Category Archive 'US Navy'
06 Oct 2015

Last Navy Ship That Sank an Enemy

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Ironsides
USS Constitution

The Washington Post recently took note of the curious fact, that with the decommissioning of one particular guided missile frigate, the US Navy retains on active service only one ship that ever sunk an enemy, and that ship is the USS Constitution which sunk the HMS Guerriere in 1812!

As the Navy closes in on its 240th birthday, it has reached a milestone: Only one ship remaining in its fleet has ever sunk an enemy vessel—and it’s the USS Constitution, which earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” for withstanding British bombardment during the War of 1812.

The USS Constitution’s crew noted the detail on its Facebook page Tuesday, underscoring how uncommon major encounters are between navies in the 21st century. The only other remaining Navy ship to sink an enemy vessel was the USS Simpson, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate that was decommissioned Tuesday.

The Simpson is best known for combining with the USS Wainwright, a cruiser, and the USS Bagley, a frigate, to destroy an oil rig used as a Iranian surveillance post and the Iranian patrol boat Joshan in Operation Praying Mantis. It was carried out April 18, 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War after the USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf. …

The Constitution, a three-mast wooden frigate, was retired from active service in 1881, but has remained a part of the Navy and was designated as a floating museum in 1907. It fought in the Mediterranean Sea during the First Barbary War in the early 1800s, but is best known for its altercation with the HMS Guerriere on Aug. 19, 1812.

About 400 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, the two ships tangled shortly after the War of 1812 had broken out. The Constitution badly damaged the Guerriere, which was eventually boarded by U.S. sailors and set ablaze.

14 Jun 2015

USS Gabrielle Giffords

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GabrielleGiffords

Duffleblog (military equivalent of The Onion) has a real gem today:

MOBILE, Ala. — Seeking to honor a retired congresswoman and 2011 shooting victim in the most considerate and respectful way possible, the Navy today christened the future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), a first-of-its-kind, gun-free warship.

Designed to hold a core crew of 40 sailors, the Independence-class littoral combat ship has been stripped bare of its Mk 110 57-millimeter gun, all four of its Mk2 .50-cal machine guns, its Evolved SeaRAM 11 cell missile launcher, and its entire cache of small arms, which are typically issued to boarding teams and watch standers.

“Having this mighty warship be 100% gun-free not only helps to honor its heroic namesake, Gabby Giffords, but it also helps the Navy to steer clear of promoting a culture of violence,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who reportedly lobbied hard to get Congress and the Secretary of Defense on board with leaving the Navy’s newest addition to the fleet completely defenseless.

“Once commissioned and put into service,” Mabus continued, “this vessel will truly embody the Navy’s new motto of Semper Modestis— always considerate.”

The Navy Secretary went on to say that he hopes Giffords sets a new trend Navy-wide, and that it’s merely the first ship of many to go weapons-free.

“We have this whole new generation of millennials joining the Navy and becoming sailors on a daily basis, and most of them don’t even like guns,” he said. “So it’s important we listen to their concerns and do what we can to adapt to them.”

Read the whole thing.

03 Dec 2013

Navy Guys Treasure Grotty Coffee Cups

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Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, receives a presentation Tennessee coffee cup from a Third Class Quartermaster on the bridge of USS Picking (DD-685), circa 1955-1961.

Anybody who has had dealings with rust pickers and paint chippers knows that, absent serious intervention, they tend to sit around on their butts all day, bitching and moaning, and drinking endless quantities of battery-acid-strong coffee. I never realized, though, that they never washed their cups.

Naval Historical Foundation explains that they have a tradition concerning crusty coffee cups.

[It] was my first experience with “Navy coffee.” It was hot and strong. Very strong. The thickness of it closely resembled crude oil. It tasted both wonderful and terrible at the same time. Your mind can trick you into believing anything. When a supreme pot of joe is brewed, many of the volunteers would call it “Signal Bridge Coffee,” recalling the nostalgia of long nights and many cups consumed.

After that first morning of coffee, I went to the break room to wash my cup and let it dry for the next day’s angry fix. As I washed out my cup, I felt the sting of glaring eyes from behind my back. I’m sure whoever it was, they could sense my hesitation. I turned around to see GMC Dana Martin, the museum’s active duty OIC. He had a puzzled, concerned look on his face. Chief Martin was grizzled and salty. He was by far one of the saltiest sailors I have ever met. He grabbled my arm washing the cup. My hesitation grew to fear. He leaned in close and told me to “never wash it again,” staring back down at my cup and back to me. I looked at him, puzzled with fascination and disbelief. Although I drink my coffee black, my mind struggled to find reason in the practice.

