Coronavirus, Impeachment, World War III… 2020 is Already Nuts

We’ve had quite the year so far. In January we looked with hope to an exciting new decade. We finally made it to the twenties, a brand new decade ahead of us with amazing possibilities. Then, while we were still nursing New Year’s hangovers, World War III was imminent.

On January 3, the U.S. military conducted a strike killing an Iranian general virtually no American had ever heard of (and virtually no decent person would mourn). Reactions to the strike were mixed, with Republicans pointing out that General Soleimani (whose name they were still learning how to spell) was a terrorist and murderer who deserved to die for his crimes and that they had always held this opinion, dating all the way back to yesterday. Democrats, on the other hand, objected that if the president was going to kill a terrorist the least he could have done was invite them to the after-party. Iran vowed immediate retaliation, but shortly after got distracted by problems with their aviation administration.

So World War III turned out to be less climactic than originally expected, with the only repercussion being that Millennials were able to claim the title of the “New Greatest Generation” for winning World War III. Since we were able to wrap up the global conflict in record time, the nation was able to move on quickly to the next apocalyptic event by impeaching the president of the United States.

The whole impeachment stuff started last year, but the actual trial in the Senate took place February 2020. For only the third time in the short history of this nation a sitting president was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

Whether or not you believe the president was guilty depends on which news network you prefer. If you watch Fox News, then Trump’s biggest crime is that he is not publicly executing Democratic members of Congress. On the other hand if you watch CNN, then you know the president is selling children into slavery and performing live human sacrifice on an altar built in front of the White House. If you watch MSNBC, it is likely that you are unable to read this sentence.

So going into the impeachment hearings, Donald Trump was either the savior of all mankind, or the manifestation of the Anti-Christ. How was the average American to react to this conflicting news? Mostly with Baby Yoda memes. That was pretty much it. The general public was not all that interested in the impeachment hearings. The general public had just won World War III, this was no time to worry about the whatever was going on in Washington. On the other hand the news networks were interested in it on a religious level.

Regardless if you love Trump, hate Trump, or were trying to figure out if it was worth it to keep Disney Plus after season one of The Mandalorian, the president was found not-guilty of… something, I’m not really sure what. I kept Disney Plus.

With all that behind us it was time for a visit from the next horseman of the apocalypse, with the Coronavirus. At some point in February people started talking a lot about China and something called the Coronavirus. Like 95% of the country, I wasn’t really paying attention. I mean, I didn’t even drink Corona.

But it turned out that the Coronavirus is a major new disease that will kill the whole world in a matter of weeks. Or maybe not, it’s really tough to figure out how bad this thing is. On the one hand a lot of people have died from it and even more people have contracted it, but it’s being described as pretty much the same thing as the Flu, but it is definitely not the same as the Flu.

It’s times like this that I realize just how privileged I am to live in this country. A country where, in times of crisis, we can turn to our elected officials to reassure us that they will work with the best minds to find a solution to the problem. From our elected officials I have learned several very important facts:

1. Donald Trump is directly responsible for the existence of the Coronavirus. Although not explicitly stated, he may have actually funded the creation of the virus or maybe even developed it himself in the Oval Office.

2. Donald Trump is the only reason the entire population of the country is not already dead and has personally created a cure for the Coronavirus, but Democratic members of Congress are responsible for not being able to deploy it.

3. Congress is not going to let this important issue become politicized.

So I have no idea what’s going on. The news is telling me to worry about it, but also not to worry too much. It’s a really big deal, except that it is not really a big deal. As a result I defaulted to the same way I dealt with Y2K (kids ask your parents about this one), Swine Flu, Bird Flu, the Beltway Sniper, the Mayan calendar, and every other doomsday I’ve had to live through. My plan is, pretty much, to just hope for the best. I mean if the world ends, there’s not much I can do about it… and at least I don’t have to worry about finding a new job.

Then I was confronted with the truth of the virus. There I was, ignoring all the panic (but still not drinking Corona, just to be on the safe side), when I had to run to Walmart for some milk and toilet paper. Milk was no problem, but I couldn’t find toilet paper. At first I thought that I just couldn’t figure out where they kept it, so I kept looking. Eventually I asked an employee and he looked at me like I had just asked to buy heroin (not quite, he probably could have found heroin).

