Preserving a piece of US Maritime History - invaluable

The USS Olympia is a cruiser that fought in the Spanish American War in 1898 and has been preserved in Philadelphia. She's a one of a kind ship, a national historic monument, and in danger. She needs approximately $10-15 million in repairs to keep her a viable museum for years to come. If you have the resources, or connections to those resources, please consider helping. (full disclosure - there is no financial benefit to me to ask the question - we need to save this ship for posterity). Please contact me at 612-599-1935 or bdskon@fedex.com if you have additional questions.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Leon Kent, who stopped a line of tanks at Battle of the Bulge, dies at 99 - Veterans - Stripes

Leon Kent, who stopped a line of tanks at Battle of the Bulge, dies at 99 - Veterans - Stripes

Monday, February 9, 2015

'Fat Leonard' Scandal Jams Up Dozens of US Navy Flag Moves

WASHINGTON — It was a festive day at the US Naval Academy last July 23 as the US Navy's top leadership gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, for a change of command and retirement ceremony. Vice Adm. Mike Miller was ending a four-year tour as academy superintendent and retiring with honors after a 40-year career.
Except that when the hoopla died down, Miller wasn't allowed to leave the service just yet. Even though his official online biography reads "retired," he's still being carried on the Navy's active-duty rolls — at a reduced two-star level. And although he has no specific job — or billet, in Navy-speak — he counts against the service's allocated total of 219 admirals.
Defense officials said Miller is one of an estimated three dozen flag officers under federal investigation for potential wrongdoing in the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) case, also known as the "Fat Leonard" affair, after the nickname of the company's leader, Leonard Glenn Francis.
Francis is in federal custody in San Diego and has admitted to numerous instances of bribery, influence peddling and corruption attempts. A number of naval officers and civilians already have been charged and some convicted, and the investigation, which was announced in mid-2013, is — by all accounts — showing no signs of slowing down.
Other flags known to be caught up in the affair are Vice Adm. Ted Branch, the head of naval intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, the director of intelligence operations. Both officers were restricted by the Navy on Nov. 8, 2013 — with their security clearances revoked — pending the outcome of the investigations. No outcomes have been announced.
Until investigations by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Navy are concluded, however, none of the officers under scrutiny can move on — either to resume their jobs or take up new ones. Their replacements can't take over, either.
Shockwaves Across the Service
The lengthy investigations causing so many careers to be placed on hold for so long are taking their toll on the Navy's leadership. The pyramidal US military personnel system is predicated on an "up or out" structure, with active-duty personnel holding a specific job only for a certain period of time — usually 18 to 36 months.
After that, it's time for whomever has that job to move on and for someone else to move in. As officers move up the pyramid, fewer and fewer jobs are available, and only a few blockages can have ripple effects far beyond that specific position.
The situation is affecting Navy commands ashore and afloat, across the globe.
For example, Vice Adm. John Miller (no relation to Mike Miller) has been the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain since May 2012. In March 2014, he was named to become the next deputy chief of naval operations for Plans, Policy, and Operations at the Pentagon, and should have been relieved by now. But his replacement has not arrived — not even been announced — because that person is under investigation by Justice in connection with GDMA. Miller, according to defense officials, is not under investigation.
"Others are in the same situation," a defense official said Feb. 5.
A number of officers such as Mike Miller were planning to retire over the past year or more, but are being held over pending the results of the investigation.
"It becomes a lot more complicated to deal with folks once they're outside the military," said the defense official, explaining why Mike Miller is being held over. "The ability to handle it is a lot easier keeping them in uniform."
The flags being affected break down into three groups, the official said.
"There's a group that have left jobs thinking they were going to retire and are waiting. There's a group that are in jobs they would like to leave and move on to retirement, and a group that thought they were going to other jobs but because they're somehow being reviewed they're unable to do that."
The Justice Department is not sharing many details of its investigation with the Navy, and the service is not clear precisely how many officers are under scrutiny.
"Folks don't know if they're not being moved because they're under investigation or because they're part of the daisy chain," the defense official said. "And that's caused consternation among those individuals."
