Monthly Archives: February 2018

CPO’s, a Navy Thing

Of the three military branches, Army, Navy, Air Force (Sorry Marines, as good as you think you are and as good as you have been, you remain a subordinate part of the Navy and really have become an unnecessary part of the military force because you just duplicate the mission of the other services, even if you are good.), the Navy seems most unique to me.

One of my best friends, Marty Linville, an Army artillery wizard who received a well-deserved Silver Star for his heroic action in Vietnam as the commander of an artillery unit, and i have often discussed the difference between enlisted personnel and officers, Army and Navy.

The biggest difference, in which the Army’s side of this difference also includes the Navy’s Special Forces warriors, the SEALS is that the true, original Navy officers, now known as Surface Warfare officers (what a bunch of malarky) is their expertise in driving ships. Their other, equally important purpose is to lead or manage (or both) their subordinates, at least in rank. Officers in the Army and SEALS, especially the junior officers, are out in the field waging war while leading their subordinates.

Navy Chief Petty Officer insignia

Marty and i agree the differences in the historical structure comes from the differences in role. Obviously, there are some historical and tradition elements that foster the difference. The Navy, the surface warfare kind, seems to draw more distinction in the rank divisions of officer, chief petty officer, and other enlisted.

Their uniforms announce that difference. But in the Navy, it is significant, although the new Navy seems intent on wiping out any differentiation, both symbolically with uniforms and literally with less separation between the ranks. With the advances in technology and many other things, this merging may be necessary. i wouldn’t know. i’m old school. As in old.

i have formed a long distance bond with a number of sailors on my first ship, the USS Hawkins (DD-873). i reported aboard in April 1968, flying from Rota to Malaga, Spain and coming aboard as she was on her way back from a nine-month Mediterranean deployment to her homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. i had completed OCS in early February, spent two months in Key West attending the Anti-Submarine Officer’s School before flying out of Charleston with my entire belongings:   my uniforms,  a small civilian wardrobe, and a grunch of books, all in a plywood 2 x 2 x 4 foot cruise box that weighed in the neighborhood of a ton.

Underway: a sailor enjoying a quiet moment on the fantail of the USS Hawkins (Thanks, Gary McCaughey)

i was slated to be the ASW officer, but the resident ASWO was not leaving until early October, so i was assigned the first lieutenant’s billet for the return, the summer of minimal local operations until the September beginning of a  six-month overhaul when i took over as ASW officer.

Those first six months were a crash learning course in how Navy ships at the time really worked. The “Navy way” was continually emblazoned in my head for the next twenty-two years. A great deal of that learning curve concerned the differences between the enlisted, the chiefs, and the officers. Actually, there was another division: the “leading petty officers” or “LPO’s.”

The system worked well even though the different groups made fun of the others. A great example of that is the cartoon taking a shot across the bow at officers, Norm O’Neal, a radarman (RD) at the time and now a close friend through email and social media, sent me last week:

    My immediate reply was:

Norm, this one wouldn’t let me “reply to all,” the officers said this about a lot of chiefs.

   To which, Norm replied, “Ouch.”

To which i added:

Actually, Norm, as it is with nearly all situations, there are good people and bad people in every level of every organization.

My first chief petty officer was the Hawkins’ BMC Jones. He saved my ass on several occasions. He was a small, thin, wiry, gnarly, old chain-smoking chief from Arkansas. After teaching this ensign the ropes, he retired the Monday after the change of command on the Hawk in August 1968 (speaking of good and bad, there was the CO who made the deployment, the screamer whose name i can’t recall right now being relieved by Max Lasell, who remains one of the top three of the CO’s under whom i served, and that’s another story).

But Chief Jones was relieved by a short, portly, old BMC with thick white hair whose name i also can’t remember. He was the first of many chiefs who worked for or with me officers called “ROADS Scholar” for Retired On Active Duty. You could tell them by the permanent crook they had in their pointer finger from holding on to their coffee cup they used while they spent about 95% of their time in the chiefs’ mess.

But that was only part of  my crash education about Chief Petty Officers on the Hawk. i learned why Chief Petty Officers, a unique position in the military services, were so important. Through my remaining twenty-two years, this idea of chiefs being different was continually emphasized. For good reason.

My initial realization of the difference was from the get-go. i had wondered since i first became connected to the Navy when i began my NROTC scholarship tragedy at Vanderbilt, why senior enlisted had uniforms more like officers than the other enlisted. Although i was slowly learning why through OCS in Newport, Rhode Island, ASW school in Key West, and two weeks in Rota waiting to join my new ship, the difference slowly was becoming apparent to me.

But on the Hawkins, it became quite clear.



A Long Forgotten Walk Revisited

It was different. Even the paths we took varied from my original routes.