Not only was Walmart out of toilet paper, so was Target, Publix, Piggly Wiggly, and every other store I tried. Apparently the shortage is a result of the Coronavirus. I can’t figure this one out though. Does toilet paper cure the virus? Does the virus have (shall we say) symptoms that result in the need for 500 rolls of toilet paper? Did everyone in the toilet paper industry already get the virus, causing the shortage?

I wish I had known this was coming. I could have made a little bit of money dealing: “Whachu want, man? I got Charmin, Angel Soft, Cottenelle… I got one ply, two ply, ultra-soft, ultra-strong… The first roll is free.” Think about the possibilities. Oh well, maybe next apocalypse.

I guess my real worry with this whole thing is, what if this does turn out to be a worldwide apocalypse and I don’t die from it? What if I end up as the sole survivor? Like Will Smith in I Am Legend. Sure, it would be fun drive through town in a stolen Lamborghini and live in mansions by myself. Maybe shoot some mutants. But eventually the electricity would stop working and the food would go bad and I would have to default to my survival skills, of which I have none.

So this is 2020, and it’s only March. Things could still get a lot worse before 2021. It’s an election year, so it probably will. Someone really needs to figure this thing out. I would love to help, but I’m looking for toilet paper.

 

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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.

 

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Retirement Speech: My shipmates’ last opportunity to listen to me ramble

THANK YOU NOTE: I would like to thank all my readers who have shared links to my blog. I would especially like to thank the blog: Tales of an Asia Sailor for reposting my last article. If you haven’t been there, go check it out. It’s a great site with some great stories. Additionally if you enjoy anything you read on my site please share it… even if you don’t like it you can still share it, I have no problem with that.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Several months ago I retired from active duty. The speech I gave at the ceremony was well received and there have been numerous requests for me to post a copy. I was initially hesitant to do so. There’s a part of me that thinks a speech is one of those “one and done” kind of things. However after reflecting on it a bit I realized that if I posted it, I wouldn’t have to write something new this week, and thus I was convinced. Here you go, “A Sailor’s Last Speech”:

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In my experience, it’s only a real Naval Ceremony if there’s at least one significant screw up. So don’t worry about making mistakes. It would be a shame to ruin a tradition.

According to Jerry Seinfeld, public speaking is the number one fear of the average person, death is the second. This means that if you are at a funeral you would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. (This is the first of many lines I will steal or plagiarize during this speech).

This is true for me. I am not a fan of public speaking. As a result you will most likely reap the benefits of a short speech.

A disclaimer is due here. I am, as I am often reminded, the oldest member of this crew. As such I have a very dated sense of humor filled with 80’s and 90’s references. Some of my millennial shipmates might not get all my jokes. So if you hear something that sounds like it might be a joke, just go ahead and laugh. It will make me feel better, and make those of us Gen Xers feel slightly less old.

Well let’s start this off with the obligatory long list of “Thank Yous” during which I will inevitably forget to mention someone, and will then hold a grudge for the rest of our lives.

I must first give thanks to Almighty God, for the many gifts He has given me: my health, family, and this great nation… Nothing happens without permission of divine providence and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our nation in the United States Navy. It is only with His blessing that I have been able to have a successful career.

To my beautiful wife Allana; thank you for saying yes to a proposal that not only would have you putting up with someone as insufferable as myself, but also would drag you across the county several times where your husband would spend well over half the time on the ship. Thank you for joining me on this crazy adventure. With my retirement you have my word that I will devote every ounce of effort to come up with believable excuses for why I’m still not helping out at home.

To my 3 (almost 4) children. Thank you for being my anchor to adulthood. They say you never really grow up until you have kids of your own to worry about. After a 38 year childhood I have finally grown up thanks to you. I even have almost as many tools as video games now. I never knew heartache at getting underway until you came into my life. After 43 years on this planet you are my greatest success. My duty days are done now and I will devote more time to ensuring that success… even if it kills us.

