30 October 2007
Blue Shirts (E-1 to E-6) share the Enlisted Mess Decks. My ship currently has a 21 Table configuration (which can comfortably seat about 84 personnel at any given time.) Once upon a time, we sat wherever there was room and enjoyed our meal, or in our off time, could use a television to play video games or watch a movie. There were no seating restrictions in place, and all was fine. As of this morning, the President of the First Class Petty Officer Association took 3 of the 21 tables specifically for E-6’s only. Mind you, at any given time, the Mess Decks are supposed to accommodate 340 Sailors (with the 84 seats available.)
Whenever Seaman Schmucketellie would try and sit down at said tables he would be turned away, even though there were only 2 E-6’s sitting down at the time. Dubbed “The First Class Mess” these tables are now exclusively for the 30 or so E-6’s that we have onboard our ship. The sad thing is that besides pay and maybe time in service (and that is a STRONG Maybe as there are some E-5’s who are in ratings that advancement is difficult and have more time in service than the E-6’s) there truly is no difference between E-1 through E-6. But the Jerk-off President of the FCPOA has decided that since he is currently incapable of making Chief, that he and his fellow E-6’s are entitled to their own Special Seating Area. It also happens to be the largest table on the Mess Decks and can fit 10 -12 personnel if seated correctly.)
The segregation created by the FCPOA is already causing animosity amongst the ranks on an already Morale Compromised Crew. The FCPOA has effectively cause a rift between those who once would work with them, and made it clear that they are superior, and now E-5 and below work FOR them. It’s condescending and just plain stupid. On a large ship, First Class Messes exist; and on larger ships there is room for such said Segregations. On a ship with about 370 Sailors, such segregation is harmful to the overall productivity of the crew. It’s bad enough that the majority of the crew are treated as children, but now they have to be reminded by people that should set examples and be leaders, that they are in fact measly peons, and not worthy to sit down and eat with their supervisors.
A good example is the San Diego Crew that once inhabited my ship. Before the hull swap, I got to see first hand the camaraderie (or rather, extreme lack of camaraderie) that they had. These A-holes had a First Class Mess, and also head of the line privileges for E-6’s in the Mess Line. As such, the E-5 and below had no respect for their E-6’s and even if and when those E-6’s made Chief, they would still not have the respect of their subordinates. I watched an E-6 an E-4 fight over a locker in the berthing during the berthing swaps. I mean, these two were physically fighting over a locker, punching, kicking, and verbal assaults on one another. Prior to this whole First Class Mess Crap, you would never see anything like that amongst my crew. Now that such segregation exists, I am standing by to see just how bad things amongst the ranks are going to get. I saw it just with the one meal that the First Class Mess was open, with snide remarks from the E-3 and below that were the direct result of hurt feelings and other such negative connotations. I hope that someone will put a stop to this senseless way of segregating and discriminating; because when you stop and look at it, that is all this is. A “legalized” form of discrimination.
28 October 2007
On USS Last-Ship, we had Last-Ship High… an organization consisting of the many 20-something year olds an below who have nothing better to do than to have your daytime soap opera drama. (i.e. Who is sleeping with Who, who said what about who, what so-and-so did the other night) On USS This Ship the High School Drama continues…
I have a strict policy that whatever is said in my office stays in my office and does not leave for anything. It is a confidentiality clause that allows people the opportunity to get out frustrations or whatever issues they may have so that they can be psychologically free of stress. You see, I’m not just the medical and dental department… I am also the Psych Department.
Unfortunately, someone who I thought was a mature adult was unable to abide by the Confidentiality Clause and went and told someone onboard about a conversation that was had in the office of a particular sensitive nature. This person that was told (being the mature adult that they are) sent a threatening e-mail to me complete with profanity and horrible grammar. I replied with an invitation to come down to medical so that we can discuss whatever issues that this person might have… to no avail. Apparently it is easier to be big and tough through e-mail, but the reality of going down and physically confronting someone isn’t as convenient.
