The girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island

Courtesy of the Navy League, today I boarded the USS Makin Island as an official ship’s greeter.  My visit was a bit more fraught than past experiences have been, so I thought I’d walk you through the girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island, starting with pre-visit preparations:

  1. Review boarding instructions at last-minute and realize that I’m supposed to wear “slacks.”  Who the heck has slacks?  I live in jeans, either blue or black.  Burrow through closet and discover antique pair of bland brown slacks.
  2. Breath sigh of relief that slacks still zip.  I vow not to do any inhaling for the rest of the day, lest the slacks become rebellious.
  3. New problem:  After a harried search for the sole, and ancient, pair of brown shoes I own, I find that they are scratched and dirty.  This is bad.  Worse is that I have no shoe polish.  A frantic hunt for something oily to help liven up the leather yields only Tea Tree oil.  Did you know that if you polish your shoes with Tea Tree oil you go around the rest of the day smelling like disinfectant?  I know that now.
  4. Leave house in order to arrive at Pier 80 (in the southern-most part of the City) by 2:30, since the last, best word is that I should be there at 3:00.  I figure a half-hour of wiggle room is a good thing.
  5. Halfway to Pier 80, I get a timely telephone call telling me that the USS Makin Island is actually going to be at Pier 30/32.  Under these circumstances, San Francisco’s maze of one way streets becomes the enemy.
  6. Arrive at Pier 30/32 at 2:30, blithely assuming that I’ll be on board by 3:00.  Hah!  But more on that later.
  7. Learn that, because of snafu, while I am approved for entry onto the pier, my car is not.  I begin the hunt for San Francisco street parking.  Rather to my surprise, I find a spot only a block away, a distance even my dodgy knee can tolerate.  I spend a few minutes struggling with the new-fangled ticket machine, which charges me a hefty $12 for four hours of street parking.  Four hours should be enough, right?
  8. Arrive at pier, and saunter self-consciously across a vast parking lot and staging area, which is empty but for a handful of people who clearly belong there, including five spit-and-polished Marines.   Here’s a picture of that vast space:

  9. With feigned coolness, because I’m neurotically certain that everyone there is staring at me, I casually seat myself on one of the comfortable-looking, bright orange security barriers.
  10. Learn the hard way, when my weight compresses the barrier on which I’ve seated myself, that said barriers are filled with water.
  11. Come to terms with the unpleasant realization that an objective observer, unacquainted with the facts, could reasonably conclude that I wet my pants.
  12. Check out spit-and-polished Marines to see whether they noticed that I’m suddenly looking remarkably foolish, not to mention incontinent.  Happily they appear oblivious — or perhaps they’re just too polite to point and laugh.
  13. Try to air-dry my butt as discretely as possible.  This involves my skulking along the parking lot with my back to the cars, trying to get the benefit of the stiff breeze blowing across the pier.  I am suddenly very grateful that the Navy is running late.
  14. Begin casting longing glances at the Porta Potties. Why the heck are they in such an exposed location?  Think dry thoughts (which is hard to do with wet pants).
  15. Due to extremely brisk breeze, my pants finally begin to dry.  I also give thanks for very expensive all-weather hair style.
  16. Begin to wonder if the thrill of welcoming an amphibious assault vessel is worth it. I fight urge to beat strategic retreat.  I remind myself that dry pants are a good omen and, feeling courageous now that my butt is dry, I slink off to the Porta Potties.
  17. The intelligent, knowledgeable half of the Navy League greeting committee arrives.  Thank God!!  Then I get the bad news:  I arrived an hour early for a ship that is going to be at least an hour late.  Oh, and I’m the point man for the Navy League presentation.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of public speaking?  I’m not shy.  I can show up to a party knowing no one and still have fun.  It’s having all those eyes looking at you (see items 9 and 10, above).  This blind panic is made worse by knowing that those staring are (a) mostly male and (b) mostly younger than I.  When I was 25, this would have been cool; now that I’m . . . ahem . . . my current age, it’s just nerve-wracking.
  18. Go to car to regroup.  I try to freshen up, only to realize that I’ve forgotten to bring lipstick.  This girl doesn’t feel fully dressed without lipstick, but I focus on the fact that I no longer look as if I’ve wet my pants.  I’m ahead of my own curve.  With lunch a distant memory, and no eateries nearby, I eat a stale power bar that my son left in the car donkey’s years ago.
  19. Return to pier, which is filling up.  The USS Makin Island appears.  It is magnificent:
  20. Attach myself like a limpet to my wonderful Navy League point man who patiently listens to me as I nervously babble.  I know I should muzzle myself, but I’ve got so much adrenalin pumping through me at the thought of public speaking that nothing is going to stop my mouth from moving.
  21. Finally!  Only an hour and a half after I first report for “greeting duty,” we board the ship.  Dozens of ridiculously handsome/beautiful, polite, incredibly young people, all of whom look spiffy in their uniforms, are everywhere.  Is it really possible that they’re all staring at me?  Remind myself I am no longer 13, and that it’s not all about me.
  22. One of said spiffy young people leads us to the wardroom, where we receive a very polite welcome and are offered food and drink.  I recoil at the thought of food, but demand water like a starving man in the desert.
  23. Briefing commences.  The Captain welcomes all of his visitors aboard.  I’m shocked.  How can someone be so fresh and young, and have so much responsibility?  I later check out the ship’s web page and learn that Captain Pringle isn’t that much younger than I am — he just looks a whole lot better.
  24. Fortunately, I’m not the first speaker.  Before I speak, representatives from the Fleet Week board, the San Francisco Police Department, and the NCIS speak.  They are all composed and quite interesting.  This worries me.
  25. Oh, my God!  It’s my turn.  There must be about — oh my! — 50 (or could it actually be 3,000?) people sitting there waiting to hear me speak.  I introduce myself and my fellow Navy Leaguer, and am more grateful than I can say that I remember our names.  I’ve been known to forget my own name in public speaking settings.
  26. I subscribe to the theory that, if you’re obviously at a disadvantage and the people you’re with aren’t your enemy, you should throw yourself at their mercy.  I therefore apologize in advance for a few things: (a) I’m shaking with nerves; (b) I’m a vast chasm of civilian ignorance; (c) I’ll be reading from a prepared script; and (d) I don’t have my reading glasses, so I can’t see the prepared script.  I am off to a rip-roaring start here.
  27. Things are going well.  I’m making it through the list of goodies that the Navy League is providing for our maritime guests, and I’m only stuttering a little bit.  I get cocky.  When I come to the part about tours up in Wine Country, I ad lib:  “This is up in the Sonoma/Napa area, north of San Francisco.  It’s really beautiful up there and wine tours are fun.  Just be sure not to drink or drive.”
  28. Did I just do that?  Did I tell a room full of Naval and Marine officers not to drink and drive?  Could I have been more disrespectful to them?  I don’t know if recovery is possible, but I try:  “I can say that, because I’m a mother.”  Okay, just kill me now.
  29. I finally wrap up my mercifully brief presentation with only minimal hyperventilation and no tears.  Showing that they truly are officers and gentlemen/gentlewomen, several of the briefing attendees come up to me afterwards and tell me that I did a fine job.  What nice people these are!
  30. Return to my car three hours and fifty-seven minutes after I first arrived.  Hurray!  I didn’t get a parking ticket.  I go home giddy with excitement.  Mission accomplished!

Despite my own neurosis, I had a wonderful time.  As I told the assembled officers, the USS Makin Island is a lovely ship, and I was truly honored to be on board.  If you’re in or near San Francisco this weekend, don’t let the crowds deter you.  As you can see from the Fleet Week website, there are so many things to do and see, and it’s your chance to thank personally the men and women who serve our country.

The Navy League has issued a call to action

Even if you’re not a member of the Navy League, I thought you’d find interesting this email I received (emphasis mine):

Navy League logo

Dear Navy Leaguer:
The sea services need our help. As you may be aware, The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated $487 billion in security cuts over the next 10 years in order to resolve the 2011 debt ceiling crisis. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have all had to delay planned acquisitions and investments in technology in order to meet these cuts and still fulfill their commitments to our national security. However, there is an even larger threat looming: sequestration.

Sequestration is the name of the additional $1.2 trillion in automatic , across the board spending cuts, scheduled over ten years to take effect beginning in January 2013. About $492 billion of that will come from defense and security budgets. These cuts will be triggered if Congress fails to produce a deficit reduction bill with at least $1.2 trillion in savings by that time.

This means that defense would absorb at least 41% of the sequestration costs despite only being 19% of the budget. The cuts beginning in January 2013 will be administered by the Office of Management and Budget, not the Congress. This denies the people the legislative process by not allowing judicious review of where cuts should be made or where funds should be applied to worthy purposes. It eliminates the ability to set priorities. Defense and security cuts for 2013 alone would amount to $54 billion.

Sequestration was never intended to happen. The impacts were intended to be so devastating that Congress would be forced to reach an agreement to prevent the trigger. Unfortunately, that has not yet happened—which is why the Navy League needs to act now to prevent severe weakening of our sea services.

The Navy League is issuing a call to action. We need each of our members to remind Congress of the need to support our sea services, and to realize that this issue matters to voters!

Here you’ll find links to all the materials needed to get you started. Talking points will give you necessary background to talk confidently about the issue. The phone script and draft letter will help you with your contacts with your Congressman and Senators. Slides on the subject are being added to Grassroots and CSOP presentations.

