It was once a staple of aviation: During WWII, pilots and crews would decorate the nose of their beloved aircraft with a piece of art. At first, these drawings were used as means of identifying one another. Later, they became a way to remember what’s waiting back home — usually gorgeous women posed in ways that’d make grandma blush.

The practice wasn’t given official approval, but it wasn’t banned outright, either — for a while, anyway. Then, the Air Force finally put their foot down. We understand that there’s a need for nose art to look “professional” in modern times, but the extensive approval process defeats the purpose of the tradition and has effectively killed one of the coolest parts of Air Force history.


Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

A distinctive marking might just defeat the purpose of flying a top secret aircraft…

(U.S. Air Force)

New nose art still appears on aircraft, but the instances are less frequent and varied. The 23rd Fighter Group’s A-10s, for example, will still have their iconic “shark teeth” — at least until the A-10 retires in 2022 — and many larger aircraft, such as the KC-135 and AC-130, still carry gorgeous and patriotic designs, but these are often relegated to being “Air Show darlings” instead of serving their intended purposes overseas.

The soft ban on nose art isn’t without some validity. We understand that you can’t slap a drawing of a nude lady on the side of a multi-million dollar aircraft and expect the general population to be happy with it — and it’s probably not a good idea to put a layer of paint on the high-tech, radar-resistant panels that cover the stealthier aircraft in America’s hangers.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

It’s a combat multiplier, or whatever buzzword that gets officers going these days…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

Today’s airmen who feel the need to give their baby some style don’t often use any kind of permanent paint. Instead, crews will usually use colored chalk to draw on their designs. That way, they can simply wash it off whenever needed (like when an ornery officer wants to rain on the parade).

There’s some practical reasoning behind dolling up an aircraft with chalk — and it’s more than just honoring a WWII tradition. It makes it much easier to identify which matte gray aircraft belongs to which crew when you’re looking at a massive lineup. Instead of cross-referencing tail numbers, you can simply look for the one with a dragon or a grim reaper or a poor attempt at a tiger.

This also brings a sense of “ownership” to the aircraft. Yes, it ultimately belongs to Uncle Sam and whomever has it on their hand receipt, but when you’ve got some personal attachment, you’ll put in that little bit of extra effort to keep everything in tip-top shape.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

Or, if you really want to reign it in, make it match the unit’s history — but let ’em have some fun.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Owsianka)

If a crew wants to add some permanent nose art, they’ll have to coordinate a request for artistic modifications through their major command and navigate all the bureaucratic red tape that comes along with it. It’s not impossible, but getting anything approved that isn’t a direct nod to unit history or extreme patriotism is difficult.

So, instead of slogging through all that nonsense, some airmen just go for it and decorate their aircraft. What happens to these renegades? Usually nothing more than a slap on the wrist and an order to remove the offending art. Which brings us to the ultimate question:

Why even have a rule against nose art? If the design is in good (and professional) taste and it’s done by a competent artist, why not allow airmen to mark their birds with something that will inspire their unit?

H/T to my friends at Military Veterans of Disqus for the inspiration for this piece. You guys rock!

MIGHTY HISTORY

How US Marine Wayne Terwilliger charged a Japanese tank head-on

The nose of their amphibious tank entered the ocean and bobbed through the waves en route toward the reef of Saipan, the largest archipelago among the Northern Mariana Islands. Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, a radioman assigned to the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, watched helplessly as they crept over the reef toward the beach into the range of Japanese defensive positions.

“I started seeing these puffs of water all around us, and it took a second to realize what was causing them,” Terwilliger wrote in his autobiography. “Then we heard small arms fire hitting our tank, and the reality sank in: there were people on that island who wanted us dead.”


Prior to the invasion of Saipan, U.S. Navy frogmen conducted a daring reconnaissance mission in advance of the assault force. Valuable intelligence collected had provided the amphibious tanks with adjustments to successfully land on the beach — but they didn’t anticipate how their tracked vehicles would navigate earth displaced by battlefield weaponry in combat.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

Wayne Terwilliger, third from the left, on the beach at Saipan during a shelling attack, June 1944. The photo ran in newspapers across the country; in 2000, it appeared as background on a sheet of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com

While the amphibious tanks attempted to land on the beach, some were destroyed and others became trapped in craters left from mortar shells in the sand. “Japanese mortars kept whistling over our heads,” Terwilliger said, describing his first hours in combat stuck inside a large, green, immobilized target. “Most of them were headed toward the beach area, but we never knew when one would come our way. We also had no idea how long we’d be stuck there. We were there at least a couple of hours, though it seemed like forever.”