I do my best to steer free of the shipboard high school nonsense. I don’t really associate with many people onboard outside of work, and I pretty much keep to myself underway… granted, the topic that I discussed with the person that was in medical was more gossip-like in nature… but it was mindless chatter in the confines of medical. I’m not sure if I am upset about the violation of the confidentiality clause, or if I am upset because the person that violated said trust is supposedly a friend who is in a job that requires the ability to seal one’s lips… maybe it’s a combination of both…
26 October 2007
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “Your command can’t be that bad… can it?” Let me tell you… it really isn’t... However, it is significantly worse than the command I checked in to. I am a firm believer that any situation, no matter how mundane or painful, is only as bad as you make it. And believe me… I struggle to make this one tolerable… If I didn’t have a supportive Chain of Command, or a great boss, I would have lost my mind years ago… The people you work with can also greatly influence your attitude towards your work environment. Luckily, I have had great co-workers too. So for the most part, I have been pretty fortunate…
Anyway… so I am on cloud nine and getting more anxious by the minute… I can’t wait to get on with my career. I should have about 3 opportunities between now and graduation to pick up First Class… hopefully I do… that way I can get choice orders out of School. In the likely event that I don’t make E-6 prior to or while in school; I will graduate as one, so I really have nothing else to worry about except to start grooming myself for Chief… (If I can score good Evaluations as an E-6 I can take the Chief Test a year or so early and possibly put on anchors at my 10 ½ or 11 year mark!)
The only down side to everything is that I will be leaving the healthy paycheck and sea pay that I acquire here in Japan… (which is about a $1600 pay cut a month…) Plus, the school is in San Diego, which is crazy expensive, and I will need a car to get around… which means a car payment with insurance and gas to deal with… on the plus side… if things go right with immigration, I should be able to have my fiancé with me (who will be my wife come December…) as well as her son… so I don’t have to worry about partying much anymore… but the extra expenses and pay cut are definetly going to hurt a bit.
For the most part though…all that I have hoped for since reporting to my first ship is finally coming true. I’m thankful for the Navy… it has been good to me… I had a rocky beginning… but the middle and end should be sweeter than Cold Stone.
25 October 2007
I have been in the Navy now almost Six Years… in my time serving, I have had the best and worse when it comes to leadership and Chain of Commands. The other day I met a Master Chief that renewed my belief in the Chain of Command and in the rating of Chief Petty Officer. Don’t take what I am saying the wrong way… I have ALWAYS held the rating of CPO in the highest regards… I come from a family of Navy Chiefs and First Classes; so I understand the importance of the rank. Unfortunately in my job specialty, I tend to see a side of the coveted Anchors that has left me slightly disillusioned and bitter towards the ranking.
The rank of CPO is 114 years old. In the US Navy, and only the US Navy is the rank of CPO (or E-7) held with the highest regard and standard. Once obtained, it places the recipient into a whole new FELLOWSHIP (in the less-politically correct days this fellowship was referred to as a Fraternity) The phrase “Ask the Chief” is a common expression that refers to the fact that a person in the rating or rank of CPO is the subject matter expert in US Navy rules, regulations, organization, as well as their specific job specialty. So it would be assumed that all CPO’s are the best of the best or the cream of the crop… unfortunately this is not always the case…
The US Navy is as much a corporation as it is a branch of the armed forces. In corporations, you will sometimes have those who some how manage to sneak through the cracks and make their way up to the executive level positions. CPO’s are no exception. I happen to know Chiefs who were great leaders as First Class Petty Officers (E-6) but who fall short of anything resembling competent as Chiefs. Now, what I am saying is both sacrilegious and on the edge of treason; but in the few cases that I am referring to, this is definitely the case.
CPO’s are also hand selected by their peers (well, more like Master Chiefs or E-9’s). The selection is a result of certain criteria that changes from year to year (criteria such as: Duty Stations, time in the Sand Box during war efforts, awards received, distinctions, performance averages and so on…) The boards also have a maximum amount of people that they are allowed to choose depending on the particular rating being evaluated (but interestingly enough, they do not have to promote the maximum.) And there are times when a rating is so undermanned that a large majority of potential CPO’s are able to advance.
I was brought up to believe the following:
*A Chief always takes care of their people and will protect them at all costs.
*A Chief is revered and respected by Junior Officers (O-1 through 0-3) as a result of their knowledge and or expertise.
*A Chief should always be revered, respected, and feared.
*A Chief always had a coffee cup in hand, and if you ever made the mistake of trying to wash that cup, certain torture and death would fall upon you.
*If a Chief were tucking in or removing their anchors and trying to drag you to the tree line or a fan room, it was time for some “counseling” you should run or jump over the side in order to evade said counseling on pain of death…
*A Chief is never wrong.
*And lastly, a Chief’s place is in the Chief’s Mess; if you have to get the Chief for something, it should be to put a foot in someone’s butt because they are screwing up beyond First or Second Class repair.
