Hallmark doesn’t make a card for Sea Daddys. (But maybe they should) 8

Warning: Some salty language may have snuck past the censors

There was a Navy training film many years ago called “The Lost Sailor”.

The idea behind the film was for Navy leaders to recognize all the things that could go wrong with a young sailor when they first report on board a ship or submarine. The newly arriving boot was probably fresh from school and this was his first assignment at sea. He reports on board and suddenly gets disillusioned when everyone is too busy to pay any attention to him. In fact, the sailor that ultimately takes him to his berthing assignment is a sub-standard sailor who is only available for such duty because he is on restriction. It doesn’t take long for the squared away recruit to turn into a derelict just like his “mentor”. The entire film is based around leaders not letting this kind of thing happen to their new sailors when they report on board.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “Sea Daddy”. Thinking back to my earliest days in the Navy, I remember reading the Blue Jackets Manual from front cover to back. The Eighteenth Edition of Ridley McLean’s handbook for sailors had specific details on everything the American bluejacket would ever need to know about being a sailor.

Delbert D. Black was the Master Chief Petty officer of the Navy in the 1969 edition and he gave the following forward: To all Navy Men: The Navy is a man’s job. It requires courage, dedication and daring. Navy men have a proud tradition of heroism in all conflicts.”

He goes on to say more but in the entire book, nothing is mentioned about the existence of a position or assignment called Sea Daddy.

Maybe that’s why I never had one when I went to my first submarine. I was a Machinist Mate Fireman that was assigned to a Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine and my role would include driving the boat, cleaning dishes in a hot deep sink, compacting and shooting trash and eventually standing watch as a roving Auxiliaryman and later as a Scrubber Room watch.

As I was reporting on board, the senior men in that division all hit their rotation dates. Once the dust settled, we had a brand new Chief (who had just been advanced) one first class and one second class. The rest of us were new to the boat and new to submarines. If there actually was an official title of Sea Daddy, there wouldn’t have been enough of them left to care for the rookies that showed up for duty,

Looking back through a long lens, I think Chief John did the best he could with what he inherited. All of us had been through a lot of technical classes before we showed up. The problem was that the technical classes were mostly geared towards the sleek new SSBN 640 Class Boomers and this was the original 41 For Freedom experiment called the George Washington. By the time I reported on board, she had sailed in both oceans, made over forty patrols, and was showing the signs of age that can only come from a boat that had been stitched together in a rush to beat the Russians to a viable boomer.

Old Boats Leaked

Everything that could leak did. The pumps we had to pack and repack were buried under pipes and deck plates and lines that crisscrossed each other in a chaotic maze that had been designed by a mad man. The high pressure air compressors were not the kind any of us had trained on so each time they required repairs (which was pretty damn often) it was like an exercise in jig saw puzzle land. On my first patrol, I saw very little of these mechanical wonders since I spent most of the time in the galley as a crank. The second patrol was a little better since I was qualified and only stood dive and drive part of the time. Between watches and drills, I was indoctrinated into the world of adapt and overcome.

While I am sure he would have revolted against the idea of being called a Sea Daddy, Chief John probably fit the bill more than any other man I served with in all five boats. He was patient to a point but he was also firm that you didn’t get to walk away from a job just because it was kicking your ass. He would teach to a point but his main method of teaching was to make sure you didn’t screw things up too badly while you were figuring out the right way to fix them.

You do not have permission to quit

My least favorite job was repacking the trim pump. This pump was vital to the ship’s operation since it moved water from tank to tank and helped the boat to adapt to the ever changing sea and internal ballast. But replacing the packing meant climbing down into a tightly packed area with very little room to get comfortable. Then you had to maneuver your hands in such a way that you could pull the old packing as needed and insert the new rings. If you tightened the packing too much, you smoked the rings. Then you got to start all over. I found this out the hard way. After a few attempts, I went back to the Chief and said that I couldn’t get it. I was tired, hot and dirty and I just wanted to go to my rack.

I don’t think I saw my rack for another day.  Or maybe it was two

Chief John made it very clear that he had no time for someone not doing their job. I don’t remember his words but I do remember he had quite the way with phrases that a young sailor would never forget. I finally got it right. I never had to repeat that error again. The same lesson would be learned on nearly every job I was assigned to for the next few years.

