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Chapter Three, part two

i have received numerous comments on the book installments being posted here. This feedback makes me feel good. Many of those comments point out errors i have made, both grammatically and factual. i feel good about that too. i am going through each correction, each piece of advice, each opinion and filtering them with my XO perceptions. After all the story took place thirty-five years ago and each of us have different perceptions of what happened. i think all of these comments will make the final book better. When i make changes (or not), i will acknowledge the people who contributed in the final draft. i am now considering this a group effort. In fact, i am considering reclassifying the author as “jim jewell with the officers and crew of USS Yosemite during her 1983-1984 deployment. Your contributions are welcomed…and thanks.

On with Chapter Three:

On Tuesday, August 30, the Yosemite got underway, not to deploy, but for “Sea Trials.” Shortly prior to deployment, Navy ships go to sea for a short period, one or two days, to check all equipment, insuring all is running correctly, and, just as importantly, get the crew used to going to sea. Yosemite’s sea trial was one overnight trip into the Atlantic. This new XO was ready. I would be just as glad if the ship didn’t come back to port and just keep heading east except for one thing. For as long as I could remember, I found one of the best things about deploying was having no phones and no brows. Deployment meant the ship was operating as a sole unit, even with other ships in a group, separated by lack of phone lines (before satellite communication and GPS came into existence). It was where a ship was meant to be: at sea. But this time, I was anxious for the one-night cruise to end.

Maureen and I had been married on July 30 followed by ten wonderful days of honeymoon in San Diego. Then I flew east to pick up my car and head to Mayport. Maureen and I thought we wouldn’t see each other until the deployment was over in late April, but we decided Maureen should fly into Jacksonville on Friday and spend the labor day weekend with me, before flying back to San Diego and work. She had rented a seaside cabin. To say I was anxious to see her was a huge understatement.

But that rendezvous would have to wait. Sea detail was set at 0800. I took my position as navigator next to the chart table on the bridge as Yosemite got underway. Navigating a ship out of port and standing out of a channel was one of my favorite evolutions. For sea detail, the only thing better for me was being the Officer of the Deck and having the conn in an open sea.

Mayport had one of, if not the shortest and most direct sea details of all Naval bases, just over a mile from the Mayport basin to the sea buoy. My navigation duties ended quickly. The pilot had left the ship. I joined CAPT Boyle and LT Sitton, the OOD and conning officer on the open bridge. The captain became a bit agitated as a number of sailboats appeared from the south crossing the end of the channel. Sailboats were not a usual problem in Norfolk where CAPT Boyle had spent most of his shipboard time while hundreds of sailboats in Long Beach and San Diego fouling up the channel were business as usual. The captain knew well the rules of the road, which included the rules for power ships and boats. He knew the rules for sailboats as well, but he had not had a great amount of experience with them and was not comfortable with those tacking ships bobbing on the water dependent on the winds. He knew I had not only had to deal with innumerable sailboats but also had crewed several while steaming out of and into Long Beach and San Diego.

There was some question as to whether Yosemite in this case should maneuver to avoid any collision. With the sailing vessels a mile or more away, CAPT Boyle asked me my opinion as to what to do.

“Don’t worry, captain,” I replied, “They will maneuver and avoid us. They normally don’t want to mess with ships this big. It is the law of gross tonnage.”

In less than a minute, the sailboats began to tack and disperse, giving Yosemite a clear shot east.

I felt relieved and good about giving my captain correct information.

Underway felt good. The day went better than I expected. All systems seemed to be in working order. Then after the evening mess in the wardroom, something occurred to set the tone for the entire deployment and for all of my tour as XO.

Being navigator (and shortly before LTJG Noreen Leahy became the real navigator even though I kept the title, an added duty for being executive officer), I walked up to the bridge with the intent of checking out the equipment and the quartermasters for shooting stars. The sun had set. It was twilight, the perfect time to shoot stars. As I came on the bridge, I walked past the chart table and quartermaster’s station and over to the starboard bridge wing. I looked down and was surprised to see the standing lights were on.

One of the primary Rules of the Road is from sunset to sunrise a ship must not have any lights visible except for standard “running lights.” Standard running lights consist of a green light on the starboard side, a red light on the port side, a white light as a stern light, and two forward “range” lights above and in line. This is to allow other ships to ascertain a ship’s aspect or an idea of her comparative direction in which she was heading. This aspect determines which ship is the privileged vessel (required to remain on course), and the burdened vessel (required to maneuver to avoid a collision). Other lights would make it difficult, if not impossible to discern the ship’s aspect. In my time at sea, any ship showing more than navigational running lights would be denigrated and called a “cruise ship.”

