Ok. So I told you guys that I will run a series of Sea Stories from my time in the Navy and here I am now. I have so many that I absolutely LOVE to tell. The hard part is, I’ve found very few that think they are funny or understand what I am talking about. They say the military is the biggest fraternity in the world, and they are right. It doesn’t matter what branch you have been in, every story makes sense. I guess it’s because we’ve all been there and understand the terminology. Whatever it is, we all understand it and sometimes we feel like “civilians” don’t. It’s not a bad thing, it just is what it is. So a little request before I begin is if you find yourself talking to a Veteran and he/she is telling you about the time they were in the service, laugh if it’s funny, cry if it’s sad, be there for them if you notice them staring off into good or bad nostalgia. There is honestly nothing worse than telling someone something and they look at you blankly like you’ve just started speaking in tongues.
Anyways…… I have so many stories that I have spent the last few weeks really trying to pick one to kick things off. These stories will not be in order, but they are some of the best (and worse) memories I have. So sit back and enjoy and I’ll try to make as much sense to you as possible!
First off, let me set the stage a little bit. I joined the United States Navy when I was still a Senior in High School. It was September 27th, 2004. My parents had to sign a waiver to allow me to join because I was still 17. I finished out my final year of school and left for boot camp June 27th, 2005. I got married to my lovely wife on December 23rd, 2005 and left for an 8 month deployment on October 6th, 2006 (this does not include work-ups where I was gone a few weeks at a time. This was just straight deployment. Gone. Couldn’t come home. Sometimes couldn’t call or email home). I got home on May 25th, 2007.
Some of the people I will be talking about are Marc (one of my bestest friends in the world), Johnny, Cassis, Richie, Mike, and a few others. We all worked on FA-18 and we worked together for a long time and will never forget any of them (until I’m old and senile which I can’t wait for but not because I’ll forget them, but because I just want to say whatever the fuck I want and have people say “Oh he’s just senile. Don’t pay attention to him”).
Marc taught me everything about working on a jet that I know today. We worked really well together and were always able to bounce ideas off of each other to determine what could possibly be causing a problem. We were both pretty cocky, but he was much more of a straight arrow, rule abider than I was. He made E-5 2.5 months into deployment while I was still an E-3 (he’d also been in 3 years longer than me at this point too).
Our squadron had a habit of having a jet be double ugly (one external fuel tank underneath the aircraft and one on the wing) and wanting to make it 5 wet (a refueling pod underneath and 2 fuel tanks on on each wing) and vise versa. This normally isn’t an issue when the jets are right next to each other even with only 2 lifts. However, when the 2 jets are 300 yards apart, IT FUCKING SUCKS!
Well then night in question had this set up and we were down 2 guys due to an engine swap that night as well. Marc says to me, “Come on man. We got this shit. I can do this shit really fast and you’re getting pretty good at it too. We shouldn’t have a problem.” I should have smacked the shit out of him right then and there.
But I didn’t and we proceeded to get the first jet to double ugly with minimum difficulty. As long as you count one of my 2 dollies breaking as minimal…. We powered through though and moved on to the next.
Right off the bat things were going swimmingly. I dropped the nut of the first drop tank into a pad eye. Except I was on an El. And that pad eye went straight into the fucking ocean…. This is when the screaming began and I had to hunt down another nut while Marc attempted to install the next drop tank by himself. Now these aren’t small systems. They hold about 6,000 lbs. of fuel, so they’re rather large. I come back with the new nut (that I had to borrow from another squadron) to find Marc yelling and swearing at this drop tank. I could see through the darkness of the night his face was red with rage. I asked him what was wrong and he mumbled some profanities under his breath and kept working. We got that tank in and only had 2 more to do.
We start getting the last one on and things have calmed down quite a bit. We were back to talking shit to each other and laughing. When suddenly, he goes there…
Marc: Well at least I didn’t drop the fucking nut into the fucking ocean.
Me: Are you fucking kidding me! You just about broke our last O-ring on that last one cuz you couldn’t wait for me to find another nut that you never ordered after we lost the last one.
Marc: Hey! I’ve been doing this for almost 6 years and I’ve NEVER, not ONCE broke a fucking O-ring.
(yes. This is the exact conversation. And I should have smacked the shit out of him again.)
Me: That’s impressive. All good things come to an end, you know.
Marc: Not tonight moth…….
*SNAP* *fuel spills everywhere creating a massive puddle at our feet*
Me: You were saying?
Marc: FUCKIN SHIT FUCK FUCK FUCK GOD DAMMIT YOU MOTHER FUCKIN PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT
(This is almost word for word but I would run out of space to write if I finished what he said over the next 15 minutes)
I just walked away and went to get another O-ring. Guess what? Yup. We were out of those too.
Now in the military, it is much like prison in a lot of ways. One being the barter and trade system. Out on the ship, money is virtually useless. We do have a store but they are very limited on what they have. Favors and trades are the best way to get anything that you want…. or need. Luckily I knew a lot of people and lived fairly well on the ship considering but that’s for another post.
The only other people that had the same drop tanks as we did was the other squadron I had to borrow the nut from. Naturally, when I walked in they already knew I was coming to ask for something else and started giving me hell. I ended up having to give them a case of my Starbucks Frappuccino that comes in the glass bottles that I had “found” a few days earlier. I go back up to the roof and Marc is still givin it to this fuckin tank. I had been gone for a solid half hour and by now his voice was all horse and he was sweating pretty back. We replace the O-ring and the last one goes on fine. He turns the jets and was able to transfer fuel without any leaks. We went down to have a smoke and before the night was over we were laughing about the whole thing.
This is the night that Marc and I really became damn good friends. It is a night I will NEVER stop giving him shit for and will also never forget. It is one of my fondest memories of the time I spent in the service.
I know this one was long, but I hope you all enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!