Please call your Congressman and Senators at their Washington, DC office, where their military and defense staff are located. If you have an established relationship with the local office, please contact them too. To contact your Congressman and Senators, visit their website (www.house.gov or www.senate.gov ). Each Member of Congress has a “Contact Me” page where you can get a mailing address, fax number or an email address. Many members have a web form, where you can copy and paste your message in a Comments box to submit. If you need assistance, contact your Legislative Affairs Regional Vice President or Sara Fuentes or Chris Bennett at Navy League headquarters (sfuentes@navyleague.org , cbennett@navyleague.org ;             703-528-1775      ).

Your action is needed now! We don’t have much time—these cuts go into effect in January. We need Congress to act before summer recess in July.

If you have comments or questions on this Call to Action or any Navy League matter, as always, please let me know at nationalpresident@navyleague.org .

Sincerely,
Philip L. Dunmire
National President
Navy League of the United States

Military Intelligence — and so much more

Astute readers have probably figured out over the years that I’m a huge fan of our American military.  I think it’s the last institution in America that trains young people to be competent adults; that gives people, young and old, meaning and purpose in a world that’s often defined by mindless materialism; that truly serves as a defender of American liberties; that manages to transcend the divisiveness of multiculturalism (although the Obama administration is working hard to undermine the unity that binds our troops); and that functions as something of an Emily Post school, since I’ve noticed in my interactions with Coast Guard, Navy and Marine personnel (thanks to the Navy League) that our men and women in the service have lovely manners.

Yes, the last item sounds fairly silly when included in a list that celebrates the way in which the military defends freedom and makes men out of boys, but it is somehow a holistic part of the whole.  The military’s respect for its country, its mission, and its comrades also manifests itself as respect for ordinary Americans, as demonstrated through good manners.  Comparing the manners young service people show to the manners (or lack thereof) that ordinary young people show is a salutary example of the maturity and polish the military gives recruits.

In keeping with my admiration for our military, I have two posts I want to share with you.  First, a post by a former Marine describing the way he politely took to task a teacher who thought she was being clever by raising the old liberal trope that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron.  (Hat tip:  American Thinker)

I was in class some time ago when a professor made a joke about the meaning of what an oxymoron is. It means a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. She gave some like “Act Naturally” and “Aunt Jemima Light”, but then she mentioned another that struck a chord with me. The last she said was “Military Intelligence.” The class, full of college freshmen like myself laughed at that one too. The professor knew that I was a Marine and that I had served two tours, one of which ended less than six months before, so she knew this was a mistake I would not take lightly. I saw the look on her face as she saw the look on mine.

“Ma’am, are you aware of what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” (Marine recruits do in week six of their basic training.)

Read the rest here.

Second, I would like to join with Michelle Malkin in reminding you that there is Marine you need to keep in your thoughts and prayers: SSgt Frank D. Wuterich.  Almost seven years after the fact, Wuterich still hasn’t had the opportunity to clear his name following the media uproar over the alleged Haditha massacre.  You remember the Haditha massacre, don’t you?  That was the one where the media, aided by John Murtha, accused Marines of brutally murdering civilians during a fight in Iraq, back in 2005.  Despite being publicly pilloried, all of the Haditha Marines but for SSgt Wuterich have been exonerated.  I know he will be too.

By the way, speaking of Murtha, and going back to my parenthetical in the first paragraph about the Obama administration’s efforts to destroy our military from the inside out, I’m sure you will be as happy as our armed forces probably are to know that the Navy named a ship after Murtha.  Do you think that if I also accuse our troops of “killing innocent civilians in cold blood,” they’d name a ship after me?

The USS Carl Vinson rocks!

Let me start by saying that I am way too grown-up to say that something “rocks.”  Mine is a more dignified vocabulary.  Nevertheless, saying that the USS Carl Vinson rocks is the right way to start this post, because I want to discuss my visit to the USS Carl Vinson in the context of America’s youth and, in an ironic, self-referential way, my own youth.  Before I get too deep, though, let me start with a linear narrative about my day, one that I’ll make more than usually girly and detail-free to ensure that I don’t inadvertently say something that is better left unsaid about an important ship that has secrets to keep.

It was sheer dumb luck that my kids and I got to enjoy an extraordinary day aboard the Carl Vinson.  When the Navy League asked for ships’ greeters, I readily volunteered my services.  The Navy League tries to have a greeter for every ship.  The greeter’s job is to go on board, welcome the ship to the port (San Francisco, in this case), and to hand over a wonderful collection of coupons, maps, lists of free services, etc., all with the aim of making the visit as easy and enjoyable as possible for the men and women aboard the ship.  From my point of view, it’s a sinecure.  Navy League representatives gather all informational materials and coupons, bring it to the piers, and arrange clearance for us.  All we have to do is show up and be welcoming.

This year, unlike past years, I was assigned (along with a couple of other Navy League members) to a ship that was anchored in the Bay and that would not be open for visitors.  I had no assurance, therefore, that I would get on the ship.  When I got permission to bring the kids with me, we were told that it was up to the ship whether to take us on board.  I warned the kids that there was about a 50% chance we wouldn’t get on, and made alternate plans, just in case.  I was a little more optimistic when the senior Navy Leaguer assigned to visit the Carl Vinson told me that we’d be boarding with the ship’s original Captain, Richard Martin.  I still didn’t allow myself to get my (or my kids’) hopes up too high.  After all, they might have whisked Captain Martin on board, and left us standing pier-side, waving good-bye.  All I can say is that I did the Navy a disservice in assuming that it would behave so ungraciously.

Things were a bit slow in the morning, and we waited on the pier longer than expected, which was all to the good.  While my kids were restless, I got the opportunity to meet Captain Martin; his lovely and charming wife, Anne; his delightful friends; and the other Navy League people hoping to go aboard.  As I say every year around this time, Navy people are nice people:  well mannered, welcoming and so enthusiastic about all things Navy.  By the time the boat arrived to take Captain Martin, and his family and friends, to the Carl Vinson, there was no question but that we Navy League people would be going there too.

One of the things I always tell my children is that, while I haven’t done anything very interesting with my life, I’ve had the singular good fortune to know interesting people.  In this case, a mere half hour before visiting the Carl Vinson, luck smiled on me and the children, and put us in Captain Martin’s friendly orbit.  He was accorded the most splendid welcome you can imagine when he boarded the ship — and, listening to the stories he and others had to tell, I can understand why.  This is where I interrupt my linear narrative and get to the point about my own youth.

I was a child of the 1960s and 1970s and, more than that, I was a child of San Francisco and Berkeley.  I knew the drill:  the Cold War was a farce, we Americans were bullies, the Russians were people just like us, U.S. imperialism blah blah blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.  With age and experience, I’ve mercifully been blessed with some wisdom, and I’ve learned that the Cold War was not a farce, but was an existential battle between freedom and tyranny; that America was not a bully, but kept as many nations as possible on the side of liberty; and that, while the average Russian Vlad on the street might have been a person just like us, the Soviet leadership was dedicated to putting as many people as possible under the Communist yoke.

The actual facts (not the San Francisco/Berkeley filtered facts) meant that there was nothing cold about the Cold War.  Instead, it was a deadly, and perpetual, cat and mouse game.  While we, snug on our college campuses, sneered at the military, our military fought on the front lines, constantly tweaking the Soviet cat, all the while avoiding a direct confrontation.  Captain Martin, as the first captain of one of ten Nimitz class super carriers, was one of the leading-edge warriors in this fight.  The responsibilities he bore were enormous.  While we now engage our enemies on the ground, in those days, the water was a major battlefield in this covert war, and he shepherded one of our biggest weapons.

The sign reads: Beware of jet blasts, propellers and rotors

Bottom line, when it comes to the USS Carl Vinson’s intersection with my own youth:  I was an ignorant, thoughtless child, who inadvertently gave aid to the enemy simply by refusing to recognize that there was an enemy.  I was fortunate enough, though, to be protected by people who recognized the stakes in this existential war, and who put themselves on the front line.  Lucky, lucky me. And now back to today’s story….

The USS Carl Vinson isn’t a ship that exists only in a glorious Cold War past.  It remains a vital part of America’s arsenal, and its vitality is apparent from the moment one steps on board.  To start with, the ship is huge.  The total crew numbers almost 6,000 men and women (a number that includes the air wing).  Because the ship is not open to the public, we walked onto a ship churning with activity, as sailors and Marines, all of them so very young, lined up for liberty.  To the kids’ (and, yes, my) delight, since we were trailing in the wake of the ship’s top officers, hundreds of them fell silent and stood at attention as we walked by.  For a modern civilian, it’s impressive, to say the least, to witness young people showing this kind of respect to those who, by virtue of age, effort and wisdom, have achieved a high status within an organization.

In no time at all, we found ourselves in the Captain’s quarters.  A lovely and welcome repast was spread on the table in the stateroom (I think it was the stateroom), and Capt. Bruce Lindsey urged us to eat.  I’m embarrassed to say that my kids alone probably gobbled up a quarter of the food before I realized what they were doing, but I’m not surprised that they did.  Aside from the fact that they were hungry (as it took quite a while for us to board the ship), the sandwiches were delicious and the cookies were outstanding.

