Monday, October 3, 2011

Alright, who messed with my settings????

During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I had the pleasure of standing Tactical Action Officer on the Mighty Battle Frigate FORD (FFG 54).  The only non-Aegis or non-NTU Cruiser to "shotgun" a carrier. 
For those not in the Navy, the "shotgun" for a carrier is the missile shooting escort assigned to remain in close proximity to your carrier and shoot down any incoming threats.  This duty is normally assigned to the most advanced missile shooters.  During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the most capable were the Cruisers.  It was a great honor to be the lone FFG to be assigned this duty. 

On with the story......

We were performing our duties when our carrier began a high speed run to the southern portion of the Gulf in order to gain sea room to launch aircraft.  We were chasing our carrier at 30+ knots.  Very fast for an FFG.

During this lengthy run to the south, I turned my view from my radar screen for a few moments to go over the paperwork for the next event.  When I turned around all the blips on my radar screen had gathered in the middle. 

Note: The radar screen shows your ship in the center.  So, blips gathering in the middle means ships were gathering in close proximity to us.

My first reaction to this situation was to think someone was playing a trick on me and had changed the scale of the display causing more distant object to appear closer than they actually were.

"Alright!  Who messed with my settings???"

I quickly realized no settings had been changed on my screen.  Objects were as close as they appeared and getting closer very quickly.   One of these "blips" was another carrier. 

Our carrier (going very fast) had just "crossed the T" with the second carrier.  We were following behind our carrier and about the attempt the same maneuver. 

Note to the non-Navy -- Crossing the T is never advisable!  BAD things tend to happen to all involved.  Think racing the train to cross the tracks.  Same principle.

I reached up and quickly asked the Officer of the Deck (the officer in charge of driving the ship.)  He could see the outside world.  I was locked away in a room with no windows.  All I could see where the blips on my screen.   I knew I had to quickly assertain two things.

1.  Would we be able to perform this dangerous maneuver safely? AND more importantly.
2.  Was the Captain of the ship on the bridge overseeing the maneuver?

"OOD, what aspect do you hold on the carrier?  Do you see the left side, right side or are we directly  in front of it?"

Note:   If you were standing on the carrier in question, we were heading from left to right in front of them.  So, the only good answer to this question was he could see the right side.  We would have been over the "train tracks"..  Directly in front would have meant, we hadn't completed the maneuver but it was most like going to be successful and I had no choice but to continue it.  LEFT on the other hand was DANGER WILL ROBINSON!  DANGER!

The OOD answered, "Left"

With this piece of information I knew two things:
1.  We needed to maneuver away from the oncoming carrier.  AND
2.  The Captain was not on the bridge.


As the ship leaned over in the midst of the turn, I heard the Captain race to the bridge. 

Long story shortened......We successfully manuevered, we came very, very close the second carrier but passed behind her.

Morale of the story..... when traveling very fast, keep your eyes on the road and drive defensively so you can live to have another adventure the next day...... But that's another story..

Monday, May 9, 2011

Be careful what you tell your people......

I was returning from my first 6-month deployment as a junior officer.  We stopped in Subic Bay, Philippines.  During our short stay, several new junior officers (JO) reported to the ship to get the experience of being underway with the ship prior to our return to homeport.

When we got underway I was given one of the newly reported JO's are my conning officer.  We took the watch as we transited through the archipelgo waters.  Soon after taking the watch, we were approaching a turn in our transit.  I took the conning officer aside and made sure he was good with what needed to be done.

As we approached the turn, our faithful quartermaster (enlisted who helps the Officer of the Deck navigate the ship) kept popping out of his chart room just on the aft part of the bridge like a cuckoo clock bird announcing the distance to the upcoming turn.  The Captain is in his chair quietly observing, taking in the sights.  His leg in a casts (another story) he isn't moving from his perch.

"500 yards to turn"

"400 yards to turn"

The conning officer is super glued into his position on the bridge.  He isn't budging.  I suggest he go out on the bridge wing and make sure we are good for the turn.

"100 yards to turn."

"Mark the turn!"

The conning officer begins the turn but he doesn't look to see if the turn if clear..........

I go out to the bridge wing and realize we are going to hit several small fishing boats if we continue......

I take the conn (for my non-navy readers, I tell the young Sailor actually turning the steering wheel to stop listening to the JO and listen to me).  And steer the ship around the fishing boats.

When the manuever is complete, I take my JO out to the bridge wing and explain what he did wrong.  I tell him never, never, never turn the ship without first confirming we are going to hit something but looking down the entire side of the ship.  I admit the communication of this information was not in a pleasant Mr. Roger's neighborhood voice.  We continued without incident.  He did as instructed from that point onward.

Fast forward several days.  We are not out in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean on the great circle route to Hawaii.  We are lucky enough to be on of the watch teams who will be able to make a course correction (1 degree course change to be exact).  AND I must add, we haven't seen another ship in at least three days.  There are no ships on the radar.

The turn approaches.  Our quartermaster is marking the turn in his usual fashion.  The Captain has come up to the bridge to observe the watch and is sitting in his chair.

"500 yards to turn."

"400 yards to turn."

My conning officer is once again glued to the bridge and hasn't moved.

"100 yards to turn."

"Mark the turn"

No order is issued from the conning officer.   I look to figure out what he is doing and why he has delayed the manuever. 

He is out on the bridge wing looking up and down our entire side.  Only then does he give the order to change the course of the ship by 1 degree. (not a very significant maneuver).

I hang my head.  Where did I go wrong?

The Commanding Officer chuckles and says, "Dave, what have we learned?"

"I should be more careful how I teach my junior officers on how to drive the ship."

"Exactly.  How long are you going to make him clear the side of the ship like that before you temper the lesson?"

"Once we pull out of Hawaii."

We chuckle.  But lessons are learned even when we are not the person in action.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Sir, you have to talk to your dad!"

When I was Executive Officer (XO), my father, ICC (ret) James A. Schiffman, agreed to come on a "Tiger" cruise and accompany his oldest granddaughter to Hawaii.  For the non-navy types, a tiger cruise usually occurs towards the end of a deployment.  A portion of the crew is sent home early from  your last port prior to reaching homeport.  AND some family and friends are allowed to take their place onboard the ship for the final leg. 

So, my father and daughter flew to Hawaii to meet me on the final leg of deployment from Hawaii to San Diego.  There are so many memories from this week at sea.  But there is one in particular that makes me laugh when I remember it. 

My Master Chief of the Command (CMC) found out my father, a retired Chief, was going to be on the Tiger cruise.  CMC immediately asked if he could email my father personally.  I agreed.  It was a "Chief" thing and CMC wanted to offer my father the honor deserved of a Chief. 

When we made final arrangements for where everyone would be sleeping, I was curious why my father was scheduled to have his bunk in Chief's quarters and not Officer's quarters -- (Officer's quarters being just a bit more comfortable).

