Getting out of the Navy? Looking for work? Good Luck!

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Job fair experience (Source: Wikimedia Commons. U.S. Navy photo by Darrell E. Waller, EXWC Public Affairs/Released)

No matter how much you love the Navy (and this can change dramatically over the course of the day), you have to get out some time. When this happens, whether you retire or simply get out after your enlistment is complete, you are going to need to get another job.

While you have been serving your country, you have received many heartfelt thanks for your service. Unfortunately that gratitude does not put actual food on the table and no matter how patriotic the public is, nobody is going to pay you a livable wage to sit around the VFW telling sea stories. Trust me, I have looked into this.

So how are you going to get by? If you are lucky, you chose a rate that you love and transfers easily into civilian employment. If you are like me, you didn’t. You instead chose a rate that has no standard equivalent or value to the civilian world. In this case you need to figure out what to do.

Before you separate from the Navy, you will have to attend pre-separation training called TGPS. It used to be called TAP (and everyone still calls it that) but, apparently, the guy who names schools needed a raise. During your schooling there you will learn about veterans benefits, educational opportunities, and how to find a job. Keep in mind that the person teaching the class already has a job and your success in finding adequate employment has no bearing on their paycheck.

Finding a civilian job is not as easy as it sounds. Looking for a new job that pays well is actually a lot of work. It’s pretty much its own full time job. Only one that doesn’t pay you anything.

As you embark on this exciting new adventure the first thing you have to do is write your resume. Next, you have to find out who is hiring. Then you have to rewrite your resume specifically for this job. Then you have fill out an application and send in your resume. Then you have to wait. Then you have to call and ask if they have received your resume. Then you have to wait. Then you have to kidnap the spouse of the hiring manager until they agree to call you in for an interview. Then you have to put on a suit, that despite fitting perfectly when purchased during your port visit to Singapore seven years ago, it has somehow shrunk the morning of the interview. Then you have to go to the interview and figure out how to lie your way through it (if you have ever been to a Sailor of the Quarter board, you will have a head start). Then you have to wait again. Then you will have to kidnap the hiring manager and probably resort to torture. Then you get hired. Then you have to work until you die. Of course this is a best case scenario, you could just as easy get fired and have to start this whole thing over again.

That’s all there is to it. Well, sort of. Before you do any of this you need to figure out what kind of job you are looking for. To do this you need to ask yourself some questions. Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you want to have a job you love? Do you want a job that is low stress? If your answer to these questions is “yes” then I have good news for you. All you have to do is fly your unicorn to the top of a rainbow and slide down into your very own pot of gold because you are living in a fantasy world.

There are jobs out there, but they are either low paying, miserable, high stress, or, more likely, a combination of all three. So if you want to do well, you are going to have to think outside the box. The good news is, I have some suggestions for you:

1. Bank Robber. Do you want to make a lot of money? Have a life of adventure? Live in housing complete with fee cable TV provided for by taxpayers? Then maybe bank robber is the job for you. All you need is a mask and a gun. If you don’t have a gun just pretend you have one. It always works in the movies.

2. Motorcycle Gang Member. If you want to be feared and respected while traveling the open roads with your friends, this is the job for you. The dress code is flexible, although the leather vest appears to be non-negotiable. On the plus side you will have a bunch of friends who are willing to die for you. On the down side your friends will expect you to be willing to die for them too. Also the hiring process is very complicated. You can’t just fill out an application online. You actually have to go down their place and apply in person. You may have to fight for your life as part of the interview process.

3. Lottery winner. If you want to get rich without any effort lottery winner is the way to go. Unfortunately you are far more likely to get struck by lightning (I don’t recommend this though, there really is no money in the lightning business, Benjamin Franklin was the last guy to capitalize on this).

4. Philosopher. This is a really good job. First you need a PhD then all you have to do is write about what you think truth is. It’s pretty easy work. You will starve to death, because nobody cares what truth is.

5. Movie star. Good luck. No, seriously, you need good luck… a lot of it. Chances are you will starve to death.

6. Rock star. See movie star.

7. Inheritance. This is another great way to get a lot of money without working too hard. All you need to do is acquire a wealthy and elderly family member who loves you the more than the rest of the family, then it’s just a waiting game.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. So get out there and find a great job and enjoy your civilian life. And when you get a job., put in a good word for me. These blog posts don’t pay as good as you might think.

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What’s in the box, Chief?

Source: Author

Today’s question comes from Bobby in Virginia Beach.  He writes:  “What’s the deal with the boxes the chief selectees are always carrying around?  What’s in them?  I asked one of the selectees about it and he told me to mind my own business.”

What a great question!  I’m sure the vessel carried by chief petty officer selectees (and for that matter, the entire initiation process) is a curiosity pondered by many.

So, to answer your question Bobby, mind your own business.

No, I’m just kidding, I will answer your question.

 Before we get started let me give you a little background.  In the U.S. Navy, the advancement to E-7 is like no other.  In addition to being advanced in paygrade, it also involves entering a fraternal organization referred to as the Chief Petty Officers’ Mess.

Just like all fraternities, there is an initiation process that you will absolutely hate while subjected to it, but will love when you are subjecting others to it. The chief initiation is a grueling six week marathon for selectees. Although some might disagree, the purpose of initiation is not to kill anyone, that is only a side benefit. I’m just kidding, it’s very rare that a selectee dies, over 75% survive. The purpose of initiation is to create a bond with the newest chief petty officers by training them, testing them, and subjecting them to a reasonable (high) level of humiliation.

