Carronade The Yankee Sailor Carronade

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.

I've relocated to a new Yankee Sailor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

NMPS Movie List Review

The Phibian memed (is that a word?) me the other day, and made an aside that he thought those of you surfing the sphere should have an idea of what's on the Navy Motion Picture Service's movie list. There are over 600 movies currently on the list, so I won't innundate you with the whole thing, but here are some highlights (and lowlights).

Enough Already!:

- Blade 1, 2 & 3.
The first problem is that they've got Wesley Snipes. The second problem is they're played like the DVDs are on "repeat."
- Fast and the Furious. Once a month should be enough for anyone.
- Full Metal Jacket. Great film, but a dead horse.
- Goodfellas. Good movie, but even the Sailors that reported in April know the lines already.
- I Know What You Did Last Summer (because I've seen it a million times...).
Movies that can't be deleted fast enough:

- 13 Ghosts. Stupid, stupid, stupid. By the end I was hoping that everyone would die. Tony Shaloub ought to be embarassed.
- Clueless. An adaptation of the Bard, or "Shakespeare for Dummies."
- Con Air. Think FBI agents flying cobras and you can imagine just how dumb this movie is.
- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Requesting this movie would violate the DoD "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Even our women aren't interested.
- Fighting Seabees. Okay, this one will probably ruffle some feathers, but like any good XO, I don't care. I know it's got the Duke, but even the Duke had his bad days, right?
- Flight of the Phoenix. No, not that Flight of the Phoenix, the new one. The original was a classic example of a movie that did not need to be remade.
- Grease. Starring John Revolting and Miss Oblivious Newtron Bomb - it's got to go! Okay, Olivia does look good in leather pants, I'll give you that.
- Meet the Fockers. Even DeNiro can't make up for the grating, annoying nature of Ben Stiller.
- Pearl Harbor. Vintage aircraft bomb Burke class DDGs - round file it!
- Planet of the Apes. Mark Wahlberg is not Charlton Heston.
- Reign of Fire. Okay, you got me, it is dumber than 13 Ghosts.

Does this make any sense?:

- Austin Powers 1, and Austin Powers 3. Note that Austin Powers 2 is not included. Doh!
- Back to the Future 2 & 3: See my comments above about the Austin Powers series.
- Mad Max 2 & 3: Show me the Road Warrior!

Hidden gems:

- American Graffitti. Great movie, and who thought Harrison Ford was ever that young?
- Blues Brothers. "We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of smokes, and we're on a mission from God." 'Nuff said.
- Bridge on the River Kwai. William Holden and Alec Guinness at their best.
- Count of Monte Cristo. James Caviezel in his pre-God days. It's got adventure, it's got intrigue, it's got romance - great date flick.
- Eiger Sanction. I didn't even know this was on the list. Damn!
- Miracle. U-S-A! U-S-A! The first sign that the Soviet Union was crumbling was when a bunch of college kids from America beat them at their own game.
- The Professional. I never realized Natalie Portman was in this film until I scanned the list.
- Young Frankenstein. "Oh, sweet mystery of life that now I've found you!"

Guilty pleasures:

- 40 Days and 40 Nights. Boy pledges to be "master of his domain" for 40 days (what was he thinking?!?).
- Girl Next Door. I'm an Elisha Cuthbert fan and I was a classic, quiet nerd in high school, so this struck a chord. Think Risky Business for the 21st century.
- Legally Blonde. Reese Witherspoon looks like she needs a meal - now, now, now! - but I laughed my a$$ off.
- Memphis Belle. I know it's about airdales, but I still like it.

Conspicuously absent:

- Blazing Saddles. A classic western...sort of. "Where the white women at?"
- Glory. A good depiction of the lengths to which good men will go to further the cause of Freedom.
- Hell in the Pacific. Lone Marine and Japanese aviators struggle for control of a deserted island, and it's got Lee Marvin.
- Mr. Roberts. Too good a depiction of what the day-to-day routine aboard a ship is like to be omitted.
- Tora! Tora! Tora! A landmark movie in the genre.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Grass is Greener Syndrome

Today we’re moored at the cruise piers in Nassau, Bahamas, surrounded by cruise ships. We arrived late yesterday afternoon, and the sea detail passed with just a few wrinkles. A buoy was missing. The tugs don’t like to push, only pull, and we weren’t as ready with towing hawsers as we should have been. The channel was narrower and the turn tighter than it looked on the charts. But, we got in safely and the pilot, who had brought our ship in the last time it was here a decade ago, mentioned that the ship looked much better than he remembered. The nicest touch was when the passengers aboard the Disney Majesty cheered when we got the first line over, the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch blew the whistle and announced, “moored, shift colors”, and the color detail hauled up the ensign and jack. We had manned the rails, too, so that added to the spectacle.