Terwilliger’s crew left the disabled tank and scattered, diving into foxholes situated out of the open. Gunfire snapped overhead, and explosions from mortars and grenades flung a wall of shrapnel through the air. Before they could catch their breath the rumbling sound of an unfamiliar tank grew nearer. Their horror realized Japanese armor with the big red “Rising Sun” emblem on the tank’s side was blasting its 37mm turret gun and had stopped directly beside their foxhole.

With nothing more than a few hand grenades, his crew couldn’t defend themselves. They pulled the pins and hurled them at the tank before fleeing for cover, but there wasn’t any within crawling distance. Terwilliger ran under heavy fire across open ground until he reached an old Japanese artillery piece. His stomach dropped when he realized he had run the wrong way. He found a little path, as if all of the enemy’s attention was upon him, and sprinted toward the beach as bullets zipped passed. He looked over his shoulder to find the Japanese tank trailing his every move.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, front left, with Company D, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, which was created to lead the assault on key islands in the South Pacific. They fought at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, and were preparing for new battles when the war ended. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com

He zigzagged through the soft sand to give the tank a harder target to hit. Marines waved and yelled to get his attention, and he dashed over a small sand dune for cover. “I looked back just in time to see one of our tanks made a direct hit, which knocked the Japanese tank on its side,” Terwilliger reflected. “That was my first six or seven hours of combat.”

Terwilliger served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps, participating in the invasion of Tinian, as well as being among the first amphibious tanks to lead the invasion of Iwo Jima. During World War II, many amateur and professional baseball players joined service teams when not actively participating in combat operations.

“We didn’t have any spikes so we played in the boots the Marines issued us,” Terwilliger told ESPN. “You would have an air-raid sound during the game, you would scatter and then come back later to finish.” Terwilliger helped lead his battalion team to a 28-0 record, even winning the 2nd Division Championship — not bad for a high school second baseman.

When news of Japan’s surrender in 1945 came in, Terwilliger was in Hawaii, preparing to invade mainland Japan. He left the military that same year and went on to have a successful career as a player, coach, and manager in Major League Baseball. For 60 years, taking Terwilliger well into his 80s, he remained active in America’s national pastime. He was a teammate of Jackie Robinson — the first Black player to break the color barrier — and a personal friend of Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in all of baseball. However, Terwilliger’s most prized experience was his service as a U.S. Marine.

BRCC Presents: WWII Army Ranger Roy Huereque & The Best Defense Foundation

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Intel

Navy plane captains get jets flying to the danger zone

If you’ve watched Top Gun, you probably enjoyed the dogfight scenes. Meanwhile, the ladies in the audience fiercely debated over who was more handsome, Maverick or Iceman (though the mustache fans out there might opt for a dark-horse candidate in Goose). But Top Gun, like many military aviation films, left out a crucial person who’s response for getting those jets ready to fly into the danger zone and blast MiGs out of the sky.


Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Levins, an F/A-18 aircraft mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 and an Issaquah, Wash., native, poses inside of an intake of an F/A-18 Hornet aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

One of the jobs a plane captain has is making sure the canopy is absolutely spotless.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dave Hites)

That person is the plane captain. According to a United States Navy release, he or she is responsible for making sure that a plane is fit to fly. This includes performing daily checks on all aircraft and additional checks made before and after each flight. Some of the things a plane captain looks for include cracks on the plane, missing fasteners (which could allow foreign objects to damage an engine), emergency oxygen levels, and canopy cleanliness.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

Plane captains assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 carry intake screens on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez)

Here’s the kicker: The people responsible for this are some of the newest, youngest personnel in the unit. We’re talking men and women who are anywhere from 19 to 21 years of age. They spend up to six months learning everything necessary to be responsible for a high-performance fighter. A Marine Corps release notes that these people spend as much as 14 hours per day keeping a jet ready. Oh, and they don’t get any overtime pay or comp time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s16W5Fg0dk

www.youtube.com

The real challenge is to keep from becoming complacent. After all, one mishap could cost the United States a multi-million dollar jet and the life of the pilot (or the crew). But the plane captains, like the pilots, get their name on the jet.

Learn more about what plane captains do in this Korean War-era film from the United States Navy.

