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

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