“I don’t understand,” I told him. ”I need to clean my cup.” I was merely doing what I was taught. Bills should be paid on time. Five minutes early is five minutes late. Coffee mugs should be washed out after use. Simple, right? Wrong. I held my breath and found out just how wrong I really was.

He leaned in again, this time more relaxed (and less confrontational). “I know you are just starting out here, but I want to let you in on a little secret.” He was almost whispering. ”If you intend to stay here at the museum, you can impress the Navy guys with your mug.” He went on to explain to me the significance of an unwashed or “seasoned” coffee mug, particularly in the Navy Chief community. ”And keep it as tarry black as possible,” he added. ”Sometimes it’s the only way you can drink this swill. But you will grow to love it and depend on the taste.” I would never think I would believe him. Boy, was I wrong.

Old coffee in a cup signifies seniority and stature in the military, particularly on deployment. As one blogger noted, “You may not be able to embrace your loved ones while you are gone, but at least you can still taste the same coffee you drank the day you left.”

04 Oct 2013

College Laundry Incidents at Yale

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Certain Yale residential colleges whose names begin with S have started the term this year experiencing a wave of laundry room terrorism.

Ivygate posted a letter from the Master of Saybrook and reported a rumor that the perpetrator (allegedly a female sophomore) had been apprehended and dealt with.

Dear Saybrugians,

Someone has been doing weird, creepy, and (frankly) disgusting things in the Laundry Room. This must stop immediately. If you have observed something of this nature, or know who the perpetrator might be, please let me know. I can’t imagine why someone would do these things, but it has got to stop, and we will take measures to be sure it does.

Thanks,
Master Hudak

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Oldest College Daily story

and

Gawker

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All this reminds me of a series of background incidents in Stephen Coontz’s 1986 Vietnam War novel Flight of the Intruder.

The USS Shiloh carrier from which Jake Grafton and his fellow naval aviators’ A-6 attack aircraft are being launched against North Vietnamese targets experiences on board an outbreak of a form of traditional naval hijinks going back to the WWII era, a Phantom Sh*tter, who leaves personal mementos in all sorts of untoward locations, like the Executive Officer’s ashtray.

Is it possible, I wonder, that what is going on in certain colleges at Yale may have some kind of connection to the US Navy?

24 Oct 2012

Bayonets, Horses, Subs, and Carriers

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Derisive image from HorsesandBayonetstumblr

Obama:

“You mention the Navy, for example… That we have fewer ships than in 1916. … We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. So the question is not a game of Battleship where we are counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities?”

Donald Sensing points out that he’s completely wrong about the bayonets.

As 1916 opened, the US Army’s total size was about 110,000 troops. The Marine Corps was minuscule since the Marines were still seen then as a raiding or expeditionary force rather than a major land combatant force.

In 1916, the Congress passed the National Defense Act that doubled the Army to 220,000 (rounded slightly). The USMC was marginally affected.

    So a compromise was passed in May 1916, as the war raged on and Berlin was debating whether America was so weak it could be ignored. The army was to double in size to 11,300 officers and 208,000 men, with no reserves, and a National Guard that would be enlarged in five years to 440,000 men.

The US Army today has more than 560,000 troops and the USMC more than 200,000. Obama is wrong. we have hundreds of thousands more bayonets now than in 1916.

Sarcasm and condescension only work if the speaker’s presumption of lofty superior knowledge is borne out by his command of actual facts. You can’t successfully accuse your opponent of being an ignoramus when you don’t know what you’re talking about yourself.

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The President was right on the basic fact that the US military, decades ago, replaced horse cavalry with mechanized infantry, armour, and helicopters, but his statement is inevitably undermined by the generally well-known fact that when US military forces were obliged to operate in Afghanistan, it was found that horse-mounted soldiers were essential.

US Special Operations Forces have consequently resumed training in horse-back riding at Fort Bragg.

So, though the US military hasn’t today got as many horses as it had in 1916, it actually has more horses than it had in 1986.


Special forces troops entered Afghanistan on horseback during the 2001 invasion.

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The President’s choice of submarines and aircraft carriers as a conceptual alternative to Mr. Romney’s larger number of ships than in 1916 (245) is particularly ironic when viewed in the light of the Obama Administration’s drastic plans to reduce both.

The Obama Administration, for example, plans to allow US attack submarines (the contemporary equivalent of the kind of submarines we had in 1916*) to bottom out at 40. In 1916, we had 44. By the end of WWI, we had 80 submarines.

*as opposed to ballistic submarines, used as launch platforms for ballistic missiles.

