I’ve joined many military social media groups. Several of them are dedicated to those who served (or who are serving) in a submarine force. Other groups are open to all military veterans, where the submarine lifestyle (or workload) is occasionally discussed.
Thanks to those of you who started the groups and moderate the discussions! I wish I’d been able to learn like this over 30 years ago. Back then our tribal knowledge was constrained to our shipmates, plus an occasional conference or magazine or reunion. We never networked with today’s online global tools, but they’re a tremendous benefit for today’s submarine force.
For us aging geezers, this is a rare opportunity to pass our traditions & culture to a worldwide audience.
Unless, of course, we screw up our chance by alienating that audience.
So here’s my post to all of the submariner social groups:
Guys, I enjoy most of the things that I read in our group. I thought I had a pretty good career, but next to some of you I’m a barely qualified newbie. I appreciate the interesting & scary discussions about the U.S. submarine force that I never knew before the 1980s. I like learning about other country’s submariners who I barely knew at all. And, of course, we’re all keeping up with submarine current events– even if today’s dolphin-wearers seem to be a bit slow to learn from our example.
I can understand that these groups will come with some locker-room humor. I can understand sea stories about substances that would
gross out gag a maggot. I can understand the fascination with bodily functions or photos of scantily clad models. I can understand the outraged attitude of “It’s not our Navy anymore!” when today’s U.S. submariners can’t smoke, drink alcohol, grow a beard, haze each other, or otherwise recreate as we used to do in our days. I can understand the despair over the changes in the Chief Petty Officer initiations, the urinalysis, the breathalyzers, and the seemingly endless experiments with uniforms. It is clearly not our Navy anymore, and today’s sailors might be headed to hell in a handbasket. Just like when we took the watch in our day.
I understand those things, but there’s one attitude that I can’t understand– much less tolerate. What I’m about to say is on behalf of all the others who might not feel comfortable about speaking up.
While some of you are grumbling and being curmudgeonly about women on submarines, keep in mind that some of us proud parents have sired women who would very much like to follow in our footsteps. My daughter has earned her own ballistic missile submarine deterrent patrol pin. (She’s already wearing my ol’ pin, and someday she might earn its stars too.) As SECNAV announced in January, she’s also eagerly anticipating life on a VIRGINIA fast attack with both women officers and women enlisted crewmembers. Whatever submarine she ends up on, she knows that I’m saving her a pair of my dolphins.
Many of you have been subject to intolerance & discrimination on the basis of your skin color, your ancestry, your religion, your sexual orientation, your politics, your rate, your facial hair, your lack of hair, and even your motorcycle. If you think gender intolerance & discrimination is appropriate (or even funny), then I think you’re behaving like a hypocrite. It’s no better than those who raised their discriminating hands against you.
If you’re a submarine misogynist then I see two choices for you:
- You can continue to publicly kvetch & moan, reminiscing about the good ol’ men-only days, whatever they were like for you. I object to that behavior. It’s unacceptable. I think you should deal with your attitude or get left behind by people who won’t sympathize. I also feel that your grumpiness on this subject drags down the otherwise entertaining level of the group’s discourse. Or,
- You can help me pass the torch to the new generation of submariners. You can share the stories & advice that you’d be proud to teach your adult children (or your adult grandchildren) of both genders. They need all the help we can give them. I can help you spread that to more readers with my blog and in future editions of my book. I’d welcome your sea stories as a guest post or in a new eBook.
Today’s young adults may be blissfully ignorant, but the ones who claw their way into the submarine force are generally better trained and more capable than us woolly mammoths & dinosaurs were in our day. The missions might change but the danger is still there. The operations & inspections that we handled in our day are a fraction of the complexity of today’s tasks. We should be proud that they’re standing the watch just as we did. (I’m sure glad that I don’t have to compete with any of them for promotion.) You have a chance to help them honor our service by benefiting from our wisdom.
Or you can annoy them, and they’ll avoid you. They might not be especially outraged or even surprised by your behavior, but they’ll certainly shake their heads and walk away– or maybe laugh at you. Even worse, I suspect that they’ll ignore you and move on.
C’mon, guys, we can handle it. Even the Navy’s surface warriors and the aviators have grown up and decided to work with both genders. They made all the mistakes for us and we can learn from their experience. They’ve made their parents (and grandparents) proud. If they can do it then I think we can certainly figure out how to join the 21st century.
Today’s submariners don’t complain about gender. They have better things to do. They’re working hard, learning their trade, and maybe even having a little fun– just like we did. (I’d like to share a little of that vicarious thrill again.) They grumble about clueless officers or angry chiefs or the XO’s training schedule or dink nonquals or the inspectors or the paperwork or nukes versus coners. You know, the things we used to grumble about. They may be different, but they still complain about the same things. They’re men, they’re women, but they’re all the same thing to us: submariners. Help them join our group. Make them feel welcome. Let them buy us frosty beverages and pretend to be impressed by how the Navy was when we were running it. Maybe we can even teach them an old-school tactic that they can count on when the computers crash and the lights go out.
I felt this needed to be said for those who might be reluctant to raise the subject. You’re welcome to share your comments here, of course, but I feel that I’ve had my say. I’m ready to move on to other topics. I won’t bring this up again unless you say something highly worthy of mockery.
I hope your female progeny can be as proud of you as mine seems to be of her heritage.
Thanks– from a retired submariner who’s been meritoriously promoted to “Dad”.
Does this post help?