Sea Duty, Cont’d

It thrilled me to learn I was going to deploy overseas with my squadron, Patrol Squadron Eight, the “Fighting Tigers”. My first military deployment! The P-3 Orion is an anti-submarine warfare aircraft; Soviet submarines were their primary targets. Although I was a groundpounder – a mechanic, not aircrew – everyone shared in the glory when our squadron aircrews found and tracked a Soviet boomer, sometimes tracking them at wave-top level for days as our and other squadrons’ aircraft remained on top, dropping passive and active tracking devices, and handing off to new aircraft. Wherever Soviet subs cruised, the P-3 Orion shadowed them. I looked forward to deploying somewhere dangerous, exciting, thrilling, where the hairs on the back of my neck would raise every time I turned a corner.

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P-3C Orion of Patrol Squadron Four, the “Skinny Dragons,” deployed to Diego Garcia, BIOT.

A little background info: the P-3 Orion is land-based since it is too large to land on aircraft carriers. It is however, an operational combat aircraft and deploys as does any other sea-duty squadron, ship, or submarine. Deployments are six-months or longer depending on circumstances. So, I was a bit surprised to know we were deploying to Bermuda, of all places.

Bermuda? What? Are you kidding me? However, as the most junior of junior Sailors in the squadron, I didn’t ask questions but followed orders (since I was so junior, ANYONE could order me around). Off we went. Most of our nine aircraft flew to Bermuda, while a few flew to a detached operating site in the Azores. This worked well, since Soviet subs transiting south from bases in northern Russia would pass near Iceland (P-3s there), Bermuda (P-3s there), the Azores (P-3s there) and either into the Mediterranean Sea (P-3s all over the Med), or South for the Cape (P-3s near there), or west for the Horn (P-3s all over that area too). The P-3 Orion has long legs – lots of MPG – and can stay up twelve hours or longer by loitering one engine to conserve fuel. I’ve flown in the P-3 hundreds of times over the years, and I love the aircraft.


And I stilllll haven’t fooound what I’m looking for….

I love flying in her, and I love maintaining her. Go here to understand how much I love this aircraft: Ode to Orion, or Mechanic’s Lament

Bermadoo, in Sailor slang, was (is) as you can imagine, a vacation and resort destination, and a beautiful group of islands. It’s pretty far north – about 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina – but sits in the Gulf Stream, so the coral reefs around Bermuda thrive, as do tropical fish. Almost paradise. The base (now closed) was shared with the commercial airport. There was a great beach at the approach end of the runway too. (I would never say a group of partying Sailors ever mooned a commercial aircraft coming in for a landing, butt….)

I worked the night shift in Material Control, handing out tools and ordering parts on the teletype. I followed a template when ordering parts: certain fields were the same on every order form, but I also had to fill in information specific to the part I was ordering. This meant I learned certain keystrokes and committed them to muscle memory; the other info I typed faster as time went on (to this day, I’m a hunt and pecker typist- but super fast!). My eight-hour shift ran from 23:30 pm to 07:30 am. What kind of crazy hours are those? Crazy like an eighteen year old Sailor who flies to the barracks in the morning, showers and chows, then hits the beach (awesome beaches on base) all day. Man, I was tanned. And, no: I didn’t feel bad for those poor suckers underway aboard ship – I’d get my chance at that soon enough.

As soon as I arrived in Bermuda, I bought a moped from a Sailor in the squadron we relieved. I could walk faster going uphill, but it carried me off base and into town on liberty, so I was happy. I loved exploring Bermuda – what a beautiful place. I have to admit that I wasn’t that disappointed not going to a more exotic deployment site. They had just wrapped up filming The Deep, and I spent many an hour hoping to bump into Jacqueline Bisset – never happened. Cruise ships docked across the channel from the base in Saint George – the tourists were a nice diversion…. The Swizzle Inn was a great place to go, but hard to leave. Lee’s Gift Shop in Hamilton was owned by…Lee, a gentle, sweet gay man who loved telling me this necklace or that would look “oh, so nice on you.” The White Horse Pub introduced me to McEwan’s Ale, a brew I still love.