"Your father requested to be in Chief's berthing."

"OK", I said with a puzzled look.

"It is a Chief thing, sir."

"Got it, Master Chief."

I would allow my father to be in his element.  We always share a good joke about my being an officer and my father being a chief.  This was just an extension of this ongoing joke. 

Well, we were about three days into our cruise when the CMC approached me with one of his Chiefs in tow. 

"Go on Chief, you tell the XO."

This didn't sound good.  CMC usually handled all Chief's Mess issues himself and didn't involve me in such matters.

"XO.  Sir, you have to talk to your dad!"

"Ok, what would be the subject of that conversation, Chief?"

"Well, XO.  I was in the Chief's berthing taking a shower and when I came out of the shower your dad yelled at me!"

"Ok.  Why would he yell at you?"

"Your dad said, I was taking a hollywood shower."  A Hollywood shower is a lengthy shower without turning off the water while you lathered up.  On a naval vessel which makes its own water, taking "Navy" showers is essential.  It is up to every person onboard the ship to hold each other accountable so we have enough water to go around.

"Were you?"


"Ok.  So, Chief..... you want me to bring my dad, a retired Chief, up here and talk to him about yelling at my Chiefs????  I want to be clear what you are asking me to do."

"Yes, sir!  He was way out of line!"

"So, you are saying you need me the XO to handle a Chief?"

"He is your dad!"

"Yes, but for this cruise, he has chosen to be what he is a Chief. Are you saying you need me to handle this Chief issue?  CMC, is this what I am hearing?"

CMC:  "Sir, I told Chief I would handle it but he insisted you be told."

Me:  "Ok.  I will speak to my dad.  But I am sure he might come discuss the situation with each of you, Chief to Chief.  Sound fair?"

CMC:  "Yes, sir."
Chief: "Yes, sir."

Well, I had that conversation with my father.  I took him down to see the Reverse Osmosis equipment which made enough water to allow for such behavior.  My dad just looked at me and said it still wasn't right.  I agreed, but asked politely if he would try not to yell at my Chiefs. 

My dad laughed and said he would try, but he and CMC and the Chief were going to have a talk.  I am sure they did.   I wasn't privy to the discussion.  It was a Chief thing AND I left it at that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Sir, do you think you're right?"

To continue the saga of my missing Leave and Earning Statements (LES's), before leaving California and heading to my next duty station, I had the personnelmen show me the regulations which would govern my travel and travel pay while attending a Pressure-Fired Boiler operator school in Great Lakes, IL.

I arrive in what was the coldest February on record! (just a side note to the story)

School was fine -- weather could have been much better -- but all in all, things were good.

The first payday occurs and we receive our checks.  Mine is decidedly a little short by my calculations so I go to see my friendly (I use that term SOOOOOOO loosely) pay masters.   I explained my situation and was promptly told there wasn't a mistake and that was that.  DISMISSED, ENSIGN!

Well, I wasn't sure what to do.  From my understanding of the pay rules (and I will admit at this point I had been commissioned all of 9 months), I was being shorted by a great deal of money.  So, as I was leaving the building, I got the bright idea to visit the people who held my personnel record.  Maybe they could help me battle the evil -- PAY MASTER! (I must admit here as well, I really didn't think they were evil, just not being helpful)

Ok, I walked into their office AND they listened to my explanation and actually began attempting to help me find the answer to my dilemma.  But they were not PAY MASTERS so our search was not going well.

Just then, the Master Chief of the Command walked through the office.  The people helping me search asked him to join.  Master Chief looked at me (a brand new ensign -- 9 months out of the the Naval Academy) and said, "Sir, do you think you are right?"

I looked at Master Chief and with all the confidence I could muster stated, "Master Chief, I know I am right."

"Good enough for me!"  Master Chief picked up the phone and dialed the pay masters.  He told them he was just talking to Ensign Schiffman.  "Oh, so you know his situation.  Well, you need to bring me the book and prove it to me!"  CLICK!  Master Chief hung up.

He hadn't even told the pay masters where he was in the building.  How were they going to find us?  Master Chief calmly said, "They will have to search for us, but they will find us, sir."

We chatted about how school was going and the weather and such for 15 minutes until we were found by the pay masters.

Master Chief looked at them and said, "Show me and Ensign Schiffman why you think you are right."

The pay master proudly pointed at a chart in the massive book they had brought with them.  Master Chief and I looked at the page.  Master Chief said, "Are we good here, sir?"

"No, Master Chief.  If I understand the chart, this is an if/then chart.  AND I am not that if."

"Yes, you are!", shouted the pay master.

"No, I am not.   I am not sure what category I am.  But that if doesn't apply to me."

The record keepers bring my record and show the pay masters my orders.  I am NOT what is described in the "if" being used.

I looked at all of them and said, "If you find the 'if' which applies to my situation, I will accept whatever 'then' we find."

The Pay Masters search frantically.  They find the appropriate "if"..........

Master Chief looked at them and said, "When should Ensign Schiffman return to get the rest of the pay owed him?"

This is Friday at 5pm of a three day weekend. 

"Tuesday would be good.  Perhaps after he is done with school."


The story doesn't end there.  So, forgive me if I continue.

On Tuesday I return to the Pay Masters.  Master Chief asked me to get him when I arrived so he could make sure all was well with my pay.  I did as instructed and we went to get my check.

As I received it, I must have had a look of disbelief or confusion on my face.

"What is wrong, sir?  Is it still not correct?"

"Master Chief, I don't mean to be a pain, but this figure is MUCH more than I expected.  I don't want to be overpaid either."

Master Chief called the head pay master over to explain.  It seems the pay masters didn't take kindly to being shown up by a brand new ensign so they AUDITED my pay record from day one to the present.  AND discovered after only 9 months of commissioned service, I was underpaid!  So, they reluctantly disbursed what I was owed.

Smiling.  I thanked them for their efforts.

I will never forget Master Chief's question.  It was simple and to the point.  Sir, do you think you are right?  He just wanted to know if I believed what I thought to be true.  When I was, it was good enough for him to find the correct answer.  To right the wrong I felt was being done. 

And I will never forget what Master Chief said when we found out I was underpaid and that all was right with the world and I was thanking him for his belief in me.

"Sir, no need to thank me.  It is our job to make sure these things are right so you can concentrate on bigger thoughts of leading Sailors."

Thanks Master Chief for the lesson.  Thanks for believing in me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

You were commissioned from no where and stationed in Florida.

After I graduated from the US Naval Academy, I returned to San Diego for my first assignment.  I was stationed in Coronado, CA for the Surface Warfare Officer, Basic school.  Once a month, we would get an LES (Leave and Earning Statement).  Ok, everyone else would get a statement.  Each month I would get none.  Each month I was told, "Don't worry.  They will catch up with you."

