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Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Lesson

Kindness to Strangers

Be thankful this Thanksgiving for the blessings you have and those you can share.

Hope you and yours have a great Thanksgiving!
If you are deployed - we'll save a bite for you . . .

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Water, Water, Water

So, being the largely urban or suburban dwelling creatures we are, most of us in the U.S. are accustomed to having a ready source of clean drinking water at our beck and call. Turn a faucet handle and water flows.

But what if that water source stops due to a storm or earthquake or something else and you are without tap water? Heck, I saw that National Geographic"American Blackout". The show makes some valid points - like how valuable water becomes when you don't have any.

It is possible to live in South Texas or Florida or New York in the summer without air-conditioning, but you really, really need water.

FEMA has some good advice at "Water":
You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. A normally active person needs at least one gallon of water daily just for drinking however individual needs vary, depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.

To determine your water needs, take the following into account:

- One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
- Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water.
- A medical emergency might require additional water.
- If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary. In very hot temperatures, water needs can double.
- Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.

We all know that "3-days" thing is based on how quickly it is believed that outside help will arrive where you are to bring you aid. Best case. Experience says it takes longer. Think Katrina, Sandy, etc.

So, if you are somewhat of an optimist (look, if you are really an unbelievable optimist you probably aren't reading this anyway) then the the FEMA minimum might just do the trick for you. If you have four people in your family and they are all hale and well-met, then you ought to have 12 gallons of water stashed about your abode to cover those 3 days. Good luck with that.

If you lean to the pessimistic side you will want more.

How much more?

That depends, doesn't it?

Let's suppose you have an accessible and protected water heater that has a 40 gallon capacity. In an emergency that could be tapped (they all have spigots) and provide a family of 4 with enough water for about another 10 days. If your water heater is bigger, the more days you might have.

But let's go with the 3 day supply thing.

What should you be doing during those 3 days? Acquiring more water, that's what.

Nat Geo provides some thoughts here. Here are some other ideas:
  1. If it is raining, set up somethings to catch rainwater. You may still to purify it, but it's free.
  2. Locate nearby reservoirs, streams and springs before a disaster. You can carry a couple of gallons of water back to your base for purification.
  3. Make sure you have some chlorine bleach in your disaster kit for water purification. It only takes afew drops per gallon, so you can keep several small containers around.
  4. You might want to invest in a simple (but not cheap) camping water treatment kit. REI has a good guide on How to Choose a Water Filter.
  5. Depending on the distances involved in carrying water from its source to your base, it could be worth your time to experiment using the time-honored "carrying pole" so that two five gallon jugs of water are not ripping your arms from their sockets (see illustration nearby). As you may know, the handles on buckets are designed to hurt your hands. Save yourself such troubles. 
  6. If the nearest water is seawater, you will need to desalinate it. Small scale desalting can be done as described here, one cup at a time per day. But you can put out more than one such kit.
  7. For nasty lake or river water, one option is to buy a portable distiller using heat, as described here, which will, it is asserted also work with sea water.
As the Red Cross says in Food and Water in an Emergency:
Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or dark color. Use saltwater
only if you distill it first. You should not drink flood water.
In the very worst case, it's time to think like a downed bomber crew, folks. Hit those pages of the survival manuals on water gathering. Here are the "water gathering" pages from the Army's FM 3-05-70 (pay no attention to the "!" in the Scribid title, it's just a cute glitch - but do pay attention to the content):

You might note the Manual suggests multiple stills to met each individual's needs. So, more people means even more stills.

So, got water?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

China Kindly Sends Its "Slightly Used" Aircraft Carrier on Training Mission for U.S. Submarines in South China Sea

This Reuters report gets it wrong in calling this a Chinese "training mission."China's first aircraft carrier steams towards disputed South China Sea
China sent its sole aircraft carrier on a training mission into the South China Sea on Tuesday amid maritime disputes with the Philippines and other neighbours and tension over its plan to set up an airspace defence zone in waters disputed with Japan.

The Liaoning, bought used from Ukraine and refurbished in China, has conducted more than 100 exercises and experiments since it was commissioned last year but this is the first time it has been sent to the South China Sea.

The Liaoning left port from the northern city of Qingdao accompanied by two destroyers and two frigates, the Chinese navy said on an official news website.

While there, it will carry out "scientific research, tests and military drills", the report said.

"This is the first time since the Liaoning entered service that it has carried out long-term drills on the high seas," it added.

The real beneficiaries of this exercise by the PLAN in sending its sole refurbished aircraft carrier will be the U.S. submarine force and any other countries in the area who can get their diesel electric boats out to play in time.

