Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Decade of the Salamander

How fast time flies … and how much changes with it: CDRSalamander just turned ten.

I’m not all that big on ceremony, and I’ve been pondering what to do, if anything, to mark the 10th Anniversary of my little vanity project. I thought about a Midrats special, or a best of hit-list post, or just nothing.

I’m still not sure what to do, so instead I thought I would just sit down and type a bit. I'm going to freeform over a drink, so stick with me as I wander.

The first thing that comes to mind is this – thanks.

I have a lot of people to thank for making what is truly a pleasure for your humble blogg’r. I had no idea where this would go and never really had a game plan for it, still don't. For good reason, in 2004, this whole milblog thing was a boutique operation at best. We talked to ourselves and each other, not really expecting traction beyond that little universe - but in our own way, we caught lightening in a bottle.

2004 was a different environment for online information than it is now, and we were all trying to figure it out at the time. A very ruthless environment, there was a high mortality rate for blogs, and a lot of people who got in to it thinking of what it was, but failing when they just didn't understand the medium. 

There were also people on the downside who poo-poo'd milblogs, and still do, who even less than we did, failed to understand what can happen when you get traction in the marketplace of ideas.

Prior to CDRSalamander, I had been an online presence for awhile, under a different nom du blog. Sent some items to a few people over at NRO's TheCorner that they used, and enjoyed playing around in comments at Argghhh!!!!, MudvilleGazette and other places Navy types may be familiar with.

After another round of, "You can't publish that ..." I decided that, OK, I won't publish on those things I was professionally focused on, but I will just skip the other blog comment sections, message boards, etc too - and one afternoon set up CDRSalamander.

I was a junior Commander at the time, but knew that I could not be "out" as the minute I was, my boss would shut me down regardless of what I wrote about. I could have started a catblog, and after sending me for a psych-eval, would have shut me down after crushing me. Yea, I had that kind of command climate.

So, 22JUL04, LOC1-SER1 came out like this;
I have been thinking about getting this started for awhile after bothering a man greater than myself, CDR Bluebeard, to start a blog. If for no other reason than to post his rantings (if he will let me), err insights, I decided to give this a start and see what happens.

As for me, well I'm a Navy Commander. That is about all you are getting out of me. Going public with your opinions as an active duty officer is in a way just dumb if you want to get recommended for promotion and don't want someone's "pinky finger" spiking you at a selection board. The Naval Institute's Proceedings ( is a great institution, but you publish at your own peril. Sad really. You can publish technical and tactical pieces with them, I have. But opinion? Not so smart. We will cover boards and command influence later, but let’s just say that blogging is a better institution until you get outed. Lets see how long this takes..............if I get edgy. I don't know how edgy I will get. Maybe my random thoughts and postings will just float around in obscurity and be ignored. Hey, if nothing else, it is cheap therapy.
See, I've had poor grammar from the start. Still don't have an editor, still click "publish" after hammering something out over b-fast, while in a conf call I'm ignoring, or before going to bed. I still hit the topics I am interested in - not the ones I know the most about, just the ones I am most interested in. Still good therapy. I wander off the maritime reservation now and then, something some of you don't like, but I have from the start. If I didn't, CDRSalamander wouldn't be what it is.

No, I never got "CDR Bluebeard" to publish anything. He soon found himself in an IG from h311, something that educated me in detail what a heartless and cowardly system can be used to destroy a good man. He just no longer cares. Sad.

As things clicked on, I soon found myself in a little corner of the blogosphere - the Navy milblog phylum. Within a year, I found myself getting to know Lex, EagleOne, Joel, SJS, and eventually Skippy the next year. Combined with some ground element bloggers - that first year, that was about it. I remember laughing when I started to get 30 unique visitors a day. Now I have thousands and sometimes tens of thousands.

In time, more great blogs came online, I joined USNIblog as a resident poster (thank you very much for the opportunity Mary) and the comments here section started to get some great regulars. I think of many who are still with us from the start Byron, Sid, Mr. T's Haircut, AW1, URR, LT Black, and others. (you guys and gals have no idea how much I truly value visiting with you each and every day) Even more came to be regular visitors during the years, making a real enjoyable Front-Porch. Sharp elbows, snark, but also some just plain good people and as I have come to know some of them IRL, some superb professionals.

