Roughly a million years ago, I was in the Navy. On my first tour I was a Surface Warfare Officer, ship’s company, Left Standard Rudder Steady Course 1-8-0 type of sailor. The kind that never sleeps, basically.
My second tour was a lot more fun. I was assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5, the Navy’s West Coast hovercraft detachment. We deployed from San Diego to Sasebo Japan from 1997 to 1998. The tour was even more fun than it sounds. Hovercraft are fun, loud, and wicked fast.
Our detachment consisted of six hovercraft, and I served as one of two Detachment Officers in Charge, or DET OICs. The other DET OIC was also an officer, but the rest of the DET members were all enlisted. In theory, the DET OICs outrank everyone and hold ultimate responsibility–and we did. That said the actual knowledge and experience rested with the enlisted members of the DET–the craftmasters (like pilots for the hovercraft), engineers, loadmasters, and other crew members. The senior enlisted personnel spent many, many years in the hovercraft community and knew….well, everything.
This photo above has stuck with me throughout the years, for many reasons. The biggest one: how incredibly young I was. I was 26 years old and responsible for the well-being of over two dozen sailors, and millions of dollars in Navy equipment. But the craziest part? This was completely unremarkable. I was no rock star, super-Navy hero. I simply did the same thing that thousands of people before and since have done; I shouldered unbelievable responsibility that has few parallels in the civilian world, and at a surprisingly young age. Sailors and officers still do this, every day.