What about “the box” referred to by Bobby?  During the initiation season the Chief Selectees are required to carry a locked wooden box, called a vessel, everywhere they go.  At no point during the process are they permitted to be without it.  Chief selectees are very protective of their vessels, never letting them out of their sight.  Losing the vessel is severely frowned upon and normally results in additional training.

A chief petty officer selectee vigilantly guards his vessel during an uncommon restful moment. (Source: Author)

The question remains, what is the deal with the vessel?  Why is it so important?  Just what is in it?  These are great questions but, unfortunately, as it happens, the true purpose of the vessel is one of the biggest secrets of the initiation season.  As such, it is absolutely forbidden to reveal its contents.

Got that?  It’s a secret, I can’t tell you.  If you want to know the answer you are going to have to be selected for chief yourself.

Okay, tell you what, if you promise never to tell anyone, I will tell you.  Here goes:

The CPO initiation season culminates with the last day of the season.  While the whole season has been difficult and challenging, this last day is grueling.  There are endless challenges that test physical and mental fortitude.

After satisfactorily completing these, the final test commences.  It is by far the most secretive and challenging.  It is also the most decisive.  This final test will profoundly affect these individuals as they transition to chief petty officers.  Standing before the Chiefs’ Mess, each selectee must cut out his own soul and lock it in the vessel where it won’t interfere with his new duties.

From this point on, the vessels will be displayed prominently in their offices or homes until the day they retire, when they may retrieve their souls.  Of course, by this time many of them have been living quite happily with their souls locked in a wooden box and choose to leave it there, where it won’t interfere with any future job opportunities.

You don’t believe me?  You think I’m just making all this up?  Well, just stop and think about it for a moment.  Think about all your shipmates who have made chief.  They were normal sailors until that last night, right?  The next day you saw them in their new khakis and they were a different person.  They were a chief now, and they weren’t willing to put up with any of your crap.

How do you think that kind of a change can take place so quickly?  Do you think the khaki uniform does it?  The anchors on the collar?  The mustache?  Of course not.  That kind of immediate change can only occur with the traumatic act of wrenching out your own soul. 

So there you have it Bobby, all chiefs are soulless and you too will be when you make chief.  Just don’t tell them I told you about the vessel, try to act surprised.

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An Open Letter to the Navy Housing Office

Navy housing. Photo by LTJG Danae Moore (Source CNIC).

Dear Navy Housing Office,

                This is just a little note to let you know how much I appreciate you.  It has been a real pleasure living in your community in Southern California.  To tell you the truth, I have spent most of my career avoiding military housing.  I guess I was reluctant have the Navy in my life even in my off time.  Maybe I was afraid that failing to mow my lawn adequately could be punished under the UCMJ.  However, due to the housing costs in San Diego (which are a little on the high side) I moved into a nice little duplex in Navy Housing.

A picture of a toilet (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

                First off, I love the toilets.  It’s not often that toilets are at the top of any list.  But that is because, until recently, I have never had a toilet that could easily flush a mature alpaca.  Thanks to the toilet’s vacuum feature, a clogged toilet is a thing of the past in my house.  So is children sleeping through the night, since it flushes at approximately the same volume of an F/A-18 catapulting off an aircraft carrier.  Sure there are some dangers, for example you do NOT want to be sitting on it when it flushes, but what is that compared to never having to own a plunger?

                The maintenance staff is top notch.  They have always responded in a timely manner (sometimes within the same calendar year), and they will not only fix the problem, but also provide helpful tips.  Earlier this year when our garbage disposal broke, the plumber cleared the clog in less time than it takes a ship to prepare for an INSURV inspection.  Afterward, the technician informed us that if we wanted to prevent future clogs we should avoid using it to dispose of food.  I asked what kind of food he was talking about and he told me that we shouldn’t use it for any food at all.  It’s these kind of helpful hints that we housing residents desperately need.  With a name like “garbage disposal” I had somehow concluded that it was designed to dispose of garbage, but you live and learn.  We now flush our garbage down the toilet.

Like many sailors, when I return from a deployment I normally have a hard time falling asleep without all the usual shipboard noise to which I have become accustomed.  But here that is not a problem.  The dishwasher and the heater/air conditioner provide a constant hum throughout the house at a volume similar to a ship underway, while conducting flight operations at general quarters.

Actual photo from playground (Source: Author)

My biggest concern when moving to the west coast was my family’s safety.  Just watching the news about all the violence in southern California was enough for me to make my children wear Kevlar even inside the house.  Imagine my relief when I discovered that safety is your top concern.  You have no idea how refreshing it is to see the signs warning of potential unexploded ordinance.  These are especially helpful at the playground where my children play.  It’s helpful to know that the toy my kids are trying to pick up might be an unexploded rocket left over from the cold war.

Having always preferred rural to urban areas, I was worried that living in the city of San Diego would take me away from nature and wildlife.  These fears were unfounded.  Every day we are enthralled by the sights of coyotes, rattlesnakes, rabbits (though these are normally being eaten by the coyotes and snakes), and of course giant poisonous spiders.

I could go on and on but I think I have made my point.  Living in Navy family housing here in San Diego is well worth the $36,000.00 taken out of my paycheck every year.

Best Regards,

A Happy (but bitching) Sailor

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My First Ship Turns 20 Today. Happy Birthday USS Oscar Austin!

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USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79) after we found out we just won our first Battle “E.”  (Photo by Gia Mate).

Today is an auspicious day.  Today is a birthday.  Today is a very important birthday of an individual who has had a profound influence on my life and many others.  Few people in the world, or even the Navy, will realize it, but for those of us who know her, know that there is something to celebrate.  Today is the 20th birthday of the USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79).  What is so special about the Oscar Austin?  Who was Oscar P. Austin?  These are some great questions (I’m glad you asked) and I am going to answer them today.

