You should embrace the wisdom of a sea daddy
Throughout my life, I knew many men that imparted knowledge to me. I learned how to act among other men. I learned how to treat others in our size limited community. Many of these lessons had a biblical background but many of them were from customs and decorum. I never had an issue with deference or giving respect where it was supposed to be given. It wasn’t that difficult to learn how to interact with older men in this environment. The military was a different story.
I had chosen to enlist in the US Navy. Although seen as foolhardy by a few of my school mates; I believe that it was an honor to do this, even if I had been known as someone that turned their nose up at established systems or systems of decorum that had little to no function. I had a lot to learn. I had to learn to have faith in something that made no sense to me. I had to learn to do things that had no immediate purpose or goal. I had to learn to trust people that I found to be my intellectual inferior and quite often this was senior enlisted sailors.
On a ship; junior sailors must learn ship handling and job specific skills from the senior enlisted sailors. The lack of a strong base of senior sailors on a ship often lead to a breakdown in operations. I felt like I didn’t know anything about being on a ship and I learned this from senior sailors. I had to learn the hard way. It didn’t matter how much you thought you knew, there was always one person who was going to “school” you. That one person was affectionately known as your “sea daddy”.
My sea daddy was someone that I wouldn’t have picked in a thousand years. He, (who I will call “Backwoods”), was a Podunk sounding hick from southern Indiana. He was quite strict when it came to military instruction. I would find myself in trouble with him even if I never knew what rule I had broken. Backwoods would drag me along to do things that I was clueless about. I was pretty pissed with him, but I learned that I owed him a level of respect. Respect for being the one leader that tried to help junior sailors to run the work center. To set a better example. I did not have that from many of our E6’s in our division. No leadership. And our division started to look like a failed street gang.
I recognized that my basic knowledge of getting our ship out to sea would not be here without his contributions. I also felt like I became a better representative for our rating with his instruction. I might have struggled a little in the beginning, but I learned the importance of trust in a senior sailor. When the other petty officers rotated off the ship; I was relieved when their replacements had a little firmer approach to taking care of junior sailors. I was blessed to have several sea daddies arrive. I learned my job. I learned more about my ship. I learned how to converse with senior enlisted in different divisions and work centers. Among these accomplishments; I had also learned the importance of taking someone under your wing.
Even though I strongly doubt that I would have become surly and prickly like Podunk; I had every reason to think I could help lead a few junior sailors throughout the day to sift through the everyday grind. I wanted to give the wisdom of a sea daddy to others. I grew to value it.
I may have had some strange outlooks and a silly demeanor at the time, but I had an opportunity to be someone that a junior sailor could go to for advice. I may have had a deficit of good examples at inopportune times, but I chose to be there when needed. I was hoping that my respect for those before me could aid me in understanding the junior sailors. And I desired to continue that positive cycle on our ship when I left.