“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.

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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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Coronavirus, Impeachment, World War III… 2020 is Already Nuts

We’ve had quite the year so far. In January we looked with hope to an exciting new decade. We finally made it to the twenties, a brand new decade ahead of us with amazing possibilities. Then, while we were still nursing New Year’s hangovers, World War III was imminent.

On January 3, the U.S. military conducted a strike killing an Iranian general virtually no American had ever heard of (and virtually no decent person would mourn). Reactions to the strike were mixed, with Republicans pointing out that General Soleimani (whose name they were still learning how to spell) was a terrorist and murderer who deserved to die for his crimes and that they had always held this opinion, dating all the way back to yesterday. Democrats, on the other hand, objected that if the president was going to kill a terrorist the least he could have done was invite them to the after-party. Iran vowed immediate retaliation, but shortly after got distracted by problems with their aviation administration.

So World War III turned out to be less climactic than originally expected, with the only repercussion being that Millennials were able to claim the title of the “New Greatest Generation” for winning World War III. Since we were able to wrap up the global conflict in record time, the nation was able to move on quickly to the next apocalyptic event by impeaching the president of the United States.

The whole impeachment stuff started last year, but the actual trial in the Senate took place February 2020. For only the third time in the short history of this nation a sitting president was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

Whether or not you believe the president was guilty depends on which news network you prefer. If you watch Fox News, then Trump’s biggest crime is that he is not publicly executing Democratic members of Congress. On the other hand if you watch CNN, then you know the president is selling children into slavery and performing live human sacrifice on an altar built in front of the White House. If you watch MSNBC, it is likely that you are unable to read this sentence.

So going into the impeachment hearings, Donald Trump was either the savior of all mankind, or the manifestation of the Anti-Christ. How was the average American to react to this conflicting news? Mostly with Baby Yoda memes. That was pretty much it. The general public was not all that interested in the impeachment hearings. The general public had just won World War III, this was no time to worry about the whatever was going on in Washington. On the other hand the news networks were interested in it on a religious level.

Regardless if you love Trump, hate Trump, or were trying to figure out if it was worth it to keep Disney Plus after season one of The Mandalorian, the president was found not-guilty of… something, I’m not really sure what. I kept Disney Plus.

With all that behind us it was time for a visit from the next horseman of the apocalypse, with the Coronavirus. At some point in February people started talking a lot about China and something called the Coronavirus. Like 95% of the country, I wasn’t really paying attention. I mean, I didn’t even drink Corona.

But it turned out that the Coronavirus is a major new disease that will kill the whole world in a matter of weeks. Or maybe not, it’s really tough to figure out how bad this thing is. On the one hand a lot of people have died from it and even more people have contracted it, but it’s being described as pretty much the same thing as the Flu, but it is definitely not the same as the Flu.

It’s times like this that I realize just how privileged I am to live in this country. A country where, in times of crisis, we can turn to our elected officials to reassure us that they will work with the best minds to find a solution to the problem. From our elected officials I have learned several very important facts:

1. Donald Trump is directly responsible for the existence of the Coronavirus. Although not explicitly stated, he may have actually funded the creation of the virus or maybe even developed it himself in the Oval Office.

2. Donald Trump is the only reason the entire population of the country is not already dead and has personally created a cure for the Coronavirus, but Democratic members of Congress are responsible for not being able to deploy it.

3. Congress is not going to let this important issue become politicized.

So I have no idea what’s going on. The news is telling me to worry about it, but also not to worry too much. It’s a really big deal, except that it is not really a big deal. As a result I defaulted to the same way I dealt with Y2K (kids ask your parents about this one), Swine Flu, Bird Flu, the Beltway Sniper, the Mayan calendar, and every other doomsday I’ve had to live through. My plan is, pretty much, to just hope for the best. I mean if the world ends, there’s not much I can do about it… and at least I don’t have to worry about finding a new job.

Then I was confronted with the truth of the virus. There I was, ignoring all the panic (but still not drinking Corona, just to be on the safe side), when I had to run to Walmart for some milk and toilet paper. Milk was no problem, but I couldn’t find toilet paper. At first I thought that I just couldn’t figure out where they kept it, so I kept looking. Eventually I asked an employee and he looked at me like I had just asked to buy heroin (not quite, he probably could have found heroin).

