Saturday, December 03, 2016

On Midrats 4 Dec 2016 Episode 361 - Where Youth and Laughter Go: With "The Cutting Edge" in Afghanistan

Please join us at 5pm EST on 4 December 2016 for Midrats Episode 361: Where Youth and Laughter Go; With "The Cutting Edge" in Afghanistan

For the full hour this Sunday our guest will be Lieutenant Colonel Seth W. B. Folsom, USMC the author of Where Youth and Laughter Go. Described by USNI Books:
Where Youth and Laughter Go completes LtCol Seth Folsom’s recounting of his personal experiences in command over a decade of war. It is the culminating chapter of a trilogy that began with The Highway War: A Marine Company Commander in Iraq in 2006 and continued with In the Gray Area: A Marine Advisor Team at War in 2010.
The chronicle of Folsom’s command of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, “The Cutting Edge,” and his harrowing deployment to Afghanistan’s volatile Sangin District presents a deeper look into the complexities and perils of modern counterinsurgency operations in America’s longest war.

We will discuss not just his latest book, but also larger issues related to command, the nature of the war in Afghanistan, and the Long War.
Please join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here.

You can also find the show later at our iTunes page here or on our Stitcher page here.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Challenge of the Yukon - "The Perfect Crime (1949)"

Long-running radio program that became "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon" and featured the great sled dog "Yukon King" who pursued criminals with relentless spirit of the Mounties who "always get their man" -
The program was an adventure series about Sergeant Frank Preston of the North-West
Mounted Police and his lead sled dog, Yukon King, as they fought evildoers in the Northern wilderness during the Gold Rush of the 1890s.
Preston's side-kick and ally (and arguably the true star of the show), was the brave Alaskan husky, Yukon King. Yukon King had a keen instinct for sensing criminals, and was equally valuable dealing with wild animals, once saving a small child from a wolverine.

Started as a 15 minute serial but later expanded into 1/2 hour shows. Here's one of the longer shows:

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Film: "European Cruise" - U.S. Navy Reserve Ships Sail and Train (1956)

Back in the day, Navy Reserve sailors might take a summer cruise to foreign ports and train along the way. Here's an example in a film narrated by the actor Robert Montgomery (CAPT, USNR):

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

History of Convoy and Routing [1945]

Early in WWII, Hitler's plan was to cut off supplies to the British Isles and starve the Brits into submission. Using his submarine force the effort was to stop the flow of oil, war material and food from Canada, the U.S and the western hemisphere.

As set out here, the losses to merchant shipping were terrific:

The fight against the U-boats was the "Battle of the Atlantic":
Winston Churchill once wrote that, '... the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril'. In saying this, he correctly identified the importance of the threat posed during World War Two by German submarines (the 'Unterseeboot') to the Atlantic lifeline. This lifeline was Britain's 'centre of gravity' - the loss of which would probably have led to wholesale defeat in the war.

One of the tools that turned the tide against the U-boats was the use of convoys and routing ships
around known danger areas.

Not that convoys were a new technique - instead their use in WWII was a modern adoption of a practice used almost since the dawn of shipping - placing armed escorts with merchant ships to prevent the cargo vessels from being taken by pirates and other bad actors.

It is useful to take a look at the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command's republication of History of Convoy and Routing [1945] (also available here):

1. Since the beginning of their war in 1939 the British Admiralty, through their Naval Control Service Officers (N.C.S.O.) in the principal ports of the world, have maintained a routing, diverting and reporting service, covering all areas except those under control of the Axis. The details of instruction for N.C.S.O.'s are laid down in "Naval Control Service Instructions". The reporting system so established was called "VESCA" system, and that portion of it devoted to U.S. merchantmen was known as the "CHATFOLD" system, centered in Ottawa. Individual routes for all independently sailed ships under British and Allied registry were furnished from main ports under such standard routing orders as those contained in "Mercantile Atlantic Routing Instructions" (short title MARI)54 64 (see Chapter V).