Something happened fairly soon - and of all places it started with Salon, stuff I was putting out started to get a reading well beyond what I expected. CDRSalamander started to have an impact in policy discussions and other areas. That is when the underground started.

There are people who never show up in comments that communicate with me by email, and now FB and twitter. A lot of the stuff is not for publication or comment - just on background. They are, in a word, "interesting" people. There is a place online for places like CDRSalamander and others. I hear from YNSN to Admirals off the record about their concerns, ideas, and observations - happily taking the invitation to make their ideas mine and getting them out in the open.

Some don't like that - but that kind has always been with us - those who cannot stand any voice but their own.

Early on, some of the places we started to make a difference was in the re-birth of Riverine, and building the foundation of the anti-transformationalist movement. Shining light of some of the worst socio-political experiments being pushed on our Sailors - shaming some of their leaders who were going to far in to backing off. In substantive areas adding, where I could, a little of the creative friction that, with or without conflict, I think brings the discussion to a better, more clarified place.

The first half-decade of the blog, I was on active duty. I know for many the anonoblogger status was an issue. The Mark Twain to Samuel Clemens and Federalist Papers etc argument has been around a long time - but it has its place. It still does. I have no problem with it.

The second half decade of the blog, I have been USN (Ret) and am no longer in deep cover. I am out in the open if you know where to look, but I am quite happy with Sal - a lot of people know my Samuel Clemens - it really does not matter. I did enjoy being able to break bread with people I have known in my little underground for years, who I also served with - and when the time was right, was able to come out to them.

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to finally meet in person many of the people I came to know in half a decade online only as very good people, and seeing them in person, found them to be that and more. Real true friends in a social way, and in a constructive criticism way in their observations, commentary, and suggestions on how I try to communicate my thoughts. True friends who are not just hail fellow well met, but want you to be better. I was about to name a bunch of you, but you know who you are.

Also when retired, with the encouragement of some good folks, we started with EagleOne our weekly talk show, Midrats. That has been a great joy as well - a fun, groundbreaking, IMAO, concept.

One reason I enjoy it is that over the years, CDRSalamander developed its own "voice" and niche in the milblog ecosystem. Make no mistake, CDRSalamander is very much me - but everything has a certain brand and job to do - but as for "me-actual" it only reflects one side of my personality. The more complete "me" is the Sal you find on Midrats. A little duller, a little less of a bomb thrower, a little more pensive ... still long winded and arrogant, but I'm a little more comfortable in that skin.

Would I change anything about blogg'n? In hindsight, sure - a few things. If I were a YG99 type starting a blog, I would unquestionably do things differently - but time travel is a drag. In any event - everything is very different now than it was in 2004.

Stand-alone blogs used to be the standard; not they are an exception. Commentary and observational blogs done on the fly have slightly fallen out of favor for group-blogs that are organized and edited almost like an online magazine in some cases. Not better or worse, just different.

Thanks to the support and contributions of the Front Porch and underground, we've done some good things - and though I don't have as much time to blog as I used to - serious civilian jobs and houses full of teenagers will do that to a man - I don't plan on going anywhere.

Where it this blog trending, where I am going? No changes, same course and speed. It was a quick decade, I'm not done yet - though I wish I had more time.

Would I call this a success? I wasn't really looking for that mark. Others may say, "no" - or think that I have not fully realized the potential - but that is fine from their point of view. For me? Look at LOC1-SER1, I think I've met most of those goals. I'm content, and I hope the regulars glean some value from our time together - goodness knows I do.

Well, enough freeform. In summary, thanks. Here's to another decade.

Advice to others thinking about joining the conversation? Email me, I'll try to help. In general though - I'll let Arnold speak for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ukraine squeezes the pocket

As long as you are conscience of what you are reading - it is good to read bias press as part of your informational diet. It works locally, and globally.