Good hunting.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Iran Reveals New Aircraft Carrier

Sure, this is supposed to show off the "F-313 Stealth Fighter Jet", but no one tows an operational aircraft on baggage carts, do they?

Of course not!

So, what we are seeing (in addition to the alleged stealth fighter (which has already been properly mocked)), I think we may be seeing a new Iranian aircraft carrier system. Look at the picture above (from "Iranian Spotters" via The Aviationist via Pakistan Defense Forum, etc) and compare it to a U.S. aircraft being towed by a similar tow tractor below:

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Todd Frantom

So, if the Iranians are being very, very truthful (are you holding your breath waiting for that?) and their F-313 is anything more than a large plastic model which lacks a steerable front wheel (see comments to The Aviationist post), wouldn't one expect it to be towed like the older U.S. Navy aircraft in the second photo?

Sure, unless the secret here is in the tow carts and the tractor pulling them. I think the real secret tech in this photo lies in those carts, which I suspect are some sort of launch device capable of getting an aircraft without a steerable front landing gear into the air. I mean, look at those tie downs - they have to restrain this heavy fighter from lifting off from those carts even as the "aircraft carrier" is headed uphill with two launch techs riding on the lead cart and the canopy propped open . . .

Notice how the identifier "Iranian Spotters" carefully is placed to conceal the special baggage cart - er- transporter wheel system - that's the technology the Iranians want to hide here. They have developed a special high speed aircraft launcher that saves aircraft weight (hey, no complicated front wheel stuff and saves fuel in getting planes airborne . . .)

I'm still working on a theory of how they get a plane to land back on the carts, but perhaps they just match speeds with the carts and tractor so the plane just drops into place.

Or not.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Midrats 24 Nov 13 - Episode 203: Bob Work and Global Maritime Power

Please join us at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) on 24 Nov 13 for Midrats Episode 203: Bob Work and Global Maritime Power:
When one hangs up the uniform after decades of service, but still wants to contribute to their nations national security needs, what paths can that take? How does one find a path forward, and what are the keys to success?

In a budgetary challenge not seen by the US military in two decades, what are the important "must haves" that need to be kept at full strength, and what "nice to haves" may have to be put in to the side?

What are the legacy ideas, concepts, and capabilities that the Navy and Marine Corps need to make sure they maintain mastery of, and what new things are either here or are soon on the way that we need to set conditions for success now?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Robert O. Work, Col. USMC (Ret), presently CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and former Undersecretary of the Navy from 2009-2013.

After 27-years of active duty service in the Marine Corps, Work joined the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), where he focused on defense strategy and programs, revolutions in war, Department of Defense transformation, and maritime affairs. He also contributed to Department of Defense studies on global basing and emerging military missions; and provided support for the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.

During this time, Work was also an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where he taught defense analysis and roles and missions of the armed forces.

In late 2008, Work served on President Barack Obama’s Department of Defense Transition Team.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois; and has Masters Degrees from the University of Southern California, the Naval Postgraduate School; and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Join us live(5pm EST) or pick the show up later by clicking here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

"With the Marines at Tarawa"

70 years ago, the U.S. Marines were in action on Tarawa.

My wife's uncle was there:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant William H. Sanders, II (MCSN: 0-15606), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service while serving as a Reconnaissance Officer of Company D, First Battalion, Second Marines, SECOND Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, on 21 November 1943. When intense fire from enemy shore emplacements inflicted heavy casualties on our forces as they waded toward the beach, First Lieutenant Sanders voluntarily prepared to attack the hostile positions with the aid of a Sergeant of his company. Bringing a 75-mm. pack howitzer into use and neutralizing the devastating fire of the first pillbox, he courageously rushed the position despite heavy fire from another emplacement and destroyed the pillbox with hand grenades, moving inside immediately thereafter to kill any remaining defenders. Under the accurate covering fire of the Sergeant, he then crawled twenty-five yards to the first of a group of four connecting emplacements and, completely destroying the position with TNT, unhesitatingly advanced on the second emplacement and annihilated the defenders with hand grenades. After throwing several grenades into the third pillbox, he entered the position and succeeded in killing one of the Japanese before he, himself, was seriously wounded. By his splendid initiative, First Lieutenant Sanders put out of action three enemy .25 caliber and two 13-mm. machine guns and one 20-mm. anti-boat gun. His indomitable fighting spirit and self-sacrificing devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: SPOT AWARD, Commander in Chief Pacific Forces: Serial 0647
Mr. Sanders survived his wounds and went on to further service in the Pacific. After the war, he became a successful attorney in West Virginia.

