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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-14-2006, 02:26 PM   #21
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Re: Spooky stuff

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Originally Posted by samclem
Can you imagine starting Basic Training at 42 years old? I guess this could be a money-saver for Uncle Sam--the guy/gal draws a pension for 20 fewer years and the retiree will be eligible for Medicare 3 years or less after retiring.
The maximum age for military active duty is 62. (The waiver literally requires an act of Congress. Rickover & Hopper knew a lot of Congressmen but Rickover literally outlived his support.) So the current age 42 cutoff is to comply with Title X legislative entitlement to an opportunity to become eligible for an active-duty retirement. If the age 62 retirement is raised (as Rumfeld desires) then recruits could get even older.

Let's not forget all the Reservists in their 50s! There are grandparents on active duty in the desert troubleshooting logistics problems. I know a Navy O-5, a former Vietnam corpsman with three Purple Hearts (and a bunch of grateful Marines), who's pushing physically training his fellow Reservists through Fort Bragg enroute desert points east. He's 59, he has to demob before he turns 60, and I think he's given max value for your tax dollars.

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Originally Posted by samclem
Still, lowering the bar in all these areas is going to haunt the Army long after the present situation ends.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonidas
A few older soldiers won't hurt the army - but I would worry about the effects of lowered educational standards. Today's military is much better trained, lead and motivated than what we had after Vietnam that they can probably expand the recruiting pool without too much harm - provided that they are rigorous in eliminating anyone who doesn't measure up to standards in training, performance and discipline. In those areas there should be no lowerng of standards.
I wasn't there but I've read that by late Vietnam the Marines had admitted over a quarter of their recruits in Category IV, the most undesirable. (God only knows what the Army did with the guys who not even the Marines wanted.) By the end of WWII over 10% of the recruits were being treated for active venereal diseases-- and these were just the recruits, folks.

I think today's marginal performers who slip through the recruiting process are still pretty much weeded out by the training commands-- especially the training commands staffed by vets who got shot up in a war zone. When I was at a training command, if we felt that someone deserved a failing grade then our chain of command backed us up-- subject, of course, to our remedial training plan for fixing the problem. And on submarines the marginal unmotivated performers are weeded out by their shipmates via a vicious Darwinian process of mutual humiliation. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same in an Army platoon.

The recruiting statistics of "no high school diploma" also lump in all the homeschoolers who've taken the GED. The military is hot for homeschoolers these days because they're an overlooked demographic of frequently very bright & talented people... but they're still counted as "no high school diploma". And even in the '90s, after a decade of "Not in my Navy!", it was almost guaranteed that my best, brightest, & most inquisitive shipmates also possessed a waiver for pre-service marijuana use.

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Originally Posted by Leonidas
Maybe Nords can comment on this aspect: The Eisenhower is relieving the Enterprise, which has been deployed since May and is due back home in November. Enterprise has been working its butt off, supporting missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan and has been without a port call for more than 150 days. The aircraft flying missions into Afghanistan have to fly as much as 1,000 miles per mission - sometimes requiring three refuelings to stay aloft. Pilots are reporting flying as much as 100 hours per month. All of that has to take a toll.
Why, you're describing the world's most capable, proficient, & experienced warriors! Why would we want to pull them back home just when they've achieved their peak performance? These top-of-their-game folks are the same pilots who last year were whining about not getting enough fuel for their training flights-- and now they're complaining again?!? They must be happy because their retention is at an all-time high!

Oh, you mean the toll on the families. Ahem.

But, no, the battlegroup will be back in homeport by day 180. It might be sundown on day 180 but they'll have the lines over before midnight.

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Originally Posted by Leonidas
Is it possible that the Eisenhower deployment was moved up a few weeks to the Enterprise people could get their relief a little early in light of what they've been doing for almost six months?
I don't get to see the schedules any more, but even if it's possible it's unlikely. Getting a battlegroup ready to deploy is a chaotic three-ring circus of football-frolicking monkeys who don't appear to have any brains, time, spare parts, or funds. Usually the critique of the graduation exercise reads something like "These guys suck but at least they didn't run aground or shoot down any allied aircraft, although if we didn't need them so badly over there..." And that's what the O-6s are saying to the flag officers. I can only imagine what it's like in the Chief's mess.

