The Haikou during RIMPAC 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery, from Wikipedia

It wasn’t too long ago that the US invited China to participate in the RIMPAC Naval Exercise. It was pretty amazing to see Chinese warships, including the Type 052 destroyer Haikou, at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Access to the Naval Station included allowing foreign Sailors to purchase items from the Naval Exchange. The exchange had a massive boom in sales, such that they even chartered a bus to move Sailors back and forth.

When I walked into the NEX I saw the normal purchases of alcohol, cigars, Hawaiian food and the like. I was really surprised to see Chinese Sailors purchasing baby formula. I was absolutely baffled, so I walked over and asked one of them why. He explained that he planned to sell it at home, because nobody trusted Chinese-made baby formula.

Continue reading “You can keep your Chinese steel”

My last duty station was Hawaii, and now I’m in the north east. In both cases, the local government treated me like a criminal for owning a weapon. For example, I had to pay 16 dollars and 50 cents (in exact change!) in Hawaii to have them do a background check. Despite the check being essentially instant, it took the Hawaii PD an hour. While I sat there, the guy said “You know it’s fairly intensive,” to which I replied “The government gave me a clearance, I’m really not too worried about my background.” Low and behold, I cleared.

It was almost impossible to find a range on the island and shoot regularly without paying an arm and a leg. So I didn’t. And for many service members, that’s what happens too. We get into an intensive job and in our time off try to spend time with a young family, and before long it has been years since we hit the range for anything but a mandatory once a year pistol shoot to stand the quarterdeck watch.

So if you’re slightly older and remember the days when kids had shotguns in the car so they could bird hunt after school, then you have some responsibilities.

Continue reading “You need to take your friends shooting, hunting and to Mass”

Over 10 years ago, I was the electrical officer aboard a submarine. One of my Sailors was a massive slacker. Every time he was on duty, I would catch him gaffing off his maintenance responsibilities. Every collateral duty I assigned him was done poorly, and almost always required another Sailor to ensure completion. Luckily for me, he indicated he didn’t intend to re-enlist, so I was happy when he finally received his separation orders.

And then…my Engineer asked me to write him up for an award. I protested. “The guy sucks. He hasn’t done anything worthwhile.” Still, my engineer persisted. Fortunately for me, he was too busy to follow up, so I simply didn’t do it, and this Sailor separated without a Navy Achievement Medal.

The achievement medal, quickly becoming a default “I worked here” award. Image from Wikipedia.

Continue reading “The unused tools in the military”

We need to talk about school shootings.

Somehow in the past, we didn’t have this problem. Somehow, kids brought guns to school all the darn time without deciding that it was a good idea to gun down their fellow students. I was guilty of leaving a bunch of shotgun shells in my book bag in 4th grade, because I had gone hunting with my dad the previous weekend. While we had the occasional lunatic, school shootings were pretty rare. Most violent crime happened outside school, and thankfully our crime rate overall has continued to decline over the last twenty years, so we’ve actually gotten safer over time.

So what’s different?

Continue reading “Save our kids by giving teachers guns and banning Facebook”

I’ve now lived through multiple government shutdowns. Each has had a different effect on me, but this last one, and the ongoing Continuing Resolution, has made the largest impact, because I currently manage almost 90 Sailors, a large inventory of equipment, and a large travel budget with Sailors deployed all over the world. I think there is a big misconception about a government shutdown. People imagine that everything just comes to a standstill, everyone just up and leaves their jobs and sits at home on their hands. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the military, we continue to operate. We continue “operationally related” travel and functions, although that term is often left to local commanders to figure out. We don’t get paid, but that really comes in to play only if the shutdown happens over the 1st or 15th of a month. Otherwise, everyone is showing up to work and doing exactly what they did the day before.

So why exactly is a short shutdown a problem? Glad you asked!