Semper Fi!

Friday Fun Film: "Missiles of the Navy" (1958)

A look back to 1958 and the advanced weaponry of the day. Some iterations of which, by the way, are still around today.

Another Periscope Film.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare: Smaller might be the right fit for some countries and missions

Photo: Hawker Beechcraft
What if your neighborhood submarine threat is very local and does not consist of big hulking ballistic missile subs or other large subsurface craft? Well, then, you might hop on to this-  Beechcraft sees opportunity in anti-submarine King Airs:
Beechcraft Corp. is interested in possibly adding anti-submarine warfare to the list of special-mission capabilities of its King Air 350.

According to a report from Defense News, the Wichita company has already been approached by several systems integrators about using the King Air as a platform aircraft for such missions.

There is interest in the type of anti-submarine warfare capability such an aircraft could provide as the use of smaller submarines — such as those of Iran — is increasing.
The Defense News article also mentions the use of such aircraft in locating "drug subs" . .. .
Boeing Image
Mini-submarine numbers are on the rise. United Arab Emirates Navy chief Rear Adm. Ibrahim al Musharrakh recently told the Gulf Naval Commanders Conference that Iranian midget submarines are an imminent threat they were looking to counter.
Drug smugglers are also known to use mini-subs to transport narcotics in places like Latin America.
 I'm guessing an ASW King Air would be  less expensive (and admittedly, also would be less capable) than a P-8 Poseidon. On the other hand, they mostly would serve differing missions, wouldn't they?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Iran Announces Naval Deployment to East Asia - Even - Oh, Wow! - A Submarine

Iranian Tareq-class Sub
A part of Iran's Navy gets to go a'sailing, reported by Farsnews:
The (Iranian) Navy will dispatch the ultra heavy Tareq-class submarine, ‘Younus’ as part of the Navy’s 28th flotilla of warships to the countries of East Asia,” Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Navy for Operations Admiral Siyavash Jarreh said Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the 28th flotilla left the harbor in Southern Iran.
Frigate Alborz

He underlined Iran's sophisticated technology in the naval industry, saying “The most complicated technology of world’s military equipment belongs to submarines.”

The Admiral said that Alborz destroyer and Bandar Abbas helicopter-carrier warship will accompany Younus in this crucially important extraterritorial mission of the Iranian Navy.

“The Navy’s 28th Flotilla will berth at Mumbai and Colombo ports during its voyage,” he added.
The "Tareq-class" is group of three the Iranian Russian-made Project 877 (NATO Kilo) class submarines.

Mumbai is an Indian ports and Colombo is a port in Sri Lanka.

The bragging about the Iranian tech is because the Iranians overhauled their subs and they still seem to work.

As far as the "Bandar Abbas helicopter-carrier warship" - well, there is, identified in the invaluable (and virtually no place else) THE NAVAL INSTITUTE GUIDE TO COMBAT FLEETS OF THE WORLD, 16th Edition Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems by Eric Wertheim* this little 4700 ton oiler that apparently can carry a single small helicopter in its telescoping helicopter hanger. Just a little over-statement of capability, right?

*Let me again recommend THE NAVAL INSTITUTE GUIDE TO COMBAT FLEETS OF THE WORLD, 16th Edition Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems by Eric Wertheim as a Christmas gift to the "navalist" in your life (even if that means "self-gifting" it). No better reference exists.

Disaster Prep Wednesday

A new feature here at EagleSpeak, Disaster Prep Wednesday.

Let's start with this short video from FEMA:

What's in your disaster emergency kit?

And don't forget your business:

UPDATE: Initial FEMA embed code for 1st video was - uh - not working right. I fixed it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

10 Years On

When setting up a blog post this morning, I was reminded that this blog is now over 10 years old.

Let me thank Blogger for letting us do this for free, my younger daughter for getting "" for me as a gift, for the other 3 kids (who include a pair of Navy officers) for their support and to my very patient wife who has tolerated me doing "blog stuff" at odd hours and in odd places over the last 3600+ days.

And, of course, thanks to those of you who have taken the time to visit these pages. Who knew when that first post was put up way back when, what doors would be opened and what fun this has turned out to be?

I am humbled by the kind attention my ramblings have received.

My plan for the future is to continue to discuss the importance of international maritime security and to stress the importance of a strong Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard as part of the U.S. national security team. As you may notice, I occasionally chase after other shiny objects.

Thanks for dropping by.

