Another Column by Jack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack’s New Column

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

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

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

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

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

My first question comes from Thomas, who asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to Ask Jack?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christmas cards have arrived, and with them the “letters”

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Dear family, friends, and people who we are still pretending are friends because we may need favors in the future,

We’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year by sending you this form letter that tells you that we care about you, just not enough to write you an actual personal letter.

This has been a wonderful year for our family. We have been blessed with success, fame, and money and after reading this letter you will realize how much better we are than you.

Preston has been promoted to vice president of sales, after the last vice president was indicted for taking bribes. This is a big move for Preston and the higher salary plus all the bribes he is taking in have enabled us to start building our dream house overlooking the valley were all the poor people live.

Penelope is still senior partner in her law firm where they just started on a big new case defending Preston’s company in an investigation involving alleged bribery. It’s a very challenging case, but Penelope is convinced that with a little hard work and determination, that she will make a lot of money. As a mother of three it is a constant balance between her career and yelling at the nanny, but somehow she makes it look easy. In other news she recently took up breeding carrier pigeons, which may explain the mess on this letter.

Our oldest son, Roderick is doing wonderfully. His new business is flourishing and he is pulling in over 30 cartons of Marlboros a week at the state penitentiary. Even better news is that since all the witnesses have mysteriously died we are confident that he will be paroled in time for Christmas. He has been keeping very busy this past year weightlifting and is currently the top license plate producer in his cell block. The warden has written to tell us that even the guards avoid him. He is also preparing to run for public office. As proud as we are of his success, we are really looking forward to having him home for the holidays.

Camilla is doing well. She’s finishing up her 7th year at Harvard. Most people don’t even realize that there is a 7 year baccalaureate program in the Ivy League but our little angel is a perfectionist. Now that she’s a Junior the classes have become much more challenging but the tutors we have hired are doing well. She’s even declared a major, much to her disconcertion it turns out that Basket Weaving is not an actual field of study, and has settled for Art History.

Our youngest, Rufus is doing great too. We just know that he is going to do great things. Potty-training this year has been a challenge, but he’s speaking in full sentences and can already count to 20. He told us he wants to be an astronaut, a scientist or a heavy metal singer. We’re so proud and can hardly believe he’s almost in third grade.

The horses are our pride and joy. Old Trigger got very sick this year and it was a sad day when we had to put him down, but in a way he is still with us sealing these envelopes. No triple crown this year but the jockeys have been warned to keep the weight off or they’ll be joining old Trigger.

As the year ends, we are looking forward to the many opportunities to come in the New Year. It was great to see so many of you this past year and hope to see more of you in the year to come (this is just a formality, we would much rather not ever see most of you ever again). If you are in the area look us up, although not literally of course.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Wellingtons,

Preston, Penelope, Roderick, Camila, and baby Rufus

 

Uniformity is Key

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I’m a simple kind of guy. I don’t want much out of life.  I want the same thing any red-blooded American wants: freedom, health, love, and to retire without buying any more new uniforms.  And to be perfectly honest I’m willing to do without freedom, health and love, because lately the Navy has been cranking out new uniforms faster than Captain’s Mast after a 3M inspection.  I have already reached a point where, thanks to my uniforms, I have more clothes than my wife.

I’m not talking about replacing an old worn-out uniform. I can live with that.  What I don’t want is to purchase, yet again, the latest incarnation developed by the Navy’s uniform board wizards after another visit from the “good idea fairy” and their 7th margarita.  In my career I have owned six different working uniforms, each one a little more ridiculous than the one before.

You see, in the Navy, we have a lot of uniforms.  This is something that civilians have a hard time understanding (another thing is duty days).  In the civilian world there are uniforms too, but they generally help customers identify employees.  In the Navy we have uniforms for formal occasions, for really formal occasions, for office work, for shipboard work, for dirty shipboard work, and for really dirty shipboard work.  We even have uniforms for really fancy dinners that we might never attend.  For a civilian to understand the complexities of U.S. Naval uniforms is an exercise in futility.