As we ate, Captain Lindsay gave us a brief and entertaining talk about the ship’s history:  about Carl Vinson himself, a man whose life spanned most of the 20th Century, and who deserves enormous credit for giving us a Navy in the 1930s that was able to help us win a war in the 1940s; about the ship’s missions, including its stellar humanitarian work in Haiti; and about the ship’s crew, a collection of dynamic, hard-working, deeply committed young people who work extraordinarily hard on a ship that has virtually no down-time.

Captains Lindsey & Martin, USS Carl Vinson

Captain Martin then spoke briefly about his years aboard the ship.  He’s a very humble man, despite his high accomplishments.  It says much about him that one of the things he’s most proud of is that he got the ship seaworthy 30 days early and $200,000,000 under budget.  I don’t think things like that happen anymore in today’s world.

After the Captain’s spoke, and after our Navy League representative gave a short, sweet speech welcoming the ship to our fair City, and delivering a painting of the ship coming into the Bay, all of us were offered a tour of the ship.  Yes!  Oh, yes!  But first we needed a pit stop.  Captain Lindsay was gracious enough to allow us to use the restroom (uh, sorry, Navy types:  head) in his own quarters.  My son was impressed.  When he emerged, he couldn’t contain himself:  “That’s a really captainy-y bathroom!”

From the Captain’s quarters, we headed to the bridge, from the bridge to the flight deck, from the flight deck to the Admiral’s briefing room, from the briefing room to the Com. room, and on and on.  I’m not telling what I saw in any detail, in part because I’ll get it wrong, and in part because I don’t want to say anything that I shouldn’t.  I will say, thought, that it was all fascinating and that the crew members we ran into on this tour were helpful, informative, and had such nice manners.  The ship was also in true ship shape, which is a pleasure to the eye.

Oh — about that crew.  They are young.  Just eyeballing them, my guess is that about 70% of those 6,000 crew members are 25 or under.  What amazed me was learning that the person on the bridge handling the rudder (that is, steering this vast, nuclear powered ship) is probably 19 years old.  Think about that:  three years ago, he (or she) was getting a driver’s license; now she (or he) is driving a very big ship.

It’s obvious that our Navy has a tremendous respect for young people.  It believes that they are capable.  It believes that they are intelligent.  It believes that, given the opportunity, they will act responsibly.  It doesn’t coddle them.  It doesn’t flatter them with false praise.  It demands of them their best, and they dig into themselves and discover that they can meet that demand.  These kids are America’s best and brightest because they willingly serve a harsh, but fair, task master, they grow up quickly, and they have the tools to become exemplary citizens, whatever they choose to do with their post-Navy lives.

Blue Angels, as seen from USS Carl Vinson

I want to keep this post away from politics, but I couldn’t help but contrast the young people I saw on board the USS Carl Vinson with these young people.  I’ll say no more.

All it all, it was as lovely a day as one could wish.  The weather was perfect, the people were delightful, and the ship was gorgeous (and surprisingly elegant, for such a utilitarian piece of equipment).  Speaking of my own family, I can say without hesitation that a good time was had by all!

By the way, I’m not the only one who saw a contrast between the military and Occupy Wall Street.  While I observed the two different types of young people drawn to the two different types of activities, Zombie noted that the military was, hands down, the audience favorite.

Honoring our Seafaring Services *UPDATED*

In honor of Fleet Week (which starts Saturday in San Francisco), I have three Navy/Marine related stories to relate and I want to promote a few of my favorite Navy related blogs.

Story 1:

My daughter has started a new school and is making new friends.  The other day, I met the Mom of one of these new friends.  (I’m happy to say that both mother and daughter are nice gals.)

“Is your daughter an only child?” I asked.  (Go ahead, say it:  I’m nosy.)

“No,” she said, “I have a son, too.”  Then, with the usual apologetic look one sees in Marin, she added “He’s joining the Navy next week.”

Having said that, the Mom cringed slightly, clearly expecting me to launch into a shocked lecture about the immorality of supporting our armed forces, especially with the blood of our young men.

“Wait!  Wait!  I’ve got to show you something,” I mumbled as I head to the stack of magazines on the kitchen counter.  Ruffling through papers for a minute revealed what I was looking for:  SeaPower magazine, which comes as part of my Navy League membership.  I handed it to her, along with a statement of the obvious.  “We’re big fans of the Navy in this house.”

Needless to say, she was delighted.  We talked about boys becoming men in the military.  She agreed.  Being a mom, she’s a little worried about her 21 year old son (he’ll always be her baby) going into the Navy.  Still, she realizes that her son needs a place to grow up and become a man — and our culture isn’t that place.  We currently train boys to be perpetual adolescents with feminine emotional traits, rather than encouraging the best aspects of manliness (bravery, loyalty, honor, camaraderie, etc.).

I think the push to become a manly man, in the best sense of the word, applies with special force in their case, because she’s a single Mom living in a low-income, all-black community.  Young men coming out of that community do not necessarily fare well in life.  Her son apparently realized that sad fact himself, since it was he who wanted to go into the military. After a couple of years at the local community college, he was lost and felt he needed something more meaningful.

When the Mom left, she thanked me profusely. “I feel so much happier now about his decision.”

Story 2:

At the local dojo a few months ago, I asked one of my Mom friends (a second degree blackbelt, incidentally), what her son (also a second degree blackbelt) was going to do with himself during the summer. Her face got that familiar Marin grimace.  She ducked her head and spoke softly.  “You hadn’t heard? He’s enlisted in the Marines.” Then came the inevitable pause, as she readied herself to be berated (or to get a saccharine and insincere, “Well, that’s nice.”).

“Oh, my gosh! That’s so cool. Wait I minute, I’ve got something to show you.” I dug frantically through my purse and — yes, there it was! — dragged out my Navy League coin. She blinked, startled. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“Wow!  That’s wonderful.” she said. “I have to admit that this was a surprise to us. He came home one day and said ‘I’ve spent two years at community college, and I don’t know what to do with myself there.’ So he joined the Marines.”

My friend, who I assume is the usual Marine liberal then added something interesting:  “You know, I’ve been thinking about this. We should have our best and brightest defending us.  I think this will be a good thing.”

That was at the beginning of the summer.  A little while ago, the young man graduated from Marine Boot Camp, down at Camp Pendleton.  His mom sent me a photo of a young man absolutely radiating pride in himself and his uniform.  Mom was also deeply impressed by the graduation ceremony, which she said everyone should see.

Story 3:

My life is carpools.  Yesterday, I had in my car a darling 13 year old whom I’ve known since he was a little boy.  I stand very high in his estimation.  It’s not my charm, beauty or intelligence.  It’s the fact that he learned, last year, that I have friends in the Navy, including an admiral.  (Actually, I can boast about several admirals, since some of them might actually recognize me at a party if they ran into me.)  I am now persona grata, since this young man has as his life’s ambition entry into the Naval academy, followed by a career as a SEAL.

This boy has been thinking about BIG ISSUES.  “This is a really good time to get into the military, because I believe that we’re going to be in a very big war soon.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

“The way I see it,” he answered, “a few years ago, the news was filled with stories about the war.  Now, though, there are no stories.  I think they’re hiding something big.”

He was unimpressed with my suggestion that the media might have been trying to embarrass George Bush, whom they didn’t like, while trying to spare Barack Obama, whom they do like, the same embarrassment.  “No, I think there’s something big.”  He’s not quite sure who the enemy will be, but he knows there’s one out there.

Wrap-up to the above stories:

I think I should start a support group in Marin for those moms whose sons are entering the military.  The message would be, we don’t all hate you and we think your sons are doing a good thing!

And now the links

There are, as you all know, myriad mil blogs out there, all of which are a testament to the high caliber of men and women who serve in our military.  Since this is Navy/Marine Day at Bookworm Room, I’m just going to list my four favorite Seafaring military (and, perhaps, retired military) blogs:

The Mellow Jihadi
CDR Salamander
Neptunus Lex
Castra Praetoria

If you know of Navy/Marine/Coast Guard/Merchant Marine blogs that deserve recognition, let me know.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  I’ll start adding reader suggestions here as they come in.

Information Dissemination

The Navy League

San Francisco’s Fleet Week is just around the corner.  It is pretty much the last gasp of the City that once Knew How.  (Herb Caen readers, meaning old San Franciscans, will know what I mean when I write that.)

I just renewed my Navy League membership, not only because it is a sterling organization, and one that should be familiar to every American, but also because it’s my e-ticket ride for Fleet Week.  The support I give our maritime forces with my membership is returned a thousand-fold in the form of extra attention during the Fleet Week celebrations.  The Navy doesn’t just pay lip service to that hackneyed expression “thank you for your support;” it says thank you with a vengeance.

So think about this double whammy:  With one membership payment, you get the altruistic pleasure of helping out an organization that exists to serve our forces in the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, and you get lots of fun piled on your plate.

Sign up now.  That’s all I can say, so I’ll say it again:  Sign up now.

A little nag (from an expert, ’cause I’m a wife and mother)

But for the Navy SEALS, Osama would still be waltzing around Pakistan, hiding behind his wife.  The SEALS did an extraordinary job, right down to the incredibly accurate shooting that eventually sent Osama to, I hope, some place that is permanently fiery and painful.

May I again suggest a contribution, no matter how small, to the Navy League?  It is the preeminent non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about sea power’s (read:  the Navy’s, the Marine’s and the Coast Guard’s) importance to national security.  It also supports the men and women who serve in those organizations.