And Justice isn't the only entity handling the investigations. Even if DoJ concludes an individual won't be charged with criminal conduct, it could decide the case warrants further investigation by the Navy for ethical or code violations. For those cases, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced on Dec. 20, 2013, he would establish a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) headed by a senior flag officer to review any allegations.
To date, the CDA has not released any judgments — although there are indications some announcements could come quite soon.
Dragging on for Months
Worries about how far and how long the investigation would reach have been legion since the scandal first came to light in November 2013.
GDMA is a "husbanding" company, a firm that handles a variety of arrangements for visiting ships — piloting and docking services, taxis and catering, customs and legal services, food and fueling arrangements and more.
For a time, GDMA was the largest such company in Asia, and dozens of US Navy warships and commands made arrangements with the company — along with most other navies operating in the region. Hundreds of officers and officials came in contact with the firm, many of them personally greeted by Francis — a character widely known among veterans of Western Pacific tours.
It's also clear the investigation goes back nearly a decade. For Mike Miller, any alleged involvement most likely dates from the first half of 2006, when he commanded the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. The Reagan deployed in January 2006 and returned home that July. Since then, Miller served ashore in Norfolk, Virginia, then in Washington as the chief of legislative affairs, before moving to superintendent at Annapolis in 2010.
Defense officials said it appeared Justice is concentrating on individual strike group deployments as they work through the investigation. If that's the case, there have been at least 48 Western Pacific carrier strike group and amphibious ready group deployments since the Reagan's 2006 cruise, along with dozens of individual ship deployments. Virtually all of those Western Pacific cruises are likely to have made use of Glenn Defense Marine Asia's services.
It appears an individual doesn't necessarily have to be accused of wrongdoing to trigger an investigation into their behavior, defense officials said. Rather, simply having dealings with GDMA could start a probe.
In Mike Miller's case — and potentially in other cases as well — his initial reduction in rank and paygrade is not tied to the investigation, but to the Navy's bureaucratic rules.
"The law required Vice Adm. Miller revert to his permanent grade of Rear Adm. (upper half) after 60 days from the date he was relieved as the Superintendent of the US Naval Academy," said Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, chief of naval information.
Simply put, she said, if a three-star or four-star admiral isn't approved for another appointment at the same or higher grade, or if the retirement at the senior level isn't approved, the person drops back to the two-star level.
Miller's retirement request, she added, "is under review."
Through an academy spokesman, Miller declined to comment on this story.
A spokesman at the Justice Department in Washington also declined comment.
But the Justice investigation appears to be widening its scope, defense officials agreed, and shows no signs of slowing down.
"Top officials thought initially they could manage their way through this, and that belief is waning. I don't think anyone understood the potential magnitude of time and effort this would involve," the defense official said.
"They understood there would be some delay — some weeks or a few months. But now we're here more than a year later… we're unable to put a lot of this behind us. We're at the mercy of the investigation's timeline."
And as it continues, the investigation's secondary effects are becoming more visible.
"There's a resulting loss of opportunity for the Navy to compete for joint flag jobs," the defense official said. "Individuals can't get their tickets punched for specific jobs. There's an overall sense of frustration, including people watching their shipmates get caught up in it and wondering if it's worth it. There are opportunities outside the Navy and it plays into the calculus" whether they stay in or get out.
"One way or the other," the defense official said, "it affects most of the 219 folks in the flag wardroom."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

All Hands Online : Official Magazine of the U.S. Navy

All Hands Online : Official Magazine of the U.S. Navy



A Sailor's Dying Wish

They Didn't Just Talk to Him, They Listened

After signing my Pop, EM2 Bud Cloud (circa Pearl Harbor) up for hospice care, the consolation prize I'd given him (for agreeing it was OK to die) was a trip to "visit the Navy in San Diego."

I emailed my friend and former Marine sergeant, Mrs. Mandy McCammon, who's currently serving as a Navy Public Affairs Officer, at midnight on 28 May. I asked Mandy if she had enough pull on any of the bases in San Diego to get me access for the day so I could give Bud, who served on USS Dewey (DD-349), a windshield tour.

