Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood. – George S. Patton
A bird farm is the nick name fleet sailors attach to an air craft carrier and the USS Carl Vinson CVN-70 is a big bird farm. The floating fortress measures three football fields in length and its primary mission is to project United States air power worldwide. Nicknamed the Golden Eagle, it is the third of the Nimitz Class built by Newport News Shipbuilding. The super carrier is powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear powered reactors, which drive 4 steam plants turning the four shafts propelling it in excess of 30 knots.
Vinson sported four different types of radar: air search, target acquisition, air traffic control and air craft landing aid. Weapons system include: MK57 Mod 3 NATO Sea Sparrow, RIM 116 Rolling Air Frame Missiles and Phalanx.
The ships company is around 3200 souls and swelled to over 6000 when the air wing, Commander Carrier Group three, Cruiser Destroyer Group five and Destroyer Squadron 31 came aboard.
The 24 story sovereign American airfield sped through the waters at 35 knots maintaining 25mph winds across the deck for the non stop flight operations.
“Sir,” A lanky Lieutenant Junior Grade, approached the two-star Rear Admiral Starger, who watched the flight operations from the flag bridge wing.
“Just a second.” The Admiral held a bony finger in the air and smiled a child like grin. “Watch this bird coming in. I think he’s going to trap the number three.”
The junior officer turned and watched an F-14 Tomcat fighter, glide over the stern of the huge flight deck. The powerful Pratt and Whitney F401-400 engines whistled and whined. The fuselage wrenched in the cross winds over the pitching and rolling angled deck of the Vinson. The pilot slammed the plane on the deck and throttled up to full military power igniting the afterburners for a possible bolter. The tail hook snagged the number three wire, forward momentum stopped and the pilot cut the engines. The Tomcat turned toward a yellow shirted crewmen with glowing orange flashlights, the place where he would park his aircraft.
“Alright,” The Admiral shouted. “Way to go Tomcat. Give the guy an underlined OK.” He pumped his fist and slapped the junior officer on the back.
“Sir, what is an underline OK?”
The Admiral looked at the JG for a bewildered moment, “How long have you been an officer?”
“Two years, sir.”
The admiral cleared his throat. “Uh huh. And how did you get on my staff?”
“Well . . .”
“Never mind,” the admiral raised his hand in the air, went back inside the flag bridge to get out of the wind. He jumped up in the padded chair where all the flight deck operations could be observed. “I wish I had the time to get back in the cockpit,” he said.
The young officer raised an eyebrow at the elder Carrier Group Commander. “Sir, not to be disrespectful, but you haven’t flown in over 15 years.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Wishful thinking. Only thing I’ll be flying is my desk.” The admiral cleared his throat and dropped the smile. “What do you need Lieutenant?”
“Rear Admiral, Ingersoll is sending casualties over and we need your authorization to suspend flight operations to recover the helo.”
“Permission granted. What happened and how bad?”
“One dead and one severely burned. Accident during refueling.”
“That’s too bad.”
Muffled voices filled Alex’s pounding head as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Restless and choked by the odor of jet fuel and burnt flesh a fog of horror, hideous faces and stabbing words crashed into his mind with an unholy vengeance. The searing pain jolted him back to reality, with screams of anguish and torment escaping his throat.
He could hear himself moaning and forced his eyes open. Alex awoke in time to see the corpsman kneel over him with a syringe. His eyes widened and cried out, “No.” Before the protest registered with the corpsman, he plunged the needle of morphine into Alex’s arm. The pain subsided and consciousness slipped away and he never felt the bump of the helicopter landing on the deck of the Vinson.
Two Months Later
San Diego has long been a partner with the United States Navy. The city donated the land which was Balboa Park in 1919 for what would be the 85 acre sprawling complex known at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. It is affectionately called, Balboa Hospital.
“Hello. Petty Officer Sievers,” a familiar female voice said entering the plain cinder blocked walls. The brilliant bouquet of flowers sitting atop an adjacent night stand provided the only color in the sterile white room.
