Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Aesop 2, Squids 0. Navy Leadership Is An Oxymoron.

Cold Comfort indeed.

Not far back, there was considerable press announcing the two Navy hospital ships, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, would be deployed to Los Angeles and New York respectively, to treat non-COVID-19 patients.

We were happy that they'd thought of the gesture to reassure the populace, but noted at the time that keeping the current plague off of any such ship was about as likely as running a submarine with a screen door, but apparently the GT (general technical intelligence, and predictive of IQ) score to become a Navy admiral has been set so low since the Obozo administration that the program that selects USN admirals should be renamed Mabus' 600.

As we noted on Cdr Salamander's blog , not once, but twice, once referencing converting idled Carnival cruise ships into hospital ships, and again regarding exactly the Mercy and Comfort, regarding the ships becoming infected plague ships amidst this (or any) pandemic, such eventuality was both predictable and indeed, inevitable:
"Ookaaaaaaay, let's say I buy this, for maybe 1 minute.
1) How do you keep people with COVID-19 out of the pool?
Not just patients, but the crew, and those who make deliveries of food, medicine, other supplies?
I'll wait over here while you work that one out. 
{And I'll play fair.
Currently, quarantine would require at least 14 days' wait.
Ignoring the CDC test-kit clusterfluffle, test kits now take 1-3 days turnaround. Still too long for someone
writhing in pain to wait pierside for permission to bring Kung Flu onto the ship.
When the promised 15-minute point-of-care COVID-19 test kits exist in reality, and you have half a million of them handy at pierside by the gangway,
you maybe could get over that hump. Until then, it's a total deal-breaker. Period.
2) Once you fail at #1, then what?
You've now re-created the exact SitRep from the MV Death Princess.'d that one work out for Carnival? 
3) How did those highly skilled crew members on the MV Death Princess do at keeping quarantine among the passengers?
Knowing that level of expertise, how're they going to do at keeping COVID-19 off the next ship, and the next...?
 So, how did our know-it-all alarmism and fear-mongering do, in reality?
(Nailed it.) Multiple patients infected with coronavirus were transferred to the hospital ship Comfort from the Javits Center in New York by mistake, three U.S. officials tell Fox News.
The number of Covid-19 patients brought on board the hospital ship was estimated to be “less than five,” one official said. The information had not been previously reported.  The patients were transferred sometime Friday, according to the officials. At the time that the patients were transferred to the hospital ship, the initial screening did not indicate they were positive, officials said.
So much for Comfort.
What about Mercy?
(Nailed it again.) Seven sailors aboard the USNS Mercy, a Navy hospital ship sent to the Port of Los Angeles to support Los Angeles-area hospitals, have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, April 14.Another 113 sailors have also been moved off the ship and are self-isolating because they were in contact with the virus-infected sailors. The Mercy has a medical crew of more than 1,000 personnel and a civilian crew of about 80 that runs the ship’s systems.
“All are currently in quarantine off the ship and have tested negative for COVID-19 with the exception of one crew member, who was the fifth confirmed positive case,” Lt. Andrew Bertucci, a spokesman aboard the Mercy, said. “Crew members who were in contact with the COVID-19 positive individuals are in self-quarantine where they will self-monitor for COVID-like symptoms.” The first sailor to test positive was reported on April 8: three more were confirmed positive by Friday, April 10; and four new cases of infection were added over the weekend. 
We are not an exalted Navy admiral. We are not even a Navy commander. The highest position we occupied in the sea service was to be the night watch supervisor of laundry for the ship's embarked company on LHA-4 Nassau for a happily brief imprisonment cruise of a Marine BLT from Norfolk VA to rattle the nation's saber at Nicaragua (it worked), and thence to return and attack Onslow Beach NC for a blessed release from seagoing durance vile.

But we were bright enough to know before this current boondoggle began, that sending active service ships into a plague was asinine beyond belief, when no one running Big Blue could figure that out, nor find their own asses, with both hands, a map, compass, sextant, and a rear view mirror.

We do not practice gypsy fortunetelling. We are not clairvoyant. But we were clearly brighter on this wee point than the acting SecNav and CNO, in about five seconds, because we practice common sense rather ruthlessly, and haven't got our head shoved so far up our own ass we could inspect our tonsils.

