His Side of the Story
The ship slipped away from the pier and is no longer tethered to the dock. Left behind are the families, the homes, the friends and the country all which they so loved.
Alone on the ship meant being with three-hundred-fifty sailors on this voyage.
Brad or the “chief” as everyone called him, loved the tranquility of the ocean, especially at night. The quiet and stillness tantalized him, and a peace came over him as the ship sliced through the water like a “hot knife through butter”. It is here that Brad came to life.
Brad’s job was to manage his group of ten sonar men. “Good morning, sir,” Brad addressed his new boss Lieutenant JG Smith.
“How’s everything going, Chief?”, Mr. Smith responded.
“What are you doing?” echoed the Chief.
“I’m polishing my shoes, belt and anything else I can shine on my uniform. Does that bother you?” asked Mr. Smith.
“It only makes you stand out as one of the ‘fresh out of school’ officers. If you don’t want to look like a newbie, you need to change now. Stop what you are doing and relax for a minute.” Mr. Smith looked at the chief in utter disbelief.
“Relax, I have a mission to complete.”
“You’re not going to get anyone’s attention if you keep that foolishness up, Sir.” Mr. Smith looked at the chief wondering who the chief thought he was.
It wasn’t until Mr. Smith spoke to his fellow officers in their dining room that night that he got the message.
The Captain told him, “You’ll learn if you want anything done on this ship, you’ll make your chief your best friend. He has more power and know-how than you. Do you understand?”
The next morning Mr. Smith paid a visit to the chief.
“I took your advice and stopped polishing my brightwork, Chief. I hope you and I can be friends.”
The chief looked at Mr. Smith, went over to the coffee pot, poured a cup of coffee and asked, “cream and sugar?”
From that moment on the chief and Mr. Smith knew there was mutual respect.
Chiefs never got coffee for an Officer. This gesture showed Mr. Smith that the chief was giving his blessing on the behavior described. It also showed Mr. Smith that the chief would respect him since Mr. Smith now is respecting the chief. From then on, Mr. Smith asked the chief questions and always got an answer.
Brad loved managing his department. His department always outperformed the others. He worked his men hard, and they were successful.
This was Brad’s heaven. He didn’t have to worry about dirty diapers, sick kids or an unhappy wife. He was at sea. He was home.
As Brad looked over his men, he noticed sailors that seemed to be so young they hardly needed a shave. They must be eighteen years old, unless one of their parents signed a release form, to join the Navy. Their age became apparent at night when they quietly sobbed hoping no one would hear them.
The home was a distant place for them, and the family was nowhere near to comfort them! For some of the sailors, they were dealing with homesickness and seasickness at the same time.
As the ship plowed through the waves each roll either comforted them in their bunk or sent alarms to their head and stomach that the queasy seasick feeling was s back!
Brad knew that these young sailors were asking themselves,” Why didn’t I stay back in Iowa on the farm? Why did I have to venture out into this “brave new world”?
The reason was that the draft was invoked, and they would have been drafted into the Army to serve their duty. They had been told, “At least at sea, you’ll have a clean bed and three hot meals a day!”
Brad knew he had to mold these young sailors into seasoned men on a warship.
Little did anyone onboard know the dangers they would encounter that would change their lives forever! Yes, they were off to the great unknown. Brad was in his element.
The chief hid his seasickness. How could someone who sailed for over fifteen years still get seasick? What would the younger sailors think of their “mighty” leader if they knew he was in his quarters trying to stop the queasiness and deal with his constant urge to vomit. The chief always started taking the anti-nausea pills the week prior to deployment. This helped get him through the first week at sea. This was “his” secret and one he wouldn’t even share with his wife. If his wife knew, she might consider him vulnerable, and he was not. He would never reveal to his wife the fact he had a flaw. That would tell her he had a weakness, and he did not. He showed her one pane of Johari’s Window (Luft and Ingham, 1955) and kept the other three panes to himself. No one would ever see all four panes of Brad. He showed only the side he wished to reveal to others, the rest belonged to Brad
Brad belonged to the U.S. Navy. He worshipped the rituals and ceremonies surrounding this branch of the military. Everything was black and white, and he was a black and white person. There was no room for gray in his life.
While other chiefs made their promotions on shore duty, he preferred to make his mark at sea. He enjoyed having his own set of cooks for the chief’s mess. The food was always good and to Brad, he lived to eat.
While at sea, Brad was well-known for his knowledge of the equipment entrusted to him. The AsRoc and the sonar equipment were his pride and joy.
When he was training the young sailors, he made sure he was tough on them. He could be soft and considerate with them if they didn’t let him down. They were his family, and it here that he belonged – yes, Brad belonged to the sea.
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