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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Comments are Closed

I have removed all existing comments because this site does not allow me to verify the authenticity of the commenter's post or the source IP address. The purpose of this site is to share information. It is not a forum nor a place for debate.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011

As noble as it can be to honor our fallen veterans, it's also honorable to protect and speak out for those who are actively serving our country today. The men and women of our armed forces sacrifice much so that we can enjoy the American Way of Life.

As children, we learn to follow the leader, become links the family chain of command and to do as we are told. We grow up and find jobs where we must do as requested by our supervisors, colleagues and associates. The orders trickle down from the boss and the boss receives instructions from shareholders or partners. In the military, the chain of command is a bit more literal. Officers and enlisted personnel all must adhere to the chain of command. There are certain ways to do things and protocol to follow. This chain of command is instilled in the service men and women early in their training. Their A schools, where they learn to do their military jobs ensures they understand completely what the chain of command is. Career soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen (and women) know more than anyone, the value of this chain.

As a Navy Mom, I know what civilians must give up when a loved one is deployed. We miss our sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, mothers, fathers and friends. We feel a void in our day-to-day lives when the one we counted on is no longer there. We write letters, mail cards, send emails, find jokes to lighten the day and we send care packages - because we do care. We miss our military men and women when they are not home.

They miss us more. We are still sleeping in our beds while they must deal with cots or the hard ground. We have the luxury of air conditioning and heat while our military are exposed to the elements. We eat fast food; they deal with MREs or cold food and don't mind crumbly cookies in our poorly packed boxes.

Every day, while we are complaining about our jobs or school, our deployed loved ones work without complaint in hostile environments - some are dealing with munitions and others are dealing with the indignity of having to search for a working toilet on a ship where the doors to toilets that do work are  -  -  - locked!

The USS George H.W. Bush is on its maiden deployment and many things can go wrong the first time ships cruise. No one could have expected the technological marvels of the Vacuum Collection, Holding and Transfer system to have failed as miserably as it has. Toilets are clogged, overflowing, simply not working. Cipher locks have been installed on the ones that do work and sailors dare not relieve themselves into the ocean, for fear of serious repercussions. Sailors are afraid to eat or drink in an effort not to feel the urge to void - then have to search for up to an hour to find a useable toilet.

Unlike the family sedan, aircraft carriers cannot just pull off the road when mechanical failure sets in. There is no "seaside service" that can fix this problem. The only solution I see is to airlift to the ship, experts from the company that manufactured and installed the system. The sailors still have a long time at sea. Depending on the world political climate, the deployment can be extended, but even if they come home as scheduled, they will be there much too long without working toilets. The months they have already endured with this failed system is far too long. 

Treat our military men and women like the heroes they are!

Temporary excitement - toilets are working!

11:36 p.m. on 9 Nov 2011
I was happy when I read: Yes the doors are still locked to the heads that were locked before. Our head is working for now, and everyone is ok. 

I didn't like the idea of the locked doors, but at least my son's head was working again.

Then, at 11:14 a.m. on 10 Nov 2011 (not even 12 hours later)
I received another  email:  Oh, yeah. The head in our berthing is out of order again.. 

Please note:  The locks were placed on the OPERATING heads. The ship’s company heads are the ones that are usually working, and those are the ones that are locked up.

Chamber Pots and the Space Age

When the United States Navy was first formed, hundreds of years ago, sailors did not have space-age, vacuum toilets on their ships, but this is not then.  Our nation boasts of  the most modern military power on the planet. There are literally no countries that can rival our military might on the ground, in the air or on the seas. We have an elite, all-volunteer force of power that not only ensures our safety, but that of many weaker countries throughout the world. We ARE the United States of America and we stand united against our foes.

I stand united with my son, a career sailor currently deployed on the USS George H.W. Bush. His concerns are my concerns. His deployment is my deployment and it has been that way from the moment he left my home to become a sailor. His job for the Navy is that of an aviation mechanic. I can't name all the aircraft he has been involved in keeping in the air or all the pilots who became angry with him when they wanted to fly a bird that he knew was unsafe - even at the last minute, during the pre-flight walk-through. He knows his prop jobs, his helicopters and his jets. He knows how to keep them flying, how to keep the pilots safe and how to ensure the Navy does not lose any at sea.