U.S. Navy and the Philippines Relief Effort - Logistics, Logstics and More Logistics

U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Class Ricardo R. Guzman
I am not going to replicate the excellent coverage of Operation Damayan, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps efforts in the Philippines as they "assist" with post-typhoon recovery efforts. For many great stories, the very best site is the Home Page.

It appears that about 1/10 of the U.S. fleet eventually will be participating in these efforts. Unlike a hurricane hitting a major land mass in which over land transport may be restored, the Philippines presents a challenge since it consists of a huge number of islands and water transport is the key to normal life as well as to disaster relief efforts.

As with the "Christmas Tsunami" in 2003-2004, it's "logistics, logistics, logistics" that is the issue, and the U.S. fleet seems to be everyone's "first responder." While it is encouraging that Japan and so many other countries are pitching in their resources, the "international community" could, as I noted about 10 years ago, should really do some advance work in anticipation of what are, after all, common and frequent disasters:
The UN seems incapable of learning from its past failings. Why are there not ships preloaded with the sorts of emergency equipment that might be needed if a major earthquake hits Japan or the Philippines or Nicaragua? Why does the UN not have the humanitarian equivalent of the U.S. military's prepositioned ships? Load up their hulls with water purifiers, medicine, cranes, backhoes, fuel, generators, tents, food, heavy lift vehicles, jeeps, helicopters, field hospitals, etc. Then wait for the inevitable disaster. Have two or three sets of ships - South America, Asia, Africa.

Surely the expense is well within the budgets of the nations who support the UN. If such a system were in place, the only issues would be sailing the ships and arranging to have the necessary aid personnel arrive to marry up with their equipment. Instead, we have the incredible delays caused by the UN having to seek emergency funding from donor nations and then arranging for ships and then loading the ships and then sailing the ships.
I understand the way the UN operates that it is rarely necessary to justify the high salaries of UN employees, but if it was necessary, it would be interesting to see if they have a disaster contingency plan worth a portion of that pay that involves something other than, "Announce disaster in horrific terms. Wait for the U.S. to respond. Claim credit for responding."

From UNICEF progress report on Philippines relief:
UNICEF is working with the government and partners to identify air cargo capacity for the transportation of humanitarian personnel and life-saving supplies.
More from the UN here:
The humanitarian situation in the areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is catastrophic. Almost 13 million people are affected, including some five million children. 4 million men, women and children have been displaced, many desperate for food, safe drinking water, basic shelter and sanitation.
And the elements of the UN "Action Plan" here:
Existing information and field observations suggest that the most immediate threats to life are (in rough order of urgency):

- Lack of safe drinking water
- Lack of shelter
- Trauma injuries, especially if untreated
- Other acute medical conditions (including contagious diseases) if left untreated
- Disruption of treatment for severe acute malnutrition and for severe chronic disease
- Insufficient food
- Lack of sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Lack of household items and supplies (like fuel), especially for preparing food
U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Peter Burghart

Key capabilities immediately needed to enable fast action to address these include:

- Air and sea transport of relief goods and personnel
- Emergency telecommunications
- Temporary electrical power and fuel
- Debris removal

Medium-term threats to health, dignity and security include:

- Lack of access to primary and specialised health care
- Moderate acute malnutrition
- Psycho-social malaise
- Disruption of education, entailing loss of protective daytime environment for children
- Disruption of livelihoods, which will worsen general deprivation and add to humanitarian needs as soon as coping mechanisms have been exhausted.
My highlights are to point out the key logistics issues.

I attach the plan because I'll be darned after my hasty reading if I can find any reference to the U.S. ( or any other country's) civil-military contribution in the Plan. I am prepared to be corrected.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Fun Film: "The Eyes of the Navy"

From the days just before the Second World War hit the U.S. - and before carrier aviation became more than just a scouting force for the battleship force, from 1940, "The Eyes of the Navy"

Periscope Film deserves praise and credit for preserving these films. You can find them (and their wide selection of movies and other stuff) here. Consider this film (and some of the others from them I've posted) as a free sample - and go buy something!

On Midrats Sunday 17 Nov 13, 5PM: Episode 202, "Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton"

Please join us on 17 Nov 13 at 5pm (1700) Eastern U.S. for our Episode 202: "Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton":
Are there lessons one can learn from the most exceptional edges of the military experience that can be useful to the civilian world?

Was there something from the experience of American prisoners of war imprisoned at the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War that had to do with their success in their subsequent careers?

