14 February 2006

Out of Touch Friends, but Friends None the Less

Every time I think I am getting used to my current situation, someone has to remind me of earlier times.  This time it is our SOPA, Lex, who reminds me that, “the world is painted in more faded hues than it used to be.”

Yes, I miss the boat.  I admit it, the wardroom teased me, claiming I would forget the lack of sleep, the bitterness with the slow-moving and sometimes illogical and infuriating wheels of the military bureaucracy, and would end up only seeing the old times through rose colored glasses.  Well, I still remember the mordant, acerbic young man I was while on the boat.  But I also remember the crew whose whims and habits I knew as a gestalt, and those individual members I knew on a much more personal level, with whom I needed only a few spare words to convey volumes to, with whom I was so attuned that trust was like breathing.  There were a select few who were even closer than that, and chief among them was K.  He and I reported a few weeks apart, we roomed together our entire tour on the boat, and we pushed each other, always trying to outperform each other in professional proficiency, even as we mutually sneered at the ridiculous chain of command we were burdened with (ah youth!).  We competed in all things, from Fast Recovery Startup times (he still holds the ustafish record for one of his where everything just clicked), to shortest valid Periscope Depth evolutions (must clear the ZBO and at least call ‘No close contacts’ – I still hold the ustafish record to this day, 23 seconds, baby!  Let’s here it for radio clearing the ZBO via VERDIN before the scope even breaks the surface!), to passing the PRT (no comment – we both always passed, though).  He was the guy that, if something happened in the Engineroom, I wanted as my Casualty Assistance Engineering Officer of the Watch.  Words were not necessary then, and we both gave the orders we knew were appropriate without having to consult with the other, and the watchteam knew that one always spoke with the authority of the other.  And we were lords of our domain.  

As our time on board progressed, our paths diverged somewhat.  He, a nuke engineering major from Penn State, loved the reactor like a child, and so he became über-nook, and his knowledge of all things engineering became encyclopedic.  I, who had always dreamed of driving the boat, became in my time the default Officer of the Deck, for all things from battlestations to maneuvering watch to TREs (Tactical Readiness Exams) and POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement – the final checkout before a boat is sent on extended deployment).  As such, we often ended up standing watch together, one driving, one pushing, and again, pure synergy.  On the rare occasions one asked something stupid of the other, one of the following exchanges would take place over the MJ phone:
K:  “Who Run Shantytown?”
PBS:  “Master Blaster runs shantytown.”
PBS:  “Have your laptop online?”
K:  “Yeah”
PBS:  “Look at the Fusion plot and ask me that again.”
K:  “Ooops.”
Yeah, I had to say the Tina Turner line when I screwed up, and my reminder to him wasn’t nearly so amusing, but you get the point.

After our boat-time was ended, we ended up getting stationed at different stations, and our communications waned a bit.  And yet, a year after we had parted ways, he called me up to ask me to be his best man.  Because, frankly, we were still closer than brothers.  Even though I have not talked to him in months, I know that if I asked, he would be out here tomorrow, just as I know that if he asked, I would be on the road in under an hour, with a shovel to help hide the body.  And I do not doubt that I will never again have a friend or coworker about whom I will feel the same.  

Now if people would just stop reminding me of that fact…


At 2/15/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only reason you miss the wardroom is you get papered hand and foot. I want this and I want that. While the blue shirts are busy cleaning your mess and doing your will. Of course you miss the wardroom on a ship.

At 2/15/2006, Blogger Subsunk said...

Gee Anonymouse,

What do you know about the wardroom and the Mess Stewards? None of the Mess Cooks I ever served with thought I was getting a good deal. And the troops I served with saw that I was the one whose ass got chewed by the CO, not theirs. If anything went wrong on my watch, I was the one chastised, not them, by the Old Man.

And when it came time for the Wardroom to serve supper to the crew, I served, I washed pots in the deep sink, I got them meals and drinks at their beck and call, and I left the galley cleaner than they had ever cleaned it. I stood two weeks of 3 section Duty Officer in the Shipyard while I was Executive Officer, boy. The crew knew what the requirements for a smart duty section, smart cleanup, and smart operations were after that. I set the standard on my ships. Not the Crew, not the Mess Cooks, and not the Nubs. My Officers set the standards, and I made sure they enforced them.

They were high standards to meet. I was an asshole. I was demanding. I was hard on the officers every day. You would have never seen it. And if you haven't served, then you never will know what it is like and you have no business commenting here, dipstick.

And every single Man I ever served with came up to me the day I left my ships, and shook my hand, and said they'd go to sea with me any day, anytime.

Perhaps you'd like the job as a member of the Wardroom. Perhaps you'd like to be pampered and taken care of better than all the rest of the Crew. If so, you'd have never made it on my ships. Leaders of Men lead from the front, and insist that every Man among them do his duty.

Where are you at doing your Duty?


