NEVER clean a Chief’s coffee mug

One of the best and worst times of my young Navy Sailor life was performing as a “Mess Crank”.

While I have heard that the services now seem to employ civilians in the galleys or chow halls  – all recruits learned kitchen duties  in the recruit training commands’ cafeterias when I went through forty years ago.    I can only imagine what shipboard life is now  but it was a fact of sharing in responsibilities especially with the non-rated junior Sailors to help in all the Mess (kitchen) duties.    You might find a “Mess crank”  ( not a pejorative but a traditional term that none in my day might offer they were offended by)  at all hours scrubbing, putting away dishware, or running a buffer across the waxed decks.  For those assigned to the Officers Mess,  Commanding Officer’s or the Chiefs’ Mess,  duties came with varying levels of perks.  Basic duties included setting up the coffee urn. On military installations, the 24-hour nature of the job meant coffee should always be fresh and never run out.  This may have changed somewhat with the Millenials entering the ranks.  About the time I retired, many Sailors were drinking those Energy drinks – all highly caffeinated – so some may have not taken up the coffee habit.

I might be old-fashioned, but woe to a Chief in the “Goat Locker” who disdains coffee!130715-28coffeemovingcolor397-300x300   A Chief and his coffee cup are fundamental to Navy lore.   Just as my predecessors, I was unable to function without my coffee cup.   Though some mugs might be now metal or some thermal metal/ plastic amalgam, the traditional one, a sturdy ceramic, that might be emblazoned with the Command logo,  a CPO anchor, or the rating and warfare designation.   Sometimes the outside of the cup was quite worn as might be any treasured possession through many years of service.

A retired Chief Petty Officer,  despite the passage of years, can still be identified by his or her crooked finger,  use of one favorite mug,  or the ongoing need to balance work with coffee – and usually a bit of advice that begins. “now this is a no-sh*t*er..”   On duty, the Navy Chief might otherwise be off-balance were it not for that crooked finger cradling a steaming mug.  It is a tool for supervision, training or correction.   The tell-tale hallmark of a “salty” Chief Petty Officer is the dark, some might say even crust-like, layer of black-brown coffee rings within a Chief’s coffee mug.   “Added flavor” we all say.

And under NO circumstances, be the one “Mess crank”, who takes it upon himself to wash out the “filthy” mugs in the Chief’s Mess.    The Chief’s Community has better information sharing than the latest satellite technology, and while you may eventually rise to become an initiate into the CPO community, someone might have been waiting 10 or 15 years to live down that sacrilege.   These days I keep one cup at work that never, ever gets washed.  Perhaps it is part of my charm.   I have been known to several for years by,  and still earn the respect of  co-workers, as the “Chief”

** Cartoons    Broadsides,   Jeff Bacon

** more interesting asides about coffee mugs and the Chief’s community –

Navy S/ELEPHANT and other tactical mammals

While I admit to watching only parts of the movie, Life of Pi, is a survival adventure novel of a young Indian man lost at sea sharing a lifeboat with a tiger.  Can you think of a better anti-piracy agent?   Yet, perhaps land animals at sea is not entirely an uncommon phenomenon?tg1As reported by several news sources *,  the Sri Lankan Navy a couple days ago rescued an elephant at sea — in a great demonstration of compassion.  Leave no elephant behind!   This elephant was crossing a shallow channel and was swept out to sea where it eventually was rescued — nine or ten miles out in the ocean!    Continue reading

binnacle list

I am an old seadog these days.  In my youth I would rarely miss work, school or a duty day for something as irritating as a cold or flu.  For centuries, if a Sailor went to Sick Call and was placed on the “binnacle list”,  the leading Seaman or later, the Chief Petty Officer would let it be known that Sailor had better be suffering Scarlet Fever or a severed artery.   Shirkers normally found themselves on duty rosters during port calls.   These days I have accepted that I no longer can bicycle fifteen miles to my duty station and immediately run ( and pass) the PRT fitness test –  I was then still under 30 years old;   I probably would not be able to hoist a sixty or seventy Damage Control bag over my shoulder while wearing an OBA * and hustle up or down the ladder during one of the shipboard training sessions – the General Quarters Drill ( I was not quite 36 then).    My older body has stopped writing the checks my ego really can’t cash.  (For those who may never have seen a check, this idiom was once a popular expression.)

