The Crew 5

The Crew

As I look back over the past forty five years, I keep wondering what it was about serving on submarines was the part of my life that had the most impact on my life. As I look around social media, it’s not too hard to see that I am not alone in that view. Don’t get me wrong. My marriage to Debbie and my parents were impactful and meaningful in many ways that transcend the service, but no other single thing has been as much of a driver as those days on board the boats I was a crew member of.

You can get a little tunnel vision looking back across all of those years and forget there were bad things. Not enough sleep, separation from the family and real world, stress that was off the charts surrounded by unbelievable boredom and sleeping on a foam mattress in a space the size of a coffin (if you were lucky). But there are the good memories that seem to overshadow most of those. When you are young and new to the game, it’s getting a signature on your qualification card. Not just an easy one but one of the really complicated ones that require an inordinate amount of knowledge and skill. With each succeeding signature, you come closer and closer to that goal. Not just the physical symbol of the dolphins, but knowing that you will be seen as a fully qualified member of the crew.

The current trend for many millennials is something called person branding. Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging. Tom Peters, a management Guru, is thought to have been the first to use and discuss this concept in a 1997 article.

Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.

Being a submariner has always been about personal branding but in a bigger way. The focus as you qualify is very inward. You are trying your best to learn the knowledge and become an expert in the skills that make a good submariner. From damage control to operating the ship’s systems, you must be able to contribute in every sense of the need when the ship is operating or when it is involved in a casualty (real of practice). And everyone on board is a member of the combat and casualty teams. You might be a phone talker or you might be the nozzle man on the hose preparing to fight the infamous deep fat fryer fire but you will play some role.

My first experience on an aircraft carrier as a Chief (I was teaching classes while the Nimitz was underway) was a real eye opener. A drill was announced over the PA system and I was trying to rush to my battle station. What stunned me is that not everyone was moving at the speed of light to get to where they should have been. Only designated “Flying Squads” of DC men were in motion. I cannot even imagine that happening on any submarine I ever served on.

But the inward focus gives way to a crew focus once you qualify as a submariner. You have about five minutes to gloat that you have achieved something many never do or could do. Then you start to focus on actually learning how your role is part of the crew’s success. You qualify increasingly more complicated roles on the boat and you learn that you are now expected to train the ones that will come behind you. It is stunning when I look back how quickly the transition from non-qual to subject matter expert comes. Not because you are that amazing of a person but out of necessity.

The first time I found myself “in charge” was when I learned what real challenges are. Even on submarines, there is a small team for nearly every task (with the exception of the Corpsman and sometimes the Ship’s Yeoman). All of the other divisions have work related to their equipment and division’s responsibility. Each of those divisions need leaders and when you suddenly find yourself in charge on that special day, you pray that your training and the coaching you have received will be enough.

The branding for a submarine is twofold. You want to come back to the surface every time you dive and if you have any pride at all, you want your boat to be known and remembered as being the best. To be the best, you must first outperform the enemies abilities but you must also consistently rise to the top among a group of submariners that already think they are the best crews; your Squadron Mates.

To get there, you drill. Drills mean getting more proficient and better able to manage the unlimited challenges presented by operating in the ocean’s depths. All of that means sacrifice. Since there is no place to hide, sleep deprivation and personal sacrifices become common place. Tempers can often flare and we are often pushed to the limit. But the ship’s that drill the hardest are the ones who are rewarded with the recognition of external teams and the personal satisfaction of knowing you can take almost anything the ocean can throw at you.

All of this binds you together as a crew. To longer you serve on a boat, the more your personal brand is overshadowed by the brand of the boat. If you are really lucky, this will last for the rest of your life.

I have been away from the Navy and submarines now for many years. But I still proudly display my dolphins as the single greatest achievement of my career. More than my rank, more than my awards, more than the letters and medals that came from those days. I will always be glad that when my nation needed me, I was lucky enough to volunteer twice and serve with the greatest crews I could have ever asked for. That certainly includes my non-submarine crews but I am eternally grateful to have earned my fish.

