By: Garland Davis
There are differences between old ships and the newer ones of today’s Navy. Every generation of sailors…each crew of a ship creates memories, loyalty and love of the Navy based on their experiences. It’s probably been that way since Noah put to sea with a shipload of animals in the great flood…probably always will be.
Sailors are linked…Each generation to the preceding and following one by uniforms we wore, the histories of battles and wars fought, and the pride in being a sailor that swells our chests. We were members of a group that will forever set us apart…We were sailors in the United States Navy.
The way they are churning the seabag now, I doubt if an old sailor would recognize a modern sailor as a shipmate in the same Navy.
We each have our memories of the ships and stations, of shipmates and foreign shores. Those memories, collectively, are our history… The history of the ships we rode, the friends we made, the wars we fought in service to the country we represented.
Today’s ships are wonders of modernization. They have evolved into push button wonders that operate with a minimal crew. There are gun mounts without crews and submarines without periscopes. With crews peopled by male and female. Yep Shipmate, you heard that right, female sailors. The Lesbians in the Women’ Rights organizations have finally succeeding in invading one of the last male sanctuaries; the United States Navy afloat. With no more “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, there are now Rump Rangers and Gap Lappers in the berthing compartments.
Today’s sailors live in a comfort that we couldn’t envision on the old haze gray steel that we crewed throughout endless deployments and gun line periods. They have abundant water, air conditioning, room to move around, closed circuit TV, up to date programming. We were happy to get fresh milk, an occasional shower, and the James Bond flick with Ann Margaret for the fifteenth time during a WestPac.
We thought computers and ‘wrist radios’ were figments of the imaginations of science fiction authors and the artists of Dick Tracy. Now sailors can stroll topside if close inshore, pull a playing card sized implement from their pocket and call any place in the world.
After UNREP’s we waited impatiently for mail call hoping to get a piece of paper from someone we cared for or someone who cared for us. Now there are no longer Postal Clerks. The modern day sailor goes to a computer, logs on and checks to see if anyone has cared enough to send an e-mail. With FaceBook and other social sites, the modern day sailor has friends around the world. Our closest friends usually slept in the same stack of racks.
As I sit here typing this, I wonder of what the memories of the modern sailor will consist. Will he remember the chipping of paint…Will he remember the pride he had in his ship as it entered port squared away and ship shape? Or will he have his mind on the Enginemangirl sleeping on the other side of the bulkhead, wondering if he has a chance of getting into her skivs?
Do Chiefs still cuss you like the demons of hell and then come by to see you in the hospital with a stack of magazines? Do they still offer to loan a broke sailor a few bucks for liberty? Do they still ask if you have started shaving yet as a way of telling you that, you look like shit and ‘go shave?’
Do bargirls still remember a sailor’s name and ship? Is it still impossible to get the smell of cheap perfume off a pea coat or dress canvas? Does the neckerchief still dangle in your beer or chow? Do sailors still wear liberty cuffs and sharkskin whites? Do sailors still roll their white hats?
What has the world economy, inflation, the influx of the ‘gentler sex, political correctness, and sensitivity done to the price of beer and pussy in our favorite ports?
What do they use for navigation? In our day, the Junior Officers were up taking morning sextant sights trying to figure where in hell they were. I guess now you can do it with Google Earth and Maps. Sleep in, no reason to get up so early.
Do the mid and four to eight watch standers still hang around the bake shop like buzzards waiting for the baker to pull the rolls or bread they have been smelling, from his ‘magic oven?’ Is giving the cooks a hard time still the best game in town? Is that first cup of coffee and cigarette in the morning worth getting up for? What, forget the cigarette, no fucking smoking in our modern Navy?
Are there still independent duty Corpsmen who can cure anything, fix anything, identify varieties of crotch crabs by liberty port, and make perfect stitches by the light of a battle lantern, in a state five sea, after the snipes lost the load? And afterward, whip your ass at Acey Deucy and Cribbage?
Do Officers and Chiefs still wear steaming hats that look like they drew them from Noah’s Lucky Bag? Do cats still try to cover up deck force foul weather jackets?
Are FNG’s still sent to find relative bearing grease, chow line, skyhooks, left-handed monkey wrenches, and fallopian tubes? Oh wait, fallopian tubes are now available aboard ship in this modern Navy. Just not in supply, unless, of course, there are female Storekeepers. What, no more SK’s? They are now Logistic Specialists. Hell, I knew SK’s that couldn’t spell logistics. Are there still mail buoy watches? Are impressionable FA’s still wondering around the bridge trying to find the main engine ignition key? Or have all these tricks played on the innocent been categorized as “hazing” and banned in our more diverse, gentler and kinder Navy. “A Force for Good.”
Do the girls in the bars start prettying up when your ship is sighted abreast Grande Island? Or is everyone mustering with the Chaplains Assistant preparing to go paint an orphanage? Does the CO sometimes stick his head into a joint on Magsaysay and buy a round? No wait, drinking is discouraged, he could get relieved for that.
Are you still a pussy if you can’t chug a picture of Mojo? Is the “Breakfast of Champions” still monkey-on-a-stick, peanuts, hard boiled eggs and pool cue dust in your beer?”
Memories… Collect them… Remember… Remember the little things. They will form the composite of your old man’s memories. They will connect you with whatever comes after you.
One day, you will be parked in your old recliner saying…
“These goddam sailors today have no idea how fuckin’ tough we had it. We had to go all the way to town for pussy. We didn’t bring it with us.”
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.