After 7 months of waiting, I was getting ready to transfer and I asked the personnelmen (PN) to call the office where the LES's orginated.  The conversation went like this:

PN:  "Yes,  I am calling for Ensign Schiffman.  He has not received an LES in 7 months."

The person on the other side of the phone asked for my social security number.

PN: "We are in Coronado, CA"

PN: "Yes, he is right here with me."
PN: "No, we are in California."
PN: "Ma'am, he is right here in front of me AND we are in California AND NO, he hasn't received any LES's.  I'll put him on the phone."

I wasn't sure what I would be able to add to the conversation the PN hasn't already done.

Me: "Hello, this is Ensign Schiffman."
Lady: "Where are you located?"
Me: "Coronado, California"
Lady: "And you haven't been getting your LES's, because they are being sent to you."
Me: "Where are they being sent?"
Lady:  "Well, this is unusual?  Where did you get your commission?"
Me: "Naval Academy.  Why?"
Lady: "Your record says you were commissioned from no where."
Me:  "Ok, are you able to fix it?"
Lady: "Done.  Ok, and you are stationed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida."
Me: "I assure you, I am stationed in Calfornia."
Lady: "No, you are stationed in Florida."

Ok, this wasn't going to work.  Another line of reason was necessary.

Me: "Ok.  Can you see where I get my checks every two weeks?"
Lady: "Yes.  You pick them up in Coronado, Calfornia."

Ok.  We are getting somewhere.

Me: "So, does it make sense that every two weeks, I leave Florida and fly to California to get my check and return. OR perhaps, the record is wrong and I am really stationed in California."

Lady:  "Maybe. Haha!  Ok, I'll fix it.  DONE"

Whew!  I thought it was going to be a fight.  SO, from that auspicious beginning, my career was launched. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Corn dogs are fair food.....

When I was Executive Officer, my Commanding Officer (CO) set down several requirements which needed to be followed in the Wardroom (the place on the ship where the officers gather for meals).

One such requirement was, Corn dog were not allowed to be served in the wardroom.  This was a tough requirement for me since corn dogs are one of my favorites.  The CO's reasoning was simple.  Corn dogs were county fair food and not acceptable or appropriate food for the wardroom. 

But, he didn't banish corn dogs from the ship as he had brussel sprouts (Another story all together).

So, I stepped through the open door of opportunity to point out the non-banishment and ask if there would any time or circumstance inwhich the CO would allow corn dogs to be served.

His response, "If MSCS (Senior Chief Mess Specialist -- our head chef) would sit right there (pointing at a spot in the wardroom) and be making cotton candy AND the wardroom was decorated like a carnival with everyone dresses in carnival clothes, THEN and ONLY THEN, are corn dogs allowed to be served in the wardroom!"

Ok, so you say there is a chance.......  Haha!

Well, a few weeks before deployment, I saw and bought a cotton candy maker at a local department store.  I gave the cotton candy maker to the head chef for use during deployment.  I thought it might be a good moral booster for the crew AND I hoped Senior Chief would find the appropriate time to allow corn dogs to be served.  But there were two other requirements......

Well, one day during deployment, the CO and I arrived for lunch to find Senior Chief sitting right where the CO had pointed, making cottom candy, the wardroom decorated like a carnival and the officers all dressed accordingly.


The CO was gracious and allowed the corn dogs that day and fun was had by all.

If you have to be on deployment for your birthday, there is no better present.  PRICELESS!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Time for a cup of coffee

When I was a division officer on my first ship, I started out in engineering.  I was leader of a rough and tough bunch of engineers.  They were the salt of the earth.  Many came from the middle of the country and the first time they saw the ocean was when they got underway with the ship for the first time.  One of my senior enlisted was a rough and hard man.  He did mince words and told it like he saw it.  I am not certain I saw Senior Chief smile many times.  There were a few occasions.  Let's just say, it was good to be on his good side and BAD to be on his bad side. 

I had been on the ship for about 4 months and qualified to Engineering Officer of the Watch.  As a very junior officer, this was quite a feat -- I owe it all to the engineering enlisted who made sure I knew what I needed to know to pass the oral exam.  They made me visit every little hole, in every space in the engineering plant.  They made me stand every watch station from the messenger to the top watch.  All the while, making sure I learned what I would need to know.  AND I qualified thanks to their efforts. 

One day after I had qualified, I was standing Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW).  The whole 1200 lbs, pressure fired boiler engineering plant at my command.  I was on top of the world.  Not in the Titanic, on the bow of the ship, arms spread, wind in your face, KING OF THE WORLD..... No, this was different.  The engine room was over 100 degrees in temperature.  We were in the bowel of the ship.  Night and day had no meaning.  We didn't get to see the sun.  Think of the scene from Titanic when they run through the boiler room with men shoveling coal or the engine room with the grand turbines without the fancy dress...

It was on one such day, I would learn a new lesson.  Down into the space came, Senior Chief.  He made a tour of the space.  This was not uncommon for Senior Chief.  Even when someone else had the watch, he wanted to make sure his engine room was performing at tip-top shape.

He went down one side to the lower level and returned up the other.  In his hands, he held shoe laces from someone's boot.  He showed them to me and the top watch and then placed them in his pocket.  He then took a seat in the top watch chair and grabbed the microphone for the in-space communications (this was an amplified circuit so the watchstanders could hear over the roar of the engine room noise).  It was quite loud in the engineroom.  Single hearing protection was always worn.

Senior Chief looked at me with a knowing smile and said, "Now, we have some fun, SIR!"

With that, he started yelling into the phone.  His amplified voice BOOMED in the space.  From the lower level of the engineroom, we heard the watchstander yelling (without the aid of the in-space amplified circuit) about something.  Then still yelling, he comes up to the upper level.  He stomped over to Senior Chief still yelling.  His tirade focused on Senior Chief (never a good idea) that someone has stolen his laces.

Senior Chief calmly looked at him and said, "How can someone have stolen your laces while you were on watch IF you never sleep in the lower level?"

"I DON'T KNOW!  BUT someone has stolen them!  SEE!"  Showing Senior Chief his laceless boots.

Senior Chief calmly (this is a bit wierd because Senior Chief is not the calm personality if you know what I mean) took the laces from his pocket.  Holds them up for the Lower Levelman to see.  "NOW!  TELL ME AGAIN HOW YOU DON'T SLEEP IN THE LOWER LEVEL ON WATCH!" (edited from its actual wording)

The young man grabbed the laces and retreated to the lower level.

At this point, my lesson begins.  Senior Chief looks at me and calmly says, "Sir, I think there is a cup of coffee in the Chief's mess with your name on it.  I got the watch!"

I nod.  "How long is my cup gonna last me, Senior Chief."

