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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.
The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.
"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'
"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"
This 400-pound feral hog is one of more than 1,200 that have invaded a Texas Air Force base since 2016
At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.
A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.
In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."
A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.
In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.
Constant deployments broke the Air Force's B-1 fleet. Now the service is facing a major bomber shortfall
On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.
In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.
A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.
The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.