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Friday, April 24, 2015

Small Stores!?

How many of you remember "Small Stores"?  You know, those baggy dungarees that would never wear out!  Boon Dockers, Dress Shoes you had to polish.  Small stores uniforms were good, basic, sturdy, uniforms at a CHEAP price!!

Of course, we wanted the Seafarer Dungarees, the Corfam Dress Shoes, and tailored whites and blues.  Small Stores went away and the Navy Exchanged owned the Uniform Supply.  How did that turn out!!  Not well.  I just saw an add in the Navy Exchange mailer that had Corfam shoes on sale for $147.!!

Now, I read that the Exchange system is going to take over the Commissary System!  In my opinion there coned not be any worse news to retired or active duty personnel. We might as well shop at Walmart!  The price of groceries will be higher than shopping t one of those Hippie "Greenie" Stores.

We are truly in trouble shipmates.  It is pitiful, just pitiful!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What makes the IDEAL Gunner's Mate?

I was playing Billiards tonight with a groups of men that live here at Azalea Trace.  I truly enjoy these times of fellowship.  And, I am even getting better, not good, at pool.

In any case, I was watching one of our players shoot. Since he is tall, about 6"3", he has to do some gymnastics to get into position to shoot.  As I watched him I wondered what the ideal billiards player would be built like.  My mind quickly moved to my theory on the design of the IDEAL Gunner's Mate.

Since I came up with this theory when I was on a MK 45 ship, it is based on that gun mount.  In any case, the IDEAL MK 45 Gunner's Mate would be 6"5" tall.  Weigh 135 pounds.  Have a 52 inch arm reach.  Be able to bench press 450 pounds.  And have eyes in the ends of his fingers!

Remember, everything you need to work on in most gun mounts is hidden behind something immovable, has 20 different size cap screws, and requires a complicated alignment procedure.  There is no room for a protruding belly.  You might remember a story I wrote a while ago about the first female MK 45 field service engineer that could not get around in the gun mount, from the gun pocket, because of her beautiful female shape!

In any case, I never had the IDEAL Gunner's Mate to work with.  But, I did work with some of the  BEST Gunner's Mates the Navy had.  I miss those men!!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!!

there was a comedy movie in the 1960's titled; "The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming!"  Every comedian in the business were in that movie including the Three Stooges!!  It was funny and it even shows up on television every now and then.

That is NOT my point here.  There were two news articles that should cause your worry factor to spike!  First, Russia is selling Iran a state of the art missile defense system capable of tracking and shooting down 100 targets at a time!!  It does not take a defense Guru to figure out Iran needs that Missile Defense system to protect their nuclear facilities from attack.  You know, those nuclear facilities our President and Secretary of State have negotiated away.  Right!

Then, I read an article that stated that Germany had halted the decommissioning of their main battle tanks.  Their plan was to reduce their main battle tank population from 350 to 225.  Now, they are recommissioning and updating all of their battle tanks!!   They will be back at 350 battle tanks with new updates, by 2016.  Why?  The Russians are coming!!

Putin, the ex-KGB operative and now President for life, is storming Europe and Germany knows it.  Putin is building alliances with Iran, North Korea, Red China, Egypt, Venezuela, and taking over other nations once strategically part of the Soviet Union.

I am not a defense analyst but I can see the rise of Russia and the fall of the United States.  We are decommission ships, building high tech, one of a king, untested ships at astronomical prices.  We built the LCS, the Russians build Battle Cruiser with long range cruise missiles, guns, air to air missiles, ASW capabilities, and redundancies a plenty.

Look shipmates, the proverbial solid waste material is about to hit the reciprocating air displacement device!  And we don't even have enough Charmin to clean up after it hits the wall!!

Oh well, just saying!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The meeting! I learned a few things.

We had our meeting with the Executive Director of Azalea Trace this afternoon.  I must admit, he was a very congenial and honest person.  He explained some events that lead up to him and us not meeting or forging a relationship and I agreed with him on those points.

Right up front, we both agreed that if we had started out on the right foot, this disagreement would not have happened because we would have had an open line of communications.  We have now established that circuit.