Our guests to discuss for the full hour will be Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland, authors of Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams.
You might find the review of their book by one of the former POWs, CAPT Dick Stratton, relevant:
It is almost as if the authors were there beside Jim Stockdale while he was in the Maison Centrale (Hanoi Hilton).
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Western Pacific Sea Power

An interesting little RAND brief that raises some interesting questions, "The Future of Sea Power in the Western Pacific":
. . . While China has not embraced global sea power, it is moving from coastal defense to extending its naval reach into disputed water in order to protect regional trade routes. Of most concern, the Chinese military is exploiting information technology to greatly improve and extend its targeting of surface ships, especially U.S. aircraft carriers, with missiles, submarines, and cyber weapons.

Defending U.S. ships against extended-range missiles and quiet submarines is difficult, expensive, and probably futile in the face of China’s accelerating, well-funded anti-naval build-up. With known technologies, neither ballistic missile defense nor anti-submarine warfare can keep pace with the offensive enhancements of such a large, capable, and resolute rival.

The U.S. Navy, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, is responding with “Air-Sea Battle” to counter China’s anti-naval and other anti-access capabilities by targeting its “kill chain” of sensors and weapons. While this is a worthwhile option, it could become vulnerable to Chinese cyber attack, might require the United States to strike first or preemptively, and could be escalatory, in that most targets are on Chinese territory. A better approach is to take full advantage of networking technology and shift toward more distributed, numerous, diverse, elusive, small, long-range, and hard-to-find naval strike forces, while also exploiting drones and cyber-war. Yet even more distributed and less visible U.S. forces may become targetable. Moreover, the U.S. Navy is unlikely to shift rapidly to such survivable sea power, given fiscal constraints and institutional-industrial inertia. Meanwhile, the vulnerability of U.S. sea power will increase, and regional stability could suffer.
Okay, here's today's challenge: What are "more distributed, numerous, diverse, elusive, small, long-range, and hard-to-find naval strike forces?"

Submarines, I would think.

Many more submarines.

Lots of smaller ships designed for operations in the straits and islands of WestPac.

More firepower in small packages.

Surface and semi-submersible drones.

Naval mines.

Creative use of "mother ships" to support smaller vessel ops.

Exploiting the U.S. and its Allies' island chains.

And faster.

Sooner is better than too late.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

War at Sea: Missile or Torpedo Firing Unmanned Surface Vessels

USV's that fire missiles must be part of the littoral or near coastal sea battle force . . . from about a year ago, US Navy tests first 11-meter missile-firing sea drone (video):

Now, a little bigger, please. Gimme a quad set of such armed USVs operating from a mother ship and I could make life miserable for someone. here. Here's part of the section on weapons for the USV: Oh, yes, the U.S. Navy has a USV "Master Plan"
• Torpedoes - Under consideration within the analysis were: CVLWT, Mk 54 and Mk 48 (ADCAP) Results: Torpedoes provide dual-use capability (ASW, SUW). Torpedoes could also conceivably have a “dial-a-blast” effect (detonate short of target to vary “shock” factor), but this option is not under development and is not strictly required for this mission to be effective.
• Missiles – Under consideration within the analysis were: Hellfire, NLOS-LS (NetFires), and Brimstone. Missile system capabilities that would be desired include: inertial navigation system, fixed box launcher (reconfigurable/modular), sealed units (fire-through end cap), network-able, discrimination achieved via multiple sensor sources, maritime environment operations capable ("marinized"). Results: Small low-cost missiles would be effective, but not at much greater range than larger torpedoes. Though more capable missile systems (e. g., longer standoff ranges, bigger warheads), they are more appropriately installed on and launched from the host ship. For the sizes of missiles reasonable for USV applications, there is little advantage to USV launch. In summary, the weapons of choice in this scenario appear to be torpedoes, since in the sizes capable of being carried on USVs, they alone have the range to engage the enemy outside the threat's counter-boat weapon range. There is also a much greater chance of the target being unalerted by a torpedo attack than a gun or missile attack.
NLOS-LS is toast, so that leaves smaller systems or making the USVs big enough to handle something larger than Hellfire or Brimstone. UPDATE: A very recent Rand report on U.S. Navy Employment Options for UNMANNED SURFACE VEHICLES (USVs) (PDF). Hat tip: Naval Drones, who notes:
The study analyzed the suitability of USVs for 62 different naval missions (yes, there are that many). USVs were compared to other platforms, including manned, and unmanned (UUVs and UAVs). According to the report, USVs are more suitable than other platforms in missions requiring longer endurance, higher power availability for payloads, and the ability to interface “cross domain” sensors and with other platforms above, on, and below the water.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Best Veterans Day War Movies