So, when, after more than five months at sea, during a casual email exchange with him, I discover that the toilet-failure problem on board the ship has not yet been resolved, I reacted just like a mother bear whose cub is being poked with a stick.  Some mornings are good for meditation  - this was such a morning and then it occurred to me that I can still voice my opinion, even if my opinion may smell as bad as the clogged toilets on the USS George H.W. Bush.

On 13 October 1775, first ship of the United States Navy, then the Continental Navy, was named Alfred in honor of Alfred the Great. The sailors on board the Alfred likely had chamber pots that were probably simply dumped over the edge of the ship. I was not there, so I don't know. Email was not even a concept at that point. People wrote letters by hand, using feathers (quills) dipped in inkwells. Chances are the conscripted sailors on board the Alfred could not read or write. Whatever happened on board the Alfred most likely stayed right there if it wasn't written in the Captain's Log. That was 236 years ago.

Once we become accustomed to a modern convenience, we consider it a necessity. Many who grew up in large families with only one bathroom know how hard it can be to stand in the hall, shouting "Mom, she's hogging the bathroom and I gotta go!" I grew up in such a family and we scheduled our alarms to allow for adequate bathroom time before going to school each morning. When more than 5,000 sailors are on board one aircraft carrier, they also have to share the toilets - when 10% or more of those toilets are out of order, the integrity of this sharing is jeopardized. Even more so when locks are placed on some of the doors to the toilets that do work.

As children, we all learn to follow a chain of command and for years, that chain brings about the results we expect. As employees, we still follow chains of command in in the military, that chain is paramount. Enlisted personnel learn in boot camp that to try to circumvent that chain is not a good thing.

But when that chain no longer functions, we either call for help or find the crazy glue.  Some people have called ME the crazy glue that holds my office together.

Midnight update from the Ship

The doors are still locked to the heads that were locked before. Our head is working for now, and everyone is ok. They will be pissed again when the open heads break and we have nowhere to go.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Navy Times shows it cares

Thank you, Josh Stewart for showing interest in this story!

Toilets on the $6.2 billion, taxpayer-funded “centerpiece of the forces necessary for forward presence” do not work. Locks on working facilities seem to have been strategically placed to cause friction between ship personnel and the air wing.

The major problem occurred when the ship’s skipper ordered cipher locks installed on the doors to heads. Only ship’s company has locks on the doors to their heads, effectively locking out the squadrons (air wing, pilots, mechanics, etc.) to 85% of the heads on the ship. When working in the hangar, the closest heads are on the mess decks, but those are all locked up. The heads that are not locked, do not work. There was a period of at least 2 days when the only heads that were in operation were the ones that were locked.

Taxpayers are outraged over the living conditions of the men and women onboard the USS George H.W Bush.

From a Sailor's Perspective

I checked into my squadron after the ship was already on deployment, and I was immediately told that using the head was going to be an issue. The most common reason for a head to become inoperable is a loss of vacuum somewhere in the system. The system is basically separated into forward and aft sections. If there is a loss of vacuum in the FWD section all of the heads FWD frame 138 are out of order, and if the AFT section loses vacuum, then the heads from frame 138 back are out of order. The loss of vacuum is a daily occurrence with few exceptions. 

Sometimes they can have the vacuum restored in less than an hour, but there are times that it can take a whole day to repair. I would guess that at any given moment 10% of the heads are not working. 

Some of the issues have come from clogs. The engineers have found anything from feminine products, to clothing in the lines. 

The head that is in my berthing does not stay in operation for more than a day or two before it is broken again. In the FWD area near my berthing there are four heads, including mine, in the immediate vicinity. Sometimes we can get lucky and one of the other will be working, but that is not the norm. Our head has been down for 8 days at a time. 

When the toilets are out, the showers still work; we just cordon off the area with the toilets. Most of the sailors on board have just accepted that the vacuum system was a bad idea with good intentions, and we have to deal with it until we get home. 