With respect to aircraft carriers, the Obama Administration’s plans to reduce the current 11 US aircraft carriers down to 9. (Comparisons of carriers with 1916 are not possible, as aircraft carriers did not yet exist.)

It is typical of Barack Obama’s rhetorical opportunism to try to exploit as examples of military strength, capability, and advanced thinking, some of the same portions of the Naval Fleet that he has actually dramatically cut.

28 Apr 2012

Forgetting Mahan

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Alfred Thayer Mahan

The Obama Administration is pursuing the characteristic democrat preference for dramatic reductions in defense expenditures which would seriously impact US Naval strength. Seth Cropsey and Arthur Milikh remind us of the intimate connection between American prosperity, commercial success, and world leadership and the philosophy of naval preeminence advocated in Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 strategic study “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783.”

The world’s waterways are of themselves neutral and without a preference for the state that governs them. Different states bring their own order of governing the seas, and the US brings with it liberal economics. It is difficult to imagine serious discussions of international maritime law, or treaties that establish a law of the seas, had the Soviet Union emerged victorious in the Cold War.

America’s allies in the Pacific are currently being pressed more immediately by the Chinese than we are. They see, as Americans tend not to, that the US is in a long-term competition with China, and recognize, as we don’t, that the Chinese desire slowly to push US sea power out of the international waters close to them. The only force standing in the way of such a transition, which would destroy a complex web of alliances for the US in the Pacific, is our current sea power.

Alfred Thayer Mahan offers the intellectual arguments that address what the US stands to lose economically and militarily—and all that China will gain—if there is a profound shift of power in the Western Pacific. Commerce, he believes, plays to the natural advantage of an enterprising people who are largely free to act upon their judgment and enterprising spirit. But commercial advantage and our enterprising spirit relies equally on the ability to keep open the oceanic arteries through which commerce must be able to flow. This equation is set on its head when prosperity becomes an important instrument to justify single-party rule—as in China, where freedoms of commerce are restricted by the state’s pressing requirement, for example, to employ millions; by an understanding of commercial freedom that is wholly separate from political freedom; and by a parallel view of sea power that sees the interruption of commerce as a personal threat to those who rule the state.

Mahan saw correctly that American greatness depends on dominant sea power. He understood the close connection between domestic prosperity and maritime preeminence. The acceptance of his ideas at the beginning of the twentieth century helped immeasurably in encouraging both, the condition of which is the only one in the memory of Americans alive today.

14 Jun 2011

Alaska Sign

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02 May 2011

Better Late Than Never

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Osama bin Laden was residing in a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 80 miles north of Islamabad. The compound was located just north of a hospital for women and children and a movie theater and roughly 800 feet to the east of the Cantt Police Station.

Just short of a decade after the 9/11 attacks, the United States has brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

Bin Laden was found by tracking a courier identified by Guantanamo detainees, according to “a senior White House official.”

MSNBC:

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “detainees gave us information on couriers. One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, his pseudonym, and also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden.”

In 2007, the U.S. learned the man’s name.

In 2009, “we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. They were very careful, reinforcing belief we were on the right track.”

In August 2010, “we found their home in Abbottabad,” not in a cave, not right along the Afghanistan border, but in an affluent suburb less than 40 miles from the capital.

“When we saw the compound, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound.”

The plot of land was roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area. It was built in 2005 on the outskirts of town, but now some other homes are nearby.

“Physical security is extraordinary: 12 to 18 foot walls, walled areas, restricted access by two security gates.” The residents burn their trash, unlike their neighbors. There are no windows facing the road. One part of the compound has its own seven-foot privacy wall.

And unusual for a multi-million-dollar home: It has no telephone or Internet service.

This home, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded, was “custom built to hide someone of significance.”

Abbottabad, Pakistan, named for the 19th century British officer General Sir James Abbott, who pacified and governed the district 1849-1853, is described in Wikipedia as “well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments.”

American justice (and military operations) proceed rather slowly. The courier was identified in 2007, his area of operation ws identified in 2009, Osama’s compound was identified last August, and they were planning the assault since February. The president and the National Security Council Five pondered what to do in the course of five meetings since Mid-March, and President Obama only finally gave the go-ahead order last Friday, April 29th.

The raid was executed by a U.S. Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Unit (SMU) from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU — formerly known as Seal Team Six). The seal team unit arrived via two helicopters, one of which had mechanical difficulties and has been reportedly destroyed by US forces. Other US personnel operated as spotters on the ground, and a drone was deployed overhead just in case.

A firefight (yet to be described in detail) occurred in which Osama bin Ladin, one of his sons, two couriers, and a woman whom the ever-chivalrous Muslims attempted to use as a human shield were killed.