Not only was Walmart out of toilet paper, so was Target, Publix, Piggly Wiggly, and every other store I tried. Apparently the shortage is a result of the Coronavirus. I can’t figure this one out though. Does toilet paper cure the virus? Does the virus have (shall we say) symptoms that result in the need for 500 rolls of toilet paper? Did everyone in the toilet paper industry already get the virus, causing the shortage?

I wish I had known this was coming. I could have made a little bit of money dealing: “Whachu want, man? I got Charmin, Angel Soft, Cottenelle… I got one ply, two ply, ultra-soft, ultra-strong… The first roll is free.” Think about the possibilities. Oh well, maybe next apocalypse.

I guess my real worry with this whole thing is, what if this does turn out to be a worldwide apocalypse and I don’t die from it? What if I end up as the sole survivor? Like Will Smith in I Am Legend. Sure, it would be fun drive through town in a stolen Lamborghini and live in mansions by myself. Maybe shoot some mutants. But eventually the electricity would stop working and the food would go bad and I would have to default to my survival skills, of which I have none.

So this is 2020, and it’s only March. Things could still get a lot worse before 2021. It’s an election year, so it probably will. Someone really needs to figure this thing out. I would love to help, but I’m looking for toilet paper.

 

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Ask Jack? Why is it called Port and Starboard?

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It’s that time again, loyal fans! It’s time for me to open up my email and to read your many questions.

Billy from Sandusky, asks: Why don’t Navy guys get eaten by sharks more often? Because Sailors are on ships and the sharks don’t have proper I.D.

Maggie from San Diego asks: I’ve heard of people getting out of going to prison by joining the Navy. Is it possible to get out of the Navy by going to prison? Wow, I know the Navy can be rough at times, but is it really that bad for you? To answer your question. Yes, that is an option. See your master-at-arms for more details.

Randall from Houseton, TX (yes, “Houseton”) asks: Is it true that ships float because they’re bouncy? That’s what my science teacher told me, but I can’t believe a big metal ship would bounce. To tell you the truth, Randall, ships can be very bouncy in rough seas. I don’t think that’s why they float (although there were times I thought it might make them sink). Just a shot in the dark, but your teacher may have said that ships float because of buoyancy. See your local Army recruiter for more information.

After these fantastic questions, which caused only slight despair for the future of this country, I got this one from Reggie from Riverdale (please let that be his real name and city). He asks: Why does the Navy use “port” and “starboard” instead of “right” and “left?”

This is a great question (if only by comparison). There are a number of reasons for this one. First of all, nothing in the Navy is the same as it is in the rest of the world. Bathrooms, water fountains, mops, buckets, floors, etc. all have there own special names when on the ship. It’s part of naval culture. Like barfights in Singapore. If we just called it right and left how would that be special? You might as well be in the Army. And you don’t want to be in the Army do you Reggie? Do you?

Also, keep in mind, left and right can be confusing. Have you ever given directions to someone driving?

You: “Turn left at the light.”

Driver: “Left?”

You: “Right.”

Driver: “Right?”

You: “No left!”

Driver: “Left?”

You: “Right, left”

Driver: “Right then left?”

You: “No dammit! Turn left at the #*&$*&% light.

Driver: “Which light?

You: “The light your passing right now, moron!”

Driver: “Why are being so hostile?”

You: “Because you’re an idiot who can’t follow simple directions.”

Driver: “If you could give simple directions, it would be easier to follow them.”

You: “What is so %&$@ing hard about ‘turn right at the light?’”

Driver: “I thought you said ‘left?’”

You: “So now you heard ‘left?’ What the #@** is wrong with you?”

Driver: “You are just like your mother!”

You: “I want a divorce.”

See how confusing that can be? Historians now believe this is the how Christopher Columbus set out for India and ended up in America. Now let’s try that scenario again using port and starboard instead.

You: “Turn port at the light.”

Driver: “What the #@** is port?”

You: “I want a divorce.”

See how more efficient that was? This is why the U.S. Navy dominates the seas.

