Reasons to Quit Drinking

Reasons to Quit Drinking

By Garland Davis

A lot of people are hanging up their cup these days. You know, turning away from alcoholic beverages. People have many reasons for taking this drastic action including my friend and shipmate that deck ape Marlin Spike Jones.

As an aside, I once asked him what prompted his parents to name him Marlin Spike. He told me that his Mama was a deck ape on a Mississippi steam tug. She told him his daddy was either a Boiler Monkey or what she thought was a Bigfoot that she hooked up with one night after a few drinks.  She named him Marlin Spike because she thought it would prevent him from becoming a Boiler Monkey.


Marlin phoned me last night to tell me of his plans to go dry. Budweiser will probably begin laying off brewers as soon as the news reaches them.

“How long have you been drinking Marlin Spike?” I asked him.

“Forty-five years in total, but only twenty-five years professionally,” He answered.

“What determines the difference between an amateur and professional drinker?”

A professional,” Marlin began, “drinks every night except paydays and New Year’s Eve. Those are amateur nights. I always take someone’s duty on those days and it adds to my funds for drinking.”

“What other things mark one as a pro drinker?” I continued.

“A professional will never drink anything with a cherry or an umbrella in it. A pro awakens about ten times a year in a strange town in bed with a woman he has no recollection of meeting and has no idea how he got there.”

For those of you considering giving up the booze, I asked Marlin what signs should you look for to determine whether one has stepped over the boozing line.

Marlin said, “The morning after will tell the tale. If you have to shave your tongue, then you drank too much the night before. Look for your money. If you don’t have any or just wadded up small bills and you find them in strange places like in your shoes or under your scrotum, then son, you did some serious drinking the night before.”

“What other signs should you look for?” I asked.


“Check to see if you have clothing on. If so, is it the same things you were wearing when you started drinking the previous evening.”

“You wake up on a cement deck wearing a pair of pink panties that are much too large for you.”

“If you are wearing one of those pussy little hats with the red Pom Pom that the French sailors wear, you were either drinking with French sailors or you are queer. If you are wearing a Marine Drill Instructors Cover you really had a big night.”

“And if the Marine’s platoon is standing at Parade Rest in your driveway, call AA immediately and see if they deliver, because you won’t be able to go anywhere in your condition.”

“There are a few other things to look for,” He continued.

· “Check for any credit card receipts you can find, if they are for Fredericks of Hollywood, Victoria’s Secret or an arms dealer you have a problem.”

· “Look at your checkbook. If checks are missing and you don’t remember writing them, call the bank and stop credit as soon as you are capable of operating a telephone.”

· “Check your body for any unexplained tattoos. If you find one with a heart and a strange girls name, make up your mind to stop drinking forever, but call your attorney as soon as possible.”



· “If you have pulled an overnighter at the Asia Sailors Reunion in Branson and had to be escorted to your room or ended up at breakfast yelling ‘You know what, Fuck You Garland,’ to a room of blue-haired church ladies.”

I thanked Marlin Spike for his help. I hope his hints have rendered a public service.

I gotta go right now. Marlin Spike and I are going to have a few beers before we quit drinking tomorrow.

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Navy Chow

Navy Chow

By: Marlin Spike Jones

Davy (Garland) is under the weather. I guess you all know that he looks as if he got into a knife fight and all he brought to the fight was his nose. Anyway, he has asked me to write something for “Tales of an Asia Sailor.” So here goes!

An old Chief once told me that SC doesn’t mean Ship’s Cook, it means Ship’s Chemist. They can turn edible food into shit without passing it through the human body first.

The typical Navy menu looks something like this:

Beef Barley Soup

Crisp Saltines

Savory Roast of Beef

Succulent Brown Gravy

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

Steamed Broccoli with Cheese Sauce

Buttered Whole Kernel Corn

Selections from the Salad Bar

Hot Dinner Rolls

Assorted Breads

Chocolate Layer Cake

Coffee Tea Milk Chilled Fruit Punch

Now that sounds good, doesn’t it? Almost make you delay going on liberty to eat aboard. Don’t! You will fare better from the Roach Coach. Here is what you really get:

The Beef Barley Soup looks and tastes as if it had been dipped from a mud hole.

