By M S Heeney, Captain, USN-R

You there. You with the brassy new anchors! We’re calling in your debts! You OWE. You owe a lot of people. And now it’s PAYBACK time!

You owe that Chief at boot camp. He chewed your butt, he screamed at your stupidity. He saw in you the potential to BE SOMEONE SPECIAL; and, he badgered you to the point of tears to show you that he saw it.

You owe that Chief from another command who dragged you back to your bunk the night you figured you could drink beer faster than those guys could brew it. He did it because you were in his Navy.

When you were at the end of your first enlistment, there was that gnarled old Chief. Remember him? The dude who had been passed over for Chief umpteen times before he made it; and then, only after two tours in the war zone and taking that piece in the leg? And you thought how weird he was because he talked with you about how great the Navy had been to him? And there he was at two in the morning, patiently waiting until you got the frigging gear back together and he could tell you a couple more things for you to consider, and he never quite made it home to his family that night.

You owe him.

You owe that other Chief, for that time the Old Man had you on the carpet for some screw-up – and, boy was he mad – and it looked like your ten years in the Navy was down the tubes. And Chief (What the heck was his name, anyway?) really got into it with Captain Fang, insisting that you were a damned good sailor; he saved your buns. And the Old Man took particular pains to ignore the Chief from then on for arguing with him. The Chief, he never mentioned it to you or got on your case; he had done it just because he was your Chief.

And your buddy from two duty stations ago. A First Class Petty Officer, just like you, remember how he spent hours with you and the chief’s course took so you could understand some obscure but important stuff and get your multiple so you would at least get selection board eligible? The list came out this time and he wasn’t picked, but the section he drummed into your head you aced so well on the exam that you squeezed him out.

Him you owe a lot!

You owe those petty officers and those officers who always (well usually) gave you the benefit of the doubt at evaluation time. You never saw it, but they spent a lot of time at their desks writing evals, searching for the good in you, and taking the time to write a thoughtful, meaningful and believable report on you. They faithfully documented the effort you put into your Navy and your career. They put their reputations on the line when they pronounced you worthy of promotion. So you got promoted and promoted and promoted.

Finally to Chief.

An era in your life has ended and a new one has begun. You can’t ever go back. You are a Chief now and you will always be a Chief. You will get admiration and respect. You will be paying for that admiration and respect from now on!

And, the strange thing is, although you’ve worked your tail off for the Navy, the job in front of you is like nothing you have ever faced before. You have to prove yourself worthy of the respect given you. You must prove yourself in ALL things now – every day. You must demand more of yourself now than anyone has ever demanded from you before.

You must consistently justify your pride in being a Chief. You must make your colleagues in khaki proud of your being a Chief. You must endure proving those folks who believed in you that their beliefs were warranted. You owe them. The debt is called. Now you payback !

YOU must do the things that Chiefs must do. You must not only do those things without being told – you must think up those things. You alone must realize, analyze, prioritize, improvise, exercise and supervise.

YOU are that Chief in boot camp. YOU are that Chief who saves sailors from their own folly. YOU are that Chief who is willing to risk his tail for just treatment of his sailors. And YOU are the Chief who must see to it that your people become the best that they can be.


YOU are the Chief who now must spend extra hours at home on evaluations and on lesson plans and technical material that makes your head reel – just because YOU are the Chief. YOU are the Chief to whom your sailors turn for the answers; to whom your officers turn for results, and to whom your Captain turns for the wisdom of experiences like but not like his own.


You owe your seniors. You owe it to your juniors. You owe it to the Navy and to your country. Most importantly, you owe it to every individual who has ever become a Chief.

And you will always be paying this debt that you owe, for you CANNOT EVER pay it off. The ledger will NEVER be even, for you must pay the debt not just to the people you owe, but to the new sailors and the new officers, streams of them, all looking up to you – the Chief.

YOU must see to it that they end up owing you, yet you must not ever collect.

You must do these things for one reason only; You are a Chief. You will always be a Chief. You now must change the lives of others.

You are the best of the best of the best. And so you must always be nothing less than that.

You must pay what you owe forever, but no one will ask you to do it.

No one should have to ask.



