My Adventure in the US Navy and the world

The Keys to the Sea Chest: Adventures in the US Navy blog

 The only thing nicer than the weather in San Diego were the friends I made while I was there….

I made the best friend’s I ever had in the whole world in the Navy.

When I was stationed in San Diego I made my first good friend in my roommate Kelly. One night we decided to make a visit over to wet side to hang out at Club Metro. When we got there we soon found out why everyone called it “Club Ghetto” – it was a dirty smoke-filled shithole filled to the brim with lewd leering pushy guys. We also realized we were a commodity as these pushy guys tried to knock each over to buy us drinks.

When a drunk guy got rude with me at the bar a big guy who looked like the wild man of Borneo stepped in between us and asked “Is there a problem?”….. Click to read more….

A new sailor in San Diego; the warmest memories are the most unforgettable.

Of all the places I’ve been stationed I still feel the warmest feelings for my memories of San Diego.

From the moment I set foot in San Diego back in 1st of April 2001 I realize what a vibrant place I am in; tall skyscrapers, sandwiched by many numerous small neighborhoods, each with their own spice and personality; endless rows of palm trees, homes with bright new paint clashing with fading stucco and whitewashed fences, manicured lawns and overgrown yards. But beyond it all was the dark blue of the sea, which was why I was here.

I am a 21-year-old kid, with a wide-open future and my eyes see no shadows; I am excited to be here, and as soon as I toss my things down on the bed in my new barracks room I am out the door to explore the base….

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The ocean; one of the reasons I joined the US Navy….

us navy, damage control, damage controlman, us navy memoir, us navy story, us navy adventure, uss shoup, ddg-86,

Ever since I was a little kid I have been captivated by ships and by the sea, and I especially loved going to the beach as a small child between the ages of 2-5; bobbing in the chilly water as I got slapped by small waves made as ships passed by.

I remember going to Whidbey Island in northwestern Washington State as a small child under the age of five, but also as an 11 year old when I go back to visit my aunt and uncle.  I vividly recall the sight of the dark green island looming ahead in the distance as we emerged from the fog on the front of a ferry, the nostalgic smell of seaweed and salt everywhere.

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The toughest job in the US Navy….

us navy, us navy memoir, us navy story, the keys to the seachest, uss shoupBeing a woman in the US Navy was actually one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, looking back.  

I had a small taste of how difficult my life was going to be right away in “A” School as a woman surrounded by men, some who were pissed-off they had to compete with me and that I was beating them, even as they bitched that they as men were held to higher standards than women are.

I’ll never forget my shock realizing that the standards were much lower for me because I was a female. I remember hearing the guys complain when they all found out that there are two different standards on body fat ratio, and physical fitness standards.

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My favorite US Navy FUBAR moments…..

In the US Navy you never know what is going to happen next, especially with the folks you work with on a daily basis.  But you learn how to take whatever is handed to you without making a big deal.  Which is a good trait to learn, especially when you’re the low-man on the totem pole.

It was the spring of 2002 and all of us were in the shipyards down in Pascagoula, MS, overseeing the completion of the construction on our brand-new Arleigh Burke class destroyer. Because of my writing ability I was in charge of typing and rewording all the requests to the shipyard; it was tedious work, but it didn’t come without its moments of levity.

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Going under the Golden Gate Bridge at Dawn; my 2nd port call in the US Navy.

What I really liked about the Navy was all the cool things I got to see and do.  Especially the places we got to visit.

In 2001-2002 we started off in the shipyard in Pascagoula, MS, where we built and took possession of our ship.  We finally got underway on our maiden voyage up to our homeport in the spring of 2002.

Our first port call was in San Diego, CA.  It was nice being in San Diego, affectionately called “San Dog” in the fleet, but I admit I was really looking forward to our second stop which was San Francisco.  The morning we were scheduled to pull into port we all put on our whites to proudly “man the rails”.

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Top 10 things US Navy recruiters won’t tell you….

never again volunteer yourself1. You are excited, getting signed up for the US Navy, thinking you’re going to have a cool job, right???

Think you’re going to be a fire fighter, or press buttons and fire missiles all day? Wrong. Prepare to end up excelling at cleaning toilets, shining brass, and doing basic high school janitorial jobs.  Not knocking those jobs; everyone has to learn a trade.  Just don’t get your hopes up only to realize the truth sucks.  Oh yeah, and you’ll do 3 months of slave-labor in the galley.  There, you’ll wash too many dishes and scrub more decks than you ever want to think about again.  But – you’ll see lots of stuff most folks don’t.  

I still vividly remember when I was told I would be leaving to work on the mess decks like nearly all junior folks do.   In the Navy this is called “mess-cranking”, and it involves doing whatever the Mess Cooks need done for 3 months straight. 

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The third realization that safety is an illusion in the US Navy…

us navyAt 22 years of age I was about to have my most vivid encounter with this truth, and finalize tossing off the last lines connecting me to childish innocence and naivety.  But harsh truths are way better than sweet lies, even if it jades and ages us.