That being said, he completely answered my issues concerning the parking lot issues.  We did differ on the treatment of certain members of our community.   But, it is OK to have different opinions.  The bottom line her is, I honestly believe the parking issues will be solved, to the betterment of the community, very soon.  The truth is, based on our written question, the ED was already working on the solution.  I did encourage him to publicize the actions from the Resident Meetings on the Community Cable Channel or an email to the residents.  This would help at least me, if not most of the residents keep informed.  Waiting a month for an update seems sort of secretive.  Especially when he and his staff are actually solving the issue in a timely manner.  Why NOT take credit for your good work.   Open, frequent, informative, communications serve to beat down rumors and soothe bruised egos.

Our refrigerator issue was a little different.  It seems I did not hear the entirety of the first offer from the ED to solve our problem.  This is where I learned something today.  I either did not hear what Ginger told me or I confused what she said with my own view.  Either way, it is entirely possible that I caused the misunderstanding and I am very sorry about that.  In any case, he was very understanding and helpful concerning our refrigerator issue.  He even came to our apartment to see the problem  and after seeing it, he commented;  That would be very annoying."  In any case, we will be able to remedy this problem too.

If you read my Lewy Body Dementia blog, you know I have been having anger and agitation issues.  In his defense, the ED did not know this or even that I had LBD.  That relates back to our not meeting in the beginning.   So, another thing I learned today is, from now on, Linda will have to take the lead on these issues.   My brain can no longer logically look at issues without interjecting the emotion of the moment into the mix.   To keep peace in the community and our life, it makes sense for me to completely remove myself from these negotiations.

This has turned out to be a very draining and upsetting situation that I most likely caused.  I probably caused Ginger and her boss, Dave, more problems than I am worth.   Not to to mention the indigestion I caused the ED.  But, we are all on the same sheet of music and I learned a few things.  So, it was not a total loss.

Now, I think I will just sit down and shut up.  Good night.

Stories I have not told, until now.

Admiral Mike Boorda was COMCRUDESGRU Eight when I was early in my Force Master Chief tour.   He had enacted a policy within CCDG 8 that required everyone competing for promotion to E-5 be ESWS Qualified.   I had a number of complaint from sailors in CCDG 8 and I decided to discuss this with Admiral Boorda, in person.

I requested an appointment with the Admiral and told the Flag Secretary the topic of the meeting.  I was granted that meeting.   I arrived and discussed the ESWS issue with the Admiral.  I told him that requiring sailors desiring to promote to E-5 to have an ESWS qualification was unfair because sit was not a Navy wide policy.  I also told him the qualifications for advancement were outlined in the Advancement Manual.  I also explained the problem with a sailor, transferred from another Group, without a ESWS qual, but having been recommended before, loosing that recommendation once he got to CCDG 8.

Admiral Boorda told me he expected me to support him on this.  I told him, that the Board of Corrections and Review would overturn him!  We parted company on amicable terms, but, not in agreement.

When I got back to SURFLANT the Chief of Staff was quite agitated that I went to see the Admiral.  I told him, would you rather I put him on report to Vice Admiral McCauey without giving him chance to explain himself?

Some time later, Admiral Boorda was promoted to Chief of Naval Personnel.  I was at an event that Admiral Boorda was the guest speaker.  He came up to me and we shook hands.  I told him; "Now you are in the position to make the ESWS change, Navy wide."  He replied; "Now I am in the position to understand you were right."

During that CCDG 8 meeting, we shifted gears to other topics and the Admiral told me a secret.  Then he told me;  If you ever tell anyone what I just told you, I will ruin your career.  I never told anyone.  Maybe someday, I will write about that secret.  But, I really think he used that secret to see how loyal I was.

Admiral Boorda was a great man and am proud to have known him.

 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Another "obstinate" story

Since I have struck a theme of being "Obstinate" in the last few posts, a story about a Commanding Officer that stood up for his men came to mind.

Just before I reported to Attack Squadron 55 as the Command Master Chief, they bombed Benghazi.   Our Commanding Officer was the Strike Leader and our Executive Officer, the only person in flying in the squadron with actual combat experience was on the strike.   We flew six A-6E Intruders to bomb the airport.  The Air Force F-111's attacked Khadaffi's palace.

Our crews encountered enemy fire all the time they were over land.  The each member of the flight crews were submitted for Air Medals.  The awards came back downgraded and the now Commanding Officer, the previous Executive Officer at the time of the strike, was outraged!  Believe me, I know this from personal knowledge.