"I'll call you when your cup runs out."

I depart the space in search of my cup of coffee.  When I arrived in the Chief Mess, my Master Chief Bolier Tech looked surprised and said, "Sir, you can't leave the engineroom when your on watch!"

"Senior Chief said he had the watch and there was a cup of coffee up here for me."

Master Chief smiled and poured me a cup.  I am not sure what happened in the engine room while I was having my cup of coffee, but it lasted about 45 minutes.  When I returned, every one was happy to see me relieve Senior Chief and have him leave again.  There was never a repeat of the sleeping incident. 

So, if you ask me if I ordered the code red, my answer is no.  But I am sure the answer from engineroom watchstanders that day might be a little different.

My lesson that day was the boss sometimes needs to go have a cup of coffee when his workers need to work something out.  A lesson I would apply later in my career.  Another story to follow.........

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Dad will pay for it!

             As Katie goes through the college hunt, taking the SAT, applying, being accepted, awaiting the scholarship and financial aid letters to arrive, I am reminded of my days in recruiting when we would guide young people to apply for the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarships.  Here's one of the stories which came out of that experience.           

             Each year we would have a large push for NROTC scholarship applications.  So, I was making calls to young people one late afternoon trying to increase the number of applicants.  I had made dozens of calls talking to parent and prospective applicants explaining the program and answering their questions.  At the end of the conversation, I would always leave them with the web site address and ask them to consider applying. 

My efforts had met with mixed results; responses from enthusiam to the opposite end of the spectrum.  No one shouted obscenities or anything like that.  Let's just say, NROTC is not for everyone. 
After a few hours of calls, I dialed the next number to yet another possible applicant and the father of the young man answered.  I told the father who I was, why I was calling and if it was ok for me to talk to his son.  The father agreed quickly, excited almost that I had called.  He quickly got his son.  I could hear the father tell the son who I was and the son needed to listen to what I had to say.  Well, I braced for a combative conversation with this young man. 
We ended up speaking for the better part of an hour.  We discussed his plans for the future. The young man told me he was applying to the United States Naval Academy.  Well, seeing the advantage swing more in my favor, I told this young man that Navy ROTC was a great plan B to the Naval Academy.  The end result was the same, a commission into the US Navy.  NROTC midshipman do many of the same events during the summer as USNA midshipman.  All these points we met with positive responses.  Great!  I was going to be able to put one in the win column.
At the end of our conversation, I thought the young man was sold.  I asked if he would apply for the Navy ROTC program. His response, "No."
I was floored.  I thought we had made a connection.  I thought he was very positive about what I was presenting.  I reviewed my notes I had been taking during the conversation.  What had I missed? 
When I asked why he didn't want to apply to the NROTC, he replied, “Well, if I don’t get into the Naval Academy, I am going to go to Europe next summer before starting school in the Fall.” 
"Ok.  You can still go to Europe next summer before starting college and NROTC in the fall.  There is no problem there."
"Well, I am just not all that interested in the NROTC."
WHAT!?  Ok, slow down and get him back on track.  "Well, ok.  Let me ask you this.  If you don't get an NROTC scholarship, how are you going to pay for college?"
“My dad will pay for it all.  He'll pay for college and all my vacations during the summers in between my school years.  Then when I graduate, I will join the Navy.  I still want to be in the Navy, but if I don't get into the Naval Academy, I want a normal college experience.  I don't want to do NROTC.” 
I was tired.  I didn't know how to respond to counter his thought process.  AND I don’t know why, but something made me ask for the dad again.  Eagerly, the son called for his dad (who had gone into the next room during our discussion).  The son turned over the phone.
“Sir, you seemed really excited when I told you why I called your son tonight.  I have spoken to him for about an hour.  I thought he was sold on applying for the NROTC scholarship.  But he just told mehe didn’t want to apply for Navy ROTC.  When I pressed him for his plan B on paying for college, his reply was, ‘Dad will pay for it all.’  Sir, if you are independently wealthy and good with that plan, please accept my apology.  I am sorry for wasting your time this evening.  If not, I wanted you to know what your son was thinking.”
“He said what?  What is his plan B?"
I told the father what the young man had said. 
"What was the web site again?  He will be applying as soon as I get off the phone.”
The son did apply that evening.  His name appeared on the roster of applicants with whom my NROTC coordinator was working.  I am not sure if he was selected.  I am not sure if he is in the Navy.  I do know there was a father who was thankful someone took the time to let him know what his son's plan B was.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What ship did you get?

So, here is the rest of the story.........

After selecting, I went to the Service Selection Night party.  I looked for my roommates and didn't find them so I returned to our room.

They had returned from their selections and were waiting for me. 

"What ship did you get?"

"Albert David FF-1050"

"Great a Knox class....... wait a minute.  What ship did you get?"

"Albert David  FF1050"

"What ship?  The hull number has to be greater than 1052."

For those that don't know, the Knox class frigates were the most numerous class of ships in the navy in the late 1980's.  They were named for USS KNOX (FF1052),  the first ship of the class.  By telling my roommate, I had chosen a ship with a hull number less than 1052, I had confused him.  If it wasn't a Knox class frigate, what had I chosen.

"Albert David FF1050." 

I proudly show him my ballcap, picture of the ship (with the letter from the Commanding Officer) and the little sheet of paper with the ship's name and hull number.  All confirming. USS Albert David and the hull number FF1050.

What kind of frigate is it?  It isn't a Knox class."

"I don't know.  It was the best choice left on the board so I took it."

My roommate retrieved our copy of Jane's Fighting ships from our book shelf. 

Jane's Fighting Ships is a reference book which lists all of the ships of all the navies of the world.  It would provide the pretinent facts of the ship I had chosen.
Flipping through the pages, he finally came upon the Garcia class of frigate and reads the description aloud.

"What is a pressure fired boiler?"

Shaking my head, I had to admit I didn't know.  Although, I vaguely remember something from our Plebe (freshman year) engineering course.  So, I went to the shelf and retrieved our Plebe year enginnering course book  (we had this book because each year we were required to take an exam covering all of the knowledge from all the professional courses we have taken over the four years -- another story perhaps) and quickly find the page on pressure fired boilers and read that aloud.

"Well, I didn't remember all of that when I chose."

"So, how did you choose?"

I recount the events to my roommmates including my choice of departments (Gutsy or stupid, still trying to decide).

"You did what?  Are you nuts?  Enginnering first!  They are going to think you are crazy!"

I had to admit.  They probably will.  But the choice had been made. 

Those decisions have shaped the last 24 years of my life.  I look back and think, for a decision I took about 30 seconds to make, it was a good one.  Although I am sure most of you think me crazy for deciding the way I did. 

Until next time..........

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Service Selection Night -- They are either gonna think you are stupid or gutsy!