To my parents. Thank you for being the best parents I could hope for. God sure knew what he was doing. The only way this lazy, hard headed, stubborn, temperamental kid would ever amount to anything, was in the house led by your example. Your values, faith, devotion, motivation, and patriotism formed me into the man I am today (yes, that’s right, you have to accept some of the blame). Every success I have had is the result of following your example and, fittingly, every failure I owe to neglecting that same example. And, Mom, I’d like to point out that I followed your advice for my entire career and never fell off the ship.

To my sisters Katie and Mary. I know we spent years fighting as we moved around the country following Dad’s Naval career. But I guess that’s one of the things that leads to a strong family. You’ve been there every step of the way. My boot camp graduation, my pinning as a Chief Petty Officer. Thank you for being here. Katie, when you were initiated as a Chief, I guess you became my double sister. Just remember, that as I retire today, I still outrank you… for now. I’m sure soon enough you’ll surpass me.

To CDR Kevin Barnes. Thank you for making the trip out here and agreeing to lie by saying nice things about me. Who would have thought that young uptight ensign and this obnoxious 3rd class back on the OSCAR AUSTIN would be wearing scrambled eggs and anchors today?

To Father Mahowald. Thank you for your prayers here today and your vocation. You and your brother priests are an inspiration to be emulated to all the faithful. We owe you a great debt for answering the Lords call of service. While it’s possible that my service may have saved some lives. It is certain that yours has saved souls.

To Jade Kennard and Rob Landeros. Thank you for helping me coordinate this event. It has far surpassed my expectations. You have had to had to do the impossible, put up with me and my random ideas.

Stu Hooper, thank you for agreeing to MC this event and as a result have to talk almost as much as me.

To all participants in this ceremony. Thank you for taking your valuable time to making my day. And thank you to our shipmates who are standing the watch and can’t be here with us.

Thank you to the Air det guys for moving all their gear in and out of the hangar several times to make space for us.

To our Command Master Chief Pat McCormick. I have been a thorn in your side since you got here. But hey, that’s just my job: the devil’s advocate, the voice of dissent, the smart-aleck, and generally, just a pain the neck. You have been a great mentor… which is even more impressive since I am not really a cooperative protégé. When I had started to lose faith you smacked me upside the head as a true Chief would and told me to quit whining and anchor up. I’m not sure if I ever truly stopped whining but I did try. Thank you. You are a true brother, and I am proud to have served with you.

To all my brothers and sisters in the Chiefs’ Mess. Thank you for all you do and will continue to do long after I have left this stage. Blood is thicker than water, but not many bonds are stronger than the bond forged in the US Navy Chiefs’ Mess. The greatest fraternity I never knew I wanted to be a part of. Here’s a little secret: as a young… younger Sailor I never liked Chiefs. Those arrogant old goats who thought they knew better just because they wore those anchors. Sure I wanted to make Chief, but I didn’t want to be one of them. Then I was selected for Chief. I didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid. I chugged the whole pitcher. I am a true believer. There is no organization I would rather be accepted in than the United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Mess. Y’all have had my back since day one. You have trusted me and always kept me straight; sometimes with advice, sometimes with a kick in the pants. Thank you.

To our Captain. Thank you for granting permission for this ceremony today. It’s a extremely busy week for the OMAHA and I know this cuts into the ship’s schedule. Thank you for being here today sir, and for your kind words. We’ve only served together for a short time, but it’s been an honor.

To my fellow Quartermasters. Only a QM can understand another QM. Life lived on the bridge among the officers but firmly entrenched in the enlisted ranks. At sea everyone seems to want to talk to us, so they can find out where the ship is (as if that location would make the slightest difference in their daily existence… “do you have a date or something?”) On the other hand in port, no one seems to care about us (which is ok since we like to leave at before lunch.) Thank you for all the support you have given me over the years, especially helping this old man figure out how to use VMS… I’ve almost got it figured out. It’s long been said “trust your keel to those who wear the wheel.” I’m proud to have served among you. Keep those ships off the rocks!

To the crew of the USS Jackson / USS Omaha. Thank you for an outstanding tour of duty to close out my career. There are so many of you that I have gotten to know but I just don’t have time to mention you all by name. I will miss this crew most of all.
And finally to everyone else I’m forgetting, the old shipmates, friends and family that have been with me along the way. Don’t feel slighted. I’ve got to wrap this “thank you” thing up or we’ll never get to have any cake. Thank you all for everything.

