The Navy’s annual fitness reports make 95% of us look like top 5 per centers. You have to really read between the lines to know the straight skinny. By the time you’re a senior lieutenant, words like “demonstrates unlimited potential” mean you’re being damned with faint praise. After a while, you’re not supposed to be demonstrating potential – you’re supposed to be realizing it. A “recommendation for promotion” means that you should never have been selected for your current rank. “Strongly recommended for immediate promotion” means you’re tracking with your peers.
But some times the veil is lifted, like. The scales, they fall from your eyes.
Cuppla years back your humble scribe was the operations officer of the world’s finest aircraft carrier. On the line in the Arabian Gulf. A-waiting for the fighting to start.
I had a young officer who worked for me. Well. Who worked for a guy who worked for me. Very young, very pretty, winning smile. Set my internal RWR gear a-buzzing in every quadrant. Full warble.
“Trouble,” thought I, with a capital “T”. And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “prison.” Or “penury.” Or any number of negative potential consequences attending to an unduly familiar relationship between someone young and foolish and someone who really ought to have known better, the poor, stupid bassid.
I kept it on the ultra-professional plane.
Which wasn’t, as it turned out, quite enough.
One day about two, maybe three weeks prior to the commencement of actual hostilities her division officer came to me with a revelation: “Herself is in a family way,” he said.
You never want to be the senior man with a secret, so it was straight up the ladders I went for to tell the commanding officer that, unless a COD could be found to put herself ashore? We’d have a bairn born between the guns.
“It’s bad news I’ve got,” said I to hizzoner solemnly. A-knowing of his distaste for anything running contrary to good order and discipline aboard a warship at sea. “Lieutenant Junior Grade Toothsome Trouble is, em… preggers.”
“Is she now,” thundered himself in reply, a cloud darkening his brow, and your narrator bracing himself for stern remonstrations against his leadership, like. For permitting it to happen. This is where we’ll find out what the Old Man thinks of us, we said, and our career it was hanging in the bargain.
“And are you the father?” he concluded.
“Of course not!” was our earnest instant, and that served to put us back on a somewhat more equivalent moral plane.
Not good, of course, to lose one of your officers to an off ship with Ares standing a-tiptoe on the eaves.
But it could have been worse.