Would that anyone running anything in the Navy could make the same claim.
There may be some officers in the USN from O-6 or up that aren't actual idiots. But at this point, we'd probably be better off firing the lot, wholesale, and trying again from scratch, than risking another ship or another crew to the forlorn hope that such is the case.

We've always liked the Navy (if only for amphibious shipping and naval gunfire), and tend to think that having a highly functional one that executes both traitors and its duties diligently, competently, and intelligently, ought to be a rather high national priority. Apparently that view is not shared in Washington D.C. We humbly beseech the supervisory PTB at DoD and the White House to kindly unf**k themselves, and start appointing people to supervise and command the weak sister service with something approaching the ability one might reasonably expect from some Sunday puddle pilot in sole command of a Nordic 26 through Puget Sound any weekend.

If only for the novelty of that approach, based purely on evidence from our own lying eyes for the last 10 years. Ideally, before some enemy hands us another Pearl Harbor. We probably aren't going to get a two year grace period to rebuild the service the next time that happens, so we'd be far better off weeding out all the morons - in their thousands, apparently, from the top down - before that happens.


James M Dakin said...

I'm going to guess that the Army is full of a heck of a lot more idiots than the Navy is, if only because you can blame stupid on opposing land forces more than you can blame a single shipwreck in calm seas on anything other than the Captain ( or, Microsoft Blue Screen Of Death ). And I don't think you could get rid of those idiots, even after a 100% Officer Corpse elimination. The Stupid is institutionalized ( like in corporations ). The NCO's are in the same shape, especially after the Specialist ranks were eliminated and the Kool-Aid drinkers had to get rank or get kicked out. And lower enlisted are always stupid, just because of age. Now add in PC Culture into the festering mess. Diversity Hires probably are far more toxic than the idiot officers pandering to them. In short, what national defense?

Aesop said...

True, but the Army specifically recruits idiots.
(Those enemy cannon aren't going to charge themselves, after all.)
Then tries to weed them out as the ranks increase.

The Navy, OTOH, (much like the Air Farce) attempts to recruit the best and brightest.
Then weeds them out, and promotes the idiots to command.

This is why brilliant generals are expected, whereas brilliant admirals are always a bracing shock.

Vitaeus said...

Negative for CCP Virus, according to the VA, the hunt for my zebra continues..

FredLewers said...

I don't know about the straight leg army but when I was in an airborne battalion ANY officer or nco that did something stupid enough to attract the attention of Lt Col Thomas 'Nuke em' Needham learned very quickly to unfuck themselves. And their superior was also involved in that lesson. And not as a spectator...
I've got two older brothers that are Navy veterans. They're pretty smart, ones a genius. But... they ain't all that and a bag of chips. The Navy and Air Farce have expensive toys. The Army and Marines have natural selection to weed out the stupid ones. Just an observation based on experience.

Unknownsailor said...

"The Navy, OTOH, (much like the Air Farce) attempts to recruit the best and brightest."

Debatable, but yea, in general.

"Then weeds them out, and promotes the idiots to command."

Not really. What happens on the enlisted side is that the Navy promotes those who Play the Game™, with "playing the game" being translated to evaluating well under the current system by which evaluations are weighted.

People who are good at what they do and mission focused to not evaluate well because such people do not concentrate on peripheral fluff like qualifications an collateral jobs that the current evaluation system currently selects for.

Evaluations have been rigged this way for at least two decades now, and the emphasis on fluff rather than on the job performance is now ensconced into the senior enlisted leadership gestalt such that the chief's mess perpetuates that system now, and actively selects for it. Now people who spend more time working out of their rate than in it get fast tracked for promotion, and the deep technical experts get left holding the bag, doing all the work keeping the wheels turning, and either getting out at the first opportunity or languishing until they hit high year tenure and are kicked out.

Ask me how I know.

I was able to do my 20 at least, but those who came in about a year after me who don't play the game get kicked out at 16 now.

If there must be a mass firing, I would start at the O-9 level and not stop until I ejected most khaki down to E-7. The rot is deep, and wide.

Aesop said...

Do not confuse the airborne battalions with the Army.
Airborne is what the Army should be, and on it's best days wishes it was, but not what it is.

