A Productive Annual Training
Three showers, two good nights sleep, and several hours of mindless computer game play later, I am now gaining the coherence necessary to write about this year's annual training. To give you some idea of how hard everybody in my unit worked, five minutes after the bus left the training area to take us back home, the driver looked back and there wasn't an open eye. Other units may be different, but I never saw a call for assistance go unanswered. Somebody always picked up the ball and helped you run with it. This doesn't happen in the "real" Navy, by the way. Out in the fleet it is all too common for divisions to ignore each other's difficulties, say "choose your rate, choose your fate" and let work pile up.
Another indicator of my unit's strength is that we are more ready to deploy now than we were two weeks ago. Think about that for a second; our readiness to mobilize is greater immediately after a mobilization than it was before. All of our gear is up, running, and more ready for deployment than before our annual training. As for our personnel, we are the most ready unit of its kind in the Navy. Of course that means that if the balloon goes up anywhere in the world, we go first; but we can brag like mad until then.
Part of the reason MIUW-110 gets these results is that the command recognizes the hard effort of extremely distinct personalities. If you are wacky and work really hard, you still get rewarded with my unit. One example of this is a supremely distinct Steelworker Second Class (SW2) who won his first Navy Achievement Medal
on Friday. This Seabee came to MIUW-110 because we had equipment to work on and something to do. His nickname is "Shrek", and he publicly emulates an ogre; but he is one of the biggest hearted and hardest working people in the unit. He isn't pretty, politically correct, or the poster boy for clean living; but he has an active imagination and tremendous capacity to get the job done. No other unit in his active or reserve career ever gave him the recognition his work deserved, until now.
Another distinct personality the unit recognized on Friday was me. I was awarded my first Navy Achievement Medal within six months of rejoining the reserves, five months after my first drill with the unit. I earned it through making our "hopeless" sonar work, and doing my part to make possible the first sonar operations my unit carried out in over seven years. A lot of people told me that the system was useless, that nobody wanted it, that it was being phased out, and that I should forget about being a Sonar Technician. Part of the "distinctness" of my character is that I don't take being dismissed lightly. It really made me angry to have all of my experience and capability rejected out of hand because having working equipment was inconvenient. Part of the military experience is not saying dismissive persons are wrong, but instead proving it beyond a shadow of a doubt by doing your duty exceptionally well. It turns out that getting equipment working is more important than just getting along with people who tell you to ignore your duty. I did push some of the boundaries of that, but in the end my command supported my efforts and accepted my abrasiveness. That took some courage and integrity in my chain of command; in response I give them my loyalty and hard work.
I really am working at getting along with the members of my command who I rubbed the wrong way. Possibly I will even speak with greater tact and delicacy about some of the other units at the recent exercise who are still working up their teams. I can say with certainty that I very much enjoyed working with the great boat drivers at IBU-13 and IBU-15. MIUW-501 is very lucky to have the STGSN they sent to us for training. I do not envy the folks at the main base who had so much training thrown at them, regardless of the applicability of the training plan to their skill development. It was a complex exercise with a lot of ground to cover, and the base sailors took it in the shorts so that elements of a spreadsheet could get checked off. Since that spreadsheet isn't going to deploy anywhere, I have my doubts as to the value of focusing so exclusively on it. MIUW-110 exiled itself to a far corner of the exercise and improved the readiness of the command instead of somebody else's software.
Life is good. On the very first day I found a submarine…okay, it was on the surface and we saw it with our eyes before we set up the sonar, but all our Sonar Tech's made positive identification! I actually got to use my sonar with real sonobuoys in real water listening to real contacts. I qualified in three significant watchstations and made significant progress on two more. I won my first individual medal and made my wife very proud. It was a very productive annual training.