Strictly speaking port and starboard are not simply directions. They are locations in relation to the ship as a whole. Port is the left side of the ship when facing forward. Starboard is the right side of the ship when facing forward. Think of it like a car, where we have a driver side and a passenger side. Port is driver side and starboard is passenger side.

Little known fact: Early mariners actually used the terms “driver side” and “passenger side” prior to the invention of port and starboard. However it was cumbersome for lookouts to make reports, “I have an unknown contact off the passenger side bow moving passenger to driver.” Additionally, since this was before the invention of the automobile, nobody had a clue what anyone was talking about.

There is no exact consensus on why the terms port and starboard were chosen. Many believe that the port side was tied to the pier when they named the sides, and the only thing they could see on the other side was the stars. Also for some reason, the British started calling the port side “larboard” for a while. I’m being serious. Apparently, because “left” and “right” were too likely to cause confusion, they opted for two words that sounded virtually identical. I can’t imagine any situation where this could cause a problem.

So as you can see, Reggie, port and starboard have a long and important history, not just to the U.S. Navy, but to the entire maritime world.

If you have a question and you’d like me to pretend to give an honest answer click this link. I will be sure to give you a thorough answer just as soon as I get around to it.

 

Remember to subscribe and share. Go ahead share a link to this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or whatever way you socialize these days. I’d like to thank the fantastic blog: Tales of an Asia Sailor for reposting my last post. Go check it out.

Retirement Speech: My shipmates’ last opportunity to listen to me ramble

THANK YOU NOTE: I would like to thank all my readers who have shared links to my blog. I would especially like to thank the blog: Tales of an Asia Sailor for reposting my last article. If you haven’t been there, go check it out. It’s a great site with some great stories. Additionally if you enjoy anything you read on my site please share it… even if you don’t like it you can still share it, I have no problem with that.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Several months ago I retired from active duty. The speech I gave at the ceremony was well received and there have been numerous requests for me to post a copy. I was initially hesitant to do so. There’s a part of me that thinks a speech is one of those “one and done” kind of things. However after reflecting on it a bit I realized that if I posted it, I wouldn’t have to write something new this week, and thus I was convinced. Here you go, “A Sailor’s Last Speech”:

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In my experience, it’s only a real Naval Ceremony if there’s at least one significant screw up. So don’t worry about making mistakes. It would be a shame to ruin a tradition.

According to Jerry Seinfeld, public speaking is the number one fear of the average person, death is the second. This means that if you are at a funeral you would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. (This is the first of many lines I will steal or plagiarize during this speech).

This is true for me. I am not a fan of public speaking. As a result you will most likely reap the benefits of a short speech.

A disclaimer is due here. I am, as I am often reminded, the oldest member of this crew. As such I have a very dated sense of humor filled with 80’s and 90’s references. Some of my millennial shipmates might not get all my jokes. So if you hear something that sounds like it might be a joke, just go ahead and laugh. It will make me feel better, and make those of us Gen Xers feel slightly less old.

Well let’s start this off with the obligatory long list of “Thank Yous” during which I will inevitably forget to mention someone, and will then hold a grudge for the rest of our lives.

I must first give thanks to Almighty God, for the many gifts He has given me: my health, family, and this great nation… Nothing happens without permission of divine providence and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our nation in the United States Navy. It is only with His blessing that I have been able to have a successful career.

To my beautiful wife Allana; thank you for saying yes to a proposal that not only would have you putting up with someone as insufferable as myself, but also would drag you across the county several times where your husband would spend well over half the time on the ship. Thank you for joining me on this crazy adventure. With my retirement you have my word that I will devote every ounce of effort to come up with believable excuses for why I’m still not helping out at home.

To my 3 (almost 4) children. Thank you for being my anchor to adulthood. They say you never really grow up until you have kids of your own to worry about. After a 38 year childhood I have finally grown up thanks to you. I even have almost as many tools as video games now. I never knew heartache at getting underway until you came into my life. After 43 years on this planet you are my greatest success. My duty days are done now and I will devote more time to ensuring that success… even if it kills us.