The Navy, by all accounts, has been cornholed for a long time, because they haven't had a peer adversary for 30 years, one entire generation of Navy experience. The total number of people with experience there with a peer adversary, in any form, could likely be counted on one's thumbs.

Aesop said...

Do not confuse the airborne battalions with the Army.
Airborne and better is what the Army should be, and on its best days wishes it was, but not what it is.

The Navy, by all accounts, has been cornholed for a long time, because they haven't had a peer adversary for 30 years, one entire generation of Navy experience. The total number of people with experience there with a peer adversary, in any form, could likely be counted on one's thumbs.

George True said...

It could be argued that our Navy has not really faced a peer adversary since WWII. Although our Navy played chicken with the Soviet Navy all during the Cold War, they never actually came to blows with the Soviets. And even though today the Chinese Navy appears to be a formidable peer adversary, the US Navy has not tangled with them...yet. I shudder to think what may happen when they do.

Unknownsailor said...

"And even though today the Chinese Navy appears to be a formidable peer adversary, the US Navy has not tangled with them...yet. I shudder to think what may happen when they do. "

I know what will happen: Sunk ships, and dead sailors, by the thousands. Why? I do not expect the Chinese to try and meet us on our terms. Gulf War 1 put paid to anyone trying to do that, and GWII put the underline and the exclamation point on it. They will come at our ships in ways that avoid our strengths, and those manning those ships will not see it coming. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, because up until May 2014 I was one of them. USS Cole was the prime indicator for that.

I have zero doubts that many of the fanciful claims of Chinese hardware are just boastful fantasies designed for domestic consumption (that ballistic anti-carrier missile they love to boast about is a prime example,) but I believe they have capabilities they don't advertise.

McChuck said...

I may be too short for this ride, but what was the point of this one?
The purpose of a military is to run to the sound of the guns.
The purpose of a hospital is to treat the sick and injured.

Sure, it was stupid to expect to keep the plague out. The only way to do that is to anchor off shore until the supplies run out. But then, they wouldn't be doing their jobs, either.

It's military health care. It's inherently unsafe. (For all parties involved, usually.)

Malcolm said...

"Well, let’s look at the flu. Let’s look at hospitalizations. Are you ready for some shocking numbers? Do you want to hear some shocking numbers? During last year’s flu season, according to the CDC, 490,000 people were hospitalized due to seasonal flu. The year before that, 810,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu. The maximum number of projected hospitalizations with COVID-19 as of two days ago is 62,000. If we could handle 810,000 hospitalizations due to flu, if we could handle 490, 500,000 hospitalizations, then we certainly can handle 62,000 hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

So there are the numbers in context. American hospitals have not been overwhelmed by the number of flu sufferers. Now, New York, you can find a pocket here or there. But in New York all the override hospitals, the Javits Center, Central Park build-out, the Navy ships, none of ’em were necessary. They were there to handle both COVID-19 and regular cases.

Folks, the reason for flattening the curve never materialized — to handle an overrun of hospitals. Everything is arguable. We could reopen much sooner than a lot of people think."

Sarin said...

Corps isn't much better than our sister service. Sure, they talk a huge game. Officer Corps is culled through "Fitness Reports" and something akin to the promotion process called "Career Designation". FITREPS are basically trying to take the subjective and make it objective. There's a "zero defect" mentality when it comes to writing them, generally. Has less to do with competency (in most cases) than it does with working for the right individual or brown nosing the right individual, particularly when it comes to the board process (promotion or career designation, dealer's choice). Additional fact: diversity hires are a thing for USMC Officers. Compound that with the fact that most Lieutenants aren't career designated (meaning they can't go past their initial service period), they're claiming to retain the best and brightest, but to Unknownsailor's point, it's more about who can play "the game" best. Again, competency is a minor factor.

Commanders will destroy a subordinate to save their own skin. Ask me how I know (Long multi-post rant if you push that button). Also appears that when most hit O4 (Major), they either seem to receive a full-on lobotomy or Major ends up being their terminal rank. Sure, a few good ones squeak by and get promoted, but then top out at Lieutenant Colonel. They either get fed-up and retire or get passed over on promotion twice (up or out rule) and are forced to retire. To hit O6 (Colonel) is a rarity and requires masterful skill in "playing the game." Getting a star is much harder. Unless you tick all the right boxes on the way through the ranks, it'll never happen.

