Friday, March 29, 2013

The Kids

The Naviguesser's At Sea Assignments
The Nuke's At Sea Assignments
TRex's At Sea Assignments

The WSO's Squadrons

Big Time's Squadrons

As some of you may know, all three of my kids went into the United States Navy right after college. All three went through the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, the Navy being kind enough to give all three of the progeny a "free" ride through four years of a not inexpensive education.

"Free" is in quotes because the education wasn't exactly "free". All of the kids owed four to six years of active duty after being commissioned.

My son, the Naviguesser, was a black shoe Professional Surface Warfare Officer and did five years active duty, three in the reserves. Now he's no longer a "Fleet Lieutenant", he's become a civilian once more. On his first ship he was the Electrical Officer, or ELO, of the USS Briscoe. Note that while "ELO" is an acronym, you pronounce each letter individually. My son's sailors would call him "E" "L" "O". (At least to his face.) Briscoe was a Spruance class destroyer but now sadly lies deep in the Atlantic where she was expended as a target.

I'd been on board the old girl and it was a sad day when I read she'd been sunk in a gunnery exercise, what the Navy likes to call a "Shoot-Ex".

On his second ship, USS Nitze, he was a plank owner (member of the original crew which brought the ship into commission) and served as Nitze's navigator. Hence his nickname, the Naviguesser. No, I don't think he's fond of that moniker.

The Naviguesser is also a Shellback. That you'll need to research yourself. Let's just say it's something sailors are proud to have done. But it ain't much fun while you're going through the "ceremony". As it were.

The Missus Herself and I were privileged to attend USS Nitze's christening ceremony up at Bath Iron Works (Bath Built Is Best Built) and also her commissioning ceremony down in Norfolk. I say privileged because it is an honor and a privilege to attend the ceremony where a ship is officially christened (champagne bottles breaking on bows) and where the ship is officially accepted into the United States Navy, the commissioning. It's an awesome moment when the crew is commanded to "bring her to life". Here's a photo of that moment - 

I'll tell the whole USS Nitze commissioning ceremony tale at some other time, it truly deserves its very own post. If you look real close you can see the Naviguesser up there on the port-side bridge wing. Yes, he's one of the two dots wearing hats in the distance.

My oldest daughter served as a commissioned officer on two ships, the third ship (her first) provides an interesting story. Prior to her becoming an Ensign, she headed off to the Mediterranean for her First Class Midshipman cruise on the USS Enterprise. Normally this cruise is what they call the "officer" cruise. The midshipman will learn what they can expect when they receive their commissions and join the fleet.

So the Nuke and her fellow midshipmen show up on the Enterprise, which is about to embark on a long exercise in the Med. Upon being welcomed aboard, the kids are told that their is a shortage of Junior Officers on the Big E and would anyone like to have a "real job" for the period of this cruise. My daughter and another girl raised their hands and voila, my daughter was now the Division Officer for First Deck Division on board the Big E.

She actually spent six weeks at sea, received lots of kudos and an evaluation from the Captain of the Enterprise (no, not Kirk, no, not Picard, this is the real Enterprise!) Now midshipmen normally do not receive evaluations from the captains of aircraft carriers. Normally midshipmen are not really noticed by the captains of aircraft carriers. At least not individually. The Nuke was. I had the chance to read this evaluation. I was impressed and having been career military, I can tell a "fluff" eval from a "real" eval. The Nuke received the "real deal".

When she returned to her ROTC detachment she also learned that she had gained notice from a four star admiral. As a matter of fact, it was the "head nuke" the admiral in charge of naval nuclear propulsion. The Nuke had indicated early on her desire to go into nuclear propulsion. The admiral told the commander of the Nuke's Navy ROTC unit, "have her submit her paperwork as soon as possible, she impressed the Captain of the Enterprise, this lady could go far."

I know what some of you are thinking. For PR purposes it would look good to have a female ensign do all this good stuff. Yes, you're right. But I'm here to tell you, the Nuke earned her accolades. She got there by being good at her job. Damn good. I've had people tell me these things. People who would know.

Am I a little proud of her? Why yes, yes I am.

The Nuke also married a nuke, TRex. TRex (whose story I told here) is also a graduate of the Boat School (Naval Academy). He has since left active duty. The Nuke is approaching the eighth anniversary of her commissioning. Right now it looks like she'll be staying in at least two more years.

It's also worth noting that before the Nuke became a nuke (yes, that confuses me too) she did a couple of years on board a destroyer, the USS McFaul. She did two Gulf deployments on McFaul as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer (or ASWO). She "owned" the sonar-men and torpedo-men. She was pretty good at this job too. Her Department Head was impressed both with her duty performance and her "salty" vocabulary. Which surprised him until she told him, "My Dad's a retired Master Sergeant". Then all became clear to the young man.

"Ike" was her last at sea assignment, she also did two Gulf deployments on the Ike. Oddly enough, though she has more "at sea" time then her older brother, she has never crossed the Equator, she's still a Pollywog. Go figure.

