Sunday, March 27, 2005

Friends and shipmates 20 years past

In part the following is one of the reasons I've started to blog Submarines.

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In recent months I’ve been in touch with some old shipmates from the USS Alabama commissioning crew navigation division and recently the Navigator, if your reading this guys welcome. We’ve been exchanging emails with old sea stories and memories of the yards, builders trials, PSA, DASO, etc… It’s interesting to touch base after all these years and find out what each of us ten or so individuals have done since we helped bring the USS Alabama to life. So here are some observations I have about our conversations.

Some of us were 6 year short-timers and others did the full 20. Almost all of us short-timers left the Navy as ET1(SS) with experience on more than one boat. The career guys all made ETC(SS) or better. The ex-chiefs have commented that once the Soviet Union was gone and SSBNs went from 41 boats to 18 it became harder to make rate. Less threats and less boats to man means it harder to make a senior rate, makes sense to me.

Although most of our conversations have been about being aboard the USS Alabama SSBN-731 during and post the yards, individuals from our group have mentioned other boats. These are the ones I’ve heard about; SSBN/SSN-599, SSBN-616, SSBN-641, SSBN-656, SSBN-734 and SSBN-737. I’ve also heard mention of Tender duty, TAG ship duty, shore duty at A an C schools, TTF, TRF, and a Special Ops support detachment, all and all a good mix of experiences.

Most of our stories have had either some amusing aspect or an “OH SH*T! I remember that” kind of ring to them. Everyone seems to have some nugget to add that makes the story evolve into a more complete picture. Twenty years is a long time to keep something in your head. Although we have had a bitch session or two, what sailor or servicemen doesn't bitch about something, the sense I get is that people are proud of their accomplishments in the Submarine Service and to have served the country. I haven’t heard any grips about lost youth or any “if only I had done this instead of that” kind of conversations. Most complaints were about specific command politics or individual’s shortcomings.

So after 20 years where is everyone now? Everyone I been in touch with has either left or retired from the Navy. No lifers, probably has something to do with the tight upper end of the CPO scale. A good portion of us are Information Technology (IT) professionals in networking, programming or system support positions but also have an entrepreneur or two.

Now we’re all in our forties and I don’t think any of us are ready to march as part of senior American Legion contingent in the 4th of July parade, but, it is fun to reminisce about our time on the Alabama and the Navy in general. You know, the way your office mates talk about being stoned all the way through college, only we lived a very different reality, it was called the end of the cold war.

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