There once was a time in America when self-reliance, mental and physical toughness were characteristics of mature males – college educated or working class.  So when an acquaintance talked about his Army veteran dad only recently talking with a Veterans Administration representative about  medical issues he has had for the last thirty years, and getting a disability rating as a result, I listened.

More than twenty years ago,  I was  hospitalized after weeks-long exposure to toxic fumes;  However,  the service and my young invincibility complex made little of it.  In hindsight, a ruptured appendix that year and 20 years of  hospital visits for gastric issues might be connected.   And for good measure, Gulf War inoculations, and radiation might be worth a good look.   Even if the Government declines,  I will gain experience that I can pass on to my son in the Army.  He’s definitely got physical issues that were aggravated by his service.  But he too, is a tough, self-reliant type.  I don’t want him to wait 20 years.

when stubbornness is not civil

Whenever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience.  – Thomas Chandler Haliburton

What is it about human nature that wants to disobey authority and then complain that the “authorities” do not give a fig about what people want?!

lakejennings15With the hot, dry weather of summer in San Diego upon us,  and following a very wet Spring generating a lot of brush and grasses,  fires can start and grow like mad.  Today,  one such fire was apparently sparked by a vehicle  traveling on the highway where grasses were very close to the roadbed.  What became four hundred acres ablaze were tackled by firemen, trucks,  fire-retardant dropping aircraft and water-dispersing helicopters from afternoon into the evening.    Now it is bad enough that reporters and cameras were present to chronicle this fire,  but these reporters stated, in the same breath,  a MANDATORY EVACUATION for nearby residents AND  some  remaining behind to defend their homes with garden hoses.  “Mandatory” had some meaning once upon a time.  But today, there is an overall lack of trust in authority of any sort.

I get it.  My house.  Memories.  Possessions.  Stuff.    But WHOSE life gets put on the line when the “stuff” hits the fan – and the fire threatens to envelope the homeowner and home?   It’s the same response from those who live in the hurricane zone along the Eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.    Are first responders required to go after people who refuse to leave their property?   I believe it is part of the oath they take to protect and serve.   In the meantime,  it looks like it is going to be a flaming Summer and Fall.  I might want to buy another garden hose,  or up my homeowner’s insurance.


navy chow is not served here



There is a feeling of relief today from both wife and husband regarding an evening of entertaining that has instead become a quiet evening at home.  A call yesterday reminded both the caller and me that I had made – and promptly forgot –  a two-week old invitation to dinner for young man and his date to our home Friday – tonight.

With both of us leaving our jobs late – the holiday Tuesday made a three-day workweek somewhat longer,  over breakfast we had a  improvised some strategic planning:   a grocery run, expedited house cleaning, and games and such to make a welcoming evening.      A call from our prospective guest asked us to reschedule.    Date night – even ones that were to be had at our home – would be less hurried when the date – and the hosts have some time to prepare.

But the menus that I have enjoyed since our youngest left home, and we became Empty Nesters,  is the thing that my wife has made quite encouraging – when she has time to prepare.   I have, unashamedly, taken a liking to my spouse’s insomnia which tends to express itself now in cooking.   Whether inspired by the Food Network or recipes shared on Facebook,  we tend to have tasty lunches and dinners all week long.   For the last six months, on weekends we make a “date” shopping for organic vegetables and fruit, and to COSTCO for meat or poultry.   In the evenings, – as long as I remember to buy propane – I will barbecue the meat that makes up that week’s menu.

Mango salsa, sweet potato, braised chicken, beef stew,  and so on were never part of my diet when I ate at military chow halls.  Even when I became a Chief Petty Officer, and the food improved from chow identified by the day of the week, rather than taste or aroma,  I never knew about mango salsa.   And as a parent, when you have teenagers living at home,  burritos and big pots of food that could be flavored to taste – were the norm.  And when kids hurry out the door at mealtime or promise to eat later, food  I might have secreted away in the fridge for myself – were usually gone before morning.

But when you aren’t cooking for an army,  we can experiment with some of the things that we otherwise might have gone to a restaurant.    Home cooking, when you can tip the chef with a smooch or a little convivial time — is better than anything.

Born in the USA

On the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Americans are set to commemorate the day with barbecues, parades,  pool parties, and  family gatherings.  And fireworks.  (And hopefully, neither the Emergency Rooms nor the firefighters and paramedics across the nation will be overtaxed today by injured or sunstroke-suffering revelers.)

