Monday, November 18, 2013

It's Monday morning....

...and someone is classing up. Someone has already finished their bay swim. Someone has already puked their guts out.

Someone is starting pool week.

Hooya, Divers!

(With thanks to Class 09-60-EOD)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day - Medal of Honor SEALs - Norris and Thornton

On this Veteran's Day, I wish to thank all who have served our nation. "Hooya! Thank you!"

The Pritzker Military Library in Chicago is the source of many of my favorite podcasts. To celebrate Veteran's Day, I recommend you visit this link of an interview with two Medal of Honor (MOH) Recipient's - Thomas Norris and Michael Thornton. Both served as Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Norris action is chronicled in the movie "BAT-21." Thornton's action was rescuing Norris- the only case of one MOH Recipient being recognized for rescuing another MOH Recipient.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Film - The Fog of War

The Fog of War is an award-winning documentary film comprised mostly of an interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Most Americans will recognize McNamara as the SECDEF under Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and beginning of the Vietnam War, who continued to serve under President Johnson. Through the documentary much more of his life is revealed, followed by insight on leadership, warfare, and realpolitik.

For example, McNamara was a staff officer serving on the staff of General Curtis LeMay. A statistician, he participated in the decision-making process to firebomb Japan. McNamara relays that LeMay asserted if they lost the war, the staff would be tried as war criminals.

McNamara was known for his business mind and served as an executive at Ford Motor Company. He was a member of the team that instituted seat belts for enhanced safety. Later he became the first CEO that was not a member of the Ford family....for five weeks.

The bulk of the film delves into intimate details of decision making with respect to Cuba, Vietnam, Russia, China, and the whole of the Cold War. McNamara is brutally honest about his, and the failings of the administrations he served, and the failings of the communists, in understanding the nature of conflict. Through the film, eleven rules are presented with McNamara's examples to apply to each.

If you are in history, politics, conflict, conflict resolution, and leadership - watch this film.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

EOD Book Review - This is What Hell Looks Like by Stuart Steinberg

Specialist Stuart Steinberg and a fellow Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician responded to a improvised explosive device of "IED" placed under the seat in a movie theater. They tied fifty feet of wire to the device, and from a position of cover, pulled,  remotely moving the bomb to ensure it did not incorporate a anti-handling device. The soldiers then carried it into the street to perform a render safe procedure. The bombmaker employed a U.S. grenade fuze with a sophisticated time delay feature embedded in C-4 plastic explosive. The EOD Techs successfully disarmed the device, and received a commendation letter for their action.

This story does not come from Iraq or Afghanistan, but from Vietnam. Steinberg relays this and many other EOD incidents in his war memoir,  This is What Hell Looks Like. Published in 2013 as an Amazon Kindle eBook, Steinberg makes it clear from the beginning that the work will be raw. He notes that writing about his service, especially in Vietnam,  is cathartic, and assists him in closing the door on post-traumatic stress and drug and alcohol use previously employed to manage PTSD.  Thus it is easy for any reader to become empathetic and subsequently enthralled with This is What Hell Looks Like. Those who enjoy military memoirs, especially EOD Techs will not be able to put the book down.
Steinberg joined the Army in 1966. He began his career assigned to Nike Hercules missile crew in the Everglades. He determined quickly that he wanted to transfer because he was surrounded by "ant-Semitic rednecks." To do so, he re-enlisted for four years and volunteered for EOD school. This includes a $1000.00 signing bonus and a promise of $55.00 a month in hazardous duty pay. Steingberg describes EOD school and then his first assignment at Dugway Proving Grounds. 
At Dugway, Steinberg disposed of chemical weapons. The job frustrated, even angered him, because of the way the Army handled an accident that killed local livestock. Wanting to leave Dugway, he volunteered for Vietnam.
The bulk of This is What Hell Looks Like is of Steinberg's service in Vietnam. Again, any fan of military history, especially of war memoirs will enjoy this part of the book. It is a must read for EOD Technicians or those who want to become EOD Techs.
Steinberg describes life in Vietnam, operating with a small team, usually responding to EOD calls with two men.  He and his fellow EOD Techs enjoyed freedom and priority access compared to others because of the nature and importance of their job. Steinberg goes into the jungle to aid a team of Special Forces and Montagnard tribesmen exfiltrate from a minefield. He renders safe dud ordnance that the Vietnamese lobbed or fired at his compatriots. Steinberg's team may be the only Army EOD Techs to ever respond to a limpet mine placed on a ship!(There was no Navy EOD available and the tide and loading made the limpet emerge above the water line.)
Perhaps the most interesting, and most common EOD responses that Steinberg describes are when he and his team respond to sapper attacks on ammunition depots. The Vietnamese realized that any ordnance destroyed in situ would not be used against them. Some of their attacks required EOD Techs from around Vietnam to respond - conducting cleanup for months.
Recognizing that he is relying on his own memory,  Steinberg connected with former teammates, asking them to relay or relive different missions/ responses. Additionally, he conducted archival research, drawing on logs, reports, and government memos. As a result, he uncovered records of incidents that he participated in for which he had no memory. The whole project is then supported by many of Steinberg's photos, including some of particular events. This thoroughness enhances the readers understanding and puts many of the events in context. Equally important is that author provides enough to be of real interest to EOD Technicians, without putting in so much detail as to boor those simply interested in historical accounts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The First Frogman

John Spence, the first U.S. "Frogman" has passed. I was honored to hear him speak at a diver's conference at the U.S. Naval Academy. The audience was filled with salvage divers, saturation divers, SeaBee divers, deep submergence divers, SEALs, and EOD Techs. The same array of dolphins, crabs, flintlocks, tridents, and MK Vs could only be found in Panama City during a Master Diver Reunion. The crowd included giants in naval diving like Admiral Cathal "Irish" Flynn, and Astronaut/Aquanaut Scott Carpenter (He also passed just a month ago).

Spence told his story of using Dr. Lamberston's diving apparatus at a pool at the Washington Navy Yard, then a few days later making the first open water dive there at the U.S. Naval Academy in the Severn. He allowed that the biggest challenge was how to swim strait - to navigate.

When Spence finished his story - standing ovation.

He will be missed. Fair winds, following seas, frogman.