Two Years Later

We bought a house!

I’m not actually dead, so I suppose I need to update this finally. After two years of disappearing, it’s probably about time to update this. From my last post, a lot has finally changed, and for the better. In March 2017, I went on terminal leave from the Navy and moved from Hawaii to Idaho to work as a government contractor for the Department of Energy. My wife, Carissa, also ended up getting a contractor job for the DoE. I actually like the amount of freedom I have now, even though a lot of the government, uh, intricacies, are still present from the Navy. That said, I normally have three day weekends every other weekend and Carissa has three day weekends every weekend. That alone makes this job amazing to me.

Visiting beautiful Yellowstone

Thanks to the VA Loan program, I was able to buy our first home, a too large for us house on the edge of the suburbs with a view of the mountains right outside my door. Our dogs, Molly and Jameson, are still doing well and enjoying the large backyard. Since moving here, we’ve been on a vacation to Savannah, GA and up to Yellowstone, but we’re looking forward to hiking, camping, and cabining much more this summer. The winters in Idaho are long, windy, and colder than anything I’m used to, but Spring is nearly here (I hope…). I sold my 2013 Camaro and bought a 2016 F-150 to better fit in Idaho and to help haul any future campers or toys we may buy. It’s also a lot more practical in the snow, that’s for sure. Currently, we’re finishing our outside patio/deck area so we have somewhere nice to sit outside on warmer days, until we get a hot tub for colder ones.

Jameson perches to get a better spot to defend the home

This last December, I passed my CFA, Chartered Financial Analyst, Level 1 exam. In the Navy, I found myself saving some money, but not really putting it to use or understanding why or how to do things with it. I decided, based off of my former shipmate Downing’s advice, to pursue financial literacy and now I spend a lot of my time researching markets, plotting the future in spreadsheets, and helping those around me develop financial plans. Man, that sounds really boring, but I guess I’m getting older and more boring as times go on. That’s probably why I don’t update this much. However, now that I’m out of the Navy, I’ll probably tell a few of my favorite Navy stories that I didn’t want to risk telling while I was in. Nothing classified, of course, I just didn’t want to get my ass chewed out for making fun of a Chief who took things too seriously or something.

The winters here are… cold

I’d like to say that I have some other exciting details, but most of what we wanted after the Navy is a calm, stable life. And I think we finally have that. A boring life, but one that we could enjoy time together in, one with lots of dogs, good food, and, of course, stories, because I always seem to have a few.

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The Good Deal

More shiny stuff to wear on my uniform
More shiny stuff to wear on my uniform

So what is “The Good Deal”? If you’ve ever been in the Navy, and especially a submarine, you’ve probably heard of the mythical “good deal” — something that takes the suck away from your daily grind at work. Whether it’s getting out early on a Friday or getting all three days off on a long weekend, the good deal just doesn’t happen to people. Or so I thought.

Right now my shoulder is an office joke because I’ve managed to injure it badly enough to not be able to stand duty on the submarine, which has relegated me to upper echelons of the good deal. Unfortunately, it also means I’m one day away from having very serious surgery on my right shoulder, which is being categorized as a complete labral tear that needs pretty invasive correction action to fix. This will grant me pain meds and convalescent leave, but it may also plague me for the rest of my life.

Molly and Jamison (and Carissa!) after a much needed bath
Molly and Jamison (and Carissa!) after a much needed bath

I’m not a fan of surgery, but this is the only option to try to make me better. It’s that or live with crippling pain every day. There’s also the risk that I may die, but it’s pretty remote. I mean, what could go wrong with military doctors? Oh shit. (If you’re reading this three years from now and I haven’t updated again, I guess I didn’t pull through. How strange!)

Molly and Jamison becoming fast friends
Molly and Jamison becoming fast friends

Anyway, in other news, I got my first NAM, Navy Achievement Medal, which pretty much completes my goals in the Navy. From here, I just have to fight through the next 1 1/2 years and I’ll be out. I’ve already had some basic feelers put out for becoming a shipyard Radiological Controls Technician, the civilian analogue to what I do at work anyway. We’ll see. First off, I have to make it through the next few weeks!

We also got another little dog named Jamison. She and Molly are becoming fast friends. I’ll get to hang out with them all day every day while I’m out on leave. Should be a blast!

The Shoulder Problem

At the Submarine Birthday Ball, 2015.
At the Submarine Birthday Ball, 2015.