A few messmates and I took a wander around the waterfront, and over to Atlantis, in the evening. Roomie was doing shore patrol, so none of us came back broke and hung over. The town is kind of dirty, it’s expensive for the average Sailor ($4-$5 for a beer – Sailors judge the cost of everything by the cost of a beer), but Atlantis was impressive. It’s certainly well designed to part a tourist from his money. They’ve got a big aquarium, with a lot of impressive sea creatures, and a nice casino. Great eyeball liberty, too. There were too many kids around for my taste, though, mostly because it reminds me how much I miss my kids.

Today is my duty day, and it’s been interesting to watch how people on the cruise ships react to and interact with us. If you observe long enough, you can identify three distinct groups, two crews and the passengers. Most Sailors spend a little time during the day gazing at the cruise ships and their passengers wondering what it would be like to relax on a ship instead of work. Many of us also take time for a little eyeball liberty to identify the most appealing members of the opposite sex.

On the cruise ships, some of the crew, particularly the officers will stop to check us out. I’m sure they wonder how we live, where we’ve been, what the food is like, and how well we get paid. The Deck officers are no doubt wondering how well the ship handles, and the engineers look grateful they work in a diesel and not a steam plant. This is what we most often wonder about them. A few clearly look like they wish they could blow something up when needed.

Many of the passengers stop to gaze at us, but their expressions are more difficult to discern. Most have some look of wonder, but all show mixed feelings. From the older passengers, perhaps many of them veterans, come looks of admiration and respect. Some of these passengers will walk over to the ship and ask for a tour, or to buy a command ball cap. There are no general tours, though, in the post-9/11, everyone could be a terrorist, world. This is one more sign that our military is becoming more distant from the people we’re supposed to be defending, but I won’t get started on that here.

Other passengers show looks of disappointment, perhaps because they regretted leaving the service or not serving at all. Children get that big-eyed, “that’s so cool!” look, and the occasional woman will notice she’s being noticed and make the most of it for the benefit of her self-esteem. Some of them will even smile and wave.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I've Got a Meme? What the $#&@! is That?!?

So, I went to see Doc this morning, and told him I got a meme from a Phibian, and Doc says, "that's not possible, I gave you a shot for that... didn't I?" This game is new to me, but I'll give it a go...

Total number of films I own on DVD/video: probably about sixty or seventy, mostly kid stuff ( I have three boys ages 5 and under at home).

The last film I bought: Wow, it's been a while. Probably, The Passion of the Christ. I don't buy many films, and the ones I want I put on my wish list for holidays, so CINCHOUSE does most of the buying.

The last film I watched: You mean, like, from beginning to end, in its entirety? Remember when I mentioned that I work on a warship and have three kids? Are you joking? Okay, it's probably Jonah. "We are the pirates who don't do anything/we just stay at home, and lie around...."

Five films I watch a lot or mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

1) Henry V - "We few, we noble few. We band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, be he n'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition."
2) Saving Private Ryan - I watch this one every Veteran's and Memorial Day, just to remind me to be grateful.
3) The Seven Samurai - better than the remake, were that possible and only if you can stand subtitles.
4) Dragonslayer - a nice, unlikely hero story.
5) The Right Stuff - a great way to be reminded that the first American in space was a Naval Aviator - and he was a SWO before he was an aviator.

Now, who do I pick...? Being a SWO, I don't really have any friends, only superiors, subordinates and peer/competitors. Plus, I'm so new at this no one really reads anything I write here, but I'll pass it to Chaotic Synaptic Activity, Smash and the Primary Main Objective and see what happens.

Update: add Chaps to the list.

What is a "Sea Warrior", You Ask?

Preface: Most of you won't understand the context of this post, but a small movement is taking hold in the Navy to adapt some of the Marines' "every Marine is a rifleman" ethos to the Navy. While I think that there's a lot of good that can come out of it, the execution to date appears to be mostly window dressing and propaganda - tell them they're "sea warriors", and maybe they'll believe it. The process of training and developing Sailors has been spelled out, and there's a lot of rating and professional milestones along the career path that are codified, but there's not a lot of "warrior" included, and even less "sea."

What is a “Sea Warrior?” We were before someone invented the label, and will remain after the label is faded and forgotten. Most gaze at us with wonder and respect, some seek to become one of us, and a few try to redefine us to join our ranks by subversion, but mostly they try and fail. The path to becoming a Sea Warrior is, after all, well defined, proven by battle and time, and resists being reinvented. Take up my spyglass and have a look - but be careful - admiration and envy may follow.

An aspirant’s journey begins with beliefs. Like a keel, it is the backbone that guarantees the integrity of all we do. Sea Warriors do what we do so all can live in peace, safety and prosperity. We do it so everyone can make the most of their gifts. We do it so children can go to school and fly kites, and we do it so everyone can believe whatever they wish, and speak their minds when they please, whether their ideas are agreeable or not. It is in an aspirant’s head and heart that our first seeds are planted.

