Posts Tagged ‘navy’

Image from Wikipedia

When the Black Plague hit Europe in 1350, it ravaged the area and killed millions of people, especially in the lower classes. But afterwards, the labor shortage caused a working class revival in the peasantry. Day laborers could demand more money for their goods and better working conditions. From the Medievalists:

After the ravages of the Black Death were finished in Europe, however, there were suddenly far fewer people to farm the lands. Egyptian scholar Ahmad Ibn Alī al-Maqrīzī, described what this looked like after the plague had passed through Egypt: “When the harvest time came, there remained only a very small number of ploughmen.” There were some who “attempted to hire workers, promising them half of the crop, but they could not find anyone to help them.” The same was true in Europe, and crops remained unharvested and great revenues were lost for the local landowners because they couldn’t get anyone to do the work.

Egyptian scholar Ahmad Ibn Alī al-Maqrīzī

Not surprisingly, some people didn’t like these uppity peasants not knowing their place.

Many and various attempts were made by local governments and officials to block this upward movement. An Ordinance from Castile in 1351 condemns those who “wander about idle and do not want to work” as well as those “demand such great prices and salaries and wages.” It orders all able to do so to work for a set, pre-plague price. Another from Sienna condemns those who “extort and receive great sums and salaries for the daily labor that they do every day” and sets a fixed price of six gold florins a year. …
The English poet John Gower lamented in his Mirour de l’Omme that labourers who were used to eating bread made of corn now were able to eat that made of wheat and that those who had previously drunk water were now enjoying luxuries like milk and cheese. He also complained about their new, fancier attire, and their choice to dress above their station. His attitude was common among some in the upper and middle classes who lamented the social improvements of the lives of peasants and the loss of the good-old-days before the plague when the world was “well-ordered,” and people knew their place (as Gower says).

The Medievalists

The similarities to today are interesting. While the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t kill nearly the same number of people (especially in the US), it did lead to a massive revolt in the working class. Now truck drivers for Walmart make $100K a year, and there are plenty of people wanting these modern day versions of “peasants” to remain in there place (typically by using mass illegal immigration and inflation to suppress wages). The hardest hit by far is the military, because it relies on a large number of cheap, easy to enlist, (mostly) men to fill its ranks. While it is somewhat of a stereotype (as analyzed in 2020), its not entirely false either.

Stuck between rising prices, a loss of patriotism, an increasingly smaller subset of the population it can recruit, the military is now in the same personnel crunch as 1370’s landlords. It even has its own versions of complaints against uppity peasants, which I call the “appeal to patriotism” and “suck it up,” and are best explained in an example.

A few years back, I sat on a panel discussing the manning problems related to a specific set of submarine Sailors. Because serving on submarines is voluntary, we didn’t have a lot of Sailors in one particular rating, and we had to put an OPHOLD on a Sailor. An OPHOLD basically means we canceled that Sailors orders to another duty station and kept them in their current job. It’s supposed to be a rare thing, so the fact that we had to do this to meet minimum manning was concerning.

On the panel I suggested that we authorize a special bonus for these Sailors of around $150 a month. While that doesn’t seem like a lot of money, I had seen bonuses of that size bump up volunteers before, and I figured we could easily raise it again in the future if needed. I had at least two civilians, both retired master chiefs, scoff at this notion. “These kids should be volunteering for submarine duty out of patriotism!” one said (yup, literally his words). Another lamented that kids these days couldn’t “take it” when it came to the hardships of submarine duty.

The senior most officer (a Captain) asked why we couldn’t just keep OPHOLDing Sailors. Frustrated, at this point I jumped in and said “Your OPHOLD means nothing if Sailors start saying they’ll commit suicide, which guarantees you can’t assign them to a submarine.” The room got pretty quiet, and eventually the Captain agreed we should pursue a bonus. Ultimately the bonus did help and got us out of the manning jam, although it took a while and put the Navy in a pretty risky position at the time.

If you wonder why I’m never surprised at the horrible conditions onboard the GEORGE WASHINGTON and why Sailors commit suicide, well, now you know. Retired senior enlisted and officers sitting in cushy desk jobs that feel their funding might get cut if they provide more morsels to our young Sailors doing the hard work are all too common in our force today. Sadly, this class of bureaucrat is so deeply entrenched I’m not sure the military will survive before they can be uprooted.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Part two of a post from a week ago:

Post 1: Navy’s Community Outreach

I want to start by saying I don’t understand why everything is “+” now. We have Disney+, ESPN+, Daily Wire+…seriously? Is there some marketing guy driving around in a beat-up car telling everyone “You got to add a plus-sign at the end of your logo and then, THEN you make the BIG MONEY!”

Well, whomever that guy is, he must have talked to the Navy, because they rolled out High Year Tenure PLUS! Now, you might wonder, what the heck is High Year Tenure? In the military, the service only lets you stay a certain number of years at a particular rank. For example, if you’re an E-5 in the Navy (a Second-Class Petty Officer), you can normally only stay in for 16 years. At 16 years, if you don’t promote to E-6, you have to leave the Navy because you’re over High Year Tenure. Some military members call this the “up or out” program, which is probably the best simple description.

HYT has been around forever, and it gets changed over time. For example, HYT for E-4s used to be 20 years, so years ago you could theoretically do the same job in the same rank for 20 years, retire as a fairly junior member and get a small retirement. But over time, HYT bumped up so that members had to be at least an E-6 to get a 20 year retirement, and on the officer side at least an O-4.

Part of the point of HYT was to bring in new talent. The military relies on bringing in lots of young, talented individuals at the low end and then grows them over years into more senior leaders. HYT helps ensure that you either promote or leave, thereby opening holes for others to advance into. But when you can’t recruit, kicked out a ton of people over the COVID vaccine, and can’t draft people (at least not yet), then you have to resort to something else, in this case, HYT+!

Right out of the block, we get a contradiction: the first paragraph says HYT+ “offers a new opportunity for talented and experienced Sailors to continue their Navy careers beyond the HYT limits listed in reference (a). This pilot also offers additional looks for advancement and more time to build retirement benefits, to include E5 retirement.” Yet two paragraphs down, it essentially makes it mandatory:

b.  In order to facilitate this pilot program, all AC and TAR enlisted HYT dates occurring between 1 March 2023 and 30 September 2024 are hereby suspended, with the exception of CMDCM, CMDCS and nuclear trained master chiefs.  HYT Plus eligible AC and TAR Sailors with a HYT date in that time frame will no longer be involuntarily separated or involuntarily transferred to the fleet reserve due to reaching HYT as prescribed in reference (a).  The decision to remain on active duty beyond the normal end of active obligated service (EAOS) is voluntary and will not require the submission of a HYT waiver request.  Sailors who otherwise would have reached HYT between 1 March 2023 and 30 September 2024, but opt to transfer to the fleet reserve, or separate at their EAOS will be deemed a voluntary separation.

So….you get opted in by default? We assume everyone in the military is “talented and experienced?” Uhm…I call hogwash on that. We have a lot mediocre people that can’t promote because they are mediocre. But hey, let’s keep them around for numbers right?

What if you’re slated to retire? No problem! “HYT Plus eligible Sailors who are approved for HYT-based separation or retirement on or before 28 February 2023 may opt into the HYT Plus pilot any time prior to their separation or retirement date.”

We’ve seen suspensions of HYT like this before. When COVID impacted recruit training in 2020, the Navy allowed people to stay an additional year, even if they had an approved retirement. This worked because many companies weren’t hiring, so Sailors looking at a crappy job market got another year of pay and a guaranteed salary for their family. But that’s gone now. Any Sailor with skills will get snapped up in this incredibly competitive job market. The Navy already struggles to retain expert cyber expertise, and is at the point of recruiting people in the lowest percentile scoring on the ASVAB, the mandatory (at least for now) entrance exam into the military. Because nothing says “recruit more cyber people” like bringing in people that can barely write their name on the entrance exam!

So is this going to work? Not as intended. As my logo above indicates, it will keep mediocre people in that would normally struggle to find civilian employment because they don’t have competitive skill sets. Since you don’t have to promote and stay competitive, you’ll have more people doing just enough to get by, get to 20 years for a retirement….oh wait, we got rid of that, so people will simply leave anyway, typically when they have the skills needed (paid by Uncle Sam) to find a better job. Worse still, when you fill up with mediocrity, it pushes out those that want challenging assignments or want to push the envelope. We’re going to have less Mavericks in the service, since they get frustrated with the system and leave for companies that place more value on that skillset.