Well that just about does it for the thank yous. I’m sure I left someone out and I apologize for that.

There comes a point in every Sailor’s career when he knows it’s time to retire. This is different for every Sailor. For example, the average Warrant Officer experiences it just as his coffin is being lowered into the ground. For me it was about 15 minutes after I got off the bus at boot camp. Fortunately the Navy doesn’t have a 15 minute retirement policy, otherwise I would have missed out on the most amazing years of my life.

Most of you know that I am a Navy brat. My father was career Navy as was his father. I grew up traveling around the country from one duty station to the next. If you had asked me what I wanted to do with my life my answer was always “I’m going to join the Navy.” What I planned do in the Navy was never the same. During the 80’s I was going to fly F-14s like Maverick (who is apparently and inexplicably still in the Navy himself). Later I decided I was going to be a SEAL.

Well you know the old saying “if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.” It seems that my calling was in the Surface Navy. The real Navy. The only part without some sort of adjective. The toughest group of Sailors in the Navy. Sure people will claim that Pilots, SEALs, EOD, or Submariners (that’s for you IT1) are tougher, but just send one of those SEALs to serve 5 years on a destroyer…

SEALs have an unlimited budget. Our budget is very limited. SEALs have a saying: “The only easy day was yesterday.” Huh, how about that? SEALs have easy days. In the surface fleet, yesterday was hard too.

Air dales, those guys can’t do anything without 8 hours of sleep. My last deployment that was how much I got weekly.

EOD… sure their job is dangerous, but if they screw it up just once they don’t have to worry about anything again.

And of course, those sub guys… yeah we’re not gonna go there… It’s too easy.

When the United States Navy was founded on October 13, 1775 there wasn’t any of that. John Paul Jones, David Farragut, George Dewey, Daniel Stevens, Osmund Ingram, Peter Tomich, Dorie Miller… Surface Sailors built naval history and tradition. The Surface Navy is the real navy, I’m proud to have been part of it.

Even so, my Naval career had a particularly rocky start. You see, it turns out the Navy is a whole lot more glamourous from the outside than it is on the inside. Even as a Navy brat, all you really see is the sharp uniforms and ships. You don’t see the PMS checks. Painting the ship. Working parties (which is one of the least fun parties I’ve attended). The duty days, the underway watch rotations, the deployments that remind you of the movie Groundhog Day where the same day is replayed forever.

We have a saying: “A bitching Sailor is a happy Sailor,” and during my first enlistment, according to this definition, I was a very happy Sailor. So happy, in fact, that still today I run into people I served with on my first ship and they are very surprised that I stayed in. But I survived my first hitch and I discovered that I actually wasn’t too bad at this Navy thing. About the same time Al-Qaeda decided to fly a few planes into some of our buildings.

As the country was thrown into the war on terror I was finishing up my first enlistment just before the maiden deployment the OSCAR AUSTIN. Well there was no way I was gonna miss out on the war especially since we would probably be going after the people who devised the attack on our country.

So I reenlisted. The OSCAR AUSTIN deployed. We escorted dozens of military cargo ships through the Strait of Gibraltar, captured an Iraqi tug boat, launched 33 Tomahawk missiles into Iraq (you should have seen those Tomahawk FCs strutting around…) and I spent 2 months on liberty risk (but that’s a story for another day… well maybe if you meet me at the bar tonight…).

I spent 5 years on the OSCAR AUSTIN. I started out as the disgruntled Sailor who couldn’t wait to get out but when I left to go to shore duty I was thinking, maybe, just maybe there’s something to this Navy thing…. I mean, my father did it. My grandfather did it… Might as well keep the tradition going.

A lot of Sailors live their first enlistments to just get shore duty, but when you get there you’re in for a surprise. Shore duty is boring. The comradery, the sense of purpose, the urgency are all gone. I had gone from a 2nd class divisional LPO where the Captain regularly asked my opinion, to a 1st class with virtually no responsibility. I probably should have taken more college courses but instead I counted down the days until it got back to the fleet.