Things became exciting when a Soviet sub was detected. From that time on, squadron personnel pulled 12-hour shifts with no days off (this was sea-duty after all) until the sub left our area of responsibility and another squadron took over. Each time an aircraft returned from a mission, we’d surround the aircrew and make them tell us everything that happened. I wanted to be aircrew at those times. After the rush wore off though, I decided I didn’t like the hours aircrew kept – unpredictable with routine 20-hour days: get dressed, preflight, fly, postflight and debrief, clean up, go to bed.

Something we did out of sheer boredom was use homemade cannons to launch potatoes from the barracks at the Marine guard shack. Payback was hell though: Marine guards can frisk a Sailor ’til he cries like a baby.

My favorite sea story involves standing flightline watch. One night we received word of a remote threat of terrorist activity that put the base on high alert. A buddy and I were assigned to patrol the flightline from 23:30 pm to 03:30 am. It started out kind of exciting but Dave and I were bored to tears after five minutes. It eventually turned out to be kind of fun though: we noticed the Squadron Duty Officer hiding behind various flightline equipment to see if he could catch us sleeping. Dave and I kept him hopping by pretending to see suspicious activity and running around looking for terrorists. Had there been a terrorist, I’m sure he would have surrendered without resistance when he saw how heavily we were armed: white billy clubs and heavy, 18-inch flashlights. I weighed all of… SR William C. Pennington May 1977_Edited…140 pounds at eighteen years old!

Bermuda. The Navy should have charged me for my room and meals, and made me work 12-hour shifts around the clock. Although I was performing a duty for my country, there were guys aboard ship that didn’t see land for weeks on end, labored one month in arctic temperatures and the next in 120 degree heat, and worked fourteen hour days, minimum. When the ships did pull into port on liberty, the Sailors usually had to wear dress uniforms when they went into town. They also had  a curfew – called Cinderella Liberty: back aboard ship by midnight. I was free as long as I made it to work on time – no worries there!

So, how arduous was deployment to Bermuda?bermuda-1978

Brutally arduous: I couldn’t afford uniforms; it embarrassed me so much I had to hide out at the beach during the day.

As it turned out, arduous couldn’t describe my next deployment either: Rota, Spain.

But that’s a sea story for another time 🙂




Soul Time

I’m making a joyful noise! Well, I don’t know if I would call it a joyful noise, but I’m teaching myself to play the recorder. I haven’t played an instrument since the cornet in Junior High School, so it feels nice to take up music again. I’ve longed for many years to play the piano, guitar, and cello, and the recorder is a great way to learn to read music again. So many other things have seemed more important in my life that I forgot to feed my soul.


Life has a habit of getting in the way. Maybe I should say instead that we have a habit of letting life get in the way. We let ourselves become so wrapped up in work, family, church, and social activities, and time thieves like television, video games, and texting, that we forget to make room for personal time and activities that the soul needs to thrive.

yoshi-on-moose-mountainFeeding the soul is important for well-being, joy, optimism, and knowing yourself. Spirituality, learning, and loving are personal actions that make us unique, but the soul needs personal attention too. I feed my soul with hikes in the forest, canoeing, camping, and finding places where I can look out over the ocean and dream. Writing feeds my soul too, especially when I get lost in the story and time loses any meaning and I write and write and write. That’s when my soul is working hardest as it pours me into my writing.  These are the things that feed one’s soul, these things that we do that affect us only in the most personal manner possible.

Now, music will feed my soul. I love listening to music, especially classical, but making music, freeing my creative impulse to take me away on a soul trip, is one of the most powerful ways to feed the soul. The soul thrives on me – you – time. It’s time spent on myself – yourself – that the soul needs in order to feel welcome, healthy, and needed. The soul is the most important part of your being, you can’t ignore it if you want to remain not a human, but a human being. Your soul is you, and wants to be caressed.

