The Navy’s poor poker face on manpower issues

It’s not often I get immediate verification of something I blog about. For example, I wrote about how we’re going to have to accept that Russia will in fact win in Ukraine, and at first that prediction looked incorrect, but as the conflict grinds on, its becoming more obvious that Russia can’t afford to lose, even at a terrible cost. I could be wrong, maybe Ukraine will pull out a big “W” in the end, but I still think its unlikely.

But the Navy’s manpower crisis…wow. That’s a gift that keeps on giving. Since the last article, Navy has released three more NAVADMIN messages that prove the Navy is in a middle-management manpower crunch.

The first is NAVADMIN 176/22, which seems like a mundane update to retirement policy. The second paragraph is most interesting:

2.  Reference (c) modified the service-in-grade (SIG) (also known as time-in-grade) requirements for O-4s.  Specifically, reference (c) modified reference (d) to require 3-years SIG for voluntary regular retirement eligibility. 
NAVADMIN 176/22

Normally you can retire as an O-4 after only two years. This isn’t a huge change, however, it might push more people to stay an extra year.

But then NAVADMIN 177/22 came out, talking about incentive pay for submarine commanding officer special mission billets. There is plenty of competition to become a submarine CO, so many good people don’t select for submarine command. They can select for CO Special Mission, which is basically a way of saying “we need you to stay in the Navy to fill billets at higher levels” because so many submarine O-5’s retire at 20 years. It’s a problem that has waxed and waned over the years, but is now becoming increasingly difficult to manage.

The NAVADMIN allocates a bonus of $20,000 annually for members that sign a 3-5 year commitment. That is an awful lot of money, especially considering an O-5 submariner is likely making over $150K a year anyway. The eligibility requirements make it very obvious what problem they are solving:

    b.  Have completed at least 19 years of Active Duty Commissioned Service (ADCS) and not more than 25 years of ADCS at the start of the period of additional obligated service. 
NAVADMIN 177/22

Which really means “prevent people from retiring right at 20 years and keep them in a bit longer by throwing $20K a year at them.”

Essentially, these two officer-related NAVADMINs are trying to stem the departure of mid-grade Naval Officers. Gee, I wonder why mid-grade Naval Officers would be leaving in the first place? I’ll let you debate that in the comments.

So are there applicable actions on the enlisted Sailor side? You betcha! The most interesting is NAVADMIN 178/22. The first two paragraphs lay it out pretty well:

1.  This NAVADMIN announces a pilot program for Senior Enlisted Advance to Position (SEA2P) designed to keep deploying units mission-ready by aggressively filling critical at-sea leadership billets.  The pilot program will convene a billet selection board consisting of senior representatives from Fleet and participating type commander (TYCOM) staffs to select those Sailors who are best and fully qualified to advance and fill specific priority sea billets.  The pilot includes the Nimitz Strike Group on the West Coast and the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group on the East Coast. Additionally, the pilot will include USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73). Factors for consideration in determining best and fully qualified applicants include sustained superior performance, documented qualifications, platform experience, and potential to succeed in the billet.  Sailors selected must obligate service (OBLISERV) to complete 36 months in the SEA2P billet and will be permanently advanced upon reporting to their ultimate duty station.  This pilot will be limited to critical E8 and E9 sea billets and is 
separate from reference (a). 
 
2.  To be eligible for SEA2P, Sailors must have been selected or screened as a non-select for advancement to E8 or E9 by the respective fiscal year (FY) 2023 selection boards, or be advancement-eligible for the respective FY-24 boards in line with reference (b).  Time-in-rate (TIR) waivers will be approved for FY-24 advancement-eligible Sailors who are selected for SEA2P.  All Sailors selected for SEA2P billets should expect to receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders with a transfer date as early as  30-45 days after selection. 
NAVADMIN 178/22

In one long sentence this says: “We are critically undermanned at sea in senior enlisted positions, yet somehow we have lots of people that haven’t selected for advancement to these senior enlisted positions, so now they can apply to fill this position and get permanently promoted when they finish the tour.”

Now, my first question is: if we don’t have enough senior people to fill these jobs, but we have people that aren’t selecting for senior positions, why don’t we just select more people? Enlisted management sits almost entirely in the Department of the Navy’s purview, unlike Naval Officers that face considerable Congressional oversight as to their selection and promotion. The DoN doesn’t appear to be upping the selection rate, and is instead opting for a tightly controlled board that meets in relative secrecy to pick people for specific jobs. There are advantages to this, since you can force someone to take sea-duty orders, but you could do that anyway (to an extent), so I’m not sure why they are opting for this method.

