My First Fist-Fight in the Navy

At one time, us squids (Navy Sailors) were notorious for brawling. Shore Patrol used to have their hands full with nightly incidents, bloody fights that cleared out the bar. Thankfully (or not, depending on your old-school love), those days in our naval service are all but over.

From a personal standpoint, it’s been years since I’ve fought in a real fight, not one in Krav Maga class. And I did not expect to be danger-close to putting my dukes up in my two-week naval staff class.

My Navy community is very small, specialized. We embed with the warfighters and (technically) have our own warfare qual. And for the last three years I’ve been working at a job where I am surrounded by folks of the same feather. Yes, I’ve gone out on ships and worked on our systems, but I’ve always had our office to return to.

So in class, I got mildly perturbed when my community was mocked. Granted, I opened my big mouth to explain certain technicalities. I tried to minimize the damage, but one of the aviator instructors in the class took glee in calling me a brain surgeon. Right before he gave me a trig problem to work out. In front of the class. I have a weakness for trigonometry, but I refused to answer his question. Even though I could’ve figured it out (with the assistance of a cosine table.) I know a set-up when I see one.

Meanwhile, a surface warfare officer’s been chuckling under his breath about my community. The first couple of times, I gaffed it off. Sure, we are nerds, but we are the Navy’s nerds. Right? And the guy poking at us outranks me (by a rank) and just came off being the skipper (CO) of a very small warship. I should just take a little of their gruff good-naturedly.

Except I can’t always laugh stuff off. I turned to the Commander from my community and wondered aloud how he felt. He shrugged it off. Older, wiser maybe. Fine.

A day went by, and then two. A chuckle or three again at our expense. I’m not too angry. They are actually funny, if only directed somewhere else. At a break from instruction, I go into the bathroom to do my military duty. At the urinal, the SWO pulls up next to me, the one who has been chuckling about us. And he mutters our name under his breath. I let it go, but later after he returned to class and tried to get by me, I hulked over him. I’m much taller than’im, but he looked like a wrestler. He glanced up at me, surprised. I wanted to tell him I was fixin’ to knock his teeth out if I hear any more of his mouth, but I don’t.

After I got home, I googled him. (Full confession, this cyber-stalk does not speak well of me, but I was getting tired of the run-around. I might as well learn who was going to cost me a written counseling.) And the first mention of the guy on the internet is for him being an All-American rugby player! Well, All-Americans bleed, right? Now I know how the Air Force guy in our cubicle feels when we pick on baby blue…

Update: So, after a week of class, I am happy to report that me and my Shipmate are getting along. Honestly, I think it was something petty and minor that made the difference, but I could be wrong. During this second week, I’ve been wearing my khakis rather than my aquaflage. And my ribbon rack shows a guy whose done a fair amount of operational jobs. Maybe this brought him around and shut him up. That All-American did not know how close he came from getting an old-fashioned whuppin’. (Heh heh. . .)

Female Lieutenant Commanders I Have Known

When I was younger, my mouth would sometimes get me into trouble. I was not mean, but owned a quick tongue. That is, I spoke before completely thinking out my response. I’ve learned discernment over the years and slowed down my response time to give my brain a chance to catch up with my loose cannon. Still, I like to joke around and half of joking-around is timing. And jokes age faster than collagened lips in Hollywood. Full confession: one female Lieutenant Commander, who I work with, will no longer talk to me over my big mouth.

She arrived at our command three months ago and was very cordial right from the get-go. I did not work with her (yet) but stopped and chatted with her on a couple of occasions. Chatty banter which I cannot remember the content. We were friendly, but not friends.

Come three weeks ago and I get a new responsibility that requires a meeting. I trucked down to a conference room across base and she was in there. Great, someone I can shoot it with. Still, very nice, the LCDR was.

Then last week, before our meeting, I asked what officer community she was a member of. (Our communities correspond with our jobs.)

Oh, I am an Engineering Duty Officer now.

Now? I inquired. You were a SWO before you lateral transferred? 

(A SWO is a Surface Warfare Officer, a boat driver. The saying goes: SWOs eat their young. . .)

A Nuke SWO, she corrected me with an intense grimace.

I smiled (and did not engage my brain apparatus before speaking next.) Whoah, I said in a kind of whoop-di-do type of way.

In all fairness to me, I am a linguist and am used to being ribbed unmercifully for it. Languages do something odd to your brain; they marinate us with sauces normal people don’t get. So I was kind of just playing around with her, the same way folks poke at me. And speaking of marinades, I was really quite mild and not as tangy as I coulda been. This was nothing in my mind.

She shot me a look that would freeze hot coals at 1000 yards. I smiled weakly; she turned around and did not say another word.

Two more meetings later. And I continue to greet her, with a lackluster hey as her only response. If you ever hear that naval officers are not coordinating amongst themselves, know that I am the cause. . .

Eric Kettani: Shipmate. Football Player. Artist?

Eric Kettani, SWOAcademy grad Eric Kettani was granted early release from his active-duty Navy obligations. Unlike some other unnamed athlete-officers, he took a deployment as an afloat Surface Warfare Officer (SWO.)

He has played for the New England Patriots; and this season, he is rumbling for the Redskins. His bio:

Played Fullback at the United States Naval Academy from 05′ – 09′. Invited to NFL Combine and Under Armour Senior Bowl. Served as a Surface Warfare Officer with a deployment overseas under his belt. Signed with the NE Patriots in 2009 and currently on the Washington Redskins.

I like the guy. At least he deployed prior to getting an early release. What I am not a big fan of is abstract art. And our Shipmate, Eric, is a budding Picasso:

Eric Kettani, Decade of Dominance
Eric Kettani, Decade of Dominance

It is better than some other third-grade, million-dollar messes I have seen. . .

The Ghost, a New Kind of Navy Ship

The Ghost, the vision of Gregory Sancoff, the founder and CEO of Juliet Marine Systems

Ghost ships are abandoned vessels bobbing around the middle of the ocean. And no one is aboard. Except ghosts. And creepy music. And spiderwebs. Here’s a different kind of ghost:

 “It’s almost as much an aircraft as it is a boat,” says its inventor, Gregory Sancoff, the founder and CEO of Juliet Marine Systems, a private company in Portsmouth, NH.

The vehicle, dubbed the “Ghost,” is the first of its kind and is garnering attention from organizations like the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, defense contractors, and foreign governments—as well as hackers in foreign countries, who are presumably trying to figure out how it works. Juliet Marine Systems has received about $10 million in total funding, about half of which comes from its founder and private investors. The startup’s institutional investor is Avalon Ventures, a VC firm with offices in the San Diego and Boston areas.

Do we get a pilot or a SWO (Surface Warfare Officer) to drive that thang?