I lost track of Chief John when I transferred. After some time away from submarines, I returned to being an Auxiliaryman and never looked back. The lesson about doing hard things without quitting never left me and I hope that I did him proud. To be honest, I think he would be surprised to know I made it as far as I did. He was in my mind the day I made Chief. I tried to help other sailors along the way with some of his best lessons and maybe a few I learned from others.

Come to think of it, maybe there was such a thing as a Sea Daddy after all. If I were to see him today, I would thank him for helping me through some of the most difficult days of my life. And I would probably wish him a Happy Father’s day.

Dedicated to MMC/SS John Mills, US Navy

The best damn Chief I ever met

Mister Mac

 

 

Adversity is a refining fire. 9

I achieved a minor but important breakthrough this morning at around 4:50 AM when Angus the dog decided he needed to get up and go outside.

I have been struggling for months to properly title the book project I have been working on now for about five years. The last three chapters have been the hardest since these chapters cover the most well known parts of my subject, Captain Cassin Young, US Navy Medal of Honor awardee (deceased).

The breakthrough is that I believe I have the name that fits the work I have done and best describes what I want people to see when they pick up the book.

I will reveal that in the weeks to come.

Debbie and I have tried to get into a habit each day of studying God’s word through the Bible and some study guides we purchased for individual chapters. The study has been a lot like going back to school and we have both gained much from reading and looking at the many resources. This morning’s lesson for me came from Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 verses 1-2.  These verses focus on adversity and how we are defined in its shadow.

We include a prayer each day for the country, the President and Vice President and their families and for all of those who love and protect this country.

While there are some who see nothing but hatred in this country because of the past, we see the goodness and the mercy that happens here every day. Without freedom, there is little chance for people to rise up from the ashes of adversity, no chance for charity that overcomes greed and absolutely no hope for a world that is broken in so many ways.

My ancestors came to America under very adverse circumstances and because of the land of their birth were faced with tremendous adversity. Yet they managed to use the freedoms and opportunities that were available to rise above those humble beginnings. We have doctors, lawyers, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard Officers, teachers, millworkers and business men and women of every kind in our family. Nearly all have contributed to the song we call “America the Beautiful” and every single one that is alive stands for the pledge of allegiance.

We rise or fail when we remember that adversity is the refining fire that either prepares us all for our destiny or gives us the excuse to never achieve what we should.

I am hoping to have the book completed by the end of July. Then will start the process of editing and hopefully finding the right publisher. But I am absolutely passionate about the story the book will tell and the life of Captain Cassin Young. I hope passion equals success.

Mister Mac

Cassin Young, Captain, United States Navy MOH Recipient, Information request Reply

Good morning. For the past few years, I have been searching through Naval Records, newspaper articles, period books and a number of other sources to help complete the picture of one of the greatest heroes the Navy has ever produced, Captain Cassin Young. The journey has had a lot of twists and turns but I am nearing completion of the project.

I am missing one crucial element of the story that the rest hinges upon. During 1940-1942, then Commander Young was the Executive Officer of the Naval Submarine Base in New London Connecticut. He was a submariner from his earliest days in the Navy during some very pivotal times and served as a Submarine Squadron commander prior to this assignment.

But something happened at the base that changed the course of his life. I have part of the story but it comes to me from a second hand source. The only way I can validate it is to speak with a family member that can corroborate what I have found. I have reached out to them on social media and in other ways but so far no response.

So I am taking a shot in the dark.

I am asking that if you read this, you would consider sharing it to your own Blog or to any social media that you are connected to. Have them reach out to me here at theleansubmariner and I will do the rest.

When I started the project, my motivation was that so little was known about the amazing life and service of an American Hero. Last Christmas, I was given a book about Pearl Harbor and the author and one of the men he wrote about alluded to something that was both reprehensible and unthinkable. They attacked someone who had spent a lifetime preparing for just the moment that occurred on that December morning in Pearl. My book will show a different view of those events based on many sources. I feel compelled that the rest of the real story be told.

The time period Young spent in New London would help to fill in one last gap in the book. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

Mister Mac

The Line 13

As Memorial Day approaches, I know that all of us will be busy with tributes, ceremonies and parades of honor. At least I hope that we all would be so engaged. The truth is that many will be more focused on picnics and pools, parties and getaways, sales and sports. How far away from our own heritage have we drifted.

I will have the honor of participating in the Elizabeth Parade and Ceremony in Elizabeth PA. The ceremony goes back as far as anyone can remember and has been a regular part of my families tradition for nearly as long. I hope to be able to introduce a new poem written today for the occasion.

