Rise and shine

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those (A)who are the called according to His purpose.  –Romans 8:28  (NKJV)

army authority drill instructor group
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

No Company Commander, nor Drill Sergeant ever whispered a gentle wake-up to new recruits in basic training or boot camp during my time in the service.   The whole point of basic training for recruits is to completely change mindsets and hearts to hear and obey, instantly, the calling.   It isn’t the Lord’s voice that one responds to the best of their ability,  but to His representative on Earth during that time: the Drill Sergeant or Company Commander.    The “encouragement” that a recruit, fresh off the farm, the beach, or the street  receives during the first several weeks of military service, instills instinctive responses, physical prowess, self-discipline, and a basic knowledge of the traditions, responsibilities and expectations of each member of a team.  At a certain point,  each military member makes the decision to embrace that way of  life,  engage fully, remain devoted, and give one’s best efforts to the team.   Or they part company, either expeditiously before the end of recruit training, or after three, four or more years.

 11 Light shines[a] on the righteous
    and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
    and praise his holy name.   –Psalm 97: 11 -12

For those who have been through the maturation process of military training,  and thrived,  the recognition of authority, wielding it,  and being instilled with a single-focused purpose of a spiritual life, is more natural.   I think that is why a lot of the imagery in the Bible, Old Testament and New, involves soldiers.  As a disciple of Jesus,  in my own life experience I understand rigorous training, discipline, and obedience to authority.  We have the tools, the teamwork, and the mission to execute.  But I am grateful that my christian missteps do not result in “marching parties”,  “demerits”,  or being found in the receiving end of some  “fan-room counseling”.

Thank God that Jesus speaks Truth in Love.  If we all respond to that,  the hurled trash can “attention-getter” in the barracks hall might not be a wake-up tool anymore.

When in little Moscow

American sailors on liberty in Pusan, South Korea before 1999 used to talk about going to Texas Street. Dive bars and cheap eats.

When I visited Pusan in 1999 while aboard USS CORONADO, I remember a Russian carrier in port. Russian bar girls. To avoid uncomfortable conversations, my shipmate and I had a line popularized by Steven Segal: “I’m just a cook!” Didn’t see any Russian sailors. But I picked up a few words in Russian.

красивая девушка

I don’t know what it’s like today, but I left there thinking the bar district had become “Russia Street”.

Learned a little bit about being stationed in South Korea. I learned how to order a Starbucks in Korean. “Grande Mocha”.

IMG_5618And I know not to enter any Asian establishment with a “barber pole” out front. Was told they were “massage” parlors. Wonder if they also do haircuts?

Foreign travel sure is educational.

Haze gray memories

All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.
~John F. Kennedy , Newport dinner speech before America’s Cup Races, Sept. 1962

I have never learned to sail a wind-driven vessel, nor do I recall the difference between a sloop and a ketch. That said, it does not mean I have no familiarity with ships, storms, life aboard ship, or the special bond that seafaring men (or women) have as a crew at sea.  For eight years out of a twenty-six year Navy career, I was a member of ships company, on a Virginia-class cruiser, a Spruance -class destroyer, and a converted amphibious transport dock-turned-command ship (for the U.S. THIRD Fleet).  I have spent months at sea repetitively in the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, Mediterranean,  and Caribbean Seas.  Perhaps the readers of this blog, merchantmen and military navymen (and women) have also looked upon Naples, Italy with Mount Vesuvius as a backdrop in the early morning.  As a Petty Officer on a ship that was one of the very first Navy visitors after forty years of the Cold War,  made port in Varna, Bulgaria. On deployment to enforce blockade of Saddam Hussein’s illicit oil trade after the Gulf War, transited the Suez Canal and made circles in the Red Sea. Like the apostles of Jesus two millennia ago, I walked the streets of old Jerusalem, visited Cyprus and Crete, Turkey and Greece.  Gazed upon the ruins of ancient seafaring civilizations four thousand years old.   I’ve ridden trains on a day’s liberty time as a Pacific Fleet sailor between Yokosuka and Tokyo, Japan,  and as an Atlantic Fleet one from Marseilles to Paris, France.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.
~John Masefield

A man I have known casually for years at a place I have written about many times, Liberty Tobacco, a cigar lounge in San Diego, California, is another Old Salt.  We both have long careers in the electronics industry and worked at some of the same places in San Diego.   But tonight we learned that we have been to the same places underway on ships,  and to shore stations around the country.  Twenty-five or thirty years ago is a long time in an age where, in a social media-world, memories last minutes or perhaps hours till another attention-seeker replaces them.

We shared memories of the school buildings for our respective Navy trades being across from one another on the shore of Lake Michigan.  We were assigned to electronics schools ( perhaps five years apart) at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago.  And we both have been through the fire-fighting trainer in Norfolk, Virginia. This is a large complex of buildings built to resemble shipboard compartments where fuel-oil fires are set ablaze.  Into the heat,  dense smoke, and real danger, crews are trained to combat them,  and to become familiar with all the tools and roles needed to fight and preserve a ship.  At sea, there is only your shipmates to keep your vessel afloat.