The day of the Awards Ceremony, the Commander, Naval Aviation Forces,  U.S. Atlantic Fleet came to present the awards.  At the end of the ceremony, our Commanding Officer addressed the Crew, assembled friends and family, and the Vice Admiral!  In so many words, the CO said it was BS that the awards were downgraded and that what the Air Crews accomplished was degraded by the actions of the Navy!!

I thought, "WOW!" he will never make O-6!  But, you can't defeat a loyal Commanding officer.  Maybe the Admiral knew "Gator" was right!  But it did not slow down his promotions one bit.

So, again, I say for those of you who have leadership positions, Always stand for that which is RIGHT !!   Doing things right is not the same as doing what is right!   You and the people that work with you will be better for it.


Command Climate and Customer Service go Hand in Hand! Corrections.

Yesterday I wrote a blog making a connection between Command Climate and Customer Service, in the Military and in the civilian world.   I never look at my blogs after I write them.  But, today, I received a telephone call from the Executive Director about yesterday's post, so I read it.  Because of that, I have to make a couple of clarifications and corrections.

But first, let me give you some back ground.   When I married my wife, she told me;  Always do the right thing, no matter what the cost. If they bust you, we will deal with it.  But do the right thing.

When I was the Force Master Chief of the Surface Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet,  I lived by those instructions.  I dealt daily, with senior Flag Officers.  They are opinionated, stubborn, professional men that are not accustomed to being corrected or challenged.  So, I paid my dues in challenging decisions of superiors.

When the second Vice Admiral came into the job, Joe Donnell, I tried to see him over a bad decision made by the Awards Review Board in the case of Master Chief Bobby Scott.  I went up around 1400 and the Flag Secretary told me the Admiral was busy and could not see me.  So, I returned to my office wrote a letter of dissent over the Board's actions, and slipped it under the Admiral's door after everyone left.

The next morning, the Quarterdeck Watch told me to go see the Admiral immediately.   When I walked into the Admiral's office, it was apparent he was not happy about my letter.  After he let me know that, he agreed with my premise and asked why I did not come and see him first.  I said: "That Doberman Pincher that sits outside of your door would not let me in yesterday at 1400!  He said you were too busy to see me."   Admiral Donnell said he was not busy.  I told him;  "The doberman pincher is a LCDR and he is senior to me and works for you."  Then the Admiral asked me what I was not at the morning meetings.  I told him; " The same reason, the Chief of Staff does not want me there and he works for you."  The Admiral told me to get a cup of coffee and sit down.  Just then the Chief of Staff came into the Admiral's Office and scowled at me!  The Admiral saw that and yelled; "I want him here, you have a problem with that!?"  I made my point.

Another time, when I was a GS 13, a friend told me senior management was angry with me because I challenged their decisions over a safety issue and they were "Gunning" for me.  I told Gary,  they were angry because I was right.  They never came after me.  They just baited Gary to see if I would back down!  I didn't.

Now, back to my corrections.  In the case of the refrigerator, the person who was our guide through the remodeling process was a lady named Ginger.  She was great.  It was Ginger that I asked about changing the refrigerator and she said the Executive Director had to make that decision.  She later called me and told me the ED would not let me change the refrigerator because then he would be stuck with a refrigerator he could do nothing with.  I then asked Ginger, what if I sold the refrigerator.  She asked the ED and he said that would be fine.   Now, I probably have put poor Ginger in the middle of my issue.  And for that I am sorry.  But, the ED's answer of "He would be stuck with a refrigerator" is the same as my statement of; "sit down and shut up."

Now I ask you, does "Stuck with" sound like the attitude of a 501C3 Tax Exempt organization?  I don't think so.

Second, the parking issue.  The ED was out on a paid leave of absence issue.  The stand in told us, at a monthly resident's meeting concerning our written question on parking, that; "The residents have to police the parking lot and tell people that are not residents not to park close to the building."  Now, if the spots are not marked, how is that going to work?  Then, the following month, with the ED back, he said in response to our second written attempt to solve the issue;  "We will look into it."  The stand in told us the management has known they have had a parking problem at the Mid Rise building for a long time and they were NOT going to do anything about it or revisit the policy on covered parking!!  Again, we were told;  "sit down and shut up!"

I think that clarifies my position.  I will not make any changes to spelling errors.  If you got my meaning, the words worked.  I have dementia, I think I do pretty good!