Usually the next deployer is sucking down all the contingency funds, blasting the logistics "system procedures" to smithereens, stripping the spare parts (even some of the operational parts) from the rest of the squadron, pirating the squadron's best people, blackmailing inviting the training commands to send a few instructors along on TAD orders, leaning on all the assignment officers for their prospective gains to report in before they get underway, involuntarily mobilizing every Reservist they can get their hands on, and generally burning every bridge they can't blow up in an effort to achieve maximum readiness potential before they leave town. In their shoes I'd do the same. However many military inquiries & courts martial have established the precedent that the boss doesn't want to send an undertrained battlegroup into a combat zone (think USS VINCENNES vs the Airbus) a minute sooner than scheduled-- no matter how "tired" the incumbents are.

Any Navy deployment over 180 days requires CNO approval-- and today's answer is a preformatted "#$%^ no" delivered in the requestor's fitness report. Portcalls, however, are widely perceived by cynics (me included) to be a lure designed to keep the crew from deserting before the deployment. ("Australia? Kewl, I'll be there!!") I've had more canceled portcalls than approved ones, and the only time our liberty request was approved turned out to be Subic Bay in time for the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

The first couple years of retirement I cheerfully waved bye-bye to every submarine heading down the channel. Nowadays, though, every once in a while I feel a twinge of envy at the thing they're going to be doing and the achievements they'll rack up. But after a frosty beverage and a trip down Memory Lane that twinge is usually gone by the time I wake up from my nap...

Tonight we're going to the wetting down of a Reservist who made O-6 on his fifth try. (That's about as likely as hitting the same Vegas roulette number three times in a row.) He's an explosive ordnance disposal expert who, in his civilian life, has been cleaning up Kaho`olawe. He's taking this promotion fully expecting to be mobilized for at least two of the next two years, and there aren't any 180-day limits on Reservists in the desert. But he's renting the Hickam AFB oceanside Marina Restaurant for three hours of open bar & pupus, just him and 60 or 70 shipmates, and even his parents & grown kids have flown in from the Mainland. He's 56 years old but he wouldn't have this turn out any other way.
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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-14-2006, 05:06 PM   #22
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Re: Spooky stuff

I've heard lots of stories of the "Project 100,000" recruits that were admitted during the Johnson/McNamara years as part of the Great Society program (and to help out with the recruiting numbers). A disaster for the services and for the individuals. Admitting a lot of poorly qualified folks would be even worse today for two reasons: The generally higher level of complexity in most jobs and the transfer of many of the lower-skilled support functions to contractors. There are just fewer "safe" places put someone like this.
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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-14-2006, 05:22 PM   #23
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Re: Spooky stuff

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Originally Posted by Nords
I wasn't there but I've read that by late Vietnam the Marines had admitted over a quarter of their recruits in Category IV, the most undesirable. (God only knows what the Army did with the guys who not even the Marines wanted.)
I enlisted several years after Vietnam was over and done with. The standards were actually pretty close to what they are today - although I think the percentage of high school grads may be been a little lower (and that's just a guess). The youngsters, like me, were all highly motivated life-takers and the majority of the NCO's and senior officers all had combat time in Vietnam. It made for a good mix - youthful enthusiasm countered by war weary experience. Not much bull**** went on. However, I do remember in the late 70's when the rust belt job market imploded and a lot of guys from the years immediately following the war came back in because they had families to feed. A lot of them were alcoholics or drug users or screwups extraordinaire. Most didn't last long and a lot of them wound up in the brig or federal prison.

I trained at two different Army bases and what I saw back then was sad. Walking near an army barracks at night was as dangerous as being in Detroit or Washington DC. One day at the PX a doggie sergeant, who had been a Marine, stopped me and we talked for a while. I asked him how he liked the army and he said "it's a job". I told him that I was not too impressed with what I had seen. He said that the army was definitely hurting and if they got into a real shooting war anytime soon he figured they would be burying guys in mass graves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
And even in the '90s, after a decade of "Not in my Navy!", it was almost guaranteed that my best, brightest, & most inquisitive shipmates also possessed a waiver for pre-service marijuana use.
You've mentioned that before and I am curious about that. I remember when they started drug testing in the fleet - and the Fleet Marine Force - and all the grumbling that we had to pee in bottles because the squids were all doped up. I never saw drugs in the Corps. I wasn't looking for it, it was there and some people got jammed up because of it, but I never saw anybody stoned, using or possessing. They all got jammed up because of the test, and I assumed most of it was off-duty use in clubs off-base. But I remember the Navy had a horrendous problem - with some spaces on ships not being safe for officers to enter, etc. I know you weren't there then, but any thoughts?
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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-16-2006, 11:11 AM   #24
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Re: Spooky stuff

