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!