Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The East - West Summit of 2016

Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks by Ilya Repin (Source)
Last year Tuna and I met up here in Little Rhody for our first Chant du Départ East - West Summit, well, it happened again this year. (The opening painting is a reasonable facsimile of what these meetings look like. At least that's how they look in my head. Repin has painted in all of the guys we would have liked to have been there but weren't. (As to what goes on in my head, don't ask, it's relatively benign, just "odd." Yeah, that's the ticket, odd.)

For those who simply have to know, that's me in the white hat in the right foreground, belly laughing (I do that a lot). The guy immediately to my right (to the left as you view the painting) with all the hand gestures has to be Juvat (you know how fighter pilots love to talk with their hands), and the light haired fellow to Juvat's right (to the left as you view the painting) with the missing tooth is Tuna. Also waving a hand about, must be an aviation thing. Oh, heck. let me make it easy for you.

Actually, Tuna has all of his teeth and none of us have mustaches. But if we did, they'd look just like that.

They better be at least like this! (Source)


This year The Missus Herself was actually here and not out in California so I invited her along. I'm not good-to-go as far as getting behind the wheel just yet as the structural repairs are not quite ready for an FCF (Functional Check Flight).

We're getting there though, bit by bit. Ran a big experiment at the restaurant wherein I consumed two Sam Adams Octoberfest with no ill effects. (Though at one point The Missus Herself scanned me with her gimlet eye and queried, "Are you drunk?" I assured her that I was not, it's just that when I get together with Tuna I tend to loquaciousness. Yeah, she mentioned that as well, and there I was, thinking myself to be the soul of discretion. Of course, I do get chatty when I'm in my cups, mostly what I say then is "Who's buying?" I read that somewhere, might have been George MacDonald Fraser.)

As to the restaurant, we went to a place I've been meaning to check out, Anthony's Seafood in Middletown, RI. This place -


Full particulars, to include the menu, is at the source of that graphic above. (FWIW, their fried whole belly clams are perhaps the best I've ever had, and I don't say that lightly!)

Inside Anthony's Seafood

Not a fancy place, kind of reminded me of the Blue Water in Sandy Eggo. Yeah, this place -

Just down the street from Shakespeare's...

Both of those fine establishments have been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, a show I rather enjoy, in fact I watched a number of episodes the first night in hospital.

"How can you watch those food shoes when you can't have any solids?" asked Danielle, sweet nurse o' mine.

"Easy, it's what I'm gonna do as soon as I can!"

Food was good, company was superb, and the conversation was sublime. (No, I'm not drunk!) We'll do it again next year, someday maybe we'll even plan things and not be so damned spontaneous. Then Juvat can be there as well, I know he wants to.

Après le diner.
Okay, I do look a bit buzzed.

No retired military were harmed in the making of this post. No really, damn it, I only had two! So did Tuna, he doesn't look buzzed, does he? (Note the obligatory Lex coin.)

Seriously though, I had a blast.


Juvat actually does have facial hair, I was looking at an old picture of him when I wrote this. Juvat suggested in the comments that I was in error. Revisiting the archives I must confess my error.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Members of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency march alongside a disinterred casket holding the remains of unknown USS Oklahoma service members during a disinterment ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu on Nov. 5. (Source)
We all want to go home again.

Soldier, sailor, Marine, Coast Guardsman, airman, it doesn't matter what uniform you wear, it doesn't matter what flag you salute, it doesn't matter what language you speak, nor the way you worship, if at all. Somewhere we all have mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. When we march off to war, our most fervent hope is that we survive. That we go home.

For some, when they step off from their parent's doorstep, it's the last time. They will not see their home again, not as we, the living see it.

I'm not sure the dead care where they lie, nor what happens to their physical remains once they have breathed their last.

But those left behind care. The living need to mourn their dead, they need some symbol, some marker, some touchstone that links them to the ones they've lost. When that is lacking, many will go on for years, maybe decades, never having closure, never knowing what became of their loved one.