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The crackers have been dropped and crushed so many times that the menu should read “Cracker crumbs and dust.”

That brownish/black hunk that the cook striker is sawing on with a dull knife may have once been beef. I can’t really think of anything to describe its appearance after the cooks’ finish with it. The same stuff that the Boiler Monkeys are devouring with gusto.


The gravy is a shade of color that might be brown and has the consistency of ninety weight gear oil if gear oil had flour lumps. The gear oil would probably taste better.


That glob of yellowish grainy crap that the mess cook dumps alongside your Savory whatever-it-is in no way resembles anything that was ever known as a “tater.”

The green stuff with the yellow squares of cheese melted on it might have once been broccoli but then it may be something that grew inside the potato peeler since they stopped using it to peel taters and went to using that powdered shit.

You think, “Corn, well at least they can’t fuck up corn.” All they have to do is open the can. Wrong again. Somebody has chopped up pimentos and put them in the corn. The stewburner says it adds color to the dish. Ain’t yellow a color? Raise your hand if you like pimentos. Yeah, that’s what I thought.


A pan of olives, some pieces of lettuce, and a can of that Salad Dressing shit that the Navy thinks is mayonnaise completes the salad bar.

Change the “Hot” Dinner Rolls to cold, stale squashed dinner rolls that the Jack of the Dust found buried under the milk as he was straightening up the reefer. The assorted bread means you have a choice between the stale end pieces or the stale middle slices.

The Chocolate Layer cake becomes Thrice Dropped Chocolate Layer Cake because that is how many times the Crank who carried it from the reefer decks either dropped or threw it.

Coffee: Leftover from lunch. Waiting on Jack of the Dust to break out a can of coffee grounds to make a fresh pot. Someone, probably a Boiler Monkey, stole the can that was in the galley.

Tea: There are some tea bags around somewhere, I think I saw them last week.

Milk: Boy this shit is turning. You gotta to hold your nose to drink it. Still better than the powdered shit.

Chilled Fruit Punch: The ice machine is down. Hot fucking Bug Juice.

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There you go Davy, how’s that? Just let me know when you want me to write something more.


When did I get Old

When did I get Old?

By Garland Davis

When I entered the Navy in 1961, I was seventeen years old. I had finally reached an age where I could make decisions regarding my future. I had made the decision to go to the Navy in the third grade. I thought I had reached an age where the world was open to me.

The next age milestone was twenty-one. Then I could legally buy beer and vote. I had no concern about growing older and never had a conception that I would ever be an old person. There was a country song by Faron Young, “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young and Leave a Beautiful Memory.” This was the mantra that my young shipmates and I lived by.

The years slipped by. There was almost thirty years active duty, retirement from the Navy, settling into a civilian career and then came the Parkinson’s. Suddenly another retirement was necessary. I always thought I would work until the day I received my orders to that “Silver Cruiser” that I have written about.

I never envisaged being old. But here I am. I am seventy-three years old and seventy-four is rapidly gaining on my ass. I always thought that when I got older and retired, that I would live an ideal life. You know, read as much as I want, eat right, sleep late and enjoy life.

One thing about old age, it just creeps up on you. You don’t get a chance to practice. There is no “A” School. It is all On the Job Training.

Some of the pros and cons of being old.

When you reach a certain age, people are nosy but there are two things that they are too polite to ask. I’ll just take care of that right now. I am seventy-three years old and I weigh one hundred eighty-five pounds.

People my age are not very likeable let alone loveable. I am the old men we tormented as children. The kids in my neighborhood were playing ball in the street, sometimes hitting the cars with the football. I mustered them in my garage and showed them the video from my surveillance system and told them if they damaged one of my cars, I would show the video to their parents and police. They don’t play near my house any longer.

Although there are signs that aging is happening. The slow loss of hair on your scalp accelerates with a commensurate acceleration of ear and nose hair growth. If the hair on my head grew as rapidly and as thick as the hair in and on my ears, I could get a Marine haircut on Monday and be sporting a Mullet for the party Saturday night.

I sometimes turn my left turn signal on and leave it all day. I will probably turn left at some time or another. To mix it up I often turn the right one on.

You are on first name basis with doctors, specialists, nurses, laboratory technicians, and physical therapy practitioners.

