As a boy I knew the only thing between the beaches of my hometown and
the Japanese armada was the U.S. Navy. But in late 1941, everyone worried
because a lot of our fleet sat at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Then our carriers miraculously escaped the Japanese pummeling at Pearl
Harbor and went on to win the Battle of Midway in 1942. After that decisive
fight, everyone in Santa Monica loved Navy air crews. We knew that without
those heroes we’d have been slave labor.

As a soldier in Korea, I first saw those brave men in action. Their
stubby Corsairs flew so low you could read the pilot’s name on the side of
his aircraft. They always put iron on the target, saving us line doggies
more times than I can remember.

They were just as brave, daring and effective in Vietnam where once more
they paid a heavy price. Thousands of Navy airmen were wounded, killed or
captured doing their thing for the grunts down below.

I saw naval air in action again during the Gulf War. There, too, they
were magnificent.

Today, they’re deployed around the globe, including on two carriers in
the Gulf — only a hair trigger away from another shootout.

Sadly, since the Gulf War ended, naval aviation has been falling apart.
It’s not just overworked and undermanned, it has lost its heart. Large
numbers of aircraft are down for lack of parts, pilots are not flying
enough hours to remain proficient and air crew quality has taken a back
seat to politics and bad senior leadership. Air crews are quitting in
droves because of an atmosphere poisoned by political correctness and top
brass who won’t fight it.

Last week Commander Scott Stewart sounded off. He told the Navy’s top
admiral that his elite F-14D squadron was not fit to fly and submitted a
seldom used General Use Naval Hazard Report. In it he said that of his 14
aircraft, only two were “mission capable.”

Stewart bravely said that he doesn’t have spare parts, his pilots are
only flying ten hours a month and his combat readiness has slipped off the
radar screen.

He said in his official report — a copy of which was sent to me by
e-mail from a pilot in another squadron — “I strongly believe that it is
my duty to protect my aircrews and maintainers. Living at the end of the
parts food chain can present difficult challenges and obstacles that may be
unmanageable. [sigma] We no longer have the tools to do our job. We must provide
aircrews with the requisite flights to get them ‘combat ready’ safely.”

Commander Stewart is known as a stand-up kind of guy. I am sure he is.
It takes special courage to be a Naval aviator. It took a lot of courage
too to sound off and tell his leaders the hard truth. Let’s hope the top
brass don’t shoot the messenger but rather look hard at what’s happened to
naval aviation.

At how, for example, politics has allowed women and minorities to be
awarded gold wings to fill quotas when they’re not qualified to fly Naval
aircraft. Pilots like Lt. Kara Hultgreen, who crashed her F-14 and died
while trying to land on the USS Lincoln. An aviation safety officer said
“We sure had a rash of problems with her. [sigma] Stuff male pilots would have
lost their wings over.”

Navy brass tried to cover up the crash in the interest of political
correctness and got caught. They lied, claiming the accident was caused
because of engine failure rather than pilot failure.

If the brass have any doubt about what they’ve done, they should take a
look at the June PLAYBOY. It features Naval Flight Officer Frederica
Spilman baring all. Aircrew who have flown with her say the Annapolis
graduate was “unsatisfactory” up in the sky, but “great company at sea.”

A pilot asks, “Do you think after this article she could perform her
duties on a six month carrier deployment with 5,000 horny sailors aboard?
Sure she could — just like pigs take off from short runways!”

Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, the air skipper at Midway, must be rolling
in his grave when he sees what’s happened to his beloved naval air.

Hack Notes

The Army is going to ax 10,000 NCOs this year.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Doesn’t the Brass realize that the heart, soul and steel backbone of any
army is its NCO Corps? Look at the history of arms. Any army that hasn’t
had a strong NCO corps got its butt handed to them in a fight.

Just look at our Army in the final years of the Korean and Vietnam Wars
when Shake-and-Bakes were in charge: bedlam ruled. I skippered a rifle
company in Korea in 1952-53 during the no NCO period and things were grim.

Fortunately, our mission was simple: build a bunker and point and fire
your weapon towards the bad guys. By 1969 in Vietnam, most units weren’t
even a decent mob. My Hardcore battalion had no more than two regular NCOs
per company. Believe me, KISS was SOP. Vietnam was a far more complicated
game than Korea and boy, did we ever bleed unnecessarily because we didn’t
have old salts to teach, pass on the lessons learned, train lieutenants and
captains and lead the way.

A great war-fighter leader, who I hope will soon be wearing a star, says
firing 10,000 NCOs is “like eating your seed corn. My God, there are at
least 10,000 commissioned officers retired on active duty.”

Army Chief of Staff Reimer, who is a good man, should stop this mad
plan. Why doesn’t he find those 10,000 deadbeats and give them their
walking papers? Or cut every headquarters in the Army from Brigade up by a
flat 20 percent? Plenty of fat there. He should start with the Washington,
DC area, where there’s enough deadwood to build a fire that would burn
throughout Century XXI.

Carlton Meyer offers another solution: “[sigma] deactivate combat brigades and
bring back ARNG round-outs for the 2nd tier divisions.”

Before I lost those NCOs, I’d deactivate the light divisions. As Somalia
showed, they’re a liability in a real fight, especially city fighting. They
just don’t have the power to punch and hang in there.

Right now every Army division is as hollow as a clay pipe. Both the 3rd
Div. — which sent a Bde to Kuwait — and the 1st Cav. — that’s fixing to
send a Bde to Bosnia — had to steal people from other units to fill the
deploying Bdes.

The deploying Bdes are in great shape, but the Bdes left behind, when
you discount the non-deployables, couldn’t fight their way into a
retirement home.

I’d rather have six combat divisions that were 120 percent of strength
and fully combat ready than what we have now.

The units that deployed to Korea in July and August 1950 were in better
personnel shape then our current divisions and they got their butt
clobbered good.

The leaders work hard at not learning from the past.

Keep Five Yards,

— Hack

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