The dead who can be identified and buried properly give some comfort to those left behind. They have a place to go to mourn, to remember.

I think the worst fate that can befall a service member is to be declared "Missing." Whether it is missing in action, lost at sea, or being lost in some area of the planet on land which is little traveled. The dark jungles of Southeast Asia spring to mind.

Sometimes the missing aren't really missing. They are right there, but unidentifiable. Buried after combat in mass graves, sometimes by the enemy, sometimes hurriedly by one's own side as events move too fast to do a proper job.

There are still soldiers missing in action from our own Revolutionary War (1,426 according to one source).

Now take a massive conflict, which spans thousands of square miles, like the Pacific Theater, the Russian Front, or the North Atlantic. In those massive battles thousands fell, the war went back and forth. At sea, if your ship was lost or you couldn't find your carrier or base returning from a mission, you were swallowed by the vastness of the sea.

On land, even if you fell within your own lines, there was no guarantee of your body being recovered. With artillery fire, sometimes there was no body to be recovered.

One thing I keep in mind at all times, and that is, for the most part, it's not the young men and women who go off to war who make that decision. Invariably it is old men in suits, in some dusty government building who make that decision to go to war. To shed the blood of their fellow man.

Sometimes it is even worse. Sometimes it is old men in suits sitting in a corporate boardroom who make that call. Usually it is indirect. The men with the money and the power tell their government puppets to do one thing or the other.

But it is seldom their blood that is shed. They don't have to pay the price of their decisions, not in blood anyway.

So I don't care what uniform they wear, what flag they salute, what language they speak, nor the way they worship. Somewhere they all have mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters.

It may be a gray-haired grandmother in Vietnam who will lie awake at night wondering what happened to the baby she held and sang to. It may be an old babushka deep in the former Soviet Union who still remembers the horrors of the Great Motherland War, but is most pained by the memory of a little boy whose face she can barely remember.

It may be a middle-aged man standing on the heights of Point Loma in San Diego, looking out over the Pacific, wondering what the last moments of his son or daughter was like. Knowing that "out there" somewhere under those rolling waves lies a future that never was.

German and Japanese mothers loved their children as well. Yes, they served a bad cause, in one case an evil cause. But they didn't make the war plans, they didn't make the decisions. It wasn't their children who did either. But it was their children who were put into uniforms and sent off to kill. Perhaps to die. At the bidding of conniving old men.

So when someone tells me that we should "leave those bastards where they fell," I go cold, I question that person's humanity. When the war ends, so, eventually, does the hatred. At some point we are all human, all of one species.

We all want to go home again.

To the fallen, to those who didn't come home, who are still "out there." I pray that someday you are found, but I pray more than anything that you are remembered.



...according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

A few weeks ago during Sarge's stint as one of the 12 Angry Men, I alluded to the fact that I also had done my duty by serving on a jury.  It wasn't a civic duty however, but one of a military nature.  The title of this post?  I could have gone with "You Can't Handle the Truth!"  Or "A Jury of His Fears," or some other play on a legal term, but that just didn't sound right.  Many of you probably realize that's part of the Enlisted Oath of Office.  A pledge that wasn't kept.

Back when I was stationed aboard CVN-70, the USS Carl Vinson, (nope, still can't do all caps for ship names- too much like shouting), I was selected to serve on a jury for a Court Martial.  I don't remember receiving a jury summons, or going through the voir dire process though. More like my boss said "Hey, Tuna- get your ass down to the NLSO on Monday morning, 0730 sharp." So I guess I was selected, just not in the traditional sense, but that's the military for you, not that I was expecting anything different.  By the way, the NLSO is the Navy Legal Service Office- a shore-based "law firm" per se, where one can get a power of attorney, a will, or Court Martial-ed.  I'm sure I just made up that verb.

At that point in my career, I didn't have a ton of experience with the Navy justice system.  Fortunately none of my sailors had ever gone to Captain's Mast, but I did have the misery of sitting on an Administrative Separation Board.  We had a sailor who couldn't figure out how to get up and make it to work on time.  After a dozen second chances and being sent to Mast twice, my skipper had had enough and recommended the Navy fire his lazy butt.