The major problem came about when the skipper ordered cipher locks installed on the doors to heads. Only ship’s company has placed locks on the doors to their heads. This effectively locked the squadrons out of 85% of the heads on the ship. When working in the hangar, the closet heads are down on the mess decks, but now they are all locked up. The heads that are not locked, do not work. 

There was a period of at least 2 days when the only heads that were in operation were the ones that were locked.

It was put out to the crew that if caught urinating over the side of the ship the sailor would go to Captain’s Mast. It is pretty bad when a sailor cannot perform basic bodily functions for 2 days. I myself was at the point of not wanting to eat or drink anything for fear of needing to use the head, and not being able to. 

It can take an hour or more to try to find an operable head that we have access to on the ship. Two days ago the skipper announced that he would reset the ciphers on all head doors to 1-2-3 so that the crew had access, but that has yet to happen. I also found this to be coincidental considering that I had submitted a comment to him in the CO’s suggestion box the same day he made that announcement.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reply from Chain of Command

This is the reply my son received from the ship's Command Master Chief in regards to the heads.

-----Original Message-----
From: Colton, David R. CMDCM [CVN77]
Sent: Saturday, November 05, 2011 17:46
To: Frakes, Richard B., AM1 (AW) (VFA 87
Subject: RE: Suggestion Box

I am counting on your leadership and your fellow First Class Petty
Officers to stay engaged in the Heads and keep them well stocked and
cleaned.  r/ -CMC

 Okay, so now, the Aviation Mechanics are supposed to clean and stock the bathrooms? They have people trained specifically for that task. Who is supposed to keep the jets flying while the AMs restock toilet paper in heads that aren't functional in the first place? Way to dodge the issue commander! Why not give these skilled mechanics plungers and some vacuum glue so they can fix what is being overlooked by maintenance?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Malfunctioning toilets on the US Navy’s most modern ship threaten morale

November 7, 2011

After Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans in 2005, media outlets reported on the intolerable living conditions in the Louisiana Superdome, a structure never intended to be an evacuation shelter nor built to withstand Category 3 winds. The massive influx of evacuees to the “refuge of last resort” resorted to using boxes for toilets when the facilities in the Superdome were backed up beyond use.

Six years later, another deplorable living situation faces American citizens, all members of the United States Navy, one of the world’s most impressive military powers. Morale is declining and the health and safety of thousands of deployed military personnel is at stake.

My son is a career sailor who loves the Navy. He has worked as a mechanic on props, jets and helicopters and he just completed a three-year stint as recruiter. He plans to retire. He is currently deployed on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), a Nimitz-class super carrier of the United States Navy. This ship is the temporary home for about 6,000 men and women who are serving their country – leaving behind their loved ones and the comforts of home. They all knew when they joined the Navy that life on any ship would be different, and adjustments are expected, but the current situation on this ship’s maiden cruise is unacceptable.

My son and members of his crew have reported some things that have made me dig deeper.
The Navy contracted to have a Vacuum Collection, Holding and Transfer system (VCHT) installed on the most modern ship in the 5th Fleet. This is the same type of vacuum-operated, human waste disposal system currently in use on cruise ships and airplanes. There have been problems with the system since the ship deployed, but the enlisted men and women feel no one cares, especially those in a position to make changes. The leaking vacuum system shuts down half of the ship’s toilets. Some problems are caused by members of the crew, as evidenced by the miscellaneous items found in the pipes while troubleshooting clogs. However, the majority of the problems stem from chronic vacuum failures, which forces the closure of multiple units.

Captain Brian “Lex” Luther, the commanding officer of the George H.W. Bush, ordered locks installed on the doors to the some of functioning toilets, forcing every sailor onboard to search for a useable toilet, sometimes taking up to half an hour. The head in one berthing was out of order for more than eight days. Sailors are complaining that the ship is unsanitary and has been in this state since the beginning of their deployment.

Yes, he ordered locks be  placed on the OPERATING heads. The ship’s company heads are the ones that are usually working, and those are the ones that are locked up…isolating the air wing.