Intel

This is why Pacific Partnership is a big deal

Recently, the Navy announced that the expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T EPF 6) completed Pacific Partnership 2018 in Thailand. If you’re out of the know, you may be asking yourself why this operation is such a big deal. Well, believe it or not, this annual exercise has been going on for a dozen years now and it’s an essential part of being ready for the worst.


After the 2004 tsunami ravaged Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and several other neighboring countries in one of history’s worst-ever natural disasters, the United States deployed relief ships to provide humanitarian aid. This generated generated a lot of good will among affected nations and their allies. This matters a great deal — when you have a reservoir of good will among a population, you’re much less likely to find yourself embroiled in war.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

USNS Mercy (T AH 19) taking part in Pacific Partnership 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

At the time, the United States had a pair of hospital ships, USNS Mercy (T AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T AH 20), that hadn’t seen much use. Although these ships are slated for replacement, they still house much more advanced medical facilities than most countries can offer. Those aboard USNS Mercy rendered care for 108,000 patients between 2004 and 2005.

After supplying aid in the wake of a terrible disaster, the Navy began to make annual deployments. The Navy has also used the big-deck amphibious assault ships of the Tarawa and Wasp classes in these deployments.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

A Navy corpsman gives a tour of the medical facilities on board USNS Mercy (T AH 19) during Pacific Partnership 2015.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde)

During Pacific Partnership, not only does the Navy provide a lot of medical aid, they host disaster relief training exercises with partner nations, like Thailand. As the old saying goes, “you fight like you train.” The same can be said of providing disaster relief.

This exercise is not entirely a one-way street, however. During Pacific Partnership, in exchange for advanced training, the Navy gets a lot of knowledge about the terrain and personnel are given the opportunity to build relationships with their local counterparts.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

Big-deck amphibious ships, like USS Essex (LHD 2), have also been used in Pacific Partnership deployments.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)

The operation isn’t exclusively for governments. Representatives from various non-governmental organizations also take part. These aren’t the normal passengers on Navy vessels, and having them aboard allows the Navy to practice operating as part of grand-scale, disaster-relief efforts.

At the end of the day, Pacific Partnership is one of the U.S. Military’s greatest chances to practice responding to a disaster. The fact that it generates good will and gets some nice press is just a bonus.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Team Rubicon does more than rebuild disaster areas

Susan Ward had only served five weeks in the military when she was medically discharged after an injury — but that didn’t change the fact that she wanted a life in service.

“From that moment when I got out, I was devastated,” she tells NationSwell. “That was my life goal and plan. I didn’t know what to do. I love helping and serving people, doing what I can for people.”

That feeling isn’t uncommon for thousands of military veterans who have a hard time transitioning to civilian life. Though unemployment among veterans who have served since 2001 has gone down, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 370,000 veterans who were still unemployed in 2018.


Numerous transition programs exist to help vets bridge that gap, but for Ward, finding a gig — or even volunteer work — that was service-oriented was necessary for her happiness. She eventually became a firefighter in Alaska, but after 10 years a different injury forced Ward to leave yet another job she loved. She fell into a deep depression, she says, and struggled to find another role that allowed her to fulfill her passion for public service.

“I was on Facebook one day and just saw this post about Team Rubicon, and I had this moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do this,'” she says.

Team Rubicon began as a volunteer mission in 2010 after the earthquake that devastated Haiti. The organization offered disaster relief by utilizing the help of former service workers from the military and civilian sectors.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS
First Team Rubicon operation in Haiti
(Team Rubicon photo)

It has since evolved into an organization fueled by 80,000 volunteers. The majority are veterans who assist with everything from clearing trees and debris in tornado-ravaged towns to gutting homes that have been destroyed by floods. The teams, which are deployed as units, also work alongside other disaster-relief organizations, such as the Red Cross.

Similar to Ward, Tyler Bradley, a Clay Hunt fellow for Team Rubicon who organizes and develops volunteers, battled depression after he had to leave the Army due to a genetic health problem.

“After I found [Team Rubicon], I was out doing lots of volunteer work. My girlfriend noticed and said she would see the old Tyler come back,” Bradley says. “Team Rubicon turned my life around.”

“There’s one guy who says that just because the uniform comes off doesn’t mean service ends,” says Zachary Brooks-Miller, director of field operations for Team Rubicon. He adds that the narrative around the value of veterans has to change. “We don’t take the approach that our vets are broken; we see vets as a strength within our community.”