But, like my belief in many things, I have come to find that almost all of the above stated are no longer applicable in today’s “kinder, more gentler Navy.” Factor in the Chiefs that fail to stand up for or protect their people, or the ones who are known as “Blue Falcons” (Buddy F-ers) and the whole mythology behind what was supposed to be sacred and revered, is destroyed like a child’s dreams when they discover that there is no Santa Claus.
Some of my best friends in the world are Chiefs and above, and they are the ones that help keep my old beliefs alive. In fact, I had become completely disenchanted with Chiefs before arriving on my first ship and serving with my former Senior Chief. He showed me that there were Chiefs that would go to hell and back for their people and put themselves out there to protect their personnel even if their personnel might not have been completely right in whatever the situation was. My current Chief is the same way… How I lucked out and got back to back Chiefs that were human beings and excellent leaders, I will never know or truly understand, but I did.
Back to my original subject though… there is a Master Chief that I will keep nameless for the time being, that is genuinely concerned about the sailors that he serves with. He WANTS them to succeed and is willing to go the extra mile to help them FURTHER their careers. He wants sailors to have the opportunity to grow as LEADERS, and doesn’t believe in micro-managing or treating the men and women who defend our country like children (which is common here in the FDNF) He’s not sitting on his excessively high pedestal crapping down on his subordinates. He is out and about, mingling with the crew, getting a pulse for what the overall consensus is amongst the deck plates. And he is quick to verbalize his desire to help, and even hands his business card out to junior personnel with the promise of helping them out in the future should they ever need it. And I firmly believe him to be sincere and genuine.
It’s funny what a little effort can do to someone’s moral… his existence onboard (although temporary) has been enough to fuel the fire of my motivation that was originally on the brink of decimation. He was a breath of fresh air to me, as well as a lot more of my fellow crew members. He makes me want to be a better sailor and a better leader, and it is because of men like him that I will have the opportunity one day. And when that day comes, I hope, and pray to god above that I will remember his philosophies as well as the leadership styles of the two previously mentioned Chiefs that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with and for. I only wish that certain Chiefs in the Navy would take a page from his book on Sailor’s and how they should be treated. If they did, then a little of the “Old School Navy” that most joined up for can be felt even in today’s Politically Correct, Kinder and more gentler Armed Forces.
23 October 2007
This, among many other reasons is why I love being a sailor. I love being at sea. There is a serenity that can only be found on the water in the middle of nowhere where you have no where to go and nothing to see but clouds, stars, and water. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am once again out to sea for the ump-teenth time. And while most complain and gripe about it, I actually enjoy it. I look forward to it. I live for it. I can’t imagine life if I couldn’t have time underway. In all reality, I find myself working a billion times harder when I’m out to sea, but that is part of what makes an underway fly by, the constant working into the wee hours of the night, since in all reality, you have nothing better to do anyhow.
I know that this will all change once I am married and my wife and step-son are waiting for me on the shore. But I still think that I will enjoy my time on the open water. And when you stop to really evaluate things, being a sailor can keep a relationship fresh and new… (The time away will usually make the heart grow fonder, and returning after weeks or months at sea is like returning to a new relationship.) Being a sailor grants you, no, affords you the necessary space that every relationship needs every now and again. And even though I love my future wife more than anything, I wouldn’t trade my life as a Sailor for anything. Sure there are a whole slew of negatives with being a sailor… but when I stop and truly analyze things, I would have never found my fiancé if it weren’t for the navy. (We met through mutual friends acquired thorough the navy, and she lives in a part of the Philippines that I may have never gone to if it weren’t for our mutual friends.)
Factor in the new and exotic places that are possibilities… if it weren’t for the US Navy, I would have never seen the many places that I’ve been in the world. Mini-Vacations if you will (when you get time off that is…) compliments of the United States Government. So while others may complain, you will hear nothing of the sort from me. For a Sailor’s Life is the Life for me, and I love to be on the open sea…
21 October 2007
The US Navy has a dress code, both while in uniform, and while wearing civilian attire. This dress code or Uniform Regulation is a lawful order and should be adhered to at all times. However, there are areas that are often overlooked and disregarded all together.
One of these said regulations is regarding jewelry for males. The article states that earrings are not authorized while in a duty status, on a military installation, or any other area under the jurisdiction of a military entity. Here in Japan, guys seem to think that it is okay to wear earrings while on base, or even out in town. Some seem to think that out in town is okay because it is off base… but the US Navy has jurisdiction over it’s members under the Status of Forces Agreement with out host nation.