These NAVADMINs, coming on the heels of the messages I previously talked about, are just another indicator that the Navy is experiencing a massive flight of talent that is really getting senior leadership concerned. I think they would be far better off addressing the real concerns of junior officers and junior enlisted, and to be fair, Navy Sailors get plenty of surveys about the health of the force, but then the Navy doesn’t appear to act on any of these issues. Just like the suicide crisis on the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, Navy has all the data, but isn’t choosing to solve the correct problem.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please like it, share it on social media, and send a tip to Peter in DaTipJar. You can also buy one of my books for yourself or a friend to help me out.

How to know you’re in a recruitment crisis

The news media has finally jumped on the military recruitment crisis. The smart, intelligent, witty and dashingly handsome readers of this blog that look just like you already knew it was coming because of all the previous reporting here. But let’s say you weren’t so smart, intelligent, witty and perhaps only average in your looks. Let’s say that this not-nearly-as-good version of you wanted to know the truth, because the media likes to blow up a small story into something big to make money. Would there be a way to figure out if the military was really struggling to recruit new members?

Well, stand-in dumber-version-of-you reader, there is, because you can use the military’s readily available instructions to figure out just that! But first, we need a primer on military recruitment and promotion.

Military manpower is a big pyramid scheme, with lots of young blood on at the base of the pyramid, and fewer crusty old folks at the top ranks. Most military members only serve for 3-5 years, getting out for the much greener pastures in the civilian world. The one’s that stay in have some pretty good incentives: guaranteed pay, a pretty cool mission, a chance to get skills and experience on fancy, taxpayer funded weapon systems, and that sweet, sexy uniform that entices all the ladies.

Well, and the guys too, I mean, its 2022 and we have to be all inclusive.

Anyway, this pyramid scheme of manpower relies on a big influx every year of new recruits. We’ve already talked at length about why normal recruiting isn’t working. If recruitment sags, the military has other tricks to keep its numbers up, namely by making it more difficult for people to leave. They can do this by not letting people leave early, or even go so far as to force people to stay.

Let’s say that hypothetically we recruit a lot more people then we really need. Instead of showing them the door, the military can allow other members a chance to leave early. OR the military can tighten down on physical fitness standards, which they can use to boot people out. OR they can create some new stupid rule that will piss people off, which will cause more existing members to leave. These rules are like the handle on a water faucet that you can adjust so the water flow is just right.

Knowing this, guess which way the handle is moving?

Let’s look at the Navy, which releases NAVADMIN messages. These are bland, dull administrative things that nobody except slightly-inebriated Sailors actually read. At the end of June, the Navy released NAVADMIN 142/22 titled FISCAL YEAR 2022 ACTIVE COMPONENT ENLISTED FORCE MANAGEMENT ACTIONS (CORRECTED COPY), because I guess the admin person made a mistake and had to correct it.

Doesn’t inspire much confidence in our administrative people!

Anyway, let’s read the message.

1.  The purpose of this NAVADMIN is to implement key force 
management personnel policy actions in the enlisted active component 
to ensure the Navy remains fully manned and operationally ready. 
References (a) and (b) are hereby updated for enlisted personnel. 
For those who have decided to separate, please review reference (c) 
for additional career progression opportunities in the Navys 
Selected Reserves.  Navy encourages all qualified Sailors to stay 
Navy.  See your career counselor for more information.  While we 
strive to retain all qualified Sailors, commanding officers should 
continue to exercise their obligation to document performance and 
adjust their recommendation for retention, accordingly. 
 
2.  Sailors are encouraged to look for selective reenlistment bonus 
(SRB) updates frequently to take advantage of the opportunities 
published on the Navy’s SRB website at: 
https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/References/Pay-Benefits/N130D/. 
Please keep in mind SRB levels may be adjusted up or down depending 
on rating health. 

OK, not much here. Maybe this section was put in to put the inebriated Sailors to sleep?

3.  Early Separation Cancellation.  Effective immediately, all 
enlisted early out programs and new time in grade requirement 
waivers are hereby cancelled.  Service commitments such as 
enlistment contracts, service obligations for accepting permanent 
change of station orders, advancements, bonuses, training, etc., 
will be fulfilled.  Service members experiencing difficulty in 
fulfilling obligated service requirements are encouraged to work 
with their chain of command and respective detailers to examine 
available alternatives to complete their obligation. 
    a.  Commanding officers still retain the 90-day early out 
authority for policy outlined in references (d) and (e). 
    b.  Service members previously granted approval will not be 
affected by this policy change. 
    c.  Service members interested in pursuing commissions in the 
Navy are still encouraged to submit requests.  As always, these 
requests will be considered on a case by case basis. 
    d.  United States Space Force applicants are not affected by 
this policy change.

Well, that’s a change! No early-out options. Definitely closing the faucet handle.

4.  Delaying separation or retirement.  The Navy is accepting 
applications from enlisted personnel who desire to delay their 
separation or retirement.  The deadline for application submission 
is 31 August 2022. 

How about that! Did you want to rethink getting out? Well, now you can, just delay that separation or retirement for another year! Unless you didn’t take the COVID vaccine, in which case you better be part of the class-action lawsuit or else you’re out on the street!

