An empty gaze across the office

‘And then I was like pew, pew, pew and I got Bin Laden’: Photo of Obama with his foot on the Oval Office’s desk sparks outrage and ridicule & Joe Biden has a senior moment.article-0-1B9B5C7D000005DC-17_638x428Joe Biden stroking his chin thinking; ‘Bin Laden~Bin Laden, I’ve heard that name mentioned before, some where’? Hmmmm, ‘buy a shotgun~buy a shotgun, Bin Laden~Bin Laden’? Nope it’s just not coming back to me… No disrespect intended American cousins…            Yours Aye.

The hand of a loser…

Credibility is hard earned, and so very easily lost, just like a bad hand in pokerarticle-2410616-1B9C800D000005DC-822_636x383 Busted! John McCain is caught playing POKER on his iPhone during crucial Senate hearing on Syria  Considering the importance of the meeting, as well as the fact that the potential strike against Syria could escalate requiring American boots on the ground; you would have thought that Senator John McCain should have known better! His attempt to shrug it off by spinning a ‘Tweet’ over his gross failure is utterly contemptible. This will come back to haunt him, as well as the Republican party in the near futureA groveling public apology is the minimum expected of him, or the act of a true gentleman, to fall on his sword.            Yours Aye.

U.S. leaves ‘unreliable’ British out in the cold

According to the Times newspaper, as well as a smattering of additional tabloids here in the UK, and Europe. “The role of senior British officers based at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, has been downgraded because they cannot be trusted with high-level intelligence about a conflict with which they are no longer involved in, military sources say. About 30 British personnel have been working alongside the Americans and French at the Headquarters, fine-tuning a list of targets and orchestrating military assets as part of war planning underway for weeks”.418112_10151205985067887_490947374_nNo British Officers are now engaged in military planning for Syria at Central Command and none of them will be involved in the execution of the operation.” ” The military takes great pride in high-level transatlantic co-operation, and British Commanders are usually given greater access to US operational details, and intelligence than any other member of NATO”. “Britain is now non-reliable as far as this operation is concerned”, according to one former officer – A move that will be a severe blow to the pride of the British Armed Forces. Britain’s role has been taken by the French, who were praised as America’s “oldest ally”  by John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, on Friday 30th August 2013.images

‘Standard Operational Procedure,’ no big deal, and understandable under the circumstances. Telle est la vie…   However; A  British Officers word is his bond, he is honour bound to keep it, which will always remain so. Extraordinary story of British WWI Captain released by Kaiser from German prison camp so he could see his dying mother in Kent – on condition that he returned to his cell… and he DID            Yours Aye.article-2410059-1B9A3CA6000005DC-371_964x387

One mans terrorist;

Is another mans freedom fighter, so the saying goes. I do believe the following is going to ruffle a few feathers Defense Department training manual used by thousands of troops characterizes the Founding Fathers as ‘extremists’           article-2402331-1B796646000005DC-461_634x382Extremists? The Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute stands by a training document’s claim that the colonists – including the Founding Fathers – were ‘extremists’ Yours Aye.

Incredible bravery

Please note: If there are any sports announcers looking in, and you are of the type who constantly refer to  soccer players footballers as being ‘heroes’ just because they knock a ball into the oppositions net; then stop! Stop abusing the word hero, as well as its plural, heroes. This is the action of a true hero… Incredible bravery of British soldier who put his body over Taliban bomb so injured comrade could be rescued article-2401185-1B6D9D77000005DC-243_634x475

Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Andy Peat. Royal Engineers, who heroically used himself as a human shield to protect rescuers from triggering another improvised explosive device (IED).            Yours Aye.

A safe pair of hands

War in Europe has only ever been a minimum 20 miles away from The UK’s closest shoreline in South Kent, a hop, skip, and a jump, across the English Channel to the West coastline of Belgium. Winston Churchill and George VIFrom where the fighting spirit of Dunkirk still holds strong in our hearts. King George VI the ruling Monarch, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Great Britain’s safe set of hands throughout the ensuing Second World War. 

