My retirement from the military is coming soon. I have been studiously removing all mentions of god from everything that i can, no chaplain (been asked several times in that). I am only trying to keep it as military as possible without the relgious clap trap that is infused with EVERYTHING in our fucking culture.
Which brings me to my point of this blog. I am writting my speech and I have few things that I am writting about. I first off want to bring this speech when completed on tues to legal so they can make sure that i am not vioilating the UCMJ. I plan on talking about "Sailorization" (taking care of your sailors), and thats what alot of the stories are leading too in the end as so far, I am only about half way done writting it. And the last thing that I want to talk about is deconversion, for lack of a better word, to athiesm (I havent gotten there yet).
But I was also wondering about cursing in the speech. my retirement officer is the CO and my wife will be there and probably a few other women, but dosent that also play into the percieved negativity of swear words and the religiosity of that. only 100 years ago "Humbug" was the same as bullshit is today. Most people dont bat an eye at bullshit any more and you will probably get laughed at if you say humbug.
society is not polite and at best, my life is usually PG13, but how far do i play into mostly religious sociatial norms and still tell the truth of the incident and how things ACTUALLY happened in my lifes expierences.
(sorry for the lack of spell check)...
here is what i have so far...
How do you summarize 20 years? How do you talk about the things that happened? How do you break it down to have people understand what your life’s journey and career in the Navy has entailed, and what it has meant to you?
Something that I would like say on the outset, I have never liked the term “Lifer”, because the Navy has never been my life. I have always tried to have a life, no matter how small, outside the navy. I have preferred the term “Careerist”, because the Navy has been my carrier and not my life. I think that MOST people who made a career in the Navy will say the same thing, but there are a FEW people, who this is their life.
I have always had pieces of songs that mean much to me, and one of them from the band Genesis from the song “Home by the Sea” says, “Images of sorrow and pictures of delight, things that go to make up a life. Sit down, as we relive our lives in what we tell you.”
Growing up like I did in “modest” beginnings to say the least would be an understatement. I joined the Navy because I wanted do something with my life that most of the people I knew in High School would never do. Most would stay in the Chicago area for the rest of their life. I had considered the Army and Marines. But while shooting guns is cool, people shooting back really sucks. I decided that those branches were not really for me. I wanted honestly to go into the Air Force and took the test with them, but did not “DEP in” with them. They were waiting for me to get to senior year of high school before taking me back up to MEPS. I wanted either fire fighting or medical. I was disqualified for both because of my color blindness. I had a friend who was in DEP with the Navy and he took me to his recruiter. Mike Bolger, who coincidently was the great nephew of Ray Bolger, who played the Scare Crow in the Wizard of Oz. I went to MEPS that night and signed for Boiler Tech. He told me “I won’t lie to you.” But then, he didn’t really tell me the whole truth either. The story begins.
One of the big things that I wanted to do was learn some kind of trade and see the world. I must say that I have done both.
Boot Camp, I remember was kind of fun in a way. We lived in “Compartments” and we were called “Companies” and lived in Barrack’s that were “Divisions”. I was in Company 294, in the 13th Division. We were adjacent to the “Old Galley” and the “600” Drill Hall where I spent my Service Week because I was the Personal Flag Carrier for the Company. We also called our Company Commanders (CC’s), Sir. I still remember who mine were, SK1 (SW) Jackson and MM2 (SS) Thompson. I remember Jackson as tall, skinny and kind of nerd. Thompson was short, a little dumpy and had an 80’s porn mustache. He did tell some great Sea Stories and was funny, but would also drop you in a New York second for screw ups.
I also remember a few times at least when Thompson walked in screaming “ABANDON SHIP! PUSH THOSE FUCKING RACKS BACK AND CLOSE THE WINDOWS.” We then made it “Rain” inside. We knew we were not going to go anywhere until someone passed out on the deck. The walls “Sweated” by the time we were done.
I also remember the PT PO, myself and 2 or 3 other people on at least 2 “Ricky Sunday’s” sitting around in a circle polishing our Boon Dockers in a conversation about “What Ricky Recruit Couldn’t fuck up.”
In BT School, it was Boot Camp continued a bit. It was harder than Boot Camp in many ways. I also made sure that I had my bit of fun. Right around Halloween, I was on the smoke deck and this guy who I knew, had some blood capsules. I took one and walked upstairs with the capsule ready in my mouth. I walked in and was groaning like my stomach was really hurting me. My section leader was ironing out his blues and asked me if I was ok. I groaned again and he asked again more serious. I looked at him and and rolled the fake blood in my mouth before letting it ooze/run out of my mouth. His eyes got about as big as saucer plates and I then did a stage fall from my High School acting experience. The lounge had about 30 people in it and many of them were looking my way when I was asked a second time if I was “ok” and then let the blood capsule blood run out. There was silence in the room for a second or so before I heard the section leader say that we was going to get the Barracks Duty Officer and start to run out the room. By the time I had gotten to my knees he was already out the room. I got his attention back and saw my grin and said for me to “Mop that shit up!” while laughing at getting got on a good joke.
