IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK…IT IS WHAT IT IS

ISIL

In President Obama’s speech outlining his strategy for dealing with ISIL he emphatically made a point to separate ISIL from Islam. “ISIL is not Islamic” he stated. This may be news to the leadership and fighters of ISIL, all of whom are followers of Islam and fighting and committing horrific acts in the name of Islam.

The President made his case by stating “In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide”. It seems the President has chosen to forget history or perhaps never knew it. These barbarous acts he described are exactly how Islam spread as a religion 1,200 years ago. The President’s own words and logic not only refute his argument, they make the point on how completely wrong he is.

It would take political courage on the world stage to call ISIL what it is and that is something we have learned not to expect from this president, the same president seen by many in the Middle East, most notably Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as an outright ally of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps the Australians would believe President Obama that ISIL is not Islamic. But perhaps not since this morning 800 Aussie police officers served 25 search warrants that apparently prevented the random public beheadings of innocent Australians in the name of ISIL and Islam.

Saying that ISIL is not Islamic is like saying the Crusaders were not Christian, the Nazis were not German and the North Koreans are not Communist. It does not change the fact by tepidly tip-toeing around reality, they are. It’s a duck (with apologies to ducks), not a Dove.

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SEALS ON THE BEACH, VETERANS ON THE STAGE, GENEROSITY IN THE AUDIENCE

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The SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation http://www.sealnswff.org fundraising event May 3 in laid-back Santa Monica exceeded the collective high expectations of the 1,000 guests.  Personally, they had us as we passed through the camo-netting covered portal entering the beautiful sand beach of the Jonathan Club. The exclusive beach club never rents out their facilities but in a wonderful act of generosity (to be the theme of the evening) they provided the facilities without any cost to the NSWFF.

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In true LA fashion there were celebrities, high-end booze, outstanding food, a beautiful beach setting caressed by perfect weather, overt and covert security, a book signing, live and silent auctions, very cool technology and the cutest service-puppies-in-training  you will ever see.  And this was all before the festivities began.

 

Throw in a boy band, Vaja belting out a heart-felt Star Spangled Banner, the USC Marching Band and a dozen former Navy Seals parachuting onto the beach in front of us, one with a 2,500 square foot American flag, and you get a hint of the excitement of the event that raised $3,000,000 for the foundation.

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People were generous for a wonderful cause and at times we could not help but wonder if the event could ever have occurred in our home San Francisco Bay Area.   It’s not that there is a lack of wealthy donors nor a suitable stunningly beautiful venue.  And there are enough patriotic folks to make up a 1,000 seat audience.  No, it is more about political correctness.  How so?  Sniper rifles.  Yes, a couple of sniper rifles that were auctioned off at $150,000 each.  Or maybe even the 3’ by 5’ $1,000,000 check donated  by Michael Liberty purportedly written on a cut out part of a “Jihadist Tent”.  Let the public debate begin!  No matter, it happened in the progressive enclave of Santa Monica and all was right with the world for a few short hours.

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We had two questions before the event.  First, why do the SEALs need help with their families?  That question was answered here http://www.sealnswff.org/programs/. Second, why is the government not taking better care of the SEALs?  That question remains unanswered.  However, private individuals and companies dug deep and did the right thing for the SEALs families, again.  Well done.

 

SEAL-NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE FAMILY FOUNDATION: YOU DON’T KNOW THEM, BUT YOU SHOULD

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The SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation (SEAL-NSWFF) isn’t one of those charities familiar to most Americans.  They don’t have cute commercials on late night TV nor do they have folks annoyingly asking for contributions outside your favorite chain grocery store and you will never have them ring your doorbell.  But this is an organization that deserves some sliver of your over-worked attention capacity if not a few bucks of your hard earned money.

Frankly, until we were contacted by Merrill Marketing Communications (http://www.merrillmarcom.com) in San Diego, we had no idea such an organization existed.  But we’ve been given the honor to attend the latest SEAL-NSWFF event this May 3 in Santa Monica and it looks like a spectacular event, certainly sure to be the most engaging, dramatic and interesting fundraising event we’ve ever attended or are likely to attend.