The rest of the NAVADMIN is the dirty details of who can or can’t apply. Another NAVADMIN to look at is 172/22, titled: ACTIVE DUTY ENLISTED ADVANCE-TO-POSITION PROGRAM UPDATE. No corrected copy, looks like they got this one right the first time. I’ll summarize it: enlisted members can apply for billets one paygrade above their current one.

That sounds good right? Let people take on more challenges early? You might think that, until you realize the reason this is happening is because there isn’t enough people at that paygrade to fill all the slots…meaning the Navy is desperate to fill them, even if it means sticking otherwise not-as-qualified individuals in there to meet their numbers.

By the Navy’s own admission, it is hitting a personnel wall that it can’t seem to scale. One contributing reason might be all the “smart people” in the room telling us we could use part-time people, cut back on pay and benefits, and magically we’d have a better, cheaper Navy. I’m not making this up, see every single report that Beth Asch authored at RAND. She’s one of many “smart people” that writes up nice looking reports about policy that influences many people in Washington DC, but don’t seem to understand the nuances associated with a job where you actively kill people while they try to kill you. Since the military services did put into place many of RAND’s recommendations, how’s that working out?

The next steps I expect to see is the military suspending physical fitness separations. After that, expect waivers galore for things like tattoos and prior non-violent felonies. After that…expect stop-loss and calls to bring back the draft.

2023 is going to be even worse. So buckle up and hope we don’t go to war with China.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency, because those people will simply point you to some RAND report to justify their actions.

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Why we’re not solving the veteran suicide problem

Spoiler alert: its because we’re solving the wrong problem.

You can’t walk around on a military base without being innundated with suicide prevention materials. Walk down any hallway and there’s a poster with the hotline number. Navigate to any DoD website and there is a 24/7 military suicide chat line linked at the bottom. Heck, even if you sit down to do your business in the bathroom, you’ll see a suicide prevention poster on the inside of the door.

Granted, the suicide rate in the military is rising. The military is composed mainly of 18-25 year old men, who traditionally have the highest rate of suicide. Combined with the stress of working in a job field where people actively try to kill you while you kill them, and you’d think that would spike the suicide rate. But for the longest time, despite the many years spent in Afghanistan and Iraq, military suicide was statistically lower than average.

From Suicide Rates Among Active Duty Service Members Compared with Civilian Counterparts, 2005–2014

Look at 2005-2008 here. The rate is far below what you would expect. You can look at the crude numbers here as well.

It’s obvious though that the rate was rising. If you look at combat deaths and the news, the United States had a nasty surge in combat deaths from 2009-2011. This was when we were trying to drawdown in Iraq and surging in Afghanistan. It would be easy to blame the added stress for the rise in suicide. But I’m not so sure. After the surge, the number of combat deaths plummeted, yet the military suicide rate continued to rise. The additional stresses of combat, once removed, don’t support the hypothesis that it caused the increase in suicide.

In order to have enough troops to surge, the military, particularly the Army, waived a lot of requirements, including physical standards and prior drug use. This means that instead of selecting from the best of the crop, you get a swath of people that look more like most Americans, which means you get the suicide rate of most Americans. Notice that the suicide rate plateaus and matches the average civilian rate.

This is further confirmed by looking at the most recent suicide rates. The rate slowly began rising again from 2018 until today, despite a continued decline in combat deaths. Now its rising again. What are we doing that might cause it to rise?

From DoD Suicide Report
From DoD Report on Suicide

If you look at my previous posts here, I’ve been complaining about the drop in standards and loss in direction for the military for a while now. The Army finally admitted it will simply be short 10,000 troops, but that it “wanted to maintain high standards” instead of recruiting more soldiers. To that I call BS, because they already lowered standards a lot in order to get to where they are at now.

Worse still, we’re cutting back on training. The Army softened its boot camp, which caused retention to go up, but likely didn’t help build soldier’s confidence. Most of the services have cut back on specialized training (the Navy in particular), so its harder for service members to feel like an expert in their field. Combine that with a refocus on things like “extremism training,” and military members can’t be faulted for feeling a bit adrift.

So we’re lowering entrance standards, which we have proof raises our sucide rate, AND we’re shortening and softening our training, making less capable military members (who, by the way, KNOW that they aren’t as capable). That’s a bad combination, and its the real reason behind the continued rise in suicide. It’s not that we lack the funding for suicide prevention programs. It’s that we’re solving the wrong problem.

Until we solve the standards problem, we can’t begin to prevent military suicide.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

And if you’re thinking about suicide, put it off for a day, watch this Jordan Peterson video, and then call a friend or a hotline. We’d rather have you around.