It was a slam dunk issue, with really only the type of discharge up for discussion.  I suppose the board made up of one Lieutenant Commander and two Lieutenants could have recommended retaining him, but he was a really lousy Sailor and the Skipper's wrath would have kept us off the flight schedule for the rest of the millennium.  His legal representation was a JAG officer who probably finished Justice School 30 seconds before the board, but he did a pretty good job defending the kid.  He called two witnesses- his Chief and his Division Officer, and through some miracle of salty jurisprudence he was somehow able to get both of them to admit that when he was at work, he did his job well.  And other than his epic tardiness, he had an unblemished record.  As it turned out, we took a little bit of pity on him and gave him an Other-than-Honorable Discharge, vice the Big Chicken Dinner (Bad Conduct Discharge) that the prosecution had pushed for.  The Defense's point about the rest of his service made an impact on me and I convinced my fellow board members that Sailors who did far worse have received BCDs and our dirtbag didn't compare to those.  I took some grief that I was a bleeding heart, but I figured the kid was better off with his GI benefits than without, and so was society.

That CO was tough, but fair, for the most part.  He had taken one of our Anti-Submarine Warfare Systems Operators (AW) to mast for DUI during an All-Hands Call in the hangar.  This was a super squared away Sailor who I knew well, and respected even more.  We had all spent countless hours in the jet with him in the back left seat, tracking subs or conducting surface radar surveillance, so that one was tough to swallow.  

A couple months prior, the Skipper had busted another Sailor for DUI.  This kid was a below average worker and had cussed out the base cop who had stopped him.  He happened to be Hispanic.  Afterwards, someone called the Navy I.G. claiming that the CO was taking more Black and Hispanic Sailors to Mast.  While that was pretty much bogus, we did have a large percentage of minorities, in the squadron, a majority really, so we had a disproportionate number of them getting punished in relation to other races.

However, the sting of that accusation was there, which wasn't good for our intrepid AW, who was White.  At Mast, the Skipper read a Naval Message received that very morning which would have promoted him to E-6, then tore it up and busted him down to E-4.  We all thought that was a huge over-reaction to the past complaint, especially because he blew a .04, hadn't drank for well over a hour, and was stopped for not using his turn signal while driving a very drunken sailor back to his barracks.  He was also extremely cooperative during the stop.  The base regulation was that .01 was impaired so his .04 was technically impaired, but this AW wasn't, even passing the Field Sobriety Test, just not the BAC check.

A few of the senior JOs in the squadron asked the CO about it later and he said that he held our AWs, each of which had Aircrew Wings, a Secret or Top Secret security clearance, and who all happened to be White, to a higher standard.  While we understood, upon further reflection that somewhat proved the spirit of the original I.G. complaint.  Fortunately the AW recovered and later retired as a Navy Chief.

However, I lured you in with the promise of my Court Martial story.  It was for a Navy Senior Chief (E-8) who was accused of sexual harassment and fraternization.  Apparently he had plenty of opportunity.  Every new Sailor- Air Wing or Ship's Company- spent a couple of months TAD, doing some sort of ship's servicing.  Some guys go to the ship's laundry, some to the galley or the wardroom, mess cranking as it was called, and the females?  Everyone knew the racket the Chiefs were running, sending all the attractive ones to work in the Chief's Mess.  We had a young Seaman who, according to kid in my Division, she was "A Total Smokeshow," but I never noticed-of course.  So we all knew where she'd be working when it was her turn.

It was a Special Court Martial- with a Judge, Prosecution and Defense Attorneys, and a panel of three officers.  The prosecution rolled out no less than seven witnesses who claimed the SCPO had harassed them.  Sometimes by pinning them to the wall to some extent, putting his hand on the wall next to their head and leaning in on them as they were working not, although not actually touching them.  He was definitely invading their personal space though and getting far to close for their comfort.  His defense was that he was only innocently talking to them, now understanding that he was being a little too friendly and that they misunderstood his actions.  Another Sailor had encountered him coming up a ladder after she had already started coming down, thereby putting his face close to her chest once she stopped.  The more egregious offenses were three of them who claimed to have been to his house, and two of which claimed to have had sex with him.