The pursed lips relaxed into a soft smile on Alex’s stern face, “Hello to you to Petty Officer Sievers.”
A petite blond with a bright smile bent to kiss his toothy grin and hug his neck. “You seem to be better today.” She unbuttoned a blue coat with an eagle, a crossed manual with a quill and one chevron on her left arm. Personnelman Third Class Cathreen Sievers removed her combination cap, placing it over the top of her coat.
Alex watched her make herself more comfortable. “Have the advancement results come in yet. I’m curious to see if-”
“You made first class.”
“No,” He said. “To see if you made second class.”
“Look. I’ll let you know as soon as the results come in. They’ll be here in a few days,” she said. “Take it easy. Did you get some rest?”
“I slept better last night. Pain wasn’t as intense. But it still hurts a lot.”
Cathreen Sievers gently patted the bandaged arms of her husband and sat down next to him. “How long before the bandages come off?”
“Soon I hope, Doc says he’s got to be really sure about those skin grafts he did. He doesn’t want them falling off.”
“Oh I see.”
“There’s something else bothering me.”
With a concerned look, Cathreen, bolted upright, “What do you mean? Are there some complications they didn’t tell you about?”
“No. It’s not physical. I want to feel you in my arms again,” he said. “All during the deployment that was all I could think about. Now look at me, I’m a mess and I can’t even hug my wife.”
“Aw honey, that’s sweet and I appreciate it. It won’t be long and you can do all the hugging you want.”
“You don’t think I’m grotesque like this. You’re still going to love me and all. You know, there’s still are going to be scars.”
Cathreen took Alex’s face in her hands and said, “I didn’t marry your arms, I married you honey and that means nothing to me. I’m just glad you’re ok. You could’ve died and then I wouldn’t have you or your grotesque arms.”
“Don’t remind me, I think about it all the time. I should’ve been able to save that kid. That was my job and I didn’t do it.”
“Look Alex, you’re in this hospital bed because you tried to save him. You wouldn’t have been able to live with yourself if you hadn’t tried to save him. That should count for something, don’t beat yourself up with it. Ok?” Cathreen said. She flashed a smile, patted his leg, sighed and rubbed her tired eyes.
“What’s wrong Cat?” Alex asked.
“Tired. Haven’t been able to sleep.”
“That’s too bad. How’s thing’s going at the office?”
“A battle group is getting ready to deploy in two weeks and some of the ships have not completed their inspections. You know what that means?”
“Lot’s of paperwork,” they said in unison.
“Yup and guess who gets to make sure everything is in order?” She pointed to herself. “So that doesn’t leave much time for sleeping. If I make second class they’re going to load me up with even more work. I’ll probably take over as section leader.”
“I’m sorry, honey and you coming over here to visit me every night,” Alex said. He huffed. “You go home and get some rest and don’t come tomorrow.”
“Now Alex J. Sievers, don’t be trying to get rid of me like that. I’ll come when I want to and go home when I want to. You know, there are some times you burn me up with the way you treat me.”
“Cat, I’m sorry.”
“I wish you would . . . Oh, never mind.” She scrunched her lips and wheeled around to look out the window.
“Never mind.” Alex said with an attitude. “Never Mind! What is that suppose to mean? You got something to say, say it.” I wish I hadn’t said that. Words jumped out of his mouth like one of those coiled up snake tricks in a can with out giving any thought to how it would affect someone.
“Every night I come in here, you’ve got this major pity party going on. It’s wearing me out. You are so self absorbed. Let somebody else into that kidney bean heart of yours for a change,” she said.
“You weren’t there and you aren’t the one laying in this bed with the french-fried arms.”
She snapped an about face and shot her words like a missile at him. “Let it go, Alex. You’re not bringing that kid back, so stop trying to.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m just a little worried about the report. It’s coming in today and that stuff always bothers me. Even the word ‘inquiry’ bugs me. It sounds like ‘inquisition’ or something like that,” Alex said. “Sheesh!”
