Category Archives: Navy

Part LII Shutting Down

“Roger ball, Hornet, you’re just a little underpowered now. A little power, back to the right,” the voice of the LSO, smooth, caressing, careless. Another day at sea, for all his voice might give it away, but how did I get low? The power coming up and catch it, catch it on line-up – don’t chase it. Almost there, don’t lead it – Now, a little power back off, half of it back on again to catch it, rate of descent is looking good. Looking good, but wait, drifting a little “a little right for lineup,” said the LSO, the JG responded, silently cursing, I saw it, I was just about to “a little power” the LSO again, throttles up but not too far, for God’s sake don’t bolter. “Easy with it,” the LSO said and a part of him wanted to cry that there was nothing easy about it, but he stuffed it aside and he was almost there, crossing the ramp, one more correction, a little power off – no: ON and a little left wing down and WHAM! On deck! On deck, by God! And the joy in his heart, the engines screaming at military power as the wire ran out, went taut, held hard, the jet bucking like a trapped beast in a snare and there was the Air Boss on the radio, saying something, something to him, repeating it again, again with emphasis and finally the words making sense, “Lights on deck 311, lights on deck. We’ve got you, throttle back. We’ve got you.”

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Part L  Another trip to the tanker, bad news

A quarter mile to go, almost there, five seconds, all the world he cared about a-tiptoe, holding its breath. The big tanker pulling abeam the fighter on approach.

The blue shirt working his way aft to the deck edge elevator, tripping across an night enshrouded tie-down chain, reeling suddenly to his right, arms grasping for purchase in the darkness, legs churning underneath him, fighting for his footing, stumbling across the foul line before falling to his knees, head bowed. Disgraced.

The arresting gear officer facing forward on the starboard side aft, his back to the approaching Hornet, seeing the blue shirt fall across the foul line and taking his thumb off the dead-man switch, like he’d been trained.

The deck status light turning from green to red. The sudden shout on the LSO platform, “FOUL DECK!”

The momentary pause, considering, rejecting, releasing: “Wave-off, wave-off. Foul deck.” Hitting the pickle switch’s guarded button, the red lights flashing on their backs. Regretfully. Nothing to be done – just the way things are.

An explosive, unitary curse on the bridge, in the tower, in the cockpit of the AT2’s jet undergoing maintenance. A chorus of disbelieving shouts and curses in CATCC, in the ready room, in maintenance control, across the ship.

Full power and catch the AOA, harsh language in his mask before taking a ragged breath and keying the mike, “311 airborne.”

“311 approach, roger. Take angels one-point-two, your tanker at right one o’clock and one mile, report plugged and receiving.”


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Part XLVIII  Tanker rendezvous, and troubleshooting

Down in CATCC, the XO gathered himself before speaking into the UHF radio handset, “Good news, Skipper – we’re taking you guys first – you need to head down to angels six to take a couple hundred pounds off the tanker – if that doesn’t unstick 311’s drop tank, have him stop transfer on the left. The trapped gas there will put him back in asymmetric limits for the landing. Worst comes to worst, he can use that gas after he bolters on the way to Shaikh Isa.”

“304, roger,” replied the squadron CO before switching to his aux radio. “Good news, pard – they’re taking us first.”

“311, roger,” answered the wingman, suddenly realizing that in the gloomy tension of his cockpit, his right hand had been “squeezing the black juice” out of the control stick while he had been waiting for the invisible and unknowable forces that governed his fate to come to a decision – any decision – about the next half hour of his life. Or maybe, he reflected, about the rest of it. “Good news.”

“Let’s head for the tanker.”

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Part XLVII Decision Made

In the CATCC gallery, each of the senior squadron reps sat in the darkness, looking at the naked and anticipatory flight deck on the closed-circuit television, each avoiding eye contact, most of them secretly pleased not to be a part of this decision.

“I want to give him a shot,” the CO repeated.