Benign skin growths sometimes large enough to be named begin to appear in the strangest places. Some growths are cancerous. I just had one chopped off my nose.


You are constipated when at home or near a toilet but are in drastic danger of shitting all over yourself while caught in traffic. You don’t really need to piss until you have been asleep for an hour.

You have driven up to a blue Post Office collection box and attempted to order a Big Mac extra value meal.

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Some of you know that in my younger days, I was a runner. I usually ran about three miles a day. I was forced to give it up after the Parkinson’s affected my ability to walk and run. I decided to try jogging the other day. I had to stop because my ungainly gait causes the beer to slosh out of my glass.


The Bridge

The Bridge

by: Garland Davis


It doesn’t seem so long ago that I crossed that bridge for the first time. It was 1962. A couple of hours at the club to get a buzz on before you hit the gate and crossed the infamous “Shit River Bridge.” Your shipmates had told you about Olongapo and the one peso beer and the four peso shortimes. You halfway believed them. You really wanted to believe them. But could it be that easy? They were right about liberty in Sasebo and Yokosuka. There was no way liberty in Subic could be better than Sasebo.

Stopped at the on base money changer. The exchange rate was P3.85 to one US dollar. Supposedly you could get a better rate from the money changers across the river, but a lot of guys had been burned with worthless Japanese occupation Pesos. Better safe than sorry.

With almost forty P’s tucked into the inside pocket of my white jumper, My watch in my pocket. (I had heard about the watch snatchers.) I headed for the gate only to be blocked by Marine Private brandishing a billy club. He looked my uniform over, told me to square my white hat and asked how many packs of smokes was I carrying? After he was satisfied that I was squared away and wasn’t going to wreck the Philippine economy with black market cigarettes, he motioned for me to pass. I walked to the edge of the bridge to wait for my shipmates.

Suddenly I was hit with a god awful smell. Something like the combination of a leather tannery, a paper mill, a landfill, and an overflowing shitter. It was all I could do to keep from gagging. I surmised that it was the odor of the much talked about Shit River. They had damned sure named the son of a bitch correctly. After a few moments, my friends satisfied the Marine Corps and joined me. As we walked across, we looked at the boys in the water begging for sailors to throw coins, wondering why they still lived after swimming in that black viscous liquid.

The tales about the delights of Olongapo proved true. It became a looked forward to port of call on many WestPac cruises. Of course, there were other ports, the aforementioned Sasebo and Yokosuka in Japan and later Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, and Keelung. They were all sailor towns and catered to the American sailor.

As the Vietnam War dragged on, the economy of Japan and Hong Kong improved and they became less enjoyable and more expensive than in the past. New liberty ports were discovered in Singapore and a small fishing village in Thailand known as Pattaya. All these ports were welcome interludes in the endless hours of flight operations, plane guard, gunfire support, constant rearming and refueling. The cold drinks and the warm willing women healed us and maintained our sanity.

Viet Nam ended only to be replaced with Indian Ocean cruises. A stop at Subic on the way into the IO, if lucky, a stop in Freemantle/Perth on the way out and, of course, Subic.

The one port, the one city that became the Asia Sailor’s Mecca was just across that bridge. Olongapo and onward to the much more debauched, if that is possible, Barrio and Subic City became the one liberty port that I looked forward to over all others. I guess one of the best descriptions I have ever heard is, “Big Boy’s Disneyland.” I could do and did shit in Subic that they would put my ass in jail for in Oklahoma City. Am I proud of all that I did there? No. Am I ashamed of some things that I did there? Probably should be, but cannot find it.

Twenty-five years, eight Seventh Fleet ships and numerous trips across that bridge passed until I made the last trip across. It was 1987. That time it was in a Special Service’s van to Clark AFB to catch a flight to Japan and on to Hawaii for my twilight tour before retiring.

Sometimes when I am walking my dog in the mornings, I will see one of my young Filipina neighbors walking to the bus stop and catch the odor of a Filipino mother cooking their breakfast and I flash back to the past and wish I could go back, Just One More Fucking Time!

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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.


I Never Played the Game

I Never Played the Game

Cow Pasture Pool

By Garland Davis

Golf: Why did the Scots call the game Golf? Probably because the four-letter words Shit, Fuck, and Cunt had already been used.