“What are you afraid of? They might put you on a rack and stretch you?” She paused and her face softened as she visualized her husband on a rack being stretched. “That’s not a bad idea. I wouldn’t mind it if you were a little taller. Do you think they could add three or four more inches?” She giggled.
“Cut it out Cat. I’m serious. I have no clue what’s in that report.”
A young sailor, in a crisp dress blue uniform knocked and entered the room. “Petty Officer Sievers?”
“Yes that’s me.”
The sailor put an envelope on the table in front of him and lifted up a clip board for a signature and awkwardly paused when he saw both of his hands and arms bandaged. Red faced, he looked at Cathreen for help. She took the clipboard and scrawled her name.
“Thank you,” She said to the sailor and he turned to leave. “You want me to open it for you or would you like to do it yourself?” She flashed a mischievous smile at him. “Hmh?”
“Cute Cat, please open it and help me with it.”
Cathreen unsealed the envelope and propped it up on Alex’s chest so he could read. She looked over his shoulder and read with him. “What!” He exclaimed and threw his head back. “That’s not true. I never said that. I can’t read any more.”
Cathreen took the report and read on. She gasped and put her hand to her mouth.
“What?” He said and stared at her face. When she didn’t answer, he chided her, “Cat. Tell me what does it say?”
“They are saying you are fully responsible for the incident.”
Alex stared at her in shock and disbelief.
“It goes on to say, after your recovery you will be transferred to another duty station.”
Alex shook his head, “Where?”
Two Years Later
Alex Sievers emerged from the ink black darkness of the tunnel connecting Recruit Training Command (RTC) with Camp Moffett. The tunnel ran under a main street outside the fences of the base. He walked oblivious to the sign above him that read, ‘All companies must sing Anchors Away when entering this tunnel.’ Off in the distance a company of recruits could be heard. The Recruit Chief Petty Officer (RCPO), better known as ‘Rpock’ to the recruits, barked, “Your left. Your left. Your left, right, left.”
He admired and watched as the achievement flags whipped and snapped in the brisk wind. When the company turned the corner to cross the street, he spotted the Color Company Flag. The gold fringed, white flag emblazoned with the words, ‘Color Company, Recruit Training,’ marked this company as the company who achieved the highest score in four areas of training for a graduating class. The flag depicted four blue boxes in a diamond formation, one with a star for compartment readiness, another of a crossed rifles for drill, an ‘A’ for physical fitness and an ‘S’ for scholastics.
Alex swept the tight formation for any breaks in their stride. He deduced by their synchronized step they were ready for graduation. The Rpock snapped a crisp salute; Alex returned the salute with a nod of approval. The company marched down the ramp and disappeared into the blackness of the tunnel. The melody of 75 male voices singing Anchor’s Away wafted back to him. He watched until the last row of the formation disappeared into the darkness and the voices faded.
A red aiguillette hung from the shoulder of his dark blue uniform which distinguished him as an RTC company commander. Aiguillette’s found their origin as the lace to fasten the plates of armor by French knights. Short loops on one side would act as a hinge, while longer braided; more ornate cords tied the armor. When the cumbersome armor passed into antiquity the cords continued as part of the uniform worn by soldiers and the complexity of the aiguillette signified which division or regiment one may belong to.
Petty Officer First Class Alex Sievers slipped on a pair of aviator sunglasses and flipped open his worn leather bound notebook. The notes in his folder fluttered in the cold spring wind. He slapped the notebook in time to keep them from being scattered in the gust.
“Alex, Alex. Wait up,” said Boatswains Mate Second Class John McCarthy. “Whew. I didn’t know if I was going to catch up to you.”
“I thought only the recruits had to double-time-it around here,” Alex said and laughed at his panting over weight assistant company commander.
“Don’t get smart their transceivers or I’ll twist you into a pretzel.”