Well, deployment, of course, wasn’t all fun and games (wait, it wasn’t any fun and games…). In Japan II (October), I fell in the engineering space and tore my right arm out of the socket, so much so that it was literally on my back. It got jammed back in and since then I’ve been dealing with it.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was able to see a doctor and get an x-ray. After that, they upgraded me to an MRI and now I am waiting to see if I need surgery and physical therapy or just physical therapy. It’s been a constant pain and hurts me even when I do the smallest things at work or at home, so I am mixed about getting it fixed. On one hand, I don’t want to be a crippled dude for the rest of my life. On the other, this has been a hugely limiting factor for doing anything physical.

I’m still waiting to see what the results will be, but I’m nervous to see what is said. All in all, though, I get a few days off work because of this so I’ll take that as a win in the mean time. Molly and I are flopping around on the couch and I’m watching movies all day while Carissa works. Not a bad day out of context.

In other news, we had another successful Submarine Birthday Ball, which was pretty fun. Basically you get hammered drunk and wander around Honolulu. There’s some guest speakers, but I don’t remember literally anything from them. Hooyah?

Happy New Year

Hurray.
Hurray.

Happy New Year. When I think back to all of my new years, this one will always stand out as the worst. It’s not to say that it was an awful day in the context of being on the submarine, but in the context of celebration, it definitely was. I work the night shift, called “Mids”, so I was up for the switch to 2015. It consisted of the cooks frying up some jalapeno poppers and frozen burritos. Don’t get me wrong here — that’s a real feast when it comes down to food at sea, but I try to think about all the other good times instead. If anything, it will always be the New Years I spent out to sea away from the real world (and stone sober!).

Most importantly, I think about my New Years with Carissa, at home, doing nothing except hanging out, and I am thankful for those times because they are my favorite New Years. I sent Carissa an e-mail through a service called LetterMeLater, telling her to go out and have fun; I really hope she did. I also recall all the parties with Mikey over Christmas break in college; those were good times too, though I regretted every morning after.

New Years was a couple weeks ago now, strung loosely together in my mind by a container of C4 (the popular pre-workout energy supplement we use to stay awake), burned coffee, and administrative work. Time is continuing to warp as the days go on. I know that I’ve been at sea for a long time but I can’t explain where the time has gone. To me, it is still August 8th and I am trapped in the same day. It makes me wonder if things have changed in the real world. Seven months is a long time to be away. I don’t know how people make this a career.

It’s a bummer knowing that you’re going to be stuck out to sea, so when something breaks on-board, most people optimistically hope it’ll be broken enough to have us pull in. (In reality, though, we do our jobs to fix the boat and apparently we’re good at it, which is why we’re one of the few boats able to support what we’re doing right now). It’s more of a fantasty dream than anything; if only we got to pull into blah port for x days. When we do get news of a schedule change, it starts up as a collection of rumors pieced together from the radiomen, cryptic squadron e-mails, and occasionally chain of command updates. All these things mix together for a very unstable schedule, and everyone is clinging on the next big news.

So who really knows where to and when next.

Merry Christmas From Sasebo, Japan

In Japan, girls dress up in funny Christmas outfits. Weird.
In Japan, girls dress up in funny Christmas outfits. Weird.

Well, we ended up stopping in Sasebo, Japan for Christmas. It was a good break and a little bit of time to relax before we headed back out for more. I think Japan is an especially strange place for Americans though. Everything is just so different, even when they try to make it American for us. (For example, our hotel breakfast was hot dogs and french fries, just like home. Haha.)

It’s hard being gone for Christmas, but at least I did get to talk to Carissa a fair bit. The time differences and our weird schedules make it pretty frustrating. I was sitting on top of my boat in 30 degree weather with no coat for hours talking to her, just because that’s the only real option. People will do anything to spend just a few more minutes talking to the people that they love.

Buying things in Japan can be pretty confusing at first...
Buying things in Japan can be pretty confusing at first…

I only had two real days off here. The first was spent stocking up on supplies, getting food, and drinking off the previous underway. It doesn’t help that all my buddies enjoy the same amount of drinking as I do. In fact, I always feel like I meet the most interesting people at bars and end up finding new places I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

My other day off I just did some Christmas shopping and walked around the area. I kind of regret not taking the trip to Nagasaki, but I don’t think I mind that much. It seems sort of distasteful and weird (much the same way I find Japanese people making cute poses on the USS Missouri — but again, it’s a cultural thing lost in translation).

These guys dragged me all over Sasebo to drink!
These guys dragged me all over Sasebo to drink!

