Deep Thoughts from years spent on a Trident submarine.  

The submarine has an administrative and an operational chain of command that operate in parallel. The administrative command deals with maintenance, training and personnel issues while the operational command operates the ship. For administration, I was in the engineering department most of the time and reported to the ship's Engineer. For operations, while on watch as Officer of the Deck (OOD), I operated the entire ship and reported directly to the Captain. The Engineer and I hated each other from the moment he reported aboard. Before I could stand a watch as OOD, I needed signoff from all the senior officers aboard which included the Engineer and he was not about to sign me off. This was a problem.

My approach to this problem was to wait it out. I figured the other senior officers on the ship would want me standing OOD watches as this took the work load off them. I thought they would pressure the Engineer into signing me off and that time was on my side. But the military does not work that way.

The command's response was to put me on a week of midnight training watches, at a time when the ship was conducting training exercises that kept the whole crew awake from 6 am to midnight. A week of midwatch shifts meant virtually no sleep for a week. No one can do this. I guess the plan was that I would complain and plead with the Engineer to sign me off. But they underestimated my stubbornness. I have a bit of a martyr streak in me. Maybe it comes from my Irish heritage. I stood the watches, getting a little sleep here and there. I developed laryngitis. I had difficulty controlling my bladder. I blacked out and hallucinated. My mind and body were a wreck. But I stood the watches.

After that week, the other senior officers had the Engineer sign me off.

Looking back on it, I think I made the right decision. Years later as a civilian, I got in another ego contest with a new boss. I made a lot of noise then quit. Great thing being able to quit.

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