Are We Losing Good Sailors?

In my current Navy capacity, I go aboard ships of all classes to talk to certain rates of Sailors about the mission and their gear. It has been an eye-opening experience and I report back to my boss, a Navy Captain on the current state of affairs. It is a job akin to customer relations. I do not inspect or grade them in any way. And usually when I tell the Sailors this, they loosen up and I hear all sorts of interesting things.

I hope I’m not popping anyone’s expectations of the Navy, but some of the Sailors are not as motivated as they should be. I blame the Division Officer and the Chief for this. The good news is that this is the exception rather than the rule. A good half of our guys are competent and motivated. And a handful are experts.

So, on my ship visit this last Friday, the boss wanted to come along. This presents a couple of challenges. A Navy Captain wields a lot of rank and it could clam up the Sailors. Also, the Ship’s skipper and the crew will have to present the expected military courtesy. We picked a Cruiser for precisely the reason that a CG has a Captain as the CO. And it would be more natural than a Destroyer that has a Commander as the skipper.

After a leadership chat, we went down to our space and we started in our usual visit. Any thoughts on the Sailors clamming up were quickly put to rest. The team was focused and talkative.

Our Captain gave the crew an overview of our organization. And he chatted with a couple of them before leaving. I then worked my way through the operators, peppering them with questions.

One Sailor in particular knew the system backwards and forwards. I did not say this to him, but he should have been a First Class Petty Officer at the least. I had a Chief with me from another command and I asked him briefly what he thought of the 2nd Class. One of the best on the waterfront. But he screwed up.

I did not have time to ask the Chief what the Petty Officer had done before we were separated. But later, when me and the Second Class were topside, inspecting more gear, I had an opportunity to ask him myself.

You going to take the First Class exam this year?

I can’t, sir.

Why is that?

I had a DUI and I am at high-year tenure. I’m going to get kicked out because I did not make rank.

I puzzled at his words. Sure, a DUI is a serious offense. But this Sailor is highly capable. And high-year tenure is a way to weed out underperforming Sailors who do not advance.

The Chief and I were the last ones to leave. He reiterated to me that the Sailor was strong at his job. And he told me the only way the Navy can retain him is if he gets “capped” or advanced in rank by his CO. (CAP stands for Command Advancement Program.He added, without elaborating: Those are the kind of Sailors who make the best Chiefs. (Shaking his head.) The zero mistake Navy.

So come Monday, I’ll give my Captain the run-down on the ship. And I’ll mention this 2nd Class Petty Officer who has served the Navy for 13 years. And is about to get kicked out at 14. Maybe my Captain can give the ship’s Captain a nudge. Each command gets so-many CAPs. Maybe this Sailor’s one. . .

9 thoughts on “Are We Losing Good Sailors?

  1. As you say, I blame the Chief and Division. And I bet the Chief has gold crow and hash marks…kinda makes some holier-than-thou. Perhaps the Captain should have a look at the Chief and Div Officer, too, if they are so quick to get rid of a good man.

  2. It certainly doesn’t make any sense….a very depressing attitude….well, we can certainly hope something is done for this bright enterprising individual….the command should do something …k

  3. I always found that ‘fresh eyes’ covering a situation (such as the one mentioned) always brought the required result to a more positive end. There has to be lee-way given under such circumstances, there may well be mitigating circumstances leading to the DUI relating to service life?

    What ever the reason; I do hope you are successful in your endeavor NavyOne, it takes a steady eye and a clear conscience to pick out and assist those who fall.

    After all; the PO in question has only been in a dog watch, he has so much more to offer; (I have a pair of combat boots older than him)!

    Power to your elbow ship-mate…

    Yours Aye.

  4. CP: The challenge is the zero-defect Navy. I would hate to see someone hurt (the Sailor or innocent bystanders) in a DUI accident. But it also should not cost him his career.
    Kris: I am hoping so. Let’s see what my Captain says.
    EB: I am optimistic. I sit next to an officer who knows the ship’s skipper and says he is unconventional. So that bodes well. At least for now. . .

  5. In the 80′s my roommate got a DUI on base. It got lost in the paperwork shuffle that was PMO back then. 6 months later they found the log entries and wanted to know what the command was going to do about it. The ole man with the birds on his shoulders asked PMO how they would feel if the CG knew they were loosing paperwork on Marines especially when the crime was on base. PMO quietly left it to the command. They made his life a mess for several months but did not bust him or ruin his career. I still call this man my friend after 25 years, we talk regularly and he has never even been close to getting in trouble with law enforcement again. Service members are no longer people, they are just numbers on a list and if the number messes up just delete it. It is not really a person…. is it?

    • That was a great Colonel you all had. . .Glad to hear that your buddy’s life was not ruined. . . I have no tolerance for people who injure other people while drunk. But I also believe in forgiveness. . .

  6. we had a 2nd class AD.in my squadron. best guy we had. he could tell what was wrong with our helos (kaman H-2′s) about 90% of the time just by hearing it pass by the hangar. do a rotor balance in about 3 minutes, instead of the 20 it usually took anyone else.

    he never wanted to be more than a 2nd class. he just wanted to work on engines and such. 1st class would put him into the paperwork end of it, and he hated it. I think he may have had a problem with dyslexia that made paperwork a nightmare for him.

    well, he had too many years in rank, and they processed him out. it was the worst day of that man’s life. and this was back in the mid 90′s. this isn’t a new thing. it’s been going on for a long, long time.

    • It pains me to read stories like this. The Brits allow Corporal and Sergeant lifers. (Although we have a very different force.)

      • my father was another example. old-school seabee. vietnam vet. passed the test for 1st class 19 times, got PNA’ed 19 times. there just weren’t any billets for reservist 1st class EO’s. and it really didn’t bother him much. he had fun with what he called “buckley’s raiders” (MIUW-201). he finally retired with 26 years in. in the early stages of Desert Shield they called him and wanted him to come back in and teach, apparently his name kept coming up as the go-to guy for the specific type of construction they had in mind. he told them sure..but “you have to give me at least 1st Class or Chief to do it. no way any of these people you want me to teach will take me seriously if you don’t.” apparently this was too steep a price tag..a few days later they found someone else to do it.

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