My First Chief (Part I)
After I graduated from USNA, I was assigned to the Surface Warfare Office School (SWOS) in
At the end of the 16 weeks of training, we had a one week Navy Leadership class where they brought in the
After SWOS, I stuck around
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.
“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.