Monday, July 18, 2005

Back to Brown Water

In some ways, this makes me think of what would have happened to someone who waited until 1946 to come out and say, “Hey, this Aircraft Carrier concept seems to be of importance, let's invest some more money in it.” ….but that is being a bit too snarky.

In a parting shot, the outgoing CNO put out a memo on 06 JUL outlining where he sees the Navy needs to go to “expand the Navy’s capabilities to prosecute” the war. (NB: look at the timing. OUTGOING CNO. Read, lame-duck, little advocacy until the 1-2-3 star underlings get a reading on what the NEW CNO thinks.)

I am treading on VERY thin ice here, but very respectfully and fully understanding the politics of the Puzzle Palace – WHERE THE HELL WAS THIS MEMO A FEW YEARS AGO!!!!

I’ll take what I can get, but this is just not the way we should do business. That being said, there is some good, some bad, and some ugly to be looked - all that I support 100%. The major areas are covered, and more professional opinion provided, in the
The Navy Enquirer…err….Times.

  • Riverine Forces: We’re getting back in business. More details below.

  • Navy Expeditionary Battalion: Ummmm. Sounds like Naval Infantry, which sounds like Marines; but from what I have gathered, that isn’t what is going on here. I have a friend that was at the briefing at CFFC about this. Nice PowerPoint brief with lots of hand written notes and wire-diagrams about the staff structure. My question: “OK, but what exactly will you do?” Answer, “I’m not sure, but we think we know what the staff structure will look like.” Mmmmm. Bad beginning. You don't build a staff then ask, "OK what are we going to do?" Someone knows what they want the NEB to do, they just need TO TELL SOMEONE. Sigh. Initial look is another excuse for a Flag Staff that puts together a bunch of other already existing organizations under one roof. I’m not sure what value it adds. I’ve asked a few people involved with it at the CDR/CAPT level, they can’t answer it either. Not a good sign. More to follow, but I don’t like the smell.

  • Civil Affairs attached to SeaBees: You mean we don’t already? You’re late.

  • Active/Reserve Integration (ARI) for two Helo Combat Support Special Squadrons: ARI; ARI for all my friends; as long as it is ARI and not a Full Time Support (what TARs call themselves now days) full employment act.

  • Data mining team for the National Maritime Intelligence Center and a center to exploit intelligence from maritime interdictions operations (MIO): Eagle 1 should be all over this, but I will add…..”You mean we don’t already have that?" A world full of pirates, LNG tankers, and terrorists owned merchant fleets that you can fit all sorts of weapons on…..and we don’t have a data mining team? You’re late. Oh well, we have a Navy Diversity Directorate, but we don’t have a data mining team and MIO exploitation team.

  • A sidebar states that Navy endstrength “should not grow.” Well, no kidding. OPNAV already has us going down to 318,000 or so by FY11. Why? It is hard to justify endstrength WHEN YOU ARE FOUR YEARS LATE IN TURNING-TO IN THE NEW THREATS FACING OUR NATION.

    There. I feel better. Of all the above, as
    mentioned before and taunted by John, I would recommend that we lean first and foremost on the expansion of the Riverine plan. Core Competency. That is the most Navy like, and where we already have thousands of Sailors ready to go. We know how to train Coxswains. We have a cadre of Small Boat Specialists. We have plenty of underemployed Gunners Mates. We have plenty of overmanned rates that need gainful employment. And we have plenty of outstanding Surface Warfare Junior Officers who are itching to get in the fight as best as they can.

    Go up to any EP LTJG and ask him, “Do you want to transfer to USS Neverdock, or do you want to lead Riverine forces in Iraq? Get out of the way, because that officer will knock you down trying to get to the phone to call the detailer. As a sidebar, I can think of fewer opportunities to build the leaders of tomorrow more than to put our best LTJGs and LTs leading sailors up the Tigris and Euphrates. Beats the hell out of being 1st LT and OOD on a WestPAC. A great tour, but nothing like directing shore support of ground forces engaged in combat with the enemy. They should give them Joint Credit as well. They would come out of that tour knowing more about Army OPS and USAF coordination than all the JPME in the world could give them.

    Luck for me, I have a reader who knows more about where we stand right now on Riverine forces than about anyone, and he has the gouge. As a snapshot,
    Naval Special Warfare owns all the Navy's Combat Craft; MK V, NSW RHIB, SOC-R, PBL, etc. They are primarily a mobility asset for NSW. Insert and extract SEALs. The last time Special Boats did much 'presence' duty was Gulf War 1. Since then the craft have migrated almost exclusively to SEAL mobility role.

    Almost all the money comes from MFP 11 (SOCOM).

    The PCs that started out as a NSW craft under SOCOM were not the right craft for NSW/SpecOps and have migrated to the Fleet/USCG, and NSW does not currently have a requirement to fulfill LOC control in the Riverine environment.
    Now, if the new CNO takes on what the old CNO stated in his memo, this is going to change. The shame in this all is that until very recently, we had a nascent, but viable Riverine force on life support.
    The Navy Reserve did at one time have an entire command dedicated to Riverine Craft and operations; Special Boat Unit 11. It had PBRs, MATCs, Monitors
    (YEA BABY, Monitors…)
    , etc. It was decommissioned in 1997. Most of its assets were transferred to SBU 22, now SBT 22 (Special Boat Team 22), and to a Reserve Detachment in Sacramento (SBT-Riverine Operations and Training).
    The new structure will have one active and two reserve components. Personally, I would like to see double that, with most all the items C-17 transportable.

    That’s OK. We have a start.

    JULY 12, 2005
    MEMO for Distribution
    From Director, Navy Staff
    1. BLAH BLAH
    2. TAKE FOR ACTION (normal navy language).....
    a. Establish a Riverine Force in Active and Reserve Components. By 24 August 2005, OPNAV N6/N7 will, IAW blah blah blah...provide a plan to establish an AC Riverine Squadron in FY05/06 and 2 RC Riverine Squadrons on 07/08
    To my source, thanks for the tip. It warms the soul to see that things are moving in the right direction.

    Again, this isn’t a rice bowl issue. This is about pulling your load in a war. Riverine OPS is low hanging fruit for the Navy. This memo should have come out three years ago, but I’ll take it now. We need a Riverine presence as long as we have troops on the ground. More importantly, we need them available from day 1 of the next conflict. Almost every country has at least one river. It’s a no-brainer.

    One last thing, there are some special things about Riverine OPS that make it a very unique speciality, one that the USGC isn't set up for. He makes a great reason why we should always have a cadre of Riverine experts around so we don't learn those hard lessons won in earlier conflicts.
    Riverine operations are worlds away from most Navy ops. ... you can not imagine the mind warp required in just navigating, assessing danger close and mission planning. GPS/ Dead Rec navigation doesn't work. Charts? For Iraq/Iran/Kissmyassistan? Not too trustworthy. Situational/Battlespace Awareness? On a narrow river with high banks? Urban environment? Low/no light? Getting kinda sporty.

    USCG Harbor Defense / Port Security has virtually no knowledge in Riverine Ops, nor would I want to use them. There primary mission is Force Protection, a different mission than offensive, combat ops. Different mind set, different tactics, different C3I.
    A growth industry. I'm feeling a bit of envy....

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