Although there have been a few years between me and my Service Seletion Night, I remember it like it was yesterday.  The process has changed over the years, but I did see where the ship selection seems to remain the same.  For those who are not USNA grads, Service Selection Night was the night when we would line up by class rank and choose our job in the Navy (ie, Pilot, SWO, Submariner, Marine....).  Then based on your selection, you advanced to another line where in order you would make further choices about your life following graduation.

Well, let's just say my class rank was in the portion of my graduating class that made the upper 4/5 possible.  Consequently, I waited for a long time before heading to the first line to select your "service".  My roommates departed well before me -- they were both in the top 1/5 of the class.  Finally, my group of numbers were called to proceed to the first line. 

When I finally arrived at the moment of truth, I tried to say Marine, but was totally unsuccessful.  The most I could get out was "MmmmMMmmm".  So, I knew it was fate I was to choose Surface Warfare Officer.  Not sure why I tried to say Marine.  But I am glad I chose SWO!

Off to the next line I went.  Here was a room full of my classmates who had chosen SWO.  We would stand in line again based on class rank and choose our future ship.  I looked at the board and chose 3 ships.  One of those would be the ship for me.  There were 4 people ahead of me.  Certainly one of those three would still be on the board when I was to choose. 

NOPE!  The guy in front of me took the last of my three choices.  So, there I stood in front of the line.  No choices left.  No idea what to choose.  A Commander looking at me, waiting for me to choose.

I quickly narrowed the choices by coast, West Coast.  Half the board gone. 
Next was homeport.  I am from San Diego.  That is where I want to go.  A small group of ships remain possible.
Next ship type.  I don't want to go to an amphib.  Ok, I am down to three ships.  But I have no idea what to do.

"Commander, I am not sure which ship to choose.  I have narrowed it down to these three ships."  Pointing at a portion of the board.  "Can you tell me anything about them?"

"Sure!  The BROKE.... I mean Brooke is a Brooke class FFG. But she is always broke.  Ramsay is no better.  And the Albert David....she is a P-fired ship."

OK!  Brooke and Ramsay don't seem like good choices.  P-fired????  What was P-fired?  I remember talking about it in Plebe engineering but that is about it.

"Thanks, sir.  If you were me, which would you choose?"

"Simple.  I would choose Brooke or Ramsay.  They have a missile launcher.  Albert David just has 2 5 inch-38's."

OOOOoooooK!  They are always broke and never get underway but I should choose them because they have a missile launcher.  Well, snap decision occurs. 

"Thanks again, sir.  I will take ALBERT DAVID."

"Are you sure?"

"As sure as I am ever going to be."

He takes the name down and hands it to me and sends me to the next line.  When I get to the front of the line, a Lieutenant hands me a ballcap and picture of the ship I have just chosen.  Another asks me to rank Operations, Weapons and Engineering department.  Rank them in the order I desire to serve.  I think quickly again.  Engineering has a reputation of not being fun.  Why not start there?  If it is as bad as they say, 18 months from now I will get to do something else.  Better that, then be doing something fun and 18 months later transfer to the bad thing.  That's my thought process.

"Engineering, Operations and then Weapons."

Shocked the Lieutenant says, "Are you sure?"

I think quickly.  "You're right, sir.  Better make that Engineering, Weapons then Operations.  I would rather shoot the gun then write schedules."

Still a look of shock.  "They are either gonna think you are stupid or gutsy."

"I hope it's gutsy!"

Sometimes we have to make snap decision which start us down a path.  I did end up in engineering and loved it.  Ok, not every minute of it AND I never knew if they thought I was gutsy or stupid.  But that tour was one of the memorable. 

Of course, when I returned to my room that evening, my roommates offered their opinion of my choice ..... Well, that's for next time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Montana questions

Ever since my experience with Senior Keg-ger day in Montana, I would make a point to ask each applicant I was required to interview about their town.

I would conduct interviews of applicants who required waivers.  Waivers for something in their past, usually minor issues -- stole a pack a bubble gum from the store.  Stupid kid tricks I would call them.  But when I finished I would always ask if there was anything else we needed to discuss.  Anything at all.  The answer was always no.  Everything was on the application.  I would then launch into Montana questions ---

Me:  "Refresher my memory again, what was your town's name?"
Applicant: Answers with some town in really didn't matter.
Me:  "Is there a sheriff for your town?"
Applicant: "Yes, sir."
Me:  "How long has the sheriff been sheriff?"
Applicant:  "As long as I can remember......"
Me: "So, safe to say, the sheriff knows the town and the surrounding land pretty well?"

It is all in the set up.....

Applicant:  "Well, I guess so."
Me: "So, I would imagine the sheriff probably knows all of the roads and dirt paths in the area?"

I would usually get a chuckle from the applicant at this point.  It told me they didn't see the punch line coming.

Applicant: (chuckles) "I am sure he does."
Me:  "All of the one way roads where people might go to say hide while they were drinking underage on a Friday night AND wait for them to come driving down the road.  Give them a ticket, perhaps?"

Silence.  That always indicated the applicant knew they were caught AND was trying to figure out how to get out of the situation.

Let him squirm just a little longer.  When the applicant started to make a sound, it was always best to stop him and just fill in the blanks.  No sense having him lie to me.

Me: "SO.  Is there any minor in possession or consumption of alcohol you want to discuss."
Applicant:  "Yes, sir.  How did you know?"
Me:  "Wild guess.  This is my first time to this rodeo."

I must have conducted over a hundred interviews a year during my time in recruiting.  I can say it always made me laugh when they wondered how we knew. 

"Wow!  I think that is the first time I have every heard that one......"  Haha! 

Until next time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Senior Keg-ger Day!

I was traveling in Montana.  I went to make a presentation at one of the high schools. As I was checking in with the Main office, I noticed a young lady (student) behind a table with the sheet poster that proclaimed, “BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE FOR SENIOR KEG-GER DAY!”  The poster had pictures of beer kegs and beer mugs. 

Certainly it wasn’t as it appeared.  A school sponsored day when seniors would ditch school and drink.  So, it must have been some quaint local “fireworks display for the seniors” or something of that nature.  Haha!