One of my favorite new spots as of late has been While everyone has been focused on the MH17 shootdown, there has been some very interesting facts on the ground developments that the military professional should take a look at.

I have no reason to doubt the validity of this map - so let's give it the benefit of the doubt, as it might explain the desperate actions being taken by the Russian side. For reference, the MH17 shootdown site is right on behind the front lines near Torez - in the south center of the rebel area.

Put your JPME to good work there shipmate. Look at what has happened in the last two months.
1. Ukraine secured its maritime territory.
2. Ukraine managed to re-establish control over most of its borders  - though in a thin salient in some places. Not firm control as we know traffic is getting through, but at least partial control to the point they are willing to claim it.
3. They are pushing to widen the salient in the south while increasing its SE bulge, pushing north along the Russian border.
4. From the north, they are pushing south along the Russian border.
5. Yes kiddies, we have a classic pincer movement to envelope a pocket of the enemy, nee - a double envelopment at that. As a matter of fact, a secondary double envelopment is about to take place in that middle thumb centered on Lysychansk - or at least there is an opportunity for one.

Cut off the Lysychansk based separatists there while at the same time cutting off their unopposed access to the Russian border - and then you can destroy the pro-Russian separatists piecemeal at your leisure.

Well, that is how I see this act of a multi-act play working its way out.  Before you go, you should spend some time on the site - if for no other reason than to enjoy some good old fashioned propoganda that has, if you look close enough - some good bits of truth in there. That, and great Putin pics like this:

It is also instructive to see who the Ukrainians consider their friends and not. I think their analysis is fairly solid here - and they have all the right friends. I might nit-pic a bit, but again - I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. They will remember, FWIW ... and so will the Russians. The title of the article that the map goes to is, Ukraine’s possible backstabbers in Europe.

Red bad, yellow good, green feh.

Monday, July 21, 2014

MH17 and the Dutch

On the 18th, President Obama made a well needed statement to the people of The Netherlands;
By far, the country that lost the most people on board the plane was the Netherlands. From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America. And today, I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.
I would have perhaps recommended a bit more earlier - but I have my pro-Dutch bias. They have been a very good ally, and next to the British, our fledging nation owns the most for its character to this kingdom.

Let's do a little math here. The Dutch have a population of ~17.66 million souls. The USA has a population of ~313.9 million.

The Dutch population is only 5.6% of ours, or the USA is 17.8-times the size of The Netherlands. 193 of the 298 people on MH17 were Dutch. As a percentage of the population, that would have the national impact as if 3,435 Americans were killed.

In the 911 attacks, 2,977 were killed. Of those, depending on how you account for dual citizenship and if you use as the base number the terrorists killed, ~2,585 were American citizens.

The per-person impact of the attack on MH17 on the Dutch is over a third larger than the impact of 911 on Americans.

The only mitigating factor is that the Russians did not shoot down MH17 as a direct attack on the Dutch. No, odds are, this is a cockup by poorly trained air-defense operators. We (Americans) have made the mistake before - it is part of the nature of the business.

This was, really, a case of mistaken identity. What is making it worse than it needs to be is the fact the Russians are not being clear, transparent, and up-front about their mistake. That is very un-Dutchlike and helps explain why the Dutch official reaction is starting to ratchet up;
"I was shocked at the pictures of utterly disrespectful behavior at this tragic spot. It's revolting," Mark Rutte said on Saturday, referring to allegations that the bodies of the passengers, including 193 of his countrymen, were being dragged about and allowed to rot at the scene.

"He has one last chance to show he means to help," Rutte said of Putin minutes after what he described as a "very intense" conversation with the Russian leader. He added that the leaders of Germany, Britain and Australia shared his view.

Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who is in the Ukrainian capital Kiev with a team of Dutch forensics experts trying to secure safe access to the crash site, said access so far had been too limited to allow them to carry out their work of identifying the victims and repatriating them.
The Dutch equivalent of the NYT;
... the biggest Dutch newspaper, Telegraaf, openly asked for military intervention by NATO to protect MH 17 and calls Putin a "KGB liar."
Interesting ... interesting.