When I first joined the Navy (back when Noah was commissioning the ark) the standard working uniform was called dungarees. It consisted of a light blue chambray shirt (I’m not really sure what “chambray” is) and blue denim pants.  Basically they were blue jeans, but not regular blue jeans you can buy at Walmart.  These jeans were bell-bottoms with rectangular pockets sewn on the front (just like the ones on the back), so that at first glance it appeared that you had put your pants on backwards.

The upside of dungarees is that they were very comfortable. The downside was that, more or less, this was essentially the same uniform worn in a federal prison (though, to be fair, there were times when this seemed appropriate).  We weren’t even allowed to leave base in this uniform—probably out of fear that the police would try to return us to prison.

Dungarees were the enlisted working uniform dating back to well before World War II, so in 1999 it was time for a change. For years enlisted sailors had been asking for a working uniform that looked professional, like a military uniform instead of inmate attire.  After listening to the sailors and carefully weighing the operational and morale benefits the Navy finally settled on a uniform that did neither: the utilities.  Utilities were the same color scheme as dungarees (light blue shirt and dark blue pants).  The downside of the utilities was that they were less comfortable than dungarees.  On the upside we no longer resembled convicts… now we looked like gas station attendants.  It’s like we finally got out of prison only to be hired by a gas station.

The utilities were universally despised by the fleet which should have guaranteed their survival for years, but change was in the air in the early 2000s. The war on terror was in full force, money was flowing into the Defense Department and the Navy was modernizing equipment and moving away from the old ways of doing things.  It was a crazy time.

Since the Navy was pretty much throwing money around like a drunken sailor on a port visit in Thailand, they created Task Force Uniform to address the uniform issue. That’s right, in the middle of the biggest war since Vietnam, they actually created a task force to figure out what to wear.

Task Force Uniform got right to work and discovered that if they revised all the Navy uniforms instead of just one, they’d probably be able to avoid any real work for the rest of their careers (this is still going on today). After reviewing the seabag requirements it was determined that there were way too many uniforms for the average sailor to maintain (which is kind of like a scientist announcing that they discovered that cancer is bad).  After this watershed moment TFU (this is an actual Navy acronym) chose to add more uniforms.  Seriously.  To minimize uniforms they developed the physical fitness uniform, the service dress khakis, the Navy service uniform and three kinds of camouflage uniforms.

The biggest development to come out of all this was the new Navy working uniform (NWU). No longer would sailors of the world’s most powerful navy look like gas station attendants.  No longer would U.S. Navy sailors resemble escaped prisoners.  We were a country at war and our sailors would look like the warriors they were… well almost, because after all the debate, all the research, all the money spent what TFU decided we needed was: blue camouflage.

I guess it makes sense when you think about it. The standard attire for combat troops these days is camouflage, and the Navy’s main service color is blue.  It never seemed to cross anyone’s mind that the only environment in which this uniform would provide camouflage was in the ocean, and that most sailors floating in the ocean would probably want to be found.

Someone once explained to me that the camouflage pattern actually worked well on a ship. “If you look at a ship from 1000 yards you can’t even make out the NWUs; they blend in perfectly.”  This still seemed odd to me.  I mean even if it does hide the sailors on the ship, it’s not like anyone would assume that the ship had just sailed there by itself.

Nevertheless the fleet embraced NWUs, probably because we were allowed wear it off-base and could finally stop at the store on the way home from work. Soon the NWUs could be seen everywhere, it was the standard working uniform for officer and enlisted throughout the entire Navy.  It just goes to show that when our government gets down to business, identifies a problem, conducts the proper research, and implements a plan for correction, it can really develop something truly practical like the uniform that will take our Navy into the new millennium.

It was right about then we found out that the NWUs spontaneously burst into flames and were not safe to wear onboard ship. Oh well, every new development is bound to have a few bugs, right?