What I Learned Training at a New Navy Base

I’ve spent the last week away from my usual Navy command. I am still local, in balmy San Diego, but was afforded the rare opportunity to go to a new base in civvies. As in, I did not have to wear a uniform to class. The following is a list of observations from my adventure:

Explosive Ordinance Disposal

1. If you are on the phone, listening rapturously to a cell-phone message from a system engineer describing an issue with your program, it would pay dividends to also keep one eye on your surroundings. Yes, I was standing off the sidewalk, so as to not impede the flow of foot-traffic. Yes, I perched behind the giant fence near the softball field, so as to be protected. Yes, I was not listening to the announcer call the Navy softball game, so as to hang on every technical word. No, I did not hear all the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys hollering at me. Heads up! Fore! Yes, I was startled when a home-run ball impacted the grass eight feet from where I was standing. And yes, I threw it back over the fence with a lucky grin.

2. Navy chow varies somewhat from place to place. The mystery meat does not taste better smothered with sauce. And, it is hard to screw up cooked beans or a salad.

3. Picking out clothes is harder than it appears. I am looking forward to next week when I can go back to swaddling myself in light tan (khaki.)

Smashburger

4. The Navy is promoting sixteen year-olds to Chief. Squared away sixteen year-olds. (Translation: the new Chiefs look like kids. This may have more to do with me than them.)

5. I can still eat a double Smashburger and sweet potato fries in less than five minutes if absolutely forced to. (The one lunch we all went off base to, the kitchen was backed-up. And we returned to class late, but happy.)

6. I like being back in school. For years, after Berkeley, I hated the classroom with a vengeance. It is far different when you want to be in attendance.

7. When in civvies, I sir or ma’am every civilian I chat with. (Provided they are over forty years of age.) It makes me happy for some reason. When in uniform, I am almost the same, but it has a slightly different flavor. I just can’t explain it.

8. Navy life is like building a sandwich. You keep adding layers of beef, cole slaw, lettuce. And one day, you realize you have a heckuva hoagie in terms of knowledge. Either that or I am very hungry typing this. . .

9. Uniform or not, the Marine, Navy, Air Force and Army vets I am taking the class with fall back into comfortable military banter pretty easily. Not in stature, but in conversation. And the Navy is still the most funny. The Marines, the most silently menacing. The Air Force, the best golfers. And the Army, well, they just laugh when I tell them that I am not much of camper, so I would’ve been a poor Soldier in America’s Army. (I stole the joke off a friend, but it fits, so I gotta use it.)

10. I see about ten options for the rest of my Navy career, all of which are appealing to me. Moral of the story: I am damn lucky to call myself a Sailor. Now where is that snack?

Uniform Check

I had a brief this afternoon, right after lunch. Sixty (mostly military) folks from commands all over, in town for an overview of my office. I give both the general brief and the specifics of my small shop. I am one of about fifteen briefers for the day. Ten minutes before go-time, I decide to swing by the head to make sure I look presentable. Haircut, a quarter-inch, not a hair off. Gig-line, perfect. Shirt, pressed. Trousers, a crease you could shave with. One last look, hey! What is a drop of lunch doing right above my ribbons? Good thing I checked. The Navy was brilliant in picking khaki as its uniform color. I’ve spilled more coffee on me than I’ve gotten down my thirsty gullet. Note to self: a quick uniform once-over is required before all presentations. You never know where or when a Navy inspection is going to happen.