Friday, February 8, 2019

Bombers, boats, and byques

Before we get to the good stuff (?!?), I did five weight room circuits, 2 miles of sprints, two miles of walks (sprint a block (circa 150 meters), walk a block), and 80 flights of steps. Took just under an hour.

Working out in the cold can be miserable at the beginning. It was -3 when I began in the weight room at 6 a.m. Twenty minutes later when I hit the road I was nicely warm, and after the first mile I was warm enough to flip my sweatshirt hood back. The temperature had soared to zero.

Lots of compressed and very slippery snow on the streets, so the challenge is finding sure traction where I can and exercising appropriate caution where I must. Sometimes I fall, but that's okay for me. I'm pretty good at falling and my muscles haven't yet forgotten their Professional Naval PLF Training. When I do fall -- which isn't that often -- I bellow a loud OOH-RAH in hopes that people will mistake me for a washed up Marine.

I've even taken a couple of tumbles on the concrete steps, but other than a smashed phone and a few bruises and scrapes, those mishaps have been extremely unremarkable. Just part of the workout. I do recognize that there's always potential for disaster but I think I've struck a good balance between recklessness and over-caution.

As a slight aside, there was a house fire in town yesterday and this morning I decided to bend my exercise path by the scene to see what I could see. Excellent plan for seeing a burned out house, but I'd forgotten that they use dihydrogen mono-oxide to extinguish structure fires. There was a LOT of ice. Several slips, but no falls!


I think I've written about this here before, but way back in the day when I was on my very first deployment and absolutely certain I was encrusted in salt, I saw my very first Rooskies. I knew they were our cold war enemy and that they posed a real threat. I knew there was some likelihood that I'd end up facing off against them in combat, most likely as a member of a naval task force being attacked by naval and air assets of the Warsaw Pact. I didn't worry about it, and I didn't spend much time thinking about it (twenty-something male human, do the math), but the possibility was real and ever present.

Early in the deployment there were several flyovers featuring Soviet bombers closely escorted by Tomcats. Witnessing those always gave me an eerie feeling. Those same bombers might one day nuke the shit out of us.

Then one day, sometime after the midpoint of the deployment, a Soviet Kashin Class destroyer made a close pass on us from stern to bow down the port side. We'd just finished a landing cycle so things on the roof were momentarily quiet, and the entire flight deck contingent rushed to portside vantage points in order to get close and lay eyeballs on the enemy.

I elbowed my way to a good location and looked. The destroyer was nautically elegant but also quite menacing. She was obviously a warship, fitted with guns and missile launchers fore and aft and a wild thicket of radar illuminators and receivers amidships.

There were a dozen or so sailors on deck going about their nautical duties. I was shocked to see that they were actually human beings. Some part of me had expected evil monsters -- whatever those might be. Perhaps the last thing I expected was human beings who looked and dressed almost exactly like us. It seems silly in retrospect, but the clear and evident humanity of those Soviet sailors shocked me in a surprising way. It took me a while to process this new and unexpected reality. Somewhere along the line I gained a better understanding of the phrase "all men are created equal." It was one of those times when I actually grew up a little bit.

Many of our guys waved at the Soviet sailors. I couldn't bring myself to. They were, after all, the enemy. Some of our more enterprising (or perhaps more stupid) sailors tossed box-lunch oranges onto the deck of the passing destroyer. The Soviet sailors looked at us but none of them waved or smiled or shouted.

Those guys were the enemy. Period dot. But...

They were also human beings. Men who were my equal in humanity, neither better nor worse than I. They weren't subhuman or protohuman, and I was not superhuman or ultrahuman. They weren't monsters, and I wasn't an angel.

In some ways it made things harder for me. It's much easier to fight monsters than it is to fight fellow sailors.

In some ways it made things better, though, or at least more clear. It's one thing to go out and kill monsters, but if you're going to have to kill fellow sailors, you'd better have your principles suitcased and know what you're doing. The sainted heavenly gate guard Pete isn't going to be impressed by any song and dance of justification.

Just knowing it isn't enough though. I have to practice living that way, living as each and every one of my fellow humans are fully my equal. It's easy to make those who might be my enemies out to be monsters. That's the path of evil though, and while I've trod it for short distances, taking that bath always smashes my heart and soul. It's not a path I'll follow. Not if I can help it.

I'll be okay as long as I stick to the simple reality of my principles, and own both my principles and my actions.

What's that? Oh, Byques!

These are my boys!*



  1. Saw Ivan for the first time near Gelnhausen, Germany in 1964 along the East German border. We were an engineer work party. They were about 10 meters on the other side of the wire. About six of them, in "Parade Walking Out Uniforms (Class As) watching us with binoculars and taking pictures.

  2. It's a bit chilling, knowing that you're not gonna kill them today and they're not gonna kill you today, but if certain things happen each will do his very best to kill the other without remorse.

  3. Did they have the decency to stop rotating and radiating, as they came down the side? There is a lot of energy in an air search set.

    1. I don't recall, but I suspect not. And I rather imagine that we kept rotating and radiating electrons in addition to box lunch oranges.

  4. I have always found that Soviet ships had a certain artistic beauty, yet it was mixed with an infusion of evil, at the same time. I suppose that came from the Soviet ships were very obviously Soviet, and the evil came from knowledge of the political system that created them.

    USN ships are very purposeful in appearance, which gives them a certain attractiveness, but they are rarely beautiful, the IOWAs being a striking change from the norms. They are actually beautiful, graceful, ships. I believe this is because they have such perfect proportions, everything the right size, and where it belongs.

    1. What do you think of the Yamato and Mr. Mushashi?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I hate it when spell check changes so many words, that it is easier to delete and start over. The IJN had a gift for graceful ship design.