The Navy’s “punishments” for the BONHOMME RICHARD fire, explained

USS BONHOMME RICHARD on fire on 12 July 2020, from Wikipedia

Do you remember the USS BONHOMME RICHARD fire from 2020? Today marks two years since the fire was finally extinguished, having raged for four days while the ship was moored in Naval Station San Diego. Thankfully, nobody was killed in the fire, although 63 people suffered minor injuries, but the ship was ultimately scrapped, being sold for just over 3 million dollars and towed to a scrapyard in Texas.

A multi-billion dollar warship being scrapped due to a fire that should have been put out relatively quickly? Perhaps the Navy will hold someone accountable? I mean, when LtCol Stu Scheller said mean true things on social media, he was placed in jail for nine days and ultimately fined $5,000. Surely the incompetence that leads to the preventable loss of a warship in a US port would be punished more severely?

Well, the Navy unveiled its punishments on Friday:

“The disposition decisions included six Nonjudicial Punishments (NJP) with guilty findings, two NJPs with Matter of Interest Filings (MIF) and a Letter of Instruction (LOI), two NJP dismissals with a warning, one additional MIF, five other LOIs, three Non-Punitive Letters of Caution (NPLOC), two letters to former sailors documenting substandard performance, and six no-action determinations,” according to a statement from the service.”

From navy.mil

The Navy also issued a letter of censure to retired VADM Brown and two LOIs for other admirals.

For most non-Navy people, the language used for the above punishments listed is confusing, so I’ll translate what it says into what it actually means.

First, the letter of censure. In this case, it was issued to VADM (ret) Brown, who is already retired. The letter can be viewed here. A letter of censure is a “strongly” worded letter from the Secretary of the Navy expressing their disgust for someone’s actions. It sits in a service member’s record, so if you were hoping to promote, its unlikely to happen. That…doesn’t matter much to someone who is already retired. Worse still, it appears that nobody interviewed VADM (ret) Brown, and he is contesting the results, so the letter may ultimately be rescinded.

In other words, letter of censure = no punishment if you’re retired.

Let’s look at the non-judicial punishment (NJP) results:

  • 6 NJP with guilty findings
  • 2 NJP with MIF and LOI
  • 2 NJP dismissals
  • 1 MIF
  • 5 LOIs
  • 3 NPLOCs
  • 2 letters to former Sailors
  • 6 no-actions

NJP is a legal proceeding where the Navy doesn’t have to prove something “beyond a reasonable doubt,” instead they can punish someone if there is a “preponderance of the evidence.” If that sounds a bit sketchy to you, it should. The “preponderance” level essentially means you can find someone guilty of a crime even when there is substantial evidence placing doubt as to whether the person was really responsible.

The Navy is supposed to use NJP to punish small offenses quickly so as to maintain good order and discipline. NJP punishments are limited in nature and aren’t considered an actual conviction, so they don’t translate to felonies or misdemeanors on a service member’s record when they leave service.

The fire on the BONHOMME RICHARD was not a small offense. Reading through the description of the poor response to the fire should make you angry as to how the Navy, charged with maintaining the premier maritime fighting force for the most important nation in the world, could let a critical warship burn in a major city when it has plenty of firefighting equipment nearby. This SHOULD have gone to court martial. The one Sailor accused of starting the fire, a Seaman Apprentice, is facing criminal charges at a court martial, and we don’t know yet those results. Yet for some reason the Navy elected to not pursue court martial charges for any other person involved in this case.

So NJP it is. Six members were found guilty at NJP. We don’t have the full results, but the SECNAV said that two members, the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer of the BONHOMME RICHARD, were assigned letters of reprimand and forfeiture of pay. NJP limits pay forfeitures for officers to 1/2 months pay for up to two months. With this in mind, we can calculate the lower limit for how much pay was taken by assuming they each lost 1/2 months pay for one month, and the upper limit as 1/2 months pay for two months.

CAPT Thoroman enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and thus has 34 years of service. His base pay is $12,980 a month, so he could have been fined $6,490 or $12,980. CAPT Ray joined via NROTC in 1996, and his base pay is $12,725, so he’s being fined either $6,362.50 or $12,725.

Adding these up, the lower limit of total fines is: $12,852.50
The upper limit of total fines is: $25,705
The estimated cost to fix the BONHOMME RICHARD was around $3 billion, so these fines represent 0.000857% of the repair cost for the ship.

I might be off a bit, check my math and let me know in the comments.

So that’s the financial cost, and as far as I can tell, the ONLY financial cost. Granted, its not likely the Navy could get $3 billion from all the people involved, but only punishing the CO and XO financially seems a bit light. The other guilty NJPs probably issued letters of reprimand, which like the letter of censure is a black mark on your record that otherwise has no bearing in the civilian world.

What about the Matter of Interest Findings, or MIF? A MIF is a negative letter that also sits on a service member’s record that essentially says this person wasn’t necessarily guilty, buuuuut we think we should be concerned about this individual. Translating that to reality, it means that person will likely never get promoted, but the MIF doesn’t become a felony or misdemeanor in the civilian world.