I see where CBS "News" posted a list of their "Best Films to Watch on Veterans Day", which is a list designed, I think to show veterans as damaged, broken people, or as CBS put it
In honor of those who have served in the military, we've compiled a list of films to commemorate Veterans Day. These movies aren't necessarily about war per se, but rather focus on the hardships and sacrifices servicemen and women face, be it on the battlefield or back home in civilian life.
So, all you broken, near (or soon-to-be ) crazed veterans will enjoy knowing that your family and friends will learn about your hardships, etc through this list:
  1. "Coming Home" with Jane Fonda as an unfaithful military wife;
  2. "Born on the Fourth of July";
  3. "The Best Years of Our Lives";
  4. "The Deer Hunter";
  5. "The Messenger" featuring yet another unfaithful military wife;
  6. "Flags of Our Fathers";
  7. "The Hurt Locker";
  8. "Legends of the Fall"
  9. "Saving Private Ryan";
  10. and, of course, "Forrest Gump" because it " emphasize[s] the camaraderie among those who serve."
What? No "Apocalypse Now?" No "Rambo?" Why not more crazy, inarticulate social outcasts? That is, to my mind, a horrible selection of films. On Veterans Day we do honor the wounded and shattered vets, but we also should honor all the other vets who served and returned home to become leaders in our towns and cities.

Of all of the CBS choices, for Veterans Day I would recommend only "The Best Years of Our Lives" because it is a great movie as it works through the confusion  and frustration of the returning veterans attempting to readjust to "normal" life after having lived on the edge for years.

My personal Veterans Day flick selections would include:
  • "Patton";
  • "The Great Escape";
  • "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon";
  • "We Were Soldiers"
  • "Restrepo";
  • "In Harms Way";
  • "The Longest Day";
  • "They Were Expendable";
  • "Black Hawk Down";
  • "Sergeant York" 
  • "Twelve O'Clock High";
  • "The Dawn Patrol";
  •  "MASH" and
  • "Mister Roberts"
Whether in the front lines or in the backwaters, our veterans served this country. The vast majority returned with honor and without cases of the "crazy" too often depicted by our media. Depicted that way, I might add, because "crazy" is a better story than reporting on a vet who came back and built a successful career and family. So we give attention to the "homeless veteran" while ignoring the insurance salesman or plumber who fought in the same fights. 

Is war hell? Is it madness? Does it bring out the best in some of us? I think my selection of movies helps answer those questions.

Feel free to suggest others in the comments.

Veterans Day

To the 23 million veterans- Thanks!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Happy Birthday Marines!

Attention to Orders:

Those ship riders in funny costumes are 238 years old. 

Find a Marine or former Marine or retired Marine and give them birthday greetings.

If you can't find birthday greetings, a few rounds of beer may be substituted.

After all, they did get "hatched" in a tavern . . .


Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday Fun Film: "Private Snafu Presents Seaman Tarfu in the Navy (1946)"

Well, a few things have changed.

Okay, more than a few.

Strait of Malacca Piracy: Product Tanker Hijacked, Product Stolen

Arrow indicates area of attack
Report from the IMB here:
07.11.2013: 0330 LT: Posn: 01:20.6N-103:18.2E, around 7.3nm West of Pulau Kukup, Malaysia. Ten robbers armed with guns and knives boarded and hijacked a product tanker underway. They tied up all the crew members and held them hostage in one cabin. Later they commanded that Master to steer the ship to a pre-designated position. The vessel came alongside another orange hull tanker and the robbers forced the C/O and the bosun to use the cargo pumps and valves and the mooring winches. At around 1600LT the robbers left the ship after transferring and stealing all the gas oil. Before leaving the ship the robbers also stole crew belongings. No crew injured during incident.
Area of attack circled
As noted here, this the second incident of this type in a month and the third in two months:
An oil tanker has become the second such vessel to be hijacked in Malaysian waters in four weeks, the International Maritime Bureau said today, adding it marked rising piracy in the region.

A Panamanian-flagged vessel was yesterday boarded by 10 armed pirates, who emptied it of the oil it was carrying into another ship before disembarking.

In early October a Thai-flagged oil tanker went missing for two days after a hijacking before being released without its cargo.

The IMB said there had been an increase in the number of attacks on Malaysia’s coast recently but added it could not be sure if the two most recent attacks were by the same group.
Strait of Malacca piracy so far in 1013 (IMB)

“This is the third attack in two months, with the last two using the same modus operandi to steal the gas oil,” said Noel Choong, head of IMB’s Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre.

Very similar to the oil theft piracy going on in the Gulf of Guinea, too.

