I left home on June 4th and spent a week in Norfolk, VA finishing up my paperwork for my mobilization to Afghanistan. That week in June was the last time I wore a Navy Uniform. On Sunday June 11th I put on an Army uniform to start training and eventually, on July 4th, I landed in Afghanistan. The entire time dressed up like a soldier. My Army uniform does say U.S. Navy on it, but it’s a small little strip on a uniform of Army camouflage.
Where I ‘m stationed in Afghanistan we have a Navy Admiral stationed here with us. Back in September, she lobbied to allow it so we could wear our Navy camouflage uniform. She gained permission for us to wear our Navy uniform, but only on Fridays, and as long as we stayed here on our base. It was a small win, but a huge victory. Starting on the Navy’s birthday in October we could wear our new Navy green camouflage. The unfortunate part of this story is, I didn’t have one. Prior to October 1st the only Sailors who had the Navy green camouflage were Sailors who had previously deployed to a land unit outside of the Middle East. I had only deployed on ships and I am currently standing in the Middle East, so no uniform for me. Now the Admiral was able to get the Sailors who entered country after me their uniform issued, so they had it when they arrived. All of this is great for them, but I still don’t have a uniform.
Now the logical thing would be just to buy one, which I would have done if I could have. Unfortunately on October 1st the entire Navy, not just the land deployed sailors, were switching over to the green Navy camouflage. The blue camouflage uniform was replaced with the green camouflage and the Navy is back ordered as they roll out the new uniform to the entire Fleet. So I did what any smart Naval Officer would do, I asked a Chief.
From the beginning of my career in the Navy there has always been a Chief supporting me. When I was a division officer on the USS Essex there was a BMC (Chief Boatswain’s Mate) who made me look good when I certainly had no idea what I was doing. He was there for me allowing me to work on my Surface Warfare qualification, yet gave me the liberty to work on my leadership skills and create my leadership style. My first ship with my first Chief was where my professional career as an adult began.
After two years I transferred to my second ship, a much smaller and very different ship. Now I have my warfare qualification and my focus here is to run my division. I also wanted to obtain my engineering officer of the watch qualification. I was the repair division officer and this time I didn’t have a chief directly working for me, but I did have four highly motivated first class petty officers all wanting to make chief. They were awesome and made my job easy. We had our challenges with inspections, qualifications, deployments, and actual casualties, but through it all we worked tirelessly and persevered. I was fortunate enough to be there when one of those first classes made chief and I was honored to be at his pinning. I also did qualify as an engineering officer of the watch and stood that watch for an entire deployment. I have to thank a very patient GSCS (Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician) who taught me how to stand that watch. He made sure I was ready for my qualification board and for standing watch by myself.
Fast forward to my days as a reservist, six years ago a met a highly motivated First Class Petty Officer LS1 (Logistics Specialist) Wells. We have been drilling from the same unit since 2012. I sent her packages while she was on her deployment to Djibouti, Africa in 2014. I was there with her when she pinned on Chief Petty Officer in 2015. We were there for each other through our drill weekends and weeks of annual training. She even came over and did Timyra’s hair for her dance recital (she needed a bun and who better to help) when I was stuck at work and then watched Timothy so TJ could take Timyra to her dance recital rehearsal. I will never forget the weekend she came to help with dinner after I had surgery and just needed an extra hand, or the drill weekend she watched all three of the kids so I wouldn’t miss my urinalysis (which would have kicked me out of the Navy) because TJ unexpectedly got called into work and I had no one to watch them!
So I knew who to ask when I needed a uniform I couldn’t buy, My Chief. LSC (Chief Logistics Specialist) Wells boxed up one of her uniforms she wore in Djibouti back in 2014 and sent it my way. She even sent me my name tapes and rank insignia. I was overjoyed when the packaged arrived. I am proud to say LSC Rachel Wells saved the day. I would expect nothing less from a Navy Chief, especially the one I call mine. They are always taking care of their officers. I would never go anywhere without one. Naval Officers NEED their CHIEFS!
We also did another 10K run on Friday. This time we did the We Can Do It! Run. This run raises money for the charity Family Lives On which provides ongoing support tools for children who have suffered the loss of a parent. The race medal included “Rosie the Riveter” and has a wine cork attached, which I think is a great added bonus. It was a small group, but we enjoyed our 10K! As always great company and another day closer to home!
We all have those special people in our lives that are there for us no matter what. They will send you their old uniforms for you to wear (thank goodness we’re the same size) and be there for you for all these crazy requests. Thank you to all the Chiefs in my life, I couldn’t do it without you.