Friday, December 18, 2009

The Augmentee and the NAVADMIN

I’m going to try not to make this a long story…

Like many IAs, I had assumed that I would recover 100% of my shore duty time for my Iraqi troubles. That had long been touted as a promise on the FAQ lists of official IA sources. Therefore, I had assumed that I would receive an eight month extension to cushy billet, upon which time I would gracefully resign from the Naval Service – forever cementing my legacy in the annals of naval lore. Well, I am an idiot.

In June of this year, I informed my detailer of my desire to exercise my extension. He told me I just needed to submit a request… no deadline or sense of urgency was revealed to me. It seemed a mere formality.

On Thursday of last week, the nomination package for my replacement was delivered to my command. He will be here in May to facilitate my August rotation. I called the detailer and told him that he needs to contact this unlucky officer immediately; let him know that his Helo Bubba Placement Officer placed him in a job that wasn’t available. Sucks to be him… but he probably didn’t just get back from a 10-month IA, so while I’m sympathetic, I can stomach a small amount of discomfort on his part in order to prevent my life from turning upside down. I was sure my detailer would agree… He did not.

He told me that while I was still welcome to submit my request, it would likely be denied since my job was promised to another person. Clearly, this was entirely my fault; why hadn’t I submitted this letter already? Didn’t I know the rules? Hadn’t I read the applicable chapters in MILPERSMAN chapter 13?

Sadly, I had only read through chapter 12 of MILPERSMAN, and I did not know the rules. But I do now. The MILPERSMAN is not really the issue… the real article is called NAVADMIN 273/06. If you are a returning IA, you need to read this thing but for the purposes of brevity let me summarize. The 100% extension promise only applies to enlisted personnel. For officers, the text reads as follows:


Read as follows: I am not entitled to shit. So here are my options:

1. Negotiate another sea-duty.

2. Resign in August 2010 vice May 2011.

3. Negotiate another IA/GSA deployment.

I have some hope; the guy who has been promised my billet will be offered other available NROTC billets. If he accepts, I’m good. If he declines, I’m fucked.

Do I feel like I’ve been screwed? Yes I do. However, I accept that I had a hand in screwing myself. If I have to choose from the options above, I’ll take number 2. If anyone knows a company in the New York City area that needs a good man around September, please let me know.

I’ll keep you posted.

“Annals” refers to archives, history or chronicles, not the human anus; but have fun with it anyway Bosque & Bowl.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Commentary on FITREPs

We have undergone a change of command here recently, and with it the obligatory change of command FITREP and debrief. My former boss is very heavy on the “career counseling” aspect of these debriefs; he leads with the question, “what do you have planned for your next tour?” Never mind that I’ve made it clear on several occasions that not only did I want to get out, but that my community is structured in a way that wouldn’t provide a path back in, regardless of my wishes, so his efforts to change my mind were futile. In general, I play the “I’m getting out” card pretty close to the vest, but when asked directly, I don’t beat around the bush.

This decision was made when I accepted this tour; the Hawkeye community places no value on education and no value on IA tours. I was introduced to this concept long ago, when as na├»ve LTJG, I wondered aloud why the Department Head selection board would even consider passing on a guy who has a PHD in aerospace engineering from MIT in favor of a guy who spent three years teaching some useless PDS class over at the RAG. My CO told me flatly, it is because the guy at the RAG “gave something back to the community.” That may have been the first time I heard that concept, but it would not be the last; as I moved closer to my shore rotation, I was offered excessive career advice from anyone with an oak leaf and chance to run their mouth for a few minutes, and it always bounced back to the same theme – give something back to the community.

Let’s get this out of the way up front; being a “member” of the Hawkeye “community” is in every way equivalent to playing for the losing team. The E-2C is an aging platform, unable to effectively adapt to a modern warfare environment. I could go on forever about the reasons why, but I’ll save that for another day. The point is, asking me to give something back to the Hawkeye community is absurd; it is like asking Barry Sanders to give something back to the Lions. Flying the Hawkeye was a booby prize; it is the participation ribbon of Naval Aviation – I don’t feel indebted to it in any way, and I don’t think my “good deal” shore tour is any less of a contribution than sitting in the Simulator at the RAG or re-drafting useless TTP in a triple-walled nerd-locker in the desert.

In fact, I’ll stack my tour here up against anyone of those as far as contribution to the Navy; after all, we all joined the Navy, not the Hawkeye community. My tour, to include my 9-month combat tour, compares favorably to a RAG, WTI, or NSAWC tour in every measurable way except one – It has nothing to do with sitting in the back of an E-2C (by the grace of God). By the time I leave here, I’ll have delivered hundreds of commissioned Ensigns to the Fleet, I’ll have more joint experience than any of my peers having a FITREP signed by a member of 3 of 4 service branches, I’ll have invaluable combat experience on the FIRES end of CAS/TST – a mission which should by now be an E-2C core competency but falls short in favor of Cold War doctrine - and I’ll have a master’s degree.

All of those things would strike an ordinary person as pretty favorable traits to bring before a career board; which is probably why my CO continued to bring it up for two years, but the Hawkeye community is not listening. Hawkeye CO’s are still encouraged to manipulate the FITREP system to give the maximum advancement opportunity to guys who choose jobs that are on the “track.” You may be the number one performer, but this other guy “needs” the EP because he’s going to the RAG. He’s giving something back! I don’t mean to sound bitter, because I wasn’t trying to stay in, and I was never mislead – my detailer looked me right in the eye and told me I’d never make command if I took this job. It’s just an infuriatingly broken system; and the community will never advance in any meaningful way as long as clings to this incestuous promotion scheme. There are plenty of very good, very deserving officers at the RAG and NSAWC; top performers who I admire and in many cases count among my closest friends. But there are more than a few clowns too – and it is a straight roll of the dice which of these guys will be the next generation of squadron COs.