In short, HYT+ is going to drive the military to mediocrity. Rather than actually assess why people aren’t joining and fixing those systemic issues, the military is using a full bag of internal tricks to try and stay out of hot water. But its not solving the problem. It’s the equivalent of stopping a brush fire while the forest burns in the background. You might get a small improvement in the short run, but the big systemic problem is going to crush you in 2023-2024, just like I predicted years ago.

So, good luck with HYT+! Maybe it’ll be better than Disney+ in the New Year!

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

First, Merry Christmas everyone! I’m writing this early in the morning while the family is sleeping on vacation. I hope all you wonderful readers are enjoying some much needed time off with your families!

I was going to write something fun and positive, but you know, the Navy had to go and release a whole bunch of juicy NAVADMINs that just show how desperate it truly is to retain talent, and in a few cases, how it very much is not acknowledging the reasons it is losing that talent. Remember in my previous posts how I said we’ll see a lowering of standards to bring people in, more monetary incentives to stay and eventually a total relaxing of rules on getting out, followed by forcing people to stay? Well, we’re probably almost at the forcing part. I have one aviator friend that had his retirement denied because the Coast Guard (not the Navy, but facing the same issues as the Navy) simply couldn’t afford to let him go. Thankfully he’s approved now for 2023, but he learned the definition of “orders” real fast. He won’t be the last.

Big Navy has accepted that 2023 is going to suck, bigly, and is pulling out all the stops to bring in enlisted talent. This week we got not one, or two, or even three NAVADMINs, but FOUR NAVADMINs related to retention in some way.

NAVADMIN 287/22 – NAVY COMMUNITY OUTREACH PLAN

NAVADMIN 288/22 – HIGH YEAR TENURE PLUS PILOT

NAVADMIN 289/22 – BASIC NEEDS ALLOWANCE

NAVADMIN 290/22 – EVERY SAILOR IS A RECRUITER

I’m going to break this into multiple posts, so we’re only focused on 287/22 for this post. Since none of these address officer retention, we’ll stay focused on our enlisted Sailors.

As background, for any organization, people come and go for a variety of reasons, but the ease of recruiting talent boils down to a few key things:

  1. Do you pay well?
  2. Do people believe in your mission?
  3. Do people believe in your leadership?

If you get those three things right, for the most part, you can compete for talent. The Navy doesn’t do any of these very well at this moment. Enlisted pay and benefits were always low, made worse by changes to the Basic Housing Allowance and retirement made years ago. While the Navy has a really important mission, it did a terrible job emphasizing this during the Iraq/Afghanistan years, and thus it absorbed part of the blame when we pulled out surrendered to the Taliban. In terms of leadership, well, it tends to be focused on making annual uniform changes rather than producing ships, submarines and aircraft on-time and on-budget that can fight our nations wars. Heck, it took Elon Musk to bring down the cost of satellite launches such that we have even a small chance of regaining our space dominance. It’s too bad he’s not in ship building, because we desperately need someone with his business expertise in that particular area.

With that in mind, let’s look at the long NAVADMIN about Community Outreach. I’m not kidding about long, its wordy even for me. It starts off with the normal fluffy garbage that all these messages tend to use, but then in section three it gets pretty blunt, pretty fast:

  1. Data
    a. Today, 26 percent of Americans consider the Navy as the most important service to our country’s national security, trailing only the Air Force’s 27 percent. This is a 14 percent increase since 2009 and a 1 percent increase from 2021.
    b. While the Navy continues to be viewed very favorably by the public, each of the services have experienced at least a 10 percent decrease in favorability during the past six years. In 2016, 82 percent of the country viewed the Navy favorably. Today, that number is 70 percent.
    c. In 2011, 57 percent of Americans said they would recommend joining the Navy. Today, 43 percent say they would.
    d. Three quarters of U.S. adults under 25 say they are not interested at all in joining any branch of the military.
    e. The percentage of Americans between the ages of 16 and 21 who say they will either definitely or probably join the military has fallen to 9 percent. The lowest point since 2007.