What are the things that feed your soul?


Sea Duty

The Navy was not all fun and games. Official orders to report for Sea Duty carried the note that the duty was considered arduous, meaning the Sailor could expect to be deployed away from home base for any length of time, and as often as deemed necessary by the Navy.


This was no surprise to the Sailor, especially one coming off of a cushy shore duty job in, say, Hawaii or San Diego (I know, right?). Shore duty consisted of sleeping in the barracks or at home every night, pulling 48-hour duty one weekend a month, and 24-hour duty every fourth or sixth day rather than duty every other day, and working 8-hour shifts rather than 14. Shore duty was like being in the Air Force!

So, after I completed my initial specialty training in aircraft structural repair in the lovely oasis of Millington, Tennessee, and aircraft specific training on the P-3 Orion in Jacksonville, Florida, I received official sea duty orders to NAS Brunswick, Maine. ROCK ON! I loved Maine, though I had never been there. One of the books I read as a kid described the “rocky coast of Maine.” I fell in love from the pictures in the book.

Soon after I arrived at my squadron in Maine, we received deployment orders, arduous duty of course, to…………..Bermuda.

Yes. Bermuda.

Man, was it arduous.

To be continued 🙂


I Am Here

Leaving the anger-filled pages of Facebook and Twitter and coming to my WordPress blog, is like finding a sun-dappled forest glade and lying in the grass, my back against an oak tree, chewing on a blade of grass, and listening to the leaves rustling in the breeze.

WordPress Reader is my sun-dappled forest glade, and your posts are the leaves. Your emotions, expressed in prose and poem, waft on the breeze through my mind, wrapping my heart and soul in flowering tendrils of joy and grief.

My joy comes from the joy you express so eloquently with your words. My grief is the grief I feel for the pain you express, the words you choose helping to ease you back into life.

I am here, always available, to listen, to laugh with you, to cry with you, to lend you a shoulder to rest upon while your belly shakes with laughter, while your heart breaks with sadness. I will support you with a smile, a caress, an ear, with encouragement, confidence, and love.


You don’t even have to know my name.






Mr. Sensitive


Poor Yoshi. Our 99 pound Great Dane/Labrador Retriever has always been sensitive. It’s become worse since we rescued a little (comparatively; she’s 35 pounds) mixed-breed female in November of 2016. Yoshi is ten while the rescue, Sachiko, is not yet two. Yoshi’s always been light on his paws – twinkle-toes – but is slowing down; Sachiko is all sugar: pure sweetness and high energy.


Yoshi and Sachiko

I came home from work today and was surprised that Yoshi didn’t greet me as he normally does. Instead, he hovered in the background, whining, while Sachiko jumped all over me. My wife told me he had been whining off and on all day. I realized quickly that he was feeling anxious around Sachiko. She gets in his face wanting to play, barks at him, scampers around and under him, and generally plays the nuisance. Yoshi gets a certain look on his face that screams anxiety!

So, I took Yoshi downstairs to my office/music room. He was a different dog right away. He still trembled slightly, but that eventually passed (with the help of ice cubes – his favorite treat!). He’s chilling out now and hasn’t whined since we came down here.


Yoshi, 10 Months

We may have to let Yoshi hang out downstairs now, bringing him up to go outside and to eat and drink. That’s the only thing I can think of now, short of tranquilizers. I don’t want a doped-up doggie, though, and I don’t want to tone down Sachiko; she’s a puppy: this too shall pass. The photo speaks volumes. Yoshi, in the rear, is definitely standoffish around Sachiko and it shows. In the featured image at the top, Yoshi is wearing boots for his sensitive paws – he has allergies, and posing with his two brothers, Yukio, in the center, and Tobi (wan Kenobi).