My curiousity got the better of me.  I asked the nice lady behind the counter at the main office, “What Senior Keg-ger day?” 
“Well, that’s the day when all the Seniors who buy tickets go out to the field about a mile from town.  The parents set up a fence to corral them in with benches, tables and such out there.  The parents and organizers take the car keys of the senior as they arrive, put them into the corral and let them drink as much as they want.  Then they watch them until someone comes to get ‘em OR they are good to drive.“
Yes, the parents assisted the seniors in ditching school, and in a controlled environment, consume beer until the beer was gone.  Then the parents would make sure they stayed until all had rides or were sober enough to drive.  I was astonished to say the least.  This revelation helped me understand why it seemed all Montana applicants seemed to have a Minor in possession or Minor in Consumption of Alcohol on their record.
As I stood there in disbelief, thinking to myself, this nice office lady is just pulling this Sailor’s leg, an adult arrived at the table.  The young lady behind the table proclaimed, “Great!  Here you go, Mom.  Here is the money and the tickets.  I have to get to class.  Thanks for watching the table.”
I couldn’t help myself.  I walked over to this table, introduced myself and told this new arrival at the table this was my first visit to this town in Montana.   Then I proceeded to ask about Senior Keg-ger  Day.  The mom proudly recounted the same version of the events as the lady in the main office.  I tried to hide my astonishment (not sure if I was successful). 
I made my presentation at the high school and then departed.  My recruiters still had applicants from this small town.  But from that point on, I would always ask all the applicants from Montana about their drinking and the sheriff from their town.  But that’s a story for my next post.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

If you don't have to be on the road, STAY HOME!

As I watch the news and facebook posts of my friends in the east, I am reminded of a day when I was Chief Staff of DESRON 9.

The Commodore was taking a day off to move from one house in our neighborhood (I lived right next door to him) to another house (at the other end of the alley).  SO, I was  Al Hagg for the day.... the man in charge.

I remember snow was in the forecast.  We pointed this out to the Commodore.  He said, "It doesn't snow in Seattle."  -- At least that is how I remember it.

I am not sure but for some reason I woke very early -- not saying the boss was making a lot of noise as he prepared to move his stuff -- and I noticed snow falling...... Go figure.  The weather man was right for a change.  It wasn't much but it was coming down steady.  I turned on the television to get the morning weather and see if there was any news of the road conditions. 

Our neighborhood was near downtown Seattle.  The Naval Station Everett was about 30 miles further north.  There on the television was the weather man -- in Everettt.  The snow coming down faster and heavier.  He gave the local conditions and the forecast for the next few hours.  It didn't sound good.  To drive the point home, he called upon Trooper Smith. 

Trooper Smith's comment was short and sweet, "If you don't HAVE to be on the road today, Stay Home."

Well, that was good enough for me.  I called the Staff Duty Officer and told him to activate the phone tree.  Have everyone stay home.  I went outside to look at the snow a few minutes later.  My boss came out of his door and said, "Why are you here?"

"Trooper Smith said, if I didn't have to be on the road, stay home.  Sounded like good advice."

"Ok, you're in charge."

AND for another example of why you should stay home.

I remember a weather report where the weather man was in 60 below zero weather in Minnesota.  He was telling everyone to make sure if they had to venture from their homes to bundle up.  To make his point, he had his assistant hand him a boiling hot cup of water.  He threw the boiling water into the air.  It froze and fell to the ground as snow.  Point taken.  A cool example of the triple point of water!  Not one I want to experience first hand.

If you don't have to be on the road, STAY HOME!

Be safe everyone.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sucks to be you

As Program Officer at the Naval Postgraduate School, you are guidance counselor, vice principal and military authority all rolled into one.  I am the first person in what we call in the military as the Chain of Command.  I should be the first stop for an officer in my curriculum when they have an issue they need help resolving.  Of course, not all the junior officers seem to understand this nuance (a subtle) of military life. 

SO, one day, a young officer (Let's call him Timmy) entered my office on his third day of school.  He got my attention and preceeded to say:

Timmy:  "I just spoke to Captain Not-in-my-chain-of-command.  She said I could transfer from this curriculum to another (which he perceived to be easier) curriculum."

Me:  "I think you have me mistake for someone else. Perhaps you should go outside my office and read the name plate again.  I know who I am.  You need to refresh your memory."

Timmy has a confused look but does as he is instructed.  Good!  I thought we were going to have to remind him there is a vast difference between junior officers and very senior Commanders. 

Timmy:  "Sir (we are off to a better start), Captain Not-in-my-chain-of-command said I could transfer to the other curriculum and I just needed your signature.  So, I will bring the form by tomorrow for you to sign."

OH BOY!  I don't do well when junior officers tell me what I am going to do.

Me:  "First of all, I am glad you spoke to the Captain.  But she doesn't run this curriculum.  I do.  AND YOU  need my permission to transfer -- which you don't have -- and the agreement of the Program Officer to accept you into the other curriculum.  So, let me tell you what I need to grant you permission to transfer from my curriculum."

A look of promise in Timmy's eyes.

Me:  "You need to attempt to do well and FAIL!  Not just fail.  Just failing will earn you a disenrollment from school and back to the fleet."

Timmy:  Now gathering this won't be an easy approval.......  "But, sir.  I will fail.  I don't have the skills required to pass this curriculum."

Me:  "Why do you say that?"  Pulling up his record.  Naval Academy graduated less than 3 years ago in Economics.  Top grades.  Very impressive Academic Proficiency Code (APC) -- we use the APC as an indicator of Undergraduate performance.

Timmy:  "Well, I am an Economics major.  I haven't had all this math."

Me: "You are an Naval Academy grad, right?"

Timmy:  "Yes, sir."

Me:  "Well, suck to be you.  So am I.  And I know you have taken two semesters of Calculus, Calculus based physics and an Economics major has math involved."

Timmy:  "Well, yes sir, BUT my girlfriend at the Academy was a Math major and she tutored me through all of my math courses.  IT is the only way I made it through."

Me: "AHHHHHH!  I understand now!"

Timmy smiles, as he feels relief that I finally get his predictament.

Me: "Your girlfriend helped you through the math.  AND you weren't smart enough to keep her.  AND you weren't smart enough to replace her before coming here.  As I said, it sucks to be you!"

Timmy's smile leaves quickly.  He doesn't know what to say.

Me:  "Here is what we are going to do.  You are going to keep attending class.  Let me judge if you cannot make it through this curriculum. When I think you have 'tried' and will not succeed, we can have the transfer to another curriculum conversation.  Until then, do you need my help finding a tutor OR will you be able to  handle that on your own?"

Timmy:  "I don't know.  I will let you know, sir."

Me:  "Ok!  Thanks for stopping by. Come back and let me know if you need any help."

Update.  Timmy is in his last quarter of the curriculum.  He has suffered some bumps and bruises (academically speaking) for the past 8 quarter, but he is scheduled to graduate this March.  He stops by my office regularly to let me know how he is doing.  I told him during one of those meetings I was really proud of him.  He smiled and said, "Thanks, I guess I just needed someone to believe in me.  Thanks for being that person." 

"You are welcome."

Sometimes we all just need someone to tell us, "It sucks to be you right now, but you can make it."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

They will come for you some day.... Live in Fear!