As a civilian, I can’t praise the Navy League highly enough.  I donate what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small amount of money and, in return, when the Navy comes to town and I get to board the Navy ships, I am treated like an honored guest.  Those interactions have meant that I’ve come away educated, not only about sea power’s importance to national security, but also about what fine organizations our maritime forces are, and what splendid men and women people those forces.

“The best job in the world” *UPDATED*

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”Lewis Carroll

I was struggling to figure out how to write my annual post about the Admiral’s Reception that closes out Fleet Week festivities, until it occurred to me that the answer, as is often the case, can be found in Alice in Wonderland.  The King of Hearts may have had some peculiar ideas (“Give your evidence,” said the King; “and don’t be nervous, or I’ll have you executed on the spot.”), but he understood how to structure narrative.  So, let me begin at the beginning.

This is the beginning:

This beauty is the USS Makin Island, a very recently commissioned Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.  In layman’s terms, it is a transport ship, one that carries marines, vehicles, weapons and other supplies to the action, whether the action is the field of battle or a humanitarian relief mission.  The Makin Island isn’t just any amphibious assault ship, though.  It is a futuristic ship that boasts a long list of systems aimed at optimizing both human and mechanical energy:

[G]as turbine main propulsion engines, all-electric auxiliaries, an advanced machinery control system, water mist fire protection systems, and the Navy’s most advanced command and control and combat systems equipment. The gas turbine propulsion plant, with all electric auxiliaries, is a program first for large deck amphibious assault ships and will provide significant savings in manpower and maintenance costs associated with traditional steam-powered amphibious ships. The ship carries four reverse-osmosis water-purification systems, each holding 50,000 gallons.

It is a marvel of human ingenuity, bent to our nation’s defense.  When you drive up and see it bathed in the setting sun, you can’t be anything but impressed.

The beginning of any party on board the ship is the parking.  Normally, in San Francisco, parking is the stuff of which nightmares are made.  As we got closer and closer to our destination, my husband kept spying side streets and saying, “Let’s see if we can find parking there.”  I was adamant:  “No.”  I had three things that supported me in this certainty:  (1) a parking pass; (2) high heels; and (3) past experience with the parking procedure for these evenings.  It was the third factor that convinced my husband.  “It’s part of the whole event,” I said.

We fell into line behind the other cars that were heading onto the pier.  As we got closer to the entrance, we saw more and more Marines, about half of whom were heavily armed.  When it was our turn, a polite Marine with a checklist asked for identification.  Once he confirmed that we were on the guest list, he waved us forward.  The Marines had set up a maze, part of it based upon existing structures on the pier, and part of it created using movable barriers — all aimed, no doubt, at slowing down a bad guy with a loaded car.  At each turning point, a helpful Marine stood, directing us.  The only disappointment was that this year, unlike past years, there was no elegant German shepherd to circle the car, sniffing for bombs.  I like dogs, and I appreciate a dog that makes itself useful.

After we had parked and gathered ourselves, I turned to my husband and asked, “Did you lock the car?”  He laughed and said, “Yes, but this is the only place I’ve ever been in San Francisco where I don’t really feel as if I have to.”

Once aboard the ship, we headed immediately up to the reception, which was held in the main — oh, Lord, I’m going to get this word wrong — hangar.  There was a live band (a little too loud for my slightly mature sensibilities), and a huge buffet.  I’d like to tell you what the spread was, but I instantly ran into old friends and got so busy talking, I never made it anywhere near the food.  I was left with a confused impression of strawberries with chocolate for dipping, fruit punch fountains, huge dishes of shrimp, little sausages, and other tasty viands for the hungry and the patient.  It was a magnificent spread, but I simply didn’t partake.

I always enjoy the human spectacle at these Navy events.  As I’ve commented before, at most parties the men, clad only in black and white, fade into insignificance next to the women.  At Navy parties, however, it’s the men (plus a handful of women) in their dress blues who draw the eye.  Aside from the fact that the basic uniform, whether Navy or Marine, is flattering to the male figure, the decorations just light up the room.  Whether it’s sleeves covered with gold stripes and other insignia, chests loaded with ribbons, or colorful shoulder braids, everything looks just fine.

I found myself feeling envious, not of the clothes’ magnificence, but of the way they tell a story about the wearer.  I have no insignia announcing to the world that I’ve survived umpteen years as a lawyer, mother or homemaker.  I’d love to have good service stripes for all the times I gritted my teeth and didn’t yell.  And it would be very gratifying to have some neat ribbon or pin attesting to my authorial skills.  Alas, though, I simply have to violate good manners and boast if I want to impress people.

As always, my Navy League mentor instantly found me.  It’s a great pleasure to see him and his wife and, I must admit, an even greater pleasure to see his children.  If all teenagers were like these two, every family in America would be desperate to have a teen of its own.  After a fond greeting with these dear friends, I ran into several people I’d met, and whose company I’d very much enjoyed, at the Battle of Midway Commemoration this past May.

What struck me about these men is the fact that, even though they’re retired, they remain strongly committed to the Navy, and are willing to expend a great deal of time on its behalf.  I can tell you with certainty that I’ve never met a lawyer who, after retiring, continues to work unstintingly for the old law firm.  Lawyers may boast about their years at the firm, but their support doesn’t extend beyond the comfort of their armchair at home.  The only other people I’ve seen who have the same enthusiasm for an institution with which they were once affiliated are college sports fans.  That’s understandable.  College represents youth.  It’s both the first and last unfettered time in a person’s life:  away from home and not yet tied to a job.  (And I know exams are stressful, but they don’t compare to the demands of real life.)

That retired Naval personnel should have the same passion is less obvious, since their service is not the most carefree time in their life — instead, it is a time of intense duty and responsibility.  Perhaps, though, that intense duty and responsibility explain precisely why people may retire from the Navy, but never seem to leave it.  An old Army slogan aptly sums it up:  “Be all you can be.”  Partying is fun, but living to your full potential in the service of the greater good is fundamentally rewarding.  While many of us struggle with existential questions (“Why am I smarter than a cow and, being smarter, what’s my purpose on this earth?”), military personnel know what their purpose is:  to protect their country.  Oh, and by the way, while doing it, they get to travel all over the world and play with the best toys.

I’m not just making this up from my perspective as a suburban blogger living a pleasant, but pointless, life.  I’m distilling the stories I’ve heard from person after person after person to whom I’ve spoken during my time in the Navy League.  Whether they’re responsible for a single weapon, an array of weapons systems, the whole ship, or a whole division, each person, whether active duty or retired, has sounded the same note:  My life has meaning.  Even when my job is repetitive or dull, I am part of a bigger purpose.

The Chief who gave us a ship’s tour last night was no different.  He is one of the people in charge of a very sophisticated aspect of the ship.  He glowed when he described his system and his responsibilities.  As we bade him farewell and prepared to head home, my husband said, “You seem to have the best job in the world.”  “Yes, sir,” he replied.  “I have the best job in the world.”

(A delicate hint to those who would like to support the Navy and get a glimpse of this world:  join the Navy League.)

UPDATE:  Maybe this explains the missing dogs — they’re out in the private sector getting rich.  ;)

A short, but very sweet, visit to the USS Pinckney

I’ve probably mentioned here about a couple of thousand times the fact that I just love Fleet Week.  It’s the one weekend of the year when I get to step out of my suburban lawyer/mom rut, and do and see things that are entirely different from my ordinary life.  I’m too old and too set in my ways, not to mention too prone to seasickness, to want the naval life for myself, but I sure do enjoy these brief glimpses.

By the way, I get these special glimpses, not because I’m a special person, but because I’ve had the good sense to join the Navy League.  For those of us who live near federal maritime waterways, the Navy League is a wonderful opportunity to interact with the Navy in a way most people never do.  Even if you don’t live near an ocean or Great Lake, you’d do well to send some money to the Navy League.  It’s a wonderful organization that provides two incredibly useful services:

First, the Navy League’s public education efforts are designed to inform the nation, and its political leaders, of the vital importance to the country of comprehensive and fully-prepared sea services. Second, the Navy League, primarily through its councils, provides support for active duty sea services personnel and their families.

You can’t beat that.  Still, being near the water is, well, more fun than not.

Today, Mr. Bookworm and I were the official greeters for the USS Pinckney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. In the ordinary course of things, being a greeter means that, once the ship docks, you get to attend the officer’s briefing.  (I should warn you before I go any further that my grasp of naval terminology is slender at best.  I’ll try to use the right word here, or at least give the right sense with the wrong word, but all you navy people should feel free to correct my inevitable errors.)  We attended a briefing a couple of years ago, on the USS Bonhomme Richard and, as I wrote at the time, it was quite a formal affair.

I expected the same thing this time and have to say that I was a bit nervous.  You see, this time I was the one designated to give the speech.  I’m great at speaking extemporaneously on subjects near and dear to my heart (some would say I’m boring, but I say I’m great), but I’m not so good when I’m trying to convey information that doesn’t naturally float about in my brain.  And while I agreed wholeheartedly with the text of my Navy League speech, most of the information was new to me.  After some abortive efforts to memorize the short speech — abortive primarily because I hate memorizing things — I printed the darn thing out, and hoped that my dulcet tones would offset that sinking feeling most audience-members get when they see someone approach a podium with a printed speech in hand.

