living with the sleep deprived

“Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a (person) healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Old English proverb, often attributed to B Franklin

That might have been Benjamin Franklin’s experience, but for the last three days and nights, waking with coughing fits due to a cold virus, I have little positive from staying in bed most of the day. Finally feeling on the mend this Sunday, I am continuing to think about sleep deprivation. This runs in my family. Stories of a parent (grandparent) who accomplished more in 24 hours, particularly in the dead of the night, are borne out by a spouse, who can fall immediately asleep but wakes an hour or a couple hours later. By morning, laundry has been washed and folded. A cat, which appears at our door at all hours, gets attention and cat food. Conversations about life lessons between our adult son and his mother occur at 1 AM. Whether a restful evening is possible two or four hours at a time, for my family it is reality. I am wakened many nights by sounds and smells that trigger old Navy training. Dripping faucets, running showers, and late night meal preparation (we have adult children living with us), 25 years after duty at sea, will easily wake me.

Veterans, medical personnel and First Responders are by training and work assignments often working at hours that inhibit the notion of proper rest. Suitability to such work, is that primarily from training our bodies, or is it due to our genes which predispose us? Or does youth make us more flexible to adjustment? The reality of modern life is complicating what were once socially-accepted norms. Family time, if at all routine, occurs later in the evening. Working from home tempts us to working late at night. The National Institute of Health has conducted sleep studies, specifically, circadian rhythms which are physiological changes in a organism that operate on a 24-hour cycle. Have you heard of a “biological clock” ticking away (and not just from the movie, My Cousin Vinny) ? The control an organism has over its circadian rhythm, has a lot to do with certain proteins that interact in the body’s cells. Similar research is studying narcolepsy, a sleep disorder related to autoimmunity, where mutated genes trigger a response not due to lifestyle nor circadian rhythms of the sufferer.

While each treatment, prescription drugs, diphenhydramine, and other sleep aids carry their own range of side effects, indigestion after bedtime has caused me to abandon that. I still take OTC melatonin and drink “sleepy” herbal teas. The latter’s only side effect is stirring me to wake before my alarm to answer Nature’s call. Other than that, I am quite fond of chamomile. And twenty minute naps.

when veterans were President -Teddy Roosevelt

Dozens of biographies have been written by historians on Theodore Roosevelt, from his upbringing to Rough Rider to President. Over a hundred years ago, this visionary and military veteran, outdoorsman, nationalist and the arguably the first Progressive, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States. Following the end of the Spanish-American War, in 1898, he was elected Governor of New York state. And became Vice-President following the death of McKinley’s Vice-President. Becoming President following the assassination of McKinley, Roosevelt earned the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between Russia and Japan. In the 1902 coal miners strike, he had a federal commission investigate and force changes to the industry averting an energy crisis. He ended the railroad industry and beef producers’ monopolies. And he initiated oversight of food and drugs to standardize safety and end misbranding of products. As a conservationist, he created the Forest Service and approved creation of several national parks**. From his speeches and writing, many of this century’s polarizing policies and loss of the United States’ influence in the world, might have been averted had they still been considered by its leaders.

We can have no ’50-50′ allegiance in this country. Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

cit. 1917 letter to S Mencken

The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight.

It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.

A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.

TR

It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president… is morally treasonable to the American public.

TR

** summary of accomplishments, from https://learnodo-newtonic.com/theodore-roosevelt-accomplishments; quotes from http://www.brainyquote.com

Disney veterans

Taking responsibility for those under my authority is a natural inclination for a career military man. When my grandchild’s bag of snacks crushed and spilled onto the gift shop floor at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, having nothing else available I started to scoop it up with my hands. My wife helped me. The castmember was taken aback. “I’ve called custodial”, the employee told us.

An “old Navy habit,” I said. “I’ve cleaned up a lot of things just with my hands.”

The woman extended her hand. “Army veteran.” As the young custodian swept the remaining dust, she continued, “We don’t get a lot of this. Most just walk away.” We thanked each other for serving, and as we parted I asked how she liked working at Disney. “A lot like the Army. Very disciplined.”