I mean, dang. That’s like the beginning to the movie Up! level of smack-you-in-the-face. To which I say “Damn right!” You have to start by acknowledging the problem you have.

Unfortunately, we get it wrong almost immediately in section five:

  1. Objectives
    a. Ensure 50 percent of all in-person community outreach engagements focus on 13-29 year-olds and 50 percent of all engagements within this age group focus on 13-29 year-old women.
    b. Increase the number of women under 30 who view the Navy favorably from 46 percent to 49 percent.
    c. Increase the number of African Americans who view the Navy as most important to national security from 17 percent to 24 percent.
    d. Increase the number of Hispanic Americans who view the Navy as the most important to national security from 24 percent to 28 percent.
    e. Increase the number of Americans over 25 who recommend joining the Navy from 43 percent to 48 percent.
    f. Increase the number of Americans under 25 who are considering joining the Navy from 12 percent to 15 percent.

Quotas anyone? Listing women and minorities right at the top isn’t a good look. You could have hidden that away, or at least said something like “We are America’s Navy, and we will increase all American’s trust in our Navy. We will also work particularly closely with some communities, such as African Americans, that have a markedly lower trust in our Navy than the average population.”

Sheesh, maybe I should sit on these HR boards…wait, never mind.

The rest of the NAVADMIN lists a TON of programs, and I can’t do it justice with a summary, so I’ll list them here with a grade for effectiveness.

Fleet Weeks – A
Navy Weeks – B+
Media Production Visits – C-
Sailor recognition – B
Naval Aviation Outreach – A
Continental Port Visits – A
Executive Engagement – F
Namesake Visits – A
Navy Band Tours – B
Social Media – B-
Entertainment – A
NCAs – C

Fleet Weeks and Aviation Outreach is a solid A. Naval aviation does a great job making it look cool, and there are enough pilots of every color and gender that it has a pretty broad appeal no matter what. This is bolstered by good ties with the entertainment industry, so more Netflix and History Channel shows on Naval Aviation is just going to help recruitment efforts.

It’s good to see Continental Port visits on there, and we need to do MORE of these. Fleet Week is nice, but it is simply too big for most cities to handle. Destroyers, frigates and even landing craft can pull into smaller ports, and should be doing that on a near constant basis. Not only does it promote spending more time underway practicing basic seamanship, but the small towns tend to come out in droves to support Sailors. The best receptions I ever get are from small towns that normally don’t see Sailors in uniform, and I think the Navy should budget more time for these on a permanent basis.

The namesake visits are long overdue. We name vessels after states, cities, Naval heroes and corrupt politicians, but it seems only the last one ever makes the news. I’d be all about naming vessels, especially the new frigates, after cities with higher-than-normal Navy Sailors. Often times the namesake visits happen but are very underreported, so advertising them better would be nice.

The choice of cities for Navy Week is…interesting? Using Wikipedia to see gross demographic data, some of the choices are obvious. Others, like Tri-Cities, TN (which I didn’t know was a thing until now, sorry Tennessee!) don’t make much sense. Maybe the under-25 population is higher there? That would explain Lincoln, NE, a traditional college town. More importantly, why not Detroit, MI, or other cities the rust belt? I’m guessing some of it may relate to availability, since if the city doesn’t let you come in, you’re just going to look elsewhere.

Overall White/Black/Hispanic percentages

Miami, FL: 11/16/72
Tucson, AZ: 43/5/42
Shreveport, LA: 35/55/4
Tri-Cities, TN: 96/2/1
Wilmington, NC: 71/18/8
St. Louis, MO: 43/43/5
Oklahoma City, OK: 49/14/21
Milwaukee, WI: 32/38/20
Billings, MT: 90/1/1
Lincoln, NE: 85/4/7
Cleveland, OH: 32/47/13
Salt Lake City, UT: 63/3/21
Salem, OR: 79/1/20
Philadelphia, PA: 34/38/15
Indianapolis, IN: 50/27/13

Same goes for Navy Band tours. Canada? Puerto Rico? At least we had some band performances at Navy Weeks. I’ve already written about Navy’s Social Media, and I stand by my assessment that its not bad, but not great.

