Ask Jack? Are Sailors war veterans if they only deploy on ships?

It’s time for some more worldly wisdom from your favorite Sailor turned advice giver.
Today’s question comes from Willy, who writes:

“What are your thoughts about Navy Sailors calling themselves war veterans when they have never been boots-on-ground (only on ships)? I have deployed to Iraq BOG twice (a year each time) and deployed three times aboard a DDG and LSD in support of operations in Iraq.”

Well Willy, I have admit I had to google “BOG” before I realized that BOG is an acronym (and I love acronyms) for “boots on ground”. I’ll have to add that to the never ending list of acronyms that I now know thanks to my Naval career.

I have never actually been BOG. I have been BOS-boots on ship, BOB-boots on boat, and even BIS-boots in shower (this is what happens when you forget to pack shower shoes, barefoot is out of the question).

Willy poses an interesting question that is definitely not without controversy. In recent combat operations, the vast majority have occurred on land, with Naval ships providing support (there are exceptions though, lest we forget the USS Cole or USS Firebolt). In the modern Navy it’s become less common for Naval ships to engage in large sea battles, but it’s not my fault that we don’t have a worthy maritime adversary.

“Boots on ground” is not a natural environment for a Sailor, like a fish in a tree or a Marine in college. There’s an old saying, “Sailors belong on ships and ships belong at sea. Land is a hazard to navigation.” Like most sayings it’s used to tell Sailors to shut up and get back to work when they are bitching about sea duty. Nevertheless it underscores the point of the Navy- to maintain a fleet at sea ready for combat.

We also have to consider that “boots on ground” is not a very clear concept. It could refer to a Corpsman as part of a Marine infantry unit, or it could mean a yeoman shuffling paperwork in some office in Afghanistan (as if that’s more glamourous than doing the same thing on a ship).

It’s true that if you deploy to a combat zone with your boots on the ground the likelihood of being killed by an enemy increases significantly. But those who deploy on ships have their own dangers. It’s just that on a ship you are more likely to be killed by your own shipmates (especially if your showering habits are less than regular).

I am not kidding here. You try deploying to the armpit of the world for nine months. Stuck on a small ship with only about 250 people. Eventually you are going to get sick of them (this normally happens on about day five). Imagine that one of the engineers, after spending 12 hours in the sweltering engine room thinks that the 10 minutes he spent smoking after he gets off watch is close enough to a shower, since he has stopped sweating. Eventually he is walking around with a visible cloud of filth (kind of like “Pig Pen” in the old Peanuts comics). This guy is probably not going to survive the nine months before one (or possibly all) of his shipmates push him over-the-side.

It’s not just the dirty Sailors though, pretty much anything you do can annoy your shipmates to the point of plotting your demise. I remember one guy who started talking with a French accent (a very bad French accent) after the ship pulled into France for an unexpectedly long port visit. At first this was amusing. But as the days turned into weeks and then months this guy still thought it was hysterical. Every conversation with him was like the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur is taunted by the French in their castle. Eventually people started to get angry. There were elaborate plots on how to push him off the side in the middle of the night while paying the look-out “not to hear anything.” Fortunately, in the end (four months later), he got bored with it and the plot was dropped.

So you have to understand that they serve too, those who want to kill their annoying shipmates. In the end I can’t decide this one for you. This is one of those things Sailors need to argue about at a bar over the course of far too many shots.

If you have a question you would like to ask, and don’t care if the answer is accurate, click here to Ask Jack? There is no such thing as a stupid question. Only stupid people who ask questions.

 

Another Column by Jack

To all my loyal readers, and those of you who ended up at this blog while looking for something else: head over to the Navy Times and see my new column. That’s right lightning has struck twice and the Navy Times has decided to publish another piece of my writing. I’m not sure how long it will be before they come to their senses and stop doing this, so you should check it out. While you are there share it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace (does this still exist?), or whatever random way we are socializing these days. Make sure you tell everyone how much you liked this column (even if you don’t like it, I’m not hung up on the honesty factor here).

Ask Jack? “What’s the best place to be stationed?”

Questions continue to flood in, and a lot of them are really good questions. Even more are really bad. You know that old saying, “there’s no such thing as a bad question.” Yes, yes there is. For example Tracy in “Feenix” AZ, (bad news for the Phoenix school system) asked “What is the water wet like?” Not only do I have no idea how to answer it, but I am not even sure what the question means.

Then there’s this gem from Ferd (yes “Ferd”) in Boston, MS (which is the new way to abbreviate Massachusetts). “When there’s a war, does the guys shooting the mean that they were going in?”

I said I would answer any question you asked, so here goes. Ferd and Tracy, the best thing you can do is go down to the recruiting office and ask to speak to the ARMY recruiter. Let me be very clear, ask for the ARMY representative, and only the ARMY representative. If he is not there wait for him. He will be able to help you in much greater detail. Under no circumstances should you go to the Navy recruiters office. These are questions best addressed by the Army.

Our next question comes from Allison in Kentucky. She asks, “What is the best place to get orders to after boot camp?”

What a great question. Or maybe it just seems like it in comparison. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what place is best. You don’t get a choice in the matter. They are called “orders” for a reason.

Sure, your recruiter will tell you that if you do really well in your “A” School you will get first choice of orders. This is true, if you joined the Navy 15 years ago when he did. This policy is no longer in place. On your first day of “A” School you will fill out a “dream sheet” giving you a chance to request the type of duty you would like and the location you desire. The detailer studies dream sheets in great detail (this is why he is called a “detailer”) before throwing them in the trash, then picks up his crystal ball or whatever random way he assigns orders. It would be just as effective to mail your dream sheet to Santa Claus (maybe more effective since, as a mythical person, he is not bound by the laws of reality).

