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. . .