Many of the things I'd been wondering about were answered, including the crappy move situation I wrote about last Wednesday, and a rough outline of the ship's schedule after this shipyard availability. But the one thing that most concerns me - and the number-one reason why I won't re-enlist for any price - was in that seventy-five percent I talked about above, and thus it was off the discussion table. The problem I'm talking about is the increasing paternalism my co-workers and I face on a daily basis, both from the Navy in general and Memphis in particular. In the course of discharging our day-to-day duties, we're frequently referred to as "men," and expected to act commensurately. Despite this, we're all too often treated like children. I have to submit a formal request, in writing, to travel outside a fifty mile radius from Seavey Island. We're reminded over and over and over again of things that are completely obvious, like "don't drink and drive." And there are innumerable small events daily that convey the message that if you don't wear khaki, you're not to be trusted farther than you can be thrown.
Part of this is due to the degree of uniformity required in military service. The various Armed Forces have an obligation to ensure that each of their members - regardless of background or upbringing - has all the tools and training required to be successful soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen. For many of us (particularly we who have enough smarts to progress through the Navy's nuclear power program), being taught things that are already elementary to us is perceived as demeaning. I remember during my first week of nuclear power training, I was actually instructed in how to write a check. And when someone screws something up, policies and procedures are put in place to ensure nobody else can screw it up. For example, one of my co-workers accidentally brought his dosimeter onto a flight (and through the attendant X-ray security checkpoints). As such, the radiation to which the dosimeter was exposed was not representative of that which he received in the vicinity of our reactor plant. He suffered personally - there now exists a thick sheaf of paper to prove he wasn't irradiated at work. But there has been talk of requiring personnel to submit leave chits for trips away from the SDT (which require the dosimeter to be turned in), vice special request chits (which allow you to keep your dosimeter). One stumbles, we all suffer. The fifty-mile requirement I mentioned above came about in the aftermath of a safety stand-down throughout the entire Submarine Force, following well-publicized mishaps on both USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (SSN 708) and USS Newport News (SSN 750). I think that the other major factor in this treatment is something that's been referred to as "creeping nukeism" in the Force. That is, the tendency to impose the priniciples and guidelines of our nuclear power program on the rest of submarines, and even on the Seagoing Military Force in general. One of the most important of these simple - if something isn't documented, it didn't happen. This applies to training, to maintenance, and in the case of the 50-mile radius, to what the Navy calls Operational Risk Management (ORM - the rest of the world calls it "using your head" or "common sense", but fancy acronyms give flag officers a tingly feeling inside). This way, in case things go to shit, the command has a piece of paper to prove that it was aware of and reviewed the Sailor's plan.
Of course, let's never discount the fact that those who hold the special trust and confidence of the President (commissioned officers) and those who are board selected and peer initiated (chiefs) see themselves as inherently superior to the so-called "dirty blue."
A couple of days ago, one of my friends put very clearly why he wants out - so he can gain control of his life. I feel exactly the same way about mine. I, in particular, am a fairly individualistic person - I march to my own drum, and not anyone else's. I'm not a fan of working for an organization that can regulate as much or as little of my life as it pleases - and can change the degree of such regulation without notice or consent. But I'll endure - for eighteen months and six days, and not one second longer.