I think I have mentioned a couple of times that I enjoy watching Michelle Wie play the game. That is about the extent of my interest in the game, although, at times in the past I have had some experience with the game.

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When I was about eight years old, these other two fools and I found a set of dusty old golf clubs in an old abandoned barn. They were ancient wood shafted clubs. (Probably worth a fortune to collectors today.) They must have been a left-handed set of clubs. Since I can remember I have gripped a golf club as a lefty, but I am right handed. Those old clubs were the first I ever saw.

Anyway, we decided to play golf. The only place where the weeds weren’t asshole tall to a long-legged mule was the cow pasture. The cows and goats kept it cropped down. So we promptly constructed a single hole, ten par golf course. (It was ten par because that was the best round anyone ever shot on the course. Junior did it with a tennis ball.) The cows and nanny goats didn’t seem to mind, but the bull seemed to have the same aversion to golf that he did to baseball.

There were no sand traps on our course but there were cow flops. If your ball ended up in a cow flop you could take a drop for a one-stroke penalty or play it out of the bovine excrement. This usually ended with cow shit flung everywhere while the rest of the players cowered behind a maple tree. The person playing out of the hazard had to take the club to the creek and wash the shit off it for the next player.

I often wonder how Jack and Arnie began their association with the game.

My next encounter with golf came many years later in Yokohama Japan. The Commanding Officer of the Housing Facility was an exercise nut. (I know I shouldn’t call a Navy Captain a nut, but that best describes his fascination with exercise.) The C.O. decreed that if anyone in the command would devote the lunch hour to a physical activity they would be permitted to take an extra hour. After ascertaining that golf was an approved physical activity, more specifically the driving range, we would repair to the golf course each lunchtime, fling a bucket of balls down the range and swill beer for an hour and forty-five minutes.

The Captain, upon his relief, said in his remarks that he had never been in a command where he felt the admiration and respect as he did at the Yokohama Navy Housing Activity.

After Yokohama, I went to sea and playing golf never crossed my mind. I was in Westpac and interested in playing a different type of hole where par was decided by the heft of your wallet.

Golf is a costly pass time that I really could not afford when I was a young sailor and now that I can, I am not interested in playing the game. I am told that it is a frustrating game and a very minuscule number of people possess the ability and talent to become good at it. Realizing that my talents at sports are sorely lacking, I decided to give golf a pass.

I was told many times that it is an excellent venue for networking. I was led to believe by my contemporaries, while on active duty and after I retired, that I could further my career by playing with the boss and other influential people.

I remember a new Commanding Officer reporting aboard the Oiler I was in, with a set of golf clubs. The Captain was an avid golfer, and apparently good at it. Within a week, CPO berthing resembled a club pro shop with golf clubs and golf bags taking up every empty space. Junior officers were carrying golf clubs on and off the ship so often that one could have thought that it was part of their uniform.


When the Captain went to play, just by coincidence, there were CPO’s, an occasional PO1, and officers from the ship at the course waiting for a start time. They were all vying to have the CO join their group or to be invited to join his group. The brown nose and suck were operating at maximum torque.

We left Pearl Harbor for WestPac with golf clubs stored in every available space. Golf tournaments were planned for Subic (the only holes I was playing there were surrounded by hair or lipstick), Hong Kong, Japan, and every other port. The Chief Radioman wrote messages arranging golf tournaments and reserving tee times for each port. He became the de facto “Golf Officer and the CO’s (to use a term from Dickens) ‘lickspittle’”.

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While they were out in the hot sun making their points and searching in the weeds for a little ball, I was usually in a dark cozy bar with a frosty in front of me and a hottie by my side. If I had played their game, perhaps I could have retired as a Senior or even Master Chief. But, I always felt that doing my job as best I was capable of would be enough. I don’t believe that playing golf made a difference. I tend to think that someone who rises to the rank of Captain in our Navy can see through a bunch of phony assholes.

Every now and then I would let a particularly pretty Olongapo LBFM talk me into taking her to the base to play miniature golf.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy watching the LPGA and Michelle Wie bending over to study the green and the lie of her putt. I get much enjoyment from watching the LPGA tournaments. Not so much the PGA!

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If any of you are golfers, I apologize. I didn’t write this to piss anyone off. Just expressing my opinion of the game and relating the events leading to that opinion.