In any event, piracy is on the increase in these waters.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Modern Warship Design

At the top, from 1863, a replica of CSS Ablemarle. Lower image, USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) circa 2013.

That they both float and are warships is about all they have in common. Still . . .

Somali Pirates: German Frigate Interdicts Probable Pirates and a Merchant Gets Attacked

Just in case you have fallen into the trap of believing that Somali piracy is a dead issue, here's an EUNAVFOR report that just might alter your perception: EU Naval Force: "Piracy Continues – EU Warship Prevents Suspect Pirates Going To Sea And A Merchant Ship is Attacked by Pirates In The Indian Ocean":
The first incident happened on Tuesday 5 November, when EU Naval Force German frigate, FGS Niedersachsen prevented 10 suspect pirates from getting far out to sea. The second incident happened yesterday, Wednesday 6 November, at sea 460 miles south east of Mogadishu, when a merchant ship had to repel an attack from 5 armed suspect pirates.

It was during one of her counter piracy
Suspected pirate boats
patrols yesterday that FGS Niedersachsen first located 2 small vessels – a whaler towing a skiff, close to the Somali coast. The warship’s crew was able to observe that as well as 10 men, the whaler was also carrying over 10 fuel barrels and 2 long ladders – equipment that has been traditionally used by pirates to launch attacks on ships at sea.

The great ladder offload

When the German frigate approached to carry out further investigations, the men in the whaler were observed dropping the ladders into the sea, before heading back towards the shoreline.

As the suspect vessels made their way through the surf to get back to the beach, approximately 80 people were seen watching from the land, with some wading out to assist the suspect pirates to drag their boats back on to the beach.
Beach help

FGS Niedersachsen continues to monitor the beach area, which quickly become deserted after the incident.

The attack yesterday morning was on a Hong Kong flagged chemical tanker, enroute from Saudi Arabia to Mozambique. The tanker was fired upon by 5 men using automatic weapons in a fast-moving skiff. The private armed security team on board was able to repel the attack. There are no reports of any injuries following the attack. Naval forces immediately closed the sea area to locate the suspect pirates.
All pictures from EU NAVFOR except for FGS Niedersachsen which is from Wikipedia. Emphasis added.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Somali Piracy: Excellent Background Read

If you are looking for an excellent background read on the rise of the Somali pirates and their importance to the global economy, I highly recommend Martin Murphy's 2011 book Somalia: The New Barbary?: Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa.

As the blurb at Amazon says,
Martin Murphy, author of the definitive guide to modern maritime piracy and terrorism, employs his critically-acclaimed approach to review the history, motivation, organization, criminal methods, and operational tactics of Somali piracy, from its initial manifestation in the early-1990s to today. He links their activities and fortunes to the rise and fall of Somalia's political groups; explains how and why violent Islamists operate within Somalia; and outlines the extent to which they may exploit maritime dimensions in the future. He concludes with a consideration of the various political and military solutions being used to meet these challenges and whether they will resolve them effectively.
Obviously, this is not a new book and so the impact of armed security teams on merchant ships transiting the Somali pirate range is not covered. However, the analysis of the impact (or lack thereof) of naval forces is spot on and the warnings of future failed states near sea lines of communication should be given attention. Or, in his words:
Somali piracy represents the most significant challenge to maritime security since the end of World War II; or, perhaps more precisely,  the most substantial threat to the freedom of maritime trading nations to conduct their lawful pursuits peacefully.
He notes that the rise of Somali pirates has revealed something interesting - "the world is poised on the verge of a new global maritime order."

His discussion of the US Maritime Services "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" continues that thought with a look at that strategy on the Chinese:
Their reaction spurs the thought that China is aware of how much it lost over the centuries by not remaining a maritime and trading nation, while American no longer realizes how much it owes to both.

I agree, and his analysis is very much worth the read.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Oil Dumped Off Cornwall - Rancid Palm Oil That Is . . .

In the past few days, Shiptalk reports:
A mystery vessel is being accused of dumping rancid palm oil products off the UK coast, and act which has led to pollution of beaches – and also the death of at least one dog in Cornwall.
BBC News report here:
The clear-up of a substance on Cornish beaches has begun after it was found to be palm oil, a contractor says.
Cory Environmental, which works for Cornwall Council, said it was removing the substance after it was identified as "safe to touch".

Public Health England (PHE) said the substance was identified as a "non-harmful oil-based product".
Not "dog safe" though, it appears.

