And now… A conversation about orders.


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.

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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.

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  1. #1 by Anonymous on 12August2011 - 7:18 am

    but the Boat was great

  2. #2 by Anonymous on 22October2011 - 12:47 am

    This shit is classic! I know a SWO/S-3/P-3 re-tread. The P-3 detailer wanted him to go to the boat to get “sea time.” He was a f’ing SWO!

    Keep up the good work. You speak for malcontents Navy wide.

  3. #3 by Lobotomized O-4 on 27February2012 - 12:51 pm

    This is really funny, by far the best article here. It’s hard to go through these decisions, and if you stick around long enough you’ll probably find it even harder to watch younger guys go through the orders process.

    The thing is, no matter what anyone thinks, there’s just no changing it. You can like the Road to Gold or hate it, but the fact is it’s been in place since at least 1976 that I know about (the highly recommended P-3 book ‘Adak’ mentions it) and in my personal opinion, the sun will cool and the Earth will be given back to the roaches before there will be consensus among VP leadership that there’s a viable career track besides going to the FRS and then going to the Boat. It will drive you nuts, but it really is that simple. All of our combined hatred won’t change anything with our hate-waves.

    It’s important to talk about because I’ve seen a lot of good guys and gals base decisions on the idea that it might change, or they might be special. It’s not going to change, and no one is special. When I was a DH, I told a lot of my guys that, and I know they think I was being a tool of the Man or somehow endorsing the current state of things by telling them what I think is up. Sure, I feel like a little bit of a tool laying out the career track like it was my idea (for the record, I’m not a fan…or at least I think some thought should go into it). But I figure that’s better than telling them what they want to hear to make myself look cooler to them but that might ultimately lead them to make a bad decision. One great way to end up hating life is to make a decision based on what you think is solid info only to find out you got bad gouge, like a guy who got told an EP + single engine VT should have no trouble making DH, even if he went to VPU instead of the boat. Tough night of drinking with that guy after he found out he 2 x FOSed for O-4 and got involuntarily separated. You think the people on here are bitter…no one’s got bitter on that guy. JOs thinking I’m a Company tool is a small price to pay for making sure they get the best info possible, even if it isn’t good news for them and they somehow blame me for that.

    This is an issue where I think the only good policy for leaders is unflinching honesty. I’ve only ever seen selection rates go lower over the past decade and a half, and I don’t think we’ve found bottom yet. Records that would have been competitive for Skipper when I was starting out have a tough time making DH now. And it’s not like we don’t all know the rules; this career crap and orders is half of what we talk about. There should be no surprises unless there’s bad gouge floating around, and trying to get rid of that is my only goal when talking career stuff to LTs.

    So, Voltaire, I feel you, but that’s about all anyone can do about this one.

    • #4 by Slipp McGurk on 12February2016 - 11:48 pm

      Selection rates are just fine – more people are getting out every day. In fact, the current trend is to force people on the Golden Path, enforcing that the only ends (DH) can be obtained by a single mean (VP-30). Sure, some people love it. Some crave to go there. But not everyone. Some want to go to the West Coast, or a VT Squadron, or get their Master’s in charge of a ROTC program. Why does the community abandon these people so quickly? Why is diversity punished?

      I myself am a fan of the Broken Path. If everyone just pursued orders they wanted (within reason), each would come out with a different experience that would strengthen the community as a whole. The diversity of the community would be its strength.

      80% of new aviator training is handled by civilians anyway. The poor schmucks at 30 spend most of their time doing paperwork, occasionally flying. And from what I remember, half the stuff taught in the plane is different from what you’ll need to do at your first squadron. If we really need our “best and brightest” on hand to teach a bunch of new guys how to put on a parachute and talk on a radio, then we are already doomed.

  4. #5 by Maximilian Robespierre on 29February2016 - 2:23 am

    Fast forward 4 years on lobotomized o4’s subject of his parable, the guy is loving his life and has never looked back. It took him leaving to realize he was just suffering from MPRA Stockholm syndrome. Get real. Looking at the O4s around me, the peers I would be potentially competing with if I wanted to stay in, and the multitude of people jumping from this sinking ship, I think it would be more remarkable if I didn’t make O4 by the sheer fact of staying in. Keep promoting the middle and bottom of that bell curve. Don’t worry p8s, you guys are next. And by the way, you can suffer through the golden path for the sake of trying to stay on the golden path, and still get fucked in the end. Seen it happen multiple times in my time. Do what is good for you and what is good for your family. At the end of the day just ask yourself if it would really be that bad if you didn’t make skipper or just never had to see a P3 ever again. Just saying.

    • #6 by Slipp McGurk on 21March2016 - 2:24 am

      Preach it, Brotha!

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