One of my biggest pet peeves is that we, as US Military Personnel are representatives of the United States Armed Forces, so I feel that we should be held to a very specific standard. We should dress, and conduct ourselves in a professional manner on and off duty at all times.
In fact, a good majority of the members in service join to escape the crap back home. So they go to basic training and specialty school, and they learn respect and gain some military bearing. However, you take that same sailor from South Central Los Angeles, get him out of his Specialty School and into civilian attire again, and before you know it he is dressing, walking, and talking the same way he did as a civilian. Why would you revert to your old ways, especially if you were trying to make a positive change in the first place? His clothes will be two or three sizes too big, he will wear a hat or beanie on his head while his pants fall off his butt, all while wearing his grill and eight earrings with bling bling. (Mind you, dental ornamentation is also against uniform standards.)
I know that this rant is superficial, and when it comes down to it, who really cares what you wear in your off time, especially if you are constantly putting yourself in harms way? But hell, this is my blog and my rant, and I will keep complaining as long as I can. But is it too difficult to at least be presentable when you are off duty an in a foreign country? And why is it, that when I try to correct someone’s lack of understanding concerning earrings on base in male’s ears, they look at me like I just killed their family? I feel it to be my duty as Naval Leadership to enforce the standards that I took an oath to obey. I think that is also another underlying problem… people forget that they took an oath to obey and that they did so of their own free will and without reservation. Apparently, I haven’t forgotten, and god willing; I never will.
19 October 2007
Pre-World War II Era, women were not allowed to serve in the US Navy. Things change, and today, almost half of the US Navy strength is complimented with females serving the land of the free. With women serving come a whole lot of issues that can be construed as mostly headache. Since the Women’s Rights Movement, women have fought for equality amongst their male counterparts. Don’t get me wrong… I am all about equality. But to truly be equal, there should be no exceptions or what I like to call the “Because I’m a woman” clause.
I am a firm believer that if a woman wants to be treated as an equal, that she should be entitled to that right. However… in the same breath, she shouldn’t be exempt from things that may be a little more physically demanding for her just because she’s a woman. For instance… if the job requires you to lift 100 pound objects and move them from point A to point B, then the woman should have to move that said object. The excuse of “It’s too heavy” should not apply… how can you expect to be treated as an equal if you are not able to perform a tasking as an equal? It’s a double standard and it needs to stop.
The Navy has a Semi-Annual Physical Fitness Assessment, where there are skewed numbers to better accommodate a female. Take for instance a Male age 17-19. He is required to perform a minimum of 46 push-ups and run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes and 15 seconds. Take a female from the same age group and she has to do a minimum of 20 Push-ups and gets 14 minutes and 45 seconds to run that same 1.5 miles. Why is it that a woman is required to do 26 less push-ups and receive a 2 and a half minute grace period on her 1.5 mile run? How can they honestly ask for and complain about not being treated as an equal when they have such allowances? Personally, I think it’s ridiculous.
Women also tend to get preferential treatment as well. If the job is dirty and difficult, usually a guy will get stuck doing it while the female does an easy administrative type job. (This is NOT always the case as there are some women in the Navy that work just as hard, if not harder than some of the men.)
They also get preferential treatment when it comes to qualifications… a man is usually quick to sign off on a female qualification or to give training than he is to a guy… I know, because I am guilty of doing just that.
Another example is qualifying as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist. There is a person who is leaving my ship for school who has been onboard for about a year now who procrastinated to get their ESWS Pin, and now, one of their mentors is pushing for them to get a qualification board today before they detach from the command. This board will end up being easier than a normal board, and they will probably be handed their pin without much effort. This undermines the efforts of people who actually went through the song and dance to EARN their qualification. I was quizzing them today and realized that this person didn’t know very much. As an ESWS Board member I already know that their knowledge isn’t sufficient to qualify, but they will; one because of reasons I won't get into, and two because their mentor happens to have a lot of pull within the command; yet another prime example of favoritism and preferential treatment. If tghe situation were different, the person would have left for school without the qualification since the person obviously didn’t put forth the effort to obtain it.