In addition to Team Rubicon’s disaster-relief efforts, the organization also helps to empower veterans and ease their transition into the civilian world, according to Christopher Perkins, managing director at Citi and a member of the company’s Citi Salutes Affinity Steering Committee. By collaborating with Citi, Team Rubicon was able to scale up its contributions, allowing service workers to provide widespread relief last year in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Those efforts were five times larger than anything the organization had previously done and brought even more veterans into the Team Rubicon family.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS
Team Rubicon cleanup

“Being around my brothers and sisters in arms whom I missed so much, it was so clear to me the impact Team Rubicon would have not only in communities impacted by disaster, but also among veterans,” says Perkins, a former captain in the Marines. “Every single American should know about this organization.”

Although Team Rubicon doesn’t brand itself as a veterans’ organization, it does view former members of the military as the backbone of its efforts. And many veterans see the team-building and camaraderie as a kind of therapy for service-related trauma.

“There are so many people who have [post-traumatic stress disorder] from different things, and when you’re with family you have to pretend that you’re OK,” says Ward, who deals with PTSD from her time as a soldier and firefighter. “But when you’re with your Team Rubicon family, it’s a tribe.”

This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwellon Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US government warns Americans not to travel to Venezuela

The US Department of State issued a level-four travel warning for Venezuela on March 14, 2019, to tell Americans “do not travel” to the chaos-stricken country, and that all Americans in the country should leave. It’s the highest travel warning that the department issues.

The advisory pointed to “crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens.”

The announcement aligns with a top-level warning that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued in May 2018. That warning said outbreaks of measles, malaria, diphtheria, and other infectious diseases are contributing to “an increasing humanitarian crisis affecting much of the country.”


The Department of State noted on March 14, 2019, that, throughout Venezuela, “there are shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine, and medical supplies.”

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

(Flickr photo by Anyul Rivas)

Political rallies and demonstrations occur with little notice, the warning said. And these rallies attract a strong police response with “tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets against participants and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism.”

“Security forces have arbitrarily detained US citizens for long periods,” the warning said. “The US Department of State may not be notified of the detention of a US citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.”

After this warning was issued, American Airlines announced on March 15, 2019, that they would suspend flights into Caracas and Maracaibo. “Our corporate security team has a collaborative partnership with all of our union leaders and we will continue to do so to evaluate the situation in Venezuela,” the airline said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Captain warned that crew wasn’t ready before sub ran aground, investigation shows

A newly released investigation from a submarine mishap in 2015 that caused some $1 million worth of damage shows that an inexperienced crew was given the go-ahead to complete a tricky return-to-port mission in the dark, despite warnings from the commanding officer that they weren’t ready.


The Ohio-class submarine Georgia ran aground in the predawn hours of Nov. 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, as it prepared to return to port at Kings Bay, Georgia, to replace a failed towed array sonar. While conducting a scheduled pick-up of a new pilot at Fort Clinch, Florida, near the entrance to St. Marys River, which approaches the base, the sub inadvertently exited the channel, then collided with a buoy amid the crew’s efforts to re-orient. The grounding occurred as the crew worked to get clear of the buoy, the investigation shows.

Ultimately, the sub was able to return to port to assess damages, which were mostly cosmetic, save for the ship’s screw propeller, an acoustic tracking device and an electromagnetic log meter that measured the sub’s speed. The Georgia was taken into dry dock in December 2015 for assessment and the costly repairs.

The investigation, which was completed in March 2016 but just released to Military.com this month through a public records request, found that the “excessive speed” of the sub as it approached the pilot pick-up made it more difficult for the crew to control the ship, and that the tugboat carrying the pilot was positioned poorly, making the maneuver more complex.

Ultimately, though, blame for running aground is laid at the feet of the commanding officer. In the wake of the incident, the commander of Georgia’s blue crew, Capt. David Adams, was relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. Like all submarines in its class, Georgia has two identical crews — a blue and a gold — that alternate manning and patrols.

“His inability to effectively manage the complexity of the situation and failure to respond to the circumstances in a manner sufficient to protect the safety of the ship and crew is beneath my expectations for any CO,” an investigation endorsement by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, reads.

In his detailed and thorough endorsement of findings, Crites also dismisses the notion that maneuvering in the dark and with a green crew was what led to the sub’s disastrous mishap.