USS Oscar Austin is the 29th U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer and the first Flight IIA (which has become the predominant subclass) of the class.  She was named in honor of Private First Class Oscar P. Austin USMC of Nacogdoches, TX, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroic action in Vietnam.

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PFC Oscar Palmer Austin, USMC (Source:  Wikimedia Commons)

Oscar P. Austin was an absolutely amazing warrior.  Although in the Corps for only 10 months, this guy jumped between a fellow Marine and a grenade on the field of battle.  This was enough earn the Medal of Honor, but Oscar Austin wasn’t finished.  Badly injured from the blast he began treating his fellow Marine.  When the enemy tried to shoot them, PFC Austin shielded him again with his body and was mortally wounded.  What happened next isn’t exactly clear, what with fog of war, but I heard that, even mortally wounded, Oscar Austin killed the enemy soldier before succumbing to his wounds.

What a bad ass!  Screw Chuck Norris jokes, kids should be talking about Oscar Austin:  “Did you hear that Oscar Austin had to sleep with the lights on because the dark was afraid of him?”  His name was fitting for a warship.  Here’s a bit of my story of the USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79).  My first ship, my favorite ship, and the best ship in the fleet (although I might be a little biased).

When I reported to the Oscar Austin in November of 1999 she wasn’t even a warship yet.  We were the crew of the pre-commissioning  unit.  Precom duty is interesting.  It’s like the opposite of boot camp.  It starts off really easy and gradually becomes very hard.  You start off living in barracks, working short hours and going to Navy schools.  By the time the ship commissions your working half-days (that’s 12 hours in the Navy) with a different inspector crawling up your butt every day.  But it doesn’t matter because it’s really impressive to watch a fully operational warship come to life.  We moved aboard the ship on May 16, 2000 in Bath, Maine and prepared to sail to our new homeport in Norfolk, VA.

On a hot summer evening in Norfolk on August 19, 2000, USS Oscar Austin was officially commissioned as a warship in the United States Navy.  A long list of distinguished guests (including my parents and grandparents) were in attendance.  Long and boring speeches were given, or maybe they just seemed that way to me as I stood at parade rest sweating for hours.  Our ship’s sponsor gave the command, “Man our ship and bring her to life!”  The crew ran aboard the ship and manned the rails.  Radars spun, guns elevated, the ship’s whistle bellowed into the otherwise quiet night.

Just before we manned the ship, the spirit of PFC Oscar P. Austin was rung aboard.  Eight tones of bell rang out with the Officer of the Deck announcing, “Medal of Honor recipient, arriving.”  It was a moving and touching part of the ceremony.  However, Sailors’ dark humor being what it is, we blamed everything that went wrong on the ship being haunted (we’re a sick bunch).

Not long after, Oscar Austin, or OA as we came to call her (we never called her “Austin” as there was an LPD with that name), was underway for her shakedown cruise,  visiting the Caribbean for the first of many times.

I spent 5 years with the OA.  It was some of the worst and some of the best years of my life.  I met some of the most incredible people and some of the oddest people, and every kind of person in between.  I sailed the Caribbean, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf visited numerous ports.  Drank a lot of alcohol and spent far too much time with my head over the side of a bridge (if you catch my drift).

Your first ship is a unique experience.  You’re still a new Sailor and you still miss being a civilian.  There is no frame of reference to cloud your experience.  No past duties to compare.  Everything is new, confusing, amazing, and overwhelming.

A ship is like a family.  A very dysfunctional family, but a family.  That’s the Oscar Austin.  There is not a person that served with me during those 5 years, that I wouldn’t die for.  Although there are a few for whom I would do it grudgingly.

What could I tell you about my time on the OA?  How about the Chief who went crazy in the middle of the night in Berthing 1 looking for stowaways (while we were still inport)?

There was the time I went to XOI for getting punched in the face by a much larger and much drunker Sailor and was stuck on “liberty risk” for half the cruise.  This happened on the same night that two SMs tried to climb the mast after drinking a bottle of whiskey (yet I was the one to go to XOI… not that I’m bitter).

I remember our ten day port visit in Brest, France (where I learned to speak with an obnoxious French accent) where the entire crew balanced duty days and alcohol poisoning.  After that we spent 4 days in Rotterdam / Amsterdam which was immediately followed by an all hands drug test (and we all passed).

I was eating lunch on the mess deck February 18, 2001 watching the Daytona 500 when Dale Earnhardt hit the wall on the last lap, although I didn’t realize he had died until the newspaper arrived the next morning while sanding the pier sentry watch.  Later that year greater tragedy hit as  I was sweeping the bridge and heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11.  That event defined the rest of my tour and really the rest of my Naval career.

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T-Shirt from the maiden deployment.

My first deployment took me to war for the first time.  The first half of the cruise focused on the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, escorting war supply ships through the Strait of Gibraltar and Bab-el-Mandeb (referred to as the “BAM” for obvious reasons).  The rest of the cruise saw us supporting Shock and Awe and the invasion.  We launched at least 30 Tomahawk missiles into Iraq (and thanks to CNN, watched some of them land).

We captured an Iraqi tug boat off the coast of Bahrain after an all-night chase through shoal water on uncorrected charts (talk about pucker factor).  Just when our VBSS boarding team was going to get their chance for glory, the USS Cowpens showed up with their embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment to take the Iraqi sailors prisoner.  The OA was left to stand guard duty on a deserted, anchored old tug while the Cowpens and LE Det took the prisoners back to Bahrain for victory partying (I assume, I have no idea what they actually did).