It was also about the same time that I was outside again on the smoke deck and there was a young man who was a few weeks behind me in school and he was from the south side. The south side of Olongapo City, Philippines. He was outside in pretty much everything that the Navy had given him and it was still 50 degrees outside. He asked if I was cold because I was outside in only PT gear. I asked him if he was hot wearing all of those clothes. He was a few weeks behind me in school and Great Lakes in the winter is not really fun if your not used to the cold and being that close to the lake.
Reporting to my first ship the Blakely it was out to sea when I went to Charleston, SC. I got to spend a few days in TPU doing stuff like painting street curbs and the like. I got word the ship was in. I went back to the barracks, changed into my dress blues (because that’s what I was told what you ALWAYS report in), and went to the ship. They were getting ready to get under way. “Reporting as Ordered” I said to the Petty Officer of the Watch. I have said those words 3 times. I don’t know how many other people say them?
They called someone up from the Boiler Room, threw my stuff in a top rack, that became my home for a few months and took me to the boiler room. I met my Chief who was working on the 300 to 150 PSI reducer. He asked if I was hot, I said it was ok. He said, “It’s fucking hot up here!” I must admit, it was hot! I found out later as the summer progressed and I was qualifying watches on how hot it would get. And sometimes that paper work is just an exercise. The first time I wrote something over than 99 degrees on a space temp, I got screamed at and told to re-write the log. Then told that because, they didn’t want to have to call medical to do stay times on the PHEL Chart. Ok, I see how this runs!
Last Friday after PT, I was talking with LSSN Lewis and he reminded me of a funny story. After I meet the Chief, we all kind of gathered in EOS and I was introduced to most of the division at this point. BT1, who made BTC that year, Casey asked me, “BTFR, What year were you born in?” “1971” Was my reply. I got hoots and hollers and “God damn!” This struck me as funny because there have been a few times and IT has happened, where there is now someone who I am shipmates with who was born when I was already in the Navy. So now I can say, “God damn!!”
Learning about the boilers I really enjoyed and did well at the mechanical side, but didn’t fit in well with the people in the division. To say my personality clashed would be an understatement. I was the face of the Newer Navy coming in who asked questions of everything, smart and fast thinking. That didn’t really sit well with the people who were of the opinion that Firemen Recruits should “Shut the Fuck up and do what they are told.” This was a direct quote from my LPO BT1 Lawson who gave the nickname “Rat”. I thought it was nice too and told him so, that also didn’t endear me to him much.
I was on the ship 3 days before they sent me Cranking to the mess decks. They actually sent me on my birthday. Some 20th birthday that was! It was my first time out to sea and I was sent cranking. I was 98 days there. This is where I meet my first ship board EN, working on the small boat, the Diesel Generator, and all the small stuff around the ship and coming in to look at the scullery. So between having to be on watch in an Engine room, looking at the same four walls for 6 hours at a time, you could be on a watch where you still work on mechanical stuff and its in different rooms around the ship. I decided this after I once did not see natural light for 2 weeks. This was still time in the Navy where you could smoke on the mess decks during non meal hours and I even smoked in the berthing and in my rack no less. I would sit up and had a pop can on the top the lockers next to me and just lit up. Between 6 hour watches and not needing to go topside at all, I decided to change rates when I found out the ship was soon to decommission.
At Engineman A School, I excelled. I was leading Fireman for my section despite only being a Fireman Apprentice at the time. I got my “Navy tattoo” when I was there. It was from some Old School Tattooist in Old School Navy Tattoo style. It cost me $200. An Eagle on a Cutlass with its wings up spread and a full rigged clipper in the middle, with clouds connecting the wings and rose on the clouds. I must say that even 18 years later, I still love my tattoo and glad that I got it.
At EN school, we got to pick orders and not like in BT school where they gave you orders. Picking as high as I did, I had pretty much any choice I wanted. I had wanted and picked a Special Boat Unit that at the time was in Sardinia. I was the first one in the class to pick overseas orders. My whole thought in picking those orders was “I’m in the Navy and I want to see goats fuck in a market place somewhere.” Not that I really wanted to see actually have sex, but I did want to see the world. And so far, I had only seen a few islands in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. My first time stepping off the boat outside of the continental United States was to take mess deck trash off the ship in Roosevelt Roads Puerto Rico.