In addition to the speech, I came bearing gifts, courtesy of the Navy League.  These bags are awfully nice.  Depending on the donations the Navy League receives on any given year (plus the Navy League’s own contributions to the bag), they might have mugs, t-shirts, posters, candy, magnets, and gift certificates.  The CO, XO, and CMC (that would be Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and Command Master Chief for those of you as unversed as I in navy talk) each get a bag, although the gift certificates are pretty much for the whole crew to share around.

So, there we were, Mr. Bookworm and I, bearing gift bags and, in my case, one crumpled speech clenched tightly in my sweaty palm.  It was a beautiful day and the pier was quiet.  The only ones on the pier aside from us were Navy and USGC security, and the crew tasked with putting up the gangplank leading from ship to shore.  We watched as the ship slowly and carefully crept up to the pier, with a tug boat pushing her closer and closer until, with just the right amount of space between ship and pier, she stopped.  As someone who has had a few ugly automotive run-ins with pillars and posts, I was deeply impressed.

The whole landing process took a while.  It then took an even longer while for the gangplank, a fancy one with stairs, to get installed. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ship, which we couldn’t see from where we stood, another ship was being “piggy-backed” onto the Pinckney.  Apparently there wasn’t enough pier to go around.  The whole thing was very complicated.

Eventually, the public liaison officer found us, and explained that, because of exigent circumstances, the briefing wasn’t going to take place.  Hmmmm.  Now what?  We’ve got those gift bags and I’ve still got that now-grubby speech in my hand.  Our blank expressions must have conveyed volumes, since she snagged the CMC, who cheerfully volunteered to see what she could do for us.  Her graciousness impressed me, since we must have been dragging her away from more pressing business.

Following closely on the CMC’s heels, we zipped into the ship and raced up those ladders.  Okay, here’s the truth.  The CMC and my husband raced up those ladders.  I minced up them exactly as you’d expect from someone with vertigo.  I did go as fast as I could, though, which must count for something.  We ended up in officer territory, waiting as the CMC looked around for the XO.  While she was XO-hunting, Mr. Bookworm and I stumbled across the CO himself.

He was clearly chagrined that he didn’t have a briefing to offer us, but actually went one better:  he invited us to join him for lunch.  Yes!!  A new experience, and one that promises to be both fun and interesting.

I abandoned my now sweat-soaked notes and gave the CO the quickie version of the official speech:  Welcome to our fair city; enjoy the gifts; and we hope you and your crew are able to take advantage of the various gift certificates and services you’ll find in the bags.   Whew!  Thank goodness that’s over.

The CO then escorted us to the dining room which I, in my own mind, called the Officer’s Mess, but which my husband referred to as the wardroom.  Maybe you can tell me which is the right term.  [Update:  I have been reliably informed that it's a wardroom.  Go figure.]

The CO directed us to our chairs (very heavy chairs, to help avoid this scenario).  In front of us was a small menu.  He told us to circle what we’d like to eat, after which the attendants would pick up the order and deliver the food.  At the recommendation of one of the officers already present, I ordered the cheese steak, and tempered that wonderful, rich, fatty rush of meat and cheese with some broccoli.  The food came instantly and was delicious.

It was interesting to see people coming and going.  Each asked the CO’s permission to dine there.  Naturally, he gave his permission each time.  A friend of mine who is in the Army told me that this tradition differs a great deal from the Army approach to dining.  While the Navy continues to have separate areas for officers and crew, the Army eats in a single room.  I can see where each has its virtues.  The Army’s approach is more egalitarian.  However, given how hierarchical the military is, it may be more relaxing for personnel to dine with similar ranks.  If you have an opinion, let me know.

The captain was a lovely dining companion.  (And yes, “lovely” is a girly term, but I’m a girl, so I get to use it.)  As with everyone else I’ve had the chance to speak since joining the Navy League, he clearly has a passion for his job.  This is not someone marking time from paycheck to paycheck until retirement.  This is someone spending his time doing something he loves.  Lucky man.

We didn’t linger.  Things were hopping, so we said our thank-yous and farewells as soon as the meal was over.  As we headed back to our car, we passed by hundreds of people heading for the same area we were leaving.  I doubt any could guess what I great experience we had just enjoyed.

Fleet Week, 2010

Three more weeks to my favorite week of the year — Fleet Week.  Yay!  Up until a few years ago, Fleet Week was fun.  Now, thanks to the Navy League, Fleet Week stands out as a time when I get to visit a world that is not only completely different from mind, but is also one that I admire a great deal.

I’ve touted the Navy League at this blog before, and I’ll do it again right now.  It is an exemplary organization that, in its own words, is “dedicated to nonpartisan, enhanced public understanding of the missions and challenges facing today’s Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine, as well as advocating for the well-being of the men and women of each service.”  In a time of war, this mission cannot be emphasized enough.  Americans at every level, whether in a Marin County living room or a Washington, D.C., Senate office, should have an “enhanced . . . understanding of the missions and challenges” our sea faring forces face.

I want to tell you all a nice Navy story.  Many, many years ago, when I was in middle school, I had a friend.  A very nice friend.  At an age when kids are often abrasive and unkind, he was sweet.  He also belonged at that time to a youth group that had an outstanding reputation.  That’s what I always remembered about him:  nice and that youth group membership.

Although we went to the same high school, the school was big enough that we actually lost touch with each other.  We’d see each other in the halls, of course, but our contact stopped with a friendly “hello” in passing.  I was so disconnected from him that I didn’t realize that, when he graduated, he went on to Annapolis.  That was a long, long time ago.

Fast forward to last month, when I’m having dinner with another high school friend who has enjoyed a long and successful military career.  As part of our “where are they now” discussion, he told me that my nice youth group friend was now an Admiral.  Wow!  I immediately looked the Admiral up on facebook.  He remembered me and we reconnected in a distant, facebook kind of way.

Did I mention that my son is part of that same youth group with the outstanding reputation?  The problem is that my son is not happy in the youth group — something that saddens me.  You see, it’s the type of organization that teaches unique skills and offers unique opportunities.  Drop out now, and there’s no going back.  The skills and opportunities are gone forever.  My husband and I tried reasoning with the boy and cajoling, but he was adamant — he was going to quit.

I had a brain storm:  “Would it make a difference to you if an Admiral told you the organization was a worthwhile experience?”  “Yes, it might.”

So I contacted the Admiral.  Despite not having seen him in more than thirty years, despite having “friended” him only a few weeks before, I had the chutzpah to ask the Admiral for an email telling my son to stay with his youth group.

The Admiral exceeded my expectations.  He wrote my son an email; he telephoned my son and spoke to him for a half hour; and he followed that up with a handwritten note, on official letterhead, and included his own coin in the letter.  My son was deeply impressed.  I was too.

My friend was always a nice person, but I have to believe that the training and discipline he got in the Navy enhanced those qualities — so much so that, for the child of a friend he hadn’t seen in 30+ years, he was willing to make this effort, and take that time, to help out.

Join the Navy League.  Help support good people.  And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, have a wonderful Fleet Week experience.

And just for fun, Irving Berlin’s “How About A Cheer for the Navy,” from WWII:

Two serious storm warnings, one national, and one local *UPDATE*

There are two storm warnings I want to give you, one of which requires action on your part, the other of which, depending on where you live, falls into the “sit, watch, and thank God you’re far away” category.

First warning:  Drastic cuts to the military, courtesy of Bawney Fwank, that noted military expert.  (And yes, I am being incredibly sarcastic describing him as such.)  The Navy Times provides some details:

Cut two carriers and 40 percent of new ballistic-missile subs, then slash the fleet to 230 ships and eight air wings. Terminate the F-35, Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and V-22 Osprey. Drop down to six expeditionary strike groups, eliminate the maritime prepositioning force and place greater emphasis on surging smaller naval groups as needed.

These are but some of the eyebrow-raising recommendations provided to Congress on June 10 by the Sustainable Defense Task Force. The group was formed at the request of Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass.; Walter B. Jones, R-N.C.; and Ron Paul, R-Texas; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The task force proposal amounts to $1.1 trillion in defense cuts over 10 years. Slightly more than half of that amount comes from personnel budgets; the rest comes by cutting research, development and procurement of weapons systems.

And that’s just cuts to the Navy.  As I understand it, the proposals are far-reaching, and involve drastic cuts to every aspect of our military.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea how the military feels about these cuts.  Maybe they worked with this committee, and honestly tried to trim out deadwood made unnecessary by technological advances.  However, given the committee’s composition, and given the Navy Times own raised eyebrows, I have a suspicion that the military might be less than sanguine about those suggestions, especially given that the world’s bad guys, seeing a weak man in the White House, are acting up like crazy (that would be Iran, Russia, Venezuela, China, the Norks, Syria, etc, etc, etc).

Given my suspicion that the military may have its own ideas about the virtue of these cuts, and the coming storm they may bring about, it occurred to me that concerned citizens might want to make sure that groups that have the military’s interests at heart are sufficiently funded to make their presence known on Capitol Hill.  As you know, my pet group is the Navy League, a non-profit organization dedicated, in significant part, to “foster[ing] and maintain[ing] interest in a strong Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine as integral parts of a sound national defense and vital to the freedom of the United States.”

As I said, the proposed cuts may still leave us with a “strong” military as part of a sound defense for a free United States, but, well, I’m just not so sure.  I therefore urge you to join the Navy League or, if you have a pet military organization that provides a voice for the military before Congress, by all means, send money to that organization.

