14 October 2007

The path to digression (Part 1 of who knows how many)

I found that the longer I was onboard, the harder I worked. This was especially true for underway times. My HMC kept warning me that I would burn myself out if I didn’t slow down and take time for myself… but I was too determined to find my comfort zone in my profession, and I am a workaholic nonetheless. I am actually content just working and not doing anything else… Let me just tell you… my HMC was right… you do need some personal time or you will lose it….

I was happy and content, doing the normal sailor thing until that dreaded day in October, when I had to go Mess Cranking… I mean… when I was assigned as a Food Service Attendant (FSA)… That was probably the first step towards my digression. Being an FSA is a challenge to everyone… well, not everyone… but to those who are in small divisions or departments, it can be difficult to understand. My Chief kept telling me to just see it through… that Cranking build character… which was ironic, because he never did when he was a Junior Corpsman on a Destroyer. Working for the Mess Management Specialists… errr… Culinary Specialists (as they are now referred to) was a humbling experience. It is difficult to feed 360+ crew members 4 times a day. That’s about all that I took from that whole experience… but I did gain an even greater appreciation for my job as a corpsman.

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.

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