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Modern Navy

PotomacBob

Looking for a good story where the main character is in the U.S. Navy, with some details of his and his shipmates' duties (not SEALS) aboard ship. Looking for flavor of ship life in 21st century.

Not_a_ID

Can't really speak to "current era" Naval Fiction. While I may have lived through that particular setting for several years, it isn't particularly high on my list of things to experience vicariously. So I don't go seeking them out.

That said, I do know that Tom Clancy has a very good reputation for being reasonably accurate in his portrayals of shipboard operations. Even if it tends to be officer-centric.

If you want a non-fiction reference book to work with, try finding a copy of a (Relatively) recent edition of The Bluejacket's Manual, it is part of the standard issue "kit" that is issued to every bootcamp recruit and as such, should be approachable by just about anyone.

In "broad strokes" shipboard/operational life on board a ship hasn't changed much since the 1940's. In more specific cases, a number of things have changed, most notably in relation to the technology side.

Berthing(sleeping quarters) has also changed over the decades. The said, if you've toured the USS Missouri, or the USS Midway, the crew accommodation those ships had (which were not portraying an even earlier era--such as Vietnam or WW2) still reflected most of the Fleet as of 10 years ago. Can't speak to any other museum ships as I haven't been on them.

On the tech side, CCTV has been around on ship's for years. I understand that prior to gender integration, it wasn't uncommon for one or more channels on ship to be all porn, all the time. That doesn't happen with women on board. (Can you say "Sexual Harassment"?)

But that is somewhat moot anyhow, most shipboard CCTV systems don't really maintain a "shipboard channel" except for special circumstances at this point. Such occasions would be things like briefings prior to making a port of call, maybe a televised Captain's Mast, and other such command functions where they decide not to assemble the entire crew to watch it first hand. Outside of those "special events" the CCTV is usually carrying a Satellite Television feed from Armed Forces Television.

SOME commands have (allegedly) had their MWR program spring for getting some commercial capabilities installed, so if they're within range of the right satellites, they could potentially be watching feeds from either DirecTV or Dish.

Another "trick" that has been known to happen(even before Satellite was an option), either ship wide or specific to certain specialties(who maintain the equipment), is "appropriation" of a spare antenna that has decent TV reception and broadcast television sometimes being made available.

"Modern" (Present Day) Navy also has: Satellite phones for MWR purposes(official install, fleet wide, managed at the fleet level), however it is(or at least was) almost unheard of for a ship to get 24/7 access to the AT&T Satellite phones, besides the matter of them costing $1/minute to use back in 2003, don't know about now. IIRC, the "typical rotation" for that while deployed was 12 hours on, 24 hours off, sometimes less than that, sometimes more.

Then there was the "Mission Capability" Satellite uplink(s) that a ship would have. These typically included both data and voice(phone) capability over the DSN phone network. Some ships only had Inmarsat, some ships had more than just Inmarsat(usually the "big decks"). Depending on ship size, the ship's current mission, and a few other factors(including year--My experiences between 2000 and 2004 probably doesn't match today's) the SHIP(but not the crew in general) may have 24/7 internet access via satellite, or it could end up without a direct satellite uplink(and reliant on other ships in their battlegroup to share) for hours at a time. This also is ignoring "operational considerations" which for Operational Security purposes could result in things being shut off for a time to prevent loose lips.

So "Generally speaking" biggest difference between a 1980's Navy thing and a 20xx Navy thing is that "communication from home" is MUCH faster. Even at sea, unless you're in a submarine, chances are you can CALL home every 2nd or 3rd day at worst, if you're that desperate to do so. And if something really significant happened, talking to chain of command(or "the right people"--the ones who have one of those DSN sat phone lines) may result in your ability to call home shortly after they're made aware of what's going on.

E-mail in a lot of cases could be near instantaneous at best, or be on a time delay of several hours while your ship is "off-network."

However, IMO, that doesn't indicate any real significant change in the "day to day" side of things, although it probably helps morale more than a little.