Ask the Chief: jury duty

When a jury summons arrives in the mail, as a veteran and former Navy Chief Petty Officer, I feel the sense of duty to report when summoned. Not that I have ever once been selected to sit on a jury, I will still go down to the courthouse on the day I am required. I do not recall ever receiving a summons while I served on Active Duty in any of the municipalities where I lived. I think that military service excludes us from the jury selection pool. But last month I received a summons, and then asked to reschedule because I became ill with a cold. This week is my second summons starting day, and again I am ill. Actually, more annoying than the fever four days earlier, the stubborn sinus congestion persists. As a CPO, I should simply suck it up(!), and carry out the mission. Perhaps, it is that sense of duty, and the ability to detect a load of @#$# being shoveled by attorneys –sea lawyers– that has prevented me from being a juror so far?

Port o’ call: Manta Ecuador

A periodic cleaning of closets and garage allows me to reminisce over photographs and memorabilia of travels while I was in the Navy. In the 1990s, deployment aboard the USS TEXAS (CGN39) and later, USS PETERSON (DD969), gave me opportunities to use Spanish, French and Russian I learned in school in the prior decade. However, it was Spanish that gave me some “street cred” with my shipmates when we visited Central and South America. Though deployments from West Coast bases or East Coast bases tend to visit the same ports, my opportunity to visit Ecuador twice, was as result of being aboard these two ships. The USS TEXAS was a cruiser based out of Alameda, California, and the USS PETERSON was based out of Norfolk, Virginia.

Looking at some images, it does seem incredible that thirty years has passed since I made the first of four Navy transits of the Panama Canal. On the way to Ecuador, I became a Shellback, in a ceremony while crossing the equator just east of the Galapagos Islands. Though the Manta I recall is likely to have changed – this image from Pinterest suggests it is more brightly lit, I wonder what an orphanage we served – entertaining kids, bringing skateboards and games, is like in 2022? I do imagine that the orphans have a much more modern – or well-painted facility. On my second visit, the nuns told me that the classroom I painted (two years earlier I painted a clown with balloons there) had seen several coats of paint from other ship visits!

Manta, Ecuador beachfront (date unk), from Pinterest
US Navy’s “Operation Handclasp” doesn’t clown around

Two people we encountered spoke English; one was a retired US Marine who moved there with his Ecuador-born wife, and a kid from New York City, who became our tour guide in Manta. We stopped for a cold Pepsi at a shop, and the kid -speaking English with a Brooklyn accent- greeted us. He was spending the summer with his uncle, the shop owner. While I spoke Spanish well enough to negotiate hotel accommodations at the beach and bargain with the street vendors, it was good to have a streetwise negotiator on hand. I think it was he who told me about carved tagua nut carvings and Panama hats being made in Manta. Thirty years later, I have thrown away or lost among the boxes of trinkets, a fishnet hammock, a “vegetable ivory” carved tarantula and a “Panama hat”.

Local boys making wicker items

Travel was always the biggest perk in the Navy, though as I learned from my travels, some world-travelers set foot on different continents by having a valuable skill and a sense for adventure. In Manta, there was a British man who was going around the world, using his Fisheries Science education to help with protecting and preserving the fishing industries in countries like New Zealand where he had last lived for a few years to Ecuador where he was now employing those skills. I imagine it was a little easier than traveling from hostel to hostel with a few dollars in ones pocket. That sort of vagabond life, at my age is a non-starter; and don’t get my wife started on bring a tent along.

Ask the Chief: guilt or innocence depends on whom the axe falls?

Arsonist. A disgruntled sailor. Traitor. These are the thoughts that went through my mind, as a Navy veteran, when I first heard of the sailor who allegedly set the USS Bon Homme Richard on fire. But the facts do not seem to bear this out in a military courtroom. A military judge presiding over that sailor’s courts-martial found him not guilty today. The Navy failed to prove that this seaman who had dropped out of SEAL training, and was assigned to the Deck Division on the BHR, was responsible for the fire.

Scuttlebutt seemed to suggest that he was guilty before trial, but scuttlebutt has been wrong about a lot of thing. Sadly, does it seem that the Navy, like many in the public, academia, government, and media, began with a plausible conclusion and proceeded to find evidence to support the conclusion. Could someone have stored flammable batteries or fuels inconsistent with current safety precautions? Did firefighting teams note which areas were not effectively protected with shipboard or pierside foam or pressurized ff mains? Did investigators focus on one suspect to the exclusion of more factors? It certainly is a lot tidier to find a young man guilty of the willful destruction of a warship, than to determine that crew training, shipyard planners, supervisory personnel, and the senior authority of the Naval District were derelict, or at best, naïve as to the level of preparedness military and civilian personnel had to respond to emergencies. What steps is the Navy taking to prevent such casualties in the future?

