Tuesday, August 1, 2017
US Navy Patches in Japan- Clockwise: 1) USS Independence ship emblem; 2) Westpac 93-94 Rocker; 3) Southern Watch 93 Eagle; 4) Crossing The Equator Australian Cruise May 1993; 5) I-5 Interstate patch; 6) Pacific Rim Exercise, Hawaiian Cruise, June 1994; 7) Foreign Legion USS Indy; 8) Operation Southern Watch- It Flies; It Dies; MIDDLE 9) Dobuita Dori Yokosuka (Japanese) patch
Sunday, July 2, 2017
An excerpt from the forthcoming part memoir and part transitional-advice book, intended for the civilian employer as a way to better understand the transitioning veteran
From the middle of May to the first part of July, I partook in my first underway period to Perth, Western Australia. Upon returning to Japan, I started my new position, divisional yeoman. While keyboarding or typing is pretty much a given in the 21st Century’s military, in the early 1990s, having a junior enlisted sailor with this skill set was rare. One lunch period on the Australian deployment, my division officer and LPO walked by the galley. My Div-O called for me with a folder in one hand and waving at me with the other. “Stone, come here for a second. I met with my Div-O, Mr. Jerome. “Little Joey”, we called Mr. Jerome affectionately and behind his back, was a graduate from Vanderbilt University’s ROTC program and the Navy Supply Corp School in Athens, GA. Mr. Jerome was a newly promoted LTJG that came onto the ship about 18 months before me. He had been a division officer at the Disbursing office, S-4 division. In his new role, he had become accustom to the support of the veteran enlisted personnel, like my LPO and others in key positions in S-5. The Navy, being cyclical in nature was seeing some of these key people rotating off the Indy. This was the case with the division’s current yeoman, Petty Officer Third Class Pelzer.
“Stone, I have been reviewing your personnel file and noticed that you took typing in the 10th grade. “Yes sir, that is correct.”, I replied with proper military bearing. “Very good.”, Mr. Jerome replied with a relieved look on his face. My LPO chimed in, “The day after tomorrow, the Indy will be back in Yokosuka and at that time, I want you and Petty Officer Pelzer to do a turnover. Pelzer will be transferring off the Indy before we deploy to the Persian Gulf later this year.”
Just like that, I was the division’s new yeoman. The thought of not having to get up at 0500 and working in the hot galley was a relief and I was thanking my stars for Mrs. Olsen’s typing class at Riverside High School. In Yokosuka, I celebrated Independence Day on the Indy with inport 24-hour duty. This was a Sunday, and with my first weekend back in Japan, the new bond that happens with sailors when they serve together on an underway period such as the Australian deployment created a pack of guys that were thick as thieves. The Saturday before, I decided to burn the midnight oil as we hit the Keikyu Line north to Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station transferring to the Yamamote Line, getting off at the Ebisu Station and taking the subway to the unofficial junior enlisted man’s headquarters, Roppongi. Of course, before leaving the base in Yokosuka, there was a stop by the package store where cheap bottles of “Mad Dog 20-20” were purchased and consumed on the train.
The night out was like the previous times before the Australian deployment. Get to Roppongi by 8pm, hit all of the bars and night clubs that start to charge a cover later in the night to get their stamps allowing free access later that night, and justify our presence in these places by adhering to the facilities’ rule, “Having a drink in hand at all times”. I must have done this two or three times a month from July to September. At one of these excursions to Roppongi, I met a Japanese woman, who was from Saitama.
While I had a great time painting the town with my newfound brothers on the ship in the big city of Tokyo, I made good on my commitment to the job by reporting to duty the following morning on time, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed despite not leaving Tokyo till 5am. This was by virtue of the trains resuming service at that time after being stopped from 11am the previous morning. To this day, 99% of your everyday veteran in the civilian workforce will find a way to get to work on time despite the obstacles that they may have faced. I guess a bad thing to point out about this was feeling the need to blow off steam on an all-night excursion knowing that I had to be on duty the next day. This discrepancy is something that is commonly done after long periods of hard work on the high seas and a good thing about this is this sort of indulgence is out of the transitioning veteran’s system by the time they reach the civilian workforce. Lastly, another good thing about veterans is that most can pick up and go with a new assignment and can make changes to their routine on the fly despite the misconception that veterans struggle in the civilian world due to the military world being overly structured.
Are you a fan of coming-of-age stories of about everyday guys from small town USA discovering themselves on war machines such as aircraft carriers in far off places and the like? If so, I would love to hear from you:
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
The Indy, my first home in Japan, was the Navy's only forward deployed carrier group from the early 1990s until its decommissioning in the late 1990s.
This sweatshirt was one of the last things that I bought at the ship's store when I transferred to a ship in CA and started the process of getting ready for college. So many life lessons were learned during those two years on the Indy-- both on the ship and on Liberty in Japan. One lesson in particular was looking at the glass being half full. Sadly, many of my junior enlisted contemporaries did the opposite and missed out on what Japan had to offer.
After graduating from college, I was fortunate to return to Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program where I took my curiosity and interest of Japan to the next level. I am better off because of my time spent in Japan-- both in Yokosuka and in Saitama and have Freedom's Flagship to thank for making that possible.
The Divine Wind Vault http://divinewindvault.blogspot.com (C)2006-16
Monday, April 25, 2016
Going to Japan was a life changing experience, yet this occurred before my acceptance on the JET Program. From 20-22, younger than the typical JET, I was a junior enlisted service member as part of ship's company on the American aircraft carrier, Independence forward deployed to Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan.
From 22-24, I finished up my Navy enlistment in California and from 24-29, all efforts were made towards my undergraduate degree. Why? It was the prerequisite for the JET Program. In California, people that knew me found it interesting that I would spend most of my time in the Japanese American communities of the South Bay of Los Angeles such as Torrance and Gardena. Members of these communities would often tell me, "You know Daniel, there's this JET Program that you ought to look into. Since I felt comfortable with this community, I took to heart their advice.
My favorite experience with JET occurred on my second year. It was a cool, clear day in October in Saitama at one of the biggest elementary schools in our school district. All of the stars had aligned as I worked really hard my first year to improve my Japanese since at the elementary schools, there weren't many, if any teacher that knew English which was different at the junior high schools with the Japanese Teacher of English. I also worked really hard developing a "bag of tricks" and improving my conditioning since lessons at the elementary schools required a lot of energy and non-textbook material and games.
On this particular day in October, I was really connecting with a group of 2nd graders. Unfortunately, it was my last day, but I was going to return the following January. I bid farewell and told the students, "See you next January!" Tsugi no ichi gatsu. With that, the students all smiled and cheered and began to chant over and over, Tsugi no ichi gatsu!!
I remember walking back to the nearby train station and saying to myself, "How many people are getting this chance? I remembered my days of working long and hard hours a few prefectures away on the Indy and I remembered my days stuck in the "rat race" in LA. I could be stuck in those bad situations but I was blessed to have the good fortune of being able to be back in Japan putting a smile of children's faces.
The JET Program means many things to many people, but it means to me that things taste a little sweeter the second time around and are cherished even more. I went on JET at 31 because I wasn't ready for JET at 22 or 23. It took nearly a decade for me to get to that point. Why? Because I was meant to have a connection with Japan and the JET Program was the best vehicle to see this reality to come to pass.
Everything happens for a reason. Trust yourself, keep yourself focused, and always try to meet your full potential. I the end you will. If a guy like me can, then I can't see why the same won't happen to you!!
The Divine Wind Vault http://divinewindvault.blogspot.com (C)2006-16