adjBrit slang astounded; astonished
[from gob3 + smack2]
As are most things in the Navy, a plan began to emerge two weeks ago that would transform itself into something not readily recognized from its initial conditions–this plan was my reenlistment. At the outset I filled out the requisite form for NC1. “Reenlisting Officer. Date. Locations. Cookies, Cake or Cupcakes and so on”. My answers: “Admiral Harvey. 30NOV10. USS WISCONSIN. Cookies.”
Understandably, my Command had questions and hesitation with my first answer for my reenlisting officer. “Do you know him from a previous command? Or, how do you know him.” To answer this, you need a little background information. While I was in Afghanistan, I posted as YN2(SW) Battle Yeoman at the Admiral’s blog. I never went beyond saying that I was from an optimally manned ship, that I was in Afghanistan, that I was a YN2 that’s warfare qualified, and most recently that I was back from Afghanistan and no longer considered it proper to call myself ‘Battle Yeoman’. So, to explain to my chain of command why I would like the Admiral to reenlist me, without feeling like I was bragging, I just told them I thought he was a fantastic Admiral. That wasn’t enough for the Command to request the Admiral to do this. I understood that and was alright with it. Discretion was my watch word in ‘talking’ to an Admiral.
As the week wore on, and the demands the ship placed upon the crew, in terms of drills and the like became apparent, it turned out that if I reenlisted aboard the USS WISCONSIN, that my Shipmates would not have been able to attend. So, I was asked if I could do the ceremony aboard SAN ANTONIO. Not having those who I served with there at my reenlistment was not an option. I opted to do the ceremony aboard. At this point, I now had to arrange for civilians to come aboard for the ceremony. I took me having to call Boston Maggie, my Sea-Momma, and directly ask if she was attending my ceremony, and ruining the sorta-surprise of her being there. Whereas to this point, it had been a muted understanding that she would be coming. Also too, I had to get my friends to the ship–not an altogether simple prospect, in describing directions from Ghent to Gate 5 at Naval Station Norfolk, when one has been out of the area for the better part of a year. However, it was all explained (for the most part). I decided that the first officer I ever worked directly for would be the best choice to reenlist me. I asked LCDR Overturf, the old SUPPO from SAN ANTONIO to be my reenlisting officer. The first ‘title’ I had in the Navy, was SUPPY. Or, Supply Yeoman.
Which brings us to around 0930 this morning, the morning of the reenlistment. YN3 found me, and handed me a note with the phone number for a YNC at Fleet Forces Command–Admiral Harvey’s Flag Writer, “Dude, I think Admiral Harvey is going to come to your reenlistment!” I took the note, and went to use the phone. However, the access number was in use. I had to run topside, and use my cellphone. Cell coverage is a touchy thing on the waterfront. Dozens of ships, each possibly radiating, and tons of steel reduce the signal and cause my phone to having an iffy at best chance of finding signal. This is the moment where I began to understand what being ‘gobsmacked’ means.
I spoke with YNC, she verified with me what time the ceremony was, and that it was in fact aboard my ship. She told me that she’d call back in about 10 minutes. Now, is when the challenging nature of cell phone reception decided to present itself. To add to this, my phone also decided to require me to input my voice mail pin number, for the first time since I can remember. I got Chief’s message about 5 minutes after she left it. Those five minutes seemed like an eternity. Thousands of images of an opportunity missed ran through my mind. However, I eventually did remember the pin number. I listened to her message to the point that Chief said “Call me back as soon as you get this”, and then called Chief back. It was during this conversation that Chief confirmed that Admiral Harvey would be attending. “Really? He will be attending” I said to her. She told me that yes, he would be. “Uh, god, really? I uh…”, she interjected, “Are you alright there, Shipmate?” I told Chief that I was. But, that I was just amazed, and asked how I would break this to my chain of command. Chief told me that those phone calls had already been made, and I didn’t need to be worried about it. Though, this changed my plans for how I was to give my friends directions to Pass and ID outside Gate 5, where they’d need to park to get a ride to the ship. Maggie, was already on station, ready to be picked up and come aboard. She is the most Sailor like civilian I’ve ever known.
Ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding. “Fleet Forces Command, arriving”. The Admiral was now aboard. I wasn’t down there at the quarterdeck. But, I was told that he didn’t want to bother with sideboys. I felt slightly embarrassed that because of me, the crew had to up their stress level for the Admiral to come aboard. I didn’t (and don’t) feel I was worth it. I was honored, proud and humbled at the same time. It is a curious sensation. I wasn’t sure as to how I was supposed to act in the presence of the Admiral, and my entire chain of command. The Admiral spoke to each member of my Department that was present when he entered the room and to all that was in the space.
He is in every measure, as good in person as he is in his writing.
1051. Maggie, and my friends were not yet aboard. The guidance I gave to the duty driver was not sufficient in helping them connect. I told my Department head and XO that it was not worth waiting beyond 1100 for them to show. I wouldn’t keep the Admiral longer than expected.
1100. It was decided we would wait a few more minutes.
1110. We started the ceremony. LCDR Overturf handed me my discharge papers. For all intents and purposes, I was now a civilian. I got to give a small speech at this time. “I didn’t think I would be saying this in front of such auspicious company”, and continuing with, that they were the ones from who I learned what it means to be a Shipmate. It had been a long, strange trip aboard SAN ANTONIO. But, I’d gladly do it all over again. I mentioned that the most common comment I received from personnel that hadn’t been IA was that they wished they could go IA, in ordered to actually ‘do something’.
Just as the ceremony was wrapping up, I looked over and saw that Maggie and my friends had made it. My CO told them to come in, and I introduced them to the Admiral. Though, Maggie required no introduction.
I think it is fair to say that I am somewhat numb to this experience, at this point. It makes me question if that every time a dream comes true, the emotional sentiment is as such. I can’t believe this happened, I just really can’t. Of course, as is always the case, I remembered everything I wish I could have asked the Admiral after he left. The honor bestowed to me by the Admiral being present is something I cannot articulate, I thank him and his staff, and the crew of the SAN ANTONIO for making it happen. This is one more thing for me to remember for the rest of my life. What I am left with is an increased sense of duty–to live up to the honor they have shown me, and do right by it–by every measure, a daunting and demanding task.
Later that day, I went to my CO’s Stateroom to speak with him. I took my cover off and entered, I apologized to him if the crew had been put out in any way. He told me that they hadn’t and not to worry about it. I went to his Stateroom, as I also checked out of SAN ANTONIO today. I told him, that I became so choked up during the ceremony, because I knew I was leaving SAN ANTONIO with a crew aboard that would take good care of her. She was my first ship, and I love her. The sentiment I would hear when I was first aboard, was that they were underway so much, that Sailors would leave the Quarterdeck and not look back as they went on liberty. I never felt that, I would look back and marvel at how that ship and her crew kept me alive while at sea. That sense of wonder never left me, and I do not think it ever will. My shipmates I leave behind will take good care of her, I trust them with her. For this, I am eternally grateful to them.
Man, what a day…