“Ultimately, had this crew (and the Pilot) executed the same plan in the same manner during broad daylight, there is nothing in the ship’s planning effort, demonstrated seamanship, or response to tripwires that indicates the outcome would be any different,” he said.

While coming in for the brunt of the blame, Adams was not alone in being designated for punishment. Crites indicated his intent to take administrative action against the sub’s executive officer; chief of boat; navigation/operations officer; weapons officer, who was the officer of the deck; and assistant navigator. He also said he’d issue non-punitive letters of caution to the commander of Submarine Squadron 16 and his own chief of staff and director of operations — all Navy captains — for failure to take appropriate action toward resolution regarding Adams’ concerns around the sub’s transit into port.

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) exits the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, following an extended refit period. Georgia is one of two guided-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

(Bryan Tomforde/U.S. Navy)

The 475-page investigation, which includes witness statements, logs and other supporting documentation, offers insight into what those concerns were. In a Nov. 24 email to the commodore of Squadron 16 marked “confidential,” Adams, the Georgia blue crew commander, lays out his qualms about the plan he has been ordered to execute, particularly the predawn return to port for a brief one-day stop with a crew that had spent just three weeks underway together on a new ship.

“CO/XO/NAV have not piloted into Kings Bay in the last 20 years. All of the untoward [incidents] I know of occurred between [St. Marys] and Fort Clinch,” he wrote. “My assessment is that this is not a prudent plan for [return to port] … Having just been at sea for a few weeks, I have not built enough depth. I am concerned about the fatigue level of my command element.

“Given an all day evolution and subsequent [underway], we will have spent the majority of 36 hours awake and are set to pilot out and submerge on the mid-watch at 0330.”

The two-page memo, it appears, was never received and read by Submarine Squadron 16’s commodore, Capt. John Spencer. But Adams testified he had relayed the same concerns face-to-face with Spencer days before, on Nov. 22. He also discussed the same issues, he said, in a follow-up phone call.

This much is clear: the plan wasn’t called off, and the mission was cleared to proceed. But murky communication dogged the lead-up to the operation, and later the mission itself.

Spencer and others testified that Adams had been given leeway to “slow things down a little” if he felt uncomfortable. Adams said he believed any delay would have been viewed as insubordination.

On the day of the mishap, communication was also flawed, in ways that underscore the crew’s unfamiliarity with each other, and possibly the sleep deprivation that had left some members running on just two to three hours of rest.

According to the investigation, as the Georgia approached the point at which it was to meet with the tug and pick up the pilot — the navigation expert who would drive the ship into port — it became clear that the tug was well west of its expected position. The sub, meanwhile, was approaching too fast and slowing too gradually. The investigation found it was still making 15 knots, or about 17 miles per hour, when it passed the set “all stop” point. That speed and positioning would make every maneuver that followed more risky and difficult.

Initial attempts to communicate with the tug and the pilot aboard via radio were unsuccessful, and the planned transfer happened late. Adams did not want to scrap the transfer and proceed into port without the pilot, the investigation found, because of the challenges of pulling into port without one.

When the sub exited the channel at the west end of the Fort Clinch basin, the crew’s communication skills faced a major test. The assistant navigator recommended to the navigator that the sub go to “all back emergency,” a call the navigator then passed to the bridge. The officer of the deck seemed to agree, but said nothing, the investigation found. Adams, however, overrode the order, believing it would not work, and ordered “all ahead full” instead. He started directing the officer of the deck, but did not fully take control of the sub or give direct orders to the helm, the report states.

Despite a series of maneuvers — right hard rudder, left hard rudder, all ahead full, right hard rudder — the sub collided with Buoy 23 in the channel. But the worst was still to come.

“When [Adams] asked [the lookout] if the ship hit buoy 23, [the lookout] informed the CO that he did not care about the buoy, but thought the ship was going to run aground on the beach forward of the ship,” the investigation states.

As grounding looked imminent, the Georgia asked the driver of the C-tractor tugboat if the tug could cross in front of the sub on the starboard, or right, side, and push the bow around. The tug master refused, according to the investigation, worried that the water was too shallow.

The sub ended up, as the lookout put it, “hitting Fort Clinch.”

Sea Story: My run-in with NCIS

In this file photo from July 12, 2018, Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), views the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The base is home to six of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines that make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and support strategic deterrence.