New ideas are not generated by homogenous groups who have been more or less stuck in the tube of an E-2 for their entire careers. It is a frustrating conversation to be forced to have every fucking FITREP cycle.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The JOPA Commandments

1. Do unto JOs as you would have JOs do unto you; Hinges can go fuck themselves.

2. Thou shall not ask questions that thou do not want to know the answers to.

3. Thou shall not be nude in the stateroom for any longer than is necessary to change underpants. Should thou, whilst nude, make eye contact with another nude man inside of arm's distance, thou hast had sexual relations with that man.

4. The amount of time or money one spends at any strip club whilst in foreign port, shall not be discussed in the presence of any JOs wife.

5. Thou shall not speaketh upon check-in for 12 fortnights; nowhere in "FNG" does it ask for your opinion.

6. Thou shall not point out the professional shortcomings of another JO, no matter how obvious, in the presence of a hinge. Personal shortcomings are always in play (Jorts clause).

7. If thy brother doth become inebriated beyond his means, thou shall rescue him from arrest by foreign authorities. Then thou may lay thy balls on his forehead and take many photographs.

8. There is no crying in Naval Aviation.

9. When thou finds another man's electronic mail account un-locked, it is thy noble right and duty to make that man appear homosexual through a humorous and fruity correspondence distributed to all other men.

10.Thou shall claim what thou have dealt.

*Special thanks to Wu-Tang and Pride for helping create this list.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Not For Self; But For Country

My IA assignment is the gift that keeps on giving; today’s gift is a breath-taking piece of bureaucratic nonsense that only the Navy could manage . A message came out requiring that all commands meeting specific criteria, assign in writing a Command IA Coordinator (CIAC). The criteria are as follows:

1. One or more sailors in the command have orders for a future IA or GSA assignment.
2. One or more sailors in the command are currently serving an IA assignment.
3. One or more sailors in the command have returned from IA in the previous 9 months.

Having recently returned from an IA assignment, my command meets the above criteria and therefore needs to appoint a CIAC… in writing.

The requirement for a CIAC is any E-7 or above who has IA experience (if available). Read as follows: the IA assignment that I returned from in December, requires my command to assign in writing a CIAC – a position for which I am the only member of my command qualified to hold.

I called the message POC, explained our situation, and asked “are you saying that I need to be assigned, in writing, as my command IA coordinator, in effort to support myself for an IA assignment that I completed 4 months ago?”

“Hmm, well if you want to be in compliance, then technically yes.”

So I guess I’m off to NKO to complete the online training course.

Non sibi sed patriae.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Navy Working Uniform

The new Navy Working Uniform (NWU) has been the talk of the town for quite some time in Navy circles. For as happy as most Sailors are to wave goodbye to the idiotic dungarees and the awful wash Khaki uniform (RIP “Johnny Cash”); all are summarily disgusted with the senselessness of the new blue/gray camouflage pattern. The only reasonable explanation I’ve heard for the color scheme is that it will hide paint splatter better than old working uniforms – which seems like a pretty stupid reason to change a uniform.

The cover article in the January 2009 edition of Navy Times features Sailors’ “outrage” over the NWU rules; specifically, that like current working uniforms it is not authorized for wear anywhere off base. However, current working uniforms are authorized for routine stops (gas, milk, pick up kids, etc.), where as the NWU rules specifically prohibit such stops until such a time as “the Chief’s mess is confident proper standards of wear are understood and practiced,” A time I am certain will never come. It’s a long article, and it isn’t particularly interesting or essential to the main argument of this post, but the point is that everyone hates this uniform.

What has not been pointed out yet, at least not in print, is this “Augmentee Exclusive:” This piece of crap looks EXACTLY like the uniform of the Iraqi National Police!

See the conclusive photographic evidence. No word yet on whether or not the creepy mustache is required; if it is, the Iraqi Police costume will be complete. Maybe we should all quit showering and we can start sleeping outside in disgusting little “man-piles” too. If and how this embarrassing little coincidence escaped the attention of whatever pentagon brain child who gave birth to this bastard uniform, I will not ever know. Perhaps we are showing our solidarity with our Iraqi allies by dressing ourselves exactly like the most corrupt and ineffective arm their security forces – that’s good for morale, I look forward to being harassed mercilessly forever by the other services, even the Air Force’s ridiculous “Tiger Stripes” are less goofy than this abomination.

Now don’t be in a hurry to toss out your old Woodland and Desert Camouflage uniform. That uniform is not being retired, but instead is being re-designated as “organizational clothing.” What does that mean? It means that it is considered clothing issued by Commands in order to do a specific job, same as a flight suit. It would be my guess that most units deployed on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan will choose to wear the old BDUs, but the uniform you wear is at the mercy of the whims of your unit’s commander – so keep your fingers crossed.

What does this mean for deploying IAs? This blog is still about IAs right? Well, if you are going to be embedded in an Army or USMC unit, you can expect to wear the Army ACU or USMC digital cammies – so keep your fingers crossed for that. If you go to a Navy or a joint command, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s up to that unit’s commander, and I have no idea if you will be issued NWUs for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Look on the bright side; if you are forced to wear this smurf suit in country, at least you'll be less likely to be "accidentally" shot by an IP, which is actually a legitimate fear, because as alluded too earlier, these guys are a fucking clown-show. I was very nearly run over by a drunk IP in a Suburban while walking across ASR Jackson one time, but that's a story for another day. Maybe he would have made more of an effort to miss me if I was dressed like his cousin. But then again, maybe not.

The roll-out has begun; it ends December 2010 so get to your local NEX. Don’t forget your Service Dress Khakis and enlisted Khaki uniform while you’re there, and you better get started on that mustache.