I wish something could be done to remedy the whole double standard thing. But a man will still find himself in a pickle if he tells a female in service to do physical labor, or to do a task that might get her dirty. And the guys that do try and treat females as equals end up looking like uncompassionate a-holes because they aren’t looking out for a females best interest. I like to go with the phrase: “Chivalry is dead, you are in the US Navy a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States. You ask for equal opportunity, so I will treat you as an equal.” I look uncompassionate and heartless, but at least I am allowing females in service the courtesy of Equal Opportunity. I look even worse when a female questions me about my heartlessness. It’s even worse when a female wants to get froggy with me and tries to intimidate me or talk down to me. Since I am all for equal opportunity, I interact with them the same way that I do with men… if a man were to act inappropriately with me, I will explain to them in the simplest of terms that they should stand down or be decimated. Women will often will say something like: “You wouldn’t do that, I’m a woman.” To which I reply: “You want to be treated as an equal… if you are going to come at me like a man, I will end you the way I would a man.” That conversation never ends on a positive note; but again, at least I am consistent and never coddle people.
Maybe one day there will truly be equality in the Service. But as long as there are double standards, there can not, and will not ever be. I apologize for offending anyone with this blog. I’m sure there are quite a few women out there who this blog may not apply to. But again, this is just my own twisted perspective and opinion, and there are a great deal of men who agree with me (but for the sake of your precious feelings, will never come out and out right agree.) Take it for what you will; but if ever you find yourself on my medical table, know that I will afford you the same respect that I afford everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or rank.
15 October 2007
Some background… on the situation
About three and a half days ago I was awoken at about 1 AM for a non-emergent issue… (i.e. they woke me for a heat stress monitor.) I told the 3rd class (E-4) that since he was the one who checked it out, he was to return it to me himself first thing the next morning. Today, he came into my office to take a medical exam, and I asked him calmly about the whereabouts of my monitor. He flat out lied to me and said that the Engineers were still using it. I asked him if they were using it continuously for 72 hours and he just kept saying that they were using it. I reminded him that I had issued him a lawful order when he checked out my rather expensive equipment, and he failed to comply and that his disobeying of the order was unsatisfactory. He didn’t respond just then… he came back about 20 minutes later with a friend to try and chew me out…
Back to the story…
So he arrives at my door, walks into my office uncovered; points his finger at my chest and face and says:
“HM2, don’t you EVER YELL at me again, do you understand me!”
This caught me a little off guard and I had to stop and think about what they hell was going on… I had a lower ranking shipmate, coming into my office (my house) yelling and raising his voice at me, about my conduct in my office! To make matters worse, he was in a threatening stance and had a friend behind him for backup. He kept raising his voice, and I countered back with:
“GSM3, you are out of line, and you need to lower your voice in my office…” He continued to yell and repeat his order… I continued… “You also need to check your tone with me, because the last time I checked, this is MY office and I am a Second Class Petty Officer in the United states Navy!”
He continued… “DON’T EVER YELL AT ME AGAIN, DO YOU UNDERSTAND!!!”
I was losing my patience… so in true military style I countered with:
“POP TALL! Stand at the position of attention!” to which he did without realizing it. “GSM3, when you enlisted, you took an oath to obey the orders of those appointed over you, I gave you a lawful order 3 days ago to which you failed to comply; not only did you fail to comply, but when I asked you about it, you blatantly lied to me…” he interrupted me yet again:
“HM2, just don’t yell at me…”
“GSM3, I am not yelling at you, but I swear that if you interrupt me again before I am done talking I will start to yell at…” he pointed his finger at my face again and interrupted:
“Just DON’T YELL AT ME AGAIN!!!” to which I went into what I like to call “Petty Officer Mode…” my voice became demonic and Drill Instructor like:
“GSM3, ONCE AGAIN, YOU ARE DISRESPECTING ME IN MY OFFICE…” he interrupted yet again…
“YOU ARE DISRESPECTING ME!”
“GSM3… IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT DISRESPECT, LET’S GO TALK WITH THE EXECUTIVE OFFICER RIGHT NOW, AND YOU CAN EXPLAIN TO HIM HOW YOU CAME INTO MY OFFICE WITH YOUR FRIEND, POINTED YOUR FINGER AT ME REPEATEDLY AND ISSUED ME AN ORDER IN A THREATENING MANNER TO “NOT TALK TO YOU” BETTER YET, LET’S GO TALK TO THE COMMAND MASTER CHIEF… OR HOW ABOUT THE ENTIRE CHIEF’S MESS… IF YOU LIKE, WE CAN GO HAVE A DISCIPLINARY REVIEW BOARD RIGHT NOW FOR YOUR INSUBORDINATION…” tears started welling in his eyes as the gravity of the situation started to sink in. His friend who originally was there as intimidation and back up, started to chuckle at the hilarity of the situation. “THIS CONVERSATION IS THROUGH, AND YOUR LIBERTY WILL BE SECURED UNTIL I RECEIVE MY EQUIPMENT BACK. CARRY ON SMARTLY SHIPMATE!”
