Today, my best friend and I decided to get out of the house and take a tour of Naval Station, Norfolk. We thought it would be good to see the ships, look at our old haunts, check out the new exchange, and ketch lunch somewhere. The weather was very nice for a January day, especially since winter has been so harsh. The temperatures were in the 50's and the sun was even out! What could be better for a couple of "old salts".
I had an inkling that it might be a difficult day when, while driving on Interstate 64 just after the 264 merger, I noticed an older Mazda 3 on the side of the road. Traffic was moving along at the posted speed, plus some, and I was in the right lane following the flow of traffic. All of the sudden, directly in front of me, this Mazda pulls out! Well, I know what to do, because the lane next to me is empty, so, I pull over one lane. But, the Mazda does not just pull into the right lane, it pulls into my lane, right in front of me, going all of 25 miles per hour! As I jumped on the brakes and pounded on my horn, the driver of the Mazda slowly pulled back into the empty right lane. As I passed the car, doing my best to give the driver an ugly stare, I notice that the driver is a little, old, lady, that cannot see over the steering wheel and is having trouble seeing anyway! We need public transportation and mandatory driver's testing for people over a certain age!
In any case, as we drove onto Naval station, our first stop was the new "Tim Hortons" for coffee and a donut. As I looked at the patrons in this "Phu Phu" establishment, I notice the sailors wearing their New, powder blue, Camouflage uniforms! This uniform is wrong on so many levels. First, it has NO FORM! You can hide a lot of FAT under that blouse! There is no crease, as a matter of fact, it looks like it was ironed with a cold rock! The "Ball Cap" style head gear has no style and no "Jaunty" appearance! This uniform has no heritage, no tradition, and makes our sailors look like Air Force personnel. It replaced the traditional "Dungaree Uniform" for E 1-6 and Wash Khakis for Chiefs and Officers. Having everyone look alike may be a good idea on the battle field. Then the sniper does not know who to shoot! But on a Navy war ship, the effect of a pair of Khakis walking into a space or on deck was unmistakable. Everyone immediately knew WHO was in charge!
That takes me to my second observation. When I was a young sailor, the men in the Navy were tough, Hard drinking, Hard fighting, LEADERS, that would kick your ass if you did wrong, challenged them, or did not pay attention. They were barrel chested, big bicep, big handed, strong, decisive, MEN that invoked confidence in everyone around them. The men (small letters on purpose) that I saw today more resembled Pee Wee Herman or Arnold Stang! They were small chested, small armed, small computer handed, big ass, floppy fat chinned, pencil necked geeks that looked like they have never hit a man in the mouth in their life. They looked like Wusses!! They had no military bearing in their powder blue uniforms and spoke softly to each other, like women in church! The sailors I remember had BOOMING voices and commanded respect by their mere presence!
This leads me to my third observations. There was NO CHIEF"S CLUB!! Now, that really does not surprise me. Because, today's Chiefs drink Latte, not beer, with a shot of fat free milk, not a shot of Jack Daniels. They look at computer magazines, not Penthouse, and they play computer games instead of "Jungle Volleyball". And, heaven forbid if the club had Go Go dancers! I remember the Chief's Club as a place of team building, reunions, and camaraderie. I remember the "Stag" bars in the Chief's Clubs as a place to let our hair down, drink maybe one too many drinks, and have a "shipmate" make sure you got home, or back to you ship, safely. Not today!
This leads me to my forth observation; WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE SHIPS AND SUBMARINES?!?! Naval Station, Norfolk is WAY too big for the population of ships. I remember ships being berthed three and four deep! The piers completely full, ships moored at the quay wall, and ships at anchor, as a normal course of action. Of course, when I joined the Navy in 1969, there were 1069 ships, submarines, and aircraft carriers in commission in the United States Navy! Today, we have less than 280 ships. We don't have a Navy, we have a Coast Guard. If you don't believe me, look at the Littoral Command Ships, (LCS Class). High Endurance Coast Guard cutters have more fire power that these tinker toys do. And we are building them in BIG numbers. There are no big guns, no big missiles, no aggressive anti-submarine warfare weapons, and no attack aircraft in today's Navy. And for you brown shoe wearing air dales, the F/A 18 is NOT an attack aircraft! The A-4 and A-7 carried twice the ordnance the F/A 18 caries and flew farther on a fuel load. And DON'T EVER try to compare that little girls air plane with an A-6 Intruder!!
No, today's, trip down memory lane left me feeling depressed, down hearted, and feeling like I have no purpose. My Navy is dead. It has been replaced by aluminum foil ships, limp wristed sailors, and leaders that can't be found. Shame on SECNAV! Shame on the CNO! Shame on all of you. You destroyed the world's most powerful Navy and turned it into a social experiment.