It has been a really lousy week all things considered-perhaps indicative of the way the rest of the year is going to go I suppose. This week has been full of nothing but bad news and death. Two bloggers-both of whom I knew on active duty have perished. Of Lex-and the tragic accident that took his life far too young- you probably have already heard and will hear a lot more about. This evening and this weekend he will be remembered fondly with hosted pints of Guinness in pubs all around the country.
But there is another writer who also passed into the clearing earlier this year-in January as a matter of fact, but most of us in the E-2 community only became aware of it last week. A person I knew very well and crisscrossed paths in the Hawkeye community for the better part of 20+ years. He too, was a professional and able Naval Officer, Naval Flight Officer, outstanding tactician and member of a family. When I was returning from Ramstein-I received word via e-mail that he had died quite suddenly. It was equally as much of a shock as the other news. As this particular week comes to a close-I can’t help but wonder if someone will host a pint of Guinness in his honor.
I kind of doubt it-and someone should. So this is a post to hopefully do just that-honor the passing of a fellow warrior, Jeff Huber.
Jeff Huber served in the E-2 community for just about the entire period I did. He started on the “left”coast serving in VAW-112. He held a variety of squadron tours-also breaking new ground as an E-2 NFO serving as a Carrier Air Wing Operations officer-unusual at the time for Naval Aviation-before returning to the community to serve as XO and CO of VAW-124. I was a guest of honor at his outgoing change of command in Fallon Nevada-unique in several ways, not the least of which was because it was held airborne during an active strike training mission-with his Sailors observing the flow of this mission in the TACTS debriefing room in the main NSAWC headquarters building. He then served in the demanding job of a Carrier Operations officer on USS Theodore Roosevelt. Following that tour of duty, Jeff chose a divergent path and hung up his uniform, retiring and moving on to a very different avocation as professional writer.
I should also probably mention that Jeff too-like Lex-had served at NAS Fallon for a time, during the early years of the evolution of the Strike Warfare Center. This was long before the place became the monster organization that it is today-long before the shotgun marriage of the major aviation weapons schools in 1996. His tour at Strike was new ground for the E-2 community and led the way for the folks who followed him to the present organization of NSAWC.
In his post Navy career Jeff took the path definitely less traveled by-and to what I believe would be the chagrin of most of the fans of the other blogger, wrote candidly and unsparingly in his criticism of his former employer-and of the foreign policy of the nation it served during the first decade of the 21st
century. Chagrin is probably something of an understatement given that one of the places Jeff wrote for was the Great Orange Satan
. He also wrote for Military.Com-and he published at Anti-war.com, a choice that earned him no respect with the diehard conservative set. Most recently he had a blog, Pen and Sword,
that was primarily focused on foreign policy. He also had been published in Naval Institute Proceedings, Aviation Week and on Reuters. He established his own company in 2002, dedicated to the production of writing content.
He was a published novelist, and was in the process of finishing up his second book when the reaper took him. His first book, Bathtub Admirals was published in 2008. I suspect a modest seller-but a good attempt at satire of an organization that well deserved to be satirized. It was both an easy read and a hard one for me-because I basically “knew” most of his characters –and who they were based on. His second book Sandbox Generals I hope will be published someday.
People use the phrase “does not suffer fools well”. It gets overused IMHO-but was very appropriate when used in the context of Jeff. He really had no use for incompetence, ignorance or sloth in the service-and he viewed with increasing disdain the path being chosen by the service he loved-as all of us did-but has clearly made some horrendously bad choices. Unlike most of us-Jeff spoke up about it, and no one was spared from his incisive and rather apt commentary.
A lot of people did not like his writing style-the word “vitriolic” gets used and overused. I view it differently-it was passionate. There is place for passion-and it’s not just in certain locations. More importantly his facts were accurate. If anything his writing was equally as condescending as that which springs forth from so called “great writers” who defended the opposite position. Kind of makes me wonder-what is a great writer anyway? It used to be someone who knew how to tell a story well. Increasingly-in the blogosphere-the definition corresponds to : ”someone I agree with”. To dismiss Jeff because he did not support America’s misadventures abroad is to completely mis-read and not understand his intent. Did I agree with all of his conclusions? Absolutely not, but I could still enjoy his commentary anyway. More importantly, Jeff knew how to tell a story.
