Eval Writing Part II: NAVFIT’s Revenge

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A sailor writing a performance evaluation (Source: Wikimedia Commons; Photo by MC3 Kay; edited by author.)

Hey there,  I hope everyone is having a great week and nobody got arrested as a result of my advice.  In my last post I answered a question about writing performance evaluations, but I wasn’t able to address the full process, mostly because it is so convoluted that it never really ends.  By the time you finish everything, it’s time to start all over again.

Nevertheless I would like to go into a bit more detail.  So here you have it, “How to Write Your Eval Part 2.”  When we last spoke, you had completed filling out the brag sheet (with lies) and were about to transfer that information (lies) to the official evaluation form using the NAVFIT 98 computer program.

The first thing you are going to have to do is open the NAVFIT 98 program.  It’s called NAVFIT because it’s a Navy program for creating fitness reports.  It’s called 98 because it was created in 1998.  Yes, 1998!  To put that in context, I joined the Navy in 1999 and retired last year.  And yet NAVFIT 98 is going strong, despite the pleading from a vast majority of sailors for it to submit its retirement papers.

So anyway, now that you have opened up NAVFIT 98 next you need… What do you mean you can’t open it?  Just click on the icon on the desktop.  There’s no icon?  Well just use the start menu to search for it.  Still not there huh?  Well this happens sometimes.

Sometimes the program is not loaded on all computers at your command.  Don’t worry, if you keep searching, eventually you will find a computer with a functioning NAVFIT 98 program on it.  It’s normally the computer with a long line of people waiting to use it.

Now that you have spent the better part of your day waiting to use the computer (rather than what the taxpayers are paying you for) it’s time to get started writing your eval.  Where it says “name” you write your name.  Continue to fill out the heading blocks using common sense.  Ha ha!  Just kidding.  You are going to need help here.  What you need is to grab a copy of the Navy Performance Eval System Instruction (BUPERSINST 1610.10E) and leisurely peruse its 199 pages.  Then it’s time to hop back in line to use the eval computer.

Once you have filled out the upper portion of the eval you will rate your performance on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0 in various fields related to your work.  Here it is tricky.  1.0 in any field means you are a degenerate and 5.0 basically means you have super powers.  You are going to fall somewhere in the middle.  In all honesty, any sailor who is not a dirtbag basically ranks 3.0 in all fields.  This is because 3.0 is defined as “meeting standards.”  It means you do your job as expected all the time.  As a result, in practice, only the absolutely worst sailors are ranked as a 3.0.  If you accidentally shot you supervisor while on watch, you would be ranked as a 3.0 in “Military Bearing.”

Having finished lying about your ranking, you will move on to lie about a recommended future assignment.  Here you have the opportunity to list two possible recommendations.  Just put any two you want.  It makes no difference whether or not you are qualified (or will ever be qualified) for these assignments, nobody is going to read it anyway.  You could put down any of the following, LCPO, instructor, MCPON, Fleet Admiral, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Batman, etc.  It makes no difference, the importance is to have a dream.

Now comes the part you have been waiting for.  Ha ha, no you aren’t done yet.   You are just getting started.  Now it’s time to write your eval.  Now it’s time to fill up the comments block.  If you didn’t do well in English class you are going to hate this.  On the other hand, if you did well in English class you are really going to hate this, because eval comments are not written based on any agreed-upon rules of the English language.

The comments block is written in “bullet format.”  This is a disjointed list of three to four outlandish claims followed by dubious justification.  These bullets are always preceded by an unrealistic adjective, for example, “outstanding,” “superb,” “excellent,” “great,” and if you’re feeling ambitious, “magnanimous.”   This list normally follows this order:  leadership, whatever it is you do, collateral duties, and community involvement.

In practice it might look like this:

-OUTSTANDING LEADER

-SUPERB TECHNICIAN

-EXCELLENT COMMAND INVOLVEMENT

-FANTABULOUS VOLUNTEERER

After each bullet you should add a couple unverifiable fragmented sentences that justify the preceding bullet.  You get this information from your brag sheet (remember your brag sheet?).  Once you’re done with that it’s time to print your eval out.

One of two things will happen.  Either you will forget to save your work and print out a blank eval, or you will realize the printed evaluation has, inexplicably, truncated your report.  Either way, you are on your way back to wait in line again at the eval computer to start the experience again.  Good luck, you are going to do great!

 

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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Why Do I Have to Write my Own Evaluation? Because…

Eval again

Greetings loyal readers.  It’s that time again.  Time for one of you, the people to ask me, the voice of wisdom (you poor souls) a question and have it answered in a legally questionable way.  Today’s question comes from  Angelina Jolie (which, I suspect, may not be her real name) who writes: Hey Jack or Rob or whatever you’re calling yourself these days, my LPO just tasked me to write my eval.  Isn’t that his job?  How do I go about writing an eval anyway?