Continue reading “Why Government Shutdowns Suck”

Anyone who watches Star Wars, Star Trek or any other sci-fi flicks knows the excitement of watching humans explore a new world. It’s exciting mainly because we currently can’t do it. At best, we can send trash can-sized robots to Mars and a few older robots at the edge of our solar system. The last time we stepped on the moon was in 1972. Essentially, we’ve been stuck in low earth orbit for 40 years.

Trump indicated he wanted to lead in space, including going back to the moon and then to Mars. Plenty of people talk about going big in space. I remember Bush telling us we’d get a moon base, and Obama saying eloquent words about NASA. But they didn’t get the job done.

It is easier to do something in the realm of the possible. Sending people to the space station, while it is challenging, doesn’t push any boundaries in space. We aren’t going to learn a lot more in low earth orbit. Building a moon base will give us the knowledge needed to build a base on Mars, and building on Mars will eventually get us off Earth permanently.

You would think people would be excited about this. Trump understands he can’t fund both efforts, and his push to allow funding for the space station to expire is done for exactly this reason. Yet already people are lining up to say they will fight him.

This isn’t unprecedented. Back in age of exploration, plenty of people never left the shore line. They told the exploring mariners of their day that they were crazy to try and cross into the Indian Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific and eventually travel around the world. But after each of these feats, it encouraged others to do the same. Magellan’s expedition nearly ended in failure, but his survivors (Juan Elcano and 17 others) returned home to a huge welcome, and Juan was awarded money and numerous titles. Subsequent circumnavigations were never viewed nearly as highly, and over time it was just routine.

We need to get that way in space, first with the moon and then with Mars, and we can only do that if we leave our own shore line behind.


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.

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I don’t normally watch cable news, but on Friday I had no choice. My sponsor at a command I was visiting hadn’t put in a visit request, so I had to sit in the lobby while my credentials were checked. On the TV was CNN, and they were showing their “Pulse of the People” segment, with the topic “Women on Trump.”

As I watched a good ten minutes of this, I picked up on a lot of nasty setup items that put people at disadvantages.

Continue reading “Lacking a pulse of real people”

Every year, more than a few people make the New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Gyms get crowded, diets get started…and then by about now, people start falling away. Work comes back in force, kid’s activities start again, and life gets busy…and resolutions get discarded.

Maybe you just quit, or maybe you’re thinking of quitting. A few years ago, I was in your shoes. I weighed 225 pounds, and the Navy was taping me (measuring my waist and neck) to see if I was within body fat standards. I was always near the line, only a percentage point away from failing. Now I am 185 pounds, well within Navy regulations. On top of feeling better, my blood pressure and cholesterol is at very healthy levels.

So if you’re still up for losing weight, here’s what I recommend:

Continue reading “Keep that new year resolution”

“Nobody gets removed for adultery! You’re charges won’t stand.”

These words were spoken by a (now former) Sailor when I officially delivered charges. He had been trouble since almost his first day showing up at the command. Besides going through a messy divorce for his shotgun wedding, having a kid and then not paying child support, causing my first safety stand down in years when he shorted out an UPS battery…all these and more, this guy was just problems. After numerous verbal and written counselings, being put on report just wasn’t getting the message across, so I administratively separated him on three different charges, one of which was a self-admitted adultery.

Or in his case, a quick separation…

If you ask most military members, they’ll tell you the same thing he did: that nobody gets removed for adultery. And they are wrong, if only because I removed a Sailor for it. Adultery is still illegal in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

But that statement speaks to something else…that somehow, because we disagree with a law, and because it’s socially acceptable to partake in such actions, that somehow that justifies doing those things, and thus we shouldn’t enforce that rule.

Continue reading “Laws don’t work that way”

There’s a lot going on for the Navy right now. We’re promised a substantial increase in ships, we’ve got a new strategy that calls out our near-peer adversaries, and we’re finally taking a hard look at how badly we run people into the ground.

But if you hit up Google News for some Navy news, you get a story criticizing the Secretary of the Navy for wearing a gun.

Continue reading “Can we get back to killing bad guys?”