A bit of a delayed response, Leo, but the earthquake kinda interrupted me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonidas
You've mentioned that before and I am curious about that. I remember when they started drug testing in the fleet - and the Fleet Marine Force - and all the grumbling that we had to pee in bottles because the squids were all doped up. I never saw drugs in the Corps. I wasn't looking for it, it was there and some people got jammed up because of it, but I never saw anybody stoned, using or possessing. They all got jammed up because of the test, and I assumed most of it was off-duty use in clubs off-base. But I remember the Navy had a horrendous problem - with some spaces on ships not being safe for officers to enter, etc. I know you weren't there then, but any thoughts?
I came in at the tail end. The Navy's law used to require druggies to be caught with evidence in hand. When you went to the fantail on any ship at sea it wasn't unusual for a different type of "lookout" to precipitate a shower of smoking objects into the wake, and we midshipmen on summer training were warned to stay clear of the fantail.

Inport was a bit more challenging, but a friend of mine a couple years ahead of me said he could go into any surface-ship engineroom in 1980 and find at least one marijuana pipe hidden in the overhead. Some were pretty inventive, like the guy who used his machine-tool training to hollow out the handles of socket wrenches and the sockets to hold the product.

It's a little harder to bring marijuana on a submarine because of the enclosed spaces and everyone's extremely sensitive sense of smell. The coke & heroin guys rose to the challenge, and at least one late '70s crew was hopped up in the Arctic Sea following the Russians around. (Sonar operators are always hallucinating elusive contacts but these guys must've been pretty scary.) Hawaii had a case in the late 1980s of a submarine senior chief petty officer (ironically the leading chief of the Supply Division) running a cocaine ring and the DEA actually asked the military to prosecute him because the punishment would be harsher (forfeiture of all retirement benefits).

That same friend of mine said that the first skill he used as an ensign was from Coach Smith's boxing class-- an inebriated sailor with a few hard-earned grudges against authority figures. I've heard stories of COs on big surface ships in the 1970s feeling safer with a Marine escort. I don't know if that's the case today, but the COs on big ships usually travel in groups anyway so that they don't get lost their traveling companions can tell them who they're talking with, er, get the benefit of their training, I mean keep them briefed and on schedule. OTOH submarine COs wander anywhere they want and frequently trip the scram breakers as they go by just to keep the troops on their toes.

In the early 1980s it got so bad that one of my USNA squad leaders was convicted of selling drugs as a young LTJG. His spouse, another active-duty USNA grad, only escaped punishment by pleading complete ignorance. (Her acquaintances and subordinates heartily endorsed this defense.) He was dismissed from the service but she went on to retire as an O-6.

I remember one briefing in the early 1980s where as much as 25% of the Navy had admitted to drug use (both officer & enlisted). The Army was in the 30% range and the Air Force was down in the low teens (better quality of life?). The Marines were in the high teens. Today every service is way down in the low single digits.

USS NIMITZ had a ramp strike in 1981 that kicked off the "Not in My Navy" campaign. There were quite a few legal challenges but after five years the results were a clear endorsement of the mandatory urinalysis program. Most of the troops know who the dopers are and they're usually much happier to have the chain of command get the unreliable shipmates off the watchbill. Of course there are still a few people turning each other in for refusing to share personal grievances but those usually come out in the investigation.

In the early years, manning & retention played an unfortunate part in the administration of the drug program. For example a young ensign in my nuclear power class tested positive for cocaine at submarine school. 60 days of restriction later he was going to sea as the newest member of a surface-ship crew. He probably never promoted to O-3 but the Navy was reluctant to lose a $250K asset. I think we've learned our lesson by now and anyone with a drug-related conviction is out of the service.