My next sea duty assignment was PC Crew ECHO. PCs are the smallest commissioned warships in the U.S. Navy. Only 179 feet long with only a 28 man crew. I like to think of the PCs as the pirate navy. Where regulations were more guidelines than actual rules. We were commissioned naval warships but our adherence to naval regulations was a bit loose. Here’s a story for you:

So there I was standing OOD (inport) on the bridge of the USS TEMPEST (PC-2) (inport watch on a PC is in the bridge… it’s a really small ship). The Captain came on the bridge and sat in his chair. (Just so you understand, the bridge on a PC is about the size of a walk-in closet.) The standard greetings commenced “Good afternoon sir.” “Good afternoon QM1.” On the aft bulkhead the 21MC sounded off, “Bridge, Main. Start #1 MPDE.” I turned to the Captain and requested permission to start #1 Main Engine. He granted it and I went to verify that the bridge was station in control and that the throttles were in neutral. I went back to the 21MC and replied, “Starting #1 MPDE, throttles are in neutral, bridge is station in control.” I walked over to the starboard side of the bridge (right in front of where the Captain was sitting) and pushed the green start button, the engine roared to life. I went back to the 21MC and reported “#1 MPDE started.” Cheng repeated, “#1 MPDE started aye.

It was at this point I noticed that the captain was looking at me the same way my father would have looked at me if I’d showed up to meet the Pope in a pair of pair of board shorts. Incredulously the Captain asked (and I’m sure you engineers can guess where he was going with this), “QM1, what did you just do?” This strikes me as odd since he not only saw me start the engine, he granted permission not more than a minute ago.

It occurred to me that since he was relatively new to the ship he might not be aware that PCs start all the engines from the bridge and not in main control. So simply replied (as respectfully as you can imagine), “I started #1 MPDE sir.”

Still looking aghast he asked, “In accordance with…?”

“In accordance with the green button on the console.”

Now trying to control rage and frustration he said, “EOSS?”

“Bless you sir.”

Okay I didn’t actually say that. I actually knew what EOSS is. It’s a red notebook that says EOSS on it and has something to do with engineering things, but seeing as I was a Quartermaster I still had no idea why wanted to talk to me about it. But since this was obviously important to him I went to the front of the Ship Control Console and grabbed the EOSS book. It was covered in a thick layer of dust. And not just normal dust. It was that sticky kind of dust you find on the top of your refrigerator. This book had not been used recently. Definitely not in the past year. In fact it was possible that it hadn’t been used in the life of the ship. I opened it up went to the page about starting engines where is said “Push the green button.” How about that ? I was EOSS compliant.

It was with ECHO that I was selected and initiated as a Chief Petty Officer. I won’t go into the details. My fellow Chiefs already know about it, and if you haven’t experienced it no explanation will do it justice. Let’s just say I didn’t die in the process.

I won’t bore you with all the other details of my career path. If you are curious feel free to read my bio in the program… it’s a good treatment for insomnia.

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If there is one thing I love to do is give unsolicited advice. So I’m going to give you a list of wisdom and aphorisms I have picked up, plagiarized, and in a few rare cases, actually come up with on my own along the way.

-There are only two great ships in the Navy: Your last one, and your next one.

-The BMR says the backbone of the ship the keel. But the actual backbone of the ship is her crew.

-Once a Chief, always a Chief… unless you are expelled from the Mess for the unforgivable crime of becoming an officer. But that’s ok, my father is an officer and look what he accomplished: he raised 2 Chiefs.

-Duty is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, and never wish to do less.

-There is only one test or inspection that really counts: Real Life.

-The definition of tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and have them look forward to the trip.

-The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

-Sailors belong on ships, ships belong at sea, land is a hazard to Navigation… but we all know we kinda want to be where we don’t belong.

-Never judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you judge them you’re a mile away and have their shoes.

-Place your family before your job. The Navy was here before you, and it will do just fine when you leave… your family will always be with you.

-Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer stupidity.

-The definition of a calculated risk is a gamble which military men take when they can’t figure out what else to do and which turns out to be right. When it turns out wrong, it wasn’t a calculated risk at all. It was a piece of utter stupidity.