The Tiger’s Claws


The Tiger’s Claws

By Garland Davis


We wandered these seas

long before Noah’s flood, before the prophets

told of Rome’s fate, by the Goth’s sword

our sails spread over these waters

long before the coming of the unnatural

smoke pot ships that stain the skies with their black.


Before the Eastern empire bloodied us at a place

called Pearl and strew the ocean bed with the metal

of our dreadnoughts and the lives of our sailors.

Causing the wakening of a sleeping tiger that flung

it’s metal claws across the great ocean to war

where a victory was bought with a blinding flame.

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Know that our kind still sail the waters of

that great ocean, ever vigilant, ever ready

for another despot who has arisen in a land

to the North of thirty-eight and South of Yalu.

The tiger’s claws are sheathed for the moment

but know that the tiger can and will strike if it must.



Maintain Silence About the Decks


Maintain Silence About the Decks.

Life aboard any US Navy vessel is marked by a series of routines. Sailors quickly learn that there are expected behaviors during each of those routines. During refueling operations, the red flag is flown and the word is passed that the smoking lamp is out. Taps is another time of change where sailors try to respect their shipmate’s rest by keeping quiet and turning the lights out in berthing. But one particular routine is as old as the Navy itself. Honoring the Almighty and saying goodbye to a shipmate.

The Church Pennant is the only flag ever flown over the National Ensign at the same point of hoist. It is displayed during church services conducted by a Chaplain, both ashore and afloat. It is also flown when the ceremony for saying goodbye to a shipmate is performed.

Prior to the ceremony, ship’s company all don…

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Fresh Water or I Hate Water Hours

Fresh Water or I Hate Water Hours

By Garland Davis

Most Americans have never been in a shortage of water and probably think the never will be. Turn on the faucet, there’s water There always has been. There always will be. But I have a different viewpoint.

They have never been on water hours. Most sailors become so paranoid about wasting water that just a glimpse of Niagara Falls causes chills and palpitations.


There we were floating on the trillions of gallons of the Pacific Ocean while being threatened with the worst of horrible consequences for wasting a drop of fresh water. The showers were secured. The only people permitted to shower were the Corpsman and the Cooks. I was night baker. The procedure: I was to inform the Master at Arms and he was to supervise the shower to ensure that no water was wasted. I couldn’t find the MAA. I decided it didn’t matter and went to the shower.

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I was drying off when the MAA came into the head. He had been expecting me and when I hadn’t tried to find him, he found me. I had violated the rules; he wrote me up. Now the standard punishment for violating water hours rules was the perpetrator had to stand evaporator watches on the mid-watch for a week. They made an exception in my case. Since I worked at night and slept during the day. I was assigned to the twelve to sixteen hundred watches for seven days.

This was when I became better friends with the snipes. In exchange for bakery products, I was introduced to and permitted to use the clandestine shower in the lower level.

After twenty-five years afloat, I have more respect for water than any non-seagoing person I know My Navy background is obviously the reason I am this way.


I love a hotel shower with strong water pressure. Having to turn the water on and off or having someone oversee you shower and controlling your length of time under the water is now in my past. How many times have I had the water secured while I was still half soapy?

Rinsing your face with cold water in the morning tingles the skin and opens the eyes; bring on the world. A cold glass of ice water in the morning goes a long way toward putting out the fires still smoldering from the previous night.

If there was no fresh water, there would be no morning coffee. Without water, Scotch drinkers would be even more obnoxious than they already are.

What I am trying to say is we should consider just how essential and precious fresh water is. This point is often driven home by the B. O. emanating from that big dude on the bus. He was probably a deck ape in a former life


More Sea Stories

More Sea Stories

By Garland Davis

Sea Story Number One


We were anchored in Buckner Bay, Okinawa. This was in the early sixties before the concept of CHT.

Some of the Steward had spent the evening fishing off the fantail and had quite a catch of fish which they cleaned and filleted. I asked if they were going to feed them to the officers. They told me no. They were going to have a fish fry for all the Filipino Stewards.

Later, I was by the bake shop talking with a CS3 named Ike when the Assistant Supply Officer said, “The Stewards are frying fish. They sure smell good. I wonder what kind of fish they are.”