2. Article 714 of Navy Regulations specifies that in time of war "the Commander in Chief shall afford protection and convoy, so far as it is within his power, to merchant vessels of the United States and to those of Allies." As the Axis threat developed it gradually became apparent to the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington that the U. S. Navy would require an organization similar to the Admiralty's particularly in the event of the war being forced on us. A Ship Movements Division (Op-38) had been set up during World War I, and had continued in existence. Furthermore, in June 1939 a new Naval Transportation Service, War Plan Orange (WPNTS-1) had been issued, based on the tasks assigned by the Basic War Plan, as a consequence of which the Port Directors (San Francisco and New York particularly) had built up their organization. The Joint Merchant Vessel Board, also organized in World War I, but virtually inactive since, was revitalized bytransfer to Op-30-M in September 1939. On 13 November 1939 the C.N.O. (Op-30M-BD, Serial 7904) sent a letter to Commandants of all Naval Districts, less 9th and 16th, concerning duties of Port Directors in war; "Port Director - Guide for Peace Time Preparation for War". About August 1940 the first compilation was made of merchant vessels and small craft suitable for Navy use. Shortly thereafter, on 14 November, Op-30-M was transferred to Op-38 and set up as Op-38-S, Ship Movements Division31.
3. Material progress appeared in the "Report of the Combined British-United States Staff Conversations" (short title ABC-1)dated 27 March 1941. By Annex V of this report the world was divided into two spheres of merchant ship control in place of the previous world-wide British system. U. S. control was to extend over the western half of the Atlantic from about 26° W and the whole Pacific to 100° E. The British service was to continue to function in the U. S. area until such time as we were ready to assume full responsibility. The Sea Frontier had not yet been established and the idea of a fleet control zone outside the limits of the coastal zones was still a basic feature50.

4. After the conclusion of this ABC-1 agreement there was prepared in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Division of Ship Movements, Captain Charles S. Alden, U.S.N.) the "Principal Navy Shipping Control Plan, Rainbow No. 5" (short title WPSC-46). This basic plan - which superseded pamphlet "Navy Shipping Control-General Instructions", prepared by Op-38-S on June 19 1941 - outlined the tasks of the Chief of Naval Operations, Commanders in Chief and what were then known as Coastal Frontier Commanders in connection with the control of merchant shipping; agreements with great Britain, New Zealand and Australia; and general instructions for the operation of the Merchant Ship Control Service. (Note: This plan, which is based upon Navy Basic War Plan - Rainbow No.5, was actually promulgated 15 December 1941 by C.N.O. letter, Op-38-S-P, serial 064038. It was to remain the basic ship control directive until superseded 28 February 1944 by MER-1, issued with Cominch serial 00678, mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this history)5 31 59.

5. On 17 October 1941 the first actual routing directive for merchantmen of American Flag was issued by Op-38-S-A, under the subject of "Routing of American Flag Merchant Shipping", and addressed to Commanders, Coastal Frontiers and Naval Districts and Commanders in Chief, Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic Fleets. Although the routing of merchant ships continued to be of the utmost importance, considerable opposition was experienced from merchant ship operators, Maritime Commission, etc., and long conferences wasted valuable time4 31.

6. Finally, on 18 November 1941, to administer the directives of WPSC-46, a "Convoy and Routing Section" (Op-38-O) under the Ship Movements Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, (then Admiral H. R. Stark) was organized and placed in effect with the immediate objective of assuming responsibility in the Western Atlantic area west of the dividing line of responsibility. Thus it can be said that "Convoy and Routing", gradually developed as "Ship Movements Division" since the summer of 1940, was finally brought into operation only 19 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor59.
Yes, it's not the most exciting reading, but, as you read the source material, think about the consequences to the war effort had there not been such an organization put into place . . .

Monday, November 28, 2016

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 25 October - 23 November 2016 and NATO Ending Indian Ocean Counter-Piracy Operations

In addition to the information in the following ONI report, it is of interest that Voice of America reports NATO has announced that it is ending its counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean:
NATO has ended Operation Ocean Shield after a sharp drop-off in attacks by Somali pirates.

The Royal Danish Air Force carried out the last Indian Ocean surveillance missions for NATO.

The NATO operation had been one part of a highly successful coordinated international response to the threat of piracy that also included the European Union, the United States and other independent nations.

During its peak, piracy off the Horn of Africa had an economic impact of $7 billion, with more than 1,000 hostages taken. There hasn’t been a successful piracy attack since 2012, down from more than 30 ships at the peak in 2010-11. The NATO planes flew from the Seychelles.
NATO is now shifting resources to deterring Russia in the Black Sea and people smugglers in the Mediterranean.