Rating Traits II

Rating Traits II

By Garland Davis

Hospital Corpsman (HM): Doc’s must possess the ability to gaze (some probably desire to) upon male genitalia. They have the ridiculous idea that you can cure everything but the clap with something called an APC (All Purpose Capsule). Actually, it means Aspirin, Phenacetin, and Caffeine. As if a sailor needed more caffeine. They drink so much coffee that they are “eat up” with the shit as it is. Most of the Doc’s I met were good guys. Go over and get drunk with you and invite you to suck oxygen the next morning to help allay the hangover. It is a comfort to a sailor to know that there is someone aboard who can “fix your dick” when needed.

Shipfitter Pipes (SFP): This is a rate that no longer exists. These guys installed and fixed piping. If you have ever been anywhere on a ship you see fucking pipes everywhere. But their primary duty was plumbing and turd chasing. They were slightly more evolved and upright than BT’s, but their knuckles would sometimes come in contact with the deck. They shuffled around with their badge of office, a plunger over their shoulder. The lowly turd chaser you looked down on active duty is now the Roto-Rooter franchisee who charged your wife $400 plus tax to root that humongous turd you dropped which caused the toilet to back up and overflow this morning.

Interior Communication Electrician (IC): ICFA means “I can’t fix anything” and ICFN “I can’t fix nothing.” They manage the vast sound powered phone system throughout the ship. Or I guess I should say mismanage. They conscientiously “tag out” sound-powered phone circuits before working on them.

Sonar Technician (ST): These guys spend their time listening at nothing hoping to hear something or else, they are staring at a screen full of green lines looking for a “waterfall.” They become addicted to porn from spending so much time listening to whales, sea otters. and dolphins fucking.

Radarmen (RD) now Operation’s Specialists (OS). The primary requirement for old time Radarmen was dyslexia. The ability to read and write backward. And if not standing behind a piece of plexiglass they are sitting at a weird TV watching a line going round and round and getting all excited about pieces of potato chip he sneezed onto the TV. They were slobs at sea. The lights were never turned on in CIC and the place accumulates trash and dirt. It usually takes an entire inport period to shovel all the shit out of there.

Radioman (RM): Sometimes referred to as radio girls because they were so delicate. This came from the sub-zero air conditioning in their spaces. They claimed it was because the equipment was delicate, but those of us sweating our ass off in engineering spaces and in the galley knew it was because they were a bunch of pussies.


Rating Traits

Rating Traits

By Garland Davis

Boatswain’s Mate (BM): Has a skewed view of his greatness bordering on a full blown mental disorder. Carries an $80 knife in a $20 case on a DC’d belt that he rescued from a dumpster. Still has his Bootcamp boondockers which are now colored a combination of Red Lead and Haze Gray with highlights of Zinc Chromate. Can tie a granny knot to perfection every time. When he is not chipping and painting something he is polishing his little silver whistle. He is quick to tell you that in the Navy only Boatswain’s Mates and shitbirds whistle.

Quartermaster (QM): Has a permanent degeneration in vertebrae C4 and C5 from looking up at the stars and a permanent squint from trying to get a sunline. He needs a straight edge to draw a line. He gets highly upset when someone refers to one of his charts as a map. Must have a stopwatch to set a fucking clock.

Signalmen (SM): Were into texting long before it became the in thing with millennials and Gen Xers. Unfortunately, the only comparable civilian occupation that they are qualified for is washerwoman’s assistant hanging garments on a clothesline. The biggest drawback with them is they are fucking winos whom you rarely find them sober enough to do these things.

Storekeeper (SK): The predominant trait among Storekeepers is the ability to say “Sorry but the OPTAR is gone and there is no money” or “That item is not in stock” or “You’ll have to rewrite all these requisitions, they are filled out incorrectly” or “I know that part is on board, but I just can’t find it” all with a straight Face.

Disbursing Clerk (DK) Their primary trait is a Filipino accent so strong that no one can understand what they are saying and after an inquiry one walks away knowing less than he did when he went to Disbursing. In their favor, if they like you, they can rush a travel Claim through in only six weeks.

Commissarymen (CS): Extremely good looking young men with a rudimentary training in Chemistry and demonstrates the ability to turn food to shit without running it through the human body. They are able to deny extra portions to starving sailors while exhibiting a sleek well-fed demeanor themselves.

Boiler Technician (BT): These guys are borderline pyromaniacs who just want to start fires. They understand just enough meteorology to ascertain when the wind is blowing toward the Quarterdeck before blowing tubes. They are terrified of black smoke. They wear thick soled boondockers to ensure that their knuckles don’t drag on the deckplates. They are past masters at theft will steal anything they think is edible.