When I began writing, I wanted to comment on the state of America’s unique history to unite diverse people into an economic power that changed the world in the last half of the Twentieth Century.   Continue reading

Politics is really Science Fiction

A popular fiction theme repeated many times in film and on television is an apocalyptic vision of the future. And in the last decade or so,  a political view of a fascist state,  where the trains always run on time,  there are flying cars and aircraft,  militarized police and armored vehicles patrolling the territories.

Why an occupying force?  Because the people are enslaved.  (Think of the Hunger Games, Divergent,  Judge Dredd, The Maze Runner, Resident Evil franchises.)  Political movies of an intrusive State (Enemy of the State),  or a anti-nationalist, Obama-like Administration, (White House Down), contain various plots about internal rogues in spy agencies, computer hackers, and terrorists.  When it is not due to a plague or a nuclear war, the facilitator of the collapse of democracy is often an “inside man”.  Even the Jason Bourne series has this theme.   Once upon a time these themes were Soviet sleeper agents and North Korean/ Chinese intelligence agents bent on corrupting America, but now it seems Americans are the enemy.

From my perspective,  given that the worldview of  the filmmakers, writers, actors, and sponsors has been consistently dominated by those who make speeches and preen themselves as “inclusive”,  pro-islamist,  ” climate change”-rs, “borderless” and anti-nationalist,  the bleak future depicted of masters and an enslaved people – even the Planet of the Apes franchise comes to mind-  the apocalypse has come about by capitalist, nationalistic, bigoted, whites who use any means necessary to keep control.

Yet what I find troubling to this thinking are the rebels.   The rebels hunt game, illegally,  trade or barter goods and services with each other,  are fairly well-educated,  are open to new ideas,  demonstrate good interpersonal relationships, and have a good judge of character.  This seems to be the qualities that the current crop of  news media, “Never Trump”-ers,  environmentalists,  campus anarchists, and disgruntled billionaires despise in the population!   The oppressors, on the other hand, value forests, parks,  mass transit, extravagant homes,  prevent the  general ownership of weapons,  control weather,  make flowery speeches, and keep among their “own kind”.   This certainly seems to depict the “Liberal” or erstwhile “Democrat” world view of the 21st Century?

Fascinating?  Troubling?  Or  ambivalent?    My two cents for today.

Iron men and wooden ships

I think I should learn to sail before I die.  In a sailboat.  Perhaps on the ocean.  After all, I spent a seventh of my life on the ocean, in vessels that patrolled the world.  Of course, none of these used wind power and fabric for propulsion.   But as crew aboard a warship crossing the Pacific and at other times crossing the Atlantic,  I recall seeing adventurers on their tiny cork

For inspiration,  I was reading about a couple adventurers, beginning with Robin Knox-Johnson who was first to sail solo and non-stop around the world in 1968 ( it took him 10 months to complete)  and latest, Thomas Colville, whose fifth attempt at breaking the 2008 record of 57 days  accomplished circumnavigation in only 49 days.

Or maybe I will just take lessons this summer on a smallboy at the Navy MWR marina and sail in San Diego Bay.

the cradle of uncivil-ization

Opening this week’s edition of TIME magazine (June 26, 2017), my eye caught a pictorial article on the environmental battle that was waged last year in Iraq when ISIS set fire to oil fields to hinder the advance of the Iraqi and coalition force pushing them out from the territory they terrorized for years.

Joint Forces Battle To Retake Iraqi City Of Mosul From ISISIt is quite instructive that the world has become well-versed in the environmental  and human toll of oil spills and fires.  In that region, decades of poisoned water, poisoned wildlife,  and landscapes as a result of months of exposure to deliberate acts of evil men,   toxic fumes, oil -laden smoke and chemicals have been largely overlooked by the European and American “globalists”.   Twenty-five years ago,  while one American political party blamed another party,  the apolitical Government bureaucracy was ignoring the toll on forces of the first Gulf War;  I remember the “Gulf War Syndrome”  where U.S. veterans had to fight through the courts to obtain needed care and Government acknowledgement of responsibility for their ailments.

qayarrah_iraq_joey_l_photographer_11_resizingThe TIME article and other sources make the point that the Iraqi firefighting forces – petroleum engineers specialized in fighting these – have been doing so for years.   With ongoing battles against terrorists’  IEDs, bullets at the same time as fires hot enough to incinerate men and equipment,  Iraqi forces extinguished the fires the terrorists set along their retreat.   The Iraqi people who lived through a “scorched -earth” mandate from Saddam Hussein to his forces in 1991, are the same people who suffered again from an extremist army who once again set fires, IEDs, and booby-traps;  from the oil fires damage caused in the aftermath of the Gulf War,  those exposed suffer from cancer, skin diseases, birth defects,  mental issues and myriad other life-shortening illness.  And that terrorists set their world ablaze again, the effects will continue to plague people.   It is no wonder that the poor have risked dying in the attempt to flee to other countries.