Mister Mac

 

Just let it go 11

Sometimes you just have to let it go.

Even though I don’t have much grey on my head, I have more than a few other reminders that I am no longer as young as I once was. Its a bit tougher to walk the plant I work in during the winter months but I still give it my best. I take a few minutes longer to respond to the complicated questions that come my way but I find that it is better to let the question ferment for a second or two longer so that I develop the right response. But every once in a while, one of the youngsters catches me off guard with a condescending comment that is more a reflection of their age and inexperience than it is to my ability and life achievements.

The plant is getting ready to go into a twelve day “turnaround” common to the oil and chemical industry. I don’t mean to diminish the event. It will be twelve days of very intensive activity where the slightest mistake could mean the difference between success and failure. Frankly, in the industry, it could also mean life or death if the wrong things happen. Even in a small plant like the one I work in, disastrous consequences could result in mistakes.

Today, as I was leaving for the day, one of my young “colleagues” was finishing some task and I mentioned in passing that it had been a pretty challenging day. I was referring to a number of events related to labor relations having some interesting twists and turns. My young colleague turned and looked at me in an almost disdainful manner and with his three years of work experienced said “Well, its going to get a lot harder… it is turnaround.” His disrespect dripped with every word.

I used every bit of self control not to answer him in a more appropriate manner.

Bob fire fighting

 

 

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Before he was even born, I had already been on three submarines and did the equivalent of dozens of twelve day “turnarounds” in foreign ports with no rest during thirty day and longer refits and shipyard periods. What my shipmates and I accomplished kept the free world safe from the enemies that lurked off of our shores. We worked and sailed in dangerous times with an enemy that was sworn to destroy us under the right circumstances. Months underwater facing dangers that still remain clouded in secrecy. After he was born, I served on two more submarines and frankly worked more in a year than he probably has in his entire life. As the Docking and Damage Control officer on the largest floating drydock in the fleet, my crews successfully and safely docked five nuclear submarines. The planning alone probably equaled all of the actual work this boy has ever done. My final assignment as the M and A division officer on a large submarine support ship had my day starting mainly at 4:30 AM and frankly I am surprised when he shows up at 8:00 AM most days.

Hunley 1994

I’ll go back in tomorrow and still beat him to the work site by at least an hour. I’ll do my work over the grueling twelve days to come. I’ll even manage not to be too hard on him as he struggles to endure his toughest test in at least a year.

I do have one wish though. I wish he was even a tenth of the man or woman who ever put on a uniform and actually did something that mattered before he was disrespectful to an old man he neither knows nor understands.

Thanks for your service indeed

Mister Mac

Surface surface surface

Man Battle Stations 1

All day long today I have enjoyed seeing the pictures of men and women in uniform being saluted by so many people.

Their service is precious and appreciated by so many. That’s probably why I was so angry when I saw this letter tonight in the McKeesport Daily News. No, angry might be too calm a word. Will you consider helping me letting this person how uneducated and stupid he really is?

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As I think about how many men and women are shivering in some cold shelter tonight hoping that the enemy doesn’t choose to use tonight to challenge freedom, I want to scream.

Pray for this country. Pray for our heroes.

Mister Mac

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

 

Update: Here was my response to the guy who wrote this:

Where in the world indeed.
Recently, a letter to the editor raised issues about the US Military’s purpose and role (Malkin on Military). The writer must believe that the US Military has been derelict in their sworn duties since the Constitution was ratified. As a former Naval Officer and part of a long line of service members who have honorably served this country, I take great exception to his statements. I am not sure what was meant by “not putting people’s lives on the line” or “failing to secure the blessings of liberty and freedom”. Perhaps the author is not aware that all service members take a sacred oath to do just that. Title 10 USC specifically calls for an oath to defend the Constitution which in fact does protect all of our rights and freedoms in this blessed land. Anyone who has ever taken the oath realizes that they are now the protectors of those rights and freedoms by law. They do so with their personal sacrifices, the surrender of their own rights in many cases, and in too many cases the sacrifice of their lives.  Come with me and tell the families of those who have given everything for this country they have failed to do their duty. Contempt for the very people who have protected your freedoms is a sorry thing indeed. Ignorance of the laws and commitments that guarantee your freedom is an example of a type of blind partisanship that deserves greater contempt.