Alex smiled and started toward the Division 12 barracks.
John tucked his shirt in around his oversized pot belly and in a futile effort tried to straighten his gig line. As he struggled to get the buttons on his shirt in line with his belt buckle he snorted. “You know Alex, I really hate this monkey suit.”
“Maybe if you cut back on the cheese burgers, it would fit you better.”
“I wouldn’t go there if I were you. They’ve already threatened me with the fat boy program if I don’t shed a few bricks.”
Alex smiled and bit his lip to keep from laughing.
“Go ahead and laugh. We’ll see how well you do without me.”
“I’m not laughing,” Alex said and tried not to laugh.
John pulled back his fist and punched Alex in the shoulder.
“Ow, that hurt.” He grabbed his shoulder and rubbed out the pain.
“Good I’m glad and if you keep laughing I’m going to knock you into next week. You skinny little twerps ought to try being fat. See how you like it.”
“I keep in shape and try to eat right. You want to go work out with me tonight. Maybe we can put the gloves on and spar a few rounds.”
John thought for a moment. “You’re on. Then I can really beat the tar out of you for laughing at me.”
“We’ll just see about that.”
John paused, grimaced and snapped his fingers. “I got to take Mary Lou to church tonight, but how does tomorrow sound?”
“Church?” Alex said. “Do you go to Sunday School too?” Alex laughed and slapped his husky 6′ 4″ assistant on the back.
“Yes, What’s it to you? By the way after what you went through I’m surprised you don’t go too.”
“I don’t talk about religion or politics. So let’s not go there. Ok?”
“Alright, but don’t blame me if you don’t get your fire insurance paid up.”
He stopped walking and fired back at him. “Look John, I’m not against God, but I am not for him either so don’t try to cram your religious garbage down my throat. And while we are on the subject I got one question, where was God when that kid was dying?” Alex said disgusted. “Aw, never mind.” He waved his hand at John and started walking again.
John backed off. “Did you get a look at the list of new recruits?”
“Yep,” Alex said flatly.
“Slim pickings again?”
“We got a couple that might help, but other than that not much else to speak of.” Alex said. The thought of not having a very good class silenced both of them. “Let’s stay positive. If we work them hard, who knows what can happen?”
“That last class was a mess. How did we even finish fifth I’ll never know?”
“Don’t worry John. I think I’ve figured this thing out. I compared all the classes we pushed and I’ve been talking to some other commanders. I don’t think it’s about high ASVAB scores and muscles. It’s about helping them catch the Navy vision and embrace it. I think I am starting to finally understand what we are trying to accomplish here. We light the fire and let it burn. We can do this John.”
“Wow, when did you turn motivational speaker?”
Company commander’s Lounge Division 12 teemed with activity as commanders waited for the division officer to arrive for the new graduation class briefing. Every week a new group of recruits arrived and is assigned to companies for an eight week training cycle. There are ten companies in each graduation class, with a company commander responsible to school the recruits in basic naval traditions, duties and prepare recruits to serve in the fleet. Each company commander is provided with an assistant to help conduct the training.
Voices buzzed from the lounge engaged in coking and joking; a fine naval tradition. It is reserved for times when engaged in another fine tradition of hurry up and wait. To participate in the ritual one must grab a Coke, shoot the breeze and try to catch up on the latest scuttle butt going around. A familiar voice pierced the cacophony of voices, “Alex.” The voice was accompanied by a hand and a big toothy grin.
“Hatch,” Alex said, when he grasped the outstretched hand. “How the heck are ya? First company?”
“I’m fine. Yeah. Thought I would push boots to get my career out of the dog house.”
“Theresa and the kids?” Alex pumped his hand again and let go.
“They’re taking some time to get settled. The kids weren’t too happy moving from sunny San Diego to the Windy City. It’s quite a change from beaches and 75 degrees all the time to -35 degrees wind chill.”
“How hard was that?”
“They still haven’t talked to me since they found out we were coming here,” Hatch said.
