What is the Navy?

What is the Navy?

Written by:
Boats Thompson
Deck Department LPO
USS San Diego LPD 22

The Navy is the Commander in Chief asking where the nearest aircraft carrier is, and a scrubby boatswain’s mate sitting on a pair of bits teaching a young seaman how to splice line. A tobacco-chewing gunner standing a sharp watch in a far-off land. That’s the Navy. And so is the big, fat engineer who can make a diesel engine run better just by standing next to it.

There’s a man in San Francisco who remembers the USS Missouri made port there in the autumn of ’61. That’s the Navy. So is the recruiter who accepted a young man from Long Beach, California for master-at-arms training named Michael Monsoor who would go on to be a Medal of Honor recipient. The Navy is a spirited rivalry of humankind against the ocean, skill against nature, a daily struggle. Everything is measured and evaluated. Every heroic, every failing is seen and congratulated or counseled.

In the Navy democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to roll a firehose. The creed is our very own. Color merely something to distinguish one flight deck job from another.

The Navy is a recruit. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins basic training. It’s a veteran too, a tired old man of forty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through one last deployment. Nicknames are the Navy, names like Boats and Wheels and Guns, and Bull, and Cowboy, and Sparky, and A-Gang.

The Navy is the cool, clear eyes of Arleigh Burke, the flashing heroism of Alan Shephard, the true grit of Carl Brashear.

The Navy is service, as simple as muster, instruction, and inspection, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes – a lifestyle, a business, and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the tale of John Paul Jones engaging an English ship in foreign waters and then having the tenacity to declare “I have not yet begun to fight.” That’s the Navy. So is the bravado of a doomed Captain James Lawrence saying, “Don’t give up the ship. Fight her ’till she sinks.”

The Navy is the damage control locker, general quarters, the boatswain’s locker, tiger cruises, The Chief’s Mess, Anchors Aweigh, and the Star Spangled Banner.

The Navy is a tongue-tied kid from every small town and massive city growing up to be a Chief Petty Officer or mustang or ships’s captain and praising Neptune for showing him the way around the globe and back again. This is a Navy for America. Still a Navy for America. Always a Navy for America.

Written by:
Boats Thompson
Deck Department LPO
USS San Diego LPD 22

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