Monday, December 12, 2011

The First Female Commander of a U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group

Nora W. Tyson is the first woman to command a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier task group after assuming command of Carrier Strike Group Two on July 29, 2010. U.S. Navy carrier strike groups are employed in a variety of roles, all of which involve gaining and maintaining sea control - "A Global Force for Good." According to The Official Website of the United States Navy
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Rear Adm. Tyson graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in English. She attended Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I., receiving her commission in the U.S. Navy in December of that year. Tyson reported for flight training in Pensacola, Fla., after serving a brief tour ashore in Washington. She earned her wings as a naval flight officer in 1983. She served three tours in Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 4 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., and Tinker Air Force Base, in Oklahoma, including one as commanding officer. She also commanded the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), leading the Navy's contributions to disaster relief efforts on the U.S. Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and deploying twice to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other tours at sea included duty as assistant operations officer aboard the training aircraft carrier, USS Lexington (AVT 16), and as navigator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Ashore, she served as Airborne Communications Officer Course instructor and officer in charge at Naval Air Maintenance Training Detachment 1079, NAS Patuxent River, Md. She has also completed tours on the Joint Staff as a political-military planner in the Asia-Pacific Division of the Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate; as executive assistant for the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; as director of staff for commander, Naval Forces Europe/commander 6th Fleet, and as executive assistant for the Chief of Naval Operations. Her most recent assignment was as commander, Logistics Group, Western Pacific/commander, Task Force 73. Tyson earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Affairs from the U.S. Naval War College in 1995.
The flagship of Carrier Strike Group Two is the USS George HW Bush , which returned from a 7-month deployment on 10 Dec 2011 to the cheers and tears of family and friends worldwide, thanks to LiveStream, which allowed those unable to attend the homecomeing in person to watch from computers. Prior to World War I, women in the Navy were usually nurses. The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 allowed the first femail sailors who served in clerical positions in addition to nursing and pharmaceutical positions. They also served as photographers, radio operators, torpedo assemblers and a variety of other positions. All of these positions were abandoned by the women at the end of the war when they were released from active duty. WAVES, Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service was the women's auxiliary generated by the need for additional personnel during World War II. The trend of having women in the Navy primarily during war times continued until the early 1970s. Women began flying for the Navy and were finally allowed to advance as commissioned officers. The Department of the Navy announced authorization of a policy change allowing women to begin serving onboard Navy submarines in mid-2010. Rear Admiral Tyson, I applaud your accomplishments.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome home Sailors of the "USS George HW Bush"!

Today, nearly 6,000 members of the United States Navy who have been deployed on the USS George H W Bush for the past seven months have come to their home port in Norfolk, Virginia.

Hampton Roads Pilot Online's Mike Hixenbaugh reports:
Nearly 6,000 sailors returned home to Norfolk Naval Station today to cheers and hugs after a seven-month deployment to the Middle East. People began gathering pierside before 6 a.m., hours ahead of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush's arrival. "I thought if we came out here, time would go by faster," said Julie Martin as she waited for her husband. People jumped and cheered as the ship appeared at the horizon. Pam Moore wiped a tear from her eyes. Moore and her family had flown in from Texas to welcome her son home. "I'm so proud of him." Patriotic music blared as the ship approached. Petty Officer Derrick Chavez was among the first sailors off the ship. He smiled as he hugged his wife and held his 6-month-old daughter for the first time."I'm speechless," he said. Loved ones hoisted each other on their shoulders and waved signs as the sailors filed onto the pier. Airman Robert Frary found his girlfriend and immediately dropped to a knee and held out a ring. She jumped into his arms and screamed, "yes!" "We've got a lot to celebrate," he said. The arrivals include four ships as part of the group: the aircraft carrier Bush, the guided-missile destroyers Truxtun and Mitscher and the cruiser Anzio. They left Hampton Roads in May. The deployment was the first for the Bush, skippered by Capt. Brian Luther. It also marked the first time that a woman, Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, commanded a carrier strike group. The ships and nine squadrons of aircraft that make up Carrier Air Wing Eight supported U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and conducted security operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. The air wing returned home earlier this week.
The Navy made LiveStream available through several outlets, including Facebook so that family and friends who could not attend the homecoming in person could still "be there" sort of. Pre-recorded earlier today:
Watch live streaming video from usnavy at
Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST and run until 1 p.m. with chat options in LiveStream, Facebook and Twitter, it promised to be a fully interactive experience, but some people voiced great disappointment in the execution.

I spent hours last night tweeting and sending the link to family and friends and slept like a child on Christmas Eve.

I woke early and paced, waiting until it was time to view the feed. I expected a few glitches and yet, knowing the technology that is available to our Navy, I also expected state-of-the art video that I hoped would blow my mind.

Instead, I found a black screen for 19 minutes, a day-old slide show for 18 minutes and about 3 seconds of live feed that showed the ship already moored, sailors standing at attention in their dress blues around the ship. I'd missed the grandeur of watching the tugboat help maneuver the massive ship to port.

I maintained vigilance and waited three hours to see if I might see my own sailor. I did see small clips of happy reunions. Meanwhile I tried to engage in the three chats available but mostly found others complaining about the LiveStream feed.

I have to agree: a military as mighty as ours, a Navy capable of creating remote control drones and a country capable of sending manned spacecraft to the moon and the International Space Station should be able to provide a fully functional video on LiveStream, right?

There were some people who expressed the same opinion I had - that of gratitude. We were grateful to know that the Navy cared enough about the sailors' families and friends to offer an option to flying or driving to Norfolk or waiting for the news releases. Thank you!

Others voiced frustration that the feed wasn't better. I was frustrated, too. One thing the feed did provide was enough audio for me to recognize when disembarkation had begun and when it was almost over. That afforded me with a window in which to call my sailor, who was still working on board the ship. We had a brief moment for me to say, "Welcome home!"

Despite the glitches and the comments over how skillful the camera person was (or wasn't) and despite the moments of blackout and the 15-minute early timeout, I have to say Bravo Zulu to those who made the effort to make the LiveStream possible.Hopefully skill and technology will merge for the next homecoming.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Welcome home Sailors of the USS Geoge HW Bush!

Saturday 10 November 2011 10 a.m. the USS George H.W. Bush returns to homeport in Norfolk, VA. The Navy LiveStream Channel takes family and friends who cannot attend the joyous reunion in person with them through technology.
usnavy on Broadcast Live Free

Streamed Live - USS George HW Bush Homecoming!

The Official Website of the United States Navy reports:
When the nearly 6,000 Sailors of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (GHWB CSG) return from a seven month deployment to their homeport of Norfolk Dec. 10, Navy friends and families will be able to see it live on the internet. To enhance the homecoming experience, the Navy is using social media to allow individuals to participate virtually, while encouraging those present to share their experience from the pier. Navy family, friends and fans may view the homecoming of USS George H.W. Bush live via the U.S. Navy Facebook page ( or on the Navy Livestream channel directly at on Saturday beginning at 10 am EST. Livestream is a web based platform that the Navy and other government agencies use for real time audience engagement by streaming live video and chat over their social media properties. The Navy has found this type of technology useful in sharing events and experiences predominantly located near the coast with interested viewers who are unable to attend in person. A Foursquare event entitled "George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Homecoming" has also been created for in-person attendees to "check-in" to. Foursquare, is a location-based social networking site for mobile devices where users "check-in" at events or venues by selecting from a list the program locates nearby. The Navy intends to use this type of engagement platform for fleet events like deployments and homecomings as well as community outreach events like Navy and Fleet Weeks during its upcoming bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812. The homecoming, as well as the seven-month deployment supporting operations with the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleets, will be highlighted and discussed on Navy and command specific Facebook and Twitter accounts as well. The Twitter hashtag for this event will be #GHWBCSG. For news regarding GHWB CSG's deployment, log onto cvn77 or visit the ship's Facebook page. To join the conversation and learn more about America's Navy go to usnavy.
The words belong to the Navy. The hyperlinks, I set up for your convenience. I will be glued to my Internet tomorrow!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