While we wonder whether carbon dioxide in the air over the U.S. is a harmful pollutant,  perhaps the same “climate change” advocates can travel to Iraq to advise them that ending America’s reliance on hydrocarbons will end their suffering.

Further reading:

Tools and their uses

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. -2 Peter 1: 5 -8 (NIV)


Academy to so educate train and develop midshipmen 1 That they may have a fine sense of honor,  a wholehearted love for the best traditions of the service,  an enduring love for country,  subordination based on proper initiative of the subordinate,  an appreciation of the humanities,  and a keen sense of responsibility in assuming authority over others

– Report of the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy, p 10, 1910

“What tools are in your toolbox?”. the speaker asked last night at our men’s church devotional service.   tools_and_their_uses_tm_9-243-10He went on to offer several additional scriptures on faith and perseverance, as tools.   As a former Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer,  I understood that  any young Sailor – or young (spiritually) disciple of Jesus,  life is embracing that you do not know what you do not know but then learning the doctrine, spending time with a mentor and persevering through conflicting desires and priorities.  Perhaps it is safe to say that “duty” is the first concept I embraced.   As a Sailor matures,  the life that each voluntarily accepted  on the NAVY’s terms has certain obligations and responsibilities.  So to as a student of Jesus,  voluntarily but without a ‘contract.   Some skills are beneficial as they will potentially save you or a shipmate in times of peril.  Mastering your calling and seeking to help others grow stronger – for a greater good – will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your naval career.

So too, with a spiritual compass.  The Master Mariner, Jesus, sets my course though I voluntarily follow.   But a path voluntarily chosen can build character, endurance, positive outlook and joy that the world desperately needs. (Happiness is a shallow, easily damaged emotion where joy is not.)   Where the military prepares a service member to prepare for war,  it is no less true with even a glimpse of a spiritual life,  war continally rages around us.  For us to rise and help others to rise out of violence,  hatred,  greed, fear, selfishness, loneliness, and misery,  requires faith in a gracious God and the proper tools – faith, perseverance, knowledge, self-discipline, good character, and whole-hearted love.    God’s Word  and the Navy I served for a quarter-century are tools for life.   FB_IMG_1491759647178

Courage at sea

“Until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will not know the terror of being forever lost at sea.”  -Ovid

As most of the world knows by now,  a horrible collision at sea occurred between a merchant freighter and a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS FITZGERALD (DDG-62),  a couple days ago off the coast of Japan.  Three Sailors, the Commanding Officer and two others were injured and are in the Naval hospital in Yokosuka.  The ship was obviously extensively damaged above and below the waterline.

With the ship now safely in port, the Navy has announced that the remains of several of the seven men, previously unaccounted for, have been recovered from the flooded compartments.   It is a credit to the training and resolve of the crew that the ship and crew were able to control the flooding and that not more lives were lost.  At sea,  compartments below the waterline are maintained at modified-Zebra, where the hatches are closed between compartments and between decks, with the scuttles opened for crew movement.

In an emergency, announced over the 1MC system, they would announce “General Quarters” with perhaps only seconds to respond in this case.   I remember one emergency response in our berthing compartment when a sensor in Engineering erroneously detected a poisonous gas (freon) leak in the space below ours (the compartment was above the refrigeration system compartment).  From a dead sleep, all my shipmates and I evacuated in less than 2 minutes.  But in a collision and the resultant flooding might allow for less that half of that time to get out and secure that hatch.

Regardless of the questions as to events leading to this catastrophe, the loss or injury of a single Sailor is a blow to the community of Sailors.   I pray God’s comforting embrace for my brothers and sisters who continue to serve every day.   For the lost and injured at sea.  And for the surviving crew and families of the USS FITZGERALD.  Serving with HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT.