Well, We Got Something Right

 

Every once in a while the Army gets it right. After the media and political debacle of the Niger Ambush in October 2017, the Army made SSG J.W. Johnson and SGT La David Johnson honorary Green Berets. The article description of the battle is slightly off but I will give them some slack. And, coincidentally, I was able to visit and pay respects to La David Johnson returning home from Boss Mongo’s funeral service. I would sure like to talk to him about this.

First Flight with the Skipper

 

I joined my first A-7 squadron, the “Golden Warriors” of Attack Squadron VA-87, at the beginning of January 1981. They had deployed to the Indian Ocean aboard the USS Independence (CV-62 – a non-nuclear-powered – Forrestal Class carrier) the previous October. My trip from stateside had been long and interesting (see my post – “A Long Way to the Indian Ocean”). The carrier’s trip was more straightforward; departing Norfolk, VA, south around the southern tip of Africa and then north to the Indian Ocean.

There were no flight ops the day after I arrived. It was standard practice for the Air Wing to fly a few days and then take a couple of days off for maintenance of the catapults and arresting gear. I arrived during one of those non-flying days and the next opportunity to fly wouldn’t be for a couple more days. There were some administrative tasks to complete first so the delay wasn’t unexpected.

USS Lexington (CVT-16)

A Long Way to the Indian Ocean…

 

Navy/Marine Corps Pilot Wings

Typically in the 1980s, a student Naval Aviator could earn his Wings, learn to fly his assigned aircraft, and join a squadron in about 2-2½ years. (18 months to earn Wings; 6 to 8 months learning to fly assigned aircraft). Ideally, he’d report to a squadron that had just returned from deployment, replacing pilots who were leaving. The “nugget” would be in the squadron when it began training for the next deployment and by the time the carrier deployed for parts unknown, they’d be fully up to speed.

My path from student aviator to A-7 squadron pilot was longer. It included an extra 15 months as a flight instructor. I wasn’t unique. At the time I was earning my wings, many Navy pilots were leaving after completing their initial commitment to the Navy to become airline pilots. That created an instructor shortage in the Training Command where student aviators earned their wings.

Jim and Greg welcome the funny but pointed denunciation of Critical Race Theory from Lousisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy. They also wonder why the U.S. left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan without even telling our Afghan allies. And they roll their eyes as the Lincoln Project adds longtime Dem strategist Joe Trippi, essentially admitting it’s now nothing more than another left-wing group.

Railguns Fried, Fizzle Before the Fourth of July

 

U.S. Navy image of railgun prototype firing

Military.com reports the Navy has finally ended the railgun program. What caught my eye was a reference to other services’ abandoned futuristic weapons. What each had in common was strong support over many years from the military-industrial complex: a uniformed proponent, Congressional support, and defense contractors. I started my military career in the 1980s just as the Sergeant York air defense gun system collapsed under spectacularly bad testing results, so can sympathize.

Upholding the Constitution in Hard Cases

 

ConstitutionJust as Bill Cosby was rightly freed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on solid constitutional grounds, so now two Marines have been cleared of wrongdoing in a 2011 incident, where Marine snipers recorded themselves urinating on Taliban corpses. The reason for reversal of lower adverse actions? Improper command influence from the top of the Marine Corps. 

The Acting Secretary of the Navy just cleared the record of a Marine officer who had be separated from service under a cloud, even though he was not at the scene. At the same time, the Navy has upgraded the rank of a senior noncommissioned officer, a senior sergeant, who had been forced into retirement at a lower rank.

It is a gross violation of military justice for a senior commander to make statements indicating the desired result of a supposedly fair process.

Did Biden Just Sink the US Navy?

 

The US Department of Defense recently rolled out its spending plans for 2022. As part of DOD’s massive $715 billion budget plan, most observers expected an increase in the USN’s shipbuilding budget, especially after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, army Gen. Mark Milley, said he endorsed an expanded fleet even if it meant less money for the Army, because of concerns about growing Chinese power.