VP Biden visits sailors on the USS Gettysburg today

First Coast News reported
NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. -- After six months in the Middle East, more than 275 sailors have returned to Mayport aboard USS Gettysburg. The guided missile cruiser and crew were deployed with the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group in support of operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, plus security efforts in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. Vice President Joe Biden, in town to discuss college affordability with high school students, was with the waiting crowd as the ship docked. As USS Gettysburg was pulling in, Biden spoke to the families and friends of the sailors, quoting John Milton, who wrote, "They also serve who only stand and wait." He said the country is behind them as well as the sailors. "We only have one sacred obligation as a country. We have a lot of obligations, only one's sacred. That's to prepare those we send to war, and care for those and their families when they come home. That's an obligation we're going to meet; you've met all of your obligations." To the children, he had a special message as well. "It's going to be a be a very, very, very happy Christmas for all you kids." Biden then boarded the ship to greet the sailors. "Welcome home, sailor," Biden said as he shook hands and gave a vice presidential coin to everyone on the ship. Sailing into Mayport with USS Gettysburg were other ships in the group, including the carrier USS George H.W. Bush. The other ships will be picking up family members and friends for a "Tiger Cruise" from Mayport to the carrier's homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, according to a news release from Navy spokesman Bill Austin. First Coast News
This means the USS George HW Bush is one day closer to home.

Toilet paper rationing for schoolchildren in Spain

The Telegraph reports
Schoolchildren in Catalonia are the latest victims of austerity cuts with authorities instructing them to limit their use of lavatory paper in a bid to save money.
After I first voiced my concern over the locks on doors to heads on board the USS George HW Bush, I started hearing about missing rolls of toilet paper on board the ship, which could have explained why some sailors chose to stuff inappropriate items down them - did not excuse them but may have explained why. The Telegraph article continues
The northeastern region has been ordered to rein in its deficit and has embarked on a series of stringent austerity cuts. The latest edict issued by the region’s ministry of education instructs state schools to cut “excessive consumption” of toilet roll among pupils and limit the quota to a maximum of 25 metres per child per month.
I would hate to be the one responsible for measuring and insuring.
This most recent penny saving measure comes amid widespread cuts to education budgets across Spain that has led to regular protests in the streets by teachers. Doctors in debt laden Catalonia have also been called out on strike in recent weeks angry at health budget cuts that have left public hospitals over stretched. Spain’s autonomous regions have been forced by the central government to reduce their spending to help meet the nation’s budget deficit reduction target. Fresh austerity cuts are expected under the conservative Popular Party, which ousted the Socialists to win an absolute majority on November 20 and whose leader Mariano Rajoy will be sworn in as Prime Minister on December 22.
I believe it's true. No matter how bad we think we have it, no matter how much we grumble and complain, the United States of America is THE BEST COUNTRY in the WORLD. One of the reasons our country is not only the BEST but the STRONGEST is our military. It's not the only reason, but it is a big reason. Often only a show of force is enough to make others back down - because we will NOT BACK DOWN. Welome home sailors!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Closer to Home

I'm your Captain

Chances are good many sailors - especially the older ones - will be humming this classic Grand Funk Railroad song.

We're all counting down with you!

Captain Brian "Lex" Luther celebrated his birthday yesterday. Today, the air wing left the USS George HW Bush, headed for home, always a powerful moment on any ship. Captain Luther wrote a very moving letter, in which he quoted his brother. I suggest you go read it.

I hope every sailor on board has family as excited as this to welcome them home.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

U.S. Fleet Forces Command has officially announced the USS Bush's homecoming

Pilot Online's Kate Wiltrout reported:

Saturday will be joyful for thousands of local families welcoming home sailors from a seven-month deployment.

The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, destroyers Truxtun and Mitscher and cruiser Anzio are scheduled to return to Norfolk on Saturday, the Navy announced Monday. The carrier strike group, which includes nearly 6,000 sailors, departed May 10.

It was the first deployment for the Bush, skippered by Capt. Brian Luther. And it was also the first time that a woman, Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, commanded a carrier strike group.

The ships and nine squadrons of aircraft that make up Carrier Air Wing Eight supported U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and conducted security operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas, the Navy said in a news release.

About 150 aviators are to fly in to Oceana Naval Air Station and Norfolk Naval Station on Wednesday. The fifth ship in the strike group, the cruiser Gettysburg, is scheduled to return to Mayport, Fla., on Thursday.

The first comment on the story:
Welcome Home
Submitted by RicM25798 on Tue, 12/06/2011 at 7:51 am.
A hero's welcome to the Bush Strike Group. What better way to celebrate the holidays.
P.S. - clean and functioning toilets await you!

The Daily Press also reported on the ship's return.

Nearly 6,000 sailors from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group are scheduled to return to Naval Station Norfolk Saturday after a seven month deployment, where they supported troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Returning to Norfolk will be group's flagship, the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), plus the guided-missile destroyers USS Truxtun and USS Mitscher, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio.

The homecoming will mark the completion of the maiden deployment for the Bush, the newest addition to America's carrier fleet.
The USS Gettysburg, another ship in the strike group, will return to homeport in Mayport, Fla. on Thursday.

Separately, 150 aviators from Carrier Air Wing 8 who were deployed aboard the Bush will return to Hampton Roads on Wednesday, the Navy announced.

A total of 44 F/A 18 Hornets and Super Hornets will land at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. Four E-2C Hawkeyes, three C-2A Greyhounds and eight MH-60S Knight Hawks are due at Norfolk Naval Station's Chambers Field.

For more news of the armed forces, visit, home of Hampton Roads Recon, the Daily Press military blog.

Again, the first comment refers to the unfortunate fact that the "perfect system" is flawed.

luigi1 at 7:48 PM December 05, 2011
they'll be here as soon as they can dump the waste from the toilets, unless they are to clogged.

To some, the situation with the heads is a laughing matter. That's because they have never worn Real Bellbottoms or a Dixie Cup!

More than ever, I am proud to call myself a Navy Mom. I know the deployment has not been an easy one for any ONE on the ship, due, partly to the flaws in the VHCT system. Deployments are not pleasure cruises. Sailors expect some hardships, but the officers and enlisted personnel alike have endured much unease as a result of the system failure and some as a result of the press brought about from my blog. I would not change how I have conducted myself, however there could have been different ways to handle the situation - there are always many ways to deal with problems.

One reason I am proud my son joined the Navy is that it does its best to take care of it's men and women, as a whole.

The official website of the United States Navy even issued "a standard operating procedure that can help keep the holidays merry and light." For the returning sailors and for all of us, this is good advice.
"The holidays can be a hectic time for many," said Lt. Cmdr. Bonnie Chavez, Navy Behavioral Health Program director. "A lack of money, a lack of time, and the hype and commercialism of the season causes increased stress."

Surveys indicate people in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increase rather than decreases during the holidays, according to Chavez, who offers this advice:

* Take advantage of leave periods and relax for a few days by doing something you enjoy. Holiday stand-down periods provide flexibility for much needed rest to recover from the demands of Navy life.
* Be a good listener. Holidays are short and demands from friends and family for your attention will be high so try to give the gift of good company.
* Keep to your shopping budget. When it comes to holiday gift-giving, find creative ways to save money and remain in your budget. Racking up credit-card debt over the holidays may only cause further stress when the bills come due.
* Plan ahead and allow for plenty of time for holiday travel. Expect lines and delays in airports as the number of travelers swell. Prepare your car for road trips and know you'll be sharing the highway with higher numbers of travelers. Getting plenty of rest can make the journey less stressful and help you arrive safely.
* When tensions begin to rise, pause, take a deep breath, reflect and evaluate if the source of tension is really something that should be causing stress.
* The holidays are a time of excitement and exhaustion for young children. Overtired, over stimulated children are ripe for a stress inducing meltdown. Plan accordingly to anticipate disruptions in children's routines and exercise patience. The holidays are supposed to be merry.
* If deployment or geographic separation will keep you away from family and friends, plan your own observance upon your return or for a future date.