I served with hundreds of American Sailors on that tour.  They fit in every category that you can possibly think of.  Every color, religion, or creed.  Every intelligence level, hobby, interest, obsession, and vice imaginable.  But they were all family.  A dysfunctional family, maybe, but family none the less.

Since my time on the OA we have lost some of these family members.  One to enemy action, one to a senseless murder, and others to accidents or illnesses.  Every time I hear about losing another OA shipmate, whether or not we knew each other well or whether or not we could even stand each other, it breaks my heart.

My tour on the Oscar Austin ended in October 2004.  I had spent just under five years with her and I was one the last five plank-owners still aboard.  Plank-owners are entitled to bells on their final departure.  Mine came shortly after the ship moored from a brief underway.  It is customary for the departing Sailor’s division and friends to see them off on the Quarterdeck.  In addition, I was honored that every division officer aboard showed up.  As a Quartermaster, who stood watch on the bridge with these officers, it is was one of the highest honors I could have received.

I have lost touch with most of shipmates from that tour.  Sometimes I’ll come across one of them online.  Even rarer I’ll come across someone in real life.  Whenever that happens, I regress to my younger self and start reliving my life on the old girl.

In 2018  there was a serious fire on the ship, and she is still in the shipyard getting repaired from that accident.  She’s not quite as pretty anymore.  She’s got some rust and whole lot more layers of paint these days.  But a 20 year old ship isn’t supposed to look as pretty as new ship.  A destroyer is a work horse.  She ages like a jeep, the older and more banged up she gets, the more impressive she looks.

USS_Oscar_Austin_DDG-79_Crest

It’s been 16 years since I’ve left that ship.  I have had an great Naval career.  I’ve been on four more deployments and been to numerous countries.  I have been accepted in the Chiefs’ Mess.  I even grew up a bit (although there is some debate on how much).  But looking back, it’s hard to think of anything more impressive than that ship.  She was my first ship, and I was her first QMSN.  We started our Navy lives together.  Now I’m retired and she’s still standing the watch.  Congratulations on a proud and successful career.  Happy 20th birthday USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79)!  Next year you will be old enough to drink, and the first round is on me.

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Eval Writing Part II: NAVFIT’s Revenge

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A sailor writing a performance evaluation (Source: Wikimedia Commons; Photo by MC3 Kay; edited by author.)

Hey there,  I hope everyone is having a great week and nobody got arrested as a result of my advice.  In my last post I answered a question about writing performance evaluations, but I wasn’t able to address the full process, mostly because it is so convoluted that it never really ends.  By the time you finish everything, it’s time to start all over again.

Nevertheless I would like to go into a bit more detail.  So here you have it, “How to Write Your Eval Part 2.”  When we last spoke, you had completed filling out the brag sheet (with lies) and were about to transfer that information (lies) to the official evaluation form using the NAVFIT 98 computer program.

The first thing you are going to have to do is open the NAVFIT 98 program.  It’s called NAVFIT because it’s a Navy program for creating fitness reports.  It’s called 98 because it was created in 1998.  Yes, 1998!  To put that in context, I joined the Navy in 1999 and retired last year.  And yet NAVFIT 98 is going strong, despite the pleading from a vast majority of sailors for it to submit its retirement papers.

So anyway, now that you have opened up NAVFIT 98 next you need… What do you mean you can’t open it?  Just click on the icon on the desktop.  There’s no icon?  Well just use the start menu to search for it.  Still not there huh?  Well this happens sometimes.

Sometimes the program is not loaded on all computers at your command.  Don’t worry, if you keep searching, eventually you will find a computer with a functioning NAVFIT 98 program on it.  It’s normally the computer with a long line of people waiting to use it.

Now that you have spent the better part of your day waiting to use the computer (rather than what the taxpayers are paying you for) it’s time to get started writing your eval.  Where it says “name” you write your name.  Continue to fill out the heading blocks using common sense.  Ha ha!  Just kidding.  You are going to need help here.  What you need is to grab a copy of the Navy Performance Eval System Instruction (BUPERSINST 1610.10E) and leisurely peruse its 199 pages.  Then it’s time to hop back in line to use the eval computer.

Once you have filled out the upper portion of the eval you will rate your performance on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0 in various fields related to your work.  Here it is tricky.  1.0 in any field means you are a degenerate and 5.0 basically means you have super powers.  You are going to fall somewhere in the middle.  In all honesty, any sailor who is not a dirtbag basically ranks 3.0 in all fields.  This is because 3.0 is defined as “meeting standards.”  It means you do your job as expected all the time.  As a result, in practice, only the absolutely worst sailors are ranked as a 3.0.  If you accidentally shot you supervisor while on watch, you would be ranked as a 3.0 in “Military Bearing.”

Having finished lying about your ranking, you will move on to lie about a recommended future assignment.  Here you have the opportunity to list two possible recommendations.  Just put any two you want.  It makes no difference whether or not you are qualified (or will ever be qualified) for these assignments, nobody is going to read it anyway.  You could put down any of the following, LCPO, instructor, MCPON, Fleet Admiral, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Batman, etc.  It makes no difference, the importance is to have a dream.

Now comes the part you have been waiting for.  Ha ha, no you aren’t done yet.   You are just getting started.  Now it’s time to write your eval.  Now it’s time to fill up the comments block.  If you didn’t do well in English class you are going to hate this.  On the other hand, if you did well in English class you are really going to hate this, because eval comments are not written based on any agreed-upon rules of the English language.