I wonder if the G5 shop at the 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade did any unofficial planning for a recovery operation in coordination with Ukrainian special forces or one of their airmobile brigades ... naw ... well - I bet someone did, even if only at home over a few beers.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Military Sealift Command; Past, Present & Future, on Midrats

Whatever confession of maritime strategy you adhere to, there is one linchpin that all will survive or fail on - the Military Sealift Command. 

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the entire spectrum of issues with the MSC will be Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at Campbell University.

Sal is a 1989 graduate of SUNY Maritime College, with a BS in Marine Transportation. He sailed on the USNS Neosho (T-AO 143), Mohawk (T-ATF 170), Glover (T-AGFF 1), Comfort (T-AH 20) during the Persian Gulf War, and John Lenthall (T-AO 189). Ashore, he was assigned to the N3 shop for the Afloat Prepositioning Force and focused initially on Marine Corps MPF vessels, but later working on the new Army program, including the construction and conversion of the LMSRs.

In 1996, he transitioned to his my academic career. Receiving a MA in Maritime History and Nautical Archeology from East Carolina University, focused on the merchant marine in the Vietnam War. He later then went to the University of Alabama and graduated with a Ph.D. in Military and Naval History with his dissertation on entitled Sealift: T

He has taught at Methodist University, East Carolina, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the U.S. Military Academy, prior to being an Assistant Professor of History with Campbell University since 2010, In addition, since 2008, I have been an Adjunct Professor at the US Merchant Marine Academy teaching a graduate level on-line course on Maritime Industry Policy.

He has been published in the Northern Mariner, Sea History, Naval History, and Proceedings.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fullbore Friday

Have you ever heard of Admiral Yi of the Royal Korean Navy?

Shame ... he was a complete stud ... and completely Fullbore.

This is also instructive for those who think the whole Korea vs Japan thingy just has to do with WWII. No ... a lot deeper than that.

It is hard to find good articles online about him outside Wikipedia - so I at least have to use their description of him for the uninitiated - it really is good;
Yi Sun-shin (Hangul: 이순신; hanja: 李舜臣; April 28, 1545 – December 16, 1598) was a Korean naval commander, famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty, and is well-respected for his exemplary conduct on and off the battlefield not only by Koreans, but by Japanese Admirals as well.[1] Military historians have compared his naval genius to that of Admiral Horatio Nelson.[2] His title of Samdo Sugun Tongjesa (삼도 수군 통제사 ; 三道水軍統制使), literally meaning "Naval Commander of the Three Provinces," was the title for the commander of the Korean navy until 1896.

Perhaps his most remarkable military achievement occurred at the Battle of Myeongnyang. Outnumbered 133 warships to 13, and forced into a last stand with only his minimal fleet standing between the Japanese Army and Seoul, he still managed to destroy 33 of 133 Japanese warships in one of the most astonishing battles in military history.

Despite never having received naval training or participating in naval combat prior to the war, and constantly being outnumbered and outsupplied, he went to his grave as one of few admirals in world history who remained undefeated after commanding as many naval battles as he did (at least 23).

Yi died at the Battle of Noryang on December 16, 1598. With the Japanese army on the verge of being completely expelled from the Korean Peninsula, he was mortally wounded by a single bullet. His famous dying words were, "The battle is at its height...beat my war not announce my death."
Nelson would understand.