She wasn’t my dog. She and her boss, Sarah, are staying with us temporarily. Sarah has gone to work. Maureen was out on many of her daily excursions. It was way too warm for an old man to take a walk: high 70’s. Way too hot and dry for a Southwest corner February. We need rain. Like last year, but that ain’t happening. It looks like i’ll only burn about a quarter cord of firewood this year. Last year, i burnt more than a half-cord.

So midday with a number of my tasks accomplished, i decided what the hell. The dog needs to get out. Our gardener was at work and his and the dog’s relationship is tenuous at best. She senses fear, i think. We also now have to be aware of the dog jumping our five-foot fence to play with the neighbor’s Samoyed. She steals his toys and brings them back here. Our neighbors aren’t particularly pleased.

So it was a walk.

When Cass, the old labrador owned me, he and i would take a short retreat before bedtime. It goes down a hiking, horseback riding path around a couple of houses and back up to the street. Short. There are trails off of this path, but that was my night walk with that crazy dog and my excuse for a walk with Lena, the rescue who followed Cass.

Back then, there were three basic routes. One was this short one, used more often as both Cass and Lena aged. Then bane of old dogs dictated short. But before the hip problems emerged, we would go down the short trail but take the second path further downward to a drainage trough around to the arroyo and then back up to the street about a half mile below our home. We would walk back up the street for training purposes, not his or hers but mine before arriving back home. Earlier this week, i took Billie down on that route. Billie Holiday, that is. Sarah has followed in naming our pets after some famous person from the past. Cass was named for Ike McCaslin in Faulkner’s novels. Lena was named for Lena Horne. Our black and white cat is named Bruce Willis. Maureen’s long-haired black cats when we married were Bogart and Bacall. Only Dakota, named by Sarah when she got her while living in an apartment near SDSU, escaped the famous personality name.

The third route was a bear. About a half hour. We would go to the top of our hill and then take the trail west down, down into the canyon, all open space. once at the bottom, there was a nice walk through the meadow in the canyon. But then, the path climbed up, steep up to a ridge about a third of a mile, just steep climbing. We would walk along the ridge, back down to a path winding around the meadow and then the last, steepest climb of them all back to our house. It was just less than an hour (if i didn’t stop to catch my breath). That was the walk Lena loved. She would wander all over but keeping tabs on where i was and returning often. Cass? Hell, he didn’t care where i was. He was off. He chased coyotes and played with them when he caught up. i think they were afraid of him. He would roll over possums. Once, before i took him off leash, he damn near yanked my arm out of its socket when a roadrunner ran out into the path just in front of us. He didn’t love that walk. He was part of it, a master.

Checking it out.

Soon, i plan to take Billie on that one. But for now, we will stick to the tamer routes. Billie, by the way is a Catahoula mix, apparently there is some German Shepard in her. A Catahoula Leopard dog is also known as a Louisiana Swamp Dog, bred to hunt alligators. i believe it. Still Sarah has trained her to be the best obedient pet we have ever had.

The huntress.
Coming back on call (she knows the goofy guy has a treat).









Up the trail.
Down the trail.







An aroma of interest.
She’s telling me she is ready to go home.









The manzanita, growing wild in the Southwest corner, just add water










It was a good walk. We’ll do a long one soon. It’s good to remember.











A Dream; i Had a Dream

Since my daily “Writer’s Almanac” is gone, i have come to a new morning routine when i sit down in front of this infernal machine (oh, how i would love to return to the old Royal manual typewriter where the click of the keys and swoosh, that lovely mechanical swoosh of the return roller sounded like music, a percussion symphony to me, but although i admittedly am a romantic, i also am a relatively practical man as well — my parents and the Navy made me so — and this computer contraption allows easier, much easier editing, even though i am pretty careless about such things as grammar and editing; so i will continue to sit down each morning and stare at the magic light emanating from this addictive electronic wonder).

My new routine includes posting a “Murphy’s Law” item, which i pasted on to past calendars; checking my email and Facebook posts; and then reading Sean Dietrich’s email of his daily articles — i’m continually amazed at the amount of research he does to get good stories to report.

This morning, i read Sean’s article, and began to think about it:


It’s rather inspiring to think of good people with so little giving what they can and sometimes more than they can afford in helping others through acts of kindness or just some money. i would like to emulate the good folks in Sean’s stories, but i’m just a bit too lazy to go that far out of my way. After all, i have my own interests and my wife, my other loved relatives need security; so i don’t feel like i can afford it. Like most people i know, as my wife says, “paying yourself first.”

i’m also concerned about getting ripped off. i’ve had that happen in the past: Someone coming up to me, supposedly in dire straits, explaining their situation, and asking me to give them just a little bit of cash to help them fill their gas tanks to get to some place, provide a much needed meal, help them get a train ticket, convincing my gullible, wanting-to-help self to fork over the requested cash, only to realize, post scam, that i had been had, ripped off; even worse, fooled.