Navy recognition has been very, very underused, and often the only calls are “quota based.” I saw one recently asking specifically for stories about female Naval officer achievements. Uhm…OK? At a previous command, I regularly sent my Sailors awards (with their permission) to their hometown news program. That actually motivated many Sailors to stay in, since many small towns held them up on a big pedestal when they visited during the holidays. It’s good to see it expanded, but I don’t see command’s doing much with it.

Media production visits and NCAs gets a solid C from me. I’ve never heard of NCAs before, and reading more about it makes it sound like a lobbying agency. That’s fine, but its not going to inspire young people to think highly of the Navy. Same goes with more boring media about the “importance of the Ohio replacement program.” No young person is inspire by the “Ohio replacement program.” It’s lammmme. Call it the “Punch Putin into the Stone Age” submarine. Again, this is more lobbying, and more appropriate for a different NAVADMIN.

Executive engagement gets a solid F. Our Navy Executives have done a dismal job at…everything. They can’t build ships or submarines on time or on schedule. That can’t get Congress to build more shipyards. They can’t hold their own accountable when they violate the UCMJ. They make excuses for why the Navy has abysmal infrastructure that literally kills Sailors. To top it off, they then typically roll into jobs to work on the same programs they mismanaged in the first place.

Nobody is inspired by these people. The best thing they could do is simply retire and stay out of the way of more capable people. Authorizing more flag officer travel isn’t going to solve our community outreach issues.

I’d give this NAVADMIN a solid “B+”. It’s got some really good ideas, and it finally spells out in clear language many of the issues the Navy has. But it then delves into quotas and lobbying that won’t do anything, and I worry that the Navy will focus on authorizing more flag travel instead of authorizing more small port visits. Execution is key, so we’ll see how it plays out this coming year.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

We have been pushing more and more people to seek mental health resources. That is a good thing, and will hopefully reduce the number of suicides and other mental health problems. But there is a stigma associated with seeking mental health services. People are afraid that they will be judged by others for seeking help, and it will have consequences.

Well, they aren’t wrong. And Hawaii recently proved it will absolutely treat you like a second-class citizen if you seek help for depression:

Michael Santucci, a cryptologic warfare officer from Fort Myers, Florida, saw a medical provider at a military hospital for feelings of depression and homesickness a few months after arriving in Hawaii last year, according to his lawsuit, filed in April. He wasn’t diagnosed with any disqualifying behavioral, emotional or mental disorder, the lawsuit said.

He later filled out forms to register his firearms with the Honolulu Police Department and indicated that he had been treated for depression, but noted it was “not serious.” Hawaii law requires registration of all firearms. Prior to acquiring a gun, an applicant must apply for a permit. Santucci needed such a permit even though he legally owned his firearms before arriving Hawaii.

Because Santucci answered “yes” on a form indicating he had sought counseling, the permit process was halted and his firearms were seized, his lawyers said.

Navy Times

Not just halted, but the corrupt police took his weapons.

For those who have never had to deal with the losers that do gun registration in Honolulu, let me illustrate the process. You bring 16 dollars and 50 cents in exact change to the police office. If you bring a 20 dollar bill, the lady behind the counter yells at you like Roz from the Monsters Inc movie. You get fingerprinted. You have a background check run. You get treated better at the DMV.

So, what did LT Santucci learn out of this? Probably to never be honest with the Honolulu PD ever again. That’s what everyone else reading this learned too. Even though Santucci never said he was going to kill himself or hurt anyone else, he was denied his rights. Any gun owner is now incentivized to not seek mental health for exactly this reason, putting them at higher risk of mental health issues.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe the people that run the system want more gun owners committing suicide. Maybe its a feature, not a bug. We’ve seen a shift where homosexuality and transgenderism are no longer considered mental health problems, and we’ll encourage life-altering treatment when we should be encouraging people to better come to grips with the reality they live in. On the other side, telling a mental health practitioner that you struggle being deployed away from home is immediate grounds to remove your rights as a citizen. This is made all the worse by the fact that LT Santucci is raising his right hand every day to defend these people.

If that doesn’t make you mad, well, maybe you should seek treatment for that.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoy these articles, why not donate to Da Tech Guy and purchase a book from the author!