Scene: We find ourselves in a typical hangar. It is a day like any other. The part of “Me” will be played by Michael Cera. The part of “P-3 Career Guy” will be played by John C. Reilly.
Me: I’ve been trying to decide what to do for a disassociated sea tour.
P-3 Career Guy: Go to the boat.
Me: Ha. Yeah, I know that’s what everyone says.
P-3 Career Guy: Go to the boat.
Me: Yeah, I know it’s the “safe” career move. Some of the carrier jobs sound pretty cool, I guess. The thing is, so do some of the other jobs out there.
P-3 Career Guy: Ignore them. Go to the boat.
Me: Yeah, well, I’ve been trying to get an idea of what is out there. VPU, FSU, Dallas. Then there is Bahrain or Japan.
P-3 Career Guy: Shooter. Boat. Go.
Me: Ha ha…well, a lot of people say they like the Shooter job.
P-3 Career Guy: Go be a Shooter. That’s the job to get. Don’t be a TAO. Too hard to break out. You break out as the ANAV too, but Shooter is more fun. I mean, it still sucks a lot, but there are times when it is fun.
Me: Well, the thing is, I’ve talked to a lot of guys from VPU, FSU, and Dallas. They all seem to love it. They say how rewarding it is; how valuable their work is. They all seem happy.
P-3 Career Guy: They’re faking. They’re really sad on the inside. They just wish they were on the boat.
Me: What is it with this constant push to go to the boat? What’s wrong with the other choices?
P-3 Career Guy: Bad career moves! VPU, FSU, Dallas – all career killers
Me: Yeah, I’ve heard all that before – the historical trends for selection and all that – but it doesn’t make any sense.
P-3 Career Guy: It’s all about the board. You gotta be thinking about those Department Head and Command boards. You know who is on there? It’s mostly non-P-3 guys. They’re carrier aviators. They don’t know what hell VPU is. Same goes for FSU. Especially true for BUPERS Det Dallas. They know what a Shooter is though! Always been that way, so you can look at the stats and see that your best bet is to go to the boat.
Me: And nobody thinks that’s stupid?
P-3 Career Guy: No! It’s just the way it is. Look at the numbers! Who was selected last time around? People who went to the boat. So YOU need to go to the boat if you want to be selected. God, I LOVE talking about the boat!
Me: Settle down man. Why are you getting so excited? I’ve talked to other guys about this and they’ve told me the same basic things, but at least they were reasonable about it. You’re not being reasonable. You’re kinda being a –
P-3 Career Guy: Go!
Me: What? Why would you –
P-3 Career Guy: To!
Me: Why are you –
P-3 Career Guy: The!
Me: Seriously, stop interrupti-
P-3 Career Guy: BOOOOAAAAATTT!!!! (lifts ass cheek, farts)
Me: I don’t even know why I’m wasting my ti-
P-3 Career Guy: (lifts ass cheek, farts again. It’s a 15 second squeaker that starts off loud and trails off) That ones called the rusty cat shot!!!
Me: (sighs) Incredible. You can’t see any other way than the way it’s always been done. You can’t see how asinine that whole system is – you’re too imbedded in the system. But does the system generate the best people for DH and Command? Is there something about doing a carrier tour that makes you more equipped to be a DH or a Skipper than if you had done one of the other paths? It doesn’t seem that way – I mean, they could train a monkey to be a shooter.
P-3 Career Guy: That’s not the point. The point is, the people on the board know what the carrier jobs are and don’t know about the other jobs. ie, ergo, ipso-facto, vis-a-vis, je ne sais quoi – go to the boat. HA! I just showed you up with my smart-talk!
Me: …….I’m just going to ignore the “smart-talk” comment and pretend it never happened. It’s pointless to think that you could see a problem with this whole system……..So what you are saying is, we insist that people stay away from VPU, FSU, and Dallas, not because they are not important or valuable jobs, but because the people on screen boards don’t know what they are?
P-3 Career Guy: Well, they have been trying to educate the board members about those jobs.
Me: What does that mean? A five minute explanation right before the board starts?
P-3 Career Guy: Probably.
Me: Well that should do it. So instead of really trying to give people some choice we half-ass a fix, then pressure everyone to stay on the right path. Of course, the people making the decisions all came up in that flawed system, so who can expect any rational ideas? I hate to complain about this with no real solution to the problem, but I know that this is not the way to keep the best people. Is there a way to change the selection process so that people have more freedom to try for the jobs that are right for them?
P-3 Career Guy: Who cares? Just go to the boat and don’t worry about it! It’s great leadership experience and you get to see how “Big Navy” works.
Me: That’s great, but don’t those other jobs provide some great experience too? It’s still valuable – it’s just different. And, isn’t there something to be said for some diversity of knowledge in the Department Head and Command ranks? Why do we want a homogeneous blob of mediocrity instead of diverse sets of professional experiences and expertise?
P-3 Career Guy: There’s diversity amongst boat guys. One guy may have been on the Eisenhower and another on the TR. Boom! There’s your variety!
Me: Are you trying to be an asshole?
P-3 Career Guy: No, but you’re trying to be a boat-dodger. Ha ha! Boat dodger!
Me: For God’s sake, I’m just trying to find the job that I would be good at, that I would enjoy, and that would allow me to actually contribute to something worthwhile. That may be the boat, but it also may be one of the other jobs. I don’t want to be forced to work within this broken system, where important and meaningful jobs are looked down upon because people didn’t know what they were, and that’s just how it’s always been. No wonder we lose so many smart, capable people. Who wants to be restricted like that? That’s why we end up with some incompetent Department Heads…. No offense.
P-3 Career Guy: No, no. None taken. Hey, you should just suck it up and go to the boat. I heard VPU orders for you guys might be going away anyways. They want to staff it with people who didn’t screen for DH.
Me: I heard that rumor too, but there’s no way. Somebody with some sense had to have stepped in to stop that one. First of all, why would you want to put the bottom-feeders in the squadrons that are contributing every day to the wars we are fighting? Second, there aren’t enough boat spots for everyone! That’s really a key point here that gets overlooked. There aren’t enough boat spots! What’s so hard about this? People are fighting for boat spots! We can’t ALL go to the boat!
P-3 Career Guy: Boat dodger!
Me: I can’t take it. I’m going to punch you in the face right now.
P-3 Career Guy: Ok. You can do it on your way to the boat. Boom!
Me: I’m serious, I’m going to punch you in the face. I may kick you in the balls too. Not sure. I’m still deciding.
P-3 Career Guy: You can decide on that after you decide which boat to go to. Burn!
Me: Seriously, I’m going to lose it. You have to stop.
P-3 Career Guy: You have to stop … at the boat for a disassociated sea tour. Double Boom! Smoked you!
Me: To hell with it ….. I’m getting out of the Navy.
P-3 Career Guy: ………. Good. That’s one less person taking up a boat slot.