Gender integration is another matter, but as I was on a ship that never saw female enlisted crew(I think all surface ships should now be "fully integrated" but I'm not certain on that being true), I cannot speak from experience on how that may have changed things or not changed them aside from "the obvious aspects."

Replies:   PotomacBob
PotomacBob

@Not_a_ID

Wow! I was mostly expecting no answer at all or, at best, a one-liner telling me where to look. I appreciate that your took the time and effort to give such a great answer. Thank you very much.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
saquestor

Not 100% current, but so detailed that you'll probably waste several hours looking at everything!

https://www.okieboat.com/

Under the banner 'Life on the OK City' you'll see two sections - officer and enlisted. The officer section details what junior officers could expect. The enlisted section goes into great detail - with lots of photos - of how us lowly squids lived.

I spent two years and five months aboard - Jan '70 - May '72. On page 46 of the enlisted life is a picture of me - white t-shirt far lower right.

The guy that maintains this site and created the model was my NucWeps officer. Yes, we had nukes aboard. I was a Gunner's Mate (Missiles) assigned to the missile house crew.

Hope this helps you get a better feel for life as an enlisted man aboard ship. And for the record, berthing details are different in that the racks are configured differently, but the crowding? Same-o same-o.

Replies:   PotomacBob
Not_a_ID

@PotomacBob

Wow! I was mostly expecting no answer at all or, at best, a one-liner telling me where to look. I appreciate that your took the time and effort to give such a great answer. Thank you very much.


I was looking more organizationally in the first response. "Culture" wise, some things have changed considerably, Tailhook and "The CNN Effect" being prime movers on that front. Gender integration being a further nail in that coffin. (As that was "part of the problem" with Tailhook)

The anti-hazing and anti-initiation stuff aside, some of the big events(such as "crossing the line") had the previously all-male crews getting into having people do things that would make "sexual harassment" inadequate to task of describing things if a female was involved and "treated as one of the guys."

No bo'son locker beatdowns as a normal thing, no pit snipes tackling "topsiders" who venture into "the pit" so they can be duct-tapped to a chainfall and hoisted up into the air to hang around for a while. And other stuff like that.

The search for sound powered phone batteries does continue though. So far, no success, 100+ years and counting. =P

Replies:   PotomacBob  AmigaClone
PotomacBob

@saquestor

Thank you very much. I looked at the website - but I'm a pretty clunky navigator. I found the photos but couldn't find how they were numbered - so didn't know which one was No. 46. Again, thanks.

Replies:   saquestor
PotomacBob

@Not_a_ID

Thank you for the additional information. I remember Tailhook, but have no idea what "The CNN Effect" is or how it manifests itself. I think I understand gender integration (assuming there's no hidden sexual message there). I'd never heart of pit snips or topsiders until your message, but just the words create an image that could be either amusing or frightening (depending on the vantage point from which you were watching).
"Sound-powered phone batteries" is intriguing. What is that - something like a perpetual motion machine?

Replies:   kimlsevier  Not_a_ID  Not_a_ID
kimlsevier

@PotomacBob

have no idea what "The CNN Effect" is or how it manifests itself.

I assume it means the way what happens in board doesn't stay on board but can get plastered world wide on CNN. That wasn't a factor 20 or more years ago.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@kimlsevier

I assume it means the way what happens in board doesn't stay on board but can get plastered world wide on CNN. That wasn't a factor 20 or more years ago.


Pretty much, stuff they thought was "no big deal" and could previously just "sweep under the rug" was discovered to be ready-made political fodder for journalists to use in order to feed the 24-hour news cycle which CNN embodied, and in most respects, created.

So after Tailhook "zero defect" became the goal for the Navy, as they were hell bent on making sure that they didn't leave the door wide open in terms of simply handing a "ready made scandal" off to CNN.

In a lot of respects it made things "better" as even the pre-1992 sailors would acknowledge. But at the same time, the Navy lost "a lot of color" in the process.

Prior to 1992, and arguably up into the 2000's(due to time lays in promotions/eligability), it was very difficult for someone to attain the rank of Chief Petty Officer without at least one round of NJP(Captain's Mast) under their own belt.