What if? What if there was a Third World war, where the nuclear button had been pressed in the 80′s. It may be hard for some to remember the Soviet Union and it’s empire, but NATO’s Armed Forces trained hard for such an eventuality. What the Queen would have said to the nation on the eve of WW3 – ‘Our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds’  DownloadedFileThe United States had its safe pair of hands in President Ronald Reagan, who described the Soviets as the ‘evil empire’. Great Britain was also fortunate, as we also had a safe set of hands, in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 

A President, as well as a Prime Minister, who I wish to God we still had in service today.            Yours Aye.

Shipmate – Departing!

piping aboardNavyOne may not wish folks to know this, but as he may have mentioned it in an earlier post –  I’m going to go ahead and talk a little bit about…

NavyOne and I work together, well, technically, worked together, past tense.  He left today. I’ve spent the last couple of years enjoying his odd and brilliant sense of humor and watching him grow as a Naval Officer and enjoying the effect/affect he’s had on those around him. We work (worked) in a cubicle farm, and there was always lively and entertaining conversation; it was fairly certain that visitors to the cube were immediately gunned down in the constant verbal crossfire.  Of course there was (some amount) of work going on – usually by NavyOne… The running verbal gun battle was routinely interrupted by the armistice of Breakfast burrito Wednesday’s – a ritual demanded by NavyOne to satisfy his insatiable burrito addiction – (factoid: my statistics come out to: NavyOne was averaging at four per day…).

In our time together, I offered what mentorship I could to further his career (only some took…). In fact, I think, when I was wearing a uniform, I may have actually written his performance evaluation once (or twice) – And, I’m happy to report, my musings over his performance had no adverse effect on his career… I think.  He may disagree.

The truth of the matter is that in a career in the Navy, one meets all kinds of Officers. good, bad, effective, knuckleheads, superstars, future Admirals, guys who couldn’t lead themselves out of a wet paper bag – etcetera.

NavyOne happens to solidly land in the category of superstar, in my opinion. He’s a truly patriotic, thoughtful, dedicated, inspired, brilliant, hard-working, caring Officer. The kind of man that every CO prays to have in his wardroom.  The Navy has chosen to remove him from the cubicle farm and send him to Sea – the only proper place for a sailor.  I, for one, am glad he’s going out there to stand the watch for us. I’ll sleep better at night.

NavyOne:  ”THEY” are going to LOVE you out there, and – you are going to LOVE life at Sea.  Trust me.

Keep doing amazing work – shipmate. I’ll miss ya.  And, where you are going – you’ll miss the burritos.

Un Eroe e Uno Zero

Un Eroe e uno Zero is Italian for A Hero and a Zero

Surely you have seen the Costa Concordia? The Italian cruise ship that walked aground. Off a rocky coast. It is quite a study in leadership. Between a lousy captain and a hero captain. First the zero:

Zero: Francesco Schettino, Costa Concordia cruise ship captain

One moment this 52-year-old Francesco Schettino was swaggering around in his gold braid, smoothly welcoming the creme de la creme of passengers on the Costa Concordia to his captain’s table. The next moment, he was universally known as Captain Coward, the most hated man in Italy and quite possibly the world.

So far, his defence has been threadbare, to say the least. Apparently, he maintains that he did not really mean to abandon ship, but accidentally slipped and fell, as luck would have it, into a passing lifeboat. Once on dry land, he seems to have suffered a second and similar accident, accidentally falling into a passing taxi, before directing the driver to: ‘Get me as far away from here as possible.’

That is called not talking responsibility. Quite the opposite of this quiet warrior, who took charge of the situation and handled it with military precision:

Hero: Gregorio de Falco, commander of Livorno port authority

The coastguard official who has become an overnight star in Italy after lambasting a cruise liner captain for abandoning his grounded ship is refusing to take on the mantle of national hero, claiming he just did his job.