“Roger that, skipper. I’ll take it to CAG.”

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Posted by lex, on January 11th, 2012

Two carriers for CENTCOM:

The U.S. military said on Wednesday that a new aircraft carrier strike group had arrived in the Arabian Sea and that another was on its way to the region, but denied any link to recent tensions with Iran and portrayed the movements as routine.

The shift in the powerful U.S. naval assets comes at a moment of heightened tensions with Iran, which has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz – the world’s most important oil shipping lane – if U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program cut off its oil exports.

The U.S. military has said it will halt any blockade of the strategic strait and the top U.S. naval officer acknowledged on Tuesday that preparing for a potential conflict there was something that “keeps me awake at night.”

Still, the Pentagon denied any direct link between recent tensions and the movement of aircraft carriers.

Vinson replaces Stennis, and Lincoln – another PACFLEET carrier – is on its way west through the Indian Ocean. Vinson deployed in November of last year, and Lincoln – which deployed for a round-the-world cruise in December of 2011 in order to make a scheduled overhaul in Newport News, VA this August. A peacetime, rotational presence, no doubt. Fortunate happenstance. Luck o’ the draw.

Still, that’s an awful lot of firepower.

And Stennis isn’t home yet.

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Totality of Service

Posted By lex, on January 9th, 2012

And an honorable discharge:

Capt. Holly Graf, relieved as commanding officer of the cruiser Cowpens in January 2010 for cruelty, will retire with an honorable characterization of her service this year, overturning the recommendation of her board of inquiry, the Navy said in a statement released late on Friday.

The determination was made by Juan Garcia, assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, after he took into account her 26 years of service.

“Ultimately, Capt. Graf’s conduct fell short of that expected of our commanding officers,” Garcia said in the statement. “As a result, her non-judicial punishment, early transfer from command and early retirement are warranted. However, I have also determined that her conduct did not rise to a level sufficient to warrant the characterization of her service as less than honorable, especially when weighed against the totality of her service to the Navy.”

The three-member board of inquiry recommended in December 2010 that Graf retire with general conduct, the category below honorable.

Well, it isn’t like she killed anybody. That we know of.

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Sang Froid

Posted by lex, on January 5th, 2012

How did Stennis Strike Group respond to the saber rattling of the Iranian general staff?

They didn’t:

If Iran’s warning on Tuesday to this American aircraft carrier was intended to disrupt the ship’s routine or provoke a high-seas reaction, nothing of the sort was evident on Wednesday.

Steaming in international waters over the horizon from the Iranian fleet, the John C. Stennis spent the day and the early hours of the night launching and recovering aircraft for its latest mission — supporting ground troops in Afghanistan. All visible indications were that the carrier’s crew was keeping to its scheduled work, regardless of any political or diplomatic fallout from Iran’s warnings.

“It is business as usual here,” said Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of the carrier strike group, as he watched a large-screen radar image showing the nearby sea and sky cluttered with commercial traffic.

The screen also showed Navy jets flying back and forth in a narrow air corridor to Afghanistan, known as “the boulevard.”

The day’s sorties, not the words of Iran, commanded attention here throughout the afternoon and evening. Returning pilots discussed low-elevation passes to suppress Taliban fighters near an Italian patrol in Farah Province and to help British troops under fire in Helmand Province. The subject of Iran barely came up in the briefings and meetings…

As they planned the next day’s missions even as the last aircraft returned to the ship, Admiral Faller and his officers and crew had no comment about the general’s threat.

They referred to what had been said already in Washington: that United States ships sailed lawfully in international waters, and that they would not tolerate any effort by Iran or any other nation to close the Strait of Hormuz.

As for that, they said, everything was normal in the strait that day. “We get all the news,” Admiral Faller said. “We get CNN. We get Fox. We have access to the Internet, and we are voracious consumers of information. We saw those statements. But we also watch the sea.”