Ike said, “They caught them off the fantail, sir. That type of fish hangs around anchored ships.”

“What kind is that?”

“Wrinkle necks, sir” replied Ike.

“Why do you call them wrinkle necks?”

“Because they got wrinkles in their necks from looking up at scuppers waiting for somebody to flush a shitter.”

I thought the Ensign was going to puke right there.

Sea Story Number Two


Everyone who was there in Subic during the sixties knows that a sailor on liberty had to be off the streets or back through the gate by midnight.

My ship was at anchor. The fleet landing was down from Alava Piers about a block from the Officer’s Club. By midnight there were about half the crew waiting for a boat ride to the ship. It was a small Ocean Going Tug. The Naval Station was supposed to be providing liberty boats.

By 0030 no boat had arrived. The ship’s Captain came down to the landing from the O Club and told us that the station boat pool had promised hourly boats with the last boat at 0100. We told him that we had been waiting since 2330 and some guys had been waiting since 2200.

The Skipper said he would go back to the O Club and call to find out the problem. About a half hour later he returned carrying a one-gallon mayonnaise jar and had a sleeve of paper cups under his arm. He said, “The Boat Pool is having problems and won’t have a boat available until 0400. So, I brought us a screwdriver.”

The mayonnaise jar was full of vodka, orange juice and Ice.

It was completely empty when the boat did arrive about 0330.

When we got back to the ship, the Old Man told the XO to pass Rope Yarn for the day. He said, “We are not going to get a lot out of these guys today.

My cook striker had the galley under control. I hit my rack to rest up for liberty call.

SEA Story Number Three


I was in a Forrest Sherman can in the early seventies. We left Pearl Harbor for WestPac and the Vietnam War about the middle of ’72. After a quick stop in Subic where several new personnel who had barely missed the ship in Pearl were waiting. A Couple of days and we were on to Vietnam.

One of the new guys waiting was a Seaman. An extremely good looking Seaman; Robert Redford good looking. I’ll call him SN Eaton for this chronicle.

We left Subic for the gunline. SN Eaton was sent Mess Cooking. The HMC told me he thought Eaton would be a good mess cook for the CPO Mess. Since the CPO mess cook was due to rotate back to his division and it not making a lot of difference to me, I said okay.

After a few days, we noticed that the HMC and the PNC were spending a lot more time in the Mess. They were both taking an interest in advising SN Eaton and even helping him do his job.

It quickly became obvious that they both were in love with SN Eaton. Both Doc and the PN came out of the closet and were vying for Eaton’s favor.

The Senior Chief brought the situation to the command’s attention and all three of them were transferred off the ship when we returned to Subic.

After the ship departed Subic to return to the gunline, the CPO Mess invited the Captain for dinner. After dinner, the CO began his remarks by saying, “It is unfortunate about the homosexual problems we have had.”

The BTC said, “Yeah, all these queers in the Mess and I ain’t had a blowjob this whole cruise.”

The Captain was speechless!


Ship Types and Missions

Ship Types and Missions

By Jim Barton, Captain, USN(Ret)

I thought I would post one about ship types these days to provide some background about the differences between Arleigh Burke which is more traditionally manned, Zumwalt and LCS. When we are talking Bridge watch teams it is important to understand the differences.

Let us not mix metaphors, roles and missions of ships. There are in the CRUDES force, at least for this discussion, three distinctly different ships, each designed by the Navy, not defense contractors, for distinctly different tasks.




And what we are looking at today sadly gets down to money, or affordability as they refer to it these days. Most of us commenting on this page grew up in a world of plenty. When I was commissioned we had 900 ships. Today the number is around 265 and we are hard pressed to man even those due to costs. Today it is about trade-offs, even though in these two instances recently tradeoffs likely did not play a role. So, let us look at ships.

The Zumwalt, by any definition a cruiser (and probably will be redesignated), had its genesis in the immediate post-Cold War era. The Navy was faced with shrinking budgets and reductions in ship hulls. The reality was (and is) that maintenance and manning costs were piling up. Ships were deteriorating and could not be adequately maintained by ship crews. We went to contracted maintenance for the complicated tasks. Not new but self-sufficiency was a disappearing concept and had been since the 1990s.