NATO's spokesman Dylan White said in a statement that the global security environment had changed dramatically in the last few years and that NATO navies had adapted with it.

After more than a decade of NATO-led operations far beyond its borders, the military alliance is shifting its focus to deter Russia in the east, following Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
According to NATO, operations will cease on 15 December 2016.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Logistics Week at EagleSpeak: "Sealift Program"

U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command's Sealift Program:
Our Sealift Program provides high-quality, efficient and cost-effective ocean transportation for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies during peacetime and war. More than 90 percent of U.S. war fighters' equipment and supplies travels by sea. The program manages a mix of government-owned and long-term-chartered dry cargo ships and tankers, as well as additional short-term or voyage-chartered ships. By DOD policy, MSC must first look to the U.S - flagged market to meet its sealift requirements. Government-owned ships are used only when suitable U.S.-flagged commercial ships are unavailable.

One high-speed transport vessels recently acquired by our Navy also belong to MSC. USNS Guam (HST 1), formerly MV Huakai, will replace the high-speed vessel Westpac Express, whose mission is to transport military personnel and cargo for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force between Okinawa and other U.S. Pacific Command training sites. The specific mission of USNS Puerto Rico (HST 2) is still being evaluated.

U.S.-flagged commercial tankers, under long-term charter to MSC, transport refined petroleum products for DOD, primarily between commercial refineries and storage and distribution facilities worldwide. Our tankers also perform unique missions such as refueling the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the U.S. Air Force early warning station at Thule Air Base, Greenland.

During wartime or other contingencies, our Navy charters dry cargo ships under contract to MSC to move cargo as needed. These ships carry items that are too large to fit in containers, such as engineering and construction equipment, military vehicles, aircraft and ammunition.

With a shrinking U.S. merchant fleet, the importance of ready and available surge vessels increases each year. The Ready Reserve Force, owned and maintained by the Maritime Administration, provides a resource to offset the shortage of militarily useful U.S.-flagged ships. The RRF consists of fast sealift ships, roll-on/roll-off ships, lighter aboard ships, heavy lift ships, crane ships and government-owned tankers. Maintained in four-, five-, 10- or 20-day readiness status, these ships are activated when needed, fully crewed and placed under the operational control of MSC in support of U.S. wartime, humanitarian and disaster-relief operations. RRF ships are also used for some military exercises.
The MSC Sealift program list of ships:
Sealift Program Ships
Containers and RO/RO
USNS 1st LT Harry L. Martin
USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat
USNS MAJ Stephen W. Pless
USNS PFC Eugene A. Obregon
USNS SGT Matej Kocak
Dry Cargo
T/B Sea Eagle
High-Speed Transport (HST)
High-Speed Vessel (HSV)
MV Westpac Express
Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off
USNS Benavidez
USNS Bob Hope
USNS Brittin
USNS Fisher
USNS Gilliland
USNS Gordon
USNS Mendonca
USNS Shughart
USNS Watson
Long-term Chartered Tankers
MT Empire State
MT Evergreen State
MT SLNC Goodwill
Petroleum Tanker (T5)
USNS Lawrence H. Gianella

With these Sealift ships, the MSC graphic fills in:

The Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Fleet:
The Ready Reserve Force (RRF) program was initiated in 1976 as a subset of the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) to support the rapid worldwide deployment of U.S. military forces. As a key element of Department of Defense (DOD) strategic sealift, the RRF primarily supports transport of Army and Marine Corps unit equipment, combat support equipment, and initial resupply during the critical surge period before commercial ships can be marshaled. The RRF provides nearly one-half of the government-owned surge sealift capability. Management of the RRF program is defined by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between DOD and Department of Transportation (DOT).