Chavez reminds Sailors to look out for their shipmates, too. Deployments, work-ups and separations are simply a fact of Navy life, and Sailors are good at welcoming shipmates into their homes and including them in celebrations.

"Don't underestimate the positive difference you can make by taking a little extra time to care," said Chavez. "The things you do every day to make connections, to encourage, and show people how they are valued and belong, can help in small but important ways for the people around you."

I've been fortunate enough to see a homecoming ship make that final turn before docking. It is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive sights. Parents, sweethearts, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and children will all be there, some waving flags, some holding flowers, but all with arms waiting for hugs they have missed for more than half a year. I will have to wait a little longer for my hug. I won't be able to be there to welcome the sailors home - some of them might not be too eager to see the Blogging Mommy, anyway - but I will be watching the live stream and I will be looking out for my own.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

The University of Washington's student senate, in 2006, voiced objections to having a statue erected in memory of Medal of Honor recipient USMC Colonel Greg "Pappy" Boyington of "Black Sheep Squadron" fame. Jill Edwards, a student senator, voiced concerns that a military hero who shot down enemy planes was not the right kind of person to represent the school.

Charles Grennel, an Army Reservist, spent two years in Iraq and was a principal in putting together the first Iraqi elections. Grennel and his comrades - all veterans of the Global War on Terror - responded to her objections.
To: Edwards, Jill (student, UW) Subject: Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

Miss Edwards,

I read of your "student activity" regarding the proposed memorial to Col. Greg Boyington, USMC and a Medal of Honor winner. I suspect you will receive a bellyful of angry e-mails from conservative folks like me.

You may be too young to appreciate fully the sacrifices of generations of servicemen and servicewomen on whose shoulders you and your fellow students stand. I forgive you for the untutored ways of your youth and your naivete. It may be that you are, simply, a sheep. There's no dishonor in being a sheep -- as long as you know and accept what you are.

William J. Bennett, in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997 said: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident."

We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation.

They are sheep. Then there are the wolves and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy. Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

Then there are sheepdogs and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf. If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the unchartered path. Someone who can walk into the
heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools. But many of them are outraged by the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than by fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they choose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports, in camouflage fatigues, holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up.

The entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog. The students, the victims at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT Teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door. Look at what happened
after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed, right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." You want to be able to make a difference. There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders, and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness: They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others may be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11,2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When they learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd and the other passengers confronted the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers -- athletes, business people and parents -- from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

"There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men." --Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter.

As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision. If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love.

But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door. This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either- or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the sand sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone
in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously.
It's ok to be a sheep, but do not kick the sheepdog. Indeed, the sheepdog may just run a little harder, strive to protect a little better and be prepared to pay an ultimate price in battle and spirit with the sheep moving from "baa" to "thanks." We do not call for gifts or freedoms beyond our lot. We just need a small pat on the head, a smile and a thank you to fill the emotional tank which is drained protecting the sheep. And when our number is
called by "The Almighty," and day retreats into night, a small prayer before the heavens just may be in order to say thanks for letting you continue to be a sheep. And be grateful for the thousands -- millions -- of American sheepdogs who permit you the freedom to express even bad ideas.

I'm certainly no wolf and I'll be damned if I'll ever be a sheep. My son and all the sailors on board the USS George HW Bush, along with just one percent of the other Americans who are the warriors in the armed forces, are loyal sheepdogs. I'm just the girl who feeds the dogs, scratches them behind their ears, removes the burrs from their fur and makes sure they have a safe place to bring the sheep.

Thank you to every one in every branch of our military for faithfully serving. Thank you to the many for ensuring the rights of the one.

Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus first said, "Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum."

Many years ago, my Sailor taught me, Si vis pacem, para bellum. "If You Want Peace, Prepare for War." Part of that war-readiness, the preparation for war, is to ensure that the ships our pilots, marines and sailors require for battle are indeed fit for battle - at all times. Tiger Cruises and workups are short term. What will our sheepdogs do on a ship that is crippled by toilet outages?

Bravo Zulu for the efforts to make the "perfect system" work perfectly. I am eager to know that once in home port, the ship's technicians and engineers will finally have everything they have needed for the past half year to make the repairs and the next deployment will be a good one. I will rejoice when I learn someone has been able to explain why adults at sea need to behave like adults and stop forcing unacceptable items into the VCHT, although my research tells me that seems to be something some sailors just do, though for the life of me, I can't understand why.

They are probably chihuahuas trying to be sheepdogs.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sailors Speak During Deployment

The U.S. Naval Institute has a great article about Operational Security and social media. Many fingers have pointed at me, casting blame and others have shamed me for writing about the flawed Vacuum Holding and Transfer System on the USS George HW Bush. Others praise me and laud my courage.

Despite opinion in some camps, my son and I discussed OPSEC and morale at great length before I initiated my blog. Thinking I was clever, I created a blog separate from my personal website, but the moment the Navy glommed onto my site, or perhaps the moment the Navy Times broke the story, someone searched my name and thus the anonymity was breached. I know the sources of visits on this and my other site. I tend to be just clever enough to get into mischief, it seems. He did not know about the blog until his commander showed him the printed page of the first few posts.

Still, he desired effect has been achieved. Cipher locks have been changed to a common unlock code so all hands can access working heads after pressing just three buttons. I feel, however that my main point has been overlooked by many who have picked up on this. Taxpayers, whether or not they have family on board the USS George HW Bush or any ship, deserve to know that our tax dollars are providing what we expect and what we have been told.

If you have followed this story, you may have read Capt. Luther's "recommendation for upgrades" to the "perfect system" on his ship.

I did not undertake this lightly. With a World War II father, brothers who served in Vietnam and Dessert Storm, nephews currently serving or recently returned from Afghanistan and Iraq and with my own son deployed, I take a strong, protective viewpoint toward all active-duty military and I want to know - as a taxpayer - that our fighting men and women have access to working heads at sea or some sort of back up system in place for potential failure of what was known prior to deployment, as a flawed, yet "perfect," system .

By now, it’s widely known what my son’s rank is and how long he has proudly served. I have never claimed to be, as one commenter on another site stated, the “ultimate Navy mom,” nor is my son, as others have posted, “a whiny little brat.” We take his service career very seriously. Since asking me to sign permission for his Delayed Enlistment Program, he has not asked for a single thing. However, when his men asked him to do something, he reached out and asked me to find a way to let them know someone cares more than they felt at that time.

It’s easy for folks at home to send shoe boxes to deployed personnel and then close their eyes at night, knowing they have "made a difference." Sending letters and cards to “any soldier” or “any sailor” is almost effortless, but actually listening when those deployed men and women have voiced concerns – with cause – about their basic human need to find a working head, and then doing something about it was not an easy choice for me.

Here is U.S. Naval Institute article in a nutshell, but I recommend you read the entire article and check if you feel inclined, leave a comment there:

The ability for service members while deployed to keep in contact with their family is exponentially greater than it ever has been in the annals of history.
The conversation turns to what life is REALLY like while deployed. It’s not fun–I mean it can be, it is an adventure and most of the people you’re deployed with are good people.

But, there is a reason why less than 1% of the United States has served in uniform–It’s hard and you have to put up with a lot. In describing such a life, I think I have had to be the most careful with my Mom. There’s nothing wrong with this, nor am I saying that my Mom is one to over react, or over-worry about things. Rather, from my point of view, I don’t want to say anything to her that would make her worry more for her son.