Senior enlisted ranks are similar; although there is slightly less politics. Most of the politics come into play when you're at E7 deciding which path to take (irrevocable decision, BTW).

Generally speaking, the best and brightest on the enlisted side get fed up with being treated like an incompetent toddler and get out (admittedly they do do some epically stupid shit). You could probably write a psychology or sociology thesis on whether the stupidity is because we treat them like rubes or vice-versa, but I digress. An oft heard saying is indicative: "kid's a good field Marine, but a shitty garrison Marine." Translated: kid knows and performs his job better than anyone else in the unit, but doesn't present well to the world. Means he's not getting promoted to a leadership position. Again, some make it through, but get beaten down.

Having done 20 and punched the ticket, I wonder which category I fell into. Granted, my final rank wasn't one of the aforementioned ranks, so probably within a gap.

Aesop said...


Limbaugh is an innumerate idiot.

1) The CDC numbers for flu hospitalizations are pulled out of the same place they generate "deaths from secondhand smoke": somebody's ass. This is basic information, not obscure aracana. They make those numbers up out of whole cloth every year.

2) Flu kills 0.1% of those who contract it. 1 in 1000.
Coronavirus in general kills 3%. 1 in 33.
Kung Flu here, now, appears to be running between 3% and 5%. That's as much as 1 in 20.
Rush can't figure this out without taking off his shoes.

3) We've beaten how fragile and lean-run the hospital system is, 24/7/365.
Considering Rush hasn't waited 5 minutes to see a doctor in 25 or 30 years, he doesn't know WTF he's talking about there.

4) USNS Comfort was to pick up the slack for non-COVID patients, and Limbozo bloody well knew that when he made that apples-to-oranges comparison. Except with fear of catching Kung Flu running at record levels, and everybody not out, not driving, and not doing stupid shit 24/7/365 (except getting drunk and stoned in epidemic numbers), there aren't any other people to treat who aren't COVID patients. You can find this out from 6000 hospitals. People are even staying home with heart attacks (and dying from them) because of this virus. So no, we have neither the capacity for a massive influx of COVID patients, nor are we annually hit by flu patients in anything like the CDC's horseshit numbers, and we aren't now hit by the usual level of ordinary patients, because they're staying home solely due to the goddamed lockdowns, obvious facts which have yet to penetrate Nitwit Limbaugh's thick addled pate.

5) The overflow beds haven't been necessary - yet! - because even ass-headed New Yorkers have finally figured out that 10,000 dead there in a few weeks is a wee bit more real than the goddam flu, and they're finally listening to the distancing guidelines like they mean something. FFS, the gorran SUBWAYS are still open in the Big HorseApple!!! How fucking stupid can one mayor be, without a crowbar lobotomy?? We have yet to plumb that depth.

Which means the lockdown is exactly what's working, opening now is exactly what would fuck it in the ass without lube, and Limbaugh is now cheerfully taking the role of Mayor Vaughn of Amity in this outbreak.
He needs to go home and die of cancer if this is the best he can do.
He's shitcanning a legacy of decades in mere minutes if he can't shut up about this until he can figure it out without a 2X4 upside that empty head.

So, did you want to talk about the weather, or just make chit-chat?

Aesop said...


The purpose of a military hospital is to treat military injured.
As for sick, they are neither built nor designed to handle highly infectious patients. It is not a BL-anything level hospital. It's a ship, FFS, which means 100 times easier for any virus to spread and infect the entire crew and any hospitalized patients, thus negating the reason for bringing anyone onboard in the first place.

That makes a military hospital ship the hands-down worst, least-effective, and need we say it? STUPIDEST choice to deploy to a hot plague zone, unless you think our military should wear rising sun headbands and sing their death song every day, because they're all kamikazes.

If that's the case, then just load it full to capacity with Kung Flu victims, sail it out to sea, and sink it in deep water with all the COVID patients, and cut the outbreak down overnight, right? Because that's what the military is for??

That's essentially what you're suggesting, taken to its logical endpoint.

Almost as simple as just putting them all in camps, and gassing them, then incinerating the corpses, while we're up. Which also saves the expense of sinking the ships.

I'm pretty sure that approach has some drawbacks. Maybe you should research them again, for familiarity.