Let’s say that you would like shore duty in Hawaii. You will find yourself on a ship in Norfolk, Virginia. If you want to be on a ship out of Mayport, Florida, you will be sent to Diego Garcia. You can’t fool the system either. If you don’t want to go to Everett, WA and you put down Everett, WA as your desired location in hopes that you won’t be sent there because you asked to, the detailer will know this from his crystal ball and send you there anyway. In almost 20 years in the Navy I have never, not once, gotten orders I wanted. But I do have high hopes for the my next assignment.

Don’t worry though. You will love it in Diego Garcia. You will meet a lot of new and interesting people. And you will have the chance to visit a location that very few people ever get to see (although this is normally by choice). Never forget there are only two good assignments in the Navy, your previous one and your next one, and your next one will be great (until you get there).

If you have a question that you would like to Ask Jack? just click here. All questions will be answered with thoughtfulness and compassion, and then rewritten with sarcasm.

If you have learned something here (ha!) please share it with your friends. Conversely if you hated it share it with your enemies by clicking on the links below.

Jack’s New Column

To those of you who can’t get enough of my wittiness (and judging from my subscribers this is a limited number) swing over to the Navy Times. They are running a column by yours truly (for my Army readers, that means me). I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking “What kind of incriminating photographs does Jack have on the editor of Navy Times?”

In answer to your incredulous question: my lawyer has advised me not to comment. Seriously though, the Navy Times is a fantastic periodical and I’m not just saying that because I want them to keep running my column. I’m also saying it because they told me that I had to.

Just kidding I am under no obligation whatsoever to endorse Navy Times. Just because it is the finest journalism relating to the U.S. Navy and every American is morally remiss if they have less than 4 subscriptions (I myself have 10, but I am probably morally superior to average American) is no reason for me to endorse them. You will have to go to their website yourself and decide for yourself. Do you like the Navy Times or are you some sort of un-American metric system user who hates puppies and apple pie?
While you are over there feel free to share it with others. I have boat payments.

Ask Jack? “What’s the best job in the Navy?”

In my last post I said I would answer any question you have about absolutely anything. This has proven to be a very popular venture. I have received more emails than ever before (some quite disturbing).

My first question comes from Thomas, who asks:

“What is the best job to apply for in the U.S. Navy?”

This is a great question and it deserves a solid answer. Unfortunately he asked me. Choosing your job is the most important decision you can make when you join the Navy. There is a popular expression in the enlisted ranks that says: “Choose your rate; choose your fate.” Essentially it means that this relatively uninformed decision you make when you join the Navy will affect your entire career.

Let’s say that you always wanted to learn welding and so you choose Hull Maintenance Technician (HT) because the little card they showed you at MEPS said that the HTs weld things. Then you discover that in addition to welding, HTs also are plumbers who are constantly dealing with toilets. Or maybe after all that welding school, you realize that the one thing you truly hate is welding. Well that’s tough luck for you because you will be welding and unclogging toilets for the remainder of your time in the Navy.

Or let’s say that you have always wanted to be a fire fighter so you sign up for Damage Controlman (DC) only to find out the majority of your job is training everyone else on the ship how to use damage control equipment (and many of them can’t even master the “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” concept).

The fact of the matter is that the Navy is not all unicorns and butterflies (unless you are a UB – Unicorn and Butterfly Technician), a lot of Navy life is really hard, thankless work. There is no job without a long list of downsides to them. No matter what job you pick, you will spend a good amount of time in your first enlistment wishing you had chosen something else (although later-on you will spend an inordinate amount of time telling others you have the best and most important job in the Navy.)

Sure, I know there are those of you saying that the Navy SEALs don’t have that problem, they are a bunch of confident warriors, who regret nothing. That might be true, but I doubt it. To even be a SEAL you have to go through about two years of intense training, and according to the 450,000 documentaries that have been made about our Navy’s most secret warriors, that training is also lacking in the unicorn and butterfly department.

So what’s the best job in the Navy? What field should young Thomas look into? After almost 20 years in the Navy I have discovered that the best job you can have is any job other than the one you actually have. I hope that helps. Good luck on your career Thomas.

If you have any questions for “Ask Jack?” click here or here. I am ready to provide knowledge and wisdom (although ultimately I won’t).

Are you ready to Ask Jack?

Here at Sea Stories and Other Lies we are always looking at ways to make your life easier. That’s why our posts have been so rare lately. We have been conducting extensive and exhaustive research for your benefit. As a result we have started referring to ourselves in the plural. Other than that, these efforts have resulted in complete failure.

Instead we have decided to provide a new service called “Ask Jack?” This will be a regular feature (if anything on this blog can be called “regular”) at Sea Stories and Other Lies, where your many questions will be answered.

Are you curious about the military? Do you have questions about a career in the U.S. Navy? Do you have questions about major life decisions? Would you like advice on your personal life? Are you willing to trust some guy on the internet you have never met who openly admits to telling stories full of lies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to go and “Ask Jack?”

How do you get great advice that you can count on? We have no idea, but if you want Jack to answer your question just click on the “Write to Jack” tab in the menu above. Or in the previous hyper-link. Or here. Or maybe here…. This is fun. It turns out I can turn anything into a hyper-link. Next fill out the required information, (feel free to lie about your name and email… hey, turnabout is fair play, right?) asking your question in the “comment” section. Ask any question and you will receive an in-depth answer (although not necessarily an accurate one).

In the past our policy has been stated repeatedly and emphatically that I… I mean we (this plural thing is confusing) will never read or answer your questions. That was selfish and, recently, I have had a change of heart. It’s time to give back to the community, but since that sounds really hard, instead I will give questionable advice and poorly researched explanations.

Sea Stories and Other Lies promises to treat each question with the seriousness that you expect out of this blog. Ask away, Jack is waiting to assist you.