Letters of Instruction (LOIs) are letters that say “You did something wrong, and I’m instructing you on how to do better.” Then, once you complete all those items, the LOI is considered complete. I have an LOI from my first command where I screwed up a tagout and my CO made me provide tagout training to my division. LOIs don’t go on your record and don’t affect promotion. They correct bad behavior and are one step above yelling at someone for doing something stupid. Again, not much of a lasting punishment.

A NPLOC is a non-punitive letter of caution. It has even less teeth than a punitive letter, because it doesn’t sit on your record at all. A NPLOCs whole purpose is to give you more evidence on someone that is likely committing crimes but staying just below the threshold to get caught. Do you remember the “I’m not touching you game,” where you irritated your sibling by putting your finger just bareeely in front of their nose or cheek and said “I’m not touching you,” like somehow not touching you meant you couldn’t be punished? Remember when your birthing person mom or dad said “That’s strike one, do it again and you’ll get a whooping.” That’s a NPLOC. Not a punishment at the time, but could be used later.

Did any Admirals besides VADM (ret) Brown get punished? Well, Rear Admiral Scott Brown (not related to the VADM (ret) Brown) and Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage both got LOIs.

And that’s it. So, just to review:

  • USS BONHOMME RICHARD catches fire on 12 July 2020, burns for four days and is a total loss of somewhere around 3 billion dollars.
  • Two years later, the Navy issues approximately 30 pieces of administrative paper that say they are really, really mad with how a Sailor acted.
  • The Navy also issues somewhere between $12K and $25K in fines.
  • The Navy has an ongoing criminal trial into one Sailor they think started the fire that we don’t have resolution on yet two years after the initial event.
  • No other Court Martials were convened.
  • No Sailor above the paygrade of O-6 was held responsible in any meaningful way.
  • No person was sent to jail (at least not yet).

And that’s it. That’s the extent of how the Navy holds people responsible for losing a warship inside our own port.

We often talk about the “Deep State” and how it protects bureaucrats from punishment while holding all the “little people” responsible. While its been obvious for some time now, the failure of the investigation into the fires on the BONHOMME RICHARD confirm that the military should be included into this “Deep State” calculus. It goes far beyond COVID vaccines and extremist “training.” The people wearing stars in our military will gleefuly destroy the lives of the hard working men and women in our service while continuing to provide poor leadership, poor guidance and force an ever increasing focus on non-warfighting skills. They are responsible for the poorly structured command and control diagrams, the shortened damage control training pipelines, and the increasing focus on non-warfighting skills, yet they demand all the pomp and circumstance for their office from every service member below them, and demand that we ASSUME (always a dangerous word) that they are really ready to conduct warfighting on behalf of this great nation.

Contrast the response to the BONHOMME RICHARD fire to that of the USS COLE, which had a massive hole blown in the side at the waterline from a suicide bomber, yet stayed afloat long enough to be brought home in one piece on the MV Blue Marlin, and eventually returned to service. Think about that when you read the descriptions in the BONHOMME RICHARD report on how Sailors didn’t know basics about their fire fighting gear:

On the morning of the fire 87% of the ship’s fire stations “​remained in inactive equipment maintenance status,” according to the investigation. None of the crew members tried to use the ship’s foam sprinkling system because it had not been properly maintained and “in part because the crew lacked familiarity with capability and availability.” The crew made several other mistakes that day, including waiting far too long to report the fire, the investigation found. Several sailors decided not to put their firefighting gear on because they thought they were not wearing the proper uniform to take part in firefighting efforts. Sailors were also not properly trained on how to use emergency breathing devices, leading to cases of smoke inhalation.

Task and Purpose Article

What happened in the 20 years since the COLE bombing? How did we get worse at damage control as a Navy? Most importantly, who should be held responsible for that?

One final piece of history. The original BOMHOMME RICHARD was a converted merchant ship used by Captain John Paul Jones to raid the coast of Britain. In the Battle of Flamborough Head, Jones fought the HMS Serapis, which heavily damaged and eventually sank the RICHARD, but not before Jones had lashed the ships together, stormed the Serapis and ultimately captured her in a massive win for the fledgling United States Navy.

One has to ask how Captain John Paul Jones, currently interred at the Naval Academy, would react to his old ship’s namesake suffering such a tragedy, and how he would have conducted the follow-on investigation.

This post represents the views of the author and does not represents views of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or any other government agency. You’re welcome to read their views in their official posts on navy.mil. If you learned something from this article, please consider donating to Da Tech Guy, or purchasing one of the author’s books for you or someone you care about.

Building solid products

I still enjoy going to the theater for a movie. My last in-theater movie was Dune, and while I have a good sound system at home, nothing can compare to giant theater speakers making your chair shake as a sandworm travels across the screen. Theaters have had to up their game compared to when I was a kid. Back in my day, you were lucky to get hot popcorn with something resembling butter and a seat that was cleaned a few hours ago. Now your seat is cushy, was reserved in advance (no rushing to the theater), and at my local theater you can order alcohol and dinner from your seat!