Now, I think that yeoman is at least as savvy as my own son, who refused to tell me how bad the head situation was until after more than 5 months at sea - only after his men asked for some sort of sign that someone cared about them. Sometimes, it truly is best for families, especially mothers, not to know what goes on.

What makes it so difficult to describe the life we live is that outside of the context defined by the skin of a ship, it is hard to have the right perspective on what is actually going on. Regardless of how well I articulate that context, it tends to be something that one HAS to experience.
There has been no need for what can loosely be termed as ‘communications training’ for service members beyond OPSEC and INFOSEC, because the amount of time service members could possibly spend communicating with their families was very brief, and the odds of getting into things that could cause tumult ashore was small.
He believes my site may have changed things.
It’s a helluva situation, and I have to stop short of saying that a Sailor’s Mom was wrong for what she did.

Things like this with Sailor’s families is not altogether rare, either. Being a Yeoman, you open much of the mail that comes to the Ship. Some of that mail is from the United States Congress asking about a letter or phone call they received from a Sailor or their family.
The only site that has referred more traffic here than U.S. Naval Institute is Information Dissemination, a site that lambasted my efforts to communicate my frustration as a taxpayer.

I have become, to some, the Blogging Mommy and to others, the mother of That Sailor, both titles I wear proudly. If my blog helped my son become THAT SAILOR who helped unlock the doors to working heads for the sailors on the USS George HW Bush, I think I deserve a Bravo Zulu for my blog.

The fact that my son is on this ship is not the point, but taxpayers may not have known of the locked heads otherwise. He had gone through the chain of command, as had many others on board the ship. He never asked me to create the blog - it was not his idea. I thought my blog was an effective way for me to vent personally. I had no idea the government and military would actually be the ones to bring it to the attention of the press on my behalf - in a very roundabout way.

Many media outlets discover what gets the attention of the military and the government. Apparently my blog sparked such interest. The press picked this story up and ran with it, which helped to achieve the desired effect and ciphers were reset to a common decode so all hands had access to working heads.

Our enlisted men and women deserve to have someone speak out for them – especially about their basic human rights. I just want to be sure the system is not only running properly, but that there are backups in place for the next long term deployment.

Someone commenting on this story on another site suggested sending the engineers responsible for the system's installation and warranty out on the ship for a week. Feed and give them all they can drink. The idea is that before the week is over, the problem will be resolved.

Could I have done this differently? Absolutely.
Could I have done this more effectively? Possibly.
Would I do it again for other military personnel? Definitely!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thank you for reading!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

While we're on the subject

According to the Time Out Blog, The Exhibit Bar made a breakthrough by installing a video game that is controlled with urine.

Watersport meets Wintersport

‘The bar in Cambridge told us that there are two things they’ve found there are less of,’ says Gordon. ‘There has been less mess, which we sort of expected because we designed the game so you’re not splashing about, and less vandalism. When we put it in, people thought it’d be ripped off the wall within a week, but it’s still there after four months. Because people are having a laugh, there’s a lot less vandalism. People just tend to get less angry.’ Not just a frivolous bit of fun, then, but a social media tool, an instrument for bladder control rehabilitation, and a machine leading the fight against toilet-based violence. Tell the Blogmistress the digital revolution has arrived in London, and it’s all kicking off in a public toilet in Balham.

Cumaini has another, more mathematical approach to the story.

It remains unknown whether there is a plan of Captive Media to design games specifically for the ladies

Almost a year ago, Toilets in Japan were fitted with urine-controlled games, but A Sega spokesman said the company had "no concrete plans to make them into actual products."

May be they will reconsider their dismissal.

Perhaps video games in the heads on the USS George HW Bush might deter some of the alleged sailor sabotage.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The five “S”es: Shower, You-know-what, Shave and Shine AND Stress!

No matter who you are, unless you have achieved a higher level of Zen, you probably endure stress every single day. Civilian or military, wealthy or poor, man or woman – the chances that your life is surrounded by stress are good. It doesn’t matter which country you live in or what your native language is, stress is common.

Live in a large city? Traffic!
Live in a tiny rural town? Distance from everything!
Live in the suburbs and have to choose which coffee shop has the fastest WiFi? Unthinkable!

Unemployed? Underemployed? Have a job? Not the job you want? How’s that boss of yours? Do you make enough money? Will you ever make enough money? Can you pay your rent or your mortgage this month without juggling your bills? Can you pay your bills? Money is a major source of every day stress.

In a relationship? Married? Divorced? Wish you could be in a different situation, different location, different relationship? Good or bad, relationships all come with drama and stress.

Do you have children? Maybe you want to but can’t. When they are small, they step on your feet. When they are older, they step on your heart and it’s all accidental. A mother is only as happy as her least happy child – talk about stress!

Even dogs have fleas from time to time. That’s stressful, too!

Every person in the world has some source of stress to deal with – and every person in the world has a different way to cope with that stress. There is something else every person in the world has. According to my grandmother, everybody has two things in common - opinions and - well, it’s the body part you use for one of those first four “S”es and it’s not a shower, a shave or a shine. According to my grandmother, those two things are good to only the possessor and, she said, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, they both stink.”

The military personnel are expected to perform their four “S”es expeditiously and their fifth “S” has to be stored away until they are off duty. Deployed men and women don’t have the privilege of downloading their stress through smelly or other opinions and venting to friends or spouses. Their stresses build up and quite often, relationships that were already straining will break once the deployed return home to a “normal” life.

While on deployment, relief often comes only in the sense of the body’s natural functions. We all do it. We all understand the pain of holding back a burp or those other things that polite people don’t discuss in public – you know those great four-letter words sailors are famous for spouting. One of the four “S”es.

Imagine you are far away from the comforts of home, dealing with a spouse who can’t seem to cope without you nearby or an aging grandparent, an ill friend, a dog you’ve had since childhood that had to be put down without you there to say goodbye. Imagine you are in an unfriendly country without the porcelain god we’ve all come to rely on for “doing our business,” and you know that back home, your world is going places in a hand basket – places only talked about in church or screamed out in fury. Imagine how you would take care of your body’s basic needs, the two things babies do in diapers and there is no where to do it.

On land, you make do. You find a bush or dig a hole, you dig a latrine if you can. On the world’s most expensive aircraft carrier, when the plumbing fails, you hold it – and hold it – and hold it. You can’t just hang over the edge, because that not only causes damage to the ship, it can cost your life. Survivors get in trouble, to say the least.

Talk about stress! The one thing you used to count on for relief and a moment to meditate is broken or behind locked doors – thankfully the locks now have a common decode sequence, but dance around while you punch 1-2-3 and hope once you get in, the person just ahead of you didn’t cause another problem.

Deployed personnel onboard a ship must deal with the stress of being away from home, away from loved ones. They also deal with the stress of performing their daily duties on the ocean. Anyone who has ever been on a luxury cruise ship for more than a few hours knows how it feels to “get your sea legs” and how much adjustment is required to walk on solid ground again. Imagine six months of that!

The deployment does not end when the ship docks at its home port. There is still a great deal of adjustment necessary and a different kind of stress. Let’s hope a plumbing problem isn’t one of those stresses.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rumors at Sea

When I heard the United States Navy’s newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier was being redirected to the coast of Syria, my first concern was for the sailors and their families waiting on their return. Then, I remembered why I started my campaign to have the heads working properly. The military personnel are at the mercy of the world political climate. The absolute worst thing I could imagine was that the 5,000 or more military personnel on the USS George HW Bush might be redeployed another six months or longer without options for the next time the heads fail to flush.

It’s been stated that one of the reasons for system failure is deliberate clogs from what must be assumed are disgruntled sailors. How disgruntled would they be if their deployment were extended?

It happens more for “ground pounders” than in the Navy, but if a serious *incident* broke out, our sailors could be facing a long-term deployment without working toilets or options for relief.

