Kurt came home from work today with a new story for me.
First off, let me explain. I am one of those wacky Navy wives who actually likes to hear what her husband does during the day. I am somewhat gung-ho Navy, but can you blame me?? I am Navy through and through. I was born in a Navy hospital, for crying out loud. My father was in the Navy on active duty until I was 14 (and my mom was active duty or reserve Navy until just a few years ago), and then went right back to work for the Navy as its webmaster, a post he held until just recently. It’s not like I had the chance to be anything but Navy.
So when Kurt hears something at work I might be interested in, he brings it home and tells me. He also enjoys how much I know about the Navy, since he usually speaks in acronym-ese, like all good sailors. Generally he doesn’t have to stop to explain the acronyms since I grew up hearing them flung between my parents at the dinner table.
Anyhow. This story of Kurt’s. Apparently the Command Master Chief (who is the highest-ranking enlisted person at that particular command; every command has a CMC) related a story he’d gotten from the CMC of a ship. This young sailor stationed to this ship had gone out and bought a motorcycle. He’d also gotten all kinds of safety equipment for it, since it is required to be fully suited when you take a motorcycle on base. None of those brain-buckets will do; you need a full-face helmet. You need a jacket. You need a reflective safety vest. You need pants on. You need boots. The whole shebang.
Aside: That’s why it’s so hard for me to see people riding motorcycles here in Rhode Island. We have no helmet laws. Any time of the day or night you can see people zipping around on motorcycles, weaving in and out of traffic, without a helmet, wearing tennis shoes, a tank top, and shorts. The mind boggles. Have they never seen anyone suffering from road rash??
So this young sailor had his new motorcycle with all his new safety equipment. And he was wearing all of it too. But no amount of safety equipment could save him from his own stupidity. While going far too fast somewhere in Boston, he wrapped his bike around a telephone pole.
And no, he did not survive.
The CMC of his ship said he was simply going too fast. And the kicker of the whole thing? He’d owned that motorcycle for all of four hours.
To own a motorcycle and to be a member of the US Navy, you must attend a safety training class, and you must show proof of completion of said class before you can obtain the stickers required to allow you on base. However, there is no such requirement in every single state. I do believe some states require special motorcycle licensing, but if Massachusetts isn’t one of those states, the sailor was doing nothing wrong from the state’s viewpoint.
From the Navy’s viewpoint, he was definitely in the wrong by operating a motorcycle before obtaining his safety certification. Had he survived the accident, there was a good chance the Navy would deny paying for his medical care.
Before you jump up on your soap box and say, “They can’t do that!” let me assure you that yes, they can.
This is one thing that most civilians and a good number of new sailors don’t understand, and I know I’ve written about it before. Once you join the US Navy, you no longer belong to yourself anymore. The Navy can dictate every aspect of your life, and it frequently does.
When you join the Navy, you cannot get a tattoo just anywhere you want to. Anywhere on your body that is visible when you’re in the long-sleeved uniform is illegal. Necks, heads, faces, wrists, and hands are out.
Did you know that my husband couldn’t have come to his current command if he had visible tattoos? Visible tattoos are defined as what can be seen when you’re in a t-shirt and shorts. No tattoos on his forearms or on his legs, places that are usually within limits. His orders to this command stated that he had to be clean of visible tattoos before he was sent here.
Do you have money problems? Are you in debt up to your ears? Depending on your job in the Navy, you could lose your clearance and your current job if your money problems are too severe because now you’re a security risk.
The Navy can tell you who you can date and who you can’t. You cannot date anyone in your command, and that includes those on co-ed ships deployed for six or more months at a time. There are very strict rules on who you can date even if you’re not in the same command. Relations between officers and enlisted are extremely illegal, while relations between different grades of enlisted can be almost as taboo.
All aspects of your life is subject to Navy rules. Did you get a DUI last weekend? Your command will find out, and you could face consequences through the military as well as through the civil system. Do you beat your wife? That is another thing you can face military punishment for. Child abuse? Problems with drugs? Alcoholism?? These are all things the Navy gets involved in.
Watching CARRIER really brings this point home. A male Petty Officer First Class (E-6) ends up having sex with a female Airman (E-3). The day before, this First Class had been feted by all after having won Senior Sailor of the Quarter for the battlegroup. Then the carrier pulls into Hong Kong, he and this female airman get drunk, and bam! They’re both sent to captain’s mast and convicted of disobeying a lawful order for having sex with a fellow crewperson. They both receive what is known as “45/45,” which is 45 days restriction to the ship and 45 days extra duty. The man as the senior sailor ends up with the harsher sentence, not because he’s a man, but because he’s the senior sailor. He will never be promoted above First Class, mainly because this captain’s mast will stay on his record for the next five years. No Chief’s Board is going to promote a man with a captain’s mast on his record, and by the time it’s expunged, he will have been a First Class for too long. The female Airman has more a chance to recover from this because she has more time.
But in what other job does it matter whom you have sex with?? Obviously teachers cannot have sex with their students, but two of my teachers when I lived in Illinois got married one year. I am sure they were having sex before they were married, and they met at the school. And even if you have a job in which there are strict no-dating policies, there are still ways to get around it, and the punishment will probably not be nearly as harsh as practically forcing you out of your job, which is what that First Class is facing. He can no longer rise in the ranks; he might as well go home.
Some folks join the Navy and chafe at all these rules. “The Navy can’t tell me what to do!” they yell. Well, sure they can. You’re the one who signed on the dotted line, and by signing, you signed your body, your self, your person over to them. It’s the way the Navy works.