The next day she sent me an email from the current USS Dewey (DDG 105)'s XO, CDR Mikael Rockstad, inviting us down to the ship two days later.

We linked up with Mandy outside Naval Base San Diego and carpooled to the pier where we were greeted by CMDCM Joe Grgetich and a squad-sized group of Sailors. Bud started to cry before the doors of the van opened. He'd been oohing and pointing at the cyclic rate as we approached the pier, but when we slowed down and Mandy said, "They're all here for you, Bud," he was overwhelmed.

After we were all out of the van directly in front of the Dewey, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, Petty Officer Simon introduced himself and said as the ship's Sailor of the Year he had the honor of pushing Bud's wheelchair for the day. Unbeknownst to us, they'd decided to host Bud aboard the Dewey, not at the Dewey. And so they carried him aboard. None of us expected him to go aboard the ship. I'd told him we were going down to the base and would have the chance to meet and greet a few of the Sailors from the new Dewey. He was ecstatic. The day before, he asked every few hours if we were "still going down to visit the boys from the Dewey," and "do they know I was on the Dewey, too?"

Once aboard, we were greeted by the CO, CDR Jake Douglas, the XO and a reinforced platoon-sized group of Sailors. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. These men and women waited in line to introduce themselves to Bud. They shook his hand, asked for photos with him, and swapped stories. It was simply amazing.

They didn't just talk to him, they listened.

Bud's voice was little more than a weak whisper at this point and he'd tell a story and then GMC Eisman or GSCS Whynot would repeat it so all of the Sailors on deck could hear. In the midst of the conversations, Petty Officer Flores broke contact with the group. Bud was telling a story and CMDCM Grgetich was repeating the details when Flores walked back into view holding a huge photo of the original USS Dewey. That moment was priceless. Bud stopped mid-sentence and yelled, "There she is!" They patiently stood there holding the photo while he told them about her armament, described the way it listed after it was hit, and shared other details about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

Bud finally admitted how tired he was after more than an hour on deck. While they were finishing up goodbyes and taking last minute photographs, GMC Eisman asked if it'd be OK to bring Sailors up to visit Bud in a few months after a Chief's board. I hadn't said it yet because I didn't want it to dampen the spirit of the day, but I quietly explained to GMC Eisman the reason we'd asked for the visit was simple: Bud was dying.

I told him they were welcome to come up any time they wanted, but I suspected Bud had about a month left to live. Almost without hesitation, he asked if the crew could provide the burial honors when the time came. I assured him that'd be an honor we'd welcome.

Leaving the ship was possibly more emotional than boarding.
Navy Photo
Bud is piped ashore from USS Dewey (DDG 105). Photo submitted by Jennie Haskamp.

They piped him ashore. CMDCM Grgetich leaned in and quietly told me how significant that honor was and who it's usually reserved for as we headed towards the gangplank. Hearing "Electrician's Mate Second Class William Bud Cloud, Pearl Harbor Survivor, departing" announced over the 1MC was surreal.

Later that night Bud sat in his recliner, hands full of ship's coins and declared, "I don't care what you do with my power tools; you better promise you'll bury me with these."

He died 13 days later. For 12 of those 13 days he talked about the Dewey, her Sailors and his visit to San Diego. Everyone who came to the house had to hear the story, see the photos, hold the coins, read the plaques.

True to his word, GMC Eisman arranged the details for a full honors burial. The ceremony was simple yet magnificent. And a perfect sendoff for an ornery old guy who never, ever stopped being proud to be a Sailor. After the funeral, the Sailors came back to the house for the reception and spent an hour with the family. This may seem like a small detail, but it's another example of them going above and beyond the call of duty, and it meant more to the family than I can explain.

There are more photos, and I'm sure I missed a detail, or a name. What I didn't miss and will never forget, is how unbelievable the men and women of the USS Dewey were. They opened their ship and their hearts and quite literally made a dream come true for a dying Sailor.