Aesop said...

All true, but ten years of war in Iraq and A-stan provided the Corps (and Big Green) a healthy cleansing enema to rid them of their most worthless douchebags, as it always does.

The Navy hasn't had that enema since 1945, and hasn't had commensurate pressure as if it mattered since 1989.

That's thirty-one years of peacetime reality, and the fact that no serving officer (outside of SpecWar and a very, very few aviators) in an entire serving generation has seen anything like actual combat conditions is beginning to become apparent.

How long can you have a fire department worthy of the name, if no one in it has ever fought an actual fire?

ThatWouldBeTelling said...

FFS, the gorran SUBWAYS are still open in the Big HorseApple!!! How fucking stupid can one mayor be

He's really stupid, and from reports is the typical micromanager who can't be decisive. Is also like the mayor of Chicago, one of the anointed for whom the rules don't apply, she her hair, he a trip to a gym.

But I'm not sure NYC can function without those subways running, it's so dependent on them. And by function, I mean, keep its teeming millions alive with the necessities of potable water, sanitary sewage, food, electricity which is necessary for some of the preceding, and communications. See Manila for what I'm hearing is a counter example of lockdown which by now has probably shut down its meat supply, unless the government got a clue.

On Limbaugh et. al.: mere words are insufficient to describe how the nominally Right of center is blowing the pandemic in pretty much every way.

The Navy? One thing I keep noticing, we haven't lost any subs yet to basic incompetence.

Aesop said...

It's no coincidence that the most competent parts of the Navy, actual aviation, SpecWar, and SubFor, have been operating on a war footing nonstop since December 1941.

The rest of the Big Blue not so much, and it shows, with blistering clarity.

ThatWouldBeTelling said...

One thing I've read in some detail is part of our air war over Vietnam, and the Navy comes out pretty well in it, and tremendously better than the Air Force, which for example used WWII era gasoline prop formations (seriously). But one thing they reminded themselves of is that carrier piloting has a harsh competency floor, whereas the Air Force was able to get away with funneling pretty much all their pilots through tours of flying F-105s, and F-4s.

Sarin said...

Sure, there was a cleansing enema of the weak sisters that were scared of combat. That's 100% accurate; I believe that we traded one kind of douchebag for another. Basically meant that people were willing to do anything to get the CAR and/or gold star in lieu of second award. To get promoted meant that you needed a Bronze Star with a V or at a minimum a Navy COM with a V, which led to the creation of "Awards Boards" at the unit level, which makes the Corps even stingier with awards. Here's an experience that highlights the stupidity of the awards board. My team was on a rooftop providing overwatch to straight-leg guys maneuvering below. Enemy had been throwing 60mm and 82mm mortars at us all day, but were untrained. The grunts finally made contact and all hell kind of broke loose. Felt like the enemy were firing an FPF. 82mm came in and ended up lacing one of my spotters in the right femoral artery and my RO in the hamstring. I started working on the kid with the hamstring. Other shooter saw the spray, and worked his left hand into his spotter's thigh to pinch it off. We and the grunts started taking a bunch of fire so with his left hand providing life-saving pressure, he rested his rifle and dropped an RPK team engaging us, then turned his attention to the clowns that were pinning the grunts down, freeing them up. Got the Nine-line in for our kids and they got evac'd. After very careful reading, talking to the JAG and a few senior officers, submitted my shooter for a Bronze Star with a V. Post-deployment, was at the BN HQ and sitting on the Awards Board since the CO was packing TMO. BN XO recommended denial because my shooter was a LCpl. Got downgraded to a NAM with a V, because my LCpl "had plenty of time to earn a Bronze Star in his career." Both kids from that incident were ok.

Totally agree with your complacency description; the one caveat that I'd throw out there is that the SpecWar component of the Navy, while definitely engaged, has achieved and actually likes their Primadonna status, thanks to hollyweird and some honestly slick marketing combined with their competency. Here's why I say that. We were working some targeted raids in Iraq. If the HVI wasn't a face card, NSW didn't want to play. ODA and others we worked with at the time were all about it, didn't matter if HVI was the 2 of clubs or the Ace of Spades or anywhere in-between, we'd be mounting up to K/C the individual. Similar experience in Afghanistan later. I don't doubt their competency. They're good.