“They’ll thaw out. Give it time. Look at you, you still look like the Notre Dame mascot.”
“Why do you think I moved here? The golden dome is only 100 miles from here. Maybe we can do a little; Cheer, Cheer for old Notre Dame.”
“Wake up the Echo’s cheering her name,” Alex sang the next line to the University of Notre Dame fight song.
Then the rest of the company commanders jumped in, “Send a volley cheer on high, shake down the thunder from the sky. What through the odds be great or small, Notre Dame will win after all. While her loyal sons are marching onward to victory.” When finished, they all let out a big cheer.
When the cheering died down, Alex said to Hatch, “I’d like that. Only if they’re playing Kansas, that’s my team. But I’d have to check with-“
The door to the lounge banged open, plunging the room into a startled silence. Rod Peach emerged from a cloud of blue cigar smoke. He swaggered around the room checking out the competition. “Don’t we sound like a bunch of canaries? I personally like the Miami Hurricanes,” Rod sneered, turned to Hatch and extended his hand, “Hatch Harris, how the heck are ya?”
Hatch took his hand out of courtesy and pumped it once then let go. “Rod.”
“Been a long time. Last time I saw you, you were going to Captain’s Mast for welding the old man’s escape hatch shut.”
Hatch smiled and said, “Don’t remind me, but it was one of my crowning achievements.”
Rod took the cigar from his gritted teeth and flicked ashes on Alex’s shoe.
“Do you mind?” Alex said and shook the ashes from his shoe.
“I’m sorry transceivers,” Rod said with a note of sarcasm. “I didn’t see you standing there.”
Alex glared back at Rod and started to respond when a company commander announced, “Attention on deck.” Each commander snapped to attention.
“As you were gentlemen,” Lieutenant Commander Chris Hendrick said. He stepped to the platform and put a leather folder on it and rubbed his eye. “Peach, put the cigar out.”
“Yes sir,” Rod said and shoved it into an ash tray next to Alex, but didn’t fully snuff it out.
His eyes started to water from the smoldering cigar, so he shoved it into the sand to snuff it out. He flashed Rod the evil eye. Rod put his hand up to his face and made like he was crying.
I’m going to get that guy. If it’s the last freaking thing, I do, Alex thought to himself.
LCDR Hendrick shuffled his papers and did a quick visual inspection. “Ok gents. The new captain has made some changes to the training schedule and it’s not good. Inspections will start one week earlier.”
The men murmured and chattered amongst themselves. A commander sitting by the door raised his voice above the din. “We barely have enough time with two weeks to get them ready. How are we going to do it with only one week, sir?”
All the other company commanders agreed and pelted LCDR Hendrick with questions.
“Hold it down! I know, I know. I said the same thing myself. But the new CO wants to spend less time on folding clothes and making a rack.”
“I got enough trouble just trying to teach these yahoos how to march in a week, let alone trying to get them to swing an M1 Carbide through the sixteen count manual,” another commander said.
LCDR Hendrick stood like a statue behind the podium and let his commanders vent their frustration.
“What are we going to do with the extra week? Or are they just going to 86 another week off the schedule and save some money,” Alex probed.
The question gave LCDR Hendrick the segue he needed to drop the real bomb on them. “Captain Calaghan, spent the last two years out in the fleet and found some serious discrepancies in the firefighting training.” No one made a sound. “The extra week will be dedicated to firefighting.”
Alex swallowed hard and grabbed his right arm when it twitched.
A crooked smile crossed Rod’s face as he took in Alex’s reaction.
“The . . . the school has been severely understaffed for months. How will they handle the extra load?” Alex blurted out.
“That’s a good question Petty Officer Sievers,” LCDR Hendrick said.
“The company commanders will conduct most of the training and the school staff will provide limited assistance.” Commander Hendrick trailed off and then gathered his notes. “You guys will have to brush up on your firefighting skills.”
The commanders whispered amongst themselves.