Amusingly, Sohaib Athar, a Pakistani who tweets as Really Virtual, essentially live blogged the attack on Twitter.

22 Feb 2011

US Navy Sending a Message to Iran

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The USS Enterprise makes an imposing presence in the Suez Canal. (AFP photo)

DEBKAfile reports that Iran’s recent decision to send two warships through the Suez Canal for “exercises” with Syria provoked an overwhelming display of naval force by the United States.

Thursday night, Feb. 17, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, escorted by missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic, headed south through the canal. By Friday morning, they were through and taking up position opposite the Kharg cruiser and Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy’s 12th Flotilla, which were waiting to enter the Suez Canal at the southern Red Sea entrance.

Furthermore, since the first week of February, the USS Kearsarge, another aircraft carrier, was posted in the Great Bitter Lake opposite Ismailia and the canal’s main routes with a large contingent of marines aboard.

The USS George Washington carrier and the USS Carl Vinson were additionally deployed in the Gulf of Aden, the latter having been moved from the Pacific.

A battle of nerves is therefore underway.

The Iranian warships found themselves cheek to jowl with a major concentration of America naval might piling up in the Red Sea and Suez and were not sure what would happen if they went forward with their mission to transit the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean for the first time in 30 years on their way to Syria.
Sunday night, the Canal authorities announced another 48 hours delay shortly after Tehran state TV claimed the warships were already through to the Mediterranean.

And, finally, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier was quietly transferred from Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet amid the anti-government uprising, to a point opposite the Iranian Gulf coast.

This pile-up of US naval, air and marine might at strategic points in the Middle East is a warning to meddlers to keep their hands off the revolutions, uprisings and protests sweeping Arab nations. It carries a special message for Tehran that the Obama administration will not permit the Islamic Republic’s rulers to make military and political hay from the unrest – in Bahrain or anywhere else.

By positioning the Enterprise opposite Iran’s 12th Flotilla at the Red Sea entrance to the Suez Canal on Feb. 17 Washington has confronted Tehran with a hard dilemma, which was practically spelled out by US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley a day earlier: “If the ships move through the canal, we will evaluate what they actually do,” he said. “It’s not really about the ships. It’s about what the ships are carrying, what’s their destination, what’s the cargo on board, where’s it going, to whom and for what benefit.”

This was the US spokesman’s answer to the debkafile disclosure of Feb. 16 that the Kharg was carrying long-range surface missiles for Hizballah. It raised the possibility that the moment they venture to sail into the Suez Canal, the two Iranian warships will be boxed in between the Enterprise and the Kearsarge and called upon the allow their cargoes to be inspected as permitted by the last round of UN sanctions against Iran in the case of suspicious war freights.

07 Jan 2011

The Enterprise Video Affair

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Spook86 puts Captain Honors’ grabasstical videos in perspective, speculates on who leaked them to the Virginia Pilot and why, and points out that the lame-stream media generally failed to report a much more impressive scandal featuring an abusive female officer.

[W]hy didn’t anyone raise red flags three or four years ago when Captain Honors was producing those tasteless (but amusing) skits?

We’re guessing that the brass viewed Honors as an effective leader. Unit morale is one of the responsibilities of a ship XO (executive officer), and it looks like Captain Honors inherited a very unhappy crew on Enterprise. Apparently, most of the sailors appreciated his efforts and we’re guessing that the “Big E’s” efficiency improved under his watch. So, the brass was willing to look the other way.

Incidentally, we are not trying to condone Captain Honors morale efforts. While the videos that have found their way into the public realm, we’re also remind us that the Navy has its own, unique culture. Bawdy skits, offensive humor and other customs have long been used to relieve the monotony that sets in after months at sea. It was in this tradition that Honors produced his videos, and judging by the comments on various Facebook pages and other on-line forums, his efforts were appreciated.

But even if his motives were focused on crew morale and mission accomplishment, you still have to ask the essential question: what was Captain Honors thinking? We assume that the former carrier commander was aware that his videos were making their way around the fleet. And surely he knew it was just a matter of time before they showed up on YouTube. The fact they weren’t on-line (until the Virginian-Pilot got hold on them) is another testament to the popularity and respect that Honors earned from his sailors.

They understood that on-board “morale videos” were intended for the crew–and no one else. It was one more shared experience that bonded them together during months of training and long periods at sea. It’s a concept that is almost alien to anyone who hasn’t been a sailor, or part of the wider military community.