Back in February 2013, sea birds reportedly were coated with palm oil:
A mysterious sticky substance covering more than 100 birds which washed up on the coast of southern England could be palm oil dumped in the sea.
Many were found on the shores of Chesil Cove in Dorset, but others appeared up to 200 miles away in Cornwall.
Joshi added: "If the birds get to this shoreline, they're exhausted, they're unable to fly, they can't get back into the water so their chances of survival are near to minimal.

Earlier this year, in October, according to this report, a previous (2012) palm oil dumping vessel was both identified and fined:
A Singaporean-registered Maersk Group tanker was found guilty and fined £22,500 yesterday for dumping a mixture of palm oil and tank cleaning fluid within 12 miles of Land’s End last year - leaving a slick 20 miles long.

The unique trial at Truro Magistrates Court has been highlighted as the first time satellite footage has been used by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in the prosecution of a company for dumping waste illegally in the UK.
The timing is interesting, but so is the repetition of "palm oil" incidents in the area even given Cornwall's exposed position to the major sea lanes in the area.

Who knew there was so much palm oil dumping going on?

Gulf of Guinea Piracy: Good Backgrounder from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Here's a key point to keep in mind when discussing Gulf of Guinea maritime piracy:
Much of the piracy that affects West Africa is a product of the disorder that surrounds the regional oil industry. A large share of the recent piracy attacks targeted vessels carrying petroleum products. These vessels are attacked because there is a booming black market for fuel in West Africa. Without this ready market, there would be little point in attacking these vessels. There are indications that oil may also be smuggled outside the region.

This paragraph is from one of several summaries found at UNODC | Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa: A Threat Assessment.

The section on "Maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea" provides a very good backgrounder on the environment surrounding the surge in Gulf of Guinea sea piracy:

From the press release announcing the main report availability:
A report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that transnational organized crime markets and the vast profits they generate continue to fuel instability and hinder development in West Africa. The report, Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa: a Threat Assessment, analyses the dynamics of key crime markets and provides recommendations for the international community to tackle these problems.

"Transnational organized crime is clearly a serious threat to West Africa", says Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa. "State institutions and the rule of law are weak in most of these countries, and unless these organized crimes are tackled, instability is likely to persist and increase".
Yes, it is.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Somali Piracy: World Bank, Interpol, UNODC Track Money Trail of Pirate's Ransom Money

The World Bank ("Working for a World Free of Poverty"), UNODC and Interpol report on the money collected by pirates in a joint report, ‘Pirate Trails’ Tracks Dirty Money Resulting From Piracy Off the Horn of Africa
Between US$339 million and US$413 million was taken in ransom from the hijacking of ships off the coast of Somalia and the Horn of Africa between 2005 and 2012, according to a report released today. The study – carried out by the World Bank, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL – reveals that much of the ransom money was used to fuel a wide range of criminal activities on a global scale.

“Pirate Trails” – using data and evidence from interviews with former pirates, government officials, bankers and others involved in countering piracy – investigates the flow of ransom money paid out to Somali pirates operating in the Indian Ocean. The study examines the reach of the pirates into the stimulant “khat” trade, human trafficking and other illegal activities that hinder development.
The report:

UPDATE: Why, yes, the post headline does read like something Ron Burgundy would say . . .

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday Fun Film: "Better Use of Leisure Time"

Way back in the olden times, when there wasn't really TV or PlayStations or . . . well, it was a tough time.

Here's proof, from the wonders of Coronet Films in 1950, the substitute teacher's best friend of my youth:

Midrats 3 Nov 13: Episode 200: "Navy SEALs in the Long War"

As Veteran's Day looms and wars go on, please join us live this Sunday at 5pm Eastern (don't forget to "Fall Back" for the time change) for Midrats "Episode 200: Navy SEALs in the Long War":
In an arch that spans the immediate post-Cold War era through the Iraq War, what are the observations and lessons of a front-line leader at the tactical level and, for those who are injured in service to their nation, through recovery.

Our guest for the full hour will be Jason Redman, author of The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader.

Jason joined the Navy on September 11, 1992 and served as an enlisted SEAL until he entered Old Dominion University in August of 2001, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management via Naval ROTC. He was commissioned in May of 2004 and returned as Naval SEAL Officer.

He deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2007, and in September was severely wounded. While recovering at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, Jason underwent 37 surgeries. His experience led him to create Wounded Wear, a Non-Profit organization that provides clothing kits and clothing modifications to America’s wounded warriors.
Some of you will remember Jason for the sign on his door at Bethesda which is replicated above.

Some of you may not of heard of him at all.

Here's your chance to get to learn more about him and his story.

Please join us live (or listen later) by clicking here.

5pm (EST) Sunday 3 Nov 13.