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."