Now, I am a slightly biased observer. I liked Jeff and before my departure from the United States for Japan, counted him as a friend. We viewed our own aviation community in a similar vein and I was a squadron CO at the same time he was an XO. Later-when I was in charge of the E-2 Weapons School- I flew with him and his squadron. Those were tough times for Naval Aviation-made tougher so by the cowardice that passed for some of our senior flag leadership. One has to have lived through the period of the 90’s- and the traumatic changes that ensued- to fully appreciate the perspective he brought to his writings. Subsequently, I also agreed 100% with his assertion that the Iraq war was a manifest tragedy for the United States of America and that the country benefits nothing from the so called “long war”. Jeff recognized, probably earlier than most, that world had changed-and the United States needs to change or find itself unable to effectively compete in the 21st century. If some people disagreed with him along the way-well that diminishes his message not one bit.
Furthermore-to judge Jeff’s life on his writings alone is to do him a grave injustice. Jeff gave a significant portion of his life to the service of his country. He learned a difficult skill in a difficult aircraft and became exceptionally good at it. He flew from the decks of carriers and was subject to the same risks as literally thousands of his brothers. He did so voluntarily-and in the process suffered personal costs and penalties for it. He paid for his right to publish controversial opinions-he paid for it in spades. He broke new ground in the E-2 Community and was one of the most tactically astute NFO’s that I ever served with. An innovator-many of the ideas and concepts he worked on and practiced became accepted operating procedures in the E-2 Community. On top of that-he was a good guy; the work hard, play hard kind of individual that the Navy used to cultivate-but now tries to run out of town on a rail. Talk to the folks who served with him in the period of time we served in the E-2 Community and you will find much well earned respect.
Nonetheless, it is his writing that broke him out from the herd-and his writing was the type of writing professional naval magazines like Proceedings used to encourage, but now only pretends to. In writing this post I went back and took a look at all of Jeff’s Proceedings articles-there were many-and I marvel at just how right he was about several things. He wrote well of the whole no fly zone experience in the 90’s. The piece below shows his wit-along with his insight:
In all fairness, the no-fly zone concept is not completely without merit. An informal survey of aviators from all services produced this list of the NFZ's finer attributes:
· Something to do on six-month cruise besides eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom (Navy only).
· Six-to-twelve week temporary overseas duty every couple years or so provides excellent excuse to complain about quality of life (Air Force only).
· Makes taxpaying public think it's getting its money's worth.
· Counts for Air Medal points.
· Brings families together. Multiple generations can swap firsthand Southern Watch stories at reunions.
· Get issued neat-o desert cammies and flight suits.
· Flying over barren, scorched desert makes you thankful you weren't born there.
· Great deals on cool aviator watches in Bahrain and Dubai.
· Operating in high stress, irrational-to-the-point-of- lunacy environment prepares military aviation's best and brightest for futures as general and flag officers.
· Something to bitch about.
Among the best-sounding justifications for no-fly zones is that they provide a long-term refinement process for the joint force air component commander (JFACC) concept. Standing NFZs, this argument states, constitute a living laboratory of joint air power command and control–sort of a wild purple yonder petri dish. Still, hard-bitten cynics continue to beg the question, "Are we accomplishing anything with this cockamamie NFZ malarkey, or are we just JFACCing around?"
It is probably fitting that his last post at his blog
was about the “malaise” that has influenced and affected the blogosphere in general and those that write about military matters in particular. His post was unsparing in its thoughts and for the most part well on the mark. Jeff called it as he saw it-and for that we are all much richer. That’s he’s not still here to make us think- makes us that much poorer as an aviation community and as a nation. I am proud to have known you Jeff-thanks for the learning and thank you for everything you did. I will remember him and miss him. Jeff Huber will not have thousands upon thousands toasting his memory this weekend-although through his writing he too was known to thousands of people- in person he was known but to us honored few. I knew him-and I will never forget. And I will toast his memory for the rest of us Hummer Moles. Here’s to us and those like us-damn few left
. May God bless him and grant him peace.
Clell Hazard: I am not a "peacenik", Captain; I just don't agree with the reasons behind this particular war, and I feel if we're gonna fight it we oughtta goddamn fight it right. -from the movie Gardens of Stone.