To my parents. Thank you for being the best parents I could hope for. God sure knew what he was doing. The only way this lazy, hard headed, stubborn, temperamental kid would ever amount to anything, was in the house led by your example. Your values, faith, devotion, motivation, and patriotism formed me into the man I am today (yes, that’s right, you have to accept some of the blame). Every success I have had is the result of following your example and, fittingly, every failure I owe to neglecting that same example. And, Mom, I’d like to point out that I followed your advice for my entire career and never fell off the ship.

To my sisters Katie and Mary. I know we spent years fighting as we moved around the country following Dad’s Naval career. But I guess that’s one of the things that leads to a strong family. You’ve been there every step of the way. My boot camp graduation, my pinning as a Chief Petty Officer. Thank you for being here. Katie, when you were initiated as a Chief, I guess you became my double sister. Just remember, that as I retire today, I still outrank you… for now. I’m sure soon enough you’ll surpass me.

To CDR Kevin Barnes. Thank you for making the trip out here and agreeing to lie by saying nice things about me. Who would have thought that young uptight ensign and this obnoxious 3rd class back on the OSCAR AUSTIN would be wearing scrambled eggs and anchors today?

To Father Mahowald. Thank you for your prayers here today and your vocation. You and your brother priests are an inspiration to be emulated to all the faithful. We owe you a great debt for answering the Lords call of service. While it’s possible that my service may have saved some lives. It is certain that yours has saved souls.

To Jade Kennard and Rob Landeros. Thank you for helping me coordinate this event. It has far surpassed my expectations. You have had to had to do the impossible, put up with me and my random ideas.

Stu Hooper, thank you for agreeing to MC this event and as a result have to talk almost as much as me.

To all participants in this ceremony. Thank you for taking your valuable time to making my day. And thank you to our shipmates who are standing the watch and can’t be here with us.

Thank you to the Air det guys for moving all their gear in and out of the hangar several times to make space for us.

To our Command Master Chief Pat McCormick. I have been a thorn in your side since you got here. But hey, that’s just my job: the devil’s advocate, the voice of dissent, the smart-aleck, and generally, just a pain the neck. You have been a great mentor… which is even more impressive since I am not really a cooperative protégé. When I had started to lose faith you smacked me upside the head as a true Chief would and told me to quit whining and anchor up. I’m not sure if I ever truly stopped whining but I did try. Thank you. You are a true brother, and I am proud to have served with you.

To all my brothers and sisters in the Chiefs’ Mess. Thank you for all you do and will continue to do long after I have left this stage. Blood is thicker than water, but not many bonds are stronger than the bond forged in the US Navy Chiefs’ Mess. The greatest fraternity I never knew I wanted to be a part of. Here’s a little secret: as a young… younger Sailor I never liked Chiefs. Those arrogant old goats who thought they knew better just because they wore those anchors. Sure I wanted to make Chief, but I didn’t want to be one of them. Then I was selected for Chief. I didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid. I chugged the whole pitcher. I am a true believer. There is no organization I would rather be accepted in than the United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Mess. Y’all have had my back since day one. You have trusted me and always kept me straight; sometimes with advice, sometimes with a kick in the pants. Thank you.

To our Captain. Thank you for granting permission for this ceremony today. It’s a extremely busy week for the OMAHA and I know this cuts into the ship’s schedule. Thank you for being here today sir, and for your kind words. We’ve only served together for a short time, but it’s been an honor.

To my fellow Quartermasters. Only a QM can understand another QM. Life lived on the bridge among the officers but firmly entrenched in the enlisted ranks. At sea everyone seems to want to talk to us, so they can find out where the ship is (as if that location would make the slightest difference in their daily existence… “do you have a date or something?”) On the other hand in port, no one seems to care about us (which is ok since we like to leave at before lunch.) Thank you for all the support you have given me over the years, especially helping this old man figure out how to use VMS… I’ve almost got it figured out. It’s long been said “trust your keel to those who wear the wheel.” I’m proud to have served among you. Keep those ships off the rocks!