The MARAD graphic:

With the exception of any ships contracted on an "as needed" to carry U.S. military cargoes, the posts in this series have set out the sea-going logistics force.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Hercule Poirot "Rendevous with Death (1945)"

'Nuff said

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Films: USNS Jack Lummus Offloading Marine Gear and "Land the Landing Force" (1967)

U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment-17, 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and U.S. Navy sailors with Naval Beach Group-1, Expeditionary Strike Group-3, conduct Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) training and offload equipment from the USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus in support of Exercise Dawn Blitz 2013 in San Diego, Calif., June 14, 2013. Dawn Blitz is part of an annual training exercise that prepares Navy and Marine Corps forces to conduct amphibious operations and offload shipping. (U.S. Marine Corps Motion Imagery by Lance Cpl. Travis A. D’Ambrogi/RELEASED)

Logistics Week at EagleSpeak: Prepositioned Ships

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command has a number of ships staged around the world in anticipation of need, as set out in Prepositioning:
Our Prepositioning Program is an essential element in the U.S. military's readiness strategy. Afloat prepositioning strategically places military equipment and supplies aboard ships located in key ocean areas to ensure rapid availability during a major theater war, a humanitarian operation or other contingency. MSC's 25 prepositioning ships support the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Defense Logistics Agency.

Prepositioning ships provide quick and efficient movement of military gear between operating areas without reliance on other nations' transportation networks. These ships give U.S. regional combatant commanders the assurance that they will have what they need to quickly respond in a crisis - anywhere, anytime. During a contingency, troops are flown into a theater of operations to rapidly employ the cargo from these ships.

Many of MSC's prepositioning ships are able to discharge liquid, containerized or motorized cargo both pier side or while anchored offshore by using floating hoses and shallow-draft watercraft, called lighterage, that are carried aboard. This allows cargo to be ferried to shore in areas where ports are non-existent or in poor condition and gives the nation's military forces the ability to operate in both developed and undeveloped areas of the world.

Prepositioning ships include a combination of U.S. government-owned ships, chartered U.S. - flagged ships and ships activated from the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force. All prepositioning ships are operated by U.S. civilian mariners who work for ship operating companies under contract to the federal government.

While most active ships in MSC's Prepositioning Program strategically place combat gear at sea, there are other ships, including:
  • The Mobile Landing Platform, a new class of ships designed to serve as a mobile sea-base option that provides our Navy fleet with a critical access infrastructure supporting the flexible deployment of forces and supplies
  • Two offshore petroleum distribution system ships that can deliver fuel from up to eight miles offshore; and
  • Zero aviation logistics support ships that are activated as needed from reduced operating status to provide at-sea maintenance for Marine Corps fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft

Ship Types

Maritime Prepositioning Force ships strategically position supplies for the U.S. Marine Corps at sea. These ships are laden with a variety of Marine Corps equipment and supplies, including tanks, ammunition, food, water, cargo, hospital equipment, petroleum products and spare parts - ready for rapid delivery ashore when needed.

MPF ships are organized into two Maritime Prepositioning Ship (MPS) squadrons, each comprising four to six MPF ships as well as additional prepositioning ships dedicated to other military services. Each MPS squadron carries sufficient equipment and supplies to sustain more than 16,000 Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Navy personnel for up to 30 days.

Army Prepositioned Stock-3 ships strategically place U.S. Army combat equipment at sea to supply and sustain deployed U.S. troops during national crises. Five of the APS-3 ships are government-owned cargo ships, called large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships, or LMSRs. Each ship has a cargo-carrying capacity of more than 300,000 square feet.

LMSRs are ideal for the rapid loading and off-loading of Army wheeled and tracked vehicles, as well as other outsized Army equipment. A series of internal and external ramps makes this possible, and shipboard cranes allow cargo to be lifted without relying on local port infrastructure. In addition to LMSRs, APS-3 ships include two container ships that store ammunition at sea for the Army.

Navy, Defense Logistics Agency and Air Force ships (NDAF) are the most diverse subset of MSC's prepositioning program. These ships operate around the world in support of the Department of Defense services and agencies.
Ship descriptions:

Air Force:
Provide Air Force with prepositioned ammunition stocks.

Provide 30 days sustainment for an Army Brigade Combat Team.

Dry Cargo/Ammunition:
Ships provide ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off:
Part of the Prepositioning Program, MSC's largest sealift ships preposition Army stocks and are also available to move common user cargo.

Maritime Prepositioning Force Containers, RO/RO and LMSR:
Combines the enhanced prepositioning capabilities with modifications to provide a multi-mission vessel to the unified commander.

Mobile Landing Platforms:
Provides logistics movement from sea to shore supporting a broad range of military operations.

Offshore Petroleum Distribution System (OPDS):
Transfers fuel from a tanker to depots ashore from up to eight miles off the coast.