All of it.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Ashawn Robertson walks catapult four checking for any foreign object damage prior to flight operations.

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Unsung Heroes

Posted by lex, on January 5th, 2012

Admiration and respect are often given to the dog soldiers and grunt Marines, whose lives in combat theaters are often characterized by hours of boredom marked with moments of terror. We hold our special forces operators in a kind of awe, for the training they undergo even before they are inserted into hostile situations where speed and stealth – two often contradictory attributes – ensure their lethality and survival.

The folks I think deserve more recognition and honor than they often receive however, are the Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians. When they get the call, they go in almost certain that every ounce of their personal courage will be required to perform a task that requires utmost precision in accordance with their rigorous training.

And even then, things can go wrong:

When Navy bomb disposal technician Chad Regelin was named 2011 USO sailor of the year, he couldn’t make it to the October gala in Washington, D.C.

He was in Afghanistan, standing in for a wounded bomb technician.

That job took his life Monday. Regelin, a 24-year-old sailor assigned to a San Diego unit, was killed during combat operations with a Marine Corps special operations company in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced.

His brother Ryan said the sailor was on foot patrol when an explosion occurred. Regelin went to check it out and a second bomb, detonated via a wire, went off…

Regelin was nominated for the USO award — which goes to a junior enlisted person for a specific act of bravery in the prior calendar year — for an earlier Afghanistan tour, from August 2010 to March 2011.

During that deployment, Regelin personally found and destroyed 24 roadside explosives, trained 13 people in bomb detection and took part in 20 firefights.

During a two-day stretch of intense fighting, the sailor stayed calm as the enemy attacked while he was in the process of disarming a 60-pound bomb. His cool head helped save the 10-person unit that he was leading.

The Navy nominated Regelin, a petty officer 1st class stationed at San Diego Naval Base, for the Bronze Star with V for the incident. The sailor’s commander called Regelin a star.

Ave atque vale, frater.

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LCS to Changi?

By lex, on November 21st, 2011


If China is unhappy with the Obama administration’s decision to send a handful of Marines to northern Australia, wait until the U.S. Navy starts basing warships in Singapore, on the edge of the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The United States and Singapore are in the final negotiating stages of an agreement to base some of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships at the Changi Naval Base. Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced in June that a deal was near to deploy the ships to Singapore, and a Pentagon spokesman said this week that officials “remain excited about this opportunity.”

The initial announcement barely caused a ripple compared with the stir caused by President Obama’s declaration Wednesday that he would permanently station a small number of Marines in Australia.

The former involves 250 to 2,500 Marines deployed roughly 2,500 miles from China. The latter is significantly closer — and is sure to be viewed as more threatening by Beijing.

Littoral Combat Ships are among the most modern in the Navy’s fleet and can be outfitted for a variety of missions, from anti-piracy to submarine tracking and special operations. They’re designed to operate in shallow coastal waters and travel at a top speed of more than 40 knots.

Well. If China gets its back up about Littoral Combat Ships based at Changi, they’re only looking for a reason to be provoked. They’re “modern” if by modern you mean “new”, but in terms of capability, meh. More in the nature of a European-style corvette than a proper warship, and I’m pretty sure that we’re passed the days of “gunboat diplomacy”, especially with regards to the PRC. Still, you’ve got to base them somewhere I suppose, and having an LCS fleet in the home waters does seem rather continental navy, doesn’t it?

No threat to the PRC at all, really. Might be useful for anti-piracy ops if the Straits of Malacca go pear-shaped, but apart from that not so much. Racing around within the politically sensitive Spratlys or Paracels at 40 knots? For ten minutes, maybe. Then it’s back to the barn, and no real harm done.

But Boat Quay is a great place for liberty visits.

So there’s that.

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Arma Virumque Cano

Posted By lex, on August 14th, 2011

Sometimes we ask ourselves, “Where do we get such men?”

Here. We get them here.

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