So, tomorrow, I will meet with the ED.  That should be interesting.  But I will reserve judgement until after the meeting.  I will report on that tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Command Climate and Customer Service go hand in hand!!

I live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community called Azalea Trace.  It is owned and operated by ACTS which owns and operates 21 such communities east of the Mississippi.  We have lived here for a little over 4 months and in general, we are well pleased.  But, there are some seemingly simple issues that have caused my wife and I some unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Why do I bring this up on my Navy blog?  Because the same thing happens in the Navy to our sailors.  How?   A young sailor completes Basic Training, "Boot Camp" and then goes to "A" School.  He or she is educated in a rating and may even go to follow on specialty schooling called "C" School where they learn specific on how to maintain one of our most complicated systems.  Gas Turbines, Radars, SONARS, Weapons Systems, or computers.  Then those sailors are transferred to their first sea duty assignment, most likely on a ship or in an Air Squadron.  Here is where that well trained sailor will spend the rest of their first, and maybe only, enlistment.  How that individual is mentored, further trained, and the experiences that individual goes through, good and bad, are what makes up that sailor's opinion of the Navy!

Here at Azalea Trace, the process is much the same.  We are on a waiting list, some for years!  When the unit we want is open, we sit down and work up a plan to remodel that unit with a staff member that is experienced in remodeling.  You can remove walls, add walls, change room uses, change bath fixtures and just about anything your heart desires, within the foot print of your unit.   We knew little about remodeling, but our "Guide" kept  us in the boundaries.  Of course, we paid cash money, of that remodel!  Of course, we also pay a six figure entrance fee.  So, there is a big investment, in cash, up front, to join this command!

But, like the sailor, we moved in, not really knowing what to expect.  At first, everyone is nice and friendly.  Just like they are on the ship to the FNG!   After all, you are fresh meat in both circumstances.   But, in both examples, what happens next forms the opinion of the organization.

In the Navy, how the Petty Officer you work for treats you, is the basis for your opinion of that shop or unit.  Then, there is the Leading Chief of your Division and your Division Officer.  If you have issues, personal or professional, you probably will get to know the Command Master Chief and maybe the Captain!  How each of these individuals interacts with you determines your opinion of the Navy.  They ARE the Navy as far as you are concerned.  You will never see or talk to the CNO or even the MCPON!

It is the same here at Azalea Trace.  The Executive Director is the sole representative of ACTS Corporate. His demeanor, personal interaction, and attitude form the residents opinion of ACTS Corporate and that of Azalea Trace.

When I was a Division Chief, the well being of my sailors, professional and personal was my primary concern.  I wanted my sailors to be content in what they did, secure in their environment, and  ready to do their job to the best of their ability.  When I was a Command Master Chief, my priorities did not change.  They just grew in scope.  In both positions, sometime there were small issues, that could and did blow up into major conflicts!

I learned that if I solved the small issues, the major conflicts were avoided or at least reduced to manageable events with positive outcomes.   I also learned that how I dealt with my people greatly impacted command climate.  Little things like laundry service, liberty hours, chow, and even when the Heads were secured for cleaning caused great consternation for some.  And a small adjustment to meet a complaint of need went a long way to helping that sailor form a positive opinion of the Navy.  Did I want every sailor to reenlist?  No. But I wanted every sailor to have a great experience while they were in the Navy.  The BEST Recruiter is a satisfied prior service sailor!!

Here at Azalea Trace, the same applies.  If I tell folks we have problem that management will not deal with, that WILL negatively impact their decision to want to join this organization.  So, command climate in civilian or Military organizations will impact their success.

It seem the Executive Director here at Azalea Trace has not learned that lesson yet.  For instance, after paying a six figure entrance fee, we do not have an assigned parking spot!  Seems like a little thing until all the parking spots close to your building are taken by staff, visitors, and vendors!  when asked, at our monthly residents meeting, where we submit our questions in writing the week before the meeting, we were told we had to police the parking lot on our own!!  The next meeting, we brought up in writing, a plan to provide markings in the resident parking lot denoting that area as "Resident Only".  We were blown off with the statement;  We will look into that.  Trust me, I have been at the top enlisted levels of the Navy and a GS 13 in Civil Service.  When the Executive Director says; "We will look at that" it is the last time it will be looked at!!