(Eli Buguey/U.S. Navy)

The mishap, and the misgivings that preceded it, came against the backdrop of a Navy grappling with a culture in which overworked and unready crews were regularly put underway in service of operational needs. After two separate deadly destroyer collisions in 2017, service leaders found, among other things, that a “‘can-do’ culture” had undermined safety and led to unduly high operational tempo and fatigue.

“The can-do culture becomes a barrier to success only when directed from the top down or when feedback is limited or missed,” the Navy’s comprehensive review of the destroyer mishaps, released in October 2017, found.

Whether these factors came into play with the Georgia is more difficult to say.

In a statement for the investigation, Adams emphasized that he took full responsibility for what had transpired.

“Despite my significant reservation – expressed face-to-face, on the phone, and In emails with staff and leadership … concerning the risks of proceeding Into Kings Bay In the dark with an inexperienced team, when my requests to delay [return to port] one hour later were denied, I failed in my command responsibilities by driving to achieve mission success at the expense of appropriately acting to mitigate risks to increase our margin of safety,” he said.

“In retrospect, I should have loitered at [St. Marys] until I was satisfied that the risks were commensurate with the mission gain.”

Reached for comment by Military.com, Adams, who retired in 2016, referred to a public statement he had released at the time of his relief, in which he called the actions that caused the grounding “mine alone.”

“I ask that my lapses not be used to denigrate the terrific service of the Sailors and families of GEORGIA BLUE,” he said at the time “After thirty years of serving in the world’s finest Navy, my only regret is that I will miss sailing with them again to stand against our nation’s enemies.”

But the fact that some above Adams were also warned offers insight into how the higher command viewed the incident.

Crites faulted Spencer, the Squadron 16 commodore, with “failure to provide his ship a plan with adequate margin to safety, specifically in not providing sufficient guidance and training to his staff that developed the plan in his absence and not aggressively pursuing complete resolution of the ship’s requested arriva through personal intervention with the Type Commander staff.”

The chief of staff and director of operations for Submarine Group 10, Crites said in the report, had failed to “pursue acceptable resolution to the concerns they had with the plan for the ship’s arrival.”

Holly Carey, deputy public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic, declined to say whether all administrative actions recommended by the investigation were carried out.

“What I can tell you is that the Navy is confident that leadership took appropriate corrective actions against several personnel assigned to the squadron and submarine based on the findings of the investigation,” she said.

“Following the investigation, which concluded in 2016, leadership took appropriate accountability measures and has taken all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence in the future. USS Georgia, and her current crew, serve proudly today among the U.S. Submarine Force and has leadership’s full confidence to protect the interest of the United State and allies.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

China’s commander-in-chief has ordered the military command overseeing the contested South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Southern Theater Command Oct. 25, 2018, again stressing the need build a force that can “fight and win wars” in the modern age. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” he explained, adding that the command has a “heavy military responsibility” to “take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.”


“You’re constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Xi said, according to the China Daily, “I hope you can fulfill such sacred and solemn missions.”

The powerful Chinese leader has made strengthening and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a top priority.

As Xi delivered his speech in Guangdong province, Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The US Navy recently sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, a move that, like the US military’s frequent bomber overflights and freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, angered Beijing.

Tensions have been running particularly high in the South China Sea in recent months, with regular US B-52 bomber flights through the region and Chinese PLA Navy warships challenging American military ships and aircraft that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories in the disputed waterway.

US Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said Oct. 29, 2018, that the US Navy will continue to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations and challenge “illegitimate maritime claims.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants a more American paint job for Air Force One

Donald Trump reportedly wants to redesign his official presidential planes, because the current ones don’t look American enough.

The president thinks the current light-blue-and-white color scheme on the jets do not sufficiently represent the US, Axios reported on July 12, 2018, quoting an unidentified source.

The US Air Force maintains two identical Boeing 747 planes, which take on the “Air Force One” call sign when the president is onboard. One of them is always ready to go at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


The White House and Boeing struck a .9 billion deal in February 2018 for two new Air Force One planes, and Trump has requested that they be ready by 2021.

Trump now wants a redesign that “looks more American,” Axios reported, adding that he wants to make it red, white, and blue.

The president’s two Air Force One jets are currently light blue — “luminous ultramarine blue”, technically — and white, with a light brown and white lining, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” emblazoned on it. It also has the official presidential seal near the stairs the president typically uses to disembark the plane.