Other memories of putting to sea on your first ship get dusted off and refreshed while talking.   The times standing watch on the ship’s Quarterdeck in the middle of the night alongside the pier in Italy, you can chuckle about the garbage barge alongside – with something moving (not human) in the shadows.  Or noting wharf rats the size of cats rooting around a dumpster in the dark at the head of the pier. And realizing what “rat guards” on your mooring lines are designed to block.

Memories of winter rain in Panama that will soak you to the skin in minutes.  One of the wettest places on Earth,  the year-round rain recharges the waters in the Canal Zone powering the locks on each end of the Isthmus.  Swapping stories of liberty visits in ports ten time zones away from home that are extended to a month when a casualty occurs.   For one it was the ship’s screw (the propeller, in civilian-speak).  Without a shipyard and drydock, this enormous thing had to be replaced underwater by specially-trained teams.  For the other,  when a gas-turbine engine has to be flown from the USA and replaced in the Netherlands Antilles.  Due to a prior transit in a freshwater river in the Northeast USA, killing the built-up marine growth – and then immediate transit to the Caribbean resulted in the cooling inlets for that turbine being choked by dead organisms and engine destroyed by overheating.

The sea speaks a language polite people never repeat. It is a colossal scavenger slang and has no respect.
~Carl Sandburg

While some of my friends have experienced sea-sickness on a harbor ferry in San Diego bay, and worn the medical patches when first putting to sea on cruise ships and small frigates,  these aids may become unneeded when accustomed to life at sea for months at a time.   With merchantmen and Navymen, the camaraderie of sharing shipboard stories,  having weathered hurricanes and strong gales in the mid-Atlantic and off the western coast of Mexico transiting from the Panama Canal, the memories seem only days old instead of a quarter-century.   My shipmates and I have marveled at the  different colors of ocean water, the patterns of currents, bright sunshine and placid seas turn gray-black and stormy within hours.  I’ve been concerned for brightly color birds alighting on our ship as we leave port and then been still there twenty miles to sea.  Crossing the Equator and the International Date Line,  as a Navyman I have been both Pollywog and seasoned Shellback during the traditional ceremonies of the “Shellback Initiation”.

And some of the other ‘initiations’ like standing a first watch on the bridge – learning to always check your binoculars handed to you,  especially at night.  Some salty Bosun’ mate (Boatswains mate) may have first smeared a little shoe polish in the eyecups.   Or being especially vigilant while  manning instruments and reporting conditions during underway replenishment.  Any sailor will acknowledge the gait at sea is unique, an adaptation to simply performing your duties while the ship rolls in heavy seas.   Huge waves breaking over the bow of your ship become commonplace.  Watching a smaller vessel in your group seeming to disappear in the trough of the waves and then pop up as the waves crash by.  While performing maintenance on deck, looking out and seeing a small sailboat, manned by an individual sailor, pass alongside hundreds of miles from shore.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. Jacques Yves Cousteau (brainyquote.com)

For the many who are serving or have served honorably in uniform, we have a bond that few understand.  For those who have spent several months, several years, or a working life,  at sea, we have another strong bond that years and decades later we recall clearly.   Perhaps it is indeed the stirring of the salt in our blood,  the sea spray on our skin,  and the experience of working together in times of routine,  in danger and in emergencies when we all realize just how we are and will always be, Sailors.

[quotes, except where noted, via writebyte.net ]

How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise – Philadelphia Magazine

In my email today I saw this story from my feed Pocket posted from the Philadelphia Magazine.  And perhaps it is my age, my nostalgia, or something about potato salad or tuna with mayo – real mayo that is,  but mayonnaise stories resonate with me.  Alas, in truth I also have succumbed to post -20th Century condiments.  The mayo that I do buy – is avocado-based!

via How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise – Philadelphia Magazine

deep waters

Anyone who has gone to sea for any length of time – and with a wink to my Coast Guard brothers and sisters I mean out past “ankle deep” (out of sight of the land) – knows the sea is vast.   And it really does not matter whether the vessel taking the mariner out is a sloop, a ketch,  a six-hundred foot Navy cruiser,  a thousand-foot aircraft carrier or nine thousand-passenger and -crew  cruise liner.  At some point, everyone realizes that we are but dots in the ocean.

For poets, scholars, kings, farm boys and  fishermen, the ocean casts a spell beckoning us to it,  and yet the depths and potential hazards have been a metaphor, even among land-lubbers, for danger and despair.  Who today has not heard or used the phrases “in over your head”, “you’re in too deep”, “the deep end”,  or being “out of your depth” to describe discomfort.