Veterans and Addiction

If you or a loved one is, or has been in the military, and has a substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder (SUD, AUD), there are specific resources available to help begin recovery. A Florida-based center, Boca Recovery Center, reached out to Truths, Half-Truths and Sea Stories, to share that message.

As a group, veterans often struggle with addiction. Substance use disorders and substance abuse are fairly common among those who have served in the military. To help veterans learn more, we’ve created an in-depth guide that includes contributing factors and assistance available for those suffering from substance abuse.

Click here for information.

Ed. -Please let us know if our Resource Page has been helpful. It will allow us to better serve fellow veterans and their families.

Piracy on the open sea

Ten years ago, a cell phone video recorded by a crewman aboard the Ping Shin 101, a tuna trawler, documented the systematic murder of sailors somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Despite witnesses on other vessels in the area, no international law required anyone to report the murders to authorities. When a cell phone with the damning video was found in a Fijian taxi in 2014, the video was circulated online. Over time, the crew were identified by investigators through social media, found and interviewed to find the captain of the vessel who ordered the executions. Its former captain was arrested when he entered Taiwan in 2020. In June of this year, after two appeals of his conviction for executing pirates, the former captain’s sentence was reduced by half to 13 years.

Merchant ships and fishing boats being attacked by pirates has been a hazard at sea for hundreds of years. It was one of the reasons that a nation depending on seaborne trade with other nations needed a navy to protect their shipping. (Another reason was the practice of conscripting (impressing) sailors and seizing cargo by a warship interdicting trade intended for a rival they were warring against.) In parts of the world where economic upheaval occurs, smuggling, seizure of vessels and piracy are still occurring. In the 1990s, after the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq flouted an international oil embargo, smuggling oil to other Mid-East nations until ended with his overthrow in 2003. In opposition to the United States and its allies, North Korea, Iran and Syria have been circumventing economic sanctions to deter proliferation of weapons. In March, 2022, industrialists in Russia and at least one industry in the PRC were added for smuggling weapons and technology to the Middle East. While these issues dominate the world stage, it is government instability and economic hardship for small fishermen that seems to breed piracy.

Some researchers suggest after the collapse of Somalia’s government in 1991, other nations’ fishing fleets overfished the waters in the Gulf of Aden. Somali fishermen turned to piracy to survive. They attacked shipping (Aden links Indian Ocean traffic to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal); Ransoming cargoes and crews continued until the US and its allies began protecting international shipping in the region. (The hijacking of the Maersk Alabama in 2009, and its captain’s rescue by the US Navy was made into a movie.) In addition to the waters off Somalia, the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, piracy has escalated in the southern Caribbean. With the economic upheaval following Venezuela’s election of Hugo Chavez, fishermen turned to piracy in the Caribbean waters between Venezuela and Guyana.

International merchant groups and insurers such as the World Shipping Council, the International Maritime Organization, and Merrimac Marine Insurance coordinate to guard against piracy. However, the pandemic, war in Ukraine, Chinese naval expansion, and other threats, piracy has not made headlines as it did 25 years ago. Piracy still is a major concern for large and small operators. It is why one site, the ICC Commercial Crime Services, posts an updated international map to aid sailors. As for the imprisoned Chinese national in Taiwan, executing “pirates” and avoiding jurisprudence for eight years, a 13-year sentence seems a slight deterrent if international maritime law cannot deter rivals committing bloodshed.

Ask the Chief: the “i” in Chief means “invested”

With the pinning of newly-selected Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) on October 21, 2022, these men and women will be expected to lead their division enlisted personnel in accord with 129 years of tradition and responsibility that comes with the uniform. Anywhere and at any time, a junior enlisted sailor -trying to find a personnel office or an Officer needing stores to be on-loaded, may see that uniform and have an expectation that the Chief will get the job done. While no CPO is assumed to have instantaneous knowledge of every given situation, it is well-known that the Mess can be counted upon to have its collective wisdom to impart.