Shared Sacrifices 5

On the eve of Thanksgiving, please take a moment to think of all the men and women who will not be able to sit around a table with their families this year.

Nimitz Flyover

Some are sitting in ready rooms on aircraft carriers waiting for an order to launch in support of ongoing operations in far lands. In those far away lands, others are probably balancing thoughts of home with thoughts of survival as they nervously eye their “allied” counterparts and their movements.

Mountain Men

A young man who has barely earned his jump pin is sitting with a new bride someplace in North Carolina trying to figure out how he will deal with his first deployment overseas. Money is tight but they have a plan to make the holiday as nice as they can knowing it will be their last for a while. As often happens, the holiday will have to be crammed into the hours between pre-deployment planning and preparations. Like so many before them, they discover that the clock and the calendar are their two biggest enemies as they race to finish all of their family needs.

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After spending weeks cleaning up and saving victims of yet another major storm, a Coast Guardsman drags his tired body into his house and plays with his overjoyed dogs. His wife looks at her haggard hubby and knows she will need to give him a little time to readjust. After weeks on a cramped vessel where food is tolerable and the racks are too small for his big frame, she knows he is tired. She’s just glad he is back for this day and as long as the weather holds, she may have him for a few precious hours between duty days.

Somewhere in the dark ocean, the Mess Specialist Chief is taking stock of the bounty he will supervise preparing in the coming hours. His crew will not get much sleep in the next twenty four hours. There are pies and bread to bake, turkeys to carefully nurse in order not to have any waste, ham and sweet potatoes, Jell-O creations and on and on. The boat has been out for fifty days with no breaks. The holiday comes with a few weeks left to go and the crew needs something worth remembering. His prayer is that the knuckleheads don’t call for a battle stations drill while the pies are in the oven… angles play hell on level pie surfaces that aren’t quite firm.

Up in the Goat Locker, a hardened old Chief sits with his head in his hands. The last doctors report wasn’t good and the love of his life is back home counting coupons and white blood cell counts in between herding their three children from school to soccer to music lessons. He looks down at her beautiful smiling face in the picture he holds in shaking hands. He fights the tears back as he thinks about his life without her might be like. There isn’t a more perfect definition of hell than to feel that helpless. The messenger enters and reminds him its his watch on the Dive.

All over the globe, men and women learn about something called shared sacrifice every single day. They share the sacrifice with their buddies, their shipmates, their crew and of course their families. Their motivations are many but they all share the same thing to preserve freedom, help those who are unable to help themselves, and give this world another day to try and get it right.

Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want, 1943, warbond poster and for Sat Evening Post

When you sit at your table and look at the faces of those around you please take a moment to remember the faces of those who are not.

These are difficult times for many people and finding something to be thankful for may seem hard. Be assured that we all have something to be thankful at Thanksgiving and every day. Be thankful for the men and women in uniform around the world who sacrifice daily so that you can share this day in peace and freedom.

As a country, we are truly blessed. Thank you for all of your sacrifice. God Bless You.

 

Mister Mac

 

 

 

You would think we wouldn’t have to remind people about sacrifice. That used to be what I thought but the reality of some people’s ignorance came home in a big way a few days ago.

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Lindsey Stone (Plymouth Massachusetts) was visiting the Tomb of the Unknowns last month on a business trip when she posed for a picture next to a sign that reads “silence and respect.” In the photo, Stone is pretending to yell and she’s showing her middle finger.The photo, taken by co-worker Jamie Schuh, went viral and sparked anger among veterans.

I believe in freedom of speech and have a few years of personal sacrifice to prove that its not just lip service. But it frightens me that in this day and age someone who calls herself an American and lives under the blanket of freedom others provides could do this in front of the most sacred place of honor. I honestly hope I never meet you Lindsey.

"Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts"

2 Peter 3:3

Thanks for your service … sucker 9

What an evil way to start a blog. I will admit it that I am very distressed to do something with so much emotion attached to it. Frankly, it’s taken me a few hours to digest the thing that caused me to even consider writing this. But there are some times when you are compelled to do so and you have no choice.

Masonic Village 2011 Veterans Day 054

I live in Central Pennsylvania now and have enjoyed a quiet life style. On the one side of my community, the capitol sits with all its challenges. On the other is a community that struggles to define itself (Lancaster). The area has some conservative roots but it also has some emerging liberal roots. They both have their places in a cross section of America.

Today’s Lancaster PA newspaper had a “Letter to the Editor” which made me sit up and ponder the future of our country. I will not try to describe it. It’s probably better in the words of Ryan Killian of Elizabethtown PA.

“Little Trust in older Americans”

In response to I. T. Martin’s response to drafting the elderly for wars, I think his heart is in the right place but he’s a little naïve.

I miss my grandparents more than anything, but older Americans are more than a little responsible for the mess we’re in today. When Isaiah’s old enough to get a job where he works hard for a little money, he’ll start asking questions that will lead him to the nature of taxes and debt.

For decades, these people shipped jobs overseas, waged war after war and recklessly spent Social Security plus $15 trillion, turning the world’s top manufacturer  and creditor into parasitic debtor dependent  on people abroad for practically everything.

And now they want to us to fight more of their wars and pay off their debts while supporting them in retirement.

Enough is enough. If they want another war so badly, they can pay for it, too.

Ryan Killian, Elizabethtown PA

Wow. I do not know how to answer his letter. I really need some help from my fellow veterans.

US Army Heritage Center Fall 2011 017

I have tried to find his address so I could talk to him directly. I have not had any luck so far. I am afraid of posting one that may be mistaken (like the one that was given for Zimmerman in the Martin Case.) Maybe he doesn’t actually live on Radio Tower Road in Elizabethtown Pennsylvania for instance but I don’t know. I am thinking about walking up and down that road tomorrow to find out for sure.

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When I think of the friends I have lost, the men and women who gave so much to make sure he had the freedom to express his contempt for them, it makes me wonder what I should say to him if I ever run into him at the market.

1943 Army Poster

I think often of the men who sat in the gliders on metal seats as they drifted into the area behind the beaches of Normandy in the dark and wonder what fear they must have had. I really have nightmares about my predecessors on boats who were silently waiting for the depth charges to blow. I cannot even imagine the fear of being in a foxhole as bullets race past my head. None of them started that war or any of the ones I can remember. They did a great job finishing it though.

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I see the men who survived in the store sometimes. The one older guy today who had a faded US Navy hat on that walked past me on his way in. His walk was slow. His pride was not diminished. I thank and bless them all. They served and sacrificed their all for not only our freedom, but for complete strangers.

Masonic Village 2011 Veterans Day 007

Sorry we spent your inheritance kid. Sorry you will be inconvenienced to have to pay a few bills that foolish politicians spent to support those old geezers.

Seriously my friends. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? What should I say to young Mr. Killian if I meet him?

Mister Mac

Oh, I almost forgot. Thanks for your service shipmates and friends. Happy Two weeks before Memorial Day. To my Dad and his generation: I am sorry we didn’t do a better job educating these scum.

Wouldn’t it be grand? Reply

After years and years of following a path set by others, I have thought recently how nice it would be to finally have my say about everything that touches my life. Wouldn’t that be grand? It’s an old saying from my Grandmother’s age, but her definition and the one of today’s world would probably be out of whack. In her day (early 1900’s) they would have thought that having enough food on the table was enough. Her family was pretty industrious and they grew almost everything they ate. There were also not so many needs since the television didn’t announce each and every day why their lives sucked. They went to Church every Sunday and the community was so well-connected, you knew when someone had a sickness of a death in the family. Plus, if the barn burned you could be assured that everyone in the immediate area would show up with hammers and picnic lunches to help rebuild it.