What a great question.  Writing a performance evaluation is one of the most important and most difficult tasks you will do in your naval career.  The Navy uses your periodic evaluation when selecting you for competitive orders, to assign points for the advancement exam, and, when you get more senior in rate, at the selection boards.  Additionally, after your military service is complete, the civilian world also uses it to see who is dumb enough to submit their eval as part of their resume.

Let’s answer your first question first.  Isn’t it your LPO’s job to write your evaluation?  No.  It’s your job.  I know it seems logical that your leading petty officer would write an evaluation on your performance, since as your boss, it is kind of his job.  In fact, this is not the case.  Your LPO has no idea what you do most of the time.  Sure, he knows what he told you to do at quarters in the morning.  But he has no idea all the hell you had to go through to accomplish those tasks.

For example, imagine your LPO has tasked you to run an aloft chit.  So you went down to CSMC and found out that they didn’t have any of your personnel’s aloft qualifications.  So you had to go to your workspace computer to log on to RADM to print out your quals.  But the computer was being used by the RPPO to order supplies (for which there was no funding and were not even authorized aboard ship).  So you went down to the engineering log room and paid (yes, you actually paid with your actual money) to use one of the 3 (completely free) engineering department computers.  But while you were still logging on to the network the Top Snipe dragged in the engineers to yell at them because they screwed up clearing the danger tags on the engines and told you to get the *@%# out of the log room.  So you went to the boatswain locker and convinced the BM2 who was watching YOUTUBE videos, to let you use the computer.  But then you realized that you were still logged into the computer in the log room and the network wouldn’t let you log onto another computer.  So you went back down to the log room to log off the computer and the Top Snipe took a break from yelling at the engineers to yell at you for your failure to follow simple instructions.  Then, when you finally got logged onto the network you found out that RADM was down for maintenance.  So you went down to Radio and had convince the ITs to bring RADM back online.  After you finally printed out all your aloft quals and delivered them to CSMC you found out that they were not authorizing any aloft activities today because the engineers are lighting off engines (which turns out to be the reason the Top Snipe was yelling at the engineers).

Your LPO doesn’t know any of this stuff.  Your LPO has a half dozen collateral duties to worry about and when it comes to your job is mostly concerned with you getting it done and keeping the chief off his back.

Another reason you need to write you own eval is for practice for when you are an LPO.  Eventually when you are running a division you are going to have to make your sailors write their own evaluations and need to know what you’re doing.

On to your second question.  How do you write your eval?  I’ll tell you as soon as I figure it out.  No, just kidding.  Before you write an evaluation you need to fill out a brag sheet, which is a form (but not a standardized form… there are thousands out there) that no one will ever look at.  A brag sheet is just what it sounds like, a piece of paper where you brag about everything you have accomplished (both real and, more often, imaginary) over the past year.

“What,” you may ask, “do I do if I don’t have any accomplishments to write down?”  What a great question!  I’m glad I pretended you asked it.  If you didn’t do anything worthwhile this year you have a few options.

First thing to do is to take credit for your subordinates accomplishments.  Anything one of your sailors did can be attributed to a result of your leadership.  You might feel uncomfortable about taking credit for someone else’s work but remember that time you got chewed out when your entire division was hung over and the ship was getting underway in an hour?  Well it works both ways.

Second thing is to take credit for anything the ship or command did.  This should be stated in such a way that even the most pedestrian task was intrinsic to the command accomplishing its mission.  Even if the only thing you did was to refill the vending machines once a week (despite the requirement to restock daily) it was integral to the nutrition and morale of hundreds of war fighters launching missiles against a hostile force.

The third thing to do is lie.  Just boldly make up anything you want.  Think about it, would your LPO be having you write your eval if he knew what you did anyway?  That said, lying is a tricky thing.  There are facts in play that you don’t want to contradict.  For example you wouldn’t want to claim that you sacrificed your life for your shipmates.  The chain of command would probably follow up on that.  Likewise you wouldn’t want to claim that you received the Medal of Honor.  People would want to see the medal, and you can’t just pick that up at the uniform shop.

I know you may have some moral qualms about blatantly lying on an official document, but here’s the truth about the eval system.  Everyone lies on evals.  I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s a fact.  If you were to just tell the truth, that you show up on time every day in a clean uniform and work a full day keeping up on qualifications without complaining within earshot of your chief, the chain of command would assume that you’re a dirtbag.  To be taken seriously, you are going to have to exaggerate enormously.