I called to the Officer of the Deck, “Why aren’t the standing lights off? Recognizing the OOD had much less experience than I had and it was the first time in a while since any of the watch standers had been to sea, I added, “Don’t you know the Rules of the Road prohibit standing lights to be on after sunset.”

“Yes sir,” the OOD responded, “But it’s in the captain’s night orders to leave them on all night.”

“What?” I almost shouted in disbelief.

“Yes sir, would you like to see it?”

“No, I believe you,” I responded as I walked over to the sound powered phone and rang the captain’s cabin.

“Captain,” the commanding officer answered.

“Sir, this is the exec. Have you finished your evening mess?”

“Yes, why?” CAPT Boyle responded.

“Well sir, I was wondering if you could come up to the bridge?”

“Certainly, be up in a minute.”

When the captain arrived on the bridge, he asked, “What’s up, XO?”

“I’d like to show you something,” I said and directed the captain to the starboard bridge wing.”

As he peered over the bulwark and saw the lights, CAPT Boyle shouted, “What the hell? Officer of the Deck, get those damn standing lights off right now. What kind of watch are you running?”

Before I could explain, the OOD repeated, “But sir, your night orders direct us to leave them on.”

“They aren’t my night orders,” the captain responded angrily, “Now turn those damn things off!”

“Aye, sir,” the OOD obeyed and ordered the standing lights off.

“Dammit, Jim, I forgot to rewrite the night orders,” Captain Boyle explained. “Those are Captain Roberts’ night orders. I’ll write mine tonight and you can edit them so we have them ready for deployment.”

“Aye sir,” I agreed, relieved the violation of the Rules of the Road was a product of the previous regime, not Captain Boyle.

He and I stayed on the bridge. The captain took his seat on the starboard side, and I stood next to him discussing how the day otherwise had gone and getting any input for Eight O’clock Reports.”

In about five minutes, Command Master Chief Weaver ran onto the bridge demanding, “Who turned off those standing lights off?”

With both the CO and I amazed at the Master Chief’s reaction, the captain beckoned him over.

“What in the world are you talking about, Master Chief?” the captain asked, “Why do you think the standing lights should be on?”

“Well, sir,” Master Chief Weaver responded, “With CAPT Roberts and CDR Sheffield, we kept them on and we created a roving security patrol. We wanted to make sure no one was sneaking out onto the weather decks at night for a little hanky-panky.”

There was a moment of silence. I was shaking my head in disbelief when Captain Boyle, with obviously controlled anger said:

“Master Chief, I want you to be sure that every person on this ship knows by tomorrow morning we don’t have men on board this ship; we don’t have women on board this ship. We have sailors aboard this ship. And we are going to act like that.

“We will observe all of the Rules of the Road as long as I am the commanding officer. And we will all act like sailors.


“Aye, aye, sir,” the master chief responded and then quickly left the bridge.

I smiled and told the Captain I had to get below to get ready for Eight O’clock Reports and left the bridge.

There is no doubt CAPT Boyle’s philosophy so well stated that evening became the watchword for how the ship did business for the rest of the time I was the executive officer. I used the captain’s direction that evening as my first guidepost in any situation requiring judgement about male and female personnel, officer or enlisted that arose during my time aboard the Yosemite.

*     *     *

Upon returning to port, activities increased even more. In addition to the loading of supplies, significantly more than a combatant as the Repair Department required an incredible amount of material, like steel in large sheets and other supplies for repair and maintenance during customer ship maintenance availabilities.

Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 was having a change of command, which not only meant the captain would be gone that entire day, but there would be another admiral’s brief on board. The discrepancies from the sea trial and a zone inspection needed to either be fixed before getting underway or put in a long range plan for correction. Yosemite also took part in the change of command. She was charged with firing the gun salute during the change of command, a 13-gun salute as is due a rear admiral. At the ceremony, Captain Boyle was sweating during the salute while I was sweating with each round from our saluting battery. After an initial glitch from our battery, the gun salute went fine. No one, except us, noticed the glitch.

