Good Relationship with the Chief’s mess

By Craig Johnson

In 1982 the USS Orion AS-18 was assigned to in the Mediterranean and was getting ready to make a 14-day port visit to Genoa, Italy.  She was the flagship for Commander Submarine Forces Mediterranean.

photo credit:

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The commodore and the ship’s captain (CO) had concerns about the sailors getting in trouble with a stay of that length in an overseas port.  After several discussions, they had developed a plan.

The CO had the executive officer (XO) check to see if any of the officers aboard the Orion had any shore patrol experience.  The XO found that they had a Mustang Officer (prior enlisted), who had spent time as permanent Shore Patrol in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Mustang Officer was only an ensign, which would normally have disqualified him for the role of Senior Shore Patrol Officer.  This ensign had completed all of his qualifications for ODD Underway and Command Duty Officer, while other officers who had been aboard longer and were several grades above him, had not been considered ready for command.

The XO called the ensign to his stateroom and informed him that he had been assigned to the job of Senior Shore Patrol Officer in Genoa.  “The command master chief (CMC) has recommended two chiefs to assist you,” he said.  “The CMC has recommended BMCS (Boatswain Mate Chief Senior) from Deck Department and MMCS (Machinist Mate Chief Senior) from Repair Department. You and the senior chiefs will have hotel rooms ashore, while everyone else will stay aboard the ship.”

The ensign went immediately to see the CMC.  When the ensign walked down the passageway towards the CMC’s stateroom, the CMC saw him and asked, “What can I do for you, Sir?”

“CMC, I would like to meet with you and the senior chiefs to discuss and develop a plan for how we could handle problems during the port visit in Genoa,” the ensign stated. Then he asked, “Do you think that you could arrange for the senior chiefs to meet with both of us tomorrow to develop a plan of action?”

“I’ll check with the senior chiefs to find out when they would be available to meet, and get back to you with some optional times,” the CMC replied.

The next day the four of them met in the ensign’s office. The ensign began by saying, “I believe the job of Shore Patrol is to protect the crew and locals from any serious injuries or damage.”

Along these lines, the ensign also believed that he, along with both of the senior chiefs, was going to need the support of the CMC and the chief’s mess.  He wanted to review his ideas on how this could work and get their input.

  1.     We need a procedure for sending a sailor back to the ship where he or she would be met by the chiefs that are onboard to handle the situation with the sailor’s department or divisional chief.  The idea is to implement attitude adjustments without report chits.  I do not want to have entries in service records unless they do something that leaves us no options.
  2.      If it is deemed necessary to place anyone on report, the senior chiefs will have the paperwork ready for me to review and sign.  (The ensign stated that he would be the only one to sign the final report chit documents.)

  3.      He notified them that the senior chiefs and he would be in a hotel ashore in individual rooms.

  4.      He tasked the senior chiefs to set up a watch bill for the Shore Patrolmen remembering that this was a 14-day assignment.  He wanted them to make sure that all the sailors assigned to Shore Patrol had liberty and that it was their call as long as everything was covered.

  5.      The ensign asked if they had any problems with this plan so far and if the chief’s mess would be willing to support this plan.  The CMC said they would.

  6.      The ensign then asked for assistance to gather the items they would need to get the local government officials on their side.  “I will need at least five ships plaques for me to present to the local officials when I make my official courtesy calls, which will show them that I respect them and appreciate their support. In addition, the senior chiefs and their Shore Patrolmen would need items with the ship’s name on them that could be distributed to the locals to develop good will.” Both senior chiefs stated that they would take care of bringing all of that material together.

The meeting adjourned and they went their separate ways to implement the plan.

They pulled into Genoa two days later.  The ensign and senior chiefs, along with the Shore Patrolmen assigned, went ashore and set up shop in a local office that the Supply Officer had arranged.

The ensign was wearing his dress blue uniform with all of his ribbons and enlisted surface warfare insignias.  He wore this uniform so he could make courtesy calls with the ship’s plaques.

The ensign had not allowed for the fact that a United States Air Force General had been kidnapped recently so when he walked into Carabinieri headquarters (Italian police) they thought the Air Force general was turning himself in. Everyone was getting excited but through the ensign’s interrupter, whom he had hired for this visit, they quickly learned the truth and calmed down.

Still they kept looking at his two rows of ribbons and made the assumption that they signified that he was a war hero, since that was the only way they got ribbons for their uniforms.  They were very nice to him and he presented several of the plaques to the senior authorities present.  After about an hour, he left and went to his hotel to change clothes.

To keep a long story short, the ship spent 14 days in Genoa and no sailors were put on report.  After the ship got underway,one of the Masters at Arms found the ensign and informed him that the captain wanted to see him in his cabin right away.  As any sailor knows, when the captain calls you go.

He reported to the captain’s cabin to find the commodore, captain and executive officer waiting to talk to him.  The captain looked at the ensign and stated that he had read the Shore Patrol report, and found it highly unusual that no one had been placed on report during the entire 14-day port visit. That means no one did anything wrong for two weeks. “How can you explain that?” He asked the ensign.

The ensign told the captain, “I was assigned as Shore Patrol Officer based on my experience. My understanding was that my job was to keep them safe, limit problems with the locals and not write them up, if unnecessary.”

“Do you mean none of them got in trouble?” the commodore asked.

“No Sir.  I mean none of them needed to be formally put on report.”

“What do you mean formally?” The commodore asked.

“Sir, quite a few sailors had minor problems such as getting drunk and displaying disorderly conduct,” the ensign responded. “These slips in judgment were handled by their department or division chiefs.”

The commodore then asked, “Do they think they can get in trouble with impunity?”

“No sir” the ensign replied.  “I can have them see the captain and none of them will tell him that they feel that they have or are getting away with anything.  I have let their CPO’s educate them in ways to establish an attitude adjustment, without damaging their Navy careers.”

The captain laughed,  looked at the commodore and said, “Bill, they probably wish they were sent to see me right now!”

The ensign was then dismissed with the added benefit of having developed a good relationship with the chief’s mess.

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