-If you want something now really bad, you will get it now and it will be really bad.

-The reason the US Navy performs so well in war is that war is chaos, and the US Navy practices chaos on a regular basis.

-Nothing worthwhile is easy.

-Don’t be full of yourself. If your people will follow you anywhere, it’s probably out of curiosity.

-There is no such thing as a born leader. There are born jerks who like to be in charge, but that doesn’t make you a leader. Whether you are shy introvert, a head strong extrovert, at Type A, a Type B, or just a born jerk that likes to be in charge, being a leader means taking charge in spite of your personal characteristics. This is never easy. Being a leader is NEVER EASY. It is a constant fight against your selfish nature to focus on your people and the mission first.

This is the last day I will wear the uniform, so I will no longer wear the anchors I have worn for the past 8 years. Since I will no longer wear them, I need to pass them on to someone who will hopefully soon be able to give them new life. Since I am the only Quartermaster aboard I have looked to the ET/IT division as my surrogate division. They work up on the bridge (yeah, weird huh? That’s a first for me). And, while terribly understaffed, they work tirelessly and exceptionally to keep this ships networks and endless electronic gizmos functioning.

IT1 Dwyer: Front and Center. You may be a submariner at heart, and I have no idea what all that computer stuff you talk about means, but you’ve got drive and heart that motivates me. I hope to see you in Khakis soon, and maybe, just maybe these anchors have a little luck left in them.

But you know, I wear the same kind of anchors on my whites, so I guess I have to pass on that set too.

ET1 Thao: Front and Center. You are never without a smile and positive attitude even when you are stringing together an impressive outburst of profanity at the frustrations that come with being an electronics technician aboard an LCS. I’ve enjoyed our many conversations on the smoke deck. I hope these anchors can bring some luck your way.

Finally I’d like to close with a quote from one of greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, in one of his most famous speeches: “Be excellent to each other, and… party on dudes!”

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Supplies, anyone?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is not actually a new piece. I wrote this several years ago. I later modified and shortened it for publication in the Navy Times. I always liked the longer version better and since it’s easier than writing something new, it is being republished for your re-enjoyment:

If you want to see grown man cry, make him deal with the supply department. Just sending him down to pick up cleaning supplies is enough to do it, but if you want to really make him suffer you need to make him the RPPO. For those of you fortunate enough not to know, the RPPO stands for Repair Parts Petty Officer and pretty much means the poor sap in your division who is assigned to deal with the supply department: a fate worse than death. RPPO is technically a collateral duty which is Navy speak for: a job you do in your spare time (ha!) which takes up far more time than your actual job.

The funny thing is, if you think about it, the job doesn’t sound that hard, does it? The RPPO sounds like a guy who checks the spaces and sees what the division needs, makes a list, and if he’s really feeling motivated, he lists it in order of necessity, then drops it on the desk of which ever LS is on duty down in supply support. Yeah it might be a hassle putting the list together but it’s not like the Navy expects BM3 Timmy to be able to navigate the Naval supply network right? That’s why we have Logistic Specialists right? Right??

Of course not. The Job of logistic specialists is to… well to be honest it’s far too complex to get into here. Just trust me when I tell you that the supply department has far too many important things to do to be fooling around ordering supplies. They stand low visibility watch when there is fog and they do a lot of other stuff too, but what they do not do is order supplies (although it turns out that they are willing to cancel any order that is submitted by anyone who can figure out how.)

Herein lies the problem. I still need the supplies, but I have no earthly way of getting them utilizing the system the Navy has established to get supplies. I have only two alternatives: 1. buy them myself with my own money, or 2. steal them from someone else. Now we all know stealing is wrong (even if you are only stealing from another ship and calling it re-appropriation) so in that case we will address alternative #1.

I have been in the Navy for a long time and have become accustomed to shelling out my own money in order to purchase equipment that I needed. By the way I mean little things like notebooks and paint. It’s not like I’m going to buy a CIWS (Close In Weapons System) for my ship, even if we needed it to pass INSURV… well maybe to pass INSURV.