Leaked audio tapes of Gregorio de Falco ordering the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, to get back onboard the Costa Concordia on Friday and help passengers have become a sensation in Italy, with Facebook fan pages, newspaper editorials and even T-shirts honouring the 46-year-old.

“Captain,” said De Falco at one point. “This is an order. Now I am in command. You have declared the abandoning of a ship and are going to co-ordinate the rescue from the bridge,” adding, “What do you want to do? Go home?”

Wednesday afternoon quarterdecking is easy. But I would like to think that I would not trip, fall into a lifeboat, and then go home.

As mentioned above, T-shirts have sprung up with the Captain’s phrase (that he uttered in Italian) to the coward. Vado a bordo, cazzo! The utterance is, like good mariners tend to mutter, on the salty side. Not X-rated, but perhaps R or maybe PG-13. Depends on the censor.

I am going to have to track down that Lieutenant Commander at work who is married to an Italian woman. And yell it at him.  Hey Shipmate, vado a bordo, cazzo! I do it with all the other Italian four-to-twenty letter words that I know. Most are what a taxi-cab driver might holler. I learned them from an Italian exchange student. All would get me a dirty look and perhaps an interesting hand gesture.

Vado a bordo, cazzo t-shirt

The tragedy has rattled Italy, a country that needs no rattling. Not only is the Euro suffering, the Italian economy is struggling and the always present scandal engulfs their politicians. As is inevitable, the two Captains are being compared and contrasted:

The Italian media said the portrayal of Capt Schettino had tapped into the most familiar stereotypes of their countrymen – he was a dark-haired, sun-tanned “dare devil”, according to one ship’s officer, who drove his 114,000 tonne, 13-storey cruise liner “like a Ferrari” and telephoned his ‘Mamma’ as soon as he realised the trouble he was in.

The protagonists in the drama represented “the two faces of Italy”, the Italian media said.

“His decisive tones recalled black and white war films and comic book heroes,” La Repubblica said of the audio recordings, in which the Coast Guard officer sternly tells the captain to speak up and asks him exactly how many passengers, particularly women and children, are still on board.

“For every Schettino, there is a De Falco, thank goodness,” said one message on Twitter.

Yes, thank goodness. . .

Three Petty Officers of the United States Navy

October in Georgia and the leaves know it and turn yellow. They pile in bored rows along the curb waiting for the wind, the streetsweeper, anyone. I crunch through a pile down the path to work. It is my last day as an enlisted Sailor. I am a Petty Officer Second Class and I’m shorn like a lamb. Officer Candidate School will surely bring yelling and I don’t want my hair to be the cause.

Three people must sign my check-out sheet before I can load up my car. One Soldier, a Chief, and then my Leading Petty Officer, my LPO.

I sit down next to the Soldier. He is 24 and can’t find any part on his body with both hands. Or one hand. He has no leadership ability, but I don’t say anything and nod as he talks to me.

I give this speech to all the guys who head off to OCS after being enlisted.

I want to choke him out and just tell him to sign my sheet. But I don’t. He outranks me and I listen. One intention in getting my commission is to avoid being lead by clowns of his caliber.

I don’t remind him of the time he tried to call me back into work after I had gone home. But he had dialed the wrong person with my same last name. He settled on writing me up for an Article 92 violation. Failure to follow a direct order. I refused to sign it, telling him I wanted to speak to my Chief. He backed down.

He is wet behind the ears and his failure is that he does not know he is green. Nor that I ran an extra twenty miles a week to work off his crap.

Finally, he initials my check-out sheet and I plod up the stairs to my Chief. She is new to her rank. And she too wants to give me a speech. Hers I will listen sincerely to, without clenching my jaw.

Remember where you came from, Petty Officer NavyOne, she said.

You bet, Chief.

She passes me my Evaluation (known as an Eval.) My scores are the highest they have ever been. Apparently, getting selected for OCS is good for my career.