Prior to Tailhook, "Back when I made third class the second(or even third or fourth) time" was fairly common. As were brig stays. (McHale's Navy was closer to reality for that time than many would suspect)

After Tailhook, being sent up for NJP was likely to be a career killer. With almost immediate termination often happening for things that previously didn't carry any significant consequences beyond "time served."

Not_a_ID

@PotomacBob

"Sound-powered phone batteries" is intriguing. What is that - something like a perpetual motion machine?


This is actually basic telephone operation 101. The simplest telephone circuits of all, so long as sufficiently powerful electromagnets are used, do not require any outside power source in order to operate. As such, they are quite literally "Sound Powered Telephones."

The Navy happens to make use of such a system for intra-ship communication for certain functions(mainly damage control, but a few others as well). Of course, if you want to technical(and ruin the fun), longer or larger circuits do require amplifiers in order to function effectively. But for the purpose of the hunt for "Sound Powered Phone Batteries" those amplifiers don't exist, and there is no such thing a battery specifically used for such a task anyhow.

So when someone is sent off in search of a "Sound Powered Phone Battery" they're searching for something which doesn't exist. At that point (at least in the present day incarnation) it becomes a two-pronged game.

1) For the clever who want to take advantage of the chance to run a scam/goof off and see just how long they can let it play out before people catch on that their "victim" knows exactly what's going on. (They normally warn people about it during bootcamp for crying out loud! And yet there are people who forget about it by the time they get on a Ship...)
2) For the not-so-clever, it becomes a game for everyone else to see just how many times they can get the person to run from one end of the ship to the other before they catch on that they're being given a literal run-around.

Not_a_ID

@PotomacBob

I'd never heard of pit snipes or topsiders until your message, but just the words create an image that could be either amusing or frightening (depending on the vantage point from which you were watching).


Some of this is supposition, but it's rooted in pretty solid ground.

First thing to keep in mind about the Navy is that it is tribes within tribes. It takes tribalism to levels few other organizations could. The Bluejacket's Manual actually breaks it down fairly well, even if they don't really get into what it's really describing.

But generally speaking:

The "pit snipes" are the engineering department. The "pit" reference is an obvious enough one for most (Recent/current) Navy Ships. The engineering spaces on a ship with propulsion systems almost invariably lie deep in the bowels of the ship. As such to access them, you have to "descend into the pit."

For boiler-type ships in particular(they're getting to be very rare), there is a second connotation to be had. Their engineering spaces tend to become very hot, particularly while steaming in warmer waters. The ship I served on had a boiler propulsion system. While steaming in the Persian Gulf, it wasn't uncommon for documented temperature readings on the Air Conditioning Vent(the coldest air in the space) to register at up to 120 degrees(F).

The Engineers are referenced as "Snipes" in part because the joke for other portions of the Ship's crew almost could be that most of the Engineering Deparment probably doesn't actually exist "because you never see them anywhere." (Except in Engineering spaces) But also because there are almost always a number of spaces on the ship that are so obscure that only somebody in Engineering is likely to know about them.

So if you're looking for a specific person from engineering(and you're not), and they do not want to be found. Well, you're on course to potentially experience what many hunters would call "A snipe hunt."

"Topsider" is a little more interesting. From the perspective of the Engineers, everybody who isn't an Engineer is "a topsider." But more generally speaking it usually is considering the ratings/specialties that primarily work on the main deck or above it "on a normal ship." Which typically also works out to everyone not in engineering, although some skirt around that as they don't exactly fit into a normal ship hierarchy(such as Special Forces, they're almost never part of the ship's compliment, but they may be passengers all the same).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Not_a_ID

Well, you're on course to potentially experience what many hunters would call "A snipe hunt."


Except snipe really exist.

They are small-medium shore/wading birds.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wilsons_Snipe/id

In fact one story for the origin of the term sniper goes back to stories of early (as in muzzle loading flint-lock) riflemen good enough to hunt snipe with a rifle rather than a shotgun.

saquestor
Updated:

@PotomacBob


Thank you very much. I looked at the website - but I'm a pretty clunky navigator. I found the photos but couldn't find how they were numbered - so didn't know which one was No. 46. Again, thanks.


