By: Garland Davis
At thirteen hundred the Petty Officer of the watch was directed to pass the word, “All hands not actually on watch fall in on the flight deck for Retirement Ceremony. The Command Master Chief and some of the other Chiefs all dressed in Choker Whites formed the sailors into a semi-circle around a podium that was set up backing on the retracted hangar.
The ship’s Executive Officer came from the hangar and asked, “Are we ready, Master Chief?
“Yes sir,” replied the CMC.
The XO returned into the hanger momentarily and then reappeared with the Commanding Officer, the Supply Officer, the Food Service Officer and a grouping of other officers, all dressed in Chokers. The CO went to the podium as the XO called, “Chief Petty Officer Gray, front and center.”
A Chief, also dressed in Choker Whites came from the hangar and stood at attention before the podium. Chief Gray was retiring after twenty-six years’ service.
It was typical of retirement ceremonies. Laudatory speeches were made by the CO, the Supply Officer, and the Command Master Chief extolling the service, dedication, and excellence of Chief Gray. The Chief made a speech briefly cataloging his career, giving credit to the CPO community for the support and camaraderie, the professionalism of the officers he had served and the support of the men he led. Everyone there except, probably, the new female CSSN and CSSA knew it was all a crock of horseshit.
The Food Service Officer was thinking ‘Good Riddance’ and planning his talk with new Chief where he would lay the groundwork for their relationship. He was determined that the Division would be run by him and not the Chief. After all, I am a superior officer and it is the Chief’s duty to obey my orders, but Chief Gray always had a reason why I was wrong or a reason to alter things and do it his way. He also thought I am sick and tired of hearing about the Ney Award. Just because he had won the award in another ship, he acted as if he was the only one who knew how to win an award. I have great ideas to improve the galley, but when I told him, he looked at me as if I was crazy and then did as he wished. The Supply Officer always seemed to take his side instead of mine.
The Supply Officer was worrying about what would happen to the S-2 Division with the loss of Chief Gray. From reviewing his record, the new Chief had little experience in food service or as a leader. Recently frocked to CPO, he had spent a good part of his career in BEQ and out of rate shore duty billets. He had been detailed to the Mess Deck Master at Arms force for his entire tour on the Abraham Lincoln. He had not been active in the food production end of his rate since he was a PO3. He was thinking that Food Service would take a lot more of his attention in the foreseeable future.
The Chief Engineer was thinking. Good riddance. Chief Gray had been a pain in the ass. Always putting demands on the A-Division to repair galley equipment, as if it were essential. Although, he did admit that Chief Gray was more knowledgeable about the working of Galley equipment than some A-Division Chiefs. And the constant working parties! I don’t see why they have to load stores all the time. At least once a week three or four firemen would have to be detailed to a stores working party.
The Command Master Chief was thinking that things would be a lot more peaceful in the mess without him. He often contradicted the other chiefs and it galled when it was learned he was usually right. However, his archaic ideas of how a Chief was supposed to perform and act didn’t really fit into today’s Navy. He was the only member of the Mess that wasn’t ESWS qualified. When approached about qualifying, he said, “I’ve made it through over twenty years without a kiss ass pin. Don’t need one now.”
Chief Gray maintained that CPO’s were no more entitled to special meals or special breakouts from the Galley than any other crew member. On the CMC’s last ship, the CSC kept a case of steaks in the Mess freezer and any Chief could wrap a few up to take home. When it was suggested here, his only reaction was a stare and a shake of the head.
Chief Gray had been a Chief for over sixteen years. He declined to be recommended for and was never considered for advancement to Senior Chief. Something must have happened in the past but the CMC was unable to discover what.
The XO was thinking, now I can get the menus I want in the Wardroom and turn it to fine dining without having to listen to why it can’t be done or it will cost too much, or the CS’s cannot do it because of a lack of utensils, improper equipment, or a lack of expertise. He pampered the cooks with that antiquated galley watch system and insisting that they not be included on quarterdeck and messenger watches. When I tried to change it, he ran off to the Food Management Team, which resulted in a visit and recommendations that made me look bad to the Captain. I would have screwed up his final evaluations but the Ney Award nomination prevented me from doing that.
The CO was thinking, now I’ll not have to listen to the CMC’s complaints about the Chief Gray and his dealings with the CPO mess and the XO’s complaints about the food choices in the wardroom. Although the XO does have some good ideas, Chief Gray probably knew best. But all in all, under the CSC, food service on the ship has been excellent and the Ney Award nomination is a feather in my cap. I’ll have to have a talk with the Suppo and the Food Service officer about keeping up the pressure for the next inspection.
The cooks were thinking collectively, that Chief Gray was a hardass, but he was fair and always backed them up when the Ensign tried to screw over them. The new Chief, on the other hand, didn’t seem to know a hell of a lot about food service and was already letting the Ensign run over him. If he didn’t stand up for the cooks this was going to turn into lousy duty.
The PO1 was thinking, the new Chief is already giving preference to the females. They will end up with the records and the easy jobs and the guys will get stuck with the shit jobs. I’ve tried talking to him but he doesn’t seem to know a lot and always runs off to check with the Ensign. He was thinking, “I already miss Chief Gray.”
The CO, XO, Officers and CPO’s went to the quarterdeck where the Chiefs formed up as side boys. Chief Gray saluted the CO and said, “Request permission to leave the ship, sir.”
The Chief walked between the ranks of side boys as the BMC piped the side and the Petty Officer of the Watch struck two bells and passed, “Chief Petty Officer departing.” Chief Gray faced the stern, saluted the colors and walked down the gangway for the last time.
He was headed for the Fleet Reserve Association Club where he had arranged a reception for the Chiefs. He had also invited the Officers and some of the PO1’s who had helped him. He stopped at the end of the pier and looked back at the ship. He was sure that someday he would miss the Navy, the ships, and all the bullshit. But not today!
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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.