To the crew of the USS Jackson / USS Omaha. Thank you for an outstanding tour of duty to close out my career. There are so many of you that I have gotten to know but I just don’t have time to mention you all by name. I will miss this crew most of all.
And finally to everyone else I’m forgetting, the old shipmates, friends and family that have been with me along the way. Don’t feel slighted. I’ve got to wrap this “thank you” thing up or we’ll never get to have any cake. Thank you all for everything.

Well that just about does it for the thank yous. I’m sure I left someone out and I apologize for that.

There comes a point in every Sailor’s career when he knows it’s time to retire. This is different for every Sailor. For example, the average Warrant Officer experiences it just as his coffin is being lowered into the ground. For me it was about 15 minutes after I got off the bus at boot camp. Fortunately the Navy doesn’t have a 15 minute retirement policy, otherwise I would have missed out on the most amazing years of my life.

Most of you know that I am a Navy brat. My father was career Navy as was his father. I grew up traveling around the country from one duty station to the next. If you had asked me what I wanted to do with my life my answer was always “I’m going to join the Navy.” What I planned do in the Navy was never the same. During the 80’s I was going to fly F-14s like Maverick (who is apparently and inexplicably still in the Navy himself). Later I decided I was going to be a SEAL.

Well you know the old saying “if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.” It seems that my calling was in the Surface Navy. The real Navy. The only part without some sort of adjective. The toughest group of Sailors in the Navy. Sure people will claim that Pilots, SEALs, EOD, or Submariners (that’s for you IT1) are tougher, but just send one of those SEALs to serve 5 years on a destroyer…

SEALs have an unlimited budget. Our budget is very limited. SEALs have a saying: “The only easy day was yesterday.” Huh, how about that? SEALs have easy days. In the surface fleet, yesterday was hard too.

Air dales, those guys can’t do anything without 8 hours of sleep. My last deployment that was how much I got weekly.

EOD… sure their job is dangerous, but if they screw it up just once they don’t have to worry about anything again.

And of course, those sub guys… yeah we’re not gonna go there… It’s too easy.

When the United States Navy was founded on October 13, 1775 there wasn’t any of that. John Paul Jones, David Farragut, George Dewey, Daniel Stevens, Osmund Ingram, Peter Tomich, Dorie Miller… Surface Sailors built naval history and tradition. The Surface Navy is the real navy, I’m proud to have been part of it.

Even so, my Naval career had a particularly rocky start. You see, it turns out the Navy is a whole lot more glamourous from the outside than it is on the inside. Even as a Navy brat, all you really see is the sharp uniforms and ships. You don’t see the PMS checks. Painting the ship. Working parties (which is one of the least fun parties I’ve attended). The duty days, the underway watch rotations, the deployments that remind you of the movie Groundhog Day where the same day is replayed forever.

We have a saying: “A bitching Sailor is a happy Sailor,” and during my first enlistment, according to this definition, I was a very happy Sailor. So happy, in fact, that still today I run into people I served with on my first ship and they are very surprised that I stayed in. But I survived my first hitch and I discovered that I actually wasn’t too bad at this Navy thing. About the same time Al-Qaeda decided to fly a few planes into some of our buildings.

As the country was thrown into the war on terror I was finishing up my first enlistment just before the maiden deployment the OSCAR AUSTIN. Well there was no way I was gonna miss out on the war especially since we would probably be going after the people who devised the attack on our country.

So I reenlisted. The OSCAR AUSTIN deployed. We escorted dozens of military cargo ships through the Strait of Gibraltar, captured an Iraqi tug boat, launched 33 Tomahawk missiles into Iraq (you should have seen those Tomahawk FCs strutting around…) and I spent 2 months on liberty risk (but that’s a story for another day… well maybe if you meet me at the bar tonight…).

I spent 5 years on the OSCAR AUSTIN. I started out as the disgruntled Sailor who couldn’t wait to get out but when I left to go to shore duty I was thinking, maybe, just maybe there’s something to this Navy thing…. I mean, my father did it. My grandfather did it… Might as well keep the tradition going.

A lot of Sailors live their first enlistments to just get shore duty, but when you get there you’re in for a surprise. Shore duty is boring. The comradery, the sense of purpose, the urgency are all gone. I had gone from a 2nd class divisional LPO where the Captain regularly asked my opinion, to a 1st class with virtually no responsibility. I probably should have taken more college courses but instead I counted down the days until it got back to the fleet.