What to do if you are caught in a lie.  Deny it.  No matter what is said, stand your ground.  You want to emulate Shaggy in the song “It wasn’t me” where the singer is caught, and even filmed, red handed, by his girlfriend, in numerous acts of infidelity.  His friend’s advice is to deny it saying, “it wasn’t me” repeatedly.  The song was number one on the charts so there must be something to it.

Once you’re done with your brag sheet it’s time to write your eval.  All you have to do is transfer the best information from your brag sheet to the evaluation form using the NAVFIT98a program and cry yourself to sleep when the program crashes.

 

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link and I guarantee an answer… eventually.

Here’s were I beg for hits: Check back often.  Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  Did you catch that SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  SHARE this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Parler or whatever has just popped up out there.  Especially those of you with lots of followers and friends.  C’mon, hook me up.

Follow me on Twitter: @rob_hoops

“I Love DTS” and Other Things a Sailor Never Says

 

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It’s that time again.  It’s that time where I, your helpful, retired Sailor, answer your questions thoughtfully with sensitivity, though not necessarily with accuracy.

Today’s question comes from Gary in Jacksonville, Florida.  He asks:  I’m heading up to Brunswick, Maine for training and they told me to take care of it using DTS.  I have never used DTS and have no idea what I’m doing.  Can you help me?

There are times in life where you just know that you can make a difference.  That the stars aligned to put you in the right place at a time crucial time to solve a problem that only you can solve.  That your particular experience and expertise has prepared you to intervene in a particular situation.  This is not one of those times.

I’m sorry, Gary, but I can’t help you.  I really wish I could, but despite numerous travels and TAD assignments, I have never figured out DTS.  While I am sorry that I can’t help you, I can tell you that I am in good company.  There are literally millions of people who can’t help you.  In the entire Department of Defense there are a total of 10 people who understand DTS, and only five of them can actually use it.

I have actually met one them, although she made me promise not to reveal her name or her location in exchange for her assistance.  It was amazing to watch her work.  It was like meeting a superhero, or a unicorn, or a unicorn who was a superhero.

For those of you fortunate enough not to know what I’m talking about, DTS stands for Defense Travel System.   It’s an online system used to coordinate official travel.  You can create itineraries, purchase airline tickets, reserve lodging, draft orders, compare costs, and file for reimbursement.  When I say “you can” I’m obviously not talking about you.  Or even me.  I simply mean that, in theory, this system is designed to accomplish this.

DTS
The last thing a Sailor sees before losing all hope.

There are a few acronyms that simply strike fear in to the very soul of a United States Sailor.  INSURV is one of them.  So is  I.G.  But the worst is DTS.  Hands down I would rather show up naked, to a spot check with the CO… without hazmat, than deal with DTS.  First of all the spot check would be over faster.  A lot faster.  On the other hand you will be dealing with DTS until you die of old age.

Fortunately with only a little diligence and motivation you can figure out DTS.  I’m only kidding.  It take a lot more than a little diligence and motivation.  It takes a LOT of diligence and a LOT of motivation and divine intervention.

Fortunately, again, DTS has provided training guides to assist you.  Yes, you read that right, guides, as in more than one.  As in five.  There are five guides to help you figure out how to use DTS.  You just know it’s good program when they write five guides to help you use the program.  Compare that to civilian travel systems like Travelocity, which provide absolutely no training guides to help travelers use the program.  Using basic math this means DTS is five times easier to use than Travelocity.

This is just another time that math has lied to you (another time was when it told you that there was a thing called imaginary numbers).  DTS is not 5 times easier than anything.  It is not even easier that building a nuclear bomb.  If you make a mistake making a nuclear bomb your problems are over.  Whereas if you make a mistake using DTS your problems will never be over.  Years later you will be dealing with the government trying to recoup money that it never actually overpaid you.

So here’s where I offer you a simple solution to your problem.  Just don’t go to Brunswick, Maine.  It’s really cold (yes, even in the summer) and there’s nothing to do anyway.  It’s a whole lot easier to go to the brig for refusing to obey an order than to try to figure out DTS (in fact, someone else will do all the paperwork for you).  I’m glad I could help out.

 

If you have a question you’d like to ask just click this link and I guarantee an answer.  I can also guarantee the answer’s accuracy (it won’t be).

Follow me on Twitter: @rob_hoops

Thanks for reading.  Check back often.  Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  Did you catch that SUBSCRIBE and SHARE.  SHARE this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Parler or whatever has just popped up out there.  Especially those of you with lots of followers and friends.  C’mon, hook me up.

 

“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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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.

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.

Don’t forget to share this post to all your social media venues.  Remember that thing I said about wanting to eat after I retire?  Maybe we can find some way to make money off this site.
* 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? 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.

 

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

Naval_Station_Norfolk
Aerial view of Naval Station Norfolk, a favorite choice for duty. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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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