But it was time for a respite. It had been over three weeks since i had seen my new bride. I got the respite. Maureen had decided she should fly into Jacksonville on Friday, September 2, and spend the Labor Day weekend with me. While I was trying to find a suitable and inexpensive hotel for us, Maureen located and rented a small cabin on the beach. We had a wonderful weekend even with ship’s business frequently distracting me. We did have one moment that cut into the romance (pun intended). Saturday twilight, we settled into the cottage for an evening together alone and sat down on the couch looking out at the Atlantic past the sand and the small picket fence. I had opened up a bottle of sauterne while Maureen prepared a wonderful cheese and apple plate. After sitting down, Maureen went to slice the apple, but missed and cut a deep gash into her left palm. The rest of what had been planned as a romantic evening was devoted mostly to first aid and laughter.

Even though that Monday was a holiday, I had to do some work. But the newlyweds had some wonderful moments together before I put Maureen on a plane back to San Diego that Monday evening.

The clock toward deployment was clicking.

*     *     *

With days winding down, two more major difficulties arose, one impacted by Navy policy and the other older than the hills. Both involved with sailors trying to avoid deployments.

The first problem arose when the doctor advised me one of the female sailors was pregnant. In these early days of the Women In Ships program, Navy’s policy stipulated any female enlisted would be immediately transferred with Temporarily Additional Duty (“TAD”) to a shore command. One of the immediate repercussions of this policy was a number of women who didn’t want to deploy on a tender would get pregnant in order to avoid the deployment. I felt this policy was a product of politically correct, but misguided thoughts. The Yosemite had a capable doctor on board trained in family practice. If there was a problem or health issue, then the crew person should be transferred, but the blanket policy produced a lot of unwanted results. It didn’t matter. That was the policy, and the seaman was transferred to shore duty. As i recall, only one or two women were transferred due to pregnancy before we got underway for good.

This policy would come into play in a major difficulty with the Navy policy and women on board during the deployment.


“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

McGee’s First Law: It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something you are not working on.

Goofy guy’s corollary to McGee’s First Law: It is even more amazing those somethings you aren’t working on have to be done before you can work on what you are working on.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Ruckert’s Law: There is nothing so small that it can’t be blown out of proportion.

Goofy guy’s clarification of Ruckert’s Law: This law applies to all of us all of the time and is usually activated rather than recognized and dismissed; it is a requirement to be followed by all politicians and political positions.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Big Al’s Law: A good solution can be successfully applied to almost any problem.

Goofy guy’s conclusion to Big Al’s Law: Big Al past away trying to clean an electrical switchboard with soap and water.

Chapter 3: Getting Ready to Go

In Chapter Two, i erroneously gave Steve Stresminski, the weapons officer, the rank of lieutenant when, in fact, he was a lieutenant commander. Captain Boyle caught the error. Thanks, Captain.

i should note the book as it is presented here in installments is my first draft and likely to have a number of errors. As i noted up front, i am not anywhere near as good an editor as i would like to be. i anticipate more errors to follow and even deletions and additions. As i wrote, this is a first draft for what i hope will eventually be a book.

From here on, the length of most chapters will be quite longer than the introduction and chapter one. i am trying to determine how much of each chapter i should include in each installment. The length is likely to vary until i find the number of words i feel is appropriate for installments. Please bear with me on this one. i am planning to publish an installment twice a week, on Sunday and on Thursday, give or take a day or two. This is to hold my feet to the fire, motivation more than what i think might be best for the reader.

Here’s the first segment of Chapter Three:

Now in the saddle, I began to get a better picture of what was facing me.

Captain Boyle and I talked at length to come to an understanding as to how I was going to support him.

i still have a yellow sheet of lined paper where i listed my goals and concerns for being the ship’s XO, which i used as my talking paper for my discussions with Captain Boyle:

Clear with the CO:

Schedule meetings for AOM (All Officers Meeting), Chiefs, First Class Petty Officers, Junior Officers, Divisions

Meeting content: my dislike of meetings, will hold to absolute minimum, expect maximum attendance.

Other important points/goals:

    1. Critical exception for meetings: PB4T (Planning Board for Training) – make it meaningful
    2. Briefings, a necessary evil, each major evolution, especially seamanship; some of the best are informal.
    3. Quarters, 8 O’Clock Reports: keep them brief, inspections (ensure all hands know they are responsible)
    4. Personal meetings: open door policy
      1. Accusations: accuser must accompany accused.
    5. Closed door or sign on door with  locator notice of where i am.
    6. Messing and Berthing Inspections: do not fail to hold them daily
    7. Zone Material Inspections

My important points and MO:

    1. Cleanliness
    2. Safety
    3. Paint
    4. Liberty
    5. At sea hours
    6. Females
    7. Source documents
    8. Leave
    9. Notes
    10. Memos

The opening discussions between the CO  and me were pretty easy. I made sure to see the captain at least three if not four times a day, not counting his afternoon departure. Except for unusual circumstances, I did not leave the ship before the commanding officer left: bad form for an exec to do otherwise. We shared our ideas on the approach to running a ship. It was old Navy, correct and by the book. We both believed in good order and discipline as paramount for a ship to run well. Early on, we agreed the women on board should, as much as possible, be treated just like the male sailors.