It was nice just doing nothing for a little while. It’s an opportunity that you rarely get, so I was very pleased with that at least. But, now it’s back out to sea for a while longer. It’s a shame to think that I would be getting back in two months otherwise, but now I have even more to go. Oh well, every day closer is a good thing.

Frocked and Frustration

Pierside in Japan with Pendergrass
Pierside in Japan with Pendergrass

So, after taking the Navy advancement exam six times, I finally made E-5 off the test as opposed to re-enlisting for it. It’s nice finally getting a pay raise and moving up in the Navy. If I don’t re-enlist in the future, this will be my rank when I get out of the Navy too because I don’t have enough time left on my contract to make E-6. For those of you that this sounds Greek to, I was the equivalent of a Corporal in the Army, and now I’m at the rank of a Sergent. Navy ranks are strange to most. Now I’m a Petty Officer Second Class, which makes my title MM2(SS) now, or Machinist’s Mate Second Class Submarine Qualified. Yep, it’s kind of confusing to have so many words and titles. The Navy is pretty good at that.

Also unique to the Navy is getting Frocked. I’m not sure if this is just a tradition, or just a way to save some money, but getting frocked means that you are given the rank of a second class, but you’re still paid as a third class for a few months. You accept all the duties and responsibilities of a second class, but with no benefits. And if you do get in trouble, you’ll be bumped down two ranks instead of one. Hah, that would be a pretty huge downer.

Speaking of huge downers, getting the news of an extension on deployment is a lot like being kicked in the gut when you’re already down. Almost every division on board has a deployment tracker on the ship’s internet, and it was horrifying to see our percentage complete drop more than 10% after the news of our imminent extension. One more month out to sea. 37 days more, to be precise. It was a huge blow to hear this news.

Carissa was already planning events and vacations for when I was supposed to come home, and now all that has to wait. It’s a shame that I have to be apart from my family even more than I already was supposed to be. But, what can I do but do my job and continue on?

At least in my job, things are not as tremendously confusing and hectic as I used to think they were. Amazingly, doing the same thing day on day, week on week, month on month, makes you pretty proficient at getting things done. I have no idea how many chemistry samples I’ve done, but it has to be in the upper hundreds. By the time deployment is finished, I’ll have completed around two thousand maintenance items by myself. That’s kind of hard to believe. Downing is constantly thanking me for doing a good job and praising my dedication to the division. Although the rest of the boat just assumes I sleep all day because of my weird schedule, I’ve made sure that reactor laboratory division is a quiet success. If people don’t know about us, it means that we’re doing things right. I like to keep it that way.

Well, here’s to an extra month of that, I guess.

Welcome to Guam

It's like Hawaii, only Guam
It’s like Hawaii, only Guam

So, Guam has always been described to me as a more ghetto Hawaii with nothing to do but go to strip clubs and bars. After visiting Guam for a total of a day, I can say that this seemed accurate. There are clubs and bars all over, and it kind of felt like the wild west of the pacific. It is strange to think of this as America, as it felt even less American than Hawaii (or Australia, for that matter.)

When we pulled in, we were actually moored to a submarine tender, the USS Frank Cable, which we had to cross to get out to the pier. I’m obviously not a surface guy because it seemed like an entirely foreign concept. There are special passageways just for officers. And, certain lingo that I wasn’t really familiar with. I got shouted at “DOG ZEBRA” when walking through their ship. I had no idea what this meant until I had some boot camp flash back about shutting, or “dogging”, certain doors with big red “Z” markers on them. Strange folk, those surface guys.

It’s hard to come up with much to say about the place besides that it was a much needed opportunity to get a beer or three and just be off the boat. I ate at Outback Steakhouse (Ha, just like Australia right?) and that’s my only real memorable highlight.

The USS Hawaii Banner at the Horse and Cow
The USS Hawaii Banner at the Horse and Cow

I will say it was neat going to the famous Submariner bar, the Horse and Cow, a bar filled with all sorts of submarine gear presumably stolen, er, borrowed, from boats coming and going. There was even a USS Hawaii banner from the last time the boat was there on Westpac 2012. I made sure to sign it so that when I never go back, I can have Pendergrass tell me if it’s still there during Westpac 2017. Haha. Their notable drink is a bluish bottle of something strong called “Nukewaste”, which was delicious and deadly. Very fitting, I suppose.

There’s probably more to Guam, but we pulled in and left in a hurry. When you’re a Nuke, it means you’re working the entire shutdown and then the entire start up, losing essentially another day all together. I’d have almost rather not pulled in because it wasn’t worth the hassle. But, the beers did taste good.