Trump also wants to make his bed aboard the planes bigger and more comfortable, like the one on his personal plane, Axios reported. During the presidential campaign, Trump used his personal plane — a Boeing 757 airliner-turned-private-jet— to travel around the country. It reportedly cost 0 million.

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Donald Trump’s personal plane.

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

While Trump has the power to redesign the jet, the US Air Force might take issue with it. Some senior officers like the current look as it is “known around the world,” Axios said, quoting its source.

Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy designed Air Force One’s current color scheme. Before that, presidents traveled on a rather plain Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. Axios reported that Trump had wanted the new planes to move away from the “Jackie Kennedy color.”

President Kennedy and renowned French industrial designer Raymond Loewy sat on the floor of the Oval Office in 1962 with colored paper and crayons to sketch out that paint scheme, according to a book about the history of the jet, titled “Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what it takes to prepare for a spacewalk

The Expedition 55 crew on board the International Space Station has been working hard to prepare for their May 16, 2018 spacewalk, and they’ll still have a lot of difficult work ahead of them when Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel head outside the airlock. If you’ve ever wondered what makes spacewalks such a big deal, check out chapter 17 of the new NASA ebook, The International Space Station: Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier. The book, which was written by space station flight directors, is now available to download for free.


Chapter 17: Extravehicular Activities – Building a Space Station
Planning and Training Extravehicular Activity Tasks

On paper, the tasks needed for International Space Station assembly—e.g., driving a bolt, carrying something from one place to another, taking off a cover, plugging in an electrical cord—might not seem too complex. However, conducting such tasks while wearing a spacesuit with pressurized gloves (possibly with one’s feet planted on the end of a long robotic arm), working in microgravity, maneuvering around huge structures while moving massive objects, having time constraints based on spacesuit consumables, and using specialized equipment and tools made these tasks and EVAs challenging.

Tasks such as working with cables or fluid hoses are hand-intensive work—fingers and forearms get quite a workout in pressurized gloves that feel like stiff balloons and resemble oversized garden gloves. Added to these complexities, space “walking” is mostly done with the hands. The astronaut grasps handholds and maneuvers the combination of the Extravehicular Mobility Unity, Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, tools, and himself or herself around the structure.

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A helmet view from astronaut Mike Fossum

The team on the ground has to come up with a choreography and order of events for the EVA, in advance. The flight control team creates the EVA timelines based on a high-level prioritized list of tasks determined by ISS management (e.g., move a specific antenna, install a particular avionics box). The flight controllers start with the top ISS priority task and assesses the other tasks that can fit into the EVA based on multiple factors such as how long the tasks will take based on past experiences, whether both crew members need to work together, task location on the ISS, how much equipment will fit into the airlock, the tools required, crew experience level, and the level of crew effort to complete the task. A task that might fit (but only if the team is efficient) is put on the list as a “get-ahead” task.
Real-time discussions in Mission Control of EVA time remaining, crew fatigue, and suit consumables could allow the get-ahead task to be accomplished in addition to the planned tasks. Some tasks are performed on a “clock”; i.e., if power is removed from an item, it might get cold and need heater power in a matter of hours or sometimes within minutes to prevent damage. While a timeline is still in a draft version, the team conducts testing as required to prove out the operations. The team then trains the crew and refines and/or changes the timeline, sometimes up to the day of the EVA.

Keep reading at https://go.usa.gov/xQbvH.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

popular

Why China’s carrier-based fighter looks like a dud

China’s first indigenous aircraft carriers are currently undergoing sea trials and are getting a good amount of international buzz. There is one crucial thing to remember about these large, powerful vessels, however. Their primary weapon, for both offensive and defensive operations, is the aircraft they carry on board. Building the carriers is just half of the answer to the question of naval dominance.

And while things might be going well at sea, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, the Chinese are having a problem — or, more accurately, a lot of problems — in the sky, specifically with the Shenyang J-15 Flanker. This aircraft isn’t quite original, it’s a copy of the Su-33, a plane that Russia is currently phasing out in favor of a modified MiG-29.


So far, there have been four crashes involving the J-15. At least two pilots have been killed trying to save planes that have suffered serious mechanical failures in flight. A third pilot was badly injured, taking over a year to recover.

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The J-15 is a Chinese copy of the Su-33 Flanker.