Problems began to arise, not because the women were there. Yosemite normally had 760 enlisted, 65 chief petty officers, and 44 officers. The ship was deploying with over 900 on board. Instead of 65 CPO’s, there were 90. In addition, two of these chiefs were female. A separate and private compartment adjacent to the chief quarters had to be constructed. The 106 female enlisted were berthed in one separate compartment off of the main deck, port side. There appeared to be no problems with the berthing except the new executive officer was not pleased with the sanitation of the heads and the overall cleanliness and neatness of the compartment. That also was true of most of the ship’s berthing areas and heads.

I called the Bureau of Personnel to voice my complaint of too many personnel aboard compared to the documented “ship’s complement” figures, I was informed the Navy was very strict about adhering to the ship’s complement for combatants, a congressional requirement, but frequently “hid” extra personnel, especially in critical ratings aboard tenders to have a ready supply of those personnel in an emergency manning requirement for a combatant. I did not like varying from the rules but recognized this executive officer was stuck with the problem of too many sailors and would have to live with it.

*     *     *

It became apparent there was another problem as serious as having women on board. The problem was having a large percentage of the crew with no deployment experience.

Of the 90 chiefs, only thirteen previously had been on a deployment. Before the new approach of sending the tenders to forward areas of operation like the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans, the tenders sat at their homeport piers, getting underway for one day each year and then coming back to their pier but swapping which side (port or starboard) faced pier side for the next year. Therefore, repair personnel usually shuffled tours of duty from Ship Intermediate Maintenance Activity (SIMA) to the tender in that particular port. Tenders were considered “Class B” sea duty, which meant repair personnel would get credit for sea duty without ever actually going to sea. It was not much more than shore duty forever.

But not now. Now, these seventy-seven repair chiefs were really going to sea. For nearly eight months. (Yosemite and other tenders were still designated as “Class B” sea duty and did not draw “Sea Pay” for when the ship was actually at sea; for example, i would have received $260/month for those eight months deployed, but because my ship was “Class B” sea duty, i received nothing extra). Many of the chiefs (and their wives) panicked. The chiefs did not know what they were going to do being away from their families. The wives (none of the female chief petty officers on the ship were married) were even more alarmed. They had no clue as to how to deal with the Navy, how to set up the family finances, or take on the family tasks that had been the bailiwick of the husband. Many of the wives were raising hell about their husbands being away on a ship with women in the crew.

One chief had organized a group to establish a short-wave radio station so the chiefs’ mess could communicate frequently with their wives. This, of course, was a major threat to classified information, especially the location of the tender. Shortly after we got underway, we cut that off as soon as we discovered the chief’s operation.

There were financial arrangements to consider as well, especially for the majority of the crew, the ones who had never deployed before. Dina Weaver, the ship’s ombudsman informed me one Melody, the wife of Chief Adams, had told her the chief had not set up any allotments to go to her. That meant all of the chief’s pay would come to him on the ship. None would go to pay any bills, and Melody and the family would have no income except for what the chief mailed her. And mail from a Navy ship deployed to the Indian Ocean can take weeks. So this exec called Chaplain Poe who contacted Navy Relief and the Disbursing Officer. Through the effort of everyone involved, an allotment would be coming out of the chief’s pay to cover Melody’s financial needs through the deployment.

Of course, all such problems were channeled to the executive officer. The old seaman in me kept relying on common sense to handle most of these problems. There were no textbook answers. Confronting these problems coincided with running a ship of 900 personnel and getting the ship ready to leave home port for eight months. I was sailing into unknown territory.

For many years, I had said getting underway for deployment was great because when the command to “let go all lines” was executed, it meant that all phone lines, along with shore power, steam lines, and of course, mooring lines, would no longer be available for telephone calls (something with the advent of satellites and mobile phones is no longer true). For Yosemites deployment, I could have added wives couldn’t come aboard nor could the chiefs go home every night.