Machinist Mate (MM): Just enough more evolved than BT’s that the can learn to use wrenches. A large part of their training is to memorize and understand the meaning of “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey. To make sure they know left from right, many of them wear red nail polish on their left hands. They are always begging or stealing coffee for cumshaw. They always seem to want valve tuned up or some shit like that.

Aviation Machinist Mate R (ADR): No longer a rating. Their primary task was fan repair. You know those big fans on the old WWII airplanes. The purpose of those fans was to keep the pilot cool. When that fan stopped, the pilots really started to sweat. ADR’s can make a pretty decent Bloody Mary if you put money into their donation jar.


Engine Room Excursions’

Engine Room Excursions’

Now, set condition ‘This Ain’t No Shit’ throughout the ship!!!

Over the years I’ve told a gazillion stories about the ‘Canoe Club of Old’ where the world was wild, forbidding, perilous and looming with snake-oil peddlers and iniquitous dames waiting outside the gate and of the drifting fog that swallowed ships whole and how we weathered storms of unknown origin!! Well, it was also a place and time where there was an endless supply of room temperature IQs and plenty of stupidity to go around!!!

On the Baglady, I was a young lad who didn’t have much direction… but several of my compadres had decided to work towards their Enlisted Surface Warfare Qualifications (ESWS)! This was back in the day before it was mandatory, and you had to be an E-4 or above to qualify!! I must admit, I didn’t have much drive to accomplish such a task, especially since I knew I was only gonna finish one tour and get out… so I thought!!!

Well, this ol’ ship was beginning to show its age! She used the most sophisticated of Fifties technology and if you found Stonehenge carvings in a cave somewhere with ancient arrowheads and such… you probably saw the ol’ Baglady up there as well!! I suppose the Navy needed to make room for some new shiny toys, so that’s why they got rid of the Knox Frigates!!!

Part of ESWS quals was going down in the Engineering spaces and learning all the dials, knobs, and gauges associated with the different pieces of rusted & whistling circus calliopes deep in that underworld! I had to get in good with one of the Snipes if I wanted a tour down in the hole… the pit… the place where no one dared to go without invitation!! I knew just the guy!!!

Pat the Electrician was the fella I had in mind! He wasn’t a pit snipe per se, but he had a good reason as any to enter the dwellings down below!! I was damned determined to get a few pearls of wisdom from him as well as anyone he could introduce me too in the belly of the beast!!!

There was always someone on watch down in the pit! The trick was finding the friendlier ones!! There were a few Pit Snipes I needed to be watchful of!! I knew of their antics through celebrated shipboard folklore… and lord knows I didn’t wanna run into those animals at the wrong time or place in their neighborhood!!!

After some discussion with Pat, he agreed to give me the Grande Tour, or his best guess of it in the pits while introducing me to the zoo animals down below! Before we headed in he handed me a broomstick…

“There’s 1200 pounds of steam coming outta them pipes… and it can cut you in half!”

The broom was carried in front so if there was a steam leak, the telltale sign would cut into the broom instead of me!! Hell, I just figured it might be of good measure in case them bastards tried to hogtie me into the overhead!!!

I remember a sign hanging over the hatch at the top of the ladder going down…


Now let me tell you something about Enginerooms back in the day if you hadn’t grown up as a pit snipe! They’re hot, noisy, dirty and often smelled of greasy bilges!! There are fuel and flammable lube oil, steam, and plenty of electricity going around to make one helluva spark!! To a pea-sized brain of an idiot, it could be a constant fire hazard!!!

The first thing of note was the noise! You had to where double earing protection in many areas as it sounded like WWIII was about to erupt!! We wore ear muffs called Mickey Mouse Ears giving the appearance of a dozen John Belushi ‘Wild Bill Kelso’ characters prancing around tappin’ gauges and turning valves!!!

There was a lot of sweatin’ and gruntin’ going around for all and plenty of pipes, valve stems, and steep ladderwells to fall down or break things while putting you in a mild coma! One thing was for damned sure… it was hotter than a marathon runner’s jockstrap in that place… like the waiting area at the gates of hell!!!