And don’t forget who runs the Navy, Petty Officer.

I nod. I know, Chief. Chiefs run the Navy.

You will do great at OCS. She stands, shakes my hand and I leave. Into another room, I duck. My LPO has a big mug of coffee in his hand.

You talk to Chief yet?

Yes, CTR1. (CTR is his job in the signals field. The 1 is for Petty Officer First Class.)

Don’t forget who runs this here place.

Yeah, Chief already ran me through it. Chiefs run the Navy.

He snorts into his coffee and stares at me incredulously. Hell no. Chiefs don’t run the Navy. The First Classes run the Navy. Chiefs sit on their asses and eat donuts.

I laugh, he signs my sheet, and I am off. Through the door, away from work, outside, over the leaves, to the barracks. Maybe I sleep before hitting the road to Pensacola. Maybe not. But OCS comes and goes. I am stronger and smarter and then I roll through three ranks, Ensign, JG, and then Lieutenant. And suddenly, I have a whole handful of First Classes working for me.

Two in particular shine. One is rough around the edges. A pirate. Lives on coffee and cigarettes. He has been through one of the rougher deployments in the last 15 years of our Navy’s history. I can’t say much else on that.

But behind his lack of polish, is a professional. He spends his off-time, when we are not flying, studying his target, learning old gear again. For months, he is stand-offish with me. He is also friends with my old LPO. One day we are airborne and he laughs his smoker’s rasp.

You know what sir, I think we are going to get along.

I too laugh. And he is no longer stand-offish.

The other First Class is the opposite. He is polished. Confident. Lazy. He strolls into a video-teleconference (VTC) twenty minutes late one morning. And we are almost ready to go on camera, back with our home unit. I am usually even, calm. Most times. But that day, I growl at him. The Chiefs around me smile. He apologizes and it is over before it even began.

Another night, we are waiting in our crew van for our meal box before we fly a night mission. It is just him and me. And he raises the topic of his recent Eval. It is good, high even. He wonders how to get higher.

Petty Officer, you are lazy and feel entitled. You have the talents to be the top guy here easily. But everything is always about you, I tell him

He agrees with me. Sir, I am just surprised I am ranked so high. Really tells you about these other guys, huh? 

Maybe. I switch the conversation.

I leave that theater and go to my new command. During the next Chief’s cycle, both the Petty Officers make Chief.

Who would you rather have working for you, the cigarette-eating Chief with jagged edges or the entitled, talented glory hound? The latter could be one of the top Chiefs at any command he goes to. And the former will have his bosses wondering what hole he crawled out of until they see him work. And then they will search for the same hole to get more of him.

Presentation versus competence. It is slippery slope. When deployed, we truly need the competent, rough one.

But at a shore station, guys like that have to brief seniors and be more staff-like. The other Chief might shine there. Still, I can’t stand entitlement, so maybe I want our coffee-veined Chief, the Sailor’s Sailor, at my shore station too.

On Skylarking, On Leadership

Good luck goes out to our soccer team.  They are playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final later in the day.

I grew up playing years of soccer in the AYSO league.  On one particular team I had a coach who did not talk to me or offer encouragement.  I blended in and played very poorly. Basically, I “picked daisies.”  In Navy-speak, I skylarked.

They ranked each player, something I did not know at the time, in the league.  The coaches drafted players the next year according to the rank of each player.  Every team received so many top forwards, defenders, etc.

The following year I played for the father of one of my friends.  I remember him encouraging me as he exhorted all of his players.  I played my heart out.  I picked few daisies because I was busy being aggressive.  That coach told my parents: I got a real good deal out of your son. He is quite a surprise to our team.

Leadership is believing in your people, or at the very least treating them all as if you do. They may surprise you.  Expectations of success may bring the same. . .

Update:  As you are probably aware, Japan edged out the United States. Congratulations goes to both teams. . .