All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

My First Chief (Part I)

After I graduated from USNA, I was assigned to the Surface Warfare Office School (SWOS) in San Diego. In addition to navigation and some seamanship stuff, it also gave us brand new Ensigns an idea of what the real Fleet was like. How to order equipment using the supply systems, how to write personnel evaluations, some basic overviews of the different weapon and engineering systems on the ships.

At the end of the 16 weeks of training, we had a one week Navy Leadership class where they brought in the COs (Commanding Officers) of some of the ships homeported in San Diego. It was interesting to hear their perspective on what our life was about to become, what they were looking for in new Ensigns at their command, and their recommendations on how to succeed once we hit the Fleet. Their number one piece of advice: “Listen to your Chief (Chief Petty Officer). Trust him. He’s there to help you be a success.” The next day we had the Command Master Chiefs from several of the ships. As the senior enlisted on board the ships, they had a good perspective as well and they also had some advice. “Trust your Chief. Learn from Chief. Your Chief is there to help you.”

After SWOS, I stuck around San Diego for eight more weeks of Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) school. The USS Reeves was a steam ship, so I was learning about the intricacies of a M-class boiler, the main engine turbines, the generators, evaporators and all of the various support systems that not only move the ship through the water, but provide electricity for the ship, the weapons systems, etc, and also air conditioning, fresh water, etc. The engineering plan on a ship is amazing and quite complicated. I graduated from EOOW school in late December and got to go home for Christmas before flying out in mid January to meet my ship which was homeported at the time in Yokosuka JA.

The trip itself was a bit of a haze, a long, tiring, haze. Colorado to LA. LA to Tokyo. At Narita, we found the bus to take us to Yokosuka. The bus dropped us off at the Personnel Detachment on base where we ended up taking cabs from there to the ship. It was mid afternoon by the time I walked up the gang plank, turned to the ships stern and saluted the US flag (called The Ensign) and reported aboard USS Reeves. I hauled my sea bags into the wardroom and a few minutes later, the Chief Engineer (CHENG) came up to greet me. He was also the Senior Watch Officer, so he was in charge of assigning officers staterooms, etc. He helped me to my stateroom and told me that I would indeed be working for him, but that he wasn’t sure what job I would taking. It would either be the M Division Officer (M for Main Engines) or the B Division Officer (B for Boilers Officer). After dumping my bags in my room, he took me up to meet the CO who welcomed me onboard. The CO mentioned that the ship was having their winter party the following night and that I should attend. I said Yes Sir and that was that.

The next AM, I went to the Engineering Department’s Officer Call which is a meeting for all of the officers and chiefs in the engineering department. The CHENG introduced me to the team, but I’ll be honest and tell you it was just a blur. I can’t remember names to save my life and I was still jet lagged beyond belief. Since the winter party was that night, the plan was for the ships crew to only work a half day. I also figured out why a winter party. The ship had come back from deployment in late December, just before Christmas, so there was no time for a Christmas party. So a winter party instead. I had also gotten teamed with a LTJG (Lieutenant Junior Grade) who was supposed to be my running make (aka mentor) on the ship. He came by and picked me up to go to the Winter Party.

Have you ever been at a party and not know anyone? It was like that. Oh I had my running mate who ditched me to be with his girlfriend. And I can’t blame him. I had seen the CHENG go by and the CO, but that was pretty much everyone I knew. So I sat there by myself at one of the tables. I knew I couldn’t leave. Leaving early from a ship’s function is just not right. So I sat there sipping my Coke. I was jet lagged and getting drunk, or even tipsy, at a ships function on Day 2 is not a good career move. So I sat there watching the festivities. Alone.

Until a very large man came and sat down with me. He looked familiar and I remember that he was one of the chiefs at the Engineering Officer’s call meeting we had that morning. But his name, no I didn’t remember that. He started talking to me, asking questions. Where I went to school? Did I go to EOOW school? Things like that. Innocuous, but going somewhere and I wasn’t sure where. He had finished one of the two beers he had brought over and I could tell that he a little more than tipsy. With a slight slur to his words, he asked me what I was going to be doing on the ship. I told him that the Chief Engineer had mentioned either M or B Divisions but he hadn’t decided. “You should be the B Division Officer,” he said as he opened his second beer. I responded that I probably wasn’t going to get to provide any input on the decision. But he didn’t listen to me. “B Division is a great division. Great group of men. Lots of good stuff going on in that division. You would do great in that division.” He kept on rambling about B Division and the benefits of me being the B Division Officer and I responded with the “Oh really?” or “Interesting” comments to keep up my end of the conversation. He was really trashed at this point and after awhile he stopped talking and was just looking at me. I smiled weakly. Trying to be friendly but also trying to figure out an escape plan that didn’t offend this Chief. The silence hung in the air for a bit, and then he spoke.

“Do you know why I want you to be the B Division Officer?” he asked. I shook my head no.

“Because I’m the M Division Chief and I don’t want to train another fuckin’ ensign.”

I looked at him. I can’t remember what I said. But I got up as gracefully as I could and left. I took a cab from the club and went back to the ship.

At the next morning’s Engineering Officer’s Call, the CHENG announced that I would be taking over the M Division. I looked at the Chief from the night before (in uniform now I could tell he was a Senior Chief), my new Senior Chief, and he didn’t look at me at all.