Government was much simpler then too. It cost the American taxpayer $5000.00 per year for their representative in Congress. That cost is deceptive too since there were probably no army’s of aides, no junkets on jet planes, operating costs were considerably smaller and generally, the congress met for much shorter periods and went home more frequently. Wouldn’t it be grand?

In the ensuing years, congress and the government have found more and more ways to regulate things. There isn’t an item in your house (including the internet you are now sharing this information with me on) that isn’t regulated or taxed. Your very life is now controlled or guided in some way by a federal or state regulation whether you think about it or not. Drinking milk? Yep, regulations for that. Coffee? More laws and rules than you can possibly imagine. Going to drive to the market later? You will be wrapped up in the cocoon of your over-loving government (for your own good of course). From the car you drive to the fuel it uses to the safety forced into every vehicle. Someone somewhere thought about your safety and said, “let’s make them do it”. And for that you need a big government.

How big? Well, to start with, the cost of each representative has gone from that $5000 per year (no benefits and no retirement) to a whopping $235,000 plus a generous retirement for life after just five years of service ($60,000.00 per year plus health care and access to insurance you and I can’t get). Last year alone it cost $5.42 billion just to run the house of Representatives. And that cost is deceptive because many of the costs are buried in appropriations bills that both party’s eagerly agree to in the darkness of back rooms.

Spending increases of 70 percent, 80 percent, 100 percent and even 868 percent took hold across major parts of the institution over the past 10 years. Even those that saw the smallest increases went up by almost 40 percent or more.

In contrast, inflation from 2000 to 2010 was 26 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Keep in mind that the same people who get these perks are the ones who vote on them. That’s right, they have the ability to legislate everything from hair color to health care and they are not subject to most of the rules you are. They regulate your 401’s and pension plans, but you have no say in theirs. By forcing more regulations on the workplace, they control your business’s ability to grow while they place no such restrictions on themselves.

You might ask yourself, why is it so expensive to run a country that is so well-regulated? It’s simply because in order to justify their existence and rather large increase in operating costs, they feel an unending need to continue to make up new regulations. Now other people noticed this obsession with regulations too so they banded together with people who had similar needs and they became “lobbyists” or special interest groups. What do you think congress did then? More regulations of course. Rather than banishing the practice altogether and listening to the will of the actual people they represent, they have created warm and comforting regulations which regulate how the lobbyists and special interest groups can influence them . Isn’t that grand? Not to mention that after you have your five years in for your retirement, you can practically rotate right into a lobbying commitment. Yes, it’s a little harder and trickier now, but even if you don’t get picked up by a lobbying group, there are special interest causes that are waiting to prop you up well into your old age.

And what do we get for all this money?

Crushing tax rates that artificially stunt the growth and recovery of our economy. Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Bailouts for bankers. An ill-conceived and overly regulated health care plan that no one truly understood including the people who voted on it. A permanent governing class with little or no connection to the people who elected them. Legions of staffers who work around the clock to make sure that their own jobs are secure.

The communities we once lived in are now just a collection of residences. People have to work two jobs just to keep up and both parents are frequently also forced to work. Churches are falling further and further behind as a center where morality is discussed. The very well-regulated television industry has now become the nanny and opinion maker and each day people are more and more indoctrinated as to what is important and what is not. If you still have a barn, you better pray that it doesn’t burn down. The EPA will probably show up demanding a penalty for releasing some kind of noxious fumes into the air causing a contribution to global warming (remember most of those old barns were painted with RED LEAD PAINT )(GasP)

Wouldn’t it be grand if someone could explain to us why they needed all this money to not solve the real problems we are facing? These same people are now talking about further destroying our national defence and fixing the “too generous” pension program for people who actually have put their lives on the line to defend this great country.

Wouldn’t it really be grand if they would start the austerity measures in their own house first?

I think it would be grand if you gave your congress person a call and let them know your thoughts.

http://www.numbersusa.com/content/congress/phone-numbers-and-mailing-addresses-memb.html

Man Battle Stations!