The second storm warning is for Oakland, California, residents.  If you remember the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, you might want to batten down the hatches in case similar rioting strikes in Oakland.  Here’s the problem, as Zombie describes it:

Nearly everyone in the Bay Area agrees that a major Oakland riot is brewing if the verdict in the trial of policeman Johannes Mehserle, accused of murdering BART passenger Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day, 2009, comes back anything other than “GUILTY!” The problem for Oakland’s sense of security is that Mehserle is almost certainly not guilty of murder, and the jury is likely to give him a comparatively light sentence or even let him go completely.

You should, of course, read Zombie’s entire article, which goes to the impending lawlessness in Oakland, a city on the verge of cutting 80 positions from its active duty police officers.

UPDATED:  It doesn’t quite belong here, but since there is a storm brewing in the Gulf, this seems like the best place to put Ace’s post about the way in which overreaching government bureaucracy destroys all functioning.  One of the stepping stones on my journey across the Rubicon to conservatism was Phillip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America, in which he describes the way in which government bureaucracy, by aiming for some elusive perfection and by working to keep itself funded, destroys efficiency, innovation, and basic functionality.

San Francisco’s 2010 Fleet Week is going to be a wonderful one

One of the highlights of my life since I joined the Navy League is Fleet Week, held every October here in San Francisco.  This isn’t because I have such a pathetic life that anything out of the ordinary is exciting.  Nooo.  It’s because Fleet Week, which is always a great event, gets amped up on steroids if you’re a Navy League member.

The added thrill for Fleet Week comes about because Navy League members get tours and other opportunities that aren’t open to the general public.  (I’ve written about these tours and events here, here, here, here.)  If you’re lucky, you also get the heads up on non-Navy League events that are nevertheless more widely advertised in Navy League circles, than in ordinary, civilian circles.  Examples of that would be meeting the Blue Angels or getting an opportunity to attend the annual Midway Celebration.  Neither of these was a Navy League event, and both cost a bit, but both were extraordinary opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about but for the Navy League, and both were well worth the money.

October is still a while away, but I got word that there are going to be lots of ships in San Francisco — something that the official Fleet Week website confirms:

The United States Navy’s 3rd Fleet is sending a task force of ships to include:
- a large deck amphibious assult ship (LDH),
- a cruiser,
- a destroyer,
- a Los Angeles Class submarine, the USS San Francisco,
- 3 Mine Countermeasure Ships.

(By the way, speaking of Fleet Week, even though it seems like a San Francisco event, it isn’t really.  San Francisco is the host City, of course, and it benefits hugely from the influx of people who hit the City.  Fleet Week, however, is actually brought about by the efforts of the San Francisco Fleet Week Association.  If you would like to contribute money to this excellent cause, go here; volunteer time; go here.)

And of course, the Blue Angels will be flying, which is always a thrill.

If you want the E ticket ride for Fleet Week in San Francisco (or anywhere else there’s a Fleet Week), join the Navy League now!

Time to think about joining the Navy League

One of my favorite organizations is the Navy League.  I wrote this post last September to encourage people to check it out.  I’m reprinting it today, slightly modified, because, for no clear reason, the Navy League has been in my mind.  I guess the dog days of Spring already have me longing for the October fun of Fleet Week.

***

I always look forward to Fleet Week, which comes to San Francisco every October.  For the past three years, though, Fleet Week has been extra special for my family because of our Navy League membership.  Thanks to our affiliation with that organization, we get to take tours and participate in Fleet Week events that go above and beyond the excitement that hundreds of thousands of other happy Fleet Week visitors get to enjoy.  (These are a few posts detailing the fun we’ve had.)

And what is the Navy League?  Long-time readers know that it’s an organization formed to support the Navy and related military organizations.  Here, from the Navy League’s own website, are the organization’s mission and policy statements:

The Navy League has set forth the following objectives:

  • To foster and maintain interest in a strong Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine as integral parts of a sound national defense and vital to the freedom of the United States.
  • To serve as a means of educating and informing the American people with regard to the role of sea power in the nuclear age and the problems involved in maintaining strong defenses in that age.
  • To improve the understanding and appreciation of those who wear the uniforms of our armed forces and to better the conditions under which they live and serve.
  • To provide support and recognition for the Reserve forces in our communities in order that we may continue to have a capable and responsive Reserve.
  • To educate and train our youth in the customs and traditions of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine through the means of an active and vigorous Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

Statement of Policy

We of the Navy League of the United States stand for a strong America – a nation morally, economically, and internally strong.

We believe that the security of our nation and of the people of the world demands a well-balanced, integrated, mobile American defense team, of which a strong Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine are indispensable parts.

We support all Armed Services to the end that each may make its appropriate contribution to the national security.

We know that in a free nation an informed public is indispensable to national security and, therefore, we will strive to keep the nation alert to the dangers which threaten – both from without and within.

We favor appropriations for each of the Armed Services, adequate for national security, economically administered.

We oppose any usurpation of the Congress’s constitutional authority over the Armed Services.

We urge that our country maintain world leadership in scientific research and development.

We support industrial preparedness, planning, production.

We support efforts of our government to achieve worldwide peace through international cooperation.

We advocate a foreign policy which will avoid wars – if possible; if not, win them!

Significantly, the Navy League is not a political group or lobbying group.  Instead, it is an educational organization, that also focuses on the well-being of the men and women in the service.  As the Navy League says:

The Navy League of the United States is a 501(c)(3) organization of more than 60,000 members  dedicated to nonpartisan, enhanced public understanding of the missions and challenges facing today’s Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine, as well as advocating for the well-being of the men and women of each service.

The Navy League, of course, isn’t the only group associated with the various military entities it supports.  My post, therefore, is not intended to compare it to or elevate it above other military support organizations.  It is just to say nice things about an organization I think is really delightful and that, from my own experience with the organization, truly carries out its goals and effectuates its policies.

As for those policies, I don’t know about you, but I am in complete agreement with the policies that the Navy League advances, and I think its organization does a good job of effectuating those policies.  If you join the Navy League, your donation will work to forward those goals — goals that benefit, not only the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, but all of us.  After all, our military is composed of our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, friends and neighbors. We are blessed in America with a citizen military and, as fellow citizens, we should care about the military’s well-being.

Moral support is one way to show we care, especially during economically difficult times.  The fact is that every time the military suffers economic cuts, taking away funds for weapons and personnel, the energy needed to resurrect those lost resources is far greater than the ease with which they were cut.  If the public is unclear about the military, viewing it as some strange “other,” it is going to be less willing to support the military’s needs in either war or peace time.

So, if you were sort of thinking about joining the Navy League, now would be a very good time.  And if there are comparable organizations for other branches of the military, please write and let me know, so that I can publicize them too.  The world seems chaotic and unbalanced right now, and I personally feel that a military that has America at its back (instead of in its face, as happened during the 1960s), is a strong bulwark against instability and danger.

A delightful evening aboard the USS Green Bay

Thanks to the Navy League, I’ve just returned from a delightful evening aboard the USS Green Bay.  I knew the evening was going to be lovely even before I boarded the ship.  Although a nasty storm is threatening to hit the Bay Area tomorrow, the drive into the City was exquisite.  The air was clear, with a pinkish-blue tint, and the City seemed to glimmer in this pre-storm light.  Also, amazingly, there was no traffic.  I glided through the City through one green light after another.  By the time I arrived at the Pier, I was practically giddy with the excitement that a smooth and beautiful journey engendered.

Getting to the ship took a little bobbing and weaving through security, but I thought the whole thing was cool.  The Marines and the Naval officers were extremely polite, and very competent.  And though they are working dogs and (Mr. Bookworm assured me) are not cute, I was nevertheless charmed as the bomb-sniffing canines circled my vehicle, making sure I was good to go.  When you live the kind of comfortable suburban life I live, there’s definitely a little frisson that goes with this type of extremely polite, efficient, and deadly-serious security.

While you don’t see the USS Green Bay very clearly from the street, you do see it clearly from the parking lot — and it is a very striking ship.  It’s brand new (commissioned in January 2009), and it looks like the product of a joint design team from Hollywood and the Lego company:

Isn’t that beautiful?

I won’t insult the ship by trying to describe it in my own decidedly layman’s terms.  Here’s what the ship’s own website has to say about this modern marvel of troop transportation:

The USS GREEN BAY will be used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies, by embarked air cushion or conventional landing craft or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical take off and landing aircraft. USS GREEN BAY will support amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions throughout the first half of the 21st Century.

[snip]

Length 684 feet (208.5 meters)

Beam 105 feet (31.9 meters)

Displacement Approximately 24,900 tons full load

Speed In excess of 22 knots (24.2 mph)

Aircraft Four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft may be launched or recovered simultaneously. The ship’s hangar can store 1-2 aircraft.

Armament Two 30 mm Close-in-Guns, for surface threat defense; two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers for air defense

Landing Craft Two LCACs (air cushion) or one LCU (conventional)

EFVs 14 Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles

Power plant Four Colt-Pielstick diesel engines, two shafts, 40,000 Hp

Crew 360 (28 officers, 332 enlisted), three Marines

Troops 699 (66 officers, 633 enlisted); surge to 800 total.