Movies are finally starting to up their game as well. We went through a drought of movies after Avengers: Endgame that just seemed didn’t inspire spending the money to go to a theater. On top of that, the movies went both woke and China-censored at the same time (which ironically often conflicted with itself). But times are changing, and Hollywood seems to be waking up to the realization that it should make solid movies and worry less about pleasing the Chinese or the woke mobs.

Apparently, its big enough that even CNN is recognizing it.

Look at the Top Gun sequel. Rather then make a movie about a sad Tom Cruise now working as the top DEI enforcement officer at the Pentagon, or cut out the Taiwanese flag on his iconic jacket, Hollywood decided to just make a solid movie. And it sold, bigly, now well over 1 billion dollars. Or look at Spider-man: No Way Home, another solid movie that just focused on being a movie. Or Dune, which took complicated source material and pieced it into an action-packed film.

My point is, if you make a solid movie, more often than not you’ll make money. That holds true across many other disciplines: make a solid product, and you’ll make a solid profit.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you like this post, why not listen to the author narrate his epic tale of woe to you by purchasing his book on Audible?

When should you start a family?

I have five living kids at home, and would have an additonal six year old girl with Down Syndrome had she not died after a failed heart surgery. I also have a pretty odd mix of friends, most of whom don’t have a family anywhere near my size, so I get asked a lot of questions about raising a large family. The most common questions come from younger couples asking about when the right, perfect time is to start a family.

And well…there isn’t one.

Someone might tell you to at least wait till after high school, which sounds like pretty good advice. After all, you probably aren’t married in high school, need to finish your diploma, and let’s be honest, most high schoolers don’t think through such life altering choices as having a baby.

Yet I know a few families that were high school sweethearts that married in or pretty near to high school graduation. My mom was one of them. She was married at 18 to my dad (who was graduating college and 4 years her senior) and somehow managed to successfully raise three kids while traveling the world with a Marine Corps officer. Compare that with too many of today’s graduates that can barely write English papers and brag about doing their laundry only a few days late with hashtag adulting on social media. Perhaps that says more about the current state of education than family planning though.

We could pick more times: after you finish your degree, after to start your first job, after you “settle down” (whatever that means), or after you are “ready” (seriously, what the heck does that mean??). But every time you try to nail down a right time, you’ll find lots of counter examples of people starting families that don’t follow that logic that come out just fine.

Which is why there isn’t a perfect time to start a family. Sadly, I see too many good, family-oriented couples searching for the perfect time to start a family. Many of them pray over it, but their prayers revolve around asking God to tell them when to start a family, like they expect some booming voice to emanate from the clouds declaring “Have intercourse at 6:35 pm on July 12th!” or some other nonsense like that. This delay and worry is part of the reason people are waiting later and later to start families, which makes it harder to have children as your biological clock only runs at full tilt for so long.

The recent SCOTUS decision is likely making many couples revisit this question. Abortion and contraception make it appear to give us control of when we have children. Neither does, or certainly doesn’t without consequences. Accepting the challenges, and the joys, of having a family will mean accepting it on the timeline that it comes to you.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to this blog or purchasing one of the author’s books.

Renaming the Stennis is dumb

If you don’t follow the U.S. Naval Institute, you could be forgiven for not knowing that there are a lot of articles written by Naval Officers thinking about the future of seapower. Some are good, some are not, but the fact that we continue to have officers that at least think about the future is a good sign. Unfortunately, the USNI articles have morphed from thinking about integrating cyber in future maritime conflicts to increasingly focusing on cultural issues. The latest in this string of articles that includes delving into the LGBTQ culture of Newport, RI, and looking at the Confederate connections in the Naval Academy is a proposal to rename the USS JOHN C STENNIS (JCS).

The JCS is named after Senator John Stennis of Mississippi, the last Democrat Senator from that state and one of the longest serving Senators in US history. Senator Stennis has an interesting history, and LCDR (ret) Reuben Green focuses on racist comments that he made in 1956 along with his criminal behavior as trial prosecutor in Brown vs Mississippi. The fact that John Stennis was racist isn’t up for debate, and neither is the fact that racism is wrong. The notion that to correct this we need to rename the JCS when she pulls in for a refit though is stupid.

Anytime we name anything after a human being, its going to cause controversy. The Navy named a replenishment oiler after Harvey Milk, who took plenty of controversial actions, including outing the homosexuality of a Marine that acted to save President Ford’s life for his own political gain. We also have a USS Gabrielle Giffords, who voted in favor of limiting sales of assault weapons, which more than a few military members own and use without issue in their personal lives.

