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.

 

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