Then, i thought of my father. You see, back when the folks would come out every winter, long before south of the border became potentially deadly, we would cross the border at Tijuana for Mother to buy special things like glass animals, stained glass, and Mexican rugs for herself and others; and Daddy and i marvel at the thousands of shops, kiosks, tents, and street salesmen — once at a garden shop, he and i actually considered buy a ceramic, full-size replica of the creature from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Our plan was to buy it and ship it to my brother with no return address. We would have done it, too, had not the shipping costs been about quadruple the cost of the statue.

But that’s another story. My recollection was from returning across the border on one of our adventures. We always parked on the U.S. side and walked across, returning the same way. Back then, the route to the border crossing for walkers was lined with all sorts of cheap goods sellers. Black velvet paintings of flamenco dancers and Elvis were very popular. Glass and stone jewelry and nicknacks were plentiful, and just about anything cheap and gaudy lined the path to the crossing. And near the end was a rather shocking number of beggars. Right before we entered the processing line, a mother, dirty and dressed in rags, pushed her daughter, probably around three-years old, toward my father. The little girl, wearing a soiled white dress and barefoot, had a sign asking for gum. Daddy reached into his pocket.

i admonished him to keep walking, explaining this was  just a means to get something from us, that actually giving them something would only encourage more beggars at the border. i knew. i knew because someone told me that. My father thought about my admonition, looked at the little girl with the big dark eyes and tear stains through the dirt on her face, dug into his pocket and gave her a quarter. The girl’s mother went super thankful and “Gracias” seemed to never stop as we proceeded to the border crossing. Me? i felt ashamed of my admonition and proud of my father.

But back to my thoughts on Sean’s article. As i read, i thought of my…what should i call it? philosophy? That sounds a bit too sophisticated for me. Okay, my ideas about life. i thought about my recent railings about pro sports. Tony Clarke, a San Diego native and a very good baseball player for the Arizona Diamondbacks who also had a cup of coffee with the Padres, is now the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (you know: the union).

This week, Tony declared teams not paying the asking price for free agents this season suggested collusion by the owners and was detrimental to the integrity of the game. Tony was echoing Scott Boras intimation because Scott’s demand for his player, Eric Hosmer, had not been met, no one had signed for Scott’s asking price of $100 Million and a seven-year contract.

This is insane. No, no baseball player is worth one quarter of $100 Million, much less Scott’s asking price. This year’s minimum, MINIMUM salary for a major league baseball player through one season is $545,000. That’s not integrity. That’s sick. And of course, the owners are getting richer with crazy television revenue, seat prices escalating to absurdity, and so much more. The cheapest seats for two in the nosebleed sections of Petco Park run $46. Hot dogs are $4.00, peanuts are $2.00. The cheapest beer is $7.00. Even water is $2.50. Parking in decent places runs $20. It’s damn near impossible to go to a game with someone and come out spending less than $100, not counting the tickets.

Integrity? Everyone in MLB (and NFL, NBA, and NHL) lives in an insane world.

And just what if, what if, everyone of those financial clowns (after all, it has to be funny or i’ll cry), not just in sports, but in entertainment, corporate gluttony, political parties, and politicians themselves, quit trying to amass fortunes which should only be in cartoons and comic strips, and actually give some to individuals. And i’m not talking about Sean’s part-time truck driver and a night-shift security guard, a dad with two daughters, or John D. Rockefeller passing out dimes to the needy who passed his way. i’m talking about giving to the less fortunate till it hurts a little bit. Not through their appointed charity organizations where the CEO of the non-profits get salaries in the millions, but them making the effort to actually give someone something, face to face.

Won’t happen.

But maybe, just maybe after i have been thinking about it, i’ll start giving just a little bit more, face-to-face to someone in need.


The Old Sports Writer Succumbs…no, not like that: i know what you’re thinking

Well, i wrote this diatribe last week about the “stupid bowl.” i vowed i would not watch. It was a most excellent rant, even if i do say so myself.

My intentions were not just good, but superb.

i had decided i would do home projects in the morning and then go for a round of golf, figuring there would be no one on the course. i decided i would record the game because i knew Maureen wanted to watch the halftime show and the commercials. i liked the idea of being on the golf course during most of the game.

Mistake one. Then i asked Maureen if she would like to join me for golf, explaining my intention of recording the game for her. Surprisingly, she said yes.