This poem is a reflection based on a vision I had about sailors today. I have copywrited the work so if you feel the desire to share, please contact me directly.

The Line

Mister Mac

“My child is a submariner… I’ll sleep when they come home” 5

I will never forget that day in June 1972 when my parents came to Pittsburgh International Airport to see me off on my way to Boot Camp. I was not the first in my family to leave home (big brother went to a nearby college three years earlier) but I was the first to go into the military. Dad had proudly served in World War 2 and I did not want to miss the adventure that I knew lay ahead of me.

Back in those days, the families could go to the gate with no problems and Mom, Dad, and my high school sweetheart all came to see me leave to go to the faraway land of Lincoln where the Navy had one of its three Boot Camps. (I had asked for Orlando and San Diego so of course was sent to Great Lakes outside of Chicago IL.) There were a lot of hugs and a few kisses and then it was up the ramp. I turned just before I went through the door and saw them all standing there. The girlfriend was sobbing, Dad had his arm around Mom, and Mom just had this sad look on her face. One of her children was leaving forever and he would never be the same again.

The next six months were fast and filled with all kinds of new adventures. Boot Camp, Machinist Mate A school, and temporary duty when I failed to make the needed requirements for Nuc school. Somewhere in the whirlwind of activity, someone sat down with me and placed a pile of paperwork in front of me. Since I was no longer going to nuclear power training, there were some forms to sign and the need to refocus on a different path. One of the options was to volunteer to undergo submarine training and ultimately serve on a boat. I will freely admit that I didn’t give it much thought at the time. The idea of making an additional fifty five dollars a month seemed to be the biggest motivator at the time. The decision to volunteer would change my life. And it would change my Mom’s life, too.

I will freely admit that I have never been a Mom of a submariner. But I did have a Mom that had two boys on board submarines who would eventually serve for over twenty years. For nearly four of those years, my brother Tom was on the same boat with me.

I knew from the first minute I told them that Mom was worried. As a kid growing up, we were not allowed to have guns or motorcycles since they were too dangerous. She would wait up for me to come home from dates to make sure I was safe and no harm would come to me. I suppose that is what normal mothers do.

Mom used to worry, I am sure, but despite serving on a combined total of nine submarines, we both came home each and every time. The boats we served on had the highest level of quality of any that had ever been built. The training is and has been the finest in the entire world. Between Tom and I, I am sure that we went to over a hundred different schools and classes. The mission could be a bit dicey from time to time but the emphasis was always on safety.

Communications were not always easy back in the day. There was no internet and phone calls were pretty expensive. So we wrote a lot and called when we absolutely needed to. The infrequent visits home would be celebrations that we survived another mission. But I know now that the times for her had to be pretty hard. She was always enough of a patriot that she never complained about the life we had chosen. Like our wives, she was as much a part of the service as those of us that wore the uniforms.

So how did my Mom handle things?

While we were deployed, Mom worked with the veterans groups in the community and did her best to support active duty men and women with her volunteer work, contributions and activism. She focused on the things around her and remembered every day that her boys were volunteers that did so twice: once to become a United States Navy sailor and once to become a volunteer in the submarine force.

I pray for all of the sons and daughters who go to sea in submarines and ships.

There are no guarantees. But know that we have the finest Navy and submarine force anywhere in the world and their main focus is and should be on the mission to protect this country. But I also pray for all the Moms who sit at home and wait for their child to return safely home. When they do, you may notice they are a little different from when they were younger. That can’t be helped. They have seen and done things they will never be able to fully explain. But in their hearts, they are still your children and still love you for all of your sacrifices that allowed them to be who they are today.

Thanks Mom.

Mister Mac

The Submariner’s Lament; When you remember 12

When you understand

The story called “When you understand” was posted originally on Facebook in April 2014.

It has been shared over 8500 times in the time it has been on Facebook

On May 22, 2018, the short story I composed in April of 2014 (originally titled “When you understand”) was formally registered with the United States Copy Write Office with the title:

The Submariner’s Lament (When you remember)  ©

Mister Mac

(In accordance with copyright laws of the United States of America, no version of this work (intellectual property) can be used or altered without express written permission of the original author (Robert W. MacPherson or his heirs).  This applies to all previous versions of the work titled “When you understand” whether attributed or not. The contents of the original work are incorporated in the copy write)