I had just assume the dities of Executive Officer of my DDG a week prior to this incident.  
A young Sailor was just returning to the ship from being UA.  (Unauthorized Absences --- he had left the ship without permission).  He admitted he was UA, offered little if no excuse for his actions, and took his punishment.  Then one day, he turned up missed.  He had left without the proper permission again.  Very strange.  He wasn't the type to get into trouble prior to his first incident.
I had a meeting with his supervisors.  I asked if they had any idea where he might have gone.  Where was he when they found him the last time?  He was in Kansas with his girlfriend -- I later found out she was pregnant.  They had a phone number but no address or name.  So, I thought I would call the phone number they provided.  My idea was to tell whoever answered Sailor Timmy (name changed to protect this young man) was in a lot of trouble.   I figured the parents of the girlfriend would tell Timmy (father of the daughter's child) he needed to get back to the Navy.  That was my plan. 
“Hello, this is the Executive Officer of the USS MYSHIP.  I am looking for Sailor Timmy.  May I speak to him please?”
“Hold on.  I’ll get him.” was the answer.
PLAN B.  Ok.  Didn’t expect they would admit he was there.  Think quickly!  What are you going to say when they come back and try to act like he wasn't there.  What to say......
“Hello, this is Timmy.”
OK!  PLAN C.  I didn’t expect Sailor Timmy to answer the phone knowing I was on the line.  Ummmmmm........
“Sailor Timmy, this is the Executive Officer.  Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, sir.” what?  “You are in a lot of trouble being UA.  Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir." 
So far, so good.  "Why have your gone UA?"
"My girlfriend is pregnant AND I came back to help her until she has the baby."
"Ok, I get that.  But the best way to help her is to come back to the ship.  You need to turn yourself into the authorities by tomorrow morning.  If you don’t, you will always have to live in fear of being picked up as a deserter.  Do you want your girlfriend see you hauled away in handcuffs?"
"No, sir."
"Do you understand you need to turn yourself into the authorities or you will be declared a deserter?  Do you know what that means?"
“Yes, sir.”
Now to drive my point home!  “Ok.  If you haven’t turned yourself in by tomorrow morning, you will need to live in fear.  Some day; I am not saying tomorrow; but some day, there will be a knock on the door and the sheriff will be there.  He will haul you out of bed, put you in handcuffs and haul you away.  Do you understand me?” 
"Yes, sir.  I understand.   I will turn myself in."
Like I said, I added that last part to scare the young man a bit. I never thought he wouldn’t turn himself into the authorities.  By the next morning, he had proven me wrong.  That is when the detective work kicked in full throttle.  I used the phone number to figure out where in the country the phone was.  I called the local directory assistance to see if they could help me narrow it down with the prefix number.  They got me to a county.  I found the number from that to the County Sheriff.  I called.  I explained who I was, for whom I was searching and that all I had was a phone number.  The Sheriff was more than happy to assist me.  He used the number to figure out an address, conferred with his Deputies and came to the conclusion they knew my Sailor Timmy. 
“Call you back in 30 minutes.”  The Sheriff hung up.
What did the Sheriff mean he would call me back in 30 minutes......
30 minutes later.  “Hey, we got your guy.  He was right where you said he would be.  What do we do with him now?”
Got  to love the Sheriff.  I explained what needed to be done and then the Sheriff said Timmy wanted to speak to me.  So, He put Sailor Timmy on the phone.  Sailor Timmy’s only words to me were, “It was just like you said.  The Sheriff just hauled me out of bed.  How did you know?”
“I just do, Sailor Timmy.  I just do.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It takes a village

One of my jobs was the Commanding Officer, Navy Recruiting District, Seattle.  I had the largest geographically dispursed territory (ie, Washington states, Northern Idaho, Montana and Alaska).  Trying to recruit the youth of America from these diverse areas each presented their own challenges.   
So, when my recruiters from Alaska told me we had a young man (native Inuit) who had scored exceptionally well on the practice aptitude exam, I was excited for the recruiters and the young man.  He can from a very remote village on the northern shore of Alaska, far above the Arctic Circle.  A rare potential recruit.
Once I had review the paperwork and saw the test scores I authorized the young man to travel to Anchorage, Alaska on the Navy’s dime.  A few days later, he arrived in Anchorage.  The recruiters met him at the “bush plane” terminal at the airport.  The bush planes take off from a “pond” a little ways from the Anchorage Main terminal.  You see the pond as you approach main terminal.  It is surrounded by little shacks, each shack sheltering the pilots for the different destinations. 
The recruiters make sure the young man is delivered to the hotel to spend the night.  They make sure is fed and understands when they will pick him up for breakfast and take him to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).  Then he is left there in his room. 
The next day bright and early, he is picked up.  He is allowed to eat just a light breakfast.  The recruiters take him down to the MEPS for his in-processing.  The first stop is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) exam.  The ASVAB measures your aptitude for different vocations.  It will be used to determine several things.  The applicant’s possible vocational fields as the name suggests but more importantly, his eligibility to join the military.  He must score at least a 35 to be eligible to join the US Navy.  However, by all indications of the practice test, he should score well above 50.  A score above 50 will open lots of doors of opportunity for this young man.  We all wait in anticipation.
The exam is over.  The grades revealed.  The frantic call to me. 
“Skipper (the affectionate name given to a commanding officer), the applicant scored a 25.”
“25!  What was the score on the practice exam?”
“Well, then he should have score much better.  What is wrong? “
“Don’t know.  What do you want us to do?”
Of course, the recruiters wanted to know what to do now.  Haha!  Things didn’t go as planned.  Skipper, what do we do?  Well, my first thought is something wasn’t right with our applicant.  He was from a very small village.  This might have been his first and only night in the BIG city.  Maybe he didn’t get enough sleep.  Maybe he ate way too much for breakfast.  Maybe he was confused by the questions.  The answers came back from my recruiter quickly that none of these were the reason for the low score.  I had two options.  1. Put the young man back on the plane and perhaps bring him back to Anchorage at a later date to be tested again.  OR 2. Request a retest of the young man.  This second option would mean one more night in the hotel.  A cheaper option if I could be convinced he would do better on the second try.  More questions needed to be asked.
“When you went to the village to meet with the young man, how did you administer the practice exam?”
“I didn’t travel to the village.  I just sent the exam up to the village to be taken.   We got the school teacher to administer it to the applicant.”
“Ok.  Ask him if there was anything unusual about the way the exam was given.”

Silence for a few minutes.  Then the answer came.
“No, he described the conduct of the exam.  It all sounds pretty normal, Skipper.  The teacher gave it to him in the school room on the school’s computer.  He said, it was a big event in the village.  Everyone turned out.”

I thought about that last statement before answering.
“What do you mean the whole village turned out?  It is the middle of winter.  It is way below zero in the village.  Where did they all ‘turn out’???”