Now many stories of the WSO have I told herein. Many more will be told. Suffice to say that for the moment she is out at Lemoore, getting back into the saddle as it were. When she was assigned to VFA-32 is when she discovered she was pregnant, Little Bit, my granddaughter actually was "on board" for a number of cat shots and traps. Big Time still wants to sign her up for Tail Hook, though I'm not sure if those cat shots and traps count when your seat is in Mama's womb.

So the WSO was out of the flying game for quite a while. She had to go back to the RAG* (VFA-106) for refresher training and then she went "out west" to join the Bounty Hunters of VFA-2.

For while she was raising Little Bit and had a shore job at Dam Neck (an annex of Oceana NAS), hubby and father of Little Bit, Big Time, was with VFA-136, flying the "friendly" skies of Afghanistan off the USS Enterprise. He did two combat tours and he has promised me tales of those, someday. I guess I need to haul my not so insubstantial butt out to Lemoore to get those tales. And I will, soon I hope.

After his return from his last (and Enterprise's last as well) he found himself with orders to VFA-122, the West Coast RAG. There for to teach budding young Naval Aviators how to fly the F/A-18E Rhino. He wanted VFA-106 at Oceana, he got VFA-122 at Lemoore. So the Navy kind of works like the other services in terms of assignments. Whatever you ask for, you'll get the opposite. If you try the old reverse psychology trick, they'll still get you. As in:

You - "Yes, I want to go to Lemoore in California!" (Meaning I really want to go to Ocean in Virginia.)

Navy - "Why sure, we'll send you to Lemoore, thanks for asking!" (Ha, you thought you were gonna get Virginia, dintcha?)

So, that's all for now. Y'all have a fine Navy day!

*RAG = Replacement Aircraft Group, this is an old term,
officially not in use anymore. The Navy prefers the term
"FRS" or Fleet Replacement Squadron. Everyone stills
calls it "The RAG". Old habits die hard.  Besides how does
one pronounce "FRS"?


  1. Well... I hate to say this.
    But you just about gave the Shellback answer away further along in the story.

    I never had the pleasure of having the initiation myself, but I served with a few who have and both my stepdad and stepson are Shellbacks.

    Looking at those photos reminded me again they build just about all of our fighting ships bigger today than back in the day.

    1. I try and provide some clues for those who don't wish to "Google It".

      I've known some who spent their entire Navy career north of the line.

      I've also known a few who were Shellbacks AND members of "The Order of the Blue Nose". I wonder how rare those are?

  2. ha I had to look both of them up. can you tell my immediate family isn't military. I will have to ask my uncles John and Loren about this since they are the only uncles still living who did military service. My mom's oldest brother did 4 voluntary tours in the brown water navy in Viet Nam. He was busted in rank so many times I think he retired at the lowest rank possible. One time he got busted in rank for not having written my grandmother in months. Her next oldest brother was in the Marines-mustered out just before Nam and he spent time in Okinawa. My dad's tow younger brothers were in the Navy and the Coast Guard. The naval guy joined to see the world and spend 4 years in San Diego with one trip on a leaky sub tender to Hawaii (they wouldn't let him go when his tour was up due to Cuban Missile crisis so he spent an extra 6 months in service) and the other joined the Coast Guard figuring he'd spend all his time in the states and ended up pushing ice bergs near Antarctica.He said it was some sort of punishment tour but apparently he spent more time out of the country in the Coast Guard than the navy uncle. Go figure.

    1. Most people would have to look those up. Twenty years ago, I would've had to look them up as well.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. An excellent idea for a post... and an excellent job of doing just that. Now you need one that lists all the bases you were assigned to! Just out o' curiosity... are those bases still active? Just three bases remain active out of all the places I was (permanently) stationed: Tinker, Yokota, and Keesler. The closed: Fortuna AFS, ND; North Bend AFS, OR; Keno AFS, OR; Boron AFS, CA; Wakkanai AS, Japan; and RAF Uxbridge, UK. I suppose shorter would be "you can never go home." Or kinda like a Sink-Ex.

    1. I forgot Sinop CDI, Turkey. Closed.

    2. That's not a bad idea. But where I've been isn't all that long a list. Lackland, Lowry, Kadena, Kunsan, Lowry, Keesler, Offutt and Geilenkirchen. Only Lowry is closed. Which is sad. In my day we used to say that there was only one training base (for airmen) in the entire Air Force which didn't suck. And that was Lowry. Airmen were treated like humans there. At Keesler and Shepherd (there may have been another, I don't remember) life as a brand new airman wasn't much different from Basic Training. Keesler I got to see first hand as a Staff Sergeant. Students were treated like dirt. No way would I have done 24 years if my first experience had been at either Keesler or Shepherd.

    3. I hear ya about Keesler... it sucked and sucked worse for me because the AF was experimenting with a two-phase basic training approach when I went in: you did the first phase at Lackland (I forget but I think that was six weeks) and your second phase at your tech training destination, which lasted at least a month. You can only imagine how nasty that was.

    4. They were still playing that way IF you went to Keesler or Shepherd. I was fortunate, my tech school was at Lowry, in Denver. It was paradise!


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