His defense had completely denied the more serious charges, although he admitted to having one of the women over to his house.  This was explained as him being proud of his home wanting to show it off, and inviting her over was to give her a break from the ship.  Witnesses for the defense included a former Chief, a Nuclear Machinist Mate who was no longer in the Navy, now working for Intel Corp. down in Portland.  And two female Sailors, one of which had been to his home, but each testified that there had been no harassment.  The former Chief was his friend who stated that he had never observed any untoward behavior.

When it came time for deliberations, we realized we had somewhat of a he said, she said case, his word against theirs.  Mitigating factors included what I thought was a weak defense regarding his too-friendly behavior, one of the prosecution's witnesses whose story did not make sense when cross-examined, making her not very credible.

We briefly discussed whether or not any of the prosecution witnesses could be lying or had truly misunderstood his actions.  We couldn't find a reason why they would have lied and we didn't believe his excuses.  The fact that there were seven witnesses and each had similar experiences with him gave weight to the prosecution's case.  We also discounted the possibility that they had colluded in their stories.  We weren't sure about whether or not sex had occurred, but we believed it had.  Therefore we returned a verdict of guilty on most of the counts.

Later were were  able to provide feedback to the two attorneys in the case and ask about the process.  While we weren't overly critical, I thought that the prosecution could have done better.  He had not prepared any of the witnesses, practicing their testimony and cross-examination which would have either strengthened the less-credible witness or eliminated her.  As for the he said she said aspect regarding whether sex had occurred, we were left without any proof, only a belief.  I stated that the prosecution had missed a great opportunity.  With the accused claiming that he was proud of his home, it would not have been difficult to get him to describe what he was proud of- what his home looked like, what features did it have, etc.  Then later, when questioning the witnesses who claimed they had engaged in sex and had been to his house, which the accused denied, he only needed to ask them what they remember about the house.  This could have also been done during cross-examination or bringing back a witness to refute his own testimony.

Shortly after the trial, I found out from my own Senior Chief, that they knew all about him.  Members of the Chief's Mess had observed his actions and told him to knock it off, but he wouldn't.  I then realized that not having any friends from the current Chief's Mess was telling- that none of them were asked, or they refused to testify in his defense.  The Sailor from my division?  She was one of 30 women he had harassed, but the prosecution didn't need all of them to make his case.

As for his punishment, the 17 year E-8 Senior Chief Petty Officer was busted down to E-5, which would ensure he had no chance to make Chief again.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday #15

It's Groundhog Monday! If I can find, and kiss Andie McDowell, it'll be only 5 more workdays til the weekend.  Seems like only 3 weeks since the last one.

If, as Tuna suggested, blogger had a sarcasm font, the next paragraph would be using it, in bold, underline and italics.  Be forewarned!

I love this time of year!  There's a strong sense of anticipation in the students and teachers coupled with an intent to do their best in every endeavor.  There's a calmness that descends upon the district as school starts and faculty and students settle into the learning routine.  Patience is abundant and an understanding of what's important and what's not is widespread.  As I said, I LOVE this time of year.

So, take that for what it's worth.  School has started and "it is, what it is!".  With enough blood pressure meds, and rum, we will get through.

But, the first week does have one blessing 'round here.  It's only 4 days long as the Friday is always County Fair weekend, and the County Fair always starts with a parade.

Yep, you got it.  I'm relying on Parade pics to cover my lack of pithy political commentary and soulful analysis of the way of things in the world.  You lucky dogs, you!

Parade start is at the trees on the left behind the old Marine's ball cap.
The parade is a down and back.  It starts at the courthouse heads east 3 blocks to the Nimitz Museum, turns around and heads west for 7 blocks just under a mile and a half.  The turnaround for some of the floats is a sight to see.  