During the weeks or months preceding the pinning ceremony for new CPOs, a period of training, team building and familiarization known as “Initiation” was a period of ritual, physical conditioning, and service to others. However, there were accusations over the years that some had been victimized by shenanigans that were not in keeping with Navy standards of conduct. Between the early 2000s and 2014, “Initiation” was no longer an authorized term for this training. But during the tenure of MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) West and then Stevens, the program was revamped to align with the core values of the Navy. Under MCPON Giordano, in 2017, “initiation” became an acceptable term again. In a 2021 letter distributed to leading Chief Petty Officers, then-MCPON Smith reiterated, “

“Command Senior Enlisted Leaders will ensure that all selectees are guided through the Teaching to the
Creed syllabus, as these sessions form the backbone of our training effort. Each of our selectees must
understand what is expected of them as a Chief Petty Officer, and leveraging our Creed as the primary focus will accomplish this goal. Additionally, a specific Culture of Excellence and Warrior Toughness training session will be conducted; training materials and instructions will be provided. Other training topics that have historically been included as “additional items” should be carefully weighed to determine the actual value they provide. Laying the Keel (May 2019) remains in effect and provides guidelines and a framework for a successful Initiation. The legacy CPO Selectee Leadership Course (CPO Indoctrination) is officially “sun-downed,” and a new CPO Leader Development Course will be launched next year as part of the Enlisted Leader Development continuum.
The focus of our season is “preparing” our newest Chiefs to enter the Mess, not screening them out….”

Among those who are actively participating as members of the Mess, this testifies to a sense of duty to foster future enlisted leaders that transcends a Chief Petty Officer’s current status (whether serving on Active Duty, in the Reserve, or as a retired “Old Goat”), community (Surface, Submariner, Aviation, etc.), or location (aboard a frigate, working on a Joint Base, or perhaps, a retired “Goat” who works with Reservists as a civilian manager in a local commercial company).

“I decided long ago to become a Chief Petty Officer, and waited until the uniform caught up”

– Senior Chief Petty Officer, Naval Reserve Center Phoenix **

investment is personal

Forty-five years ago, my career aspirations to become a member of this unique ‘salty’ fraternity (male and female) began while I was in a sort of limbo pending the outcome of a medical board deciding my re-enlistment eligibility. I had been assigned duties akin to Brig duty, monitoring misfit sailors in custody prior to being administratively discharged. The Senior Chief Petty Officer a prior Marine Gunnery Sergeant, gave me a “life talk” I still remember. I re-enlisted in the Navy several years later, and was at one point assigned to the Pentagon. There, a Master Chief would pull me aside to ask me what my plans were for a career and to give me suggestions how to proceed to reach them. Though it took nearly twenty more years, ship – and shore- assignments and transfer to the Reserve, I faithfully followed his advice.

Several outstanding Master Chief Petty Officers, who were respected civilian professionals out of uniform, were no less dedicated as Reservists. One after the other, the career and leadership capabilities of enlisted personnel, some recently promoted to Chief Petty Officer, were honed. The Global War on Terror saw many deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, where some lead their Base Chiefs Mess working alongside Army, Marine and Air Force operators (Joint operations became a reality over the last 20 years of war). Returning from the war zone, the experience lead to some to become outstanding leaders and mentors, just as their own mentors had done for them. As a Chief Petty Officer, “investment” is as important as the core values of “Honor”, “Courage”, and “Commitment”.

** The quote from the unnamed SCPO was in response to his own question to a “selectee”, as to when he “became” a Chief Petty Officer. (He intentionally sought out greater responsibilities and mentored his peers, akin to the role of a CPO, until he was himself selected)

Remembering September 11, 2001

Twenty-one years ago today, in the early hours of a late summer morning, evil attempted to destroy the American ideal. They thought by striking symbols, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House, they would succeed in their endeavor. They were wrong. Three thousand men and women, airline passengers and crew, working people, First Responders and members of the Armed Forces perished that day. Instead of fear, the terrorists ignited resolve, beginning first with the passengers in the plane above Shanksville, Pennsylvania who opposed them. Though perishing, the passengers halted the attack on one of Al Qaeda’s targets. Like the surprise attack of Imperial Japan sixty years earlier, a “sleeping giant” was awakened. Before the towers collapsed, Americans (whatever their actual citizenship) demonstrated this evil “holy” war was a failed attempt. Heroism, courage and sacrifice emerged that day.