As a result of the difficulty I am having finding high-brow non-wikipedia, I'm going to steal from the a great tribute to him from the irreplacable website, badassoftheweek. Standard Kristen warning about pottymouth (BTW, whatever happened to her hotness? DB will do, I guess ... but still). Sailors should be OK about it though;
Throughout 1592 Admiral Yi Soon Shin won numerous other small-scale battle against the Japanese Navy, sinking hundreds of enemy vessels during the course of two campaigns while suffering only eleven wounded sailors, no KIAs and no ships lost. Now it should be noted that the Korean ships were superior to the Japanese ships in terms of firepower and hull strength, but still holy shit that's a fucking hell of a record. Yi was a brilliant naval strategist, carefully planning and coordinating all of his attacks and personally leading his navy into combat, issuing them directions on the fly. He received intelligence from local fishermen and villagers and planned his battles accordingly, striking enemy supply ships that were bringing food, supplies and munitions to the Japanese Army and severly hindering their war effort. In ship-to-ship combat on a tactical level, Yi relied on the firepower of his ships' cannons and ordered his men to avoid hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese navy at all costs. You see, the Japanese had tons of badass samurai so their strategy was to board the Korean ships and start chopping motherfuckers up Mifune-style and there wasn't a whole lot of shit that the Koreans could do about it except die painfully. Yi knew that his men didn't stand a chance against goddamned samurai so he did his best to set fire to the Japanese vessels before they even got close and burn those jerks to death before they could start impaling people on their magical katanas. His men were down with this strategy.

He also built something called "Turtle Ships" which sound kind of stupid and fruity but were actually awesome. Turtle Ships were large, fast-moving warships with reinforced metal plating completely covering the top deck to protect the sailors from enemy arrows and gunfire. The plates also had big-ass steel spikes sticking out of them so if any ninjas tried to fly on board they'd get impaled like when you knock Scorpion or Sub-Zero off the bridge level in Mortal Kombat. It carried about 30 guns, and the front of it was shaped like a badass dragon that shot a cannon out of it's mouth, had a smokescreen that came out of it's nose, and could be used as a battering ram to smash enemy ships into driftwood. Yi used the Turtle Ships to barrel through the enemy lines, blast everything they came across on either side and then ram the shit out of the enemy flagship, sinking it and drowning the Japanese commanders. Plus it looked fucking badass and intimidated the shit out of people:
Later in 1592 Yi Soon Shin took a force of 56 vessels and went up against a fleet of 73 Japanese battleships near Hansan Island, a fortress that pretty much served as party central for the Japanese invasion forces. Yi staged a fake retreat to draw the Japanese out of their fortified harbor and then caught them in a trap that sank 59 enemy ships and essentially crippled what was left of the Japanese Navy. Yi followed up this asskicking by capturing the enemy naval fortress at Pusan, sinking several hundred Japanese ships as they sat in port, crushing the enemy morale, seizing control of all the major supply routes to Northern Korea and choking off all Japanese reinforcements to the battlefront. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered his Admirals not to face the Korean Navy again because they were getting their fucking asses reamed up and down the coast, and an armistice was signed between Korea and Japan.

However, the peace didn't last long and before you know it the Japanese were ready to have more of their ships reduced to firewood by Admiral Yi. Unfortunately for the Koreans, in the time between the fighting the Japanese had managed to put a double agent into the Korean Court, and he convinced the King to order Admiral Yi to move his armada to a dangerous area known as the Chilchon Straits. When Yi received the order he immediately saw through the bullshit and refused it, reportedly giving the messenger the finger and then slapping him full in the face like a little bitch. So once again Yi Soon Shin was stripped of his rank, imprisioned and tortured within an inch of his life. Command was given to some jackass named Won Gyun, who was fucking incompetent. Won moved Admiral Yi's combined force of 169 battleships and 30,000 sailors to the Chilchon Straits, directly into the trap that was laid for him by the Japanese. In the span of only a few hours Japanese Commando Samurai Ninja Marines annihilated the entire armada and chopped Won Gyun up into shark chum. Only thirteen ships and two hundred men were able to escape the carnage by bravely running away at top speed as soon as the Japanese started fucking everything up. The King then decided to get his shit together and put Yi back in charge because at this point it was pretty motherfucking obvious that not just any idiot could lead the Korean Navy to victory against the Japanese war machine. When Yi retook command of his navy and saw the dire situation before him, he is reported to have said the following:

"I still have thirteen ships. As long as I am alive, the enemies will never gain the Western Sea."