The new Navy had many ways to try and help out dependent spouses When I became a part of the Navy in the sixties, there was a tried and true refrain “If the Navy had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one with your seabag.” This no longer rang true. Navy Relief was a source for aid and financial assistance for wives (or husbands) left behind on deployment. The ombudsman program was created to improve communication between ship crew members and dependents with the command. Both worked well, especially with Dina Webster, our unflappable and outspoken ombudsman. And Yosemite had extra manpower for the job. He was Chaplain Ernest Poe.

As expected, there were problems with men and women on board the same ship. It was even more of a problem for earlier CO and XO regimes. The duo before Captain Boyle and myself had a doozy. While underway before CAPT Boyle relieved CAPT Roberts, a female lieutenant was attacked in her stateroom. During the attack she was hit on the head and injured. When Yosemite returned to Mayport, the lieutenant was transferred off the ship. CAPT Roberts and CDR Sheffield, with no real guidance and concerned about the safety of the women officers, set up a security watch in officers’ country from taps to reveille. Several of the women officers were embarrassed about the watch. One said, “I personally was embarrassed that some poor enlisted sailor had to sit out there in the passageway all night and babysit us.” When Captain Boyle and I learned of the watch, we discontinued it.

Other problems arose. A female LTJG came to me in private and told me she believed someone was watching her and other women officers when they took showers in the women officers’ head. She was concerned there was a crack in the overhead, male crew members could use as peeping toms. We had our ship fitters thoroughly check the bulkheads. Although the shipfitters didn’t find any crack possibly manufactured by a possible peeping Tom, the work crew sealed up any holes where light might come through or a peeping Tom might expand and use to insure privacy in the women officer’s head.

The ombudsman program mentioned above had been initiated in 1970 in the Zumwalt CNO era. The Navy family ombudsman provides support and guidance to command families and to act as an official liaison between the command and its families. Dina Weaver, the wife of the command master chief, as mentioned before was the Yosemite’s ombudsman. She came aboard to meet the new XO and have lunch in the Captain’s mess with the CO and XO. I was particularly pleased when Dina saw the framed large photo portrait of Maureen I had hung on the office wall so I could look at her from my desk. Dina saw the photo and told me, “She looks just like Susan Lucci,” the soap drama star from “All My Children.” I thanked Dina for the complement but was thinking “Maureen’s prettier.”

A chaplain was part of the wardroom in only one previous command where I served. When I was XO of the MSC transport unit for the year of 1970, a chaplain was one of five officers in the unit. The commanding officer was a lieutenant commander billet, the XO billet was for a lieutenant, but I, a LTJG at the time, went through the whole year carrying Republic of Korea troops to and from Vietnam and Pusan, Korea unaware I could have applied for a spot promotion.  Therefore, I remained a lieutenant, junior grade, rather than becoming a lieutenant, something that could have helped my future career.

The MSC (nee Military Sealift Transport Service, or MSTS) units were formed for being the Navy liaison on ships run by the United States Merchant Marine carrying U.S. military personnel and dependents to various ports around the world. By 1970, the “troop” ships were down to three: the USNS Barrett (T-AP 196), the USNS Upshur (T-AP 197), and the USNS Geiger (T-AP 198). The three rotated with two serving to carry the ROK’s to Vietnam and back while the other went through upkeep. There was no real need for a Navy chaplain for Korean troops. The chaplain billet was dispensed with about three-quarters into my 1970 tour and the unit’s chaplain was reassigned.

The Yosemite’s chaplain was a different matter. This billet was to provide religious services and support to, not only the ship’s crew, but also to other ships in Yosemite’s area of operation. CAPT Boyle and I viewed LT Poe as a vital resource in handling morale and personal problems, especially for the women in the crew.

Just prior to my taking the XO position, LT Poe was counseling a second class petty officer and his wife in the chaplain’s office. The wife became very distraught and pulled a handgun out of her purse. The petty officer grabbed at the firearm and the wife shot herself in the leg. LT Poe proved his mettle in that incident. The CO and this XO had great confidence in our chaplain.

With the deployment looming, preparation in all aspects accelerated. “I” Division was called that for indoctrinating new crew coming on board. They went through an indoctrination period on every aspect of shipboard life aboard Yosemite. The week-long training concluded with a brief by the executive officer and then the commanding officer. This indoctrination seemed to be more frequent in the days leading up to the deployment.