I had a radioman who tested positive for marijuana in 1986. Despite his innovative defense of "it was in the BBQ sauce at the family reunion" he was reduced in rank and sentenced to the restriction barracks, which meant I had to escort him over there while his young spouse was sobbing in the front seat of the pickup truck with us. It was also the end of his submarine career and it put the rest of our radiomen in port & stbd watches for a few weeks. I spent most of the ride to the barracks wondering ("sob sob") whether we were really doing the right thing. Yet when we got onboard the sub I was thanked by three radiomen who were happy to see the guy go. The senior chief said "Thank goodness, I didn't think the wardroom had it in them."

While the workplace is much better, the program isn't perfect. A sailor popped positive for cocaine in 1996 and, through DNA testing, was able to prove it wasn't his urine. From then on whenever I donated a sample at work I also donated a second sample to a private lab at my own expense. (Cheap pension insurance.) Another sailor tested positive for heroin in the late 1990s despite having just won her age category in a triathlon. Some of today's designer drugs may not show up via urinalysis (ecstasy). Another notable recent local case was the military's first meth lab in base housing. She got away with it for quite some time.

Overall, though, I much preferred being able to spend my training time teaching people how to fight fires & shoot weapons instead of how to treat a shipmate's LSD flashback.

Alcohol, of course, has been much more pervasive and continues to be a lifestyle problem.

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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-16-2006, 11:36 AM   #25
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Re: Spooky stuff

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Originally Posted by Nords
... the Air Force was down in the low teens (better quality of life?).
Absolutely. Of course we always had the option of asking the concierge to request some 'enhanced' brownies when he arranged our dinner reservations.

During the eight years (1970-1977) I spent keeping the world safe for democracy fighting the cold war, I was never aware of any drug use by the enlisted or officer ranks I worked with. Alcohol abuse was rampant, hence the first lesson taught in applied aerodynamics class was “Don’t fly within 12 hours of smoking and don’t drink within 50 feet of the aircraft.”

I think I’ve previously mentioned that the first random drug testing done by the USAF in the early 70’s was officially named “Operation Goldenflow”.

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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-16-2006, 11:58 AM   #26
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Re: Spooky stuff

Drugs were a huge problem in the Navy during the Vietnam years. So many GI's were returning from SE Asia with habits that you had to submit to a golden flow test before you could leave. When I left the Philippines a CPO had to watch me fill up the bottle. I was a LTjg and officers were not exempt from the test. This was in 1971.

I had a special TS security clearance and we were told that if were ever caught using drugs that our clearance would be immediately revoked, we would be court martialed and given a dishonorable discharge that would follow us the rest of our lives. Alcohol was the accepted drug of choice with $.25 drinks in the BOQ bar during happy hour.

Of course in courier school we were also told that the KGB probably had taken photographs of us and started a dossier just in case we could be blackmailed in the future. Don't know if that was true or not.

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Re: Spooky stuff
Old 10-16-2006, 12:09 PM   #27
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Re: Spooky stuff

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
A bit of a delayed response, Leo, but the earthquake kinda interrupted me.
I'm glad that the Hawaiian earthquake god didn't swallow you up. Thanks for the great response, it was very enlightening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Alcohol, of course, has been much more pervasive and continues to be a lifestyle problem.
Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Alcohol abuse was rampant, hence the first lesson taught in applied aerodynamics class was “Don’t fly within 12 hours of smoking and don’t drink within 50 feet of the aircraft.”
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2soon2tell
Alcohol was the accepted drug of choice with $.25 drinks in the BOQ bar during happy hour.
My own experiences mirror these. If we weren't in the field or afloat the end of each day was usually punctuated by two or three hours of mandatory PT, followed by the same question. "What do you want to do - work out or go get drunk to the club?" My answer was always "Let's do both." And then we would work out another couple of hours and then get blitzed before crashing and starting all over again at 0700. I got off active duty because there was no war to fight other than boredom, the Carter Administration was not proving to be a friend to the military, and I knew, that if I stayed in, I was either going to be Mr. Universe or an alcoholic - or both - before I was 25.

After I wrote that I remembered my first civilian job after getting out. I would run 4 miles to work each day, change clothes - do my job until lunch and then go down to the sandwhich shop to grab a bite for lunch and drink a couple of beers - then change clothes and run home another 4 miles. Two months or so into that found me drinking a beer at 11:30 a.m. and looking around at the other diners. I was the only guy with a beer, and the counterman had given me a strange look when I ordered. I suddenly realized that this was not how things are supposed to be in the real world. I'm glad I stopped when I did.
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