I spend a lot of time reflecting on what I did during my Navy career. Did I do a good job? Was it worthy of the people I worked for? Was it worthwhile for the people I supported? Those are the measures of service. Did I do my job to the best of my ability and did I help the people I supported. So, I look at the various events in my career, my duty stations, the operations, the people, measuring myself. One of the good things I was involved in happened during the Ira/Iraq war in 1988/89.
You may remember that the Iranians were mining the Straights of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in general. A number of ships hit these World War II mines and paid the price. Three of them were U.S. Navy war ships. The Navy and National leadership decided to send some mine sweepers to the Persian Gulf. Good idea, if we had ships up to the mission. But we had World War II wood hull mine sweepers! They were worn, and left for dead. They were used as reserve trainers and had not operated in a combat environment since the end of the Viet Nam war during Operation End Sweep! But, we sent them after a quick maintenance availability. The ships from the east coast were towed by an amphibious support ship. They were bridled together and ran their main propulsion engines once a day. I was told by the crews that it was a miserable trip.
The West Coast ships were loaded on a heavy lift commercial ship and rode over high and dry. I arrived a week after the east coast ships had had their first operational period in the Gulf. The main complaint from the Commanding Officer and the crew was that the extreme heat zapped their energy and severely limited their time on deck operating the mine sweeping gear. I was tasked with finding a solution.
When I returned to Norfolk, I talked with the SURFLANT Science Advisor. A smart man with more degrees that a thermometer. I mentioned that NASCAR used chilled vests under the driving suits to keep the drivers cool. It was a vest with gel packs mounted into the cloth. It worked. NASCAR was switching over to the cool suits that operate from a cooling system in the car. So the Science Advisor contacted NASCAR management and asked them if they could help. The answer was a resounding YES!! They gave us the old style cool vests and we shipped them to the Gulf. The vests were distributed to all of the Mine Sweepers and I was told by numerous individuals that they worked extremely well! It doubled the time they could stay out on the rigs!! And since these Mine Sweepers had small crews, this was a big advantage.
This is how I measure my 40 years with the Navy, in uniform and as a Civil Servant. It is important to me that I made a contribution. I love the Navy and appreciate every opportunity the Navy gave me to serve. And I cherish the time I spent with shipmates. Those professionals that always gave their all! Those were a fast, but great, 40 years!