“Are there anymore questions?” LCDR Hendrick looked around the room. “If not, then you’re dismissed.”
The men started to leave. “Hold on a second. I almost forgot there is one more thing,” LCDR Hendrick said above the mounting ruckus. “Sit for one more minute. I do have some good news.”
“Whew, that’s a relief,” Hatch said.
“There will no longer be a ‘Color Company.’ Instead the captain will be reinstating the Double Salute at the graduation ceremony. Many of you are too young to remember it. It used to be a very prestigious award, until it was ended during the Vietnam War.” He paused for a moment and cleared his throat. “During Nam moral was so bad, some of the traditions got lost. Many became apathetic and did only enough to scoot by. Captain Callaghan, is a throw back to the days when high value was attached to Naval tradition. He wants to change that and this is part of that push.”
“What exactly is the Double Salute, commander?” Hatch said.
“The company that most displays military bearing, excellence throughout the training and rises above the other companies in the grad class will be eligible for the Double Salute. However here’s the twist. It carries a mystique about it, because no one ever knows for sure who will get it until the reviewing officer saluted one company on graduation day twice. It was the ultimate honor because it put you on your toes right until the passing in review.”
“What’s in it for us?” Rod said.
“You will receive a letter of commendation and it will be the highest honor here at Recruit Training Command.”
“Wow,” the commanders said. They started to talk again amongst themselves.
“There are other changes in the works. Your graduation class will be implementing many of these. With all the changes there’s going to be a lot more work to be done. I’ll be calling on each of you for input and a lot of overtime. Good luck gentlemen,” LCDR Hendrick said.
John leaned into Alex and said, “What do you think? Think we got a shot?”
“Well I-“ Alex said
“You might as well forget about it right now,” Rod sneered. He strutted over to where Alex sat, leaned into him and almost touched his nose with his own. “You haven’t even been close to finishing first in any other class. What makes you think you got any shot? The Double Salute will be the pen that will write my ticket.”
“What? A ticket on Mr. Toad’s wild ride?”
The other company commanders snickered. Rod stood up straight and took an unwrapped cigar out of his shirt pocket and then a silver Zippo lighter out of his pant pocket. They all stared at him until he lit the lighter and thrust it into Alex’s face.
Alex jerked to avoid the lunge.
“Afraid of a little fire scarecrow?”
Alex stood and glared. The two stood nose to nose. Rod looked down at Alex’s shoes then met his glare again. “Maybe that’s why you’re still a loser who can’t win anything. That crow on your shoulder is only from kissing a long line of butts.”
John slapped Alex on the back and pushed him toward the door, “Come on Alex, this chump is not worth it.”
Rod lit his cigar, “Don’t forget Ingersoll scarecrow,” he said and laughed.
To break up the tension LCDR Hendrick asked, “Alex, I just wanted to let you know your application has been completed and submitted for review for the Limited Duty Officer program.”
With a mock laugh Rod whirled around, “Ha. That’ll be the day. Your chances of being an officer are as good as you winning the Double Salute.”
Alex moved toward Rod, when John grabbed him from behind, spun him around and pushed him out the door. “Ooooo, that guy burns me up.”
Hatch came up from behind and gave Alex the thumbs up. “He’s a jerk. Always has been and always will be.”
“You’re right. I let him get under my skin.”
“I’ve got to run. I’ll catch up with you later,” Hatch said.
Alex nodded to Hatch. “This is our chance, John. I know how to beat him.”
“What about the firefighting?” John asked.
“We’ll find a way around it. I’ll figure something out.”
“I didn’t know you applied to the Limited Duty Officer program.” John slapped him on the back. “Congratulations. That’s great,” he said, then wagged his finger in Alex’s face. “But I’m not going to salute you even if you become an officer. No way, not going to do it.”