The second leg in the aspirant’s journey is training. We will instruct him on how to walk, talk and dress like one of us; and expect him to retain it on the deckplates. We will spoon-feed him the values we live by, and demand that he live similarly. We will give him the knowledge and tools he requires to make it through his first day aboard, but insist he know more by its end.

The final, and longest, leg of his journey is experience. It is on this leg that the aspirant becomes an apprentice, and the apprentice becomes one of us. He must assiduously learn his craft, and the art that lies within it, and apply all for the benefit of his Ship, Navy and Nation. He must learn how to recognize a gathering storm, how to avoid it where possible, and how to weather it when he must. Most importantly, he must learn to pass his skills and wisdom to those that choose to follow him. Only after this leg is well traveled can the apprentice be called a Mariner and Warrior. The Sea will accept nothing less.

The fundamentals of our craft, you see, are essentially ageless. Knowledge of the Sea, handling a Ship in close quarters, locating and identifying an Enemy, placing him under your batteries, and keeping the Ship in the fight despite her damage remain our bread and butter, just as they were for John Paul Jones, Oliver Hazard Perry, Arleigh Burke and Raymond Spruance. We still find inspiration in, and teach our apprentices to apply the spirit of, sentiments like, “Don’t give up the ship”, “I have not yet begun to fight”, and “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The tools may change as years and decades pass, but the principles endure.

The most promising of our aspirants recognize that by becoming like us they can become part of something bigger than themselves, and thus greater than what they would have become on their own. They gladly submit to the lessons and experience of those that have held the line before them, and they drink deeply of the knowledge of our craft. The least promising seek to bend the yards to fit their canvas and smooth out the waves that lie before them. Inevitably they meet failure, destruction or death; for the Sea is always on duty, and She knows no mercy.

Today, genuine Sea Warriors see this fundamental wisdom ebbing. We lament that some members of our Navy know nothing of Ships and the Sea. We groan when others try to redefine what we are, and we curse the fact that many who wear the uniform are unable to defend all that we hold dear with even a rifle, much less a warship.

But time is on our side, and we will continue practicing our craft and training our replacements through this storm, just as we have through others.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Harry Bluff, the True Yankee Sailor

Found this in the Library of Congress' online digital archive:


WHEN a boy, Harry Bluff, left his friends and his home,
And his dear native land, o’er the ocean to roam;
Like a sapling he sprung, he was fair to the view,
He was true Yankee oak, boys, the older he grew.

Tho’ his body was weak, and his hands they were soft,
When the signal was given, he first went aloft;
The veterans all cried, he’ll one day lead the van,
Though rated a boy, he’d the soul of a man,
And the heart of a true Yankee Sailor.

When to manhood promoted, and burning for fame,
Still in peace or in war, Harry Bluff was the same;
So true to his love, and in battle so brave,
That the myrtle and laurel entwin’d o’er his grave.

For his country he fell, and with victory crown’d,
The flag shot away, fell in tatters around;
The foe thought he’d struck, but he sung out avast,
And Columbia’s colors he nail’d to the mast,
And died like a true Yankee Sailor.

There They Go Again

CDR Salamander notes that the entertainment industry has in the War on Terror, just as they did with the Vietnam War, made the exceptional servicemen seem like the rule. And I don't mean exceptional in a good way, either.

This is nothing new, of course. Michael Medved has noted Hollywood's
fascination with deviency for years, and that not only do these movies not make money now, they have never made money. To quote yet another article,

Citing the top-grossing films of the past 20 years, Medved points out that "there is not a single year where R-rated movies performed better than PG or G. Not one. In fact," he says, "movies that are rated PG and G over the last 20 years averaged at the box office more than two and a half times the returns of movies rated R."
So, there's obviously something else at work here. Is the Hollywood class obsessed with smearing servicemen because they see something positive in men and women in uniform that they wish to tear down? Is it that they are so cynical and screwed up that they assume everyone must be cynical and screwed up? It's anyone's guess.

Failed to Sail!

Winds and currents keep us here in Pensacola for a second night, which is a bit of a disappointment. Last night I and a few messmates went out on a guided tour of the town with my roomie, who, despite his all-around stand-up nature, has two strikes against him: (1) he's a Marine, and (2) he's an aviator.

We started out with a visit to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, which despite being full of planes, was not as awful as I expected. Okay, okay, they've got a pretty cool collection of planes. Just make sure you wear a cranial while you're there, because it is really packed with aircraft. They've also got a nice collection of ship models, even if they are all aircraft carriers.

Did I mention we had a few beers on the pier before we left the ship? No? Well, keep that in mind, because it was my first mistake. The second mistake was trusting roomie to arrange transportation from stop one to stop two. After an hour of waiting for the second cab to come, we were off to stop two, Seville Quarter. Nice set of bars, good beer, and a bartender that was easy on the eyes made it worth our while. Even more entertaining was when Ivan the Gay Midget took a fancy to roomie. Roomie took it well, though, and I'm sure the free round helped to assuage his outrage. Two hours and I'm not sure how many beers later we're off to the next stop, McGuire's. Walking. Yes, walking. Another failed transportation plan from roomie.