The comments block is written in “bullet format.”  This is a disjointed list of three to four outlandish claims followed by dubious justification.  These bullets are always preceded by an unrealistic adjective, for example, “outstanding,” “superb,” “excellent,” “great,” and if you’re feeling ambitious, “magnanimous.”   This list normally follows this order:  leadership, whatever it is you do, collateral duties, and community involvement.

In practice it might look like this:

-OUTSTANDING LEADER

-SUPERB TECHNICIAN

-EXCELLENT COMMAND INVOLVEMENT

-FANTABULOUS VOLUNTEERER

After each bullet you should add a couple unverifiable fragmented sentences that justify the preceding bullet.  You get this information from your brag sheet (remember your brag sheet?).  Once you’re done with that it’s time to print your eval out.

One of two things will happen.  Either you will forget to save your work and print out a blank eval, or you will realize the printed evaluation has, inexplicably, truncated your report.  Either way, you are on your way back to wait in line again at the eval computer to start the experience again.  Good luck, you are going to do great!

 

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link and I will be sure to answer it just as soon as I get around to it. If you would like an accurate answer, then you probably shouldn’t.

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Why Do I Have to Write my Own Evaluation? Because…

Eval again

Greetings loyal readers.  It’s that time again.  Time for one of you, the people to ask me, the voice of wisdom (you poor souls) a question and have it answered in a legally questionable way.  Today’s question comes from  Angelina Jolie (which, I suspect, may not be her real name) who writes: Hey Jack or Rob or whatever you’re calling yourself these days, my LPO just tasked me to write my eval.  Isn’t that his job?  How do I go about writing an eval anyway?

What a great question.  Writing a performance evaluation is one of the most important and most difficult tasks you will do in your naval career.  The Navy uses your periodic evaluation when selecting you for competitive orders, to assign points for the advancement exam, and, when you get more senior in rate, at the selection boards.  Additionally, after your military service is complete, the civilian world also uses it to see who is dumb enough to submit their eval as part of their resume.

Let’s answer your first question first.  Isn’t it your LPO’s job to write your evaluation?  No.  It’s your job.  I know it seems logical that your leading petty officer would write an evaluation on your performance, since as your boss, it is kind of his job.  In fact, this is not the case.  Your LPO has no idea what you do most of the time.  Sure, he knows what he told you to do at quarters in the morning.  But he has no idea all the hell you had to go through to accomplish those tasks.

For example, imagine your LPO has tasked you to run an aloft chit.  So you went down to CSMC and found out that they didn’t have any of your personnel’s aloft qualifications.  So you had to go to your workspace computer to log on to RADM to print out your quals.  But the computer was being used by the RPPO to order supplies (for which there was no funding and were not even authorized aboard ship).  So you went down to the engineering log room and paid (yes, you actually paid with your actual money) to use one of the 3 (completely free) engineering department computers.  But while you were still logging on to the network the Top Snipe dragged in the engineers to yell at them because they screwed up clearing the danger tags on the engines and told you to get the *@%# out of the log room.  So you went to the boatswain locker and convinced the BM2 who was watching YOUTUBE videos, to let you use the computer.  But then you realized that you were still logged into the computer in the log room and the network wouldn’t let you log onto another computer.  So you went back down to the log room to log off the computer and the Top Snipe took a break from yelling at the engineers to yell at you for your failure to follow simple instructions.  Then, when you finally got logged onto the network you found out that RADM was down for maintenance.  So you went down to Radio and had convince the ITs to bring RADM back online.  After you finally printed out all your aloft quals and delivered them to CSMC you found out that they were not authorizing any aloft activities today because the engineers are lighting off engines (which turns out to be the reason the Top Snipe was yelling at the engineers).

Your LPO doesn’t know any of this stuff.  Your LPO has a half dozen collateral duties to worry about and when it comes to your job is mostly concerned with you getting it done and keeping the chief off his back.

Another reason you need to write you own eval is for practice for when you are an LPO.  Eventually when you are running a division you are going to have to make your sailors write their own evaluations and need to know what you’re doing.

On to your second question.  How do you write your eval?  I’ll tell you as soon as I figure it out.  No, just kidding.  Before you write an evaluation you need to fill out a brag sheet, which is a form (but not a standardized form… there are thousands out there) that no one will ever look at.  A brag sheet is just what it sounds like, a piece of paper where you brag about everything you have accomplished (both real and, more often, imaginary) over the past year.

“What,” you may ask, “do I do if I don’t have any accomplishments to write down?”  What a great question!  I’m glad I pretended you asked it.  If you didn’t do anything worthwhile this year you have a few options.

First thing to do is to take credit for your subordinates accomplishments.  Anything one of your sailors did can be attributed to a result of your leadership.  You might feel uncomfortable about taking credit for someone else’s work but remember that time you got chewed out when your entire division was hung over and the ship was getting underway in an hour?  Well it works both ways.

Second thing is to take credit for anything the ship or command did.  This should be stated in such a way that even the most pedestrian task was intrinsic to the command accomplishing its mission.  Even if the only thing you did was to refill the vending machines once a week (despite the requirement to restock daily) it was integral to the nutrition and morale of hundreds of war fighters launching missiles against a hostile force.

The third thing to do is lie.  Just boldly make up anything you want.  Think about it, would your LPO be having you write your eval if he knew what you did anyway?  That said, lying is a tricky thing.  There are facts in play that you don’t want to contradict.  For example you wouldn’t want to claim that you sacrificed your life for your shipmates.  The chain of command would probably follow up on that.  Likewise you wouldn’t want to claim that you received the Medal of Honor.  People would want to see the medal, and you can’t just pick that up at the uniform shop.