"Under the banner 'Life on the OK City' you'll see two sections - officer and enlisted. The officer section details what junior officers could expect. The enlisted section goes into great detail - with lots of photos - of how us lowly squids lived."

[There are a number of sections... each a PDF file of 25 pages length... and in the 2nd PDF is my photo on page 46, numbered on the bottom of the page.]

Hope this helps. Cheers!

AmigaClone

@Not_a_ID

The search for sound powered phone batteries does continue though. So far, no success, 100+ years and counting. =P


You know that those are found right next to the chem-light batteries :)

Replies:   sharkjcw
sharkjcw

@AmigaClone

Nope, they are on the shelf below the lefthand monkey wrench.

Not_a_ID

Nope, they are on the shelf below the lefthand monkey wrench.


Don't forget the ID-10-T forms when you request one.

AmigaClone

Don't forget to pick up some Prop Wash as well...

saquestor

Go get a bucket of steam swabby!

saquestor

The paint locker was controlled by the 1st Division Bos'n Mates and was located forward of the anchor windlass compartment - just about as far forward as you could go under the main deck level.

As any that have been aboard a boat know, the bow tends to move up and down with the waves. It does not take too much of a wave to get the bow going up and down with some vigor.

Now... a 19 year old land-lubber sent to get a bucket of haze grey paint from the paint locker... mix in the fumes of the oil based paints being mixed... add in some lively movement from the waves and you'll find breakfast does not taste as good the second time.

Could be that this experience - on more than one occasion - contributed to my extreme dislike with anything to do with painting.

But thanks for the memories - ones that I'd not thought of for lots of years.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@saquestor


As any that have been aboard a boat know, the bow tends to move up and down with the waves. It does not take too much of a wave to get the bow going up and down with some vigor.


My berthing compartment was directly behind the windlass room. The movement of the ship never phased me much. But then, I was among the people helping further the misery of others during rough seas. Also disappointed we didn't have occasion to take 15+ degree rolls in ~18 foot seas on more than a handful of times after discovering the work center work bench made one heck of a fun slide. (And on that note, the CO personally getting on the 1MC while that was going on to personally announce that "The Cat Fish Cleaning Contest is postponed until further notice" was pure awesome; runner up had to be the guys breaking open and eating cans of sardines on the mess deck)

My knees are grateful though. Made walking a bit of a challenge when you couldn't be certain when you were going to be going up, or going down, or how quickly. As a 200 pound individual back then, my knees didn't much appreciate the chaos of 1 step making it feel like I weighed 80 pounds, while the next one made it feel like I weighed 300+ pounds.

I did feel bad for one of our (top) quartermasters whose limit seemed to be about 10 foot seas.

Edit for the lulz. This video is from a sister ship in comparable seas. The Bridge, which is where the video is being shot from, normally is a little over 50 feet above the ship's waterline.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=SV72bvaAmUg

Not_a_ID

Decided this warranted a copy/paste for "easy reference purposes" should any authors come digging later.


That was actually part of the background in the movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman". Richard Gere was going to OCS to become an Ensign, while his dad, Robert Loggia, was a Chief Petty Officer who hated officers.



Although in reality that "officer hate" is more act than reality, but it continues because the JO's pretty much NEED to be "smacked around" once they get into the normal military.

The respect their rank commands is earned, not freely given. Yes, those gold bars mean enlisted have to follow their orders, but that doesn't make them gods. That piece of paper doesn't mean shit compared to the practical experience of the senior NCO's who get to walk the tight-rope of being both a mentor, and a subordinate at the same time.

In the "modern military" that piece of paper(College Degree) means even less because having a 4 year degree is practically required in order to advance to E7 or beyond anymore.

Any more, the difference between Senior Enlisted and Junior Officers is about 10 years of military experience(and the degree the NCO holds is very likely to be work related, while the Officer's degree could be in literally anything), and one holds a Commission while the other doesn't. But that's a very "recent"(Bush(43) Administration) development, so the longer-term consequences of that have yet to truly play out.

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