McGuire's is legendary in Naval Aviation, because every aviator that has passed through the place bought a mug and they're all still hanging from the ceiling. Roomie mentioned this at least ten times. The parts of the ceiling that aren't covered with mugs are covered with autographed dollar bills, which is unique, but perplexing. Anyway, the ambience was great, the food was great, the beer was ... good, but the wait was LONG! Over an hour to get a table, and another hour to get the food. I should have known we were there a long time when Ops started buying top-shelf scotch for everyone, and I started drinking it.

Anyway, by half past ten, and what I am told was a half-hour nap I took at the table, we were ready to return to the ship and roomie was once again making arrangements for transportation. It was clear that we had waited a long time for this cab when we got to the third round of the theme song from Gilligan's Island. At least the cabbie thought it was entertaining.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Most Palpable Hit!

A posting on an Islamic website reportedly calls for followers and supporters of Muhammad al-Zarqawi to pray for his health. U.S. Marines have been prosecuting an offensive in the terrorist stronghold of western Iraq for some time, and have allegedly come close to grabbing Zarqawi on at least two occasions. Zarqawi must be seriously injured for such a public acknowledgement of his condition:

A statement from the al-Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq said: "O nation of Islam... Pray for the healing of our Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from an injury he suffered in the path of God.

"You are the beloved of the mujahideen (holy fighters), and may God heal you and make you steadfast .... Our sheikh has taught us that nothing is worthy compared to...Islam."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Good Example of "Git-R-Done!"

For you landlubbers and non-SWOs out there, Chaotic Synaptic Activity spins a nice yarn about getting the job done on a ship at sea.

A UNITAS was something I always wanted to do, but alas, they aren't what they used to be. Now, instead of spending a full depolyment working your way around the Cape, ships get sent for just one to two months at a time.

Sigs, bridge: close up bravo zulu!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

"Steps to a Healthier You"

The Food & Drug Administration recently published new dietary guidelines for a healthy lifestyle. I looked at their recommendations, and after long and careful consideration, decided to stick with the SWO diet: caffeine, nicotine, Motrin and Tums.

Thanks, Jackass!

I'm not sure why these idiot prison guards in Iraq keep pushing the envelope of stupidity and continue to take and leak pictures of inmates. Why would someone decide to violate U.S. policy and military regulations and take pictures of say, Saddam Hussein? To impress your friends and family? To make friends in the media and admire yourself as an "inside source?" To grab your fifteen minutes of fame? Not that this would really work, because you'd get a whole lot more than fifteen minutes of fame as the media covered the progress of your long, drawn out Article 32 hearing and court martial.

New rules and better enforcement on the part of the military were supposed to prevent this kind of thing, but the rules remind me of what P. T. Barnum once said: "anyting advertised as 'foolproof' underestimates the ingenuity of fools." To the troll that was responsible for this, and once again tarnishing the reputations of the 90 percent of respectable men and women who are wearing the uniform, I say, "thanks, jackass!"

Give me a good, sturdy line, a yardarm, and a fifteen-hand working party to haul away, and the problem would be solved....

The Following Is A Test

Just a post to test out the e-mail to posting functionality of Blogger. Another busy day, but we're finally rid of the Seabees. After twelve navigation details in fifteen days, I'm wiped out, so it's time for some rack ops.

Offload complete, mission accomplished. Yankee Sailor standing by for further tasking....

The Frustration of it All

So I'm surfing the Sphere today in search of SWOs, and I look down at the taskbar and I must have twenty windows open in Internet Explorer. If only I could get FireFox on this stupid Navy computer. And, oh by the way, the pages come in at a rate of one bit per second. We have aboard the ship the Little Internet Connection that Could. I think I can, I think I can....

Friday, May 20, 2005

Georgie in a Huff

British MP George Galloway is making a stink over people making a stink over his alleged acceptance of oil vouchers from Saddam Hussein's regime. Another officer in the wardroom today made the comment that she didn't understand why the American press was paying so much attention to this issue when there were Russian and French politicians that were implicated, too. My response was that no one was outraged by a Russian or French politician taking bribes, because we've come to expect that Russian and French politicians will take bribes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fifteen Years of Commissioned Service

Today was a busy one, the kind that makes an officer genuinely satisfied with his or her decision to become a SWO and stick around past the first division officer tour. I'll have to make a note to write about the day's events in more detail later, because our activities are not something I can discuss until Big Navy says so. Without revealing any details, I got to help save some lives, make a difference in one small corner of the world, and see a lot of Sailors rise to the occasion and perform admirably. It wasn't until very late in the day that I even checked my calendar and realize that fifteen years ago today I raised my right hand and accepted the duties and responsibilities of a commissioned officer.