About 2 weeks after picking orders, I got word that my orders had been changed to Naval and Diving Salvage School in Panama City Fl. The 4th day there I took a boat out with a BM1 for a Diver Bay Swim and I kissed a pier pylon with a boat and cracked the fiber glass. I spent the next 3 days doing fiber glass work. Within a year later, I did get my Coxswain letter and was good boat driver. Many times the department would send me on boat runs by myself as I was an engineer and could drive as well. By this time I was a Third Class. I qualified everything on the dive boats up to the position of Chief Engineer, because that position was the Leading Petty Officer Position. The Craft Master was the Division Officer. I must admit that while I was ready for the engineering position in that I knew the boat, I was not ready for the responsibility of Work Center Supervisor or Leading Petty Officer position at the time, but they could have let get the qualification but not assume the position as LPO or WCS.
I must admit that Panama City was the best Shore Duty that I had been on considering my age at the time. I was 21 and spring break was 9 weeks long with different schools down every week. It was always one HUGE party. This is also were I really started to learn my trade. EN1 Bizby was one of my mentors as well as EN2 Taylor, who I ended up with again working for/with on the Harpers Ferry.
When I was on the Dive Boat YDT-15, we the crew used to chip in a few dollars each week and we would have a big lunch on a Friday if we had spent the week at sea. Usually some form of pasta. One day we were having spaghetti and I turned around to grab a soda out the fridge and EN2 Taylor had stuck his finger in my pasta. I told him, “You stick your finger in my food again; I will stab your ass with my fork.” This was in front of everyone in the crew, including the Craft Master and the CHENG. He went to touch my food again and I straight up stabbed him in the hand with my fork and did it so hard that I drew blood. He got a little mad while laughing that I stabbed him so hard. EN2 Davis, the CHENG told him, “He warned you!”, and shrugged it off while everyone was laughing at Taylor.
I have always tried to make the best of everyplace that I have been stationed at. Only YOU make a place you stationed at suck. For instance, I liked Norfolk, Virginia when I was there. But many people hated it there. My first question is “Did you go anywhere?” I have heard many times in my career, when I mentioned that I am from Chicago, I hear many young people say that they hated Chicago and I ask them, “Do you hate Chicago or Great Lakes because there is a difference.” There has only been 4 people that I have run into who said that they hated Chicago. These have all been the people whose home town numbers is less than what I had in my graduating high school class. Step away from the sheep please, they don’t want you around!...
At the PCU Harpers Ferry, I went to many schools that have served me well throughout my career and this is where I really cut my teeth in the Engine Room and A-Gang. If you have never put a ship into commission before and you want to know your rate inside and out by the time you leave, do a Precom! Verification of systems including Engineering Operational Procedures and Causality Controls, Shake Downs, Initial Start Ups and so many other things. There was always so many things going on all the time. I was on the Boat Deck on day and the ship yard workers were putting in the Fork Lift Guards for the Mid Ship Elevator. These are used to keep a fork lift from going down the elevator shaft. I told the ship yard workers supervisor that they were going in wrong. He looked at my sleeve and said I was only a 3rd Class, so what do I know. Um… I just graduated a C school for elevators. He told me to leave. Ok. I went and got my chief, ENC Ziegers, and told him about it. He asked if I was sure. He went out and looked and saw that I was right and had the yard workers flip them around. They already had them tack welded in. They were starting to run the bead all the way around. The supervisor was pissed when I said to him, “I told you I was right sir.”
Right when I got the PCU San Diego, I had just gone over 4 years and was about to get my first Good Conduct. Right after I got my first one, they changed it from 4 years to 3 years. My Good Conduct Award was the first award given by Harpers Ferry. The CO was with the Ship in New Orleans at the time, so it was the XO who was giving out the awards. The XO walked to the front of the room to the podium and said, “Salaam Alikum.” This is the Muslim greeting and there was reply back. I thought this was highly inappropriate to say the least from the XO. He then gave out the awards after a few minutes of talking.
The ship finally fitted out, passed LOA and LOE, we got underway went through the Panama Canal on the way to San Diego with a stop in Mazatlan, Mexico, my first foreign port finally. We still had many things to do. It took months to get the rest of the bugs out. There were still bugs and discrepancies on the elevators until the day before we loaded for Rim Pac 96.
This led to something that burns my ass to this day. With all the work that was done to the elevators, over 100 Repair Before Operate discrepancies and 300 minor discrepancies that had to be fixed before Rim Pac and Deployment 96. There were 5 people in the Hydraulic Shop and only 4 people had the Elevator NEC, including the Division LPO who did not actually fix any of the discrepancies himself. So that left 3 to actually do the elevators repair work? I, myself fixed a majority of the discrepancies on the elevators. Some of them, I was part of team but at least 30% of the discrepancies, I fixed myself. Some time after it was all fixed and we were on deployment, there was an awards ceremony and many people were getting Naval Achievement Medals and right next to me was the LPO EN1 who made ENC that year Hernandez. He was awarded a NAM for his supervision of the repairs to the elevators