I know you may have some moral qualms about blatantly lying on an official document, but here’s the truth about the eval system.  Everyone lies on evals.  I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s a fact.  If you were to just tell the truth, that you show up on time every day in a clean uniform and work a full day keeping up on qualifications without complaining within earshot of your chief, the chain of command would assume that you’re a dirtbag.  To be taken seriously, you are going to have to exaggerate enormously.

What to do if you are caught in a lie.  Deny it.  No matter what is said, stand your ground.  You want to emulate Shaggy in the song “It wasn’t me” where the singer is caught, and even filmed, red handed, by his girlfriend, in numerous acts of infidelity.  His friend’s advice is to deny it saying, “it wasn’t me” repeatedly.  The song was number one on the charts so there must be something to it.

Once you’re done with your brag sheet it’s time to write your eval.  All you have to do is transfer the best information from your brag sheet to the evaluation form using the NAVFIT98a program and cry yourself to sleep when the program crashes.

 

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link and I guarantee an answer… eventually.

Here’s were I beg for hits: Check back often.  Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  Did you catch that SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  SHARE this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Parler or whatever has just popped up out there.  Especially those of you with lots of followers and friends.  C’mon, hook me up.

Follow me on Twitter: @rob_hoops

“I Love DTS” and Other Things a Sailor Never Says

 

DSCN3115

It’s that time again.  It’s that time where I, your helpful, retired Sailor, answer your questions thoughtfully with sensitivity, though not necessarily with accuracy.

Today’s question comes from Gary in Jacksonville, Florida.  He asks:  I’m heading up to Brunswick, Maine for training and they told me to take care of it using DTS.  I have never used DTS and have no idea what I’m doing.  Can you help me?

There are times in life where you just know that you can make a difference.  That the stars aligned to put you in the right place at a time crucial time to solve a problem that only you can solve.  That your particular experience and expertise has prepared you to intervene in a particular situation.  This is not one of those times.

I’m sorry, Gary, but I can’t help you.  I really wish I could, but despite numerous travels and TAD assignments, I have never figured out DTS.  While I am sorry that I can’t help you, I can tell you that I am in good company.  There are literally millions of people who can’t help you.  In the entire Department of Defense there are a total of 10 people who understand DTS, and only five of them can actually use it.

I have actually met one them, although she made me promise not to reveal her name or her location in exchange for her assistance.  It was amazing to watch her work.  It was like meeting a superhero, or a unicorn, or a unicorn who was a superhero.

For those of you fortunate enough not to know what I’m talking about, DTS stands for Defense Travel System.   It’s an online system used to coordinate official travel.  You can create itineraries, purchase airline tickets, reserve lodging, draft orders, compare costs, and file for reimbursement.  When I say “you can” I’m obviously not talking about you.  Or even me.  I simply mean that, in theory, this system is designed to accomplish this.

DTS
The last thing a Sailor sees before losing all hope.

There are a few acronyms that simply strike fear in to the very soul of a United States Sailor.  INSURV is one of them.  So is  I.G.  But the worst is DTS.  Hands down I would rather show up naked, to a spot check with the CO… without hazmat, than deal with DTS.  First of all the spot check would be over faster.  A lot faster.  On the other hand you will be dealing with DTS until you die of old age.

Fortunately with only a little diligence and motivation you can figure out DTS.  I’m only kidding.  It take a lot more than a little diligence and motivation.  It takes a LOT of diligence and a LOT of motivation and divine intervention.

Fortunately, again, DTS has provided training guides to assist you.  Yes, you read that right, guides, as in more than one.  As in five.  There are five guides to help you figure out how to use DTS.  You just know it’s good program when they write five guides to help you use the program.  Compare that to civilian travel systems like Travelocity, which provide absolutely no training guides to help travelers use the program.  Using basic math this means DTS is five times easier to use than Travelocity.

This is just another time that math has lied to you (another time was when it told you that there was a thing called imaginary numbers).  DTS is not 5 times easier than anything.  It is not even easier that building a nuclear bomb.  If you make a mistake making a nuclear bomb your problems are over.  Whereas if you make a mistake using DTS your problems will never be over.  Years later you will be dealing with the government trying to recoup money that it never actually overpaid you.

So here’s where I offer you a simple solution to your problem.  Just don’t go to Brunswick, Maine.  It’s really cold (yes, even in the summer) and there’s nothing to do anyway.  It’s a whole lot easier to go to the brig for refusing to obey an order than to try to figure out DTS (in fact, someone else will do all the paperwork for you).  I’m glad I could help out.

 

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link and I guarantee an answer.  I can also guarantee the answer’s accuracy (it won’t be).

Follow me on Twitter: @rob_hoops

Thanks for reading.  Check back often.  Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  Did you catch that SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  SHARE this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Parler or whatever has just popped up out there.  Especially those of you with lots of followers and friends.  C’mon, hook me up.

 

“OC” Pepper Spray is Fire in Eyes

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Source: Wikimedia Commons: U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Daniel Viramontes

If there is one thing I love to do, it’s help people. I’m not going to do it today, but I am going to do the next best thing. Well, maybe not the next best thing, but I am going to do a thing. I’m going to answer one of your questions.

Today’s question comes from Frank in Little Creek, VA. He writes: “My Chief just told me I have to get OC sprayed next week. Is it true that it really hurts? What’s it like?”

Well Frank, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that it doesn’t really hurt. The bad news is that you will wish it really hurts, because “really hurts” is woefully inadequate. In fact, to say it is the most horrific pain that you will ever experience, doesn’t quite get the point across either.