I'm not sure what to say about the last fifteen years, except "wow!" I was on my way to the Red Sea for DESERT STORM just six months after being commissioned, and the pace hasn't stopped. The next deployment came one short year after returning for MARITIME MONITOR off of Bosnia. I wasn't the best division officer, and I saw it pretty clearly and knew the implications of my shortcomings, so when the Captain said he was going to extend me to deploy a third time for Somalia, I dropped my papers and got out. It took about two years to realize what a mistake that was.

Three years later I was finally able to get into the reserves and start rebuilding my record and watch for openings to get back on active duty. In the spring of 1999 the war in Kosovo came along with a set of orders attached to augment the AFSOUTH staff in Naples. Finally, in early 2000, the Surface Navy realized how desperate they were for department heads and I was accepted for recall. Department Head School was a challenge, not because the material was so difficult, but because I was by then over six years distant from the Navy I knew. I made a decent showing in the end, though, and just following graduation I got a sign of things to come.

My family and I were in Spangdahlem, Germany, visiting my sister-in-law at the American air base there. We were busily making lunch and packing so we could run out the door to play tourist. CNN was on in the background. My attention was caught by some breaking news about renewed fighting in the Israeli Occupied Territories, so I started actually listening to the newscaster as I stuffed things in my backpack. Camera, check; sunglasses, check; extra film, check; American destroyer bombed in Yemen, che…. It seemed like time slowed in the room and I looked at my wife. The look on her face said, “what have I let him get in to?” She was supportive of my decision to return to active duty, but I knew she didn’t like it. We quickly lost interest in playing tourist that afternoon.

Two weeks later, I reported aboard a frigate for my first department head tour. I was going to be the Combat Systems Officer and very soon after I reported we were underway for a VANDALEX. In seven times on the firing line, there were seven equipment or training failures and the ship couldn’t get a missile off the rail. All the Captain could say to me for four days was, “fix it”, and all I could think for four days was, "what have I gotten myself into?" For the next six months leading up to deployment, we were underway for just over half the time, and for the remaining time I was working half days – six in the morning to six at night. Six months and twenty or so CASREPs later, we got it fixed, and we departed on time for the Mediterranean.

The deployment went remarkably well until the end. Five weeks prior to return to homeport, we were on the second day of a port visit in the Mediterranean. It was my duty day, and I was nursing a hangover that would have been memorable even if the phone had not rung in the middle of my third cup of coffee during a visit from the harbor master. The phone call was from our NCIS liaison, and he informed me that a plane just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Ten or so minutes later, I got another call from him and you can guess how the remainder of the day went (and the kind of e-mails I got from my wife for the next six weeks).

Eventually my time as a Destroyerman came to an end, and I reported to the big deck upon which I still serve today. Ten days after I reported, and sixteen months after my last deployment ended, I deployed again. I really loved being First Lieutenant, and no, there’s no sarcasm intended. When landlubbers picture Sailors in their minds, traditional seafarers are what they imagine, and there’s still a lot of that in today’s Boatswain’s Mate. The deployment was busy and enjoyable, despite cutting circles in a box off of Djibouti for four months, but as it drew to a close yet another storm was on the horizon. The night before we were supposed to sail for home, the Captain called all hands to quarters on the flight deck.

He was a great Captain, and he never broke bad news over the 1MC. As we all expected, we were to sail north and land our Marines instead of going home. Six months ended up being nine months and six days, and I got to have a hand in finishing what we started in Iraq in 1991. I also have a strip of a homeward bound pennant that will likely get pride of place in a shadow box some day.

Homecoming was amazing, as it was on another ship twelve years and one war in Iraq earlier. Everyone was standing a little taller that day, and those we had left behind asked us to keep our uniforms on a little longer than usual after a homecoming. One monthe later, the ship moved to the yards for nine months, and when orders time rolled around, the Captain - who had been XO during deployment - pulled me aside for a little talk. He wanted me to stay and be the next navigator. That was a nice piece of professional validation.

Being a navigator has been my first opportunity to have a big impact on a large number of officers, and it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve every done. But after a year of crunching requirements to keep the ship on station, and helping build quite a few good ship drivers along the way, my time here is getting short. So here I sit, with fifteen years of great memories and experiences in my seabag, waiting for yet another set of orders to yet another ship. I can’t wait to get there….

Monday, May 16, 2005

Military Bases: Community Entitlements

The recommendations of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission are out, and naturally the communities that are losing bases are pitching fits. Bases aren't primarily for national defense, apparently, they're a source of taxpayer dollars to subsidize local economies. I'm always amazed by some of the communities that complain about losing bases.

Take Massachusetts, for example. The military for decades has tried to close bases in the Commonwealth because the cost of stationing servicemen there, and the cost of hiring the installation's civilian workforce, are high. And the left-leaning population of Massachusetts has not got a great track record on national defense. Like the most recent waffling ex-presidential candidate from that state, residents of Massachusetts have for years argued for defense cuts. Just don't cut our bases. Oh, and don't use the bases in a way that inconveniences us, either. We don't want any of those nasty, noisy airplanes cluttering the sky and disturbing our peace at Hanscom, Otis or So. Weymouth. And don't move those scary guns and tanks around the roads of our fair home during daylight hours, either. Find some nice, quiet units to put there instead, preferably ones that don't need weapons.