OPTEMPO and PERSTEMPO, however, was increasing as the U.S. was facing threats in what was called the littoral. The old maritime strategy which was based on countering the USSR, defending the Sea Lines of Communication, had become obsolete and the Navy could no longer defend its budget and proposed fleet size. Hulls that should have lasted longer were falling apart and some had outlived service life. We are talking ships many of us probably served on reaching the end of service life much earlier than anticipated. So, in short order, away went the ships of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Rightly or wrongly, the Navy and DARPA looked at a single mission strike platform equipped with high technology systems. That platform was called Arsenal ship. It was designed for a land attack in the littoral, armed with 512 VLS cells and equipped with every technology available and minimally manned. The original Navy manning goal given to the contractors? ZERO crew ultimately changed to 50 for an up to 800-foot platform. In the design of that platform and the ones which followed every billet had to be justified before adding to crew size. Does that sound Buck Rogers? Yes, it was. Its role was survival until launch. After that, it could hopefully avoid detection until it could be rearmed. Crazy, huh?

All of the technology that was innovatively designed into that platform, from hull shape, masking, combat systems design, propulsion, etc. went into what became CG(X), then DD(X), then DD-21 which ultimately became Zumwalt, a smaller version of Arsenal ship (never built) with a few changes learned from the functional design process. All of the things that the traditionalists hate such as crew size, hull shape and so forth were built into this reduced manning platform. While it may have multi-task capabilities, this ship is a missile thrower. Because of its costs, there will not be many of these.

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was developed from the same mindset, to operate in the littoral. But with the dilapidated condition of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class, and departure of the two previous frigate classes and guided missile destroyers, the Navy recognized it needed something more capable than a class of patrol frigates.

The Navy went to a modular design concept. These ships were to be forward deployed and with interchangeable modules to equip them for ASUW, ASW and other missions. That concept has pretty much gone by the board. The ships in the original concept, forward deployed, were to be manned with Blue/Gold crews as we see in the FBM community.

All of this was planned to cap costs. Right or wrong, that is the driver today. That is the reality. And to keep two shipyards and combat systems integrators viable, awards were made for two distinctly different hull forms each with the same combat systems capabilities. That program has been fraught with problems from the outset because of Navy changing requirements.

But at the center of all this is manning. At the center of everything is manning. That represents over 50% of the defense budget. And so technology is developed to compensate for reductions in crew size. Rates were consolidated for the same reason. And so we have what we have. Two officers man the watch on the Bridge operating systems and using screens and tasks hitherto manned by a 12 man watch team but with the support from inside of CIC by other techs. For special detail, the watch is augmented.

But see these two examples of ships, for all the criticism they may engender from you guys, are not the ones that were involved in recent collisions. No, those were Arleigh Burke (DDG-51 Class) destroyers. That is a platform which came into service in 1991 while I was still on active duty and I have been retired for 20 years. The lead of the class will soon be pushing 30 years service.

I don’t know how many of you “old navy” types have been aboard a Burke-class ship, walked through its propulsion spaces, it’s decks, it’s CIC or Bridge. Those who have been amazed by the technology. It has the look and feel of a warship. It is an unbelievably capable ship which has been upgraded with successive builds. You go on its Bridge and while the systems may be different to some of you used to steamships, it is more akin to the FFG than an Adams-Class DDG. All of you would definitely feel more at home than you would on the Zumwalt or an LCS.

While minimally manned to a degree, they were not designed that way. They have much larger crews than the other two. They have watch teams more on the order to what you are used to. So, how did these ships get in collisions? Does it have a Bridge wing? Yes. Does it have a watch team similar to what you guys remember? Yes. Does it have a manned CIC? Yes.

So what happened in my opinion on a ship class with these capabilities? Lack of training perhaps and certainly lack of tactical awareness and untimely action to prevent collision at sea. That is usually the common denominator. For as good as we think we were, we had bone-headed mistakes in our Navy too back in the days fellows. And while there may well be training deficiencies navy wide, the failure here was on watch.

Collisions at sea are not new. What it comes down to in the end is that they result from failure to take early action caused by errors in judgment, confusion and lack of experience.

These collisions did not occur because there was no lookout. It was most likely the result of a CO in bed (at least in case of Fitzgerald) and a watch team which failed.