I have always found it sadistically humorous when I hear the higher-ups make statements like, “U.S. Navy Sailors should not be buying things out of pocket.” While I agree with this sentiment in principle, in practice, I have to admit I value my liberty more than the fifty bucks I need to spend on a couple buckets of paint that Suppo won’t give me without a requisition signed by the CNO. I mean I love 5 section duty and 12 hour “half days” as much as the next guy, but sometimes I would rather spend 5 minutes at Home Depot and go home than searching for hours on OMMS-NG or DLA for the correct NSN that matches a part with no picture or reliable description. I can make more money (not much more… I do work for the government) but I only have a set number of days on this earth and I’m not wasting any of it dealing with supply.

A few years back the Navy Times had a piece in it where they described how Sailors were buying their own tools and equipment for their ships (this is like reading an article in National Geographic about how the ocean is wet) and the Admirals were in “shock.” I remember thinking to myself, “Where have these guys been this whole time? Under a rock? Under a rock at the bottom of the ocean? Under a rock at the bottom of the ocean with their eyes shut and their fingers in their ears going ‘la, la, la, I can’t hear you’?” If you are not shelling out money for tools and the ships are passing inspections where do you think it’s coming from: the tool fairy placing crimpers under the pillows of mid-watch standers?

Plus it really doesn’t matter how much time I spend trying to order the stuff. Unless I’m an engineer and I think that my ability to express myself coherently proves I am not (ha-ha-ha I’m just joshing you engineers a little- please don’t kill me with that wrench) and the part I need involves the MRG (Main Refreshing Gage maybe?… should have paid more attention during ESWS training) I won’t get it until the end of time anyway.

Why? Because we have no money… Or rather all the money we have is used to purchase printer paper and ink so we can print out copies of the Navy’s new instructions on paper reduction. So we’re in a bit of a financial crunch and I think I have found the solution.

Have you ever watched a NASCAR race? It’s kind of like a sport, but instead of involving athletes engaged in acts of athleticism with a ball or something and running, they sit in cars for 5 hours and crash into each other at high speed, just like a Los Angeles commuter. Every week they demolish their cars in fantastic wrecks and the next week they have brand new car again! How do they afford to do that? NASCAR has corporate sponsors. A lot of them, in fact. Literally everything in one of those races is an advertisement (on top of that they have commercials too).

The Navy needs that. Just imagine, ships painted red with the Coca Cola logo on the side or blue ship endorsed by Miller Lite. The Marines could get in on too with their tanks and trucks or whatever they have sponsored by Home Depot or Starbucks.

Just think of the funding we would receive. Do you think Coca Cola wants the ship with their logo having rust anywhere on it. You would just call up Coke and ask for some red paint and it would be there before the day is out. No dealing with DLA. The best ships in the fleet would get better sponsors too…third year with the Battle “E” and now you’re getting better funding and a better paid crew.

Now I know what you are thinking: how could this actually benefit the companies sponsoring us? Who would see these advertisements? The enemy? Sure, I bet they’d love a Coke too but since we are killing them, when would they get a chance to make a purchase? That’s a fair point. We’d probably have to televise our operations a bit more. Can you imagine the war coverage? It would be amazing:

“Well Bill the invasion is going pretty slow here, the Bud Light ship just launched a couple of the Good Year LCACs but I’m just not seeing the commitment.”

“Wait a second Earl… It looks like the Dunkin Donuts ship and Taco Bell ship just launched a couple dozen Snickers Tomahawk Missiles. Snickers, when you’re not going anywhere for a while. And, Earl, I don’t think those guys they’re shooting at will be going anywhere for a while either.”

“Heck no Bill. I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that attack. Those Snickers Tomahawks are carrying…”

“Whoa there Earl, that’s classified information. Let’s just say that they’re really powerful. Let’s go to Joe Mitchell with our pilot house coverage on the number 77 Lowes ship. Thanks for tuning in; this war is brought to you by Red Bull. Red Bull gives you wings.”

Wouldn’t that be great? I bet we could even bring Task Force Uniform in on it too. Instead of spending 5 years to design a ridiculous looking uniform that melts to your body and that you can’t wear on a ship (even though that’s technically where people in the Navy actually work) we could have a ridiculous looking fireproof jumpsuit provided by your ship’s sponsors and adorned with their logos. Just imagine the post deployment interviews on the pier.