As we walked by a few snipes it was apparent they weren’t skippin’ and sing’n sea shanties in that hell hole! Their faces were hard and many of them could scare the bejesus outta decent people without saying a damned thing!! They didn’t appear much of a friendly bunch from first glance!!!

The deeper into the Engine Room we got, the louder the grinding and thumping of diesel and steel and the squealing of hydraulic and steam with a rattle here and there! There was odd whining and vibrating at the high end of the audio range coming from every direction!! These old steam engines sounded like a giant bloated cow gett’n ready for the slaughter!! The shit all looked ancient… like stuff outta museums!!!

I knew that being a twidget, I was about as welcome as a fart in a phone booth down in these parts! Pat introduced me to a fella who looked like he’d just experienced a retroactive abortion!! He had a face like a bag of greasy spanners, chewing Copenhagen and spitting into a soda can… maybe into someone else’s soda can… who knows!!!

“Swing, this is such-n-such… this is Swing! He’s workin’ on his ESWS!”

… He looked me over once or twice…

“So what do you want to know?”

“Well, I suppose I want to know what it takes to move the ship through the water!”

… I must have come across sounding like a smartass though it wasn’t intentional!

“You got a Power Drive, Reduction Gears, and a shaft that turns a propeller… Suck’n Two, spinnin’ One… going that-a-way… any more questions?”

I suppose that was short, sweet & to the point, but not exactly as I had in mind! Then a First Class came around the corner and I had a little sigh of relief as things were getting tense!!!

“Aah, it’s you guys! I had to make sure you weren’t Chief or the Cheng! They like to wander down here and catch some dumb ass doing something they ain’t supposed to be doing. It’s part of their job description I suppose!”

Pat introduces me to the First Class and explains what I’m down there for…

“I’ve been told that Chief Such-n-Such is on the ESWS board and has a fascination with things of no relevance… You ain’t passing that board unless they want you too!”

“I’m sure I’ll do okay as long as I study!”

“Listen, kid… I’ve been around the world three times, been to several of those Goat Fucks in the Chief’s Mess and rode the shaft at least twice, not by design… I know what I’m talking about!”

Yeah, this Twidget wasn’t getting nowhere down in Snipe Country and probably needed to build a little rapport before kneeling at the Gates of Hell…

“Yeah, well this info doesn’t come for free! No one gets out of here alive, especially a fresh air fag like you… this is home of the long shafts and you’re about to get shafted!”

Next thing I know, ‘Strong like Bear & Smart like Tractor’ comes outta nowhere with cutoff green coveralls grabbing ahold of my collar!

“You’d ever drink Bilge Wine?”

“Wha-Wha-What’s Bilge Wine?”

“It’s like moonshine that didn’t get run through the radiator enough!”

“Doesn’t sound too good to me!”

… About this time I was shaking in my boots!

“Oh come on now… which would you rather do, drink a quart of our infamous Jonestown Bilge-Wine laced with snipe sweat or eat the contents out of a duplex strainer… your choice?”

… That’s when he put me in a headlock while one of his henchmen grabbed me by the feet!

“Dude… You smell like a bucket of horse shit!”

… And that’s when the duct tape came out, and I knew I was gonna end up ten feet in the overhead or hang’n upside down in the nastiest part of the bilge!

Then one of the Chiefs came around the corner…

“Knock off the bullshit and get back to work! This ain’t no place for lollygagging!”

… Saved by the Gauddamned Bell!

“I like you… You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid! If you really want to learn about Engineering Spaces, a couple of midwatches in the hole will take the bloom off your dewy rose in the morn!”

From that point, I was lookin’ for the nearest door or hatch outta the place! I was sweat’n harder than a pedophile at Chuck E Cheese!! Besides, I would’ve done anything to get away from the inane, vapid, nuttiness inflicted by some of those low-wattage Troglodytes from down under the deck plates and in the pits!!! Some of those sons-a-bitches had real personality disorders…!!!

But really… The guys in the hole were funny, irreverent, caustic, and once you got in good with them dirty bastards, you made a friend for life! They made weirdness piled on improbability poured over the incomprehensible seem as ordinary as breakfast!! And that’s just how they rolled!!!

That was my first encounter with the Pit Snipe in his hollowed layer… and I never did get my ESWS onboard that ship! It took me two more tours before I took it seriously!! She was an old ship the Baglady was… Old, Stunk, and falling apart at the seams!! One of the Engineers told me it only had three leaks down there… Air, oil, & water… But they loved every minute of it!!!