An evolution quite more significant than my becoming Yosemite’s XO was occurring on Naval Station Mayport. RADM Donnell would relieve the standing admiral as Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group Twelve. As part of his relieving process, the admiral was scheduled to come aboard Wednesday after I took over on Tuesday, for a 1000-1200 briefing and ship tour followed by a noon mess in the Captain’s cabin. The XO was included in the lunch. The Yosemite was the repair facility for the ships in the group and therefore was considered part of Group 12. Admiral Donnell was a tall, large man and as he was touring the ship, they passed the ship’s motor whale boat in its davits. The admiral peered down into the boat, said nothing and the tour continued. As is the custom of good commanding officers (and executive officers), the tour route had been carefully combed over several times before the admiral came on board, but the captain had not thought of checking the interior of the boats. Captain Boyle, a bit concerned what the admiral might have seen and being unable to look with him because of the height difference returned to the davits after the admiral departed. He climbed up to where he could look into the inside of the motor whale boat. He was most pleased and relieved the whale boat’s interior was shipshape.

Admiral Donnell’s visit created a conflict for me. The XO’s Messing and Berthing Inspection normally began at 1000. But on Wednesday, the Planning Board for Training was always scheduled at 1000. In a normal work week, I planned to move the inspection to the afternoon and hold the weekly board meeting in the morning. Admiral Donnell’s arrival was scheduled to occur at 1000 also.

I had learned from my experience the value of the XO’s messing and berthing occurring daily during the work week without fail. Three years earlier I had become the emergency XO of the USS Cayuga (LST 1186) after the sitting XO had to be taken off the ship in a straitjacket. On my first workday, I discovered messing and berthing inspections had not been conducted for six months. The living quarters for the crew were revolting, unkempt and dirty. The heads were even worse, and the mess decks and galleys were completely unsanitary. I held messing and berthing inspections at 1000 without fail even when underway and on the weekends for the next two months. The spaces did a complete turnaround and the crew’s morale significantly improved.

I also knew the importance of the PBFT meeting. So we moved the board meeting up to 0800 and I held the messing and berthing inspection at 1400.

While my first messing and berthing inspection was not as bad as it had been on Cayuga, it still did not meet up to my standards. I particularly was displeased with the cleanliness, or lack thereof, in the heads, both men and women’s, and the poor sanitary conditions in the messes and galleys. I vowed to stick to my plan to not miss any such inspections for the rest of my tour.

With the admiral showing up soon, my first PBFT was very short. We went over the scheduled topics quickly and made sure the next week had no major surprises, then closed the meeting.

From my exposure to Admiral Donnell during the brief, tour, and lunch, I assessed him to be a realistic and effective leader. After the admiral had departed, Captain Boyle concurred and praised the flag officer for his leadership.

My second PBFT, occurring a week later proved unsatisfactory.

As mentioned above, Navy ships conducted a “Planning Board for Training” or “PBFT” every Wednesday at 1000. Yosemite was no exception. This is when all department heads and everyone responsible for special programs like drug abuse and welfare and recreation attend. Not only training, but the ship’s schedule, any inspections or other evolutions involving the ship would be discussed and an action plan established for the following week including specifics for each of those events. Like most ships, the Yosemite’s meeting was held in the wardroom.

In this PBFT, my first real one, I was appalled when the meeting extended into the time for the midday mess in the wardroom.  Several PBFT members were late and pre-meeting discussions kept the meeting from beginning before 20 minutes after the start time. Everybody had something to say, even if it was unimportant. No one was prepared for the meeting. Topics were brought up off the cuff, and numerous side discussions ensued throughout the meeting. This new XO asked the group if this was typical. The engineer acknowledged it was and affirmed it often delayed the noon mess in the wardroom like this one.

The next day at officer’s call, I put out the word about future PBFT’s. I said no ship’s meeting should last longer than 45 minutes. To accomplish this, I would put out an agenda with responsibility for the topic assigned to a member of the PBFT. That person would be responsible for bringing all pertinent information on the topic. I announced there would be no side discussions and no subjects other than those on the agenda would be discussed. If a need arose to discuss a non-agenda item, we would document it to be discussed at another time. Then I delivered the crushing blow. I declared if any members were more than five minutes late or all of the agenda topics had not been covered, the meeting would be re-scheduled after liberty call. From then until the end of my tour, all meetings in which I was part never went beyond forty-five minutes. A number of the PBFT thanked me. The supply officer was profuse in his thanks because the previous overruns had played havoc with the wardroom cooks and mess cooks’ schedule.