“If we win the Double Salute, that Letter of Commendation could be enough to get me in the door. It’s my dream John. I decided on LDO first and then after meeting the requirements I can convert to being a regular line officer,” Alex said excitedly. “Meet me at the NCO club for lunch and we’ll talk about it. I got some things I got to do.”
Alex stood in the foyer and allowed his eyes to adjust to the low light. The pungent smell of alcohol prickled his olfactory nerve conjuring up memories of a less stressful time in exotic ports of call with his beloved shipmates. The pleasant thought settled his reeling mind.
“Little early for a drink Petty Officer,” an unseen voice said in the inky blackness.
“No sir, looking for Rat.”
“Looking for a rat, did you say?”
“No sir, Robert Torcellini. We call him Rat because of his initials.”
The older gentlemen turned on his bar stool and chuckled. “Oh you mean Torch. He’s not here, said something about having to run over to Supply. He’ll be back in about 20 minutes.”
“Dang,” Alex said. “I guess I’ll come back then.”
“Why don’t you wait for him,” the older gentlemen said as he pulled out a bar stool.
“Alright,” Alex said as he welcomed the thought of resting his tired legs.
Alex’s eyes adjusted to the light and could see the officer uniform of the man bidding him to sit. “Good afternoon sir,” Alex said as he sat down in awe of the four gold bars on the old man’s shoulders.
The old man raised his glass to acknowledge the more formal greeting. “You know Petty Officer?”
“Sievers, Alex Sievers.”
“You know Petty Officer Sievers, Alex Sievers. I’ve met a lot of Petty Officers like you through out my career who have shown me the same kind of respect and only now at the end of my career do I understand the value of each and every one of them.”
“Sir, I don’t follow you.”
“That rope on your shoulder commands the respect with out question by the men in your company as do these bars on my shoulders your respect with out question. These bars didn’t come with out a price; they weren’t just given to me. I had to earn them.”
“When you say ‘earn,’ what exactly do you mean?”
“You’re a Petty Officer First Class, right?”
“Yes sir,” Alex responded.
“Then be the best First Class then become a Chief. Then be a great Chief and become a Senior Chief. Then be a great Senior Chief and so on, and so on up through the ranks.”
“Be the best where you are at and the advancement will come.” He leaned over to Alex and lowered his voice. “But the key to advancement is not kissing the butt of the guy over you.” He leaned back and swirled his glass around in his left hand. “Well maybe, just a little. The key is to respect the guys under you.” He pointed with his right index finger to the floor. “That’s where us big cheeses lose it. We think we are prima donnas and forget about you boys down in the bilges covered in God knows what.” He took a long pull on his drink and then stared at Alex. “Then maybe some day you’ll be sitting on this bar stool telling some wide eyed Petty Officer the same thing.”
“Thank you sir, I appreciate that. Sir what’s your name?”
“Captain Orr. Retired.”
Alex stifled the smile.
The old man waved his hand at Alex. “Don’t bother trying to hold it in. I’ve gotten used to it I get it all the time.”
“Yep. Putting me out to pasture after 34 years. This is my retirement party. I’m just a little early. Doesn’t start for another four hours.”
“Wow. That is phenomenal. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Captain Orr said flatly. “What about you son, what are your plans? I see you’re pushing boots so that means you’re career minded.”
“Well sir, I’m being considered for Chief, but I really want to be an officer. I’ve applied to the LDO program.”
“Limited Duty Officer, why not a regular Line Officer and pursue command.”
“I’m working on my degree now, but I just feel I’ve got to make the jump as soon as possible and I love the job I’m in so I thought I could combine both worlds. Once I get my degree I’ll try to convert to a Line Officer.”
“Good for you. If you ever need any advice, let me know. I’ll be around. Just can’t up and leave the old girl after all these years.”
Mark Totilo is a US Navy Veteran, author and owner of Professional Communications. He has a passion for freedom, truth and to tell stories. For more information about him or his book, please visit his website: MarkTotilo.com. If you enjoy his work or would like to comment, please do so. You are also welcome to subscribe to this blog.