(Photo by Dimitri Tarakhov)

So, what’s China to do? Currently, there are plans to replace the J-15 with a version of the J-31, a Chinese fifth-generation fighter that’s currently in development. The J-31 made its first flight in 2012. The US struggled to get a true fifth-generation fighter in the air — there was more than a decade-long gap between the F-35’s first flight and introduction to service. While there’s no guarantee than the Chinese will run into the same delays the US, it does look as though they’re at risk of fielding aircraft carriers well before their primary armaments are ready.

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A model of the J-15.

(Photo by Nacht Eule)

Communist China currently has one carrier, the Liaoning, a Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier (and we know the track record of the Kuznetsov), in service. A refined copy of that carrier, known as the Type 001A, is China’s first home-built carrier. Meanwhile, the Chinese are also developing two new carrier classes, the Type 002 and Type 003. The former is said to be a conventionally-powered design in the 85,000-ton range while the latter is reported to be a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

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The Chinese are turning to the J-31 to replace the J-15.

(Photo by wc)

Of course, the effectiveness of these carriers will depend on whether the Chinese Communists can get workable planes. Otherwise, the carriers will be practically useless.

In October of 1944, a shortage of planes led Japan to use their carriers as decoys at Leyte Gulf. Unless the Chinese get to manufacturing solid aircraft for their carriers, they might find themselves in the same boat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Germany had laughably bad stealth aircraft in World War I

During World War I, Germany set out to make the first stealth aircraft and successfully did so, creating multiple invisible planes in 1912 that later saw combat deployment in World War I.

Unfortunately for the pilots, though the planes were invisible from the ground, they were often the single-most visible objects in the sky — particularly so when engulfed in flames.


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A German plane with see through wings and fuselage. These were found to be nearly invisible from the ground, but easy to spot when sun glanced off the reflective surfaces.

The problem is easy to understand. German engineers wanted the ultimate camouflage, and they went searching for a see-through material that could withstand the rigors of flight. They settled on a translucent cellon acetate, a cellulose product with qualities similar to movie film.

The canvas on early planes was swapped out with this clear material. The engine, pilot, and frame were all still visible, but the target was nearly invisible when viewed from the ground given that the planes were flying at 900 feet or higher. Even at lower altitudes, they were difficult to see and target.

From the sky, however, pilots ran into a very real problem.

The material was highly reflective of direct sunlight. So, when an enemy was approaching from a variety of angles, the sunlight would reflect off the wings and light up the plane like a beacon for anyone paying even minor attention to their surroundings.

Without radar, planes were already essentially invisible at night. So, stealth was supposed to revolutionize the daytime environment — see the issue here? The stealth technology was all but useless if the sun caused it to backfire completely.

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A Fokker 2 plane equipped with invisible skin.

For their part, the Germans knew that they had a problematic technology on their hands, and they largely shelved the invention, returning to a canvas body for most of their planes.

Still, the cellon planes were deployed during World War I and their combat record was even worse than you might expect. That’s largely because it was applied to possibly the worst candidate for cellon imaginable: a massive bomber of the Riesenflugzeug family.

A bomber would likely be the most valuable plane to turn invisible, but cellon shrinks and expands based on humidity and temperature, things that often vary in flight. Because the bomber was massive, that shrinking and expanding greatly affected the way the bomber flew.

The problem was that the plane already ran hot; four large engines mounted on the fuselage filled it with heat. Add to this an intense amount of sunlight passing through the clear fuselage and the result was a plane that was nearly unpilotable.

Something worth mentioning, though it didn’t end up affecting the bomber, is that cellon is highly flammable. So, if anything had gone wrong, it would’ve been a Hindenburg-style conflagration.

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A German Riesenflugzeug bomber with transparent panels. Pilots flew from the third deck at the front and had to deal with the horrendous heat and the shifting control surfaces.

The plane took two flights during the war. During the first, the shifting cellon made the plane controls impossible to work. The pilot tried to land the plane but couldn’t tell just how far the plane extended beneath him. He crashed and the plane was badly damaged.

The second flight went much worse — the plane’s wings just fell off. One crew member was killed.

Cellon stealth was not the wave of the future they wanted it to be — not that it would’ve helped Germany much. By World War II, radar was the new rage, and cellon wouldn’t have helped much, even given perfect conditions.

But that would’ve been great. Convincing the Nazis to fly planes made of highly flammable materials that changed size and shape during flight and sometimes just lost their wings would’ve been the a joy for the Allies.

“Hey, Luftwaffe, congrats on the invisible planes. Please, send as many pilots in as many planes as you can.”