Oleoresin capsicum is the full name for OC spray, which is why we use the short name. Sometimes referred to as pepper spray (but in the Navy we love our acronyms), it is made by finely crushing an extraction from peppers.

OC spray is considered an intermediate weapon. Intermediate between using your hands and using your gun. It is a good choice when the adversary is much larger or stronger than you but the situation does not call for deadly force and thus you can’t kill them, no matter how much they are pissing you off.

The upside of OC spray is it can diffuse a dangerous situation without killing someone, while at the same time, making the people you sprayed wish you had killed them. The downside is that you might spray yourself, and that happens more than you would think.

This is why all personnel who carry OC must first be sprayed with OC. If you or a teammate accidentally spray yourself in the face (like an idiot) in the middle of a riot, you are still going to be in the middle of a riot. In fact, you will be in a riot, but now with a face full of OC and a crowd full of rioters that you just tried to spray with OC. You are going to have to still be able to fight and perform in this situation.

What does it feel like to be sprayed with OC? That is the question on the mind of Frank and pretty much anyone about to be sprayed for the first time. Before I was sprayed for the first time (yes, I have been sprayed more than once) I was told, it would feel like getting soap in my eyes.

That is an accurate description, assuming that it is soap mixed with gasoline and set on fire. It is so horrifically painful, that I would rather be shot than be sprayed again.

Quick note on that last point: Save your certificate that you receive after completing the course. I cannot stress this part enough. Make a dozen copies of the cert and put one in a safe or maybe even a safety deposit box, or bury it and create a complex pirate treasure map. Whatever you do, DO NOT LOSE THIS CERTIFICATE. How do I know this is so important? Because I lost my certificate (like an idiot) and had to be sprayed again. AGAIN!

Anyway, back to my first time being sprayed. Like I said, they told me that, it would sting like soap in my eyes. Suffice it to say, it was not quite like soap in my eyes. It was so much worse. My eyes were burning as described above, but that was not all. My nose was spraying like a firehose (on the upside, if you have any sinus congestion, this will fix it). It also has a tendency to throw off your equilibrium, so I was also stumbling around a bit.

In a perfect world, after subjecting an innocent human being to this ordeal, you would apologize profusely and have them lie down where they could cry like a baby (which was all I wanted to do).

But we do not live in a perfect world. In this imperfect world I was then forced to run (or more accurately, stumble) the course. The course is about five different stations containing your shipmates holding large kick pads. The object of these stations is to simulate hand to hand combat situations where you punch, kick, and baton strike the pads being held (even though you want to hit the people holding the pads). After all the stations it was time to face off with the final boss: the Red Man.

1024px-USS_Mesa_Verde_(LPD_19)_140606-N-HB951-047_(14210986309)
Source: Wikimedia Commons: U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Phylicia A. Hanson

The Red Man is a man (or sometimes a woman) covered from head to toe with red pads. You have to fight and subdue the Red Man while he fights back. It is a full battle. Well, not quite. They go a little easy on you; by this time you are pretty tired, in a lot of pain, and have lost most of your body’s supply of phlegm (which may or may not be an essential bodily fluid).

You may ask, what I learned from this experience. I learned that I could handle myself in a riot if I was accidentally sprayed with OC, assuming that the riot was composed entirely shipmates holding pads.

I learned an even more important lesson the second time I was sprayed: DON’T LOSE YOUR OC CERT!

Good luck Frank, I’m sure you will do great. Remember, it’s just like getting soap in your eyes.

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link and I will be sure to answer it just as soon as I get around to it. If you would like an accurate answer then you probably shouldn’t.

Follow me on Twitter: @rob_hoops

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Ask Jack? – What’s with your name?

IMG_4777It’s that time again, loyal fans. Time to take your heartfelt questions and offer questionable advice. Why do I do this, you might ask?  I do it because I care.

Today’s question comes from Dante in New Jersey. He writes: I have been following your blog for a while and I have two questions.

1. How do I subscribe to your blog? I keep clicking the subscribe button but I never receive an email when you publish new material.

B. What’s up with your name? Your name was listed as Jack Quarterman for years, now is say’s “Rob Hoops (AKA Jack Quarterman)”. Is it Jack? Is it Rob? What’s going on?

Dante, thank you for the questions. I will answer them using the same incomprehensible numbering system you prefer.

Answer 1. In order to subscribe to my blog enter your email address in the block to the right (if on a pc) or at the bottom of the post (if on a phone) and then click the “Follow” block. But you are not done yet. You still have more to do (sorry). You will receive an email from this site asking you to confirm that you want to follow the blog. Just click the “confirm follow” block in the email and you will receive emails when new material is published. That’s all there is to it. What are you waiting for? Get to it. Stop reading and subscribe now. You can finish reading after you subscribe.

Now moving on to your second question.

Answer B. My name. What’s in a name? Wouldn’t a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? Just trust me, due to a strict bathing regimen, I smell just as sweet as a bouquet of roses.

Seriously though. My name is Rob Hoops… and Jack Quarterman. Kind of one of those split personalities type of things. Rob is the serious (well mostly serious) Chief Petty Officer with no sense of humor, and Jack is the sardonic, sarcastic, sometimes disgruntled Sailor who wants to tell jokes.

The difficulty of being a Chief… actually there are many difficulties with being a Chief… one of the difficulties with being a Chief Petty Officer is that everything you do is a testimony on your integrity and professionalism. Everything you do or say will affect how others view the Navy. Because I never wanted anyone to view their Chief (or worse, all Chiefs) as some joker who doesn’t take anything seriously, I consciously decided to use a pseudonym (a fake name, for you Army guys) in an attempt to be viewed as the “every Sailor” that anyone could identify with.