The skipper proclaims over the shipboard public address circuit daily, “It’s a glorious day to be at sea!” It may indeed be a glorious day for him since he likely has a properly working toilet in his berthing. The men and women who are onboard this ship, doing their duty to serve their country, are complaining daily that there is a problem that needs to be resolved, but the skipper places the blame on them.

It is doubtful that the President for whom the ship is named has a clue how this “modern system” is affecting the morale of the enlisted personnel. If he did, he might demand his name be removed from the floating cesspool. As a taxpayer, I am demanding that our sailors be given the little comfort and luxury – nay – the necessity of working, sanitary toilets while they are required to be at sea for months at a time.

The official website for the USS George H.W. Bush states that its guiding principles are:
  • Like our namesake, we are professionals who serve our country with integrity.
  • We maintain our warfighting skills and fight as a team.
  • We improve the material condition of our ship.
  • We ensure GEORGE H.W. BUSH Sailors are set up for success.
  • We understand the importance of family readiness.
How can the sailors be set up for success if they can’t find a working toilet on the ship that claims to improve its material condition? If the men and women aboard the ship must search for working toilets because the one that worked earlier is now locked, how can they maintain their warfighting skills and fight as a team – especially if they are losing respect for their leader by the day? Perhaps the guiding principle may be to understand the importance of family readiness, but how ready can the sailors be when their basic needs for basic body functions cannot be met? Where is the integrity in professionals who place locks on toilets rather than making the necessary repairs?

Check your sea legs before arguing that our Naval military personnel have a better or easier life than do their land-deployed counterparts. Sailors who have been attached to Marine squadrons that deployed to desert areas know that digging a hole is easier than what they are currently forced to do onboard the USS George H.W. Bush. Also, check your air space. Nearly one third of all military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are Navy personnel and Navy pilots provide valuable air support while ships such as the USS George H.W Bush maintain the integrity of the land deployments from sea. This isn’t a debate over which branch of the military is more disadvantaged. It is a concern about the living conditions aboard the ship known as “the centerpiece of the forces necessary for forward presence.”

The taxpayers should be as outraged over the living conditions of the men and women onboard the USS George H.W Bush as they were to discover how the survivors of Hurricane Katrina had been forced to endure their hardships. Six years have passed since the Superdome was evacuated and the people lived there without fully functioning toilets for several days. The sailors on the USS George H.W Bush have been suffering the indignity of locked toilets for nearly six months. Don’t make our sailors find boxes for bathrooms as Katrina evacuees did inside the Superdome.

I am as patriotic as any Navy Mom could be. I come from a long line of military men and I love my country. I love life! But, when I hear that our military enlisted personnel must endure life for months - not just days, but months in such conditions, I shudder. All the glorious days at sea, all the steel beach picnics and great smiling faces for recruiting posters bring tears to my eyes, but nothing like the tears I have shed for my son and his team members who can't even find an open, operable head.

When was the last time YOU had to search half an hour to find a toilet you could use?  It's time to fix the toilets on the USS George H.W. Bush. We don't know if our sons and daughters will come home from this deployment on schedule or if world events will keep them out on the ocean longer. All I know is it's time to flush!

Go Navy!

On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, my son placed this suggestion in the ship's virtual suggestion box - one of many regarding the situation:


I understand that you are looking for your “smoking gun” in regards to who is flushing non-human items down the toilets, but how far is this going to go? All of the heads forward of 138 are secured while troubleshooting a vacuum loss, and it seems that all of the heads aft of 138 are locked. Is the air wing being punished? Every squadron head is wide open for all hands use, but the heads that belong to the ship’s departments are “reserved” for ship’s personnel only. The VFA-87 head at 03-21 has been down for the last 3 days. The locking of the heads has not only created a major inconvenience, but is creating a rift between the air wing and ships company. One thing has been accomplished, the talk about going home and this deployment being almost over have all but ceased. All I hear anyone talking about anymore is how bad the situation is with the heads. Thank you for your time.

AM1 Frakes

The problem is still unresolved and they are no where near land. The toilet in his berthing was out for 8 days prior to and after they arrived at Dubai.

A reporter for Navy Times has contacted me about this story and will be contacting my son, soon. There IS hope.