Any human being we’re going to name ships after is going to offend someone. Should we rename the USNS Maury, who despite contributing much to the study of weather and oceanography, fought in the Confederate Navy? Or the USNS Cesar Chavez, who advocated against immigration? Should we look deeper into the Kennedy family, which has plenty of skeletons in the closet and has two ships named after John and Robert Kennedy?

There are two ways to solve this. The first is to try and pick completely non-controversial names. We can name ships after battles, cities, states and even fish (which might include bumblebees if you’re a resident of California). The other option is to continue naming ships after people, with the understanding that sometimes these people will let you down. Especially with an increasing digital trail that follows everyone, its likely that anyone in the future will have said something controversial that was captured in a video, social media post or a published article.

This brings up a larger question: As a society, can we accept that people are multi-faceted and will have things we both like and dislike about them? I want to answer “Yes” to this question. While Martin Luther King Jr. had extra-marital affairs that I don’t agree with, he should be celebrated for his work in desegregating America. I can accept that Matthew Maury was a brilliant scientist that advanced our understanding of weather and oceanography while also disagreeing with his choice to serve in the Confederate Navy.

We become less human when we attempt to create binary heroes that are all good or all bad. Renaming the JCS would open the door to renaming other ships, creating a very political process that will sway depending on who is in power, and is a door best left shut.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Honey bees and communism

The author checking on one hive. These bees were removed from the attic in a house, hence the odd comb.

A honey bee colony is composed of thousands of individual bees. Almost all of these bees are female workers. The workers spend their whole life working on behalf of the colony. Newly hatched workers take care of the inside of the colony, cleaning out honey cells, taking care of the young, and tending to the queen bee. As these workers get older, they begin flying out to gather nectar (which they use to make honey) and pollen (which is used to raise young bees).

Like all good little communist workers, the worker bees continue to work until they literally burn out. During the year, a worker bee lifespan is about 42 days. Some workers will get eaten by a variety of animals or other insects, while others fall victim to pesticides or bad weather. If she manages to survive all of these dangers, an old worker bee that can no longer contribute to the hive faces a dilemma. If she tries to retire to work a less intensive job, her sisters will pull her out of the hive and throw her off the landing board. Most spent workers instead commit a sort of bee-suicide, simply flying away and dying alone.

Life for the male bees, called drones, is not much better. Drones are larger and have better eyesight, but gather no nectar or pollen. Instead, they simply eat off the stores that their sisters build up. Drones fly out during the day looking for a virgin queen to mate with. If they succeed in this endeavor they die, as certain…body parts…break off during copulation. If drones don’t mate by the end of the year, before the onset of winter, the other worker bees will throw them off the landing board and keep them out of the hive, since they aren’t needed for the winter and take up space. I imagine this is a sort of “This is SPARTA!” moment for the worker bees, freeing themselves of the loafers that sat around guzzling their gathered honey all year.

Even the queen, who can live up to five years, doesn’t live the glorious lifestyle we would associate with her title. She lays anywhere between 800 to 3,000 eggs a day in the hive, allowing the hive to grow and stay strong. But as a queen ages and struggles to maintain this level of activity, the hive will begin building a queen cell, where it will raise a new queen. Once that new queen returns after mating, the honey bees will ball up around the old queen and smother her to death.

Honey bee society almost perfectly mirrors communism. No bee owns anything. The honey cells are open to all bees. Everyone does their job for the good of the hive. This model can be amazingly productive. Some honeybee hives can produce over a hundred pounds of honey in a year. Considering that a gallon of honey takes around 55,000 “bee miles” of flight to produce, the bees certainly prove that a communist society can produce good results when everyone is dedicated to the cause.

But bees also show the dark side of communism. Once a bee is no longer useful to the hive, its cast out to die without thought or mercy. Whether it is workers that are used up, drones that never mated with a virgin queen, or a queen that can’t lay enough eggs, the hive is fast to discard any bee deemed no longer useful. There is no bee retirement. Heck, bees can’t even live alone, as experiments have shown they die if not in the hive despite having plenty of food and water.

Honey bees give us a glimpse into what communist perfection looks like, a world that can be both amazingly productive and savagely dehumanizing at the same time. While not everything translates from bee to man, the similarities do exist. I wonder if bees were placed on this earth by God to teach lessons about ourselves. Wisdom is often described as learning from the mistakes and successes of others. Perhaps we would be wise to learn from the honey bee before attempting to model our society after a hive.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, consider purchasing a book from the author or donating to Da Tech Guy.

Opioids are no joke

The opioid addiction crisis in America has been in the news for quite a few years now. It tends to elicit the same politically-motivated responses from each side. The Left seems to ignore it mostly (since it hits a large portion of rural America that doesn’t vote for them), but occasionally someone uses it to argue for more lenient drug laws and better rehab options. The Right uses it to argue for more money for rural areas and occasionally rails about Big Pharma.