Ship’s CO: “Well it was a great deployment. We had a lot of success; we weren’t happy at the beginning, what with all that controversy during the workups, but we really pulled it together and brought home a win. I’d just like to thank the Sailors, the families and Valvoline, Yoo-hoo, Sunoco, Hostess Cupcakes, Monster Energy Drink and Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, we really brought it home for you!”

I haven’t even got to the physical fitness benefits yet: if we approached it like a sport we could even count a deployment as command PT. I think Congress should really look into this.

I realize that I have been a little hard on the supply program in general and the logistic specialists in particular in this essay. So I’d like to say that if I have offended anyone, then, from the bottom of my heart, they can write their own essay. I have some other great ideas that I would love to share but I have to run. We get underway tomorrow and the hardware store closes in an hour.

Ask Jack? Is it ok to pretend to be a SEAL?

Greetings loyal readers, fans, and internet surfers who happened on this site by mistake. It’s been a long time since I posted, but I have a good excuse: I didn’t want to. No that’s not really true. The fact is I have been really busy lately.

My request to retire from active duty was recently approved and I have had all kinds of work to do to prepare, not the least of which is trying to figure out how to afford food when the Navy stops feeding me (anyone want to hire me?) So I guess I have kind of dropped the ball here. Don’t worry this whole retirement preparation has given me all kinds of material, which you will be hearing all about as soon as I get a chance.

In the meantime, I have had the chance to answer one question from one of my readers. Rory form Mayport writes:

Dear Jack,
I am working as an Food Service Attendant for the next two months in the scullery washing dishes but when I’m at the club I tell girls that I’m a Navy SEAL. Is this OK?

Wow, this is a new one. Before you pretend to be a Navy SEAL you have to ask yourself a few questions. Are you a good fighter? Are you fast runner? If not you might want to rethink your claims.

Here’s the deal, Rory, you are not a SEAL and there is no reason to tell someone you are… I don’t care how pretty she is. After all, not all SEALs will beat you to a pulp for pretending to be a one of them, but all of them can. And I guarantee that you are not picking up anyone after she sees a SEAL pummel you.

How would you feel if you were in a bar and some Navy SEALs came in bragging about how many dishes they washed during their last deployment? Like they know anything about washing dishes. Like they would know who to call when the garbage grinder clogs because you tried to grind a whole chicken. They probably have no idea how to set the proper temperature on the sanitizer (although to be honest, neither do you). You wouldn’t like that very much at all, would you?

Anyway there is no reason to lie to people about what you do in the Navy. Most civilians have no idea what we do and pretty much anything you tell them will sound cool. Well not washing dishes, I would just leave that part out.

For example, I know a guy who took some shrapnel to the face while engaging a target in Iraq. Sounds pretty impressive huh? He has a small scar under his eye where it melted through the skin. Now that is a story to tell in the bar.

The story gets less impressive when I explain where he was in Iraq and how he received his shrapnel wound. He was actually hit in the face with a shrapnel ricochet of a bullet from his own M-4 rifle. While he was shooting a refrigerator. Which was floating by our ship. While we operating in the Northern Persian Gulf about 10 miles off the coast of Iraq (so yes, it was technically in Iraqi territorial waters).

Seriously, this really happened. We were off the coast of Iraq conducting small arms exercises (which means we were shooting the water) when a refrigerator floated by. This was one of those old ones, like the one that protected Indiana Jones from a nuclear blast. We decided that it was a hazard to navigation and that we should try to sink it. So we did, try that is. We never actually succeeded. For all I know it’s still floating around up there.

So there you have it, one boneheaded decision and now he has an awesome war story to tell all his friends, as long as he leaves out about 80% of the story. You can do the same thing. Go and tell everyone how many you killed in the service (just don’t mention that all you killed are germs).

I’m sure you are wondering what I would do. Well I would, of course, opt for the whole truth. You can never go wrong there. Afterall, that’s how I captured Saddam Hussein.*

If you have a question that you would like to Ask Jack? and aren’t concerned that you will probably never receive an answer just click here.

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?”

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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