In April of 2002 our ship was fully built, signed off on and ready to take on her maiden voyage from the shipyard in Pascagoula, MS up to our homeport in Everett, WA.  This meant we had to go through the Panama Canal to reach the Pacific Ocean, then take a sharp right hand turn and continue traveling up the long western coast.

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Navy Karma; the gift that keeps on giving…..

US Navy

I was introduced to the Navy’s idea of Karma early on in Damage Control “A” school. There were three women in my class; myself, a very quiet gal, and then this loopy red haired chick who couldn’t keep her big mouth shut. She had to constantly one-up the instructors, as well as endlessly argue with the rest of us, and class was constantly being interrupted on her behalf. The instructors stopped several times daily to try and respectfully explain things to her, as well as knock-home what a huge waste it was for everyone to have to coddle her, but as the weeks wore on she didn’t take the hints nicely. It wore everyone around this gal ragged, and I knew the instructors were just as sick of her as we were.

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Bootcamp: because the word hell was already taken…..

I never questioned why the word “boot camp” was used to describe basic training when one enlists in the military.

And, after having gone through US Navy boot camp, I think it sounds much nicer than “kick-your-ass-camp”, although that is actually a much better description.  Hey, they gotta get us in the door first, and any friendly-sounding euphemism that will help achieve that end wins.

But getting an ass-kicking is pretty much the reality when you’re there.  And even though Navy boot camp is not as physically demanding as what the Marines or Army had to go through; to any civilian thrown into this mix, boot camp is boot camp, and there’s no quitting once your name is on the dotted line and your backside is in the hands of the Recruit Division Commanders or RDC’s, which is the Navy version of drill instructors.…..

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Safety is an illusion; the jolt I had as a kid in the US Navy…..

US Navy, USS Shoup, Damage Control, Damage controlman, military sexual assault

Back in 2000 I was going to school at Great Lakes Naval base outside Chicago, IL, when I found out something horrific happened to one of my fellow female classmates on base, something that had not occurred to me was a possibility up to that point. In the Navy, women are a teeny minority. In our whole school with hundreds of guys we had maybe 4 females, and the population was even smaller when one looked at the entire base we were on.

I felt pretty safe up to that point.  I got hit on by guys but everyone was pretty respectful about it and I figured a little bit of attention was normal.  But I was about to experience a total shock, and it was a jolt of horrific revelation.

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“Wow” moments in life….. Finding love is the only thing that matters, and how the US Navy brought me to see this.

USS Shoup, DDG-86, US Navy, sexual assault, military sexual trauma, I have to talk about God today.  Not to proselytize, or sell anyone a bill of goods, nor shove God down anyone’s throat, but to sincerely speak of a God I’ve realized exists; and that He is really here, and has been here all my life.

There are too many coincidences scattered in life that all line up looking backwards to be just “coincidences” when I lay them all out and connect them.  Random things; like how I ended up in the Navy, how I was picked for my ship; as well as the notorious day I checked onto my ship, on April fool’s day of all days.  Then there was how close I was to my husband in San Diego, at one point at the waterline of his ship in a kayak; he would later tell me he distinctly remembers hearing the alarm for a small craft in the water, which was me and my buddy paddling around like dumb-asses.

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dove-symbol-of-hopeRandom infusion of Hope…..

I had an amazing encounter with a sharp young man yesterday, and I really needed it.  I’ve been depressed over all the racial division in this country; sometimes it’s so sad it kills me inside to see everything happening and thinking our entire world is going down the tubes.   But yesterday was what I needed to instill hope and revive me.

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Anger isn’t always a bad thing…..

This whole past couple weeks I’ve been horribly distracted.  I feel numb in so many ways still; I write some chapters and I am standing outside that person I was, watching whatever happened happen.  I am surprisingly still desensitized towards so much of the trauma.  The crude way men treated me, or spoke to me; it’s still vivid, but it doesn’t cut like a knife so badly anymore.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

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22935527Happy Birthday America!

 

Our outstanding country was born on this day 239 years ago.  If you think about it, compared to most of the countries in the world, our country is still in its youth in so many ways.  And we act the part dead-on; as young kids, coming of age, we have that same brashness, freshness, and burly pushing of boundaries that teenagers and young adults are known for…..

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Whtalking back in time

 

I had a really unexpectedly awesome day today.  It was funny: talking about the US Navy, at an eye appointment, of all places.

I thought I was crazy paying $100 for a test merely so I can renew my Wyoming state driver’s license, being stranded here in the wonderful state of Missouri.  But the way things go with me, it actually was an oasis of amazing the way it turned out; going to a doctor’s appointment and talking about the US Navy, going back in time to better forgotten times…..

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us navy, military sexual trauma, uss shoup, uss shoup (DDG-86)Everyday’s a New Day

 

It’s hard to believe I was once that young woman, looking smart in my uniforms, carrying myself with an air of seriousness that might have betrayed a small piece of the bitterness I had locked up inside.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment; who should have to deal with these issues as a young woman, locked into a corner by men who have too much power?

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