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?

 

You can call off the search, I’m still alive

Many of you have written to me asking when I am going to write another post (assuming the term “many” is taken in the loosest way possible). When I started this blog it was my intention to have a new essay up every week, which puts me at just about 12 essays behind, so I feel obligated to explain why my posts have not been updated as regularly as initially implied.

Just so you know, this is not an actual post. Yes, it is posted on my blog.  But it is in no way intended to be entertaining.  Do not laugh at any part of this explanation.    It is not funny and any entertainment you experience is purely coincidental.

Recently I transferred from shore duty back to sea duty.  As you Navy readers who have done the same are aware… sea duty is a lot worse than you remember.  You see, when you are on a shore duty assignment and going home every day at 1600 (4:00 PM for those of you who are civilians or in the Air Force) it’s easy to forget all the tedious time-consuming days you spend on a ship.  The PMS spot checks, the duty days, the never-ending inspections, the duty days, the meetings, the random collateral duties that seem to have been created just for the purpose of lengthening your work day, and of course the duty days.  Instead you remember the ship through rose colored lenses: all the good times, the amazing liberty ports, the strong friendships.  What you forget is the reason for those great memories.  All those friendships were so strong because you went through hell together.  The reason those liberty ports were so much fun is that you were working 20 hour days, seven days a week, for a month before you pulled in.

So sea duty is pretty busy and it seems that in my time ashore I have overestimated the free time I would have to write and update my blog.  While it only takes about five minutes to read one of my essays (ten minutes for those of you in the Army) it actually takes much longer to write them (sometimes up to half an hour).

Between attending to my duties on the ship (see above), and to the needs of my ever growing family of somewhere between 2 and 47 children (it’s hard to get a good count since they never stop moving) what can be defined as free time is very limited.  As much as I like to write funny stories it turns out I like to sleep even more.

So there you have it, I know I said I would write something new every week, but, well, I can’t. I am still writing but I haven’t finished anything recently that is worth publishing.  There are things in the works that will be published just as soon as I can get around to it (assuming I’m not sleeping).

If you subscribe to this blog you will be notified when I have written something new.  If you have any questions feel free to write to me.  I will not answer them.  In fact, I probably won’t even read them but that is no reason not to ask.  Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question. *

 

*This is a lie. Just listen to some of the questions people ask the captain during a CO’s call and you will see that not only is there such a thing as a stupid question, there are actually quite a lot of them.

310 Miles to Yuma: House-Hunting Leave Part II

For those of you just joining us, I am on house-hunting leave driving to San Diego to find a new home as we prepare for my new duty station.  When we left off our hero (me) was driving across Texas with no end in sight.  We now join the trip already in progress:

If you think that a drive across the country might be slightly boring and you need to liven it up a bit, the best thing you can do is bring a cat.  That’s what I did and the results have been remarkable.  The family cat has been my traveling companion for the last three days, and has been keeping an ongoing monologue the entire time.  I’m not quite sure what she is saying but the overall theme appears to be that she is not happy with her accommodations.

“What kind of idiot brings a cat on a house-hunting trip?” you might be asking.  And I’ll be honest; I began asking this as well.  The truth, is my wife and I need the furry beast out of the way when the movers come and we didn’t want to be subjected to both the cat’s howling and our children’s screaming when we drive the whole family across the county next week (that’s right I get to do this again).

I never thought I would see the day when entering New Mexico would be my highest aspiration.  Finally leaving Texas has made me the happiest man on the planet.  World peace would make me happy too, but not nearly as much.

As I gaze on the absolute beauty of New Mexico, the golden horizon takes my breath away.  What also takes away my breath is the aroma.  Which is, essentially, cows, or more specifically cow manure.  It was then that I noticed that the view is not only breathtaking golden beauty, but also filled with more cows than I have ever seen (or smelled) in my life.  There were cows as far as the eye could see.  Some of you may have been raised on farms and believe that livestock have a pleasant smell or that farm animals are an acquired scent, but that is because you have never smelled 100,000 cows all at once.

That’s not all there is to say about New Mexico.  There is far more to the state than “looks great, smells bad” (the official tourist slogan).  For example there’s… um…well they have… err…  Well to be honest I have no idea what else is in New Mexico, but there’s got to be something else, right?

As fast as I can, I make it to the Arizona line. From what I can see, Arizona consists of cactuses (or maybe it’s “cacti,” I should probably look into that) and dirt… a lot of dirt.  There are also tumbleweeds.  I have almost been run over by three of them.  Have you ever seen the cute little ball of rolling sage on TV used to set the scene for the desert?  Well, in real life they are the size of a Chevrolet Suburban, only faster moving and more fuel efficient.  These things will knock you off the road.

On the upside there’s not a car in sight so I can drive as fast as I want. However, after driving for three days (or maybe three years… it’s all pretty blurry) I am exhausted; at least the howling cat in the backseat is keeping me awake.

Arizona does not appear to have a robust population. What few people I have seen at gas stations are very friendly. I had a very friendly and very long conversation with the gas station attendant, who would not take my money until I heard all about everything that has ever happened in his life, his wife’s life, and his kids’ lives (he has four and it was necessary that I heard about them individually).

Back on the road again, I started seeing signs for Yuma in only 350 miles.  I was thinking it must be major metropolis (well, for Arizona) because I have seen a sign for it every 15 miles.  As I approached Yuma I drove past the largest trailer/RV park I have ever seen.  For the next 10 minutes (or approximately 57,000 cat howls) I drove past single-wides, double-wides, and the greatest assortment of recreational vehicles I have ever seen.  I was starting to think that Yuma was just a city made up trailer parks.  I wish I could tell you that it was much more than a trailer park; unfortunately I was busy passing a truck when I got to the exit and have no idea what Yuma consists of, but I like to imagine it is a town deserving of all its publicity.  Five minutes later I crossed into California.

California!  I was finally there.  I made it to the west coast, to the Golden State.  The trip was finally over, unless you count the 160 miles I still had to drive.  I’d like to tell you that those 160 miles were beaches and tiki bars, but it turns out the western portion of California looks pretty much the same as Arizona, with an amazing view of the Mexican border (which also looks just like Arizona).

At least when I get to San Diego I can finally get some rest; I just need to meet with a realtor and find a house first.  That shouldn’t take too long, should it?  San Diego probably has tons of luxurious houses with big yards for rent at reasonable prices.  After an afternoon looking for a house, I can put the cat in a kennel (which should improve her mood, as she is now riding on the roof) and then lounge at the beach for a couple days before I fly home.  What could possibly go wrong?