Those dry statistics, though, don’t do justice to what a really beautiful ship it is.  Unlike older ships, it has spacious passageways (or, I guess I should say, passageways more spacious than usual), well designed work spaces, and really excellent crew quarters considering space constraints (although I’ll have more to say on that subject), plus a fully equipped, modern hospital.  The corridors are filled with street signs from the City of Green Bay, which takes very seriously the fact that a ship was named after it.  The Bridge actually took my breath away.  It’s large and beautifully laid out, with hardwood floors and  glowing computer monitors.

After dining in style on a buffet that offered fresh fruit and vegetables, roast, shrimp, chicken wings, meatballs and cheese plates, Mr. Bookworm and I wandered through the passageways in awe.  We had the good luck to stumble across Lieutenant S, who kindly offered us an in-depth tour of the ship, beyond the areas that were open for general viewing.  He took us to the Bridge, the Command and Control center (less claustrophobic than the ones on the older ships), the room that oversees all ships functions (I’ve forgotten the name, but it’s the one with the computer systems hooked up to water, sewage, electricity, security, etc.), the upper deck, a random office (just so we could see what one looks like), his own immaculate sleeping quarters, and the Marine quarters (which are not used right now).

The sleeping quarters were especially nice, by naval standards, and Lieutenant S was most appreciative of that fact.  He said that new ships are built with an eye to making living quarters more comfortable than they been before.  This is sensible.  We’re in the 21st Century, and there’s really no need for sailors to sleep in the luxury characteristic of life below decks on an 18th Century British Man O’ War (that bit about 18th Century standards is sarcastic, by the way).  Because the ship isn’t full, officers currently have their own quarters, including their own head.  In past billets, Lieutenant S has had to share a head with 10-12 people, so having his own space is a real luxury.  And even when the ship is fully populated, the head/crew ratio is better than on ships of old.  The only thing missing for officers, suggested Mr. Bookworm, is room service.

The Marine transport quarters were something else entirely.  The beds are stacked three high, with a passage way about 2.5 feet wide between each stack of beds.  I thought they were pretty medieval, but Lieutenant S assured us that they were truly state of the art.  Although the top bunk has no head room, the two bottom bunks are configured so that the Marines occupying them can sit up, and even have a little desk before them when they’re in their bunks.  The units also have enough storage space (at least in theory) to store each Marine’s gear near his (or her) bunk.  Modern quality notwithstanding, the high estimation in which I’ve always held the Marines went up just a little bit more when I saw the conditions under which they travel.

As is always the case when I’m aboard ship, three things impressed me about the men and women serving.  The first is how nice all of them look in their uniforms (service dress blue, for this affair).  The second is what lovely manners the men and women in the service they have.  Now, I know that they’re required to be polite as part of their job, but they do their job well, with grace and courtesy.  When I walked down steep ramps or went down steep steps, someone was at hand to give me a hand.  And while normally I don’t need help (hey!  I’m a martial artist), today I did, since I broke my toe (or maybe two toes) this morning.  Even hopped up on Ibuprofin, I was in considerable pain, and changing levels left me unbalanced.  Having a nice young man at my side helping out was a real treat.

The third thing that impressed me, and this one is less tangible than how nice Naval people are in both appearance and conduct, is the fact that the Navy has extremely high expectations of the people who serve — and the fact that, for the most part, officers and enlisted live up to those expectations.  One of the things that frustrates me so much in ordinary life, especially when it comes to children, is how little we expect of them.  Making the transition from a Montessori school to a public elementary school was an object lesson in going from an environment in which children are viewed as intelligent and capable, to one in which they are all averaged out to mediocre and incapable.  (Although I must say that our local middle school is extremely demanding.)  The Navy, by contrast, demonstrates that people, when called upon to do well and behave responsibly, quite often do precisely that.

I’d like to end this post with an extra thank you to Lieutenant S.  He was personable, knowledgeable, humorous, and had real warmth, both towards us and towards the Navy.  There was no question we asked for which he didn’t have a comprehensive and intelligible answer.  I’m sure I would have enjoyed any tour I received on the ship, but I especially enjoyed the tour he gave.

A reminder to join the Navy League *UPDATED WITH CLARIFICATIONS*

My mind is full of Fleet Week events.  As in the past two years, it promises to be a very exciting week for me and my family.  I know I’m going to be on a Coast Guard boat on the Bay when the Blue Angels fly, I know I’m going to a reception to meet the fliers themselves, and I hope that my family and I will get to hear the Marine Corp band playing (news on tickets is still pending).  The Blue Angels reception and the Marine Corp band performance are events that were made available to the public, but I wouldn’t have known about them but for my Navy League membership.  As for the Coast Guard boat, that is a privilege reserved exclusively for Navy League members.

And what is the Navy League?  Long-time readers know that it’s an organization formed to support the Navy and related military organizations.  Here, from the Navy League’s own website, are the organization’s mission and policy statements:

The Navy League has set forth the following objectives:

  • To foster and maintain interest in a strong Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine as integral parts of a sound national defense and vital to the freedom of the United States.
  • To serve as a means of educating and informing the American people with regard to the role of sea power in the nuclear age and the problems involved in maintaining strong defenses in that age.
  • To improve the understanding and appreciation of those who wear the uniforms of our armed forces and to better the conditions under which they live and serve.
  • To provide support and recognition for the Reserve forces in our communities in order that we may continue to have a capable and responsive Reserve.
  • To educate and train our youth in the customs and traditions of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine through the means of an active and vigorous Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

Statement of Policy

We of the Navy League of the United States stand for a strong America – a nation morally, economically, and internally strong.

We believe that the security of our nation and of the people of the world demands a well-balanced, integrated, mobile American defense team, of which a strong Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine are indispensable parts.

We support all Armed Services to the end that each may make its appropriate contribution to the national security.

We know that in a free nation an informed public is indispensable to national security and, therefore, we will strive to keep the nation alert to the dangers which threaten – both from without and within.

We favor appropriations for each of the Armed Services, adequate for national security, economically administered.

We oppose any usurpation of the Congress’s constitutional authority over the Armed Services.

We urge that our country maintain world leadership in scientific research and development.

We support industrial preparedness, planning, production.

We support efforts of our government to achieve worldwide peace through international cooperation.

We advocate a foreign policy which will avoid wars – if possible; if not, win them!

The Navy League is not a political group or lobbying group.  As it says:

The Navy League of the United States is a 501(c)(3) organization of more than 60,000 members  dedicated to nonpartisan, enhanced public understanding of the missions and challenges facing today’s Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine, as well as advocating for the well-being of the men and women of each service.

Nor is it the only group associated with the various military entities it supports.  This post is not to compare it to or elevate it above other military support organizations.  It is just to say nice things about an organization I think is really delightful and that truly carries out its goals and effectuates its policies.

As for those policies, I don’t know about you, but I am in complete agreement with the policies that the Navy League advances, and I think its organization does a good job of effectuating those policies.  If you join the Navy League, your donation will work to forward those goals — goals that benefit, not just the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, but that benefit all of us by helping to educate the public about our military, which in turn creates a stronger military, one dedicated to our protection.  After all, a citizen military that is hated by its citizens is going to be an ineffectual military.

With the heat in Afghanistan, we, as private citizens can contribute to the military by giving it the moral support it needs.  Every time the military suffers economic cuts, taking away funds for weapons and personnel, the energy needed to resurrect those lost resources is far greater than the ease with which they were cut.  In order to minimize painful and unnecessary cuts, the military needs to have critical mass at its back when it comes to public sentiment.  If the public fails to understand what the military is and what the military does, it lacks necessary moral authority when it goes before Congress.  The Navy League, by encouraging public support for the Navy and related organizations, empowers the military when it voices it budgetary and strategic needs.

So, if you were sort of thinking about joining the Navy League, now would be a very good time.  And if there are comparable organizations for other branches of the military, please write and let me know, so that I can publicize them too.  There is no better time to take our military seriously than when we have a groveling weakling in the White House.  Right now, I can guarantee you that, unless some magical alchemy occurs and the world’s bad actors feel inclined to be generous our military is going to be very, very necessary in the next few years.

A great day by the Bay

I woke the family up bright and early today for a very special adventure.  Courtesy of the Navy League, we headed over to Pier 30/32 in San Francisco to be part of a contingent of official ship’s greeters for the Bonhomme Richard.

If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s because the Bonhomme Richard is the third ship in the US Navy to bear this name, and it’s a very honorable lineage.  The first Bonhomme Richard was one of the first ships commissioned during the Revolutionary War, and it was the ship on which Capt. John Paul Jones sailed (and fought) during the Battle against HMS Serapis.  From the Bonhomme Richard‘s own website, here is the story of that exciting battle:

On June 19, 1779, Jones sailed BONHOMME RICHARD from L’ Orient, France accompanied by ALLIANCE, PALLAS, VEGEANCE, and CERF. Their mission: to escort troop transports and merchant vessels under convoy to Bordeaux, France and cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. Forced to return to port for repairs, Jones’ squadron sailed again August 14, 1779. Going northwest around the British Isles into the North Sea and down the eastern seaboard of Great Britain, the squadron swiftly took 16 merchant vessels as prizes. On the evening of September 23, 1779, they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 near the English shore of Flamborough Head. Sailing for England, the Fleet was under convoy of the newly built frigate HMS SERAPIS (50 guns) and the small sloop COUNTESS OF SCARBOROUGH (20 GUNS).

