Ran into one of those "professional acquaintances," the ones you knew from a past tour and just seem to run into now and then. Well, I like to talk, shocker there, and after awhile you start to see the same people here and there who like you are recidivist StaffWennies. I rarely forget a face, so if I run into you on a ship or TAD for just a few days, I will always take the time to check in when I run into you. Sure you are just a professional acquaintance, but people are interesting and I get bored easily. Yap away I go.
So, I ran into one of the better ones the other day, passing each other on the way to different briefings. Didn't get a chance to talk for too long - just enough for a cup of coffee before the next VTC. Usual small talk, family, friends, hobbies, general gossip and catch-up. Then I made a mistake; I asked him, "How was your weekend?"
A little background. This guy is Skippy's most nightmarish officer; a P-3 NFO. He isn't a bitter puss though - so his comments had more effect on me. This guy is a front-runner's front runner from what I have gathered over the few years I have known "of him." He has something in the business you call "Flag Potential" - and I mean that in a good way. He is by nature a very upbeat, but when I asked him about his weekend, his face just fell.
He slowly shook his now drooping head and said (rough paraphrase with artistic license in places for clarity and acronym removal), "We had the VP Reunion last weekend.*"
Shocked by his change of appearance I didn't respond. He continued;
The senior leadership is just lost. Their priorities and party line have no connection to reality. What they are pushing and investing time and effort in has no relation to what the crews are doing onstation, what the Combatant Commanders need, and what our nation wants for the war we are fighting now. Over and over the senior leadership said, "We are a Maritime Force. Tomorrow, no one will care what you do today."He sighed in a way that spoke volumes. Then it was time to go.
Right now we are fighting a real war with real enemies and real people getting killed; people we should be supporting more. Our crews are doing overhead ISR** but all the senior leadership wants to talk about is Maritime this and that, as if we are doing a dozen on-tops*** on Chinese submarines every day. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, but all they want to do is walk and have everyone hide the gum in their mouth.
They are living a fantasy world and don't want to talk about what is needed now to help us win at war - they are focused on winning the budget battles in 2010 for peace-time issues. They won't even encourage us to talk about the ISR our crews are doing. They tell us to keep quite about it. It is driving me mad.
I think he is about to have a existential crisis; he has reached the point, methinks, where his loyalty to his community is in direct conflict with his loyalty to the Navy, the war, and his Nation. I don't think he has yet stepped over the line, but he is looking at it. Part of me wants to warn him off - he has reaching it a bit early in his career for his own good - but a man has to do things on his own timeline.
Once you do step over, out of the closet - stand-by. It is a great view on the other side, but you are more often than not flying solo. No wingman, no top-cover, and sneaky bandits all around you - but man what a freedom.
They used to call themselves MPA (Maritime Patrol Aviation) now they call themselves MPR (Maritime Patrol & Reconnaissance) and sometimes MPRA - you can figure that out yourself. Why not talk about the "R" in MPR?
Ahhh, the budget? Pointy-nose Aviation 4-star orders from above? Myopia? Habits and memories of youth? Where is the warfighting focus?
This is a community that is less than half the size they were in the early '90s, but still has the same number of O6 "At Sea" commands. While the rest of the military is burning themselves up, they have gone from "6 months deployed, 12 months home" to "6 months deployed, 18 months home" and have fewer shadows per squadron on the ramp than then, as their aircraft are falling apart. But they have kept the same number of CDR commands though....amazing.
Oh, you could go on for at least an hour on that community - and those who have done a Bureau tour could tell stories that would do the Sopranos proud when it comes to how these guys operate. But I won't beat up on them too bad.
They are an expensive, manpower heavy, top-heavy community that for some reason has provoked an existential crisis among one of their best because in the middle of a war, they still cannot get past a peace time budget/DC infighting mentality. And I don't buy their "you can't man the Carriers without the MPR community, you need our numbers" crap either. We don't have 40% of the carriers we had in 1993, and we seem to be manning them just fine. It doesn't take a P-3 guy to do OPS ADMIN.
In the larger Navy, the P-3 bubbas, MPR Community, whatever, have an image problem - I think that is a fair statement. They are not helping themselves any when they hobble one of the things they actually bring to the larger fight - overhead ISR. Don't want an actual war to interfere with agendas or anything, now do we?
That is the same attitude that had the Surface community wait 4-years before it deployed Riverine forces to Iraq - forces that are now considered "High Demand-Low Density." (BTW, that means "we don't have enough because all our money is with the Lockheed Martin PowerPoint Rangers.")
Oh, one last thing. Right after his sigh, I gave him a parting shot that I am very proud of. Tilting my head a bit, I asked, "Hey, isn't VADM Winns your most senior Flag now?"
"F^KC YOU." was about all I heard as he walked away in a funk.
And no, it wasn't PalmPilot - he is too sexy and doesn't have a potty mouth - and drives the bus.
* VP Reunion is the P-3 version of "Tailhook meets the Politburo" yearly geedunk schmooze-fest they hold every year in their Valhalla - DC.
** ISR=Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
*** On-tops is P-3 talk for "Oooooo, a submarine. Let's track it on the surface and then tell everyone it was submerged..."