Paraplegic Student Graduates USNA

USNA Silent DrillThe story behind Ensign Kevin Hillery is quite compelling. He is the first paraplegic student from the United States Naval Academy to graduate. Kevin was injured in a cycling accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. And the Academy let him finish out his studies even though that he cannot follow through on becoming a SEAL officer. I am not sure the designation of Ensign reflects reality, but I’ll gladly give it to him. The article states he is considering law school. Hey big Navy, why not get Kevin on the JAG track?

USS Cole Attacker to Face Military Tribunal

USS Cole, Unwavered in Mission

In October of 2000, the Navy suffered a tremendous blow in the USS Cole attack. To this day, it greatly affects the way we execute force-protection.

One of the ringleaders of the assault is finally facing a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. As a former Gitmo Sailor, I wholeheartedly endorse the tribunal process as a vehicle to prosecute enemy combatants. It truly is the best option, after we extract the intel they carry:

The main suspect in the USS Cole bombing goes before a judge Wednesday at Guantanamo, the first case to move forward at the war court since President Barack Obama ordered military trials to resume.

Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 46, faces the death penalty for allegedly planning and preparing the October 2000 attack on the US Navy destroyer in Yemen’s port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 more.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Not Carlos Leon

al-Nashiri is being defended by a Navy Lieutenant Commander, a Judge Advocate General (JAG.) In terms of billets, this one certainly smacks of difficulty. I am not a lawyer, but that is one position I would not want. The LCDR had this to say:

Nevertheless, “the defendant doesn’t have the rights protection required in a capital case,” said Lieutenant Commander Stephen Reyes, one of Nashiri’s lawyers.

“Here they try to put him to death without giving him a chance to confront his accusers,” he told AFP.

One of the advantages of a tribunal is that it occurs behind closed doors and can be sealed as a way to protect classified information:

Sailors line-handling on the USS Cole

Washington has asked the military judge presiding over the case that any classified information be protected at all times.

“Because the accused was detained and interrogated in the CIA program, he was exposed to classified sources, methods and activities,” the government said in its motion.

“Due to his exposure to classified information, the accused is in a position to reveal this information publicly through statements.”

Lourdes and Madonna’s Ex Carlos Leon, Not a Terrorist

Last note: reading through the comments on the page was infuriating. Do folks actually believe that America was behind the USS Cole? Just because there are similarities to US products in the explosives used? I have a conspiracy theory on conspiracy theories: they are all invented nonsense.

Last last note: Does not Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri bear a striking resemblance to Mr. Madonna #1, Carlos Leon? Father to her oldest offspring, Lourdes?

Oddly, he is Cuban. Coincidence, no? Gitmo is in Cuba, right? Wait. What did I say about conspiracy theories in the last note above? Despite similarities in appearance, Carlos Leon is not at all related to the USS Cole attacker Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Period.

Deployment Nightmares of the US Navy

How did Mac and Harm help me?

When a service member deploys, often there are challenges back on the home front. I know from personal experience: I had a nightmare scenario play out after a 7-month deployment.

Two commands ago, I left my stateside apartment to do the Navy’s bidding overseas. A friend had a key to my pad. But still, I was not prepared for what I faced when I arrived home.

Imagine this, me opening my front door after being gone for that period of time. And finding my dining room table broken down the middle. Like a tired, old mule. Also, there were white splotches on various pieces of my furniture. Last clue: long screws were scattered here and there around my apartment.

I was renting, so the management company at the complex could really come and go as they pleased. But they knew my circumstances, that I was a Navy guy. I could not, however, piece together the three clues. It seemed too weird.

If I had only looked up, it would have become clear. But what returning Sailor bothers to inspect his ceiling when he returns from deployment?

So I take it easy on my first pass. On the phone, I inquire gently as to what happened in my apartment when I was gone. No one has any news. None. In fact, they are not sure what I am talking about.

I escalate it. I call corporate management in Baltimore to complain. And I finally get the story: my ceiling needed the drywall secured. But I am out of luck as to breaking my lease. I turn it up. I mention my dining room table. And the splashes of what I have figured for spackle on my couch and loveseat. Heck, a loveseat ain’t no good all weird like that.

The threat of Mac and Harm saves my bacon

Then, I threaten to break my lease and get nowhere. So I look to buy a home of my own. And find a condo five miles away. I literally move in two weeks, paying the seller rent before the sale is finalized.

But the management company tries to chisel out various fees from me. Not to say anything of the month or so I still owed on the lease.

I have one threat. The truth. And I played it. Threatening to get the Navy involved. The JAG. That finally broke their back. My table was a wash. But I did not owe them anything other than what I had paid.

Sailors: always mention the JAG. Maybe folks imagine Commander Harmon Rabb Jr and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie kicking down their door. To punish them for their misdeeds.

Still my post-deployment issues are nothing in comparison to one Navy Commander, who returned from deployment to face the nightmare of her life:

While Navy Cmdr. Wilma Roberts was stationed in Okinawa, she was comforted by the knowledge that her china and cabinets, her daughter’s ballerina outfit, her photos and all of her other prized possessions were safely stored in a climate-controlled unit under the military’s personal property system.

But her property wasn’t safe at all, she found, when she returned to Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., this past summer.

Okinawa, Japan

Unbeknownst to Roberts, the personal property office had converted the storage bill to her expense, and when the bill went unpaid, the storage company sold everything she owned.

Wait, surely the good Commander could just claim her possessions from whomever had purchased them? Um, no:

A local man paid $2,101 at auction for all of her possessions — items she values at more than $60,000 — and sold almost all of it.

The silver lining, the base legal office helped her track down her stuff. (Legal office means that the JAG got involved somehow.) And she drove out to the gentlemen’s house, who had purchased the contents of her storage unit at auction, to speak to him:

“When I walked up, he knew who I was because he’d seen my pictures” among her household goods, Roberts said.

She said he told her after seeing her photos in uniforms, and other items, that he went back to the storage facility and expressed concern about whether the property should have been sold.

Odom said the man was so convinced that Roberts was dead that his wife set up a small shrine at their sale of Roberts’ possessions, with a picture they had found in her boxes, surrounded by candles.

USS Essex, Okinawa Japan

Odom said the man was clearly upset when they spoke, describing how helpless he felt when Roberts sat in her car in his driveway for 45 minutes, weeping.

I have never heard a worse story from a Sailor returning from deployment. Not from our enlisted guys, nor our officers. (The buyer set up a shrine to her!) How is the Navy going to address this issue?