Master of Ceremonies: IC1(SW) Aaron Lord
Guest Speaker: LT Craig Wortham, Combat Systems Officer
Award Presenters: CDR Richard Haidvogel, Commanding Officer
CMDCM(SW/AW) Kennenth Schmidt, CMC
MA1(SW) Derrick Vaughns, FCA President
I really appreciate you all for being here today. I know that some of you have tee times this afternoon so I will keep this short. I would also ask you to please bear with me, as I have listened to a few dozen retirement speeches but never had to prepare one let alone actually deliver it.
I enlisted when Ronald Reagan was the president during the height of the 600-ship Navy. Today three of the five ships that I have served on are gone and I am confident that a majority of the 150 or so fire controlmen that I have sailed with during my 15 years of sea duty, have since retired or separated. Well today is the day that I make that transition as well. No longer will I have to wear a white tee-shirt under everything I wear at work or worry that my name is on every piece of clothing I own so I don’t lose it in the laundry. If I can not figure out which underwear is mine or my wifes without a name tag, then I have bigger problems to deal with then finding my next job!
Everyday you hear people say “oh, I remember that like it was yesterday!” Well I remember when I first walked onboard REUBEN JAMES and it seems like a 100 years ago. I almost feel as if…. this is the only ship that I have ever been stationed on.
I have been on this ship for so long, that when I got here, my hair was blonde, I had a lot less wrinkles on my face, my blood pressure was lower and some of the crew members on this ship, hadn’t even started high school yet. I have been here so long, that when I checked onboard, one of the first people I met was ENS Ebard when he was the TRAINO. He has since transferred to three or four different commands and has now comeback to assume the duties as the chief engineer.
On REUBEN JAMES I sailed for 4 Commanding Officers, 4 Executive Officers, 4 Department Heads and 6 Division Officers. I stood watch in CIC with 18 different TAO’s. 17 Fire Controlmen have come and gone since I arrived. Two of them have come back years later to be here today.... Tom and Rhoel I really appreciate it. I would also like to thank my mentor, Senior Chief Brian Taylor for coming all the way to Australia to help me fix the hardest CIWS fault I ever had and for being here today.
A navy ship is only alive because of the sailors that proudly serve on her and bring her to life. But sailors come and go. The crew of a ship can change faster than the Plan of the Day. No one person is irreplaceable and eventually everyone must move on, making room for the next generation of sailors. It is true that the only thing that is constant in the Navy is change.
No longer do you hear the stories about being a fire controlman and being on liberty every morning by 10 hundred. Although that is still true for the OS’s. A lot of the things that were the Navy when I enlisted…..are gone. Very few of us here today remember what it was like to be called the coup cleaner, know what the proper passage of Sweepers is, what tattoo is really for, the definition of bulkhead counseling or GI shower, what a cup of Joe means or standing in line to cash your paycheck. Fewer still remember the year some of our paychecks bounced from the government.
Throughout my career I have attended more ceremonies that I can count and most, if not all of them, make mention or a statement to the effect of “the greatest crew they ever served with.” I can hardly remember a time that anyone really quantified their remarks. It almost seems like a cliché that one is supposed to gesture as they depart. As if it were some mandatory checkbox in the speech writing guides.
About nine months before I left the shipyard, a time in the Navy when Quality of Life was the new buzz word, the Navy was eliminating many of the time consuming inspections, or at least decreasing their frequency, the Navy was lengthening the inter-deployment turn around time, barracks rooms were becoming standard issue for all junior personnel on sea duty, BAH for single sailors and homesteading at a single duty station were all positive changes effecting the fleet. The events of 9/11 transpired and threw many of the new changes into a loop, creating the Navy in which we operate today.
Of all of the ships that I have sailed on, REUBEN JAMES has had the most rigorous operational tempo, completing 3 deployments in just over 4 years, 3 Section Duty in Pearl Harbor for months on end, 16 hour working days in preparation for setting the Navy standard during the INSERV inspection, completing what seems like a never ending cycle of training and exercises, sailing back and forth to San Diego for CSRR, FPTT and countless other things, reduced holiday stand-down periods, force protection watches equal to that of 9/11 when the ship went to that third world country called Hilo, Hawaii, 60,000 man-hours a year for cleaning stations, supply sparkle, bilge cleaning or field day and being so committed to the mission at hand that we couldn’t take 4 hours out of the schedule to conduct a Golden Shellback ceremony. REUBEN JAMES has not taken a break since the day I stepped across her brow for the first time.
With all that being said…….Yes! I can say proudly that the crew of the REUBEN JAMES is the best crew that I have ever sailed with. Many of you were there this summer when I compiled a list of a 100 or so things that I would not miss in the Navy when I retired. I can not remember any of them. Except maybe for all that chicken that they serve onboard.
Contrary to popular belief, I will miss this place, the people, the job and the adventure. I would like to wish my fellow First Classes, Fire Controlmen and the rest of the crew, all the best during your tour, your follow on careers or wherever your life may take you.
I would like to thank Aaron for organizing and hosting this ceremony, Mr. Wortham for fabricating a bunch of nice things to say about me here today and lastly I would like to thank my wife Hiromi for sticking with me through the good times and the bad, during the last nine years. Aishiteru Pebchan.
REUBEN JAMES thanks again and Godspeed.