Supplies, anyone?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is not actually a new piece. I wrote this several years ago. I later modified and shortened it for publication in the Navy Times. I always liked the longer version better and since it’s easier than writing something new, it is being republished for your re-enjoyment:

If you want to see grown man cry, make him deal with the supply department. Just sending him down to pick up cleaning supplies is enough to do it, but if you want to really make him suffer you need to make him the RPPO. For those of you fortunate enough not to know, the RPPO stands for Repair Parts Petty Officer and pretty much means the poor sap in your division who is assigned to deal with the supply department: a fate worse than death. RPPO is technically a collateral duty which is Navy speak for: a job you do in your spare time (ha!) which takes up far more time than your actual job.

The funny thing is, if you think about it, the job doesn’t sound that hard, does it? The RPPO sounds like a guy who checks the spaces and sees what the division needs, makes a list, and if he’s really feeling motivated, he lists it in order of necessity, then drops it on the desk of which ever LS is on duty down in supply support. Yeah it might be a hassle putting the list together but it’s not like the Navy expects BM3 Timmy to be able to navigate the Naval supply network right? That’s why we have Logistic Specialists right? Right??

Of course not. The Job of logistic specialists is to… well to be honest it’s far too complex to get into here. Just trust me when I tell you that the supply department has far too many important things to do to be fooling around ordering supplies. They stand low visibility watch when there is fog and they do a lot of other stuff too, but what they do not do is order supplies (although it turns out that they are willing to cancel any order that is submitted by anyone who can figure out how.)

Herein lies the problem. I still need the supplies, but I have no earthly way of getting them utilizing the system the Navy has established to get supplies. I have only two alternatives: 1. buy them myself with my own money, or 2. steal them from someone else. Now we all know stealing is wrong (even if you are only stealing from another ship and calling it re-appropriation) so in that case we will address alternative #1.

I have been in the Navy for a long time and have become accustomed to shelling out my own money in order to purchase equipment that I needed. By the way I mean little things like notebooks and paint. It’s not like I’m going to buy a CIWS (Close In Weapons System) for my ship, even if we needed it to pass INSURV… well maybe to pass INSURV.

I have always found it sadistically humorous when I hear the higher-ups make statements like, “U.S. Navy Sailors should not be buying things out of pocket.” While I agree with this sentiment in principle, in practice, I have to admit I value my liberty more than the fifty bucks I need to spend on a couple buckets of paint that Suppo won’t give me without a requisition signed by the CNO. I mean I love 5 section duty and 12 hour “half days” as much as the next guy, but sometimes I would rather spend 5 minutes at Home Depot and go home than searching for hours on OMMS-NG or DLA for the correct NSN that matches a part with no picture or reliable description. I can make more money (not much more… I do work for the government) but I only have a set number of days on this earth and I’m not wasting any of it dealing with supply.

A few years back the Navy Times had a piece in it where they described how Sailors were buying their own tools and equipment for their ships (this is like reading an article in National Geographic about how the ocean is wet) and the Admirals were in “shock.” I remember thinking to myself, “Where have these guys been this whole time? Under a rock? Under a rock at the bottom of the ocean? Under a rock at the bottom of the ocean with their eyes shut and their fingers in their ears going ‘la, la, la, I can’t hear you’?” If you are not shelling out money for tools and the ships are passing inspections where do you think it’s coming from: the tool fairy placing crimpers under the pillows of mid-watch standers?

Plus it really doesn’t matter how much time I spend trying to order the stuff. Unless I’m an engineer and I think that my ability to express myself coherently proves I am not (ha-ha-ha I’m just joshing you engineers a little- please don’t kill me with that wrench) and the part I need involves the MRG (Main Refreshing Gage maybe?… should have paid more attention during ESWS training) I won’t get it until the end of time anyway.

Why? Because we have no money… Or rather all the money we have is used to purchase printer paper and ink so we can print out copies of the Navy’s new instructions on paper reduction. So we’re in a bit of a financial crunch and I think I have found the solution.

Have you ever watched a NASCAR race? It’s kind of like a sport, but instead of involving athletes engaged in acts of athleticism with a ball or something and running, they sit in cars for 5 hours and crash into each other at high speed, just like a Los Angeles commuter. Every week they demolish their cars in fantastic wrecks and the next week they have brand new car again! How do they afford to do that? NASCAR has corporate sponsors. A lot of them, in fact. Literally everything in one of those races is an advertisement (on top of that they have commercials too).

The Navy needs that. Just imagine, ships painted red with the Coca Cola logo on the side or blue ship endorsed by Miller Lite. The Marines could get in on too with their tanks and trucks or whatever they have sponsored by Home Depot or Starbucks.

Just think of the funding we would receive. Do you think Coca Cola wants the ship with their logo having rust anywhere on it. You would just call up Coke and ask for some red paint and it would be there before the day is out. No dealing with DLA. The best ships in the fleet would get better sponsors too…third year with the Battle “E” and now you’re getting better funding and a better paid crew.

Now I know what you are thinking: how could this actually benefit the companies sponsoring us? Who would see these advertisements? The enemy? Sure, I bet they’d love a Coke too but since we are killing them, when would they get a chance to make a purchase? That’s a fair point. We’d probably have to televise our operations a bit more. Can you imagine the war coverage? It would be amazing:

“Well Bill the invasion is going pretty slow here, the Bud Light ship just launched a couple of the Good Year LCACs but I’m just not seeing the commitment.”

“Wait a second Earl… It looks like the Dunkin Donuts ship and Taco Bell ship just launched a couple dozen Snickers Tomahawk Missiles. Snickers, when you’re not going anywhere for a while. And, Earl, I don’t think those guys they’re shooting at will be going anywhere for a while either.”

“Heck no Bill. I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that attack. Those Snickers Tomahawks are carrying…”

“Whoa there Earl, that’s classified information. Let’s just say that they’re really powerful. Let’s go to Joe Mitchell with our pilot house coverage on the number 77 Lowes ship. Thanks for tuning in; this war is brought to you by Red Bull. Red Bull gives you wings.”

Wouldn’t that be great? I bet we could even bring Task Force Uniform in on it too. Instead of spending 5 years to design a ridiculous looking uniform that melts to your body and that you can’t wear on a ship (even though that’s technically where people in the Navy actually work) we could have a ridiculous looking fireproof jumpsuit provided by your ship’s sponsors and adorned with their logos. Just imagine the post deployment interviews on the pier.

Ship’s CO: “Well it was a great deployment. We had a lot of success; we weren’t happy at the beginning, what with all that controversy during the workups, but we really pulled it together and brought home a win. I’d just like to thank the Sailors, the families and Valvoline, Yoo-hoo, Sunoco, Hostess Cupcakes, Monster Energy Drink and Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, we really brought it home for you!”

I haven’t even got to the physical fitness benefits yet: if we approached it like a sport we could even count a deployment as command PT. I think Congress should really look into this.

I realize that I have been a little hard on the supply program in general and the logistic specialists in particular in this essay. So I’d like to say that if I have offended anyone, then, from the bottom of my heart, they can write their own essay. I have some other great ideas that I would love to share but I have to run. We get underway tomorrow and the hardware store closes in an hour.