My next sea duty assignment was PC Crew ECHO. PCs are the smallest commissioned warships in the U.S. Navy. Only 179 feet long with only a 28 man crew. I like to think of the PCs as the pirate navy. Where regulations were more guidelines than actual rules. We were commissioned naval warships but our adherence to naval regulations was a bit loose. Here’s a story for you:

So there I was standing OOD (inport) on the bridge of the USS TEMPEST (PC-2) (inport watch on a PC is in the bridge… it’s a really small ship). The Captain came on the bridge and sat in his chair. (Just so you understand, the bridge on a PC is about the size of a walk-in closet.) The standard greetings commenced “Good afternoon sir.” “Good afternoon QM1.” On the aft bulkhead the 21MC sounded off, “Bridge, Main. Start #1 MPDE.” I turned to the Captain and requested permission to start #1 Main Engine. He granted it and I went to verify that the bridge was station in control and that the throttles were in neutral. I went back to the 21MC and replied, “Starting #1 MPDE, throttles are in neutral, bridge is station in control.” I walked over to the starboard side of the bridge (right in front of where the Captain was sitting) and pushed the green start button, the engine roared to life. I went back to the 21MC and reported “#1 MPDE started.” Cheng repeated, “#1 MPDE started aye.

It was at this point I noticed that the captain was looking at me the same way my father would have looked at me if I’d showed up to meet the Pope in a pair of pair of board shorts. Incredulously the Captain asked (and I’m sure you engineers can guess where he was going with this), “QM1, what did you just do?” This strikes me as odd since he not only saw me start the engine, he granted permission not more than a minute ago.

It occurred to me that since he was relatively new to the ship he might not be aware that PCs start all the engines from the bridge and not in main control. So simply replied (as respectfully as you can imagine), “I started #1 MPDE sir.”

Still looking aghast he asked, “In accordance with…?”

“In accordance with the green button on the console.”

Now trying to control rage and frustration he said, “EOSS?”

“Bless you sir.”

Okay I didn’t actually say that. I actually knew what EOSS is. It’s a red notebook that says EOSS on it and has something to do with engineering things, but seeing as I was a Quartermaster I still had no idea why wanted to talk to me about it. But since this was obviously important to him I went to the front of the Ship Control Console and grabbed the EOSS book. It was covered in a thick layer of dust. And not just normal dust. It was that sticky kind of dust you find on the top of your refrigerator. This book had not been used recently. Definitely not in the past year. In fact it was possible that it hadn’t been used in the life of the ship. I opened it up went to the page about starting engines where is said “Push the green button.” How about that ? I was EOSS compliant.

It was with ECHO that I was selected and initiated as a Chief Petty Officer. I won’t go into the details. My fellow Chiefs already know about it, and if you haven’t experienced it no explanation will do it justice. Let’s just say I didn’t die in the process.

I won’t bore you with all the other details of my career path. If you are curious feel free to read my bio in the program… it’s a good treatment for insomnia.

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If there is one thing I love to do is give unsolicited advice. So I’m going to give you a list of wisdom and aphorisms I have picked up, plagiarized, and in a few rare cases, actually come up with on my own along the way.

-There are only two great ships in the Navy: Your last one, and your next one.

-The BMR says the backbone of the ship the keel. But the actual backbone of the ship is her crew.

-Once a Chief, always a Chief… unless you are expelled from the Mess for the unforgivable crime of becoming an officer. But that’s ok, my father is an officer and look what he accomplished: he raised 2 Chiefs.

-Duty is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, and never wish to do less.

-There is only one test or inspection that really counts: Real Life.

-The definition of tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and have them look forward to the trip.

-The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

-Sailors belong on ships, ships belong at sea, land is a hazard to Navigation… but we all know we kinda want to be where we don’t belong.

-Never judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you judge them you’re a mile away and have their shoes.

-Place your family before your job. The Navy was here before you, and it will do just fine when you leave… your family will always be with you.

-Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer stupidity.