I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.   Proverbs 69:2 (NIV)

But getting in over my head was never a reason for me to avoid doing something.  I did  venture to sea, most of the eight years I was crew on 3 Navy ships.   Perhaps it was due to my early introduction to water.   I think I was learning to swim almost at the same time I was learning to walk.  My mother used to tell me how, as a toddler, I would venture off the step in the shallows of the community pool –  and her lightning-quick mother’s arm would shoot out to rein me in as my head went under.  I was a budding Jacques Cousteau.   As a young teen,  I took a class in Lifesaving, in order to become a lifeguard, and the instructor- as I recall it- tried to drown me simulating a panicked swimmer.  I punched him.  Later, in the Navy class on treading water, I never understood how some of my peers had never learned to swim.  I never feared putting my head underwater.  And in my twenties I obtained a SCUBA certification and spent some years going diving.

Still, I have a healthy respect for water whether it is gathered in rivers, large lakes, or the ocean. Perhaps it is due to my experience with lakes that appear deceptively shallow, or water that was particularly frigid on a very warm New England May day.  Or with currents in rivers, in saltwater marshes with an ebbing tide where I tried to navigate a little rowboat across.  And I’ve lost my footing in a shallow beach tidal outflow and been sucked out to the bay.

There is a magical quality to looking out at the sea,  and witnessing the deepening blue hue of the deep ocean, turn gray-blackish and whipped into white foam caps.  When a calm sea could become a violent storm in a matter of hours, there were some, myself included, who offered prayers of thanksgiving to Providence for never having been seasick . On a bright sunny day,  as the weather turns into a full-force gale.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh  / brainyquote.com

In my childhood,  I was fascinated by nautical museums, sea captain’s two hundred year-old homes, touring lighthouses and old ships, steamers, and ferry boats.   And today I am blogging about such things now and again.   At my keyboard now  I remember the first work of fiction I wrote for a college literature class being a blend of all these memories.   And I quite clearly pictured Burgess Meredith as the crusty old Salt protagonist.

Dwellers by the sea are generally superstitious; sailors always are. There is something in the illimitable expanse of sky and water that dilates the imagination. Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Strangely, I never bought a boat after my assignments at sea ended.   While I have been on several since my career in the Navy ended,  I have never wanted to scrape barnacles, chip paint, or clean the salt-corrosion ever again.   But I still know port from starboard, and even on the maritime museum, the MIDWAY at the pier in downtown San Diego, I will still request permission to come aboard.  And I can wish for others a fond  time  getting  “haze gray and underway”.

CPO Sharkey

 

In 1977, I got off the bus from the airport at 0430 at Recruit Training Command, Naval Training Center, San Diego.  And my life has never been the same since.

Regardless of service, I believe all military members recall their bootcamp NCO. I certainly remember my Company Commander vividly.   Robert W Walsh,  ABE1, from north Florida.  Don Rickles might have modeled CPO Sharkey after him.  It is funny now to think how I was “Polack” to the CC,  and every other time some training command or support CPO would call out, ” Ssss—–” I knew they were refering to me.    ” it’s SA-RET-Skiii, sir!”

In bootcamp we were taught to call everyone “Sir” and if it moved, salute it.    But after we graduated and became, Seaman Apprentice, or Fireman or Airman, you would rather be stuck dumb and blind than call a Chief, “sir”.    There was always a colorful epithet attached to his retort (his, this was 1977)

“MY PARENTS were married, @#$@!”

“I WORK for a living,  @#$@! !”

“DO YOU SEE BARS on my collar?  @#$@!!”

And heaven help me,  with my nearsightedness,  if I saw two khaki-clad men approaching,  I was supposed to discern which, if either, had the insignia of a commissioned officer – on their cap or collar.   And that had to occur by a certain range as I was expected to salute.

I only screwed up in my first few weeks. With a Master Chief and a Lieutenant Commander.   The Master Chief’s response was far more “interesting”.  But with the officer, it was because I had NOT saluted.   He got over it.

The stride and bearing of a Chief, then as now, easily identifies my Mess Brothers and Sisters from an Officer at any distance.  And CPO Sharkey?  From this first episode, it brings back the memories of my formative days in the Navy.  He finds it ridiculous that sailors get bunks, mattresses and curtains.  And there is a part in this show when Sharkey is in disbelief that women might soon serve on ships.  In reality, about that time women had just entered the Naval Academy.   Then, in the 1980s, auxiliary support ships, tenders and others were integrated (genders).  And warships?   when female crew were first assigned to the USS PETERSON in the early 1990s,  I talked with a few of the Snipes about the prospect.  Once I proposed the idea in relation to more generously balancing each rating’s sea -shore rotation assignments,  my shipmates became all for the idea!

As for bunks and curtains?  I sure sounded like Sharkey when I heard about the redesigned berthing compartments, larger mattresses, lighting and space on our newest ships.   Has the Navy gone soft?!

Too funny.

VADM H. Denby Starling, II — honor365

Vice Adm. (ret) Starling began his last assignment as commander of Navy Cyber Forces at its establishment on Jan. 26, 2010. There he was responsible for organizing and prioritizing manpower, training, modernization and maintenance requirements for networks and cryptologic, space, intelligence and information operations capabilities. He concurrently served as commander Naval Network Warfare Command, where he oversaw the conduct […]

via VADM H. Denby Starling, II — honor365