The good news is the “lock experiment” is over. All cipher locks have a common decode sequence and although the hull technicians are still working to ensure the integrity of their repairs remains at least until the ship is docked at its home port, many heads are still not functioning properly. To my knowledge, there haven’t been any total system failures in about two weeks. Happy coincidence?

The bad news is that I have not heard of any backup plans for future failures. Fortunately, Captain Brian Luther has publicly declared that he will recommend upgrades – let’s hope the upgrades can be made efficiently, without too much additional cost.

Better news comes from the Navy.

In a Facebook note, Capt. Brian "Lex" Luther wrote, in part,
It's common when a ship starts to head home that rumors will spread about possible changes to the schedule, and because you miss your Sailors so much, it's natural that you might be worried, especially with recent world events. I'll tell you the same thing I have said to the crew of this awesome ship. Nothing has changed. The news being reported about us today is done without the benefit of input from the Navy. If world events dictate any change to our schedule, we will get that information out through the appropriate channels as quickly as possible. But as of now, nothing in our schedule as changed.

Also - By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Gregory Wilhelmi, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs
USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) arrived in Marseille, France, Nov. 25, for its seventh liberty port of the ship's first combat deployment.

The visit to Marseille marks the carrier's fourth stop in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, and supports efforts to build global maritime partnerships with European nations and improve maritime safety and security. George H. W. Bush and the embarked squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 8 completed combat operations in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility Nov. 20.

During the port call, officers and crew from the ship will meet with local officials and experience the rich history and culture of France. The ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation program have a variety of tours scheduled, to include overnight trips to Paris and the French Riviera, and the Command Religious Ministries Department scheduled several community relations opportunities, including soccer games with local schools and visits to children's homes.

George H.W. Bush is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility on its first operational deployment conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77),.

Bring the ship home. Make repairs and get that expensive piece of machinery up to standard.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Whistleblower protection laws

A Federal employee with authority to take, direct others to take, recommend or approve any personnel action must not use that authority to take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action against an employee or applicant because of disclosure of information by that individual that is reasonably believed to evidence violations of law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, unless disclosure of such information is specifically prohibited by law and such information is specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.

Retaliation against an employee or applicant for making a protected disclosure is prohibited by 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8). If you believe that you have been the victim of whistleblower retaliation, you may file a written complaint (Form OSC-11) with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel at 1730 M Street NW., Suite 218, Washington, DC 20036-4505 or online through the OSC Web site.

Enough said!

Here's an idea!

Maybe we should order these to be shipped out to the USS George HW Bush.

Perhaps a better link

My new Twitter friend, Guy Birenbaum sent me another link to his broadcast, this on on

Below the video is the description in French, which is translated (more or less) to
The blogger and the aircraft carrier by Europe1fr
The mother of an American sailor on her blog reveals damage on board a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier.

No wonder it's getting so many hits!

Find more reviews by Guy Birenbaum here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The blogger and the aircraft carrier

A few days ago, I was checking out Twitter and it seemed to be buzzing with tweets related to the two papers breaking the story about the locked heads on the USS George HW Bush and some linked directly to this site.

I found some jokes, some support and some insults and then I found @guybirenbaum's post. He and I started a short conversation through Twitter and he asked if I had seen the video. I had not.

It's in French. Guy assured me it was simply my blog, "in French." Several of my friends who speak some French assured me that it is indeed, my blog, in French.

Thanks Guy!

I've been hearing rumors about the United States redirecting ships to Syria's shore and it's for just this reason that I started my blog.

The world's political climate is mercurial at best. A ship such as the USS George HW Bush is able to remain at sea for decades without refueling - only needing supplies airlifted in from time to time. Our sailors could be away from home for a very long time - without working heads. As a taxpayer, I cannot fathom allowing this to happen to the men and women who are risking their lives and comforts for my freedoms. If the unthinkable should happen and the USS George HW Bush must remain abroad for an even longer time, I do hope the next airlift includes potty chairs, camping toilets, port-o-lets or wagbags.

It's time to show our Navy personnel that we at home are supportive and we do care. As long as the heads work and remain unlocked, it's cool. On a six-month cruise, how many hours have they not worked? How long before they break again? How do you convince adults to take care of their own spaces? How much potty training do some people need after the age of 2?

Monday, November 21, 2011

It could be worse

A local, retired submariner said, "Our future was in the hands of the least caring person in a position to make a decision that would affect us all." He went on to tell how, after months at sea, submerged with recycled air, it might take many weeks of showers to remove the smell of the sub from his body.

The men and women on aircraft carriers can, from time to time, breathe fresh air.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And the winner is...

Believe it or not, I do have a life away from my computer. Contrary to some opinions, my son is not a mama's boy and we both knew the consequences of going public with the story about the VCHT system on board his ship - all of the consequences. The name calling, finger pointing and blaming won't fix the problem, but drawing attention to the fact that there is a problem might.

As tempting as it is to say, "I'm done. The ciphers have been changed and most of the heads are working," I dare not. This story isn't over. Until I know the repairs have been made and future deployments will provide basic necessities or some sort of plan for when the heads aren't available, I will maintain my diligence.

I am as appalled as anyone that military professionals - adults who have completed at least basic training and one A-school - would deliberately, for whatever reason, flush or stuff non-biodegradable items down the only heads they will access for half a year. If I hadn't read comments on other blogs and newsfeeds from retired sailors, I would not have believed this was an apparently ongoing situation on ships at sea. Do sailors lose IQ on the ocean?

If anyone had asked me in 2006, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years," not even with my ample imagination, would I have responded, "blogging about toilets." Yet, here I am. I check to see what other organizations and individuals have picked up the story. One such search led me to a twitter post, then another and another and another.

Most were retweets and most were amusing. People can't help making jokes about body functions, especially at the expense of others. There are some things that simply beg people to make fun of them. The best by far wasn't even a joke.

@jptstewart tweeted about #need2go:
Battle of the Bush: Lex Luther vs. Navy Mom.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Changing courses a bit

Did you know that on this date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address? It was at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a little more than four months after the devastating battle, on a cold, foggy morning.

Lincoln arrived about 10 in the morning and the sun came out around noon. People gathered on a hill that overlooked the battlefield while a military band played. A local preacher offered a typically long prayer.

Edward Everett, a politician, said, "It is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed - grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy." He continued for more than two hours, describing the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail, and he brought the audience to tears more than once.

Then, Lincoln spoke.

His Gettysburg Address was just over two minutes and contained fewer than 300 words. Only 10 sentences, it is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. It was so brief, that many of the 15,000 people attending the ceremony didn't realize the president had spoken, because a photographer setting up his camera had distracted them. It seems people are the same generation after generation.

The next day, Everett told Lincoln, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

Copies of at least five different manuscripts exist, each slightly different. Some argue about which is the "authentic" version. Mr. Lincoln gave copies to both of his private secretaries, and he rewrote the other three versions some time after his speech. Named for Colonel Alexander Bliss, the Bliss Copy is the only copy that was signed and dated by Lincoln, and it's generally accepted as the official version. This is the version inscribed on the Lincoln Memorial and follows here:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

300 words
10 sentences
2 minutes

He wrote one of the most powerful and memorable pieces ever. I am "dedicated here to the unfinished work" and am eager to read reports that the heads on the USS George HW Bush, once she ports at home, will be upgraded, enhanced, fixed, repaired and in operable condition for all future cruises.

Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, friends and cousins and total strangers will continue to deploy on that majestic ship long after my son retires. It is my ardent hope and trust that my tax dollars will go toward ensuring that ship's company and air wing alike on that and all other ships in the entire United States Navy will never again face the indignity of what one writer called "the pee pee dance," while on board.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I'm not into percentages

The heads all worked for a few days, then the troubles resumed. The technician are doing inspections and finding problems. I know they will be very happy to see the end of this deployment!

Hats off to one of the hardest-working crews on any ship! As another writer said, "I wouldn't want that job!" Do they even have down time?

Let's be fair

I've been called a blogger in ways that make the word sound disgusting. One commenter called me over-protective. Another used the term overbearing and several have called my son anything from a brat to a little whiner or a mommy's boy. One even said members of the airwing were like rockstars in hotels. Why all the name calling?

I've read comments from strangers who suggested that I tossed out an incorrect number of years my son has served. Yeah, yeah. I know he's a grown man, pointed out in one blog as a 30-something Petty Officer who should know better than to cry to mommy when things aren't pristine and perfect. That blogger also suggested I should have kept quiet, rather than detract from the ship's true mission while on deployment.

I will admit I don't understand military life, especially ship life. That doesn't mean I can't become righteously outraged as a taxpayer and patriotic American when I believe our deployed military deserve to be able to relieve themselves without having to search for a head, only to find it locked.

I never intended to detract from the mission of the USS George HW Bush or to minimize its military might or position in the fleet. My only intention was to voice my concern as a taxpayer - more than my opinion as a mother - that there is something inherently wrong with a $6.2 Billion aircraft carrier that did not have a back up plan for the most basic of human needs. I don't mind for one minute, spending the taxpayers' money on ships as technologically advanced and powerful as the USS George HW Bush. I know the need for a show of force in the world.

My son's first deployment was on one of the older carriers, so why not end his career on the newest? When I started hearing about the toilets - and not just from my son - but from other Navy Moms, Navy Wives, Navy Dads and Navy Husbands - even from friends of sailors on the ship - I became annoyed, then upset, then angry. When our loved ones are suffering, we suffer at home, too.

Maybe starting my blog wasn't the wisest decision I have ever made. Perhaps, I shouldn't have sent the link to my blog to quite so many media outlets, but when I found out about the locks, I think it unlocked my rational thinking. I couldn't imagine there would be something so barbaric happening in the 21st century. What blows my mind is how many people have visited my site and have linked it to their own blogs or news stories - people I did not contact.

Samuel Johnson said, "No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned... a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company."

Born at the beginning of the 18th century, Mr. Johnson had no clue about aircraft carriers. The Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk would come nearly a century later.

My point is that with strict instructions to relieve themselves only in working heads - and for a short time, those heads being locked - the men and women on board the USS George HW Bush may as well have been prisoners confined to POW cells.

It's unfortunate that people have resorted to blame, name calling and finger pointing. Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda....

Still, here are some amusing and some poignant comments I found.

On Old Salt Blog:
Bill Whalen says: November 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm
NCIS is investigating this but they have nothing to go on.

Steven Toby says: November 18, 2011 at 9:56 am
I’m remembering similar reports on the vac-u-flush system first installed in Spruance class destroyers in 1977. By the time I did sea trials in 2 different CG 47 class cruisers (same basic design as the Spruances, in the 1980′s) the system worked perfectly. But carriers of that time had an older system with gravity drainage. Is the Bush system the first installation of vacuum flushing on a carrier? Maybe the equipment can’t handle the larger extent of piping? Whatever the problem, 6 months is plenty of time to fix it. Crewpeople shouldn’t have to relieve themselves over the lee rail.

Comments on the report on Neptunus Lex led me to research Dr. Samuel Johnson's full quote.

MikeD November 15, 2011 at 8:15 am
Unless they’ve taken to flushing cloth towels down the commode, any toilet that is rendered inoperable by what those sailors are flushing is too damn delicate to be on a warship.

SK1 November 15, 2011 at 8:16 am
This issue was a key one in AFGHN. IF you found working toilets, it was a miracle of sorts and also IF they were usable. PORT-A-POTTIES were the norm, and imagine what those were like after sitting in the 120 degree heat for a few hours/ days…..They had a firm there to take care of it but no amount of effort ever made it adequate…..I can imagine the same issue on a ship would be intolerable….

This may be my favorite:

Busbob November 15, 2011 at 8:13 am
“When used properly, the system works as designed,” the Navy said. “Ongoing education is a key part of the solution, ensuring that all hands understand the appropriate use of the system.”
Bulls***. Put the design engineers on the ship. Feed them well. Water them well. The “Ongoing education” they get will get whilst searching for a suitable relief station should lead to action, not words.

Blogger is not a dirty word

After reading Captain Luther's message to "Families and Friends," comments were decidedly for or against one version of the truth. Fence riders did not take a stand. I used to ride the fence about many issues. I thought that by remaining neutral, I could remain objective. I wanted to keep an unemotional detachment, but what's right is right; I believe I did the right thing, the right way. Being civilian, my chain of command is limited to my workplace and that happens to be the media. I didn't have any special connections. I have the skills and the determination to research and reach out.

One person I know who has never opted to ride the fence had this to say in response to the skipper's letter:

oh wow. I think it's interesting that you are only referred to as "the blogger." He might have well called you any other name, like the insurgent, for how he was picturing your presentation of information. I found it interesting that he tried to use factual information to back up his retort - however, when you really analyze the information given, it doesn't make anything better. If the #1 cause of the problem is sailors flushing objects that shouldn't, then provide some means for them to dispose of material that is biologically hazardous.

She's right. I'm not just "the blogger." Captain Luther knows very well who I am and which sailor is my son. I have never tried to hide, because I have never had a reason to hide behind a "blogger" name. Ten days ago, I started a mission to bring attention to the fact that every sailor on board the USS George HW Bush, at some time, did not have access to any working head and that some sailors on that ship were unable to perform basic bodily functions due to a system failure for which the United States Navy did not have any sort of contingency or backup plan. When I started this, I had no idea how it would spread, I just knew that as an American, I had the right, nay, the obligation and the responsibility to speak out for the sailors and the taxpayers. Ten days ago, only a few hundred people in my circle of family and friends knew my name. Today, this site alone has been viewed more than 4,000 times. Thank you for reading!

In addition to the thousands who have read this blog, many others have read my writer, editor and photographer website - found only through search engines. I sent this site address out with 700 or so press releases, but the Navy found my other site and started circulating that link. Many Navy Wives and Moms, and a few Navy Dads told me their sailor had forwarded the link to them. That site has generated more hits than this one!

Navy Times and Virginian-Pilot reporters scrambled to get the scoop after interviewing me, sailors on board "the Bush" and after contacting AIRLANT and the Navy for comment. Once their stories hit the wire, other media picked up the story. Some headlines reflect the unfortunate humor behind the catastrophe. Others take this very seriously. Navy Times and Virginian-Pilot have run follow up stories.

I haven't discussed toilets or body functions with or in reference to my son so much since he was a toddler - even then, I probably wasn't as vocal as I am now!

Blogger is not a dirty word. I am not an anonymous entity hiding behind a meme or clever user name. I am Mary Brotherton. Foremost I am a mother. I burst with pride when I speak of my firstborn son, a career sailor with the United States Navy, war veteran and skilled aviation mechanic. Like it or not, his name has spread on his ship. I felt and expressed publicly, his frustrations when is attempts to follow the Chain of Command weren't met to his satisfaction. The Virginian-Pilot story took his anonymity from him. AM1 Richard Frakes is the father to my grandsons and brother to my other source of pride. Aron Matthew Frakes is my lastborn son, a talented author and illustrator. I have the honor of editing his first novel, Prob'ly Not Katie.

In addition to being a mother and blogger, I am a four-time award-winning journalist, a three-time award-winning editor and my photography has been noted and earned awards as well. I'm also an actress. I founded my own writers group and work with emerging writers some might call "up-and-coming." I'm much more than an unnamed blogger.

I'm a wife, a sister, a daughter, a cousin, an aunt, a friend. I guess, now, I'm also an advocate. Go ahead. Google me. See what you find.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I fully support Capt. Luther and know commanding a new ship has challenges other ships might not. Just as he stated that he will defend my rights as an American, as that American, I will defend and advocate for, to the day I die, those men and women who are serving their country. This includes Capt. Luther. My main concern is the lack of contingencies for basic needs on a ship that plans for full court basketball games.

I do find it intriguing that since the "Navy Times" and "Virginian-Pilot Online" stories were published, the heads all seem to be working.

Here are links to some of the publications I have found, or that I have been directed to, that have run stories, based on the ones written by Joshua Stewart and Corinne Reilly.

Navy Times

Here is the Navy Times follow up.

Virginian-Pilot Online.
Sometimes the hyperlink for this page refuses to work. If you perform a search for Corinne Reilly, you will usually find her name quickly. Add virginian pilot to the search and her latest stories appear at the top of the search.

Virginian-Pilot Online's followup.

Washington Post

Houston Chronicle

The Dallas Blog

Atlanta Journal Constitution forums

Asia Online

Avionics Intelligence


Stars and Stripes

Time with CNN

Need I continue?

Some are serious and others a little humorous, but each brings up the same point. How can we expect our service personnel to serve us without having their basic human needs met? They aren't in a jungle or a desert with options. I just want to know the system is fixed before the ship goes out again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Captain Luther's Message to Family and Friends

This was posted on the USS George HW Bush Facebook site.

Dear Families and Friends,

It has come to my attention that a blogger has posted about our Vacuum Collection Marine Sanitation (VCHT) system…our heads (i.e., restroom facilities). The blogger provided her blog as a “media release” to various news outlets. Unfortunately, the blogger has never once contacted us for information and the blog has since been quoted in multiple outlets as undisputed fact. The blog casts the ship in a very poor light. It paints a picture of heads frequently out of order, out of order for 24 hours or for 8 days at a time. Further, the blog states that only ship’s company heads worked, operating heads are locked so Sailors cannot use them, or that medical issues have developed as a result of the heads. Lastly, the blog claims that heads are even affecting morale and military readiness. Had this blogger contacted the ship I could have provided some facts about each and every one of her claims.

All individuals embarked – whether permanently assigned to CVN 77 or one of its embarked units – are responsible for the cleanliness, stocking of supplies, and upkeep of their assigned spaces to include heads. If a system or piece of equipment is malfunctioning, the individual unit is required to place a trouble call (request for maintenance) with the CVN 77 engineering department. The engineering department dispatches repairmen on a job priority basis. Additionally, there are no individuals assigned to USS George H. W. Bush – or any other naval vessel – whose sole job is monitoring of commodes.

It is true that the USS George H. W. Bush has a VCHT system that is unique amongst aircraft carriers but it is not unique to naval vessels. It uses a vacuum to draw waste from the commodes into the temporary holding tanks. The system divides the ship’s heads into two independent loops. The system is maintained by Hull Technicians (HTs) who respond to trouble calls associated with the ship’s VCHT system. These Sailors are also responsible for welding, brazing, and sundry other duties commonly associated with plumbing and pipe fitting. I’d like to share a little information my engineering department has reconstructed using the ship’s trouble call log over the last year.

• In the 12 month period from 15 November 2010 through 15 November 2011, 4054 trouble calls have been placed throughout the entire ship (electrical outlets, doors, leaks, etc.)

• During the same 12 month period, 2,036 of those trouble calls have been associated with heads (i.e., restroom facilities).

• Of the 2,036 trouble calls, 976 have been for commodes and 280 for urinals. The rest are for lighting, ventilation, etc.

• Trouble calls for the heads have been split 51% on the forward loop and 49% on the aft loop.

• Trouble calls for the head mentioned by the blogger include: one (1) each in July, August, and October – all three calls were resolved in less than 24 hours. There were zero (0) trouble calls in September and November. The blogger started commenting on November 7th when every commode in that head was working.

• In each instance, the individual trouble calls were for a single commode within the head. The head has 6 total commodes and 2 urinals. At no time has there been a trouble call for more than a single commode out of service in that particular head.

The HTs maintain the overall system and problems vary from loss of vacuum within a loop to clogs in system piping. Loss of vacuum is most often caused by damage to individual flushing mechanisms but can also be caused by a clog in the loop. I mentioned earlier that there were two loops in the system. A loss of vacuum momentarily affects all heads on the same loop.

• The most common loss of vacuum is a failure/disconnect of the vacuum valve connected to the individual commode. The average time to return the loop to full service is typically less than 15 minutes. The follow-on repair to the individual commode/head in question depends on the malfunction but is typically complete in less than 30 minutes.

• Severe clogs can also cause a loss of vacuum in a single loop. The average time to isolate, locate, and repair significant clogs is less than three hours.

• The single longest loss of service to an entire head occurred in June due to a massive clog while the ship was in port. It took three days to repair because a section of pipe had to be removed and re-welded into place. The three day repair affected a single head on the starboard side of the aft loop. That berthing had a second head in the same area on the port side of its berthing that was functional the entire time of the repair.

• Inappropriate items that have been flushed down the commode and caused clogs during deployment include feminine hygiene products and their applicators, mop heads, t-shirts, underwear, towels, socks, hard boiled eggs, and eating utensils.

• There have been ZERO (0) clogs caused by toilet paper and human waste.

• There have been six (6) instances of both loops of the VCHT system being simultaneously unavailable during deployment. The longest dual (i.e., whole ship) outage was 15 minutes.

I have addressed the crew multiple times during the deployment about the system and damage caused by inappropriate items being flushed down the commodes. The indifferent, inconsiderate and irresponsible actions of a few Sailors were adversely affecting everyone onboard. To address the abuse of heads and commodes, I made the decision to allow departments and squadrons to install cipher locks on all heads. This would limit access to heads to members of the berthing assigned and foster a sense of ownership amongst berthing inhabitants. It would also allow better forensics into the source of the vandalism because the number of people allowed in a particular head would be known. It worked… during the roughly 50 hours that some heads were locked, trouble calls dropped by 67% and Sailors reported their heads were noticeably cleaner.

• Eight (8) heads were identified as public heads which would not be locked. They included two (2) head each for both sexes on the port and starboard sides for each loop.

• Lock installation began on 3 November 2011 with 4 of the 18 departments assigned to CVN 77 because they had submitted trouble calls requesting locks and had ordered locks from Supply.

• The total number of heads locked was 23 of the 93 heads associated with junior enlisted berthing.

The blogger asserts Sailors are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. Not true. I have an electronic CO’s Suggestion Box which allows anyone onboard USS George H. W. Bush to email me with questions, suggestions and comments. Because comments are emailed, each and every comment has the Sailor’s name on it. I received one email on the first day of installation, 18 on the second day and 15 on the third day. The comments ranged from understanding why the locks were being installed to complaints about the inconvenience associated with leaving their work center and walking to their berthing to use a head. On the third day, I was made aware there were insufficient locks available through purchase or reallocation to provide every head with a lock in a timely fashion. Accordingly, I directed that every cipher lock be reprogrammed to a common code. However, I briefed the crew that this would remain only as long as clogs did not return. Since all locks have been recoded, there has not been a single clog.

Based on blogger comments the media has reported increased health issues, such as dehydration, and increased urinary tract infections. Again, not true. In fact, for deployment, 91.5% of all personnel onboard this ship have not been to medical. There have been 60 total cases of urinary tract infection during deployment with two major spikes occurring immediately following port visits. This represents approximately 1.3% of the crew. During the period of the blogger’s comments, potential urinary tract infections have declined each month from September through November.

I understand the concern for your friends and loved ones and their living conditions onboard the world’s newest aircraft carrier. While I disagree with the blogger’s comments, I will defend with my life her right to make them. However, she presents the unsubstantiated comments of a single Sailor as fact and, in doing so, denigrates the efforts and sacrifices of the other 4,800 members of the entire strike group team who during the last six months supported ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. During this time we also have hosted ambassadors, members of foreign governments, foreign nationals, members of the foreign media, coalition partners, entertainers, folks from home and, without fail, they have left singing the praises of the Sailors and their ship.