It’s hard to really understand what motivates someone addicted to opioids if you’re a regular person like me that doesn’t use illicit drugs. But I got a taste of it this past week. I had surgery last Friday on my shoulder to repair the over 18 years of damage the Navy has done to me, shoving me in submarines, airplanes and other small spaces that I was probably never meant to fit into. It all caught up, so I spent over two hours with a surgeon poking around my shoulder and repairing the various tears and installing a lot of anchors. When it was all finished, my brother-in-law drove me home with a large pack of medications, one of which was oxycodone.

Now, I’ve never had any narcotics, so I was careful to take the oxycodone on the prescribed schedule. By Sunday, I felt awesome. Sure, my arm was still in a sling and I was slowly working it back into a full range of motion, but I still felt great. I was walking around the house just fine, enjoyed being outside in my garden showing my kids what vegetable to pick, and I did plenty of “Netflix and chill.”

The chill dropped off on Tuesday. My prescription ran out, and that morning I had physical therapy. I would describe the crash of my mood like the drop as sudden, awful and gut wrenching. The last case was definitely true, since I threw up after the physical therapist had tortured me for 30 minutes. I spent most of Tuesday on the couch with some sort of ice pack on my shoulder, wondering what pain the next 10 minutes will bring.

Wednesday was better, and I learned to work through my pain, and by Thursday I was back to a much happier place. That brief glimpse of how effective oxycodone was, and how my whole world changed just after going off it from a weekend of use, gave me a far better understanding of just how powerful addiction is and the difficulty in breaking it. I have a lot more sympathy for someone that is in constant pain and just wants to feel normal, and if you can take a tiny pill (my oxycodone was the size of my thumbnail) to make it all go away, why wouldn’t you?

I can’t say I know what the answer to the opioid crisis is, but I can say some of our assumptions are flawed. I don’t think most people want to be addicted. I knew that while it was easy to take that tiny pill to feel better, long term it was a bad idea. Thankfully I have a family that can support me sitting on a couch for a while. What about senior citizens that don’t have family? What about the many single people who don’t have adult kids or even neighbors to check in on them? Thrusting these people into a bucket labeled “deplorable addicts” denies them humanity and makes it too easy and convenient to ignore their plight.

We need some actual solutions to opioid addiction that preserve our use of these drugs to manage pain while recognizing the power they have to destroy our lives if we aren’t careful.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, why not donate to Da Tech Guy or purchase one of the author’s books on Amazon?

Tragedy of the Commons: HOAs

Homeowner Associations, or HOAs, are a sneaky way that fascism crept into our daily lives. HOAs are ubiquitus in most residential neighborhoods, and unless you buy an older home or build from scratch, its hard to escape them, since around 80% of new homes are built into an HOA.

The original idea behind an HOA seems to be a way for cities to dump the responsibility for maintaining small residential parks. Rather than have the city maintain it, an HOA would collect fees and do the dirty work. Even better, HOAs could enforce codes on everything from mulch color to weeds in your lawn, which would keep home values up as well as property taxes. From the government’s perspective, its a win-win.

For homeowners, its a total loss. HOAs have taken on a mind of their own, going so far as to foreclose on people’s homes and sell them at auction. We’re not talking just one or two homes. In Colorado, one HOA had filed 2,400 foreclosure cases against homeowners. Many of these followed a similar pattern: a homeowner gets fined for some stupud nonsense like weeds, and if they don’t pay up, the HOA tacks on legal fees and late fees. Once you reach into the thousands of dollars, it becomes almost impossible for a homeowner to pay it, so the HOA files a foreclosure case and attempts to kick the homeowner out and sell their house at auction.

Kicking someone out of their house for weeds in the front lawn and selling the house at auction. Read that sentence out loud and ask yourself how any person could stoop that low.

HOAs try to rip out perfectly good trees, beat people up for free speech, and even punish someone for having the gall to put out a dog treat dispenser. By far the worst problem is that the HOA tries to regulate your life while you’re in your own home. It’s bad enough dealing with morons at work, but at home? HOAs were one of the main reasons I built a custom home not in a community (which you can read about here).

HOAs don’t often get national media attention, but your HOA probably controls your well being a lot more than most national politics do (except for Biden-flation). These monstrosities need to be dismantled and destroyed. Some people are doing just that through legal means, like the Colorado legislature that is limiting fees and foreclosure cases. Many people are pushing back. When one HOA tried to stop a thin-blue-line flag, multiple neighbors began flying the same flag. As Stu Scheller likes to say “We can’t all be wrong.”

If you’re in an HOA now, I recommend getting onto the board and dismantling it on the inside. That’s what one of my neighbors has done. He has approved and expedited nearly every neighbor request for their property, making sure people can do whatever they want to their property. If you can’t do that, you should bring up HOA reform with your state representative, so that instead of debating what person to name the next highway after, they might actually make your life better. It’s a fight worth fighting, and unlike national politics, your voice can really make a difference.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to Da Tech Guy and purchasing one of the author’s books.