Then came the answer for which I was searching.  The village people were so excited the young man was taking the test which would determine if he the US Navy would have him travel to Anchorage to join, they all attended the examination – they would all proctor the exam.  They all (50 people strong) stood in the one room schoolhouse as the young man sat at the computer.  The young man would read the question and all of the possible answers aloud.  He would announce in a loud voice his answer.  If someone in village didn’t think it was right, they would make a sound until he chose correctly.   The village had scored a 45.  Individually, the young man had scored only 25 of those points.  Perhaps, even less. 
Unfortunately, I had to send the young man back to his village.   It took a village to earn this young man a trip to Anchorage.  It might be the only time he will ever see a city that big.  He never returned to take the exam again while I was in command.   I asked my recruiters to check on him and see how he was doing.  They told me he was doing well.  I often wonder what he is doing.  I am sure he is surrounded by a loving village who only wanted him to do well. 
He is one of my favorite applicants.  I wonder if he knows how much he touch my life even though I never met him in person. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sometimes you need to bet your hair.

Young Sailors need something to focus their attention.  They need something tangible for them to gain if they are successful.  In the corporate world, it is bonuses or incentive pay.  In the world of a Sailor, it might be as simple as the hair on top of their boss’ head.  There have been two times in my Navy career when I bet my crew they couldn’t achieve a goal, a lofty goal.  In exchange for achieving the goal, I would present myself at a time of their choosing for a “barber” (of my choice) to remove my hair from my head.  Of course, I also had a skilled barber there to make it all better in the end. 
It was in 1994 as Chief Engineer on my flight 2 Oliver Hazard Perry frigate (FFG) – for those with little Navy understanding read that as “OLD SHIP” -- when I bet my hair for the first time. 
The goal for the crew; achieve a grade of GOOD or better on the upcoming Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE).  This feat was very lofty.   Most ships are SATISFACTORY.  Very few receive GOOD.  Still fewer receive the grade of OUTSTANDING.  AND this was in an era of some ships receiving UNSATISFACTORY and the Chief Engineer being fired.  When I was preparing to take the job, my contemporaries and I would joke.  50% is all we ask.  50% of the Chief Engineers of this day were being fired.  You do the math.
Well, this bet created quite a stir amongst the entire crew.  OPPE was an engineering event, but it took the entire crew to pull off a grade of good or better.  The engineers would need to get the whole crew involved if they wanted to see the top of my head sans hair. 
As we prepared for the OPPE, I focused my department on working hard while we were underway to constantly improve our ability to operate the plant.  We worked hard to improve our ability to demonstrate we could fight fires – an entire crew evolution.  We worked hard to improve the material condition of the engineering plant.  My Commanding Officer gave me lots of freedom to do what I needed to do without getting in the way of my progress.  He did provide me assistance in the form of augmentees (a tiger team) to my department to assist in painting. 
Other People Painting Engineering is what the rest of the crew called OPPE.  But it was a welcome addition.  The week prior to the exam, the Commanding Officer pulled out one more stop, he assigned each department an engineering space to deep clean under my supervision. 
It came down to the Friday before the exam.  The Commanding Officer asked for a meeting of my department senior leadership.  He wanted to know if we would be ready.  He polled all of my leadership and then asked me the question. 
My response:  “Boss, the engineers and I have some spit and polish to apply.  We will be working this weekend to make sure we have all the paperwork ready for inspection.  But the spaces are ready.  The crew is ready.  You have the entire crew out there right now wondering what you will be asking of them for this weekend.  They have busted their tails (ok, I probably used a different word here. Haha!) helping us get ready.  On Monday, we need them rested and excited for the exam.  If we make them work this weekend, they will be down.  I think you should go out there and tell the crew you met with us and have decide your ship is standing by for the inspection team.  Tell them to rest and relax and come back Monday morning ready to show the inspection team what we can do.”
Well, the Commanding Officer did just that.  There was an incredible cheer that went up from the ship.  The crew took the weekend and came back Monday morning ready for the examination.  As we say, we hit the deck plates running.  We were cruising through the examination.  We got underway early the afternoon of the first day.  Quite the feat.  The hair on the top of my head feeling a little vulnerable.
There were some bumps and bruises along the way.  But we got down to the final demonstration of fighting the fire.  Now, during the exam, the crew must go about its business as if it was a normal underway.  However, the crew always knows what is happening and is ready for this fire demonstration.  It is the last event. 
As the Sailors are heading to get ready to fight the simulated fire, one of the lead firefighters is a little too zealous.  He hits his head on a door way frame, knocking himself off his feet, where he hits his head again.  Two Sailors who are standing there think it is all part of the demonstration and react to render assistance.  The fire team comes together.  There leader does a quick head count and realizes one of the nozzle men is missing.  They call out for him.  The two Sailors rendering assistance tell the team leader the nozzle man is injured.  Without skipping a beat, the leader rallies his team and prepares for the fire fighting demonstration.  The demonstration goes flawlessly. 
In the end, some of the bumps and bruises we suffered were the reason why we only achieved a grade of SATISFACTORY.  AND to be honest, I was most likely to blame for the most of the bumps and bruises.  BUT we had missed the mark of a grade of GOOD or better nonetheless.  The crew was excited for having completed the examination so quickly – a mere 36 hours --but a little down that they would not see the top of my head. 
What is a leader to do?  I could have easily walked away from the crew my hair intact.  BUT I decided to gather the crew, I would yield my hair. As we watched the inspectors leave the ship, the crew celebrated by removing my hair.  First in a reverse Mohawk.  Then a BoZO the clown style.  Finally, they removed the hair in a patch work.  And then allowed the barber to make it all smooth and neat.
When I came to work the next day, the crew was still charged.  Telling stories of the experience.  Excited to have triumphed.  Wanting to touch my head and laugh with me.  It was a good use of my hair.  I think the best quote came from my daughter when I got home.  She said, “Daddy you’re funny.  Now put your hair back on.”  Haha! 
I learned that sometimes you need to give your people a focus point and the ultimate reward for achieving it.  And sometimes come through with the reward even when they miss the mark.  I gained a lot from being willing to do so.

Where our stories begin.......

I have been in the US Navy for over 27 years.  In that time, I have seen many different places; seen many different people and cultures.  All while I was surrounded by a cross section of US American youth.  Some educated on the streets.  Some educated in college; from rich and poor families; Enlisted and Officers. 
Bottom Line:  I was surrounded by US Sailors, Airman and Soliders.  Each and every one a unique person who has taught me some lesson.  They have taught me many things about life.  How I think.  How I react.  How I live my life.  Most of these lessons were not taught in school.  Many more will never would never see the light of day in a classroom.  But all are lessons of life and leadership.  The kind of lessons you only acquire leading people, dealing with the messy stuff of life.  All of these lessons will help you gain experience and become the foundational blocks of you. 
My foundational blocks permeate my mind with stories which I have decided to write down.

I hope you enjoy the stories..... I have enjoyed collecting them.