Mistake two. Then, since we were playing and knowing my buddy Pete Toennies was not a big football fan, i called to see if he and Nancy would like to join us. To do that, i felt it necessary to get a tee time and got a 10:30 time. Subsequently, i found out Pete and Nancy were returning from Santa Monica after a visit with Pete’s mother. They couldn’t play as they wouldn’t get home until midday.

Mistake three. Then Nancy asked us if we would like to join them to watch the game, adding she had made chili and cornbread. Maureen loved the idea.

So i, this old curmudgeon of a former sports writer, succumbed, as in gave in, broke my vow not to watch.

i was not impressed…except for three things.

The commercials were okay, but i thought confusing and, except for a couple, not too funny. The halftime was all glitter, and i don’t think i understood one word of the lip sync. Maureen liked the dancing, but i would rather have seen it in a theater. Chris Collingsworth, whom i had come to appreciate as a color commentator, was absolutely awful, detracting from the game with his predictions of replay calls, and just being…well, like nearly all of the color commentators in professional sports. Unhappily for me, Al Michaels, one of the best play by play announcers in sport for the last half century just went along. Radio communication from coaches to players on the field is counter to all i love about sports. In short, i didn’t like any of the side shows to the game.

But, as i commented to Pete several plays into the first quarter, watching some incredible athletes perform at the highest level is always an enjoyable thing, like watching a ballet with the dancers doing awesome moves, like going to a symphony and absorbing incredible musicians create beautiful music, like going to a museum and standing in front of a piece of artwork and finding yourself breathless with awe at the talent. Yep. Incredible athletes.

And i must say watching on numerous occasions after a great play an Eagle or a Patriot player help an opponent up or patting the opposing player on the back was what i consider one of the most important examples of what sport should be.

And three? Well, it was one hell of a game.

Next year, i plan to make the tee time a bit later so i can miss the whole thing.


Random Thoughts Before the Stupid Bowl

Hear ye, hear ye. We have all come to the altar to worship the idols of what they call super on what used to be a holy day, but the whole concept, the playoffs extending the season beyond healthy for athletes, the hype, the hype, and oh, did i mention the hype, and what really isn’t all that super but really sort of stupid.

My wife says she will watch primarily to see the commercials.

i don’t like commercials. i like funny bits but not when there selling something. Just like i don’t like all of those product logos all over golfers and race cars because they are selling something, and i have yet to meet a product marketer who has offered to pay me anything for wearing their logo, and oh by the way, charge me more because they are paying the golfers, the race car drivers, and their agents so much they have to raise the price of the product i would buy if it wasn’t for the golfers and race cars wearing those logos.

So ain’t watching.

Don’t like six hour ball games…of any kind except maybe cricket, but i don’t understand that one so i don’t watch it either.

And halftime show? Razz ma tazz and all that ain’t jazz, just glitter and fireworks and besides that i don’t know one song ever sung by Justin Wooden Swamp…oh, Timberlake. Out of touch and glad of it.

i’m old. Don’t need such foolishness. Don’t like replays either, of which there will be a gump stump of in that six hour marathon of horse derves, beer, wine and other booze.

Football? February. Give me a break. The last football game every year should be on January 1. Period.

♦   ♦  ♦

Now if you have read much here, you know i have soured on pro not sports. It’s entertainment; it’s business; it’s even careers. But it ain’t sports. That doesn’t mean i don’t watch when they run under six hours and the hype doesn’t last two weeks.

Especially baseball. And this week, i watched a program that might tell you why. It was on the MLB Network. i don’t watch that either, but being in San Diego, i caught the news announcing it would be on the air. “MLB Presents: Mr. Padre.” It was a documentary about Tony Gwynn, his Baseball Hall of Fame career, his family, his warmth, and his allegiance to San Diego, refusing higher salaries even with pressure from the players’ union because he wanted to play in San Diego.

Of course, i’m biased, but if you want to see a documentary based on a good human playing the game he loved, then you should check this one out. The network is showing it several times a week over the next two or three weeks. i’m sure there are others, at least in the past, like Tony. But he truly was “Mr. Padre.” He identified with San Diego and with baseball, and all San Diegans, not just baseball fans, loved him. He was the way baseball should be.

It is a very well done, heartwarming documentary, not a local thing but done by Major League Baseball. i recommend it if you want to feel good…and just a bit sad Tony’s gone. i drink Alesmith’s  “.394” pale ale every time it’s available.

And if you don’t have the MLB network or care not to watch, here;s a great read from Jon Heyman of CBS right after Tony passed away: Good read.

♦   ♦  ♦

But today, Saturday, i’m trying to figure out if i should tackle some of the innumerable tasks around the house, write, or maybe, just maybe play golf…i’m pretty sure tee times will be available anywhere.