Temperature at kickoff was a balmy 80 degrees with 86 percent humidity.  Our rain gauge showed 10 inches over the last week.  I haven't seen our hay looking this deep green in August ever.  While I pray for the folks in Baton Rouge, I was glad to see us get some.  But....It was humid!
Refreshing Ice Cold beverages! (It's a civilized town)
The parade started precisely at 10AM, led off by the NJROTC detachment from the HS.  Not because they're particularly prompt, but TXDOT only allows us to block traffic on the main street (a major US Highway) for 1 hour.

The color guard did a very presentable job for being high schoolers.  Their Captain is a Hawkeye backender, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't his doing.

Pride of the Texas Hill Country
The Colors were followed by the HS Band, playing some marching music as they went by.
A mile and a half walking backwards builds some hefty calf muscles
It's always nice to see a marching band. Especially when you know most of the kids in it.  Lot's of hootin' and hollerin' from the sidelines as it went by.
Drummer Addy helps with Mrs. Juvat's store (when she's not keeping the band in step)
Next, I was sure OldNFO was on the next entrant.
The next two entries were from the Texas Ranger Heritage center
Alas, not him.
I don't think OldNFO has lost this much weight!

So, maybe he couldn't make it.

 Current County Fair Court
There was quite a bit of gasping at this float, all bedecked in Maroon.  Seems most of the gaspers preferred burnt orange.  I thought it was a FINE float!
Contenders to ride the float next year.

There were a lot of antiques in the parade.  As this fire truck drove by, a friend of mine seated next to us (on his pickup tailgate) remarked to his grandkid how OLD the truck was.  He's my age.  I looked at him and mentioned that it was made after we were, so lets be careful with our words.

Speaking of old, there was an old Bat in the parade.

From the Old Railroad Tunnel Bat Cave
And her Bat Dog.
What are you laughing at juvat?  At least I don't have to walk!
Then the tractors started.
The wife said "NO!"


Still upright, backwards and in step.

The band made the turn.

Then came the Shriners, or as I like to call them "Old farts having too much fun".

A new venue in town
This is a new way to tour the town.  In the middle is a large cooler filled with beer and wine.  You drink while providing the locomotive power via bicycle pedals along the side.  Seems popular, thanks.

The statement originated in Texas
There was some political statements made.

"The best little band in Texas"
Then the other HS in the County brought their band by.

Recruiting volunteer fire fighters early these days.
Another frequent sight at Texas Parades, the mounted Posse.
From Parker County just west of Ft Worth.
This time I was positive OldNFO had made it.  The Posse's from his neck of the woods, (Texas standards, not RI standards), and the Mustache is a dead giveaway.
I'm jealous
OldNFO is pretty stealthy.  I yelled out his name and he just looked at me kinda puzzled like.

Not sure how a T-Rex sells Country and Western Radio, but what do I know?
Evidently there's a follow on career in the parade industry for retired Air Force.  Ya hear that, Sarge?  Something to look forward to.

  Mrs. Juvat is giving my future career choice a high five.

Then came this group.

From Palo Pinto County (the county just west of Parker County)
The unit won Best in Parade, and wasn't shy about letting everyone know.  

This vehicle and I have something in common, and my friend on the next didn't say anything this time.
The Nimitz museum had their entries.

Trigger discipline is important even if the weapon is inop.

More Shriners
These guys really were having fun!

Old farts having WAY too much fun!

Add caption
A float advertising for Oktoberfest (the first weekend in October, the town is crowded, but it's a lot of fun).

Float advertising the burgeoning local wine industry
The Texas Hill Country is now the second largest Wine destination in the country (some place named Knappy or something like that is first. )  Seems like there's wineries going up all over.

Das ist Alles!
And this group, a local trail ride association, brought up the rear.

Well, except for the young lady who had to scoop up Equine you know what.  She paid extra for that, I'm sure!