-The definition of a calculated risk is a gamble which military men take when they can’t figure out what else to do and which turns out to be right. When it turns out wrong, it wasn’t a calculated risk at all. It was a piece of utter stupidity.

-If you want something now really bad, you will get it now and it will be really bad.

-The reason the US Navy performs so well in war is that war is chaos, and the US Navy practices chaos on a regular basis.

-Nothing worthwhile is easy.

-Don’t be full of yourself. If your people will follow you anywhere, it’s probably out of curiosity.

-There is no such thing as a born leader. There are born jerks who like to be in charge, but that doesn’t make you a leader. Whether you are shy introvert, a head strong extrovert, at Type A, a Type B, or just a born jerk that likes to be in charge, being a leader means taking charge in spite of your personal characteristics. This is never easy. Being a leader is NEVER EASY. It is a constant fight against your selfish nature to focus on your people and the mission first.

This is the last day I will wear the uniform, so I will no longer wear the anchors I have worn for the past 8 years. Since I will no longer wear them, I need to pass them on to someone who will hopefully soon be able to give them new life. Since I am the only Quartermaster aboard I have looked to the ET/IT division as my surrogate division. They work up on the bridge (yeah, weird huh? That’s a first for me). And, while terribly understaffed, they work tirelessly and exceptionally to keep this ships networks and endless electronic gizmos functioning.

IT1 Dwyer: Front and Center. You may be a submariner at heart, and I have no idea what all that computer stuff you talk about means, but you’ve got drive and heart that motivates me. I hope to see you in Khakis soon, and maybe, just maybe these anchors have a little luck left in them.

But you know, I wear the same kind of anchors on my whites, so I guess I have to pass on that set too.

ET1 Thao: Front and Center. You are never without a smile and positive attitude even when you are stringing together an impressive outburst of profanity at the frustrations that come with being an electronics technician aboard an LCS. I’ve enjoyed our many conversations on the smoke deck. I hope these anchors can bring some luck your way.

Finally I’d like to close with a quote from one of greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, in one of his most famous speeches: “Be excellent to each other, and… party on dudes!”

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

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.

 

Don’t forget to share and subscribe. SHARE and SUBSCRIBE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE…

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.

Ask Jack? Is it ok to pretend to be a SEAL?

Greetings loyal readers, fans, and internet surfers who happened on this site by mistake. It’s been a long time since I posted, but I have a good excuse: I didn’t want to. No that’s not really true. The fact is I have been really busy lately.

My request to retire from active duty was recently approved and I have had all kinds of work to do to prepare, not the least of which is trying to figure out how to afford food when the Navy stops feeding me (anyone want to hire me?) So I guess I have kind of dropped the ball here. Don’t worry this whole retirement preparation has given me all kinds of material, which you will be hearing all about as soon as I get a chance.

In the meantime, I have had the chance to answer one question from one of my readers. Rory form Mayport writes:

Dear Jack,
I am working as an Food Service Attendant for the next two months in the scullery washing dishes but when I’m at the club I tell girls that I’m a Navy SEAL. Is this OK?

Wow, this is a new one. Before you pretend to be a Navy SEAL you have to ask yourself a few questions. Are you a good fighter? Are you fast runner? If not you might want to rethink your claims.

Here’s the deal, Rory, you are not a SEAL and there is no reason to tell someone you are… I don’t care how pretty she is. After all, not all SEALs will beat you to a pulp for pretending to be a one of them, but all of them can. And I guarantee that you are not picking up anyone after she sees a SEAL pummel you.

How would you feel if you were in a bar and some Navy SEALs came in bragging about how many dishes they washed during their last deployment? Like they know anything about washing dishes. Like they would know who to call when the garbage grinder clogs because you tried to grind a whole chicken. They probably have no idea how to set the proper temperature on the sanitizer (although to be honest, neither do you). You wouldn’t like that very much at all, would you?

Anyway there is no reason to lie to people about what you do in the Navy. Most civilians have no idea what we do and pretty much anything you tell them will sound cool. Well not washing dishes, I would just leave that part out.

For example, I know a guy who took some shrapnel to the face while engaging a target in Iraq. Sounds pretty impressive huh? He has a small scar under his eye where it melted through the skin. Now that is a story to tell in the bar.