Before the British fleet could respond, BONHOMME RICHARD lashed out at SERAPIS igniting a bitter struggle that would last the entire night. Early in the battle, the guns of Jones’ main battery exploded, temporarily disabling his ship. Under gunned, Jones’ relied on decisive naval strategies and the might of his crew to out-fight the more powerful SERAPIS. To offset the SERAPIS’ speed, Jones lashed his flagship alongside and continued the fight long after his subordinates regarded the situation as hopeless.

Burning, sinking, and scattered with the dead and wounded, BONHOMME RICHARD lit up the darkness with a constant barrage. Jones struggled to keep his vessel afloat and, in one instance, an overwhelming number of prisoners in hold threatened to rush the deck to save from drowning. Jones defied all odds and continued the fight against Captain Pearson’s SERAPIS.

In the final hour, BONHOMME RICHARD’S mast was hit above the top-sail. Along with her Colors, a large section of the mast came crashing to the deck near Jones, feet. In response to the downfallen colors, SERAPIS called out, “Have you struck your Colors?” Resoundingly, John Paul Jones exclaimed, “Struck Sir? I have not yet begun to fight!” And fight they did. With newfound will, his crew delivered decisive blows from all sides and aloft. Jones’ sent 40 Marines and Sailors into the rigging with grenades and muskets.

Decimated, SEPARIS could not avoid defeat and at 2230 she struck her Colors. Victorious, John Paul Jones commandeered SERAPIS and sailed her to Holland for repairs. Sadly, BONHOMME RICHARD sank at 1100 on September 24, 1779, never to rise from her watery grave. This epic battle was the American Navy’s first-ever defeat of an English ship in English waters! Rallying colonial hope for freedom, Jones’ victory established him to many as “The Father of the American Navy.”

Of such true stories are legends made.

In its current incarnation, the Bonhomme Richard is much less likely to be engaged in combat, since it is an Amphibious Assault Ship.  Again, let me have the ship’s own website explain:

USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD-6) is an Amphibious Assault Ship. The primary mission of our ship is to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft, amphibious vehicle or any combination of these means.

BONHOMME RICHARD was uniquely designed to support assault from the sea against defended positions ashore. She is able to sail in harm’sway and provide a rapid buildup of combat power ashore in the face of opposition. The United States maintains the largest and most capable amphibious force in the world. The Wasp-class are the largest amphibious ships in the world.

As you can imagine from reading the above mission statement, the ship is huge.  It weighs in at 40,500 tons (which is measured by displacement), stands as tall as a 13 story building, and is 844 feet long.  When fully loaded, it can carry 2,000 Marines (in addition to its own crew), 40 planes and helicopters, and I lost track of the number of landing craft and amphibious vehicles it can carry too.

Loading a ship of this size and with this purpose is not a higgledy-piggledy job, with things packed in however they fit.  Instead, everything needs to be loaded in reverse order, so that, at the ship’s ultimate destination, the things the Marines will need first can be offloaded first.  That sounds like a hard enough logistical challenge, but it’s frequently made even more difficult by the fact that plans change as the ship is being loaded or after it already has been loaded.  To anyone who has ever struggled to pack the family car for vacation, you can only imagine magnitude of the Bonhomme Richard‘s task.

So, there you have the ship, in all its glory.  And what about Navy League official greeters?  Well, the Navy treats Navy Leaguers like VIPs.  We were in the “first to board” group, and went to the official briefing in the Officer’s Mess.  If I understood things correctly, assembled in that room were all the ship’s officers and Chiefs.  They were gathered there to hear briefings from representatives from the San Francisco Police, from the company charged with supporting the docks for the Navy, from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (“NCIS”), and from the Navy League.

The briefings lived up to their names in that they were brief and informative.  The most fascinating fact I heard was that, on Saturday alone, 1.5 million people gathered in San Francisco to watch the Blue Angels fly.  That’s a staggering number.  It explains whys Supervisor Chris Daly’s annual efforts to stop the Blue Angels routinely meet with defeat, even from the liberal San Francisco political scene.  The amount of money flowing into the City for this single weekend is staggering.  Only a suicidal politician would destroy the most lucrative week in the City’s annual calendar.

After the briefing, Captain Neil Parrott himself took the Navy League contingent on a tour of the ship.  He was a charming and informative guide.  It is obvious that he loves his job, since he spoke with such pleasure about the ship itself and about his responsibilities on the ship.  He also gave my children the exquisite pleasure of sitting in the Captain’s own chair.  It was at that moment that my daughter suddenly realized that our host wasn’t just a well-dressed tour guide but was, in fact, really and truly the ship’s captain.

Listening to Capt. Parrott enthuse about his work, I was struck by the fact that the manifest pleasure he takes in his job has been evident on every ship’s tour we’ve ever taken, either as members of the general public or as Navy League guests.  Whether we’re talking to officers or enlisted personnel, and whether we’re on a Coast Guard Buoy Tender, a Destroyer, an Amphibious Assault Vessel or, frankly, a rowboat, every person seems to know his or her job inside and out, and to feel that the job is supremely interesting.

How many of us can say that about our lives?  And, in fact, their jobs are interesting.  If I were to waffle on about my job as a lawyer, people’s eyes would roll back into their heads and they’d pass out from boredom.  Hearing a captain describe his ship, however, is utterly fascinating.

The enthusiasm and sense of purpose and camaraderie that radiates from the officers and crew, career and enlisted, Navy and Marine, truly puts the lie to the whole political ideology that tries to paint our military men and women as befuddled, ignorant, child-like people, snatched from their ordinary lives and forced to serve an evil war machine.

While I’m sure that each ship holds its share of malcontents or people who just happen to be having a bad day, the fact is that, when you see face after face showing pride and purpose, you begin to get the sense that the people on the ship are there because they want to be, and that’s true whether they’re in it for the long term or just the short haul.  Frankly, your average corporation would do well if it was as neatly structured as the military and had employees as committed and knowledgeable as those gathered to serve in the Navy and Marines.

So thank you very much to the Navy League, and to the Bonhomme Richard for making today a wonderful day.

A good time was had by all *UPDATED*

I did something great today — I relaxed.  Okay, that’s not really all I did.  I relaxed in a very special place.  Along with my family, I spent time aboard the USCGC George Cobb (WLM 564), a Coast Guard Buoy Tender, which usually calls San Pedro, California its home.  Fortunately for us, it came up to the San Francisco Bay Area for Fleet Week.  As members of the Navy League, we got invited to spend the day aboard the Cobb so that we could watch the Blue Angels show.

From start to finish, the experience was delightful.  The Coast Guard made sure parking and check-in were easy, with delicious pre-packed lunches available for purchase too.  Once on board the Cobb, we were invited to explore the whole ship, barring sleeping quarters and the engineering room.  Inside or outside, we went everywhere and looked at everything.  The crew was consistently friendly and helpful, and it was a pleasure to see this immaculate ship.

My family and I ended up spending a lot of time in the bridge.  Not only was it comfortable (no cold wind blowing there), with good visuals (a 180 view of the surrouding bay), but it was also fascinating.  The bridge’s crew showed us all the equipment and let us hang out in their chairs to boot.  Although I got a little queasy and ended up back on the deck, my son refused to leave, and the crew cheerfully assured me that they would keep an eye on him — and they did.

Watching the Blue Angels from the Bay is an amazing experience.  We were “parked” (I forget the official sea term) near Alcatraz, and it’s pretty clear that the Angels use Alcatraz as one of their markers.  They therefore flew so near us that you could practically see the pilot’s faces.  As always, it was a spectacular and completely enjoyable air show.  It’s so obvious that the pilots love what they do.  There is a joie de vivre to the performance that just sweeps one along.  As for the precision, if I didn’t know there were real people in the cock pits, I swear I’d think they were computer programmed — it’s that good.

At the end of the day, I asked my son to rate the experience on a 1 through 10 scale (with ten being the best).  He gave the day an 8 3/4, since it would have been perfect only if there had been guns and the guns had been fired!  I’m not sure about the gun bit but otherwise I have to agree with my son, since the day was about as good as it can get.

UPDATE:  There’s one other thing I wanted to add, and although it’s a silly thing, it seems important.  After we returned frpm the ship, we pulled into our local market to get some supplies.  As I know I’ve mentioned before, I live in a very nice community.  Nevertheless, the young people, who are only a few years younger than many of the Cobb’s crew, hew to the latest fashions.  We were therefore met with the sight of several shaggy haired kids in collapsing baggy pants, or overly tight peg legs, with the young men sporting rather random facial hair.  That reminded me of something else I liked about the ship:  the crew looked so . . . clean.  The buzz cuts on the men, the neat pony tails on the women, the simple blue uniform:  it all added up to a fresh, polished look that I greatly admired.

Open thread

I won’t be posting tomorrow (unless I can sneak in a few minute in the a.m.), because I’m doing something cool:  I’m spending the day on the Bay, on a U.S. Coast Guard ship, watching the Blue Angels rehearse their maneuvers preparatory to the big air show this weekend.  Mr. Bookworm is worried that several hours on ship board will be boring, but I’m bringing a couple of books and am planning on relaxing.

How did I get this marvelous opportunity?  Simple.  I joined the Navy League.  You can too and, if you live in an area near a port, good things will come to you.

I will, of course, report back on my day sometime tomorrow evening.  Until then, feel free to use this post as an open thread, subject to my usual rules:  no obscenities, no personal attacks, no threats.