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That's the thesis of the generational pearl-clutching published in the May 2019 issue of Proceedings, in which Navy Capt. John L. Bub, Jr., director of operations and training for Tactical Training Group Atlantic (TTGL), argued that the "highly distracting" chatrooms utilized by sailors aboard Navy vessels are a sinister threat to surface operations that desperately require our attention.
"Don't text and drive has been ingrained in our collective consciousness. Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents in the United States, and the number one distraction causing those accidents is drivers texting on their mobile phones," opens Bub. "On warships at sea, watchstanders face a similar problem—they all have the ability to, and are even required to, communicate through message chat rooms on computers at their watch stations."
Yes, true: Distracted driving kills more than speeding or booze when it comes to car accidents, and the same logic that applies to your Ford should probably apply to a multimillion-dollar warship. But Bub's thesis quickly devolves into his best impression of bewildered septuagenarian Abe Simpson from the titular animated comedy (emphasis ours):
Despite the ubiquity of information today and the sophisticated information technology systems afloat, staff tactical watchstanders remain severely challenged in maintaining an accurate picture on tactical displays.
Most watch stations now have chat rooms that watchstanders are required to monitor along with their console display. Young watchstanders are very comfortable monitoring chat rooms, but less comfortable monitoring radar. This is like being more comfortable texting than looking out a car's windshield while driving. They are even less comfortable talking on the radio, though doing so would better allow them to communicate while simultaneously monitoring their tactical displays. Communicating through text as opposed to verbally reflects the pervasive presence of digital media in today's society. Furthermore, this trend away from verbal communication and the decline in professional, competent radio procedures has been exacerbated by the elimination of the Radio Users Telephone Handbook to train watchstanders
"When the fight starts and missiles are flying, watchstanders may only have seconds to react and save the ship," he concludes. "My great hope is that if that happens the watchstander will be looking at the tactical display and not the chat window."
So let me get this straight: in the event of an imminent collision (like, say, the car crash situation Bub invoked in his opening graf), young watchstanders won't call for help because ... they're more comfortable texting than calling for help over the phone?
Look, it's certainly true that younger generations prefer text to talking, but Bub's only evidence that this is directly impacting surface operations is, well, "I have mentored and evaluated many ships and watchstanders." Luckily for us, we have two years of Navy investigations into the back-to-back mishaps of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain to provide some real-world insight in to how watchstanders react in times of crisis.
First, let's take a look at the "dual-purpose investigation" into the Fitzgerald collision by Rear Adm. Brian Fort and obtained by Navy Times in January 2019:
[The USS Fitzgerald's] Voyage Management System that generated more "trouble calls" than any other key piece of electronic navigational equipment. Designed to help watchstanders navigate without paper charts, the VMS station in the skipper's quarters was broken so sailors cannibalized it for parts to help keep the rickety system working.
Since 2015, the Fitz had lacked a quartermaster chief petty officer, a crucial leader who helps safely navigate a warship and trains its sailors — a shortcoming known to both the destroyer's squadron and Navy officials in the United States, Fort wrote.
Fort determined that Fitz's crew was plagued by low morale; overseen by a dysfunctional chiefs mess; and dogged by a bruising tempo of operations in the Japan-based 7th Fleet that left exhausted sailors with little time to train or complete critical certifications.
So the equipment was broken and the Fitzgerald crew were exhausted and hated their lives — sounds about right. How about the McCain? According to the Navy, the problem wasn't screen obsession but bad training, per Navy Times:
[The] McCain's bridge team was neither experienced nor qualified to the level they should have been to be steaming a warship through crowded waters, and the Navy's report acknowledged as much, blaming the failures on the bridge team's insufficient local training and qualifications.
That's because multiple members of the bridge team on watch at the time of the collision were temporarily assigned from the cruiser Antietam and had never officially qualified to operate the bridge equipment on board McCain.
The report noted that the differences between the two ship's steering systems were significant, but none of the watch-standers were given any training to learn the new system.
I'm sorry, Bub: I trust your experience, but levying this argument without even the slightest bit of anecdotal elaboration seems eerily reminiscent of somebody stewing over being snubbed by their granddaughter's dinnertime iPhone use. Time comes for us all — just embrace it.
Read the whole article on the U.S. Naval Institute website here.
SEOUL (Reuters) - The South Korean military fired two warning shots at a Russian military aircraft that entered South Korean airspace on Tuesday, the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said, and Chinese military aircraft had also entered South Korean airspace.
It was the first time a Russian military aircraft had violated South Korean airspace, a ministry official said.
First, America had to grapple with the 'storm Area 51' raid. Now black helicopters are hovering ominously over Washington, D.C.
Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio first reported on Monday that the Army has requested $1.55 million for a classified mission involving 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility" at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Camesha Walters was a petty officer 3rd class living in Norfolk. Her husband was a foreign national living in Bangladesh.
But to boost her take home pay, Walters told the Navy in 2015 her husband was a U.S. citizen living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She said she needed larger housing and cost of living allowances to support him.
Walters, 37, was sentenced Friday to five months in jail on charges she stole almost $140,000 from the federal government.
Following her release, she will be on house arrest for six months. She also must perform 200 hours of community service and pay full restitution.
Trump says he could win the war in Afghanistan quickly, but he doesn't want to kill millions of people
In a not-so-veiled threat to the Taliban, President Donald Trump argued on Monday the United States has the capacity to bring a swift end to the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, but he is seeking a different solution to avoid killing "10 million people."
"I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth," Trump said on Monday at the White House. "It would be gone. It would be over in – literally in 10 days. And I don't want to do that. I don't want to go that route."