So in 1597 Admiral Yi and his thirteen ships found themselves on the run, hunted by the entire Japanese Navy. At the Battle of Myeongnyang, Yi Soon Shin came face-to-face with a fleet of three hundred Japanese warships, all bearing down on him and filled to the brim with angry, screaming katana-wielding samurai warriors. Yi wisely positioned his tiny force to block a narrow strait Thermopylae-style in an effort to deny the Japanese the chance of completely enveloping him. The Japanese poured into the strait at top speed and ran head-on into a strong current that slowed them down considerably, leaving them exposed to fire from the Korean ships. During the course of the battle, Yi constantly repositioned his fleet in an effort to keep the Japanese marines at a distance and prevent them from boarding his ships. His cannons bombarded the enemy, and when the smoke cleared he had sunk 123 Japanese ships and killed over 12,000 enemy sailors, including the Admiral in command of the Japanese Navy. Yi's losses totaled three wounded and two killed.

This insane victory broke the back of Japanese morale and marked a turning point in the war. At the Battle of Noryang, over 150 Korean and Chinese vessels finished the job on the Japanese Navy, defeating an armada of 500 enemy ships as they attempted to retreat back to Japan. While giving pursuit, Yi was shot in the chest and died. His last words were, "The battle is at it's height. Do not announce my death." The remnants of the Japanese fleet would limp back to its homeland and her leaders would sue for peace - the war was over.
Read the whole thing. If I could only write that way....

To end it off, have some really bad East Asian FX;

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Diversity Thursday

I know that many of you just think it is hyperbole on DivThu when we talk of non-value added empire building by self-referential self-licking ice cream cones that are the subsidized parasites of the diversity industry that have adhered themselves to various vestigial organs throughout our Navy.

When you see it ....

Ponder the mission of NAVAIR. Ponder manpower costs. Ponder opportunity costs. Ponder ... why?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pivoting with your shoes untied

There is one area that we have competitive advantage against, well, the entire world. 

Our advantage is the battle tested, mature and highly effective land attack cruise missile. There is no other similar weapon with the bonafides of the Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile (TLAM). Some claim, but non can prove.

Sure, like the Harpoon it is old and slow - but it works and is good and better than something PPT thick.

The exceptionally reliable fire-and-forget drone would, on the surface, seem to be the one capability we would want to keep. Relative long range, unmanned, precise, and with the right warhead choice - exceptionally flexible across a wide range of targeting requirements.

As we move/pivot towards a dangerous world, as outlined by our friend Seth Cropsey over at DefenseNews;
... the Defense Department demurred when the Navy asked for an additional 980 TLAMs to increase its inventory of the most up-to-date model. Not only was the request denied, the decision was taken to end production of the Tomahawk in fiscal 2016. No more orders for the missile would be placed after the autumn of 2015.

The termination followed a December DoD decision to cut the number of TLAMs to be ordered from 4,900 to 3,700. No strategic justification was offered to account for the reduction.

Where does this leave the US? The opening salvo of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, expended well over 800 TLAMs. Twelve years earlier, 250 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm. Including operations in Kosovo and the 1998 strike against Iraqi sites suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, the average use of the weapon rounds out at something between 100 and 200 per year.
He forgot my baby, DESERT FOX at over 325, but let's continue;
The current Block 4 model, which features improved navigation, anti-jamming and retarget­ing systems, began to be delivered 10 years ago. It should be capable of performing combat missions for 30 years if properly maintained, including a recertification at the midpoint of its service life. The midpoint for the first Block 4 Tomahawks will occur in 2019.

But if, as the Defense Department now plans, no more missiles will be ordered after fiscal 2015, the technicians, engineers and contractors who must recertify the missiles will have long since vacated to find other work.
Is this a smart risk to take? Not if you want to avoid having to put pilots across the beach to take our static targets and want a hedge against the next generation of armed drones - or as I like to call them, reusable TLAM.
President Obama’s first secretary of defense, Robert Gates, noted in an April 2014 interview in the US military’s Stars and Stripes, “when it comes to predicting where and how we’re going to use military force next over the last 40 years since Vietnam, we have a perfect record: We haven’t gotten it right once.”

Gates added, “you can’t just predict these things [i.e. the use of force], and we need to recognize our inability to predict them.”