There is also a tendency in the military that as you advance in rank your sense of humor diminishes. Or maybe there is a tendency to only advance individuals who lack a sense of humor. Either way there a plenty of high ranking Naval personnel (not all, but enough) who would be highly offended by stories making light of life in the Navy. While I was on active duty I wanted to avoid any controversy associated with my writing. I have since retired from active duty and would prefer to publish material under my real name (even though some of my family will now have to change their name as a result), so I have updated the blog to reflect this. Since I originally published as Jack Quarterman, I left that name as my “AKA.”

That’s it Dante. I hope I answered your questions to your satisfaction.

If you have a question you’d like to ask me, click here

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Charts vs. Maps: A battle to the depth

Greetings loyal fans and anyone who ended up on this site while searching Google for information about the Navy (sorry about that).

It’s that time again. It’s time for you to ask me a question, and it’s time for me to give a completely unreliable answer. That’s right, it’s time to Ask Jack? (even though my name is not actually Jack – long story).

Before we get to our first question I want to remind (encourage… entice… compel… coerce… whatever) you to subscribe and share. Did you catch that? Subscribe and Share. SUBSCRIBE and SHARE! SUBSCRIBE AND SHARE!! SUBSCRIBE AND SHARE!! Do it now. The article will still be here when you get done.

Alright, now that you are subscribed to this blog and have shared it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Myspace, Reddit, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc. it’s time to increase your wisdom and knowledge (although not by much).

Today’s question comes from Doc in California. He asks: “Why are water maps called charts and not just water maps?”

This is an interesting question. I get the impression that Doc knows me personally. Only someone who knows me would know how much it irritates me when someone refers to a chart as a map. Did you ever see Star Trek II where Captain Kirk yells “Khaaaan!”  That’s me when someone says “map,” but I’m yelling, “Chaaaart!”

A bit of context is probably due. My rating (job specialty) in the Navy was Quartermaster (QM). Quartermasters specialize in maritime navigation. This is distinct from Army Quartermasters who specialize in logistics and supply procurement. In the Army one is a master of quarters (i.e. living accommodations). In the Navy one is a quarter (1/4) of a master (the captain). Mathematically this means five quartermasters in agreement outweigh the captain. As a result Quartermasters are prohibited from agreeing on anything.

Of course I’m lying. No one outweighs the captain. A ship’s captain is the world’s one remaining absolute authoritarian. But it is true that QMs rarely agree on the best way to do anything. If you ask 4 QMs, you will get 5 different opinions.

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A Sailor plotting on a nautical chart.

One of the few things that all QMs agree on is that charts are not maps. Why? Because a chart is not the same thing as map.  A chart is designed to maintain a navigation plot. You are actually supposed to write and plot on a chart using a systematic method. A chart is an actual aid to navigation or ATON (you know it’s important if there’s an acronym for it).

You don’t plot on a map (I mean, I guess you can if you were so inclined, but it is not designed for that purpose). A map is a reference tool. It is designed to be referenced but not actually navigated upon.

Another difference between charts and maps is the method used to store them. A chart is folded in half twice and placed in a drawer in the chart table. A map is folded in an accordion pattern that, once unfolded, is impossible to ever properly refold, and placed in glove compartment after which it will never be taken out because nobody uses maps in cars anymore.

Superficially, of course, a chart is similar to a map, but is NEVER referred to as a map.  A truck is similar to a car but it is not referred to as a car.  A ship and boat are both watercraft but serve different purposes.  A Sailor and a Marine both serve in the Department of the Navy but only one has been lobotomized. It is possible for things to be similar but still be different enough to require different titles. A chart is a chart and a map is a map. You don’t have to agree with me, but that just makes you wrong.

In the Navy, Sailors tend to get really uptight about certain aspects of their ratings. Quartermasters don’t want their charts called maps. Culinary Specialists take it really personally when they get complaints about the food (and they get a lot of complaints because a Sailor will complain about anything, also sometimes the food sucks). Boatswain’s Mates get upset if you call the mooring lines ropes. Fire Controlmen have created an entire document explaining how everyone else on the ship exists just to support them. Hospital Corpsmen don’t appreciate it when you try to get them to falsify your medical record. ITs get kind of ticked off when you plug a flash drive into their network. Engineers are annoyed by topsiders leaving early, by having to help topsiders, by topsiders not helping engineers, and pretty much topsiders in general (engineers are a moody bunch).

Tess and Dad
Even my daughter can tell a chart from a map.

I remember on my first deployment when one of the ship’s generators dropped the load (crashed) causing the other online generator to carry the ship’s full electrical load. Immediately the Aegis Fire Controlmen were scurrying around the ship to try to salvage their systems. After the power had been restored, the Chief Electrical Tech was smoking a cigarette when one of the Fire Controlmen walked in, looked at the Chief and said, “Nice generators.” How did Chief reply? With years of experience, the recognized expert on the electrical plant, realizing that he must use tact and sound judgement, punched him in the face.

Just for the record this is not now (nor was it then) the approved method of mentoring a junior Sailor. However, it is worth noting that nobody again disparaged the generators (at least not within earshot of this Chief). We all learned an important lesson that day.

I’m not saying that I would punch Doc in the face for referring to charts as maps.  That’s just not my style.  Also I think Doc is bigger than me, so there’s an aspect of prudence there.  In a perfect world he would be publicly flogged and keel hauled, but we do not live in a perfect world.

 

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link to Write to Jack and I will be sure to answer it just as soon as I get around to it.  If you would like an accurate answer then you probably shouldn’t.

Follow me on Twitter: @rob_hoops

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