*     *     *

I had begun using a spiral notebook for my memos and to-do list on board the Okinawa, my previous ship. During the Okinawa’s overhaul when I managed subcontractors and eventually became the ship’s overhaul coordinator, my small 4×6 inch “wheel book” in my back pockets where I previously kept my schedule; notes, and business and personal reminders; my to-do list; and my calendar proved totally inadequate in size. The little green wheel book had been my brains for every command since I was commissioned. But the overhaul coordinator of a helicopter carrier could not put all of his data in a wheel book. And for this XO of a ship deploying in less than a month, with women on board, and a ship’s company of 900, a wheel book just wouldn’t hack it there either. I continued using the spiral notebook as I had used on the Okinawa, the sportswriter’s arm extension. Instead of one page or slightly more for each day, I was now filling up three, even four pages daily. In other words, I was busy.

As I settled into my XO role, I tried to put things in order as well as take care of my own needs. My office was on the starboard side of “Times Square.” There was a small private head immediately forward which led forward into my stateroom, about twelve by eight feet and including a single rack and closet space.

*     *     *

One personal goal was to not let the deployment interfere with my running. I had started running daily as early as 1975 and normally ran about five to ten miles at least five days a week. I was never a fast runner, but running had become an outlet and my major means of staying in shape. This had not been a problem on my previous ships. The big amphibious ships had places to run. Even the USS Anchorage had a flight deck and if vehicles were not loaded, one could run the flight deck down the ramps to the well deck and back up. The USS Tripoli, USS Okinawa, and USS Belleau Wood, all helicopter carriers, allowed running on the flight deck when flight operations were not being conducted. When Marines and their aircraft and vehicles were not loaded aboard the USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3), one could run the flight deck, down the ramp to the helicopter deck, down the ramp to the vehicle deck, down the ramp to the well deck, and back up and run a mile without lapping oneself.

The Yosemite had no large decks for such frivolous activities as running. After all, she was commissioned in 1945 when the Navy was focused on winning a war, not physical fitness. The “DASH” flight deck aft on the 02 level had been added for testing the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter. The DASH program after earning the derisive nicknames of “CRASH” and “SPLASH” was discontinued in 1969 after only six years in the fleet. The DASH deck on Yosemite was way too small for running but would prove invaluable later on this deployment.

After looking over the topside spaces, I decided the ceremonial deck, which wrapped around the 02 level (the second level above the main deck) and immediately below the bridge would work. If one ran 10 laps from the motor whaleboat docks on the 02 level through the ceremonial deck and back, it would be a mile. I had found it. I would run 55 laps every day possible, which worked out to about four or so days a week except when I ran in Diego Garcia or rarely in liberty ports throughout the deployment. The second day underway from Mayport, the daily Plan of the Day (POD) included this item:

ATTENTION JOGGERS/RUNNERS. The 02 level forward of the motor whale boats, around the ceremonial deck, will be open from 1115-1245, and 1630 to 15 minutes after sunset for running. Future early morning running hours will be announced as we get into areas where sunrise is at an earlier time. Ten trips around from port to starboard and back constitutes approximately 1 mile. You are encouraged to use caution if you intend to run. Take 15 to 20 minutes to warm up. Stretching is critical. Loosen up by holding a slight constant pressure on the muscles you are stretching. NEVER bounce the muscles loose, as some people do when bending to touch their toes. Bouncing may cause a severe pulled muscle.

We didn’t get a large number of runners, but we did get some.

*     *     *

Another problem I saw was managing traffic into and out of my office. The executive officer is constantly being sought for all sorts of reasons with a large amount of the crew and officers. In addition, I would be in and out of the office during the workday and didn’t want people waiting for me behind a closed office door when I wasn’t there. So I decided to let people know where I was when away. I taped two paperclips bent to hold lined paper pad cardboard backs on my office door.

Then I took those cardboard backs to the paper pads and made my own crude signs. “On Messing and Berthing Inspection,” “Out and About,” “With the Captain,” and with a running stickman “Out Running.” I also tried to convey the situation with folks who wished to see me in my office: “Knock and Enter,” “Conference in Session; Do not enter,” “XO Mast in Progress,” “Quiet Time, Please Do Not Knock or Enter.”

Then after just under two weeks on the job, I realized there were a large number of officers and crew coming to me to solve their problems rather than working on solving those problems themselves. I had read The Peter Principle by Lawrence J. Peter about people being promoted to their level of incompetence. I had also read William Onken’s Managing Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? with the anecdote about subordinates passing their monkeys to the manager’s shoulder. So I had the repair department make a Bakelite sign to hang next to the door where my crude cardboard signs hung. It read: “This is not a magic box. Solutions aren’t inside. If you have a problem, bring your solution with you.” From the feedback I received then and recently, the sign had some positive impact.