At 2/16/2006, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Way to go, Anonymous, you managed to completely miss the point of the post. Did I even mention the wardroom? No. Yes, the guy I was talking about was an officer, and so was I. The other guys I said I trust as easily as breathing? Here's a rundown, off the top of my head:
1/C RC-diver: He was my RO for about forever. We went through PORSE and ORSE together, his wife and mine both had kids at around the same time, and he was the single most competent guy I have ever met.
2/C RM: Friendly as all get out, hated going to sea as it meant he wasn't with his family, but if something needed to get done, he would not sleep until it was finished. I could put anything in his hands and trust it would happen.
2/C STS: He left the Navy, then came back and reenlisted less than a month later when he realized he missed it. If he told you something was so, it was. He staked not only his word on it, but his whole self-worth on being the best at his job.
1/C A-ganger: I watched him go from an MM3 to MM1, all CAP promotions, because he was motivated, smart, and tireless. Oh, and he saved the entire boat's a$$ when we had a massive hydraulic rupture - he had it isolated single-handedly before the first DC team even made it to the scene.
2/C M-diver: He and I went to our first critique together, in the shipyard, with NRRO. We both screwed up, and both got disqual'ed. We swore to each other it would never happen again, and when we worked together from there on out, it never did. He was the most meticulous backup I had.
1/C QM: I never would have survived as our boat's stand-in Nav without him. Our Nav got fired partially because he didn't listen to this guy enough. 'Nuff said.
2/C FT: Jovial, joker, but absolute steely-eyed killer when it was time for business. He had an uncanny ability to discern the tactical picture that was damn-near unmatched.

So what was that about the blue shirts doing my will? Are you kidding? My job was to be a sh!t screen so they could be free to do their jobs. I did what *they* needed me to, and working *for* them was my pleasure. And no, it was not tea and crumpets, it was hard work. As Subsunk said better than I could ever hope to, if you were one of my enlisted guys, you never would have seen it. I showed up earlier and stayed later so I could handle things that they didn't need to be burdened with.

Oh, and ditto with Subsunk on serving the crew from the galley as well. If you'd care to peruse, the only pic I have of myself on this blog is of me and the wardroom making food for the crew in the galley. We did it often, and did our damnest to give the MS's and Doc no cause for complaint in how we treated the galley.

Any questions?

At 2/17/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow guys, way to put "Class Warfare" guy to shame. Full disclosure here, son, son in law and nephew of what we used to affectionately call "white hats". They were the best, and they sure looked like pros in a set of crackerjacks, war or peace. They inspired me. They inspired me by whipping the Nazis and the Japs and assorted Communists, and by making hard service sound like the funnest, most satisfying thing in the entire world. I got a commission and flew Navy helicopters for 22 years. Yeah, I was the "boss". I earned it too, every day. You want to be me Anon? I'll tell you how. Take a book home in high school. Compete for a scholarship with thousands of other like-minded people. Go to a wannabe Berkeley U. as an NROTC student. Think you got shit in HS for being different? Try it wearing a uniform and having a haircut and a shave surrounded by a bunch of dorm room peaceniks, taxeaters and assorted cutural theorists (and that's just the faculty!). Spend your college summers in training. Qualify for flight school, or nuke school or BUDs and face daily tests for a year or more which can wash you out. Graduate. Are you there yet? Not quite Anon. Now you go to the fleet where none of the above counts for shit. And then if you are good enough to qualify at your warfare job (not everyone is), after you develop the trust and confidence of your Boss, and more importantly the "blue shirts" you get to be "in charge", that is actually responsible for accomplishing a dangerous mission without hurting anyone or damaging any equipment. So it is what you want it to be, through individual hard work, dedication, mutual trust, and shared risk. Your choice Anon. Join up and work long years to become the indispensible chiefs and petty officers these submarine officers here are proud to have served with (and learned from), or go to college and qualify as a warfighter and a leader, some 6 years after you start. Both are the hard way, because the one rank worse than E-2 is O-1. Or do what it sounds like you did: start as a knucklehead (like most of us), join up, continue to be a undependable knucklehead, only get shit jobs cleaning up after somebody else as a result, and wank it about it for the rest of your life to anyone who will listen. Sincerely, CDR USN (retired).

At 2/17/2006, Anonymous STG2 said...

I did my 3 month stint of Mess Cranking in the wardroom. Never once did I feel as I "pampered" anyone nor did any of the officers try to use their rank to take advantage of the situation. Most, if not all of them, understood that it could be a pain in the ass sometimes and were highly appreciative for all that we did. Cranking is part of being an enlisted man in the fleet as it has been for 200+ years so quit your bitching and whining about what a wonderful life officers have at the expense of the "blue shirts" as it is just a bunch of misguided crap. Enough said. See the above post as he stated it quite clearly.
BTW.....to the CDR retired above... you sound awfully like the old CO of HSL48 out of Jacksonville that use to fly off the USS Hawes in the early 90's.


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