I am having a couple of enjoyable days with a friend of mine. He is in town for a friends wedding and chose to stay with my wife and I in our apartment. He is a young Naval Officer, presently attending the Naval Post Graduate course in Monterrey, California. He is brilliant, a good shooter, a fine Christian man, and a student of history, especially, Navy history. He enjoys hearing my sea stories and talking technical stuff about weapons systems of the past and present.
Also, yesterday, I received a telephone call from an old shipmate from 33 years ago! He and I have not been in contact since I left the USS Stein in 1977. He completed his first enlistment in the Navy with flying colors, discharged honorably, and went on to have a very successful life and marriage. He credits his positive Navy experience for at least part of his success in his civilian endeavors, He was an exceptional young Gunner's Mate and I always thought he would have made a great career sailor, a great leader, and an outstanding Chief. But I know the Navy is not for everyone. Just the same, he served everyday in the navy like he was going to stay forever! A true testament to his superior character, and I salute him.
As I told my young Naval Officer friend about this wonderful telephone call that I just had, I spend a long time reflecting on the past, how we did things in the Navy of my youth, and how we learned our trade through on the job training and sea stories. And then it crossed my mind, and it will not go away, The Navy, is having a terrible time with the failure of it's training programs. They have found out that computer based training just does not make technicians that can fix anything. I told the Navy brass, all the way to the Secretary of the Navy, both John Lehman and Jim Webb, that this idea would not work. But they were Navy and Marine Officers, being told by other officers, and high priced, college educated civilians, that this new computer based education was the answer to everything. They could even train sailors the skill, just when they needed it, so we could save money not training them things they may not need for an indeterminate amount of time. No matter how much I protested, they would not listed. I don't blame them. I was only a Master Chief Gunner's Mate, who made Master Chief in 14 years and 6 months, was an "A" school and MK 42 "C"school instructor, with two Command Master Chief tours, a Master Training Certificate, and was the FIRST enlisted man in SURFPAC to qualify as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist. How could this lowly enlisted man every know or even begin to care what was best for "Their" Navy. Well, now they are up to their necks in the bullshit they sold and the Navy brass can't figure out how to pump the bilges.
But, what is more devastating, is that those of us who can teach, train, mentor, rebuild our technical base are either sick, dead, or too old to do it! I told my young Officer friend, if I were him, when I got back to sea, I would have the tech reps from what ever the Navy now calls NAVSEACENLANT on my ship and I would offer them anything I could, starting with respect, and kindly ask them to train my folks. I remember everytime Tom McKenna, Dave Davidovich, Frenchie, Pappie, Charlie Ford, Carl Morris, Bones Clark, Dean Rehard, or any other tech rep was in my gun mount, I was in his hip pocket. Learning, asking questions, getting him to let me do what ever was being done while he told me what to do. That is the last line of defense for our technical ratings. I don't care if you are a Gunners' Mate, a Gas Turbines Tech, an Engineman, a Fire Controlman, or any other technical rates. The reservoir of technical talent is being drained by attrition, it cannot be refilled, and the Navy better start to drink from this well before they are all gone.
And my friends, if you miss this advice, it may cost many lives and maybe our freedom! I am not kidding. If you have the courage, I ask you to pass this on to anyone in the Navy that you think really cares and will take some action. It's the last time I will comment on this topic.