Chapter Three to be continued on Thursday (if i stick to my guns).

“Lonely, Lonely Me”…Not

For those who were not around in 1958 or didn’t have access to Nashville’s 50,000 watt, clear channel WLAC at night from around 9:00 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning, 4:00 a.m., i think, it is sad you were not mesmerized by Hoss Allen, Gene Nobles, and Big John R playing Lonesome Sundown’s two sided 45 rpm hit when it was released on Excello Records, a label i probably had at one time on  about 100 blues records — they were good deals from Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin and beat the hell of  the baby chicks Wolfman Jack sold on the Mexican 250,000 watt station after being mentored by Hoss Allen.

Lonesome Sundown’s 45 is still in my record collection. “I’m a Mojo Man” and “Lonely, Lonely Me” have been at the top of my play list since the late nights in the upstairs bedroom i shared with my brother Joe when i hid the radio under my covers with me at 14 testosterone charged days of a 14-year old and listened to the blues.

“I’m  a Mojo Man” was what i longed to be.

“Lonely, Lonely Me” was what i believed i was and what would be my fate.

Recently, i have felt i might have returned to my prediction of lonely, lonely me. But then, i discovered friends, Tom Bradley and Frank Kerrigan have, in their own way, expressed their idea of the way our politicians (and their supporters) should interact.

i recently shared the link Tom sent me, a column from David Brooks. Then he doubled down and shared a column by Albert Brooks:

Both articles are thoughtful, insightful and to me comforting. There are some folks out there who can articulate how i feel about this mess we have gotten ourselves into and there are even more who apparently agree with the two Brooks and me.

Then Frank posted a bunch of photos he took in Washington, D.C. and his sentiments expressed in his captions echoed the articles of the two Brooks. i was encouraged again. i’m not a lonely, lonely me.

While Tom and Frank (and the Brooks, not brothers) were revealing my relevance to me, i am in the midst of reading Gordon S. Wood’s Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. i have always been intrigued with the two statesmen and contributors to the founding of our country. When i saw it on the shelf at my favorite bookstore (yes, they still have a few privately owned bookstores in San Diego), the Book Catapult in North Park, i grabbed it. After finishing a couple of other books on my side table, including Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr. by Jeffrey Amestoy, i picked up Wood’s tome and began. i am about half way through.

It is very thorough, not something i normally get into. It’s lengthy. Unexpectedly, i am entranced. Wood uses quotes from both Adams, Jefferson and their peers to delve into how our government, specifically our constitution was created. The way their world worked compared to ours today was different, even the cultures of Virginia and Massachusetts were different as well as the other states to be.

What is most impressive is these two men and the other statesmen from the thirteen commonwealths wanted to create a government that worked, recognized such a government needed checks and balances, and even though there were significant differences in their opinions about what their future should be, created what i believe is the best solution for a working, effective government ever. Ever. And Amestoy’s book on Dana demonstrates the desire to do what was right continued to be woven into the fabric of our country even though one-sided ambitions were also prevalent.

Being people, we have skewed the workings into something that doesn’t seem to be working now. Our politics, our culture has created “my way or the highway” operation. Lines are not drawn in the sand. They are drawn what scarily look like battle lines. Denigration of those with differences of opinion, denial of the obvious, passion for causes with no consideration of the ramifications, yes, and even lying are all aimed to get what one segment or another wants. What i learned in McClain Elementary School about the communists believed the ends justified the means seems to have been adopted by all of our current political positions. i was taught just the opposite, and still believe we must do what’s right, not what’s wrong to achieve our goals. There are good (and bad) folks on all sides. Deal with the issues in the right way.

i am hoping there are enough sane folks out there who, along with David Brooks, Albert Brooks, Tom Bradley, and Frank Kerrigan who will not allow this…this…i struggled to find the right noun here but finally agreed with myself my first inclination was correct…insanity to rule our lives.

Thank you, guys, and of course, Lonesome Sundown.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Fahnestock’s Rule for Failure: If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all of the evidence that you tried.

Goofy guy’s addition to Fahnestock’s Rule for Failure: This is mandatory exponentially for politicians.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Zymurgy’s Law of Evolving System Dynamics: Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can.

Goofy guy’s observation of Zymurgy’s Law of  Evolving System Dynamics: And most frequently you cannot find another can big enough.