Within the Navy, the only real surprise seems to be that Groton is on the list. Pascagoula is largely in disuse, and Ingleside, besides being in the middle of nowhere, is high on the "I never want to go there" list. Groton has the obvious disadvantage of location - expensive, New England real estate and high cost of living. Since I'm not a Bubblehead, though, I don't really care....

A Landlubber's Dictionary

A glossary of terms for the uninitiated. I'll add to the list as time passes and put a link to this on the homepage. Feel free to suggest terms or point out nuances I might have missed. Here goes....

1st dog - the watch from 1600 to 1800

2nd dog - the watch from 1800 to 2000

4 to 8 - the watch from 0400 to 0800.

- a Sailor in an aviation specialty

- short for amphibious ship, i.e. a ship designed to embark, transport, land and support Marines. No, they don't actually go on land.

autodog - soft-serve ice cream

big deck - large multi-purpose amphibious ships that look like aircraft carriers

Big Navy - used to describe policies, procedures or initiatives that are Navy- or fleet-wide, or the officers that generate them.

Bone in Her Teeth - a ship that is sailing fast, with a pronounced bow wave, is said to have a "bone in her teeth."

bravo zulu - well done.

Bubblehead - submariner.

Bull - the most senior line or staff ensign aboard, though never an LDO. Assistant to the XO for running wardroom social functions and has the ability to task any members of the "bull pen."

Bull Pen - the non-LDO, line and staff ensigns.

bug juice - imitation, government issue Kool-Aid. The green bug juice was very useful for removing verdigris from brass and bronze fittings.

buttphone - walkie-talkie

Captain's Call - a group meeting with the Captain, usually all-hands or by paygrade, for the purpose of giving news, promulgating or explaining policy, or question and answer.

Cheng - Chief Engineer.

chop - see "porkchop", or the act of reviewing, editing and approving a document.

chop chain - the list of individuals that must review a document for approval.

CINCHOUSE - short for Commander-in-Chief of the House, always the wife in a Navy household, even if she's the one in the military (sorry, guys, but the truth hurts).

CIVMAR - civilian mariner

combat - in the right context, the combat information center

combat information center (CIC) - the space where watchstanders monitor the radars, maintain a plot of the ship's position and operate most of the weapons systems.

Command Duty Officer (CDO) - The Sailor responsible for overseeing the operation of a ship in port and the execution of the POD. Within limits laid out in Navy policy and the Captain's Standing Orders, the CDO is "Captain for a Day." Ships whose primary mission is aviation, like CVs, may designate Airdales as a "CDO Underway."

Commanding Officer (CO) - The officer that is ultimately in charge of, and ultimately accountable for the successes and failures of, a ship. An abbreviation of a formal title that in some circles is not used in conversation. When speaking of or to a ship's CO, "Captain" is always the best choice.

crab - shipyard worker

CRUDES - contraction of cruiser/destroyer, surface combatants as a group.

dead in the water (DIW) - When used to describe a ship, DIW means underway, but not moving under power. When used to describe other things, its meaning is similar to "going nowhere." For instance, when your boss tells you your "carreer is DIW", it's not a good thing.

death star - an aircraft carrier, and sometimes a big-deck amphib

Department Head (DH) - An officer that rus a department and reports directly to the XO and/or CO for a particular functional area on the ship. Never used in conversation. The most common departments aboard a ship are Operations, Combat Systems, Engineering and Supply. Larger ships may have Air, Weapons, Security, Admin, Medical and other departments.

Division Officer (DIVO) - An officer that runs a division aboard a ship and usually reports to a DH.

dog - see autodog

Executive Officer (XO) - The officer second-in-command of a ship. Primarily responsible for administrative oversight and personnel management, however, the XO takes on most of the duties, authority, responsibility and accountability of command when the Captain is absent.

eyeball liberty - gazing off the ship to see the sights, particularly members of the opposite sex, while on duty.

Fireman Shmuckatelli - same as Seaman Slipknot, but particular to engineers.

fitrep - report of fitness on an officer or chief.

flamespray - officially a method of heat treating metal components, but unofficially an enthusiastic a$$ chewing

gaff off - to ignore or disregard a task or superior

gator - an amphib, or the navigator on an aircraft carrior or amphibious assault ship

goat locker - the CPO mess, or the chiefs as a group.

goat rope - a poorly organized or executed evolution

gouge - Important information or the act of giving someone important information.

greyhound - a surface combatant, like cruisers, destroyers and frigates.

gundeck - falsify a record, or sign for a task that wasn't done

hole - main (propulsion) machinery room

hole snipe - an engineer that works in the propulsion plant

hollywood - a long shower that wastes fresh water.