Before we get on a (positive) rant about this event, be aware that they do wonderful, honorable and important work for the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) families.  They raise awareness and funds for multiple activities and services on a local, national and global scale.  Check them out at http://www.sealnswff.org.

On May 3, at the Jonathan Beach Club, the wine will be excellent, the food approaching sublime, the music from the top of the charts and the Hollywood ‘Be-Seens’ shiny and bright.  But, the real stars are the men and women who have made great sacrifices for this country, for you, for us.  We have a Medal of Honor winner keynote speaker, we have state of the art Tactical Gear, Lasers, Drones, K9 War Dogs to say nothing of ex-Seals parachuting onto the beach and bringing along some seriously cool special effects with them.  And we are told there will be more but it is apparently top secret at this time.

Assuming we survive the event and don’t try to enlist, we will report back and post photos too.

For more information see http://www.eliteforcesevent.com/home.html

@sealnswff

 

 

IT WAS AWESOME² BUT…ARE WE ASKING TOO MUCH OF THE US NAVY?

“Whiskey 291” is not the latest blend from Makers Mark, the “Junkyard” is not full of old GM X-cars and “COD” is not collect on delivery.  You learn these and other lexicons when you spend 24 hours on a Nimitz class aircraft carrier.  You also learn what the Navy’s greatest asset is (hint, it’s perishable) and perhaps the most serious threat to that asset.

I just had the privilege of being one of 15 writers, bloggers and social media executives selected to participate in the Navy’s Distinguished Visitor Program and spend 24 hours on the USS Carl Vinson CVN70, a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier.  We boarded a Navy C2 COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) Greyhound turboprop at North Island Naval Air Station, Coronado and flew 150 miles out to sea southwest of San Diego where we did a tail hook landing (“Trap” in navy parlance) on the carrier, operating in a 100,000 square mile area known as Whiskey 291.

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That landing inducted us into an exclusive group, exclusive enough that the Navy gave us a patch (the Navy loves patches, all kinds of patches), a “Trap 1” to mark the occasion.  We were nothing but fluid filled bio-cargo safely secured into our rear facing and well worn seats by our 3 point harnesses, but it’s enough to give us all some serious cred back at the cube farm and the local bar.

In The Club.

In The Club.

Landing on an aircraft carrier, even via a twin 8 blade prop plane, is a jarring, unnerving experience.  Touching down at 105 mph (vs.150 mph for an F18 SuperHornet), one of the 4 arresting cables caught our tail hook and stopped us completely in 2 seconds.  It felt as if a few of your lesser organs are compressed, rearranged and your belly button shifted.  Thus began a 24 hour adventure that would add an extra quart of testosterone to each of our bodies, regardless of gender.

The plane taxied even as the wings were folding up and the rear ramp, our egress and exit, opened to flood our noisy, dim cocoon with brilliant light, roaring jet engine noise that vibrated our teeth and the fresh ocean breeze.  Big guys with big helmets, big goggles and big ear phones guided us out and over the deck to a catwalk hanging 70 feet above the fast moving ocean and then back into a quiet, calm sanctuary holding strong hot coffee, cool water and fresh baked cookies, the Captain’s stateroom.  “Welcome, please come in and take off your Cranials and lifejackets” were the first words from the Master Chief Petty Officer.  Cranial is of course the helmet but I felt like my real cranial was still foggy from the landing.

We were briefed by the Executive Officer and the Captain on how our next 24 hours would unfold (awesome, thanks for asking) before we posed for the obligatory but genuinely smiling group photo (providing evidence we did arrive safely) and then started our day but where else, the flight deck yards away from landing F18 SuperHornets.  But of course.

