By lex, on Tue – April 13, 2004
Off to sea again, couple of weeks. An Expeditionary Strike Group, this time.
It’ll be interesting in a couple of ways: The Strike Group commander is a Marine Brigadier General. I’ve never even heard of a Marine commanding Navy ships, but from what of seen of this particular guy, he’s supremely well equipped to handle the burden.
It’ll also be interesting in that my experience in the amphib Navy approaches zero. I cruised aboard an old LST as a midshipman back in the early ’80s, but I hardly count that. I’m a carrier guy, always have been.
Amphibs are a strange breed, to a carrier Navy guy. They’re slow, and don’t carry a lot of organic firepower. They have this comfortable way of anchoring at night. The flight deck has restrictions on the number of hours it can operate, and how long before they go back to work again. It’s just different, is all. We don’t do it that way.
Working with the Marine Corps in the exercise planning process has been revelatory as well. No one does so much with so little as the USMC – these guys are truly pro’s. But they’re also incredibly dogmatic and difficult to negotiate with. Like the Navy, they have an actual doctrine. Unlike the Navy, they’ve actually read it, and refuse to budge an inch away from it. You don’t like it? Talk to the Commandant.
Should be fun.
What will happen while I’m gone? Son number one will commit to one of the several institutes of higher learning to which he has been accepted. He will also turn 18. He’s my pride and joy, and I’ve missed seven of his birthdays, over the years.
Everyone else will accommodate themselves to the fact that dad’s not around for a while. Which is starting to get a little stale, to me.
But hey, no one’s shooting at me.
Saw the Pres tonight on his press conference. Thought he did a great job, considering. He’s not as glib as his predecessor, nor an orator like the British PM. But he’s clearly a man of deep convictions.
Which is exactly right, for me. Nixon / Kissinger style Realpolitik made me ill. If America doesn’t stand for something, something moral and elevated, who will stand for her? Might does not make right, but I really believe that right makes might.
Call me naive, if it suits you.
Speaking of deep convictions, last night’s entry fell a little flat – I admit I didn’t express myself very well – I was under a time crunch, and anyway it’s a little hard for a Navy guy to talk about combat losses among the ground forces. I haven’t been there, myself. My killing work has always been done at an antiseptic distance, and friends who have died just don’t come back from the mission. You don’t see the light go out of your enemy’s eyes, and you rarely have a body to bury, in fighter aviation. Just a flag, and an empty casket.
When I was flying over Iraq, I always carried a sidearm. Some guys didn’t – if you were captured, the weapon might end up in uncomfortable places, based on debriefs we’d received. But I was a boy scout, and we were taught that it was always better to have something than want it. Also, an instructor I had admired once told me, “If you get shot down, the war hasn’t ended, the tactics have changed.”
There’s a before and after line to killing someone else, even someone anonymous. Just like there’s a before and after line to losing a friend, or a wingman. It changes you, and you can rationalize all you want, but you’re someone different than you were the day before. And you always will be, and nothing will wash that away. You know that no matter how important the mission was (one of mine was destroying an operational cruise missile site that threatened US Navy ships and sailors), you’ve crossed a civilizational line. And if you are a person of faith, you know that one day you’ll have some explaining to do.
Which is why the Andy Rooney’ s * of the world drive me a little batshit. We’ve sent teenagers overseas, and put them in places where they are frightened, and put them in places where they have to kill other human beings, and we put them in places where they lose brothers and sisters right in front of their eyes, and some jackass with a political bone to pick uses their sacrifices as a whipping post.
But there I go again. Getting riled up.
So anyway, I’m out. Talk to both of you in a couple of weeks.
That prayer thing, from a couple of weeks ago? Keep it going. It seemed to work pretty well.
And I thank you.
*06-30-18 Link gone. Unable to find a replacement (was mudville gazette) – Ed.