His friend put his hand on his shoulder and told him that they should go talk to his chief. I agreed and with that he did an about face and marched off.
When you go through basic training, you are taught military bearing and etiquette.. if someone out ranks you, you do not have to like them, but you do need to respect their rank. The problem is that once the recruits leave the confines of RTC, they forget all that is instilled in them and start acting like they did before they came into the Navy. While I will admit that I am not the greatest at holding my tongue, I do ALWAYS maintain the necessary tact and respect afforded to those who out rank me. I have to. I took an oath to. There is no respect these days with these kids. It’s sad… there isn’t even a common cultural respect for elders anymore… this kid was probably about 19… I’m just upset that I had to go into “Petty Officer Mode.” There have only been about 4 instances when I have had to, and those who were on the opposite end never enjoy the experience… (Everyone else watching though equate it to something out of Full Metal Jacket.) I just hope I don’t have to resort to that alter ego for a long time to come.
14 October 2007
I was happy and content, doing the normal sailor thing until that dreaded day in October, when I had to go
In time I managed to make third class, which didn’t mean much at the time… but would later prove relatively useful… as I would shortly be promoted over my senior HM3 to Leading Petty Officer of Medical. We would also get a ship rider who I would eventually help achieve qualifications as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist. All in all, my Motivation level was pretty high, and I was still some what compassionate and not quite jaded.
Orders for my HMC and my HM3 came up, and orders for his and her replacements soon followed. Jokingly I had stated that my HMC’s replacement was probably gonna be a Dental Technician and not a real corpsman, and we both had a good laugh. It seems that I am really good at predicting the future… as the orders that appeared were for a DTC (Chief Dental Technician.) The Navy had only recently merged the rating of Dental Technician with Hospital Corpsman. It just so happens that my soon to be Chief was one of the first to make it through Surface Force Independent Duty Corpsman School. (An impressive feat considering it is one the most difficult NEC to obtain.) I could feel my motivation and drive falter as I had always had a bit of disdain for DT’s and I felt that my new Chief would probably be overbearing and dictator-like since he was a converted DT trying to prove himself as a Corpsman. Thankfully, I would be wrong in that instance.
In January of 2006, my current HMC arrived in Japan with his family. My HMC at the time rented a car and we went to pick them up at the airport. (A tradition for the Corpsman Onboard my ship.) I remember watching them walk and talk ahead of me and the feeling that my world was about to drastically change, and not for the better. It felt like the end of an era, and like my time and usefulness was over.
As fate would have it, my new HMC was actually a great guy. I’m not just saying this because he may read it, I honestly mean that. For those who know me, they remember how difficult of a transition it was for me to have the turnover… (especially since my old chief and I were very good friends on and off duty.) But gradually, my new Chief came into his own, and we have been working fluidly and easily since the start.
Sailors are interesting creatures… like sharks; they can smell fresh blood. The fresh blood in this instance is a fresh IDC, and they took full advantage of that. They would try and exploit him every chance they got for SIQ Chits, LLD Chit… the whole nine yards. And in the beginning he was (like me) overly accommodating. I watched as my shipmates used and abused my chief and would tell him about it. All the while, I was building resentment and becoming more complacent in regards to my crew. This was the path to digression, as this is where I began to become slightly jaded. My Chief eventually caught on to the “Sickcall Commandoes”, and things have mellowed out. They no longer try and scam him or really attempt malingering.
Once upon a time, I was the “Nice Corpsman.” Now, I am the corpsman that they come to only when they REALLY need medical attention. (i.e. they don’t wake me at 3AM for Tylenol anymore.) I’m still a go-to guy, but they usually make sure that it is important before disturbing me at inopportune times (like in the restroom or during a meal.) So there you have it… my story of digression… if you read my first few posts until now, you can see just a glimpse of why I may come off as jaded sometimes (and I promise you that I will in posts to come.) While I have left quite a few more details out, I’m sure one day I may just give them via rant or what have you… but for the time, at least you can kind of see a little about the life of a senior corpsman out to sea.
“What does our ship do with Malingerers?”
“Can the HMC over-ride a Medical Officer’s Order?”
“Why don’t the Corpsman have to run the Physical Fitness Assessment?”