We stood there, cameras clicking, smiles widening and bones vibrating as $67,000,000 state of the science, 51,000 pound jets landed and catapulted off the 4.5 acre deck, far closer than I would have expected but still, there was a magic line and none of us dared cross it. We were just on the stern side of the “Junkyard” where a few SeaHawk helicopters, an AWACs plane and some forklift like machines were parked.  Our plane had landed less than 30 minutes prior and we already had sustenance, assurance and recognition and were closer to live carrier flight operations than 99.99% of people on the entire planet ever get…and we had more, much more coming.

 

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As stated, we are all writers, bloggers and social media types to say nothing of being very tech savvy.  Naturally, we were mesmerized by the technology, much of it in operation all day and much of our restless night.  Advanced communications, radar, navigation, billions of dollars of equipment, a 100,000 ton, 1,100 foot nuclear powered ocean going Borg-city moving far faster than the official 34 knots through the water (you can’t fool me), water desalination, etc., all it of was very cool and we were suitably impressed.  But…the real asset of the carrier and ultimately the most impressive to us was the crew, men and women, officers and enlisted, young and, well, younger still than me.

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Nothing, absolutely nothing works without the crew and everything does, like clockwork, with the crew.  You may rightly feel that you work hard, long hours.  Perhaps you do, especially if you work for a startup.  You know the feeling of a 12-14 hour day 5 or even 6 days a week.  Sure, the money is good and there is a potential payoff at the end of your startup if it goes IPO or better yet, quickly gobbled up by Google.  You know this even as you check Facebook 20 times a day and email and text your friends while you are eating pizza and drinking the local brew beer at 7:30 PM while working on that media campaign or coding some game changes.

But do you know what it is like to work 16-18 hours a day, 6 or sometimes 7 days a week, have but 15 minutes of internet access a day (maybe), no cell coverage, no long term payout, work for below market rates, sleep in bunks stacked 3 high with but a curtain for privacy and oh, let’s just toss in that you will often be away from your loved ones for 8, 9 or even now, maybe 10 months?  As I thought, so stop whining.

This is not an exaggeration, these are the working conditions of the men and women on the carrier.  They work, work and work some more so that you and I can pat ourselves on the back and think we are cool because of our jobs or where we live.  Ah, freedom!

Keep in mind, not only the Navy but the entire US Military, the most powerful and dominant the world has ever seen, is all-volunteer.  So, not a problem working like this, they volunteered, right?  Well, there is.

Life in the Navy was never easy, it was always hard work but it was reasonable and offered, and still does, many tangible and intangible rewards not the least of which is doing something for your country on a grand scale.  But the issue is that the Navy is being asked to do more and more because Congress allocates less and less.  I noticed empty billets (bunks, sorry, I have the lexicon down now) and people are doing more, more with less so to speak.  Deployments lengths are creeping up as we have gone from a 11 carrier navy to a 10 carrier navy in what many believe is actually a 15 carrier world.  Deployments lengths go up, the number of personnel goes down, what do you have?  You have an extremely capable, professional, focused, dedicated and patriotic crew that works harder and longer and does not see their loved ones for longer and longer periods of time.  That is as you should surmise, assuming your IQ is over 80 and your common sense is in tact, not good, not good at all.

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I’m not interested in having a military budget and procurement conversation, I’ll leave that to those perpetual pork-seeking politicians.  But…whatever is the right level of budget for the navy needs to match the mission at hand. One highly educated, thoughtful and very senior officer who’s name I will not reveal (ask NSA if you want a transcript of the conversation), in response to a question of budget cuts and their effects, stated “…the trick is to get that right balance.  It may be just as bad to give the military too much money as it is not enough”.  Well said, true and revealing in it’s honesty and simplicity.  If you reduce the budget and reduce the manpower, then reduce the mission.  I know common sense is not a characteristic of Congress, but it is simple enough even for them to understand the concept.  Forget national security for the moment…no, no, I can’t.  Fine.  Don’t forget national security but focus on the proper matching of resources and mission.  If national security depends on X number of carriers, budget that and the resources to operate and never forget, the most important resource is the crew, those young men and women who sacrifice daily for the rest of us.

End Rant.