Men and women rushed into the burning buildings to save others, and some perished in doing so. In the ensuing months, fatherless and motherless children, widows and widowers, neighbors and strangers were comforted. The World these terrorists hated, put aside their differences, then united in crushing the safe haven in Afghanistan and sending its leaders to prison or to hell. Twenty years later, most Americans living today have at least one family member, co-worker, friend, or neighbor who served in the military after September 11th, some of whom returning with the scars of war. Though collective memory of nations fade, governments equivocate, and old ways persist, veterans still remind us of duty and responsibility of the defended. Ordinary citizens support, encourage, and volunteer to assist the injured, homeless, addicted, and refugee. Though many who have come of age in the two decades since question the purpose of the sacrifices in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, this day should be remembered and honored.

Embrace those who lost a loved one on that day. Put aside any differences in race, politics, religion, economic condition or gender. Thank a member of law enforcement, firemen, veterans and Active Duty service members for their dedication. Get to know your neighbor. Praise your God for peace and love. Most importantly, teach your children respect, honor, courage, and selflessness.

Were you exposed to toxics while at Camp Lejeune, NC Marine Base?

Between 1953 and 1987, toxics leached into drinking water at Camp Lejeune, NC. How many potential victims, active duty Marines and other military members, civilian workers, and family members may have become victims, injured, ill or died as a result of exposure? One of the chemicals that this article references is something I am intimately familiar. Early in my career in the US Navy, I frequently cleaned electro-mechanical parts in 1,1,1- trichloroethylene, getting it on my skin and breathing in fumes. This cleanser, a few years later, ceased being used.

A law firm in New York reached out to us recently. I have decided to publish their brief about Camp Lejeune toxic exposure, as a public service to my readers. I have received, nor shall I accept, any compensation as a result of publishing this information. Do your research, and let others know who may have been exposed to these contaminants.

Here is the Veterans Administration page describing symptoms / illnesses identified with exposure to contaminants at Camp Lejeune.

If you feel that ailments or illness you or a loved one now suffer, or may develop in future, might have a link to time spent at Camp Lejeune, get screened by the VA and /or private physicians, to provide support for any compensation claim through the Veterans Administration.

Ask the Chief: Seaman to Admiral program

While developing talented junior enlisted and officers into highly-skilled and effective leaders is a goal of the military in general, some leaders’ examples are more inspirational than others. During the late 1990s, aboard the destroyer USS PETERSON, commanded at the time by a former “snipe” (nickname for a member of the Engineering Department), the mission effectiveness and morale of the crew were exceptional, earning the ship awards from the combatant commander. It may have been his model of leadership that inspired a shipmate in my work center, and a Boatswains Mate (another division in the Operations Department) to apply and be accepted for, commissioning. Recently I learned that a peer Cryptologic Technician Maintainer (CTM), with whom I served in the early 1990s, is now a Captain who serves as Commander of Information Warfare Training Command, Pensacola, Florida.

I had the privilege of working for two commanding officers who had begun their careers as an enlisted Seaman Recruit and retired forty years later as Rear Admiral. Both were inspirational in developing military professionals, both officer and enlisted. Officers who modeled the standards set by these COs, became commanding officers in later years. These same units produced enlisted members who rose to become unit Senior Enlisted Leaders, achieve the highest rank of Master Chief Petty Officer in their respective Ratings, and some of these same MCPOs became their Rating’s Enlisted Community Manager.

It has been nearly thirty years since the Navy established a career path for enlisted Sailors to seek a commission. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Mike Boorda was the first Sailor to start a career as an enlisted man, receive a commissioning, and promote all the way to the highest rank and office in the Navy. It was he who instituted the “Seaman to Admiral Program”, now referred to as STA-21. Each year, exceptional male and female enlisted sailors may apply to become officers. July is the cutoff for applications to be received for the following year.

From websites such as Station Hypo, which posts stories of the history and personnel of the Navy Information Warfare (and Cryptology) community as well as the official website of the Navy Public Affairs office, the news that men and women have set the bar for others to model. Like the story of Mark Burns, Navy SEAL and Rear Admiral, his insight, having attained Flag rank, will inspire others to pursue what is possible.

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