Big Navy Gets One Right. After It Starts A Monumental Feces Storm.

Last week, April 29th, to be precise, I was pretty danged mad about the speech/talk given by MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer Of The Navy) Russell L. Smith.  I’d followed the issues on the George Washington in the news the last few weeks, and realized that this was a ship/crew in trouble. So, when I read his remarks, mind you brief excerpts, I posted the item below on Facebook: 


My opinion on most things is free, and worth every penny.
I have never been on a ship “in the yards” for overhaul or maintenance. Every sailor I’ve ever talked to said it sucked massively.
I have been on ships where there was little fresh water, the showers burned you they were so hot, jet fuel contaminated every thing made with water – coffee, baking, kool aid, etc. I’ve slept in berthing compartments that had poor electrical connections that actually killed a guy in my space when he grounded out a light.
I’ve gotten on board ships and subs from airplanes, zodiac rafts, whale boats, tug boats. I’ve left ships climbing down ropes and ladders made of rope.
I’ve been extended at sea with no reason. I’ve hated my life at times on those ships.
But never did I want to kill myself. Never did the deprivation go on for years as it has for the crew of the George Washington.
Yeah, they’re younger than me, and I chewed up nails and spit out bullets – at least in my memories. They, however, work hard as hell with a poorly maintained Navy and a lot of bullcrap woke stuff that tears up morale.
So, when the Master Chief Petty Officer Of The Navy tells them that it could suck worse and to butch up after they lose a handful of sailors in the previous months to suicide, and morale is in the bilge, I think it’s time for all of us old salts to admit that treating today’s sailors like crap because we had some crappy times, isn’t tradition. It’s not because they are effeminate, it’s not because they don’t know the value of work. I remember the Vietnam era guys accusing us of that, and they were accused of the same thing by the WWII sailors. Every generation talks that kind of smack.
Nope. It has to stop somewhere. This crew needs mental health help right now. No need for youngsters to die because we were tough in our day. We’re better than that. We should be reaching out to them right now.
The MCPON needs to go. He’s tone deaf at a minimum, a mean and insensitive bastard most likely. Sailors didn’t sign up to live in a partially built ship with no water for showers, no place to park, no decent chow on the ship and so on.
So, Big Navy, get your act together and take care of that crew.
I have to admit I felt the guilts a day later and wondered if I’d shortchanged the man because I merely read recaps of what he’d said. So I dug out the audio and listened to the whole thing. I also talked to some fellow enlisted friends and an officer I respect about the issues. We all agreed that a handful of Second Class Petty Officers and a couple of Lieutenants could have fixed this goat-rope right at the start and avoided a bunch of needless pain and death for this crew. 
Whether we like it or not, this is the group of sailors that are in the Navy. I blame their parents and schools for not toughening them up prior to service. But it doesn’t change the fact that these young people (I’m older than the captain of the ship and the MCPON) have got to be taken care of right away. 
I read the MCPON’s bio. This poor schmuck followed a really bad MCPON who happened to be one of my CT tribe. He got a raw deal. But he was an Intelligence Specialist. We used to joke that Intelligence Specialists were just CT wannabees that couldn’t learn Morse Code or another language. We did their job as well in some places. Now that I’ve gotten my snark on record, this guy has a great resume but he put his foot in it. 

For one thing, his speech should have been an off-the-record talk with what we called the “Goat Locker.” The Goat Locker is the Chief Petty Officers group on a ship. The senior enlisted guys. You can give a “suck-it-up-buttercup” speech to them and they have the cultural context to put it to use and spread it out to the troops below. But there remain two other issues with the talk.

First, the Captain of the ship should never allow this kind of thing. It undermines his authority. 

Second, you never go to a miserable bunch of people with huge problems and tell them it could be way worse, remind them of how much longer life is going to suck, and then badger them with your problems.

If you listen to this guy, he fields questions from the crew. Some crew members make pretty good suggestions. His response is essentially, “I’d like ice cream and a backrub as well, but I’m not going to get them so you aren’t getting hot water. No money for either one, don’t bother me with that crap unless you know a way to pay for it.”

Gotta tell you, if I was in that crew, even as a miserable, lowly Second Class Petty Officer I’d be a Third Class by the end of the week, because my mouth would have engaged well before my brain. How do I know? Because I don’t filter well, never did.

So, how does this story end? Today, Big Navy (what we call the monster that impersonally ruled our lives) decided to move the sailors off the ship. This means they get hot chow, showers, places to sleep away from the noise and filth of repair work. I also suspect that Big Navy is flooding the area with counselors and chaplains. They’d better. It is inexcusable that they let it get this bad, and they had to fix it. 

Why? Because a ton of us old sailors were all speaking publicly about how much this sucks. Yes, there are some old sailors who still chant, “My life sucked, yours should too!” when this stuff happens. But the majority of us seem to get it. We would want to be treated better, and now the sailors who could be my grandchildren are in need of my support.

And that’s why I write this blog today. The MCPON has lost my faith. Time to retire. Let’s get a Master Chief in there who can fix the damage. I knew a whole lot of them when I was young that I’d follow through the gates of hell. There’s got to be one ready to take that mantle.

I pray that is the case. And I pray for the crew of the U.S.S. George Washington. Father, take good care of my shipmates.



If you or someone you know needs help, the Veterans Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-273-8255, press 1. Services also are available online at or by text, 838255.



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Joseph Courtemanche

About Joseph Courtemanche

I'm a conservative Christian author who's been happily married for over 30 years. I am a Veteran of the United States Navy, Naval Security Group. I speak a few languages, I have an absurd sense of humor and I'm proud to be an American.

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