They provided the backdrop for "This is the best day of my life, daughter. I never in my whole life dreamed I'd step foot on the Dewey again or shake the hand of a real life Sailor."

Without question, it's the best example of Semper Fidelis I've ever seen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday: For anyone in the Palm Springs area the first week of this coming February, you'll may see what looks like a gathering of exceptionall...

Friday, December 12, 2014

CDR Salamander: Flash of the Obvious on SSC nee LCS-(I)-minus

CDR Salamander: Flash of the Obvious on SSC nee LCS-(I)-minus: Everyone I sure noticed that I did not blog at all about the pre-selection announcement about the work being done on the Small Surface Com...



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Navy Complied with Regulations in Accepting Two Lead Ships42223

WASHINGTON -- The Government Accountability Office released the following report highlight:
What GAO Found
Navy decisions to accept the first two littoral combat ships (LCS)--LCS 1 and LCS 2--in incomplete, deficient conditions complied with the Federal Acquisition Regulation's (FAR) acceptance provisions, largely due to the cost-reimbursement type contracts in place to construct these ships. The Navy also met FAR requirements related to responsibility for and place of acceptance, among other provisions, by using an authorized Navy representative to accept each ship at its respective contractor's facility. Under the cost-reimbursement contracts, the LCS 1 and LCS 2 prime contractors were only required to give their best efforts to complete quality-related activities--along with the other work specified in the contracts--up to each contract's estimated cost. These efforts resulted in both ships not completing all required sea trials--tests that evaluate ships' overall quality and performance against contractual requirements--including acceptance and final contract trials.
Not completing these trials increased knowledge gaps related to ship performance and deficiencies. In addition, LCS 1 and LCS 2 did not meet the quality standards outlined in the Navy's ship acceptance policy, although the policy also contains several notable flexibilities to these standards. In particular, the policy recognizes situations where the Navy may defer work until after delivery and final acceptances and affords the Chief of Naval Operations the authority to waive certain quality standards outlined in the policy. The Navy relied extensively on these waivers to facilitate its trials and acceptance processes for LCS 1 and LCS 2.
Navy decisions to accept delivery of LCS 1 and LCS 2 in incomplete, deficient conditions were driven by a focus on near-term cost performance by shipbuilders, a desire to introduce the long-delayed ships to the fleet, and--in the case of LCS 1--environmental and treaty considerations associated with constructing that ship adjacent to the Great Lakes. The Navy prioritized these factors over its quality assurance processes for both ships, which has caused it to devote considerably more time and money to resolving deficiencies after delivery than anticipated. However, because the Navy did not establish clear deadlines for resolving ship deficiencies, corrections were allowed to lag, to the point that fleet operators inherited unresolved deficiencies on each ship. These deficiencies have constrained recent shipboard operations.
Why GAO Did This Study
GAO has reported extensively on LCS--an innovative Navy program, consisting of a ship and its mission packages. The Navy bought the first two ships using research and development funds, initially planning to experiment with them to test concepts and determine the best design. As GAO reported in July 2013, the Navy later opted to fund additional ships without having completed this planned period of discovery and learning. Further, LCS 1 and LCS 2 have experienced major cost growth and schedule delays. In August 2010, GAO reported that the ships were incomplete at delivery and in November 2013, GAO reported on significant quality problems with Navy ships, including LCS 1 and LCS 2, noting that the Navy regularly accepts ships with numerous open deficiencies.
Congress mandated that GAO review the Navy's compliance with federal regulations in accepting LCS 1 and LCS 2. This report (1) assesses the extent to which the Navy complied with applicable federal regulations, policies, and contracts and (2) evaluates the basis for and outcomes from decisions to accept these ships. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed applicable federal regulations, policies, contracts, and program documentation, and spoke with relevant Department of Defense (DoD) and contractor officials.
What GAO Recommends
Because the opportunity to implement acquisition changes to these two ships has passed, GAO is not making any new recommendations in this report, but has made prior recommendations to improve LCS acquisition. DoD has acted on some, but not all, of these.
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