You see, there’s something about shared hardships and camaraderie that bring people together–or drive them apart. In that environment, you quickly discover which senior officers genuinely care about their troops, and the ones that are more interested in that next promotion. Captain Honors clearly fell in that latter category, even if his efforts at morale-boosting have been deemed inappropriate. …

As for the “source” of the tapes, it was clearly an inside job. We can’t point to a specific individual, but there are two prime categories of suspects. The first (and most obvious) are individuals who received a poor performance report from Captain Honors (former department heads on the Enterprise would be in that group, along with E-8s and E-9s who were evaluated by Honors since taking command, or during his previous tour as XO).

There’s also the possibility that Honors was torpedoed by one of his peers. As a Naval Academy grad, Top Gun graduate, decorated aviator and tours as a carrier XO and commander, Owen Honors was on track to become an admiral. Now, with his career in tatters, there is no chance he will ever reach flag rank. We’re guessing that Owens was up for his first star in the next year or so–and a presumptive choice for promotion, had the scandal not erupted. Instead, Owens is toast, and there will be one more opening when that board meets. It wouldn’t be the first time that a cut-throat Captain or Colonel has deliberately sabotaged a colleague, to enhance their own chances at promotion.

One final thought: if you’re so inclined, do a Google search for Captain Owens, then do the same thing for Captain Holly Graf. Readers will recall that Captain Graf was fired as skipper of the USS Cowpens last summer, for “cruelty and maltreatment of her crew.” That was the Navy’s description of her actions–not ours. Mark Thompson of Time correctly described her as a “female Captain Bligh” who verbally abused her crew and even throttled a Royal Navy exchange officer who served on her pr evious command, the USS Winston Churchill.

In case you’re wondering, that web search for Graf produces fewer results than a similar query for Captain Honors. But more importantly, much of the coverage of the Graf controversy was limited to Navy Times and military blogs (Time was a notable exception among the MSM). Outside of military circles, few have heard of “Horrible Holly” Graf. Meanwhile, the Honors scandal has been front-page news around the world. We’re not surprised.

26 Sep 2010

Helicopter Hotdogging Gets Pilots Grounded

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AOLNews reports that the Navy (which had to pay for some repairs) was less appreciative than millions of viewers on the Internet of those helicopter pilots’ daring and legerdemain. The helicopters were Sikorsky MH-60R Multi-Mission aka “Romeos.”

Two Navy pilots from San Diego have been grounded after their helicopters dipped into Lake Tahoe last week. The Sept. 13 incident was caught on a dramatic video, which shows the two choppers hovering just above the water. At one point, one of the $33 million aircraft seems to lose control and flip over into the lake, but the pilot manages to bring it back up out of the water.

Both helicopters droped into the lake because they did not have enough power to stay in their hovering positions. …

The helicopters were on their way back to the air station in San Diego after an air show in Sacramento. They were headed to Lemoore Naval Air Station south of Fresno for refueling when the incident occurred.

Afterward, the helicopters had to land at Lake Tahoe airport for repairs. The incident caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damage to the choppers.


24 Oct 2009

34% Pregnant Sailors at Some Stations

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Spook86 discusses the impact of egalitarianism-at-all-costs on the Navy presently. Just wait until Obama makes his move and abolishes Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell for even more unintended consequences.

As the Navy brass prepares for a “co-ed” submarine force, they might consider the impact of human biology on other elements of the service.

Navy Times reports that some shore commands in Norfolk, Virginia are heavily staffed by pregnant sailors, and some commanders are complaining about the lack of proper manning to carry out their missions.

The problem–and leadership complaints–resulted in an investigation by the Navy IG. According to the IG report, some of shore-based organizations in the Norfolk area have pregnant sailors in up to 34% of their billets. And due to restrictions associated with their medical condition, the sailors (in many cases) cannot perform all of their assigned duties, placing an added strain on shore commands. …

Talk to Navy officers and senior NCOs and you’ll get a real earful on the effects of this problem. While acknowledging that many female sailors are simply trying to balance a naval career against their desire to start a family, others are gaming the system, they say. In some cases, they say female sailors become pregnant to avoid a projected deployment, or get out of an assignment they don’t like.

Years ago, sailors who became pregnant while on active duty were immediately dismissed from the service. By comparison, today’s family-friendly Navy goes to great lengths to accommodate pregnant sailors, and there’s not much a Captain or Master Chief can do except grit their teeth and suck it up.

You’d think the IG report would offer a cautionary tale for the submarine force and its plan for mixed-gender crews. Running an attack boat or a boomer takes an exceptionally well-trained, cohesive team of officers and enlisted members. Simply stated, the silent service can’t afford the kind of turnover caused by pregnancies in other Navy organizations.

But such concerns are being ignored in the rush to break down one last bastion of male service.

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