HYDRA - a low power, channelized radio designed for internal shipboard communications. Acronym for "heterodyne dynamically reconfigurable architecture."

JORG (pronounced "george") - Junior Officer Requiring Guidance. The most junior line or staff ensign aboard, but never an LDO. The bull's right-hand man and partner in crime, and most frequent target of "shitty little jobs."

junior officer rest period (JORP) - a nap or time spent watching TV or a movie during working hours.

letter - a letter of qualification, allowing you to perform certain duties (like a OOD letter), or a formal administrative warning (non-punitive letter of instruction) or reprimand (punitive letter of reprimand). Only qualification and punitive letters go in a permanent service record.

midrats - short for "midnight rations." A meal served around midnight for Sailors that work late or have one of the night watches.

midwatch - the watch from midnight to 4am in the traditional rotation, or 2200-0200 in the "nickel and dime" rotation.

murder board - a practice oral board, where the board members drill down into a boardee's knowledge with the intention of blatantly exposing weaknesses and inadequacies.

nickel and dime - a watch rotation where most watches are five hours long, instead of the traditional four hours, with the midwatch being four hours. With three watch sections, this means a watchstander has watch for five hours, then ten hours off.

nooner - a lunch-time nap (get your mind out of the gutter).

Officer of the Deck (OOD) - Underway, the officer in charge of the underway watch, and the Captain's direct representative for the safe maneuvering and navigation of the ship and the execution of the plan of the day. In port, the Sailor in charge of the inport watch. Most of the OOD's important responsibilities are pushed to the CDO when in port.

pajamas - flight suits, usually used only by SWOs

Personnel Qualification System (PQS) - a system to standardize and document Sailors' qualification for certain watches or duties.

pencil in - tenatively schedule or assign

pencil whip - see gundeck

Planning Board for Training (PB4T) - A weekly meeting of the XO and DHs where, through an often painful ordeal of mental gymnastics, two to four weeks of work is crammed into five to seven days.

Plan of the Day (POD) - The internal SOE for a particular ship or command on any given day. Given the ever changing nature of schedules and requirements, the POD is often described as a "merely a plan from which to deviate."

Plan of the Week (POW) - The mother of the POD and a product of PB4T, it details the SOE for a given calendar week.

Porkchop - a supply officer, so named because someone thought the cluster of oak leaves that is their staff corps insignia resembled a pork chop.

rack - a bed, or time in bed

rack ops - sleep

rain locker - a shower stall

rats - midrats (an abbreviation of an abbreviation)

revwatch - watch from 0200-0700 in the nickel and dime rotation.

rope yarn - a few hours at the end of one afternoon per week when a Sailor could work on his uniforms, or depart the ship to go to the uniform shop, dry cleaners or get a haircut, or cutting out from work early for any reason.

sand crab - see "crab"

Seaman Slipknot - a term to symbolize an incompetent or poorly trained Sailor.

Seaman (or Fireman) Timmy - a term to symbolize a young, inexperienced Sailor.

Schedule of Events (SOE) - Any schedule of what a ship or group of ships has to do or where they have to be.

Semper Gumby - A spinoff of the Marine's motto, Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) meaning "always flexible." Usually heard immediately after a change in the SOE or POD has been announced (and the bitching ceases). For you tadpoles out there, Gumby was a cartoon character your parents used to watch who was basically a walking, talking gum eraser. No, I don't know why that was entertaining, but then some people find SpongeBob entertaining, too.

Senior Watch Officer (SWO) - the officer eligible to stand bridge watches that writes the watchbill. Usually, the first offical act of the SWO is to write himself off the watchbill.

shoal water - water too shallow for a vessel to operate in safely, or trouble in general

shooter - a warship that can fire missiles for other than point defense.

skimmer - bubblehead term for a surface ship or the Sailors who man them

skinny ship - a CRUDES ship

skipper - the CO, used mostly by airdales. Use at your own risk when addressing or referring to the captain of a ship.

slam - to assign someone to duties or order them to a new duty station without a Sailor's knowledge or consent.

snipe - an engineer

snuggle bunny - someone who's taken multiple, sequential assignments in the same geographic area, particularly an overseas duty station.

stars in his eyes - wants to be an admiral and will do anything to get there

steak & crab legs - a meal often served to all hands when there's bad news, particularly when a deployment has been extended.

stump the chump - an impromptu game where a senior (or a group of seniors) questions a JO relentlessly in the style of a murder board. Usually intended to make the JO aware of the depths of his ignorance on an important topic and spur him to learn more.

sucking rubber - wearing a gas mask

sucking the monkey - No, it's not that, you pervert. It's merely drinking rum from a coconut, or drinking alcohol (illegally) on a ship.

Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) - Despite what the chief's think, SWOs are the backbone of the fleet. With some exceptions, SWOs drive the ship, fight the ship, oversee the operation and administration of the ship and more often than not determine whether the ship is a success or failure. May be hurled as an epithet, as in, "You're such a #%*$&@ SWO!" SWOs have a reputation, particularly DHs and above, as driven, competitive, and uncompromising overachievers.

tactical action officer (TAO) - the captain's designated representative underway to "fight the ship." The TAO can fire upon anything, anytime, so long as it's in self defense, and without consulting the Captain.

tango uniform
- tits up or toes up, depending on the context

tits up - really, really broken.

toes up - taking a nap

troll - the CIVMARs or Sailors that man the fuel transfer deck on an oiler or replenishment ship

twidget - a Sailor that works in a non-engineering technical rating, like an Electronics Technician or Fire Controlman

underway - not moored, grounded or anchored. A ship that is moving under power is said to "have way on" or be "making way." A ship underway, not making way, is DIW.

with all due respect - a way to preface a comment to a superior and say, "I'm going to call you an idiot to your face and get away with it."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Captain for a Day

I just finished my day as Command Duty Officer, and it was the usual mix of pleasure and pain. The CDO is the Captain's representative for the operation of the ship in port and the execution of the Plan of the Day. Within certain limits defined by Navy policy or the Captain's Standing Orders, the CDO gets to call the shots during the course of his duty day. Like most officers, on one hand I like being in charge and having the responsibility for making decisions, but on the other hand it means you have to be available around the clock to give permissions, receive reports and resolve problems. You also get to share in the ultimate accountability of the Captain if something goes wrong.

Yesterday was atypical for a duty day, because we had just pulled into port and there was a lot to accomplish. The day also started for me at 0230 to stand watch in the Combat Information Center until 0530, when we stationed the sea and anchor detail to enter port. Then I was on the bridge performing my duties as Navigator until just after 0900, when we were finally made up at the berth and the Officer of the Deck shifted his watch to the quarterdeck. So there we were, at the beginning of day one of two in an overseas port, with a long list of tasks that needed to be accomplished - take on 700k gallons of fuel, expedite the arrival of 50-75 pallets of stores, get our parts and mail from base supply, arrange more immediate air transportation for twenty or so Sailors that need to report or detach while we're pierside, wash down the vehicle and well decks and backload three hundred tons of containers and vehicles we are transporting back to the U.S.

In addition to making sure all these requirements were met, I had a personal "to do" list to complete. An adverse evaluation report needed to be submitted for a Sailor that has failed four body fat tests in the last four years. Charts and a navigation brief needed to be prepared and routed through the Executive Officer and Captain so we could brief our departure from port on day two of the visit. Still more charts needed to be prepared and routed to get the Captain's and Commodore's approval for the proposed route to our next port.For all that was set before us, the day went remarkably smoothly.

The base really jumped through their grommets to support us, and we got the fuel we needed in just over half the time we expected it to take. The cargo loading was completed just before taps, and a working party was identified to load the expedited mail, parts and stores first thing this morning. Travel arrangements were adjusted for those that needed it, and my paperwork drills ended successfully just after supper. The last remaining task in the plan was to make sure the liberty party was back aboard safely.

Liberty parties are always a source of frustration for a CDO. Despite Big Navy efforts to deglamorize drinking, Sailors still have a well-earned reputation for drinking with abandon, particularly when away from home and on the first night ashore in a port. Annother predictable shoal a Sailor can run up on while off the ship overseas is violating the “buddy system.” Away from homeport, everyone leave the ship with at least one buddy, sometimes two. This is done in the hopes that at least two-thirds to one-half of the brains in a give group are still functioning somewhat clearly at any given time. For the most part the system works well, but there are some Sailors who are determined to be, shall we say, “exceptional.” Last night, one of those exceptional Sailors exposed a problem with the buddy system.

Sailors A, B and C departed the ship together with a list of things to accomplish. While on the beach, Sailors B and C decided they wanted to change the plan and partake of some malt beverages. Sailor A, who had duty today, and a pistol qualification course to complete this morning, disagreed and stated his wish to return to the ship as planned. Sailors B and C mistakenly assumed that decision making in the Navy is democratic and went to the bar, and Sailor A caught a bus back to the ship. Upon reporting back aboard, the absence of Sailor A’s buddies is noted, and all three Sailors are slated to report to the Liberty Risk Board this morning.

Not long after this, I got a visit from Sailor A, who wished to plead his case in advance. I listened to him carefully, and reassured him that he’d made a good decision in the circumstances. Following the LRB this morning, I heard that Sailor A got put on “alfa libs” for the remainder of this port visit for his technical violation of the rules, and B and C got themselves “bravo libs” for this port and the next. Oh by the way, Sailor A has duty today, so last night was his only night out. In the end, Sailor A probably didn’t make the best possible decision given the circumstances, but his instinct towards doing the right thing got him off with a slap on the wrist. Good on him.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Glimpse Through the Fog

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land.

I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.