Allow me to give you a little history on what’s has been going on…
The Medical Department onboard used to run the whole Physical Fitness Assessment Program onboard the ship. My HMC gave it up, because it is a immensely time consuming collateral, and frankly, we are too busy keeping up Operational Readiness Numbers to deal with it. Indirectly, the Medical Department still has a toe in the program, as we attend each Assessment as medical support and monitor support. Usually we assist the Command Fitness Leader (CFL) with weigh-ins and miscellaneous tasks concerning.
The Physical Fitness Assessment is held every 6 months and requires a set amount of Push-ups, sit-ups and a timed 1.5 mile run. The values differ depending on your age and gender. This isn’t the problem… the problem is that with our operational schedule and working hours, it is difficult to have the time or energy to work out when you only have 6 or 7 hours to be at home and do home-like things (especially for those who are married and have children.) Take into account the few who are just pure lazy and don’t want to work out… those are the ones who mysteriously have horrible disabilities about a week or two prior to the Assessment.
Any corpsman will tell you that PFA Season is the busiest for those magical ailments like backaches and knee pain… it’s very difficult to take our crew seriously when they never come in for these issues and they just appear shortly before their required test. And they all get angry when they can’t get a medical waiver to be excused from the Assessment… but in all reality, only legitimate medical issues can receive that medical waiver.
On the same note; we do occasionally send people to the Naval Hospital for follow ups with Physicians who will send back RECOMMENDATIONS (not ORDERS) that they be waived from certain events. And sometimes we send those knee pains to X-ray and when the film comes back with a Radiologists Note saying “Normal knee, no abnormalities or tares visualized.” The service member is pretty upset to learn that they get to try and run that 1.5 miles like the rest of the crew.
Now, don’t get me wrong… I do not actually like the PFA myself. I think it’s silly that we have to run 1.5 miles twice a year, and do push-ups and sit-ups… but it is a condition of our employment and it must be done. Realistically though… most naval ships are between 300 – 1000 feet long… there will probably never come a time when you will have to run 1.5 miles on a ship under 13 minutes to get to a station… (for the record, I can get anywhere on my ship from my office between 30 and 45 seconds.) In all reality, it’s a small price to pay to stay employed by Uncle Sam.
On the topic of malingering… You know… I am really weary on touching this one… So I will tread lightly… It can be perceived by some, that certain people are or may be malingering and getting away with it. While this may be true occasionally… it usually isn’t the case. There are other reasons for a person to not be standing watch or working… But there are some serious issues if medical were to diagnose someone with malingering and there really was something wrong with that patient… especially if they ended up kicking the can or getting hurt. I can’t get too into this without possibily violating patient confidentiality, so I will leave it at that… I just wish my crew knew that if someone were faking it, for the most part, they would get caught.
And last, but definitely not least… “Why don’t the Corpsman run the PFA?” Answer: We do… this isn’t complex math… it’s the honest truth… for every PFA, the monitors are forced to run it earlier than the crew so that there are maximum safety monitors when you have 60 or so sailors at each PFA. And the Corpsmen are no exception… we have to be there in order to help those who may possibly have an issue during the test. (i.e. pass out, twist and ankle, or even have a heart attack.) So painfully… we run it. Unfortunately to the average sailor… if they don’t see someone doing it, it never happened… It’s funny how some people are more preoccupied with what other people may or may not have done instead of what they are doing… I swear, sometimes it’s like being in high school again with all the trivial nonsense that goes on around here.
I remember a feeling of wonder and awe the first time I saw my first ship. It looked almost majestic as it sat on Harbor Master Pier West at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. The Hull Number was 62 and the bridge wing had many unit awards and letters painted on it. A huge gold E stood out more than the rest. It was explained to me that my ships was one of the best in the Fleet… 5 time Battle Efficiency Award Recipient and most senior on the water front. We pulled up next to the ship, and they helped me with my bags as I made my way aboard for the very first time.
I had never stepped foot on a Naval Ship before. Everything was new and exciting… it was a whole new world. We stepped into my office and I was introduced to what would be my world for the next three plus years. I was excited and amazed at my little Medical Department. It wasn’t much looking back at it… it was actually quite small and out of the ordinary. A medical table was in the middle; the kind you see in a doctors office. There was a small 2 bed inpatient ward off to the side, two small computer desks and a countertop. But I was so motivated and just happy to be somewhere new that it didn’t matter.
