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.

 

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.

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