Travel Log

My Latin is a bit rusty, but I believe this was erected by Pope Pius IX

The Roman Colosseum was interesting. It was a shame that it was such a tourist trap, but the opportunity to walk through a structure that’s older than America was unique. I was surprised to see  just how many memorials to Christians who died there that had been erected.

A Helluva Birthday

I know that posting has been light as of late, but work has gotten in the way. I am currently halfway around  the world showing the flag for the United States. As you might imagine, internet connections are not the greatest at sea, nor is my free time as bountiful. But, I have not forgotten about you, dear readers.

About a three days before my twenty-fourth birthday, I received travel orders from Big Navy for to go meet USS FIRST SHIP out on the wild Atlantic. So, in keeping with one of the longest standing Naval traditions, I dropped everything I was doing and hopped on a plane on the eve of my birthday and flew thousands of miles to points untrodden. I actually turned twenty-four somewhere over the Atlantic.

I am now working hard, trying to get up to speed on the steep learning curve that are daily operations aboard a warship. I will update the blog as I am able, and will hopefully be able to return to three posts a week. But, fret not, Kipling Friday will continue unabated.

The Navy and Bio-Fuel

For the last few years, the Navy has been pouring a lot of valuable money into bio-fuel research. The way that the project has been sold has been as a way to make the fleet more environmentally friendly, reducing emissions and the like. Now anyone who knows much about the engineering of ships knows that for the majority of our fleet, we use gas turbines in our main propulsion plants, and gas turbines burn through an exorbitant amount of gas in under the most “economical” of conditions. Because of this, the bio-fuel campaign has come under great scrutiny as a waste of money, including just recently from the Honorable Randy Forbes (R-VA).

The Navy used 20,000 gallons of algae-derived fuel for a November test in San Diego. Here, Lt. Cmdr. Frank Kim compares sample bottles of traditional diesel fuel and the alternative blend. Photo Courtesy of Dept of the Navy.

But the idea of “greening” the fleet isn’t all bad, it’s just being sold the wrong way. Having the ability to power our ships using bio-fuel as well as regular marine diesel provides us flexibility in the event that standard oil supplies are cut-off. Flexibility is crucial in warfare, as our adeptness at being able to roll with the punches can mean the difference between being victorious or having our rear-ends handed to us. And that being the case, we need to sell to Congress that we need to pursue bio-fuel alternatives in order to maintain superiority on the sea.

The only caveat is that bio-fuel isn’t the most economical way of providing independence from the vagaries of the oil market. The best way to do this is to convert as much of the fleet as possible to nuclear power. The joy about nuclear plants is that they don’t produce carbon emissions, they don’t need to be fueled up for decades, and they can run nearly indefinitely, meaning that a ship’s range is only limited by the amount of food and fresh water it can carry.

The only downside to a nuclear fleet is the amount of money required on the front end to install the reactor and propulsion plant. In the end, both initiatives are necessary, as well as increasing our domestic oil production as much as possible.

Counter Piracy Done Right

This video was making the rounds on the internets over the weekend. It depicts a skirmish between private security contractors aboard a merchant vessel and would-be pirates attacking said vessel. The contractors repel the pirates with force, saving the merchant vessel, its crew, and the contents of its hold from ransom.

This is the only way to deal with pirates. The mercurial political situation and rampant poverty affecting most countries that sponsor or are home to pirates are complicated issues that leave the citizens of said countries with few other options than to engage in illegal trafficking or piracy. Also, many of the governments of those countries realize that they can make tremendous profits by charging said pirates and smugglers for safe harbor.

In short, the only real true way to easily ensure the safe passage of a ship bearing the flag of the United States is to show the pirates that to trifle with a US flagged ship is lunacy and will end with their sure demise. And the only way to do that is have American warships sailing with consistent presence in said pirate-infested waters, providing forward presence and deterrence.

It worked for Stephen Decatur, it’ll work now.

The VMI Legacy

On the 15th of February, the VMI Family lost one of its most distinguished Alumni, Colonel William Dabney ’61, USMC (The announcement can be found on The Institute’s website). Colonel Dabney served with distinction in Vietnam, commanding two rifle companies of Marines in defense of Hill 881 South (Hat Tip to CDR Salamander). For his actions, during the Siege of Khe Sanh, Colonel Dabney received the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps’ second-highest award for valor. Colonel Dabney eventually returned to The Mother I to serve as Commandant of Cadets, influencing a great many Cadets during their most formative years.

But the passing of Colonel Dabney is quite what makes him so special; he’s simply another warrior embarking on the great journey to Valhalla. No, it is what the Colonel’s story can teach us about leadership and personal courage. If you follow the two preceding links, you can read the story in full, including his citation for the Navy Cross. You can also read his remarks upon his receipt of the award.

Will the VMI Corps of Cadets please rise. (All seats remaining vacant after  invited guests were seated had been occupied by cadets.)

Our generation – these men who just stood before you – came home from war to a nation not much disposed to honor the nobility of their service.  Today, as Pete said a few years late, you gave us our parade.  Thank you!(Audience and Warriors applauded the cadets)
Many of you will soon shoulder the responsibility of command leading the citizen soldiers of your generation.  Eight of your number have already given their lives in the cause of freedom in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Should you be called upon to take America’s patriots in harm’s way, you will find awesome, as I did in my time, their courage and determination.  The experience will become the signal moment in your lives.  We wish you God speed, and we salute you. (Another round of applause with the loudest and most robust coming from those 40 men in the front rows of Jackson Memorial Hall.)
His speech is a wonderful example in the old guard showing the newly initiated the way things should be done. True leadership requires that you teach those whom will replace you everything you know in order to be successful and to accomplish the mission. You must also inspire them by your example. If you expect your subordinates to be courageous, you yourself must be courageous in the face of hardship and criticism. You must also be well-grounded in the history of your organization, using examples to inspire those who you lead. A thorough knowledge of history also better arms you against making the same mistakes as your forebears.
This is a concept that was always well-drilled at The Mother I. From day one, every Cadet was taught that he or she has a long, illustrious legacy which they must uphold. It is these teaching moments that build the “Never Say Die!” attitude and shows the Cadets that it is now their solemn responsibility to carry on the proud tradition. It is this knowledge that has lead so many Institute Men to win the day even when facing insurmountable odds, much like Colonel Dabney did during those seventy-seven fateful days on top of Hill 881S.

It’s Good To Be Back

In the last twelve months, I’ve graduated from college, gotten a job, lost a job, and have had to wade through the current quagmire that is the jobs market. And a quagmire it is, as it seems that everyone is hurting and even the usual jobs available in the service industry are quickly fading. At least that’s how things are in my little piece of The South.

But, as bleak as things seem, there are calmer seas on the horizon as I received wonderful news a few short months ago. I was informed that I had been selected for a Student Naval Aviator (SNA) slot by the direct accession selection boards run by the United States Navy. In short, I will be heading off to Officer Candidate School in the next few months to continue my dream of flying fast, pointy-nosed, jet aircraft off of (and back onto) big, gray ships.

Unfortunately, the wait time and amount of paperwork to process in order to join the military these days is quite long, so I’ve decided to try and return to blogging, as well as a few other side projects that I’ve been neglecting lately. I figured: I have the time, so I might as well. Anyway, expect more activity in these here parts of the internets, especially if my side projects amount to anything beyond spinning my wheels.