I was extremely compassionate and accommodating my first few months onboard. I would stop what I was doing to help someone if they asked… it didn’t matter what time of day or night it was… I was Corpsman on the Spot. Since I had to live onboard at the time, I was the most accessible. I would be woken up at 3:00AM for Tylenol because someone ha a little headache and I was fine with that. When my Chief and HM3’s found out, they were a little concerned. They warned me that if I kept being too accommodating, that I would be taken advantage of. And for the most part, they were right. My crew was using and abusing me because I was new and eager.
My motivation was actually pretty long-lived. I lived to work. I would come in an hour before the other corpsman would come onboard just to learn about my job, and to play with the Medical Database that we used to keep track of patients. And I would leave mid evening two or three hours after everyone else had left. I was determined to learn my job and excel at it. My determination would end up paying off later on in my tour… but with positives come negatives….
I watched as the HM3’s interacted with the crew. And I saw a lack of compassion and blasé attitude towards the job. I struggled to understand how any Hospital Corpsman could be so jaded and so uncompassionate. When confronted, they told me that after a while, every corpsman gets burned out with this job, and that one day, I too would be the way they were. I found it hard to believe; but I took there words for what they were.
I loved my new life and job. It was a refreshing change from the bureaucracy of a hospital; and I have never been more at peace than when I am out to sea. I would go topside every night to watch the sunset on the horizon. The water, which was always a deep shade of blue would be silver, calm, and smooth like glass as my ship silently cut through the waves, and the sky would look as if it were on fire. You have never really seen a sunset until you have seen one at sea. A lyric from a song that I would always hear came to mind… “A sailor’s life is a life for me…”
12 October 2007
I officially enlisted into the United States Navy (Meaning I finally swore in and shipped out) on 28 November 2001. Upon arriving to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes(RTC), I was greeted in the usual fashion by the screaming Recruit Division Commander (RDC) standing outside of the bus and yelling at everyone to hustle and get into the building. As fate would have it, that screaming RDC just happened to be my Eldest Uncle, CTRC(SW) John Salas (ret.) I was enrolled into a 900 division, which for those who don’t know where the elite and “special” divisions for exceptional future sailors or those with special talents. I ended up being on the honor guard and graduating a division that originally won an Honor Division Award (meaning we had excellent academic scores and behavior while in basic training.)
After graduation from RTC, I attended Naval Hospital Corps School across the street at Naval Training Command Great Lakes. 4 months later I was on my way to my first Duty Station: Naval Hospital Bremerton / Fleet Hospital Bremerton Detachment. I worked Labor and Delivery from June of 2002 until June of 2003 when I transferred to Branch Medical Clinic Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (BMC PSNS). Shortly before transferring to BMC PSNS, I was deployed in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom with Fleet Hospital Eight. I worked in both the original 116 bed and later the 250 Bed Medical Expeditionary Facilities (Think M*A*S*H, only with Navy Medicine) in the Medical/Surgical and Psychology Suites.
After Fleet Hospital Eight, I got to BMC PSNS and worked as Supply Petty Officer for almost a year. I also worked Military Sick Call, as I had received orders to Yokosuka, Japan to the USS CHANCELLORSVILLE (CG-62). I arrived in Japan on the 14th of July 2004 and reported aboard my first Navy Warship, the Might Chancellorsville, or as some would affectionately refer to it later… Cell Block 62. I spent a year and a half aboard until I did a hull swap with the USS SHILOH (CG-67). I am due to transfer in July of 2008 when I will hopefully be attending Surface Force Independent Duty Hospital Corpsman School at the Naval School of Health Sciences in San Diego, California.
My name is Vince, I’m 25 and a Second Class Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy. I have been serving now for close to six years (next month marks my 6th year of service.) I am engaged to marry in December of this year. My lovely fiancé has a two year old son from a previous relationship, and they are currently both in the Philippines awaiting visa approval to come over to be with me.
By “come over here” I mean Japan… as I am currently serving aboard a Guided Missile Cruiser in the Forward Deployed Naval Forces based out of the city of Yokosuka. Let me tell you… trying to marry a foreign national is anything but a walk in the park… but I love my Genevie and am confident that all of the headache, heartache and money involved in making her my wife is worth it.
I have been serving aboard a ship now as the Leading Petty Officer for a little over three years. I am on my second extension and am awaiting approval to attend Independent Duty Hospital Corpsman School next summer. I didn’t originally want to be an IDC. originally I wanted to become a Nurse Corps Officer. But when I was due for sea duty, I found my way to my first ship and got to see exactly what an IDC is capable of and responsible for, and I developed a thirst for the job.
I’ll get more into who I am in the next post… duty calls… I have sick call patients at my door. Until next time…