Friday, May 14, 2010

"I put on my uniform today."

At times I struggle with missing my family and wonder if I made the right decision to keep pressing on in this career field.  While this underway period has been hard on me (and probably on them, too), I know that this was my choice, a choice that I made after lots of discussion with Frank.  A lot of people can't understand why we've chosen this, and honestly it's hard to explain.  But yesterday I was forwarded the excerpt below.  It was read at the retirement ceremony for a Chief Petty Officer in my community and it really touches on themes that resonate throughout the ranks of our all-volunteer military.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

"I put on my uniform today."

A Navy Chief sat behind his desk, just down the hall from his Commander's office.  As the Chief started on a second cup of coffee and finished the last of the morning messages, the commander stepped into the office.  "Chief," the Captain said, "I hate to ask you this, but you are needed in Southwest Asia in six days for a 90-day rotation.  Can you go?"  With no voiced emotion and without looking up, the Chief replied, "Ma'am, I put on my uniform this morning."

The Captain, somewhat taken aback, thought to herself, "The Chief doesn't usually talk in riddles.  Has this veteran of 20 years gone off the deep end?"  The old protector of the enlisted corps smiled and began to explain.  "Ma'am, I made a promise to myself more than 20 years ago, that I would only put this uniform on as long as I'm available for duty.  You see, while it is obvious to most Navy members, it seems to completely escape others.  'Available for duty' means more than the desire to negotiate and select the premium assignments.  It requires us to go any place in the world the President or officers appointed over us determines, at any given time.  This doesn't mean we shouldn't want or receive our preferences.  It does mean we'll go when and where we are needed and called.  Now this may seem overly simplistic, but I think everyone can agree--when it comes to defining service to our country, the answer is just that simple.  In today's world of 'What can you do for me?', it's very easy to lose sight of what 'service to country' is all about.  Service goes far beyond the individual; it affects the well-being of our nation.  Sitting in comfortable surroundings, at your dream base in CONUS, it's easy to forget the sacrifices we agreed to endure in service to our country.  Sitting in Saudi, Iraq, Bosnia, Japan, or maybe Korea, the sacrifices become much clearer.  The bottom line today is that we are an all-volunteer force, and though our force has been reduced by 30 percent in the last five years, it remains a highly mobilized, continually-tasked 'corporation.'  Everyone is vital to its continued success."

The Chief continued by saying, "The Navy will go on tomorrow with or without any single one of us; however, the efficiency of any one of its specific units may be adversely affected by the loss of only a few.  All of us have the responsibility to report our availability for duty.  If someone has a family problem or special circumstances that preclude them from being available, they need to report it immediately and especially prior to being deployed.  If any member does not deploy when called upon, another member must fill that slot.  So, any time someone cannot or will not deploy, the ripple effect is felt throughout the Navy.  Everyone's family would like them to be home for the holidays.  I can't think of a single person wo would intentionally miss their child's graduation.  And we're all aware of the pain of losing a loved one and know how the grief can be compounded by not being at their side in the final moments.  Yes, we are all continually asked to make sacrifices.  Yet some seem to forget that we are serving our nation, and that we are all volunteers.  Who said it was going to be easy?  The leadership of our country depends on us for being good and true to our word.  Every day, each of us needs to look into the mirror before getting into uniform and ask, 'Am I available for duty?'  If the answer is 'No,' then we need to notify our supervisor, division chief, or commander immediately!  Then the next step is to determine if the non-availability is temporary or permanent.  Then the toughest question must be asked--should the person resign, separate, or retire?  There are no grey areas.  Everyone must decide for themselves."

Finally the Chief looked at his commander and said, "Ma'am, as I said earlier, I put on my uniform today, and I'm available for duty.  Do you still need a 'yes' or 'no' answer to your question?"

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