Then, let's go back to the remodel process.  We selected a refrigerator that had a water and ice dispenser in the door.  It turned out to be much larger than we expected and we cannot open the left door.  I went to the remodel person to try to exchange that refrigerator for one smaller, and I was told to sit down and shut up!  You picked it, it is yours, live with it.

Now, even though our general view is positive, those two issues, which impact our daily life, continually cause us frustration and anger.  Dealing with those issues positively, would go a long way to making us satisfied, long term, residents.  And remember, unlike the Navy, we can leave her with a large portion of our six figure entrance fee in our pocket.  Yes, we would loose our remodel fee.  But, the other negative to Azalea would be how we portrayed this community to other potential residents!!  Remember, a happy prior service sailor is the best recruiter!  The same applies here.  But, that less was never learned by some in management.

Why do I write this?  Because I know ACTS Corporate reads this blog!!  I have received feedback from them on a positive post about Admiral Furlong's presentation to the Aviation Club.  But, since the Executive Director could not pick me out of a crowd of ONE, he probably does not know this crafty, old, slightly demented, Force Master Chief has this access.  But I do!  So, ACTS, how are you going to handle this?

One more point.  When Master Chief Bobby Scott was the Command Master Chief on the USS Iowa (BB 61), I observed him as he walked around the ship.  He knew the name of every one of the 1800 enlisted men, Chiefs, and Officers on the ship.  He knew their wives names, their kids names, and what problems, if any, they were dealing with at home, and on the ship, both professionally and personally.  He actively lobbied to shipboard management and higher management on the behalf of his sailors.  Master Chief Scott understood how to positively impact the Command Climate and Morale of his people.  That people oriented attitude earned the USS Iowa retention awards, and professional accolades throughout the Navy.  But again, not everyone learns the lessons Bobby Scott did.  Too bad.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

We lost a Shipmate yesterday

I found out yesterday they Master Chief Gunner's Mate William Vern Van Matre passed away yesterday of cancer.  I do not know what type of cancer.  I knew Vern since 1970.  He and I were Detailers at the same time and I took over his GMM community when he was in the hospital with surgery complications in 1982.   He almost died then!  Vern and I were also staff at Gun School 1974-77.  Vern was the consummate professional.

I can tell many funny stories concerning Vern.  Yet, right now, all I can do is miss him.  We had lost contact like many shipmate do and then, last year, we got back in contact through Facebook.

It seem, more and more of my Shipmates are passing away.  I intend to use Vern's death to reconnect to my Shipmates that are still alive.  I encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chief's Mess tomfoolery!

Since this is the 122nd Anniversary of the establishment of the "Chief" rating, I thought I would write abut a couple of practical joke we played on fellow Chief's in the mess.

When I was a young Chief and on the USS Stein, we had a Chief that was struggling to loose weight.  He was trying to eat right. Exercising daily, walking at noon when we were in port, and anything else he could do.

Some of the Chiefs decided to mess with him.  So, when he was sleeping at night, they would cut a small amount off of his web belt for his Wash Khaki uniform!  Since he used his belt as one of his measures of weight loss, scales are useless on a bouncing Navy Destroyer Escort, even though he was near starving himself, he was not seeing any weight loss because his belt was still tight.  That went on for about three weeks!

Then one night, they replaced his belt, with one of his older belts that was long.  When he put his trousers on the next morning, he screamed!!!  He had figured out we were messing with him.

Then, during the Gas Crisis in 1974, one of the Chiefs bought a small Honda 600 automobile.  It was a car, supposedly seated 4, and had a two cylinder engine, chain driven t the front wheels!   He was bragging about his gas mileage.  So, one of the Chiefs started adding gas to his tank from a gas can, everyday.  Not a lot, but a gallon or so everyday.  This Chief with the Honda was experiencing exceptional mileage!!  This went on for a month.  Then, the Chief stopped putting the gas in the Honda and the gas mileage plummeted!!  The Chief who owned the Honda was sure the car had an issue and took it back to the dealer on the Mile of Cars in National City!!  He argued with the service manager because they said nothing was wrong and questioned his math skills.  The Chief came back to the ship, HOT!  We were all laughing at him and then he knew he had been HAD!!

The Messes I was in were tight groups that worked together for the betterment of the crew and the ship.  I loved being a Chief and miss the Chief's Mess more than anything else in my life.

Happy Birthday Chief's!!