The story gets less impressive when I explain where he was in Iraq and how he received his shrapnel wound. He was actually hit in the face with a shrapnel ricochet of a bullet from his own M-4 rifle. While he was shooting a refrigerator. Which was floating by our ship. While we operating in the Northern Persian Gulf about 10 miles off the coast of Iraq (so yes, it was technically in Iraqi territorial waters).

Seriously, this really happened. We were off the coast of Iraq conducting small arms exercises (which means we were shooting the water) when a refrigerator floated by. This was one of those old ones, like the one that protected Indiana Jones from a nuclear blast. We decided that it was a hazard to navigation and that we should try to sink it. So we did, try that is. We never actually succeeded. For all I know it’s still floating around up there.

So there you have it, one boneheaded decision and now he has an awesome war story to tell all his friends, as long as he leaves out about 80% of the story. You can do the same thing. Go and tell everyone how many you killed in the service (just don’t mention that all you killed are germs).

I’m sure you are wondering what I would do. Well I would, of course, opt for the whole truth. You can never go wrong there. Afterall, that’s how I captured Saddam Hussein.*

If you have a question that you would like to Ask Jack? and aren’t concerned that you will probably never receive an answer just click here.

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* In the interest of 100% honesty, I didn’t actually, personally, capture Saddam Hussein. Although I’d like to think painting the forecastle helped.

Ask Jack? Will I have time to get married after boot camp?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and the questions have been backing up. As usual there are some great ones… and some that are less than great.

George from St. Louis, Missouri writes:

I’m about to start boot camp in a few weeks. I have been dating a girl though my senior year at high school and am planning to ask her to marry me soon. Will I have enough time after boot camp to get married and honeymoon in Vegas?

George, I’m sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but the Navy will not allow you to take leave after boot camp. The standard practice is to depart boot camp for follow-on training immediately. After you complete apprenticeship training or “A” School you will normally be permitted ten days of leave while transferring to your next duty station.

I realize that ten days of leave is not a lot of time for a wedding and a honeymoon but I do have good news for you. By the time you finish boot camp, you probably won’t be engaged anymore. You will most likely receive a “Dear John” letter (a letter is a piece of paper with writing on it) during your first month of naval service.

The Dear John letter during recruit training is a naval tradition dating back to the very creation of the Continental Navy when Seaman John Jejune received what is considered the first ever boot camp “Dear John” letter in 1775. It has been preserved in the Smithsonian:

Dearest John,

I has’t did miss thee with all mine own heart during these past two fortnight. Whilst thee has’t been hence Benjamin Brawny (the boy from the two farms over) hast been helping with the farm work and hast taken tupon himself the ease the emptiness I feeleth in mine own heart. Haply tis timeth for us to court other people. I desire thee to knowest yond, tis not thou. Tis me. I shall at each moment treasure the timeth we hath spent togeth’r but this war couldst wend on for quite a while and I am not getting any younger. I wanteth thee to knoweth I still careth for thee but just not enough to actually waiteth for thee.

With all mine own heart,

Jessica Flirtgills

The unfortunate fact is when you leave your home to join the Navy, and I was shocked to discover this myself, life goes on for your friends and family. There I was getting screamed at by some guy I just met because of how I folded my underwear (yes this will happen) and my friends didn’t have the common decency to put their lives on hold. It just goes to show how selfish people can be.

You see, while at boot camp, your greatest social interaction will be in the communal shower with 50 other guys. Whereas your girlfriend will not be so limited (this is not to say that she’s showering with 50 guys). Your girlfriend’s life will go on for the next eight weeks. While you’re doing pushups, making your bed 50 times a day (this will happen too), marching, and getting yelled at for not being able to march and many other things that haven’t even crossed your mind yet, your girlfriend will continue to socialize with all the people she already knows, including anyone who was just waiting for you to get out of the picture.

Don’t worry though. There are a lot of fish in the sea (are you into fish?) There is also a lot of women out there. Chances are you will soon meet someone new. I wish you the best of luck.

If you have a question you would like to Ask Jack? just click here. If you would like to learn something useful, you probably shouldn’t.