But that was looong ago… so many ships and so many Westpac’s in this here Canoe Club! It was like an Ice Cream Cone… ‘Enjoy it before it melts’ so they say!!!

And to those old school snipes I met so many years ago? It’s said that Snipes are the first aboard and last ashore when liberty goes down… their job truly is never done!!!


“We Stand By You”

“We Stand By You”

An incident took place at sea on 14 September 2001, just a few days after the attacks on New York and Washington.

In the time leading up to 11 September 2001, the USS Winston S. Churchill was in port in Plymouth, England, where it was moored next to the SMS Lütjens of the German Navy.

During their time in port together, the officers and crews of the USS Churchill and the SMS Lütjens had combined for a number of events in the generous spirit of friendship and brotherhood.

After the attacks, however, the USS Churchill immediately got underway to perform a number of drills while waiting for further orders.

Onboard the USS Churchill an Officer (Ensign) sent an email to his dad and his dad in turn sent it to the local newspaper. Below is a portion of that email:

“Dear Dad,

Well, we are still out at sea, with little direction as to what our next priority is.

The remainder of our port visits, which were to be centered around max liberty and goodwill to the United Kingdom, have all but been canceled. We have spent every day since the attacks going back and forth within imaginary boxes drawn in the ocean, standing high-security watches, and trying to make the best of our time.

It hasn’t been that fun I must confess, and to be even more honest, a lot of people are frustrated at the fact that they either can’t be home, or we don’t have more direction right now.

We have seen the articles and the photographs, and they are sickening. Being isolated as we are, I don’t think we appreciate the full scope of what is happening back home, but we are definitely feeling the effects.

About two hours ago the junior officers were called to the bridge to conduct Shiphandling drills.

We were about to do a man overboard when we got a call from the LUTJENS D-185, a German warship that was moored ahead of us on the pier in Plymouth, England.

While in port, the USS WINSTON S CHURCHILL and the LUTJENS got together for a sports day/cookout on our fantail, and we made some pretty good friends.

Now at sea they called over on bridge-to-bridge, requesting to pass us close up on our port side, to say good-bye.

We prepared to render them honors on the bridge wing, and the Captain told the crew to come topside to wish them farewell.

As they were making their approach, our Conning Officer saw through her binoculars and announced that they were flying an American flag.

As they came even closer, we saw that it was flying at half-mast.

The bridge wing was crowded with people as the Boatswain’s Mate blew two whistles- Attention to Port- the ship came up alongside and we saw that the entire crew of the German ship was manning the rails, in their dress blues.

They had made up a sign that was displayed on the side that read “We Stand By You.”

Needless to say there was not a dry eye on the bridge as they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and we cut our salutes.

It was probably the most powerful thing I have seen in my entire life and more than a few of us fought to retain our composure.

It was a beautiful day outside today. We are no longer at liberty to divulge over unsecure e-mail our location, but we could not have asked for a finer day at sea.

The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew, and it has truly been the highest point in the days since the attacks.

After the ship pulled away and we prepared to begin our man overboard drills the Officer of the Deck turned to me and said ‘I’m staying Navy.’”


Wunder Beach During the Battle of Hue

Wunder Beach During the Battle of Hue

By John Nesbit


These photos were all taken by me on May 24, 1972. I was an ET aboard USS St Louis (LKA-116). My Condition 1-Alpha station was aboard one of the Mike boats to service the PRC-45 radio aboard. Our Mike boat carried a bunch of young Navy UDT sailors to Wunder Beach. Their job, upon hitting the beach was to conduct sabotage, primarily wiping out the electrical grid.

B-52’s had softened Wunder Beach for us, as you can see in a couple of these photos. We got our UDT boys to the beach under enemy mortar fire. They ran up the beach and disappeared into the bush. I was a peacenik from California while in the Navy.

When they lowered our Mike boat over the side on the davit, our XO leaned over the side and hollered at me “Hey Nesbit? do you have a sidearm?” “No Sir,” I replied, and so he leans over and hands me a .45 caliber pistol. And my outlook on the war changed.

Mike boat from St Louis with bomb bursts on the beach in the background

Prepping for insertion

USS Newport News (CA-148) The last of the 8 inch gun WWII Heavy Cruisers