Checking in at a new post is very much like checking in at the amusement park. There is so much to see and not enough time to see it all. You end up trying to cram all of the things you have to see into such a short time that you miss half of everything. I don’t know about the other branches of the military but the Navy is that way.
The very first thing you do is board the ship. I know that sounds like a no brainer but there is a certain procedure for doing that very mundane task. You walk up the gang plank and salute the flag that is at the back end of the ship (fantail) and then you address the officer of the watch and say, “Petty officer Devine reporting for duty Sir”. He will then look over the papers that you have in your hand, why I don’t know because he always says the exact same thing, he then orders you to the personnel department to begin your tour. The military is funny that way, they have these little rituals that they go through to do every thing. Everyone knows the rituals yet we still do them.
Paper pushers. At the time I didn’t respect their job that much, mainly because I thought that they stayed up at night coming up with ways to make us wait longer. (Deep in my heart I know that they did) Now however I know that they were just doing their jobs. (yeah right) In all branches of the service the motto is “hurry up and wait”. I waited in line for about an hour and a half, which wouldn’t have been a long time normally but I was in my dress uniform carrying my sea-bag (duffle bag for all the other services) which even with the bare minimum of gear still weighs about 60 pounds. Finally I got to the front and the bored clerk behind the counter actually perked up. I was a newbie, I would occupy a lot of time for him and he wouldn’t have to go from task to task. That didn’t mean he would be efficient or even fast, quite the contrary, he was going to take his time with me. So we did all of the normal things, name, rank, division, rate, then we had to verify all of the information on my page 2, which is like an emergency contact list, sort of. When he found out that I had brought my wife with me, yes there were some sailors that left the wife in the states I found out later, he handed me a stack of papers that detailed which hotel I was staying in, how much it was costing me (I got reimbursed for that expense), it gave me all of the rules that I needed to follow – which receipts I needed to keep – how much they would reimburse me for, what was considered a valid expense so on and so on. As I write this down it doesn’t seem like it took all that long but I was in that window for at least 2 hours. At the end he gave me a map of the ship and told me to report to my division. R-6 division was the Nuclear repair division. I think I forgot to tell you all that was my job in the Navy, I was a Nuclear trained Electrician. Now there is a scary thought for all of you to contemplate – The United States Navy let me play with a nuclear reactor. That however is another story.
I finally found the R-6 division space, which sounded easy but wasn’t. It was secured with an electronic lock (you have to protect people from radioactive things) so I had to knock. The Chief Petty Officer answered the door and I introduced myself. We hit it off right away and I knew that we would have a good relationship. He proceeded to introduce me to all of the other people. I wish I could remember everyone’s name but only a few stand out as actually memorable.
One thing that stands out in my mind is that there were women aboard this ship. This was one of the ships that was being an experiment having women on board. Remember this was the 1980’s, that was a radical idea.
I also found out that this ship was the flag-ship of Com-Sixth-Fleet, which meant there was an Admiral aboard. That wouldn’t normally be an issue but it meant that he had diplomatic things to do and we would have a schedule of two weeks in port and two weeks at another port. My wife was not going to like that. One of the ways that I had sold this whole – Let’s move to Italy – thing was that I was going to be home 95% of the time. Now I was actually going to be gone more than had I stayed on the other ship. I would have to spin this in a way that she would like, NOT going to happen.
I got my berth assignment, the place I would sleep when on duty and out to sea. I went down to put my things away, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I would be home for the next 13 days before I had to pull out for our first port of call. I found out that I would pull duty, a day on the ship, once every 7 days, very nice. usually on a ship you were once every 4 days or shorter. I got my TLD (thermo-luminescent dosimeter) the device that measures how much radiation your body absorbs.
I was basically done for the day, I looked around the facility and I toured the ship as best I could. It was actually a big ship, almost three times as big as the one I was on before. Now I had to go home and find a way to explain all this to Lynn, it was not going to be a good home coming.
That will be next time…