But to almost everybody’s surprise the Navy’s construction budget appears to have been slashed. Apart from the big Ford-class carriers, the 2022 budget request asks for eight new vessels, only four of which are combatants, one destroyer, one frigate, and two nuclear attack submarines. This new construction fails to compensate for the fact that the current budget calls for the decommissioning of twelve vessels, seven cruisers, one amphibious assault ship, and four Littoral Combat Ships. Conceivably, since ships are assumed to have 30-year life spans, less new construction combined with too many ships leaving service could lead to a fleet strength of just 240 ships. In the past, when the USN decommissioned substantial numbers of ships, as happened in the 1970s and 1990s, and then tried to build back the fleet, the Navy was never able to regain the original numbers. According to Breaking Defense, a more likely target considering the current budget environment is 290 ships.

Call the Ball: “Clara”

 

Clear night carrier landing – view through the Heads-up-Display

While it’s true that all-night landings are scary, some stand out.  The memory of this particular landing remains so vivid I can almost smell the sweat despite the buffer of over thirty years.  It happened the summer of 1989 in heavy fog and low visibility off San Diego, flying aboard the USS Enterprise (the “Big E”) during the Air Wing’s final pre-deployment night landing practice.

My Silken Letdown

 

There are two ways a Navy Carrier pilot can log one less carrier landing than take-off.  The first is called the “fly-off”.  When the squadron returns from a deployment, all the aircraft must be flown from the aircraft carrier back to their home base.  If you’re senior enough, you get to fly one of them.  On the scheduled day and time the squadron families gather at the hangar to await the planes’ arrival.  All the aircraft that are able to fly are launched.  Everyone joins up in formation and then the Squadron Commander leads the whole group of 10 or 12 aircraft back to the home airfield.  For East Coast A-7E Corsairs from the 1970s to the 1990s, that airfield was Cecil Field Naval Air Station (NAS) in Jacksonville, Florida.

Navy A-7E Corsairs In Formation

Ex-Mossad Head to Iran: ‘We Won’t Let You Get Nuclear Weapons. What Don’t You Understand?’

 

Retired Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

Every few months for the past several years, there’s an “incident” in Iran. A top nuclear scientist disappears. A centrifuge facility catches fire. A ship doesn’t make it to its destination. And the Israelis offer no comment.

That is, until now. Yossi Cohen, who stepped down as leader of the Mossad intelligence agency last week, provided a stunning inside look at Israel’s efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

For Veterans: A Hat Question

 

I love wearing baseball caps. For one, they are cheaper than a hairpiece. I have a wide collection of hats from work or places I have visited or from sports teams.

If I were to buy and wear a Space Force hat, is that Stolen Valor? I think the Space Force is awesome, and want to support them. What about buying a CVN-65 Enterprise cap, since my dad served on the Big E?

It’s all good martinis today! Jim and Greg welcome the Senate parliamentarian making life much tougher for Senate Democrats and the Biden agenda. They also cheer the mysterious sinking of one of Iran’s largest naval ships. And they are glad to see COVID number continue to drop weeks after the CDC ended mask mandates for vaccinated people.

When a Grown Man Cries (Memorial Day Edition)

 

I’ve seen lots of men cry – cry over their wives with Alzheimer’s, cry over the “out-of-order” death of an adult child, and cry over their own cancer when it will take them from their families.  I find it moving, human, and to be honest, a little frightening when a strong man breaks down.

I have seen lots of men break down and sob, blubber and snot over buddies and friends lost in war.  You see, several years ago I participated in the Veterans’ History Project (VHP) spearheaded by the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/vets/  The idea was to gather veterans’ stories to preserve and catalog them for future generations and research. As an elder law attorney, I work with mostly seniors, many of whom are veterans and I would hear their stories in my office – amazing stories of near misses, funny anecdotes, and tales of true love that waited back home. (They won’t tell you their stories of heroism because “they were just doing their job” and “the real heroes are the ones who didn’t come back”)