I have been in the Navy for 21 years now. Back when I had only been in for about two years (maybe I was 20 years old), I found myself, as a Third Class Petty Officer, in front of my Senior Chief. I had really messed up this time. (We don’t really need to go into what I did, I guess that may serve as a good story on another day.) He was about six feet, six inches tall – like Paul Bunyan with Anchors and stars on his collar. He had a pock marked face, and looked like he had taken his share of beatings during his earlier life. If he ever smiled, it was rare. He was as tough as they came. Luckily, he was sitting at his desk, and even had his reading glasses perched on the end of his nose as he spoke to me.
I was trying to explain to him what I was thinking. After all, he kept saying, “WHAT in the world were you THINKING?!?” As I would get half a sentence out, he cut me off and just screamed some more until I just broke into tears. I kept trying to explain through my sobs, but – I could not really talk clearly at that point.
He looked flabbergasted at the sight of my tear streaked face. Maybe he would soften up, maybe he had a heart under those khaki’s after all, I thought. He put his giant fists on his desk, and slowly, very slowly, pushed himself up to standing position – until I was standing in the shadow of his body, which had eclipsed the florescent light in the ceiling. Even though he was on the other side of a big wood desk, our faces were only inches apart as he leaned toward me. Then, he bellowed loudly, “THERE’S NO CRYING IN THE NAVY!”
For some reason that stopped me in my tracks. I was stunned. Stunned by the fact my girlie tears had not worked, stunned by the fact I had just had my ass chewed so thoroughly by a Senior Chief in the United States Navy, stunned that I was not in my nice comfy house in Colorado any longer, and most of all stunned that I had quit crying. I don’t know why – or how, but a switch flipped that moment. That scary Senior Chief fixed me in a split second. He changed me from the soft civilian girly girl I could have been to the touch chick I think I am today.
Here is a toast to all Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, and Master Chiefs of the past, present, and future. I have a feeling you all know just what those young Third Class Petty Officers need.