I can assure you the ship has, and continues, to perform admirably. While we have a ways to go yet, your Sailors are healthy, happy and excited to be heading home. I am proud of each and every one of them and look forward to bringing them safely home to you soon.

Warm Regards,

Brian Luther

Pilot Online picked up the story!

Corrine Reilly wrote an insightful story about the issue for Pilot Online. Richard isn't anonymous, any more.
Read her story here.

If the link doesn't work, just copy and paste in your browser.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Navy Times.Joshua Stewart, staff writer for the Navy Times broke the story about the faulty Vacuum Collection, Holding and Transfer system on the Northrop Grumann-built USS George HW Bush that cost taxpayers $6.2 billion.

After speaking with sailors deployed on the ship who told him of searching for up to an hour for an operable head, depriving themselves of food or drink, urinating in showers or sinks after being locked out of heads; Stewart contacted AIRLANT, the Naval Air Force Atlantic. In a written statement, the Navy acknowledged system problems since the ship’s delivery in May 2009.

The Navy blames the sailors who blame the vacuum system.

Effective Nov. 14, the cipher locks had been reset so all hands could access any working head and at the time of Stewart’s story, all heads were functioning. The sailors say they will be surprised if the smooth operation continues through the end of the ship’s deployment. The Navy did not plan for failure of the modern system and this has caused a drop in morale and has adversely affected the sailors’ ability to maintain their military readiness.

For more details, read Stewart’s article at Navy Times.

Gotta Go

Check this out.

I've always enjoyed her wit and rejoiced when she started blogging, but when she mentioned this site, well, the ego swelled.

The first story to hit the news

Hats off to Joshua Stewart for his breaking story on this issue.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's worth every minute

Hearing from the family members of sailors deployed to the USS George HW Bush gives me courage to continue seeking media outlets that might print the story. I never intended to offend anyone, I only wanted to be a voice for all the sailors. When I learned that many sailors felt as if no one cared, I had to do something to show I cared enough for them all.

I stay up late every night and wake each morning long before my alarm sounds to check the status of toilets. I can hardly believe how many hours I have devoted to investigation, research and composition.

Hearing from my son that he can access the heads and that they all seem to be working is like a gift to me. The highlight, so far has been reading that his ship mates are grateful. I never started this for gratitude. It is just the right thing to do.

Go Navy!

Good News, Bad News, Worse News - Better news

The good news is the locks on doors to all operable heads have been changed to 1-2-3, so now every sailor on board the USS G.W. Bush can access when nature calls.

The bad news is the sailors must still unlock the doors to heads in the first place. At home, we take for granted that if we need to use a toilet, we simply open the door and take care of business. When you have to unlock a door, even with only three digits, you must anticipate and prepare.

The worse news is the head to my son's berthing has been out of order more than 24 hours. He and his shipmates must continue their daily search for a john they can use. If you have ever needed to "go" while in public and every store or restaurant had signs posted that declared Restrooms for employees only or Restrooms are for our paying customers only then, you know the indignity and frustration our sailors at sea must endure.

Better news is a reporter from The Virginian Times has started interviewing him for a possible story.

Please visit the website that's not yet a Google trend, but is fast growing in popularity among searches and is being linked to other sites. There I have more details about the logic behind the locks.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Port, Oh! Let's Just fix this Thing!

For the past week, I have spent much of my spare time advocating for sailors on the USS George H. W. Bush. I've tried to remain detached, unemotional. It's not been easy.

My  mother, who has eight children, once told me, "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child," and although I only have two sons, I have come to realize the truth in her statement. When either of my sons suffers, I do as well.

When my sailor first told me about the situation with the heads on board his floating home, he suggested I visit The official website for "the Bush" and I'll admit, I didn't go check out the VCHT system right away.

My son is an adult. He chose the Navy for his life many years ago and I knew then, as I know now, I can't fix all his problems any more. Gone are the days when my touch can heal a "boo boo." I thought,  It's just a toilet. They'll fix it. It's the Navy, after all. They can fix anything on their ship. I had no idea how extensive the problem ran. I thought it was just one or two heads that were out of order, not the entire system. Still, I thought, he's never been one to complain or over-dramatize a situation. That's never been his style. He tends to suffer in silence a while, then, when things don't resolve, he follows the chain of command toward results. Typically, he has told me long after the fact, when he'd been in situations where he needed help. He certainly has not sought out my help with anything to do with the Navy - EVER.

My son and I emailed each other and I sent him some boxes - you know, care packages - and he called me once. Just once. We touched base and he mentioned that the heads still weren't flushing. He expressed his frustration at the fact that things had been flushed or shoved into the system that shouldn't have been. I still didn't take the situation very seriously. I only thought about looking into the system. I mean, what can I do about that? It's the Navy. I can't do anything to influence the Navy!

A few more weeks, then months passed and our emails continued to discuss the typical, easy-going things we'd silently agreed were okay to talk about while he's deployed. This isn't his first deployment, so he knows what to expect on the ship. He's been assigned to long distant duty stations for so long that I don't "miss him" as much as I once did when he shipped out.

So, many months later, when I casually asked how things were going and I discovered the heads were still not working properly, and that cipher locks had been installed on the doors to the working heads, my mama bear instincts kicked in. I reacted as if someone had been poking my cub with a stick and I wanted to bite off the stick and the hand that held it. Therefore, I created this blog and updated my website.

I also reached out to the media. A reporter from Navy Times contacted me quickly. That reporter contacted my son and subsequently, he contacted someone in authority on the USS George H W Bush.

Even though this blog is the one I have told everyone about and is the only link I have included in my press releases, my website is the one that has been receiving the most hits. Yesterday morning, I found several comments on this site, despite the need to register to leave one. I was flattered that the commenters, although tainting their words with negativity and name-calling, took the time to register in order to speak their minds. Unfortunately, I was unable to verify the legitimacy of the people or bots behind the comments. I couldn't trace the IP addresses or determine if it was one person or several. So, I deleted them. I didn't create this site for the purpose of debates or for anything other than to give me the chance to voice my angst at the mal-functioning system our sailors have been enduring for months.

My first impulse was to lash out at these detractors and defend myself as well as my son. I decided to let their accusations and opinions lie dormant rather than to react to them immediately. I haven't needed to defend myself or my opinion for many years and my son can fight his own battles. I had done my research and I checked my facts as closely as I could without actually being on the ship.

Still, I was heartened to read two comments on my website that are from other family members of sailors on board the USS George H W Bush, people I have never met before. Their loved ones have complained, too. It's not an isolated or small problem! I was also heartened to read an email from a family member who gave me permission to repost that private email - anonymously.
 I read some negative remarks to your blog and I have no doubt they were written by a senior officer charged with glossing the Bush’s image. Thank you for posting the articles on the non-working toilets aboard the Bush. Everyone is so glad that the truth is finally coming out about this serious problem. My sailor is currently serving on board and like all the others on the Bush is afraid to go public – knowing that complaints about a very high profile ship could cause negative repercussions in their careers. I can’t publically complain – but I hope that you can get your articles out to a wider audience – yes, the tax payers should know what they paid for and most certainly know that our sailors are suffering!  My sailor forwarded the email with your article that was forwarded to him from someone else. But again...repercussions ... everyone is afraid to go public. 
Please, link this to all of your emails or copy and paste the appropriate post that highlights the problem. Send it to media, congressmen, your representatives or whomever you think will be able to help. Knowledge is power.

Yes, I know the people on board the ship are doing all THEY can to fix this problem. I wonder if any of them have considered air lifting a few dozen portable toilets or camping "heads" out to the ship.