Yoshi and me, working in the yard

Dogs do have personalities. Yukio is a scamp, while Tobi is regal, aloof, confident. Poor Yoshi; I couldn’t love a dog more than I do Mr. Sensitive 🙂




I have a difficult time accepting the pseudo-intellectual elite’s (let us call them PIEs) rants against the President. They, as all American citizens, have the right to speak out in protest against his policies. They are as affected by decisions made in Washington, DC as the ninety-nine percent of  Americans not making millions of dollars every year to act, sing and dance, track your online movements, put small business out of business, tell you what to think,  and otherwise pat you on your poor, uninformed little head.

However, this small percentage of Americans, who wield an inordinately powerful influence over America’s future and its culture, is isolated from the everyday lives of people like you and me who slog it out at our jobs and commutes, and look with dread at the rapid approach of April 15th every year. Tech giants, actors and entertainers, and television talking heads are catered to, adored, and worshiped; their merchandise is sought and bought; and their rings and derrières kissed by consumers and producers alike. They live among their kind, party among their kind, and whine among their kind. Many of them come to believe their own press and favor those who call them righteous.

PIEs don’t understand why America turned against their industries’ commandeering of society, and their moralizing pronouncements. PIEs don’t understand why everyday Americans told them thanks-but-no-thanks and took back control of America’s future. PIEs don’t understand why commoners like you and me no longer want to kiss the ring. PIEs are aghast that the unwashed masses don’t trust the words that spring from their talking mouths and vacuous intellects. They wonder what we don’t like about the brave new world they offer

Americans decided at the last election that they didn’t like the direction the country was headed. They decided that all Americans are equal and none above the law; they decided they love America’s culture, and that those coming from other countries should respect America’s culture and assimilate, rather than demand America change its culture to accommodate the one they fled; the uninformed American said I want my job back, not given to someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to enter America legally, or the moral courage to stay and fight for their own country.

Flyover country decided it didn’t appreciate PIEs flicking their noses at them and flipping them the bird. Flyover country – the breadbasket of America – told PIEs they are tired of feeding their causes and crusades, having their pockets picked to support those who choose not to work, and profiting those whose morals stand in direct opposition to their own. The America PIEs hold in such contempt told PIEs they are held in greater contempt and no longer trusted. Flyover America told PIEs they love the America their ancestors fought and died for and will not allow PIEs to turn it into another failed Utopian dream where all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. Flyover America said we don’t believe, trust, or want your global Utopia dream.c37fe13b67b3ec9d8da81b3422649363

Flyover America said we have the right to choose our leaders and we exercised that right. Flyover America is telling its would-be masters that if they can’t accept the will of the people and wish the President success in guiding the nation to peace and prosperity, at least do this much: shut your PIE-holes.

Proofread, Proofread, Poofread

Proofreading your work is the most important action you can perform before pressing the publish button. An error-free post sends an unconscious signal to the reader that you care about your writing.

I can’t count the times I have found a beautiful post, especially a poem, ruined over a misspelled  word, an incomplete phrase, or another grammatical error. The flow is brought up short and the reader loses her concentration.

I opened Twitter yesterday and read a post by a writer plugging his self-published novel. I don’t usually open links to read excerpts, but did in this case; the title and cover art pulled me in. Actually, now that I think about it, the writer’s blurb is what caught my eye. Were I an agent, his blurb would have led me to read more.

Anyway, the excerpt disappointed me when I read this:”… I should been the one to look out for her.” The omission of “have” after should was jarring, and caused me to change my mind about reading on. Should I have continued reading? What’s one error in a novel of probably 80,000 words? Is it unfair to the writer to hold one error against him? In this case, yes: the writer should have proofread his excerpt before posting it. He wants people to buy his book, but doesn’t take the time to proofread before posting. He rushed to post. Fatal error.

I hold writers to high standards. This isn’t grade school. We’re putting our writing out there for others to read. We are judged by others based on the quality of our writing. Writing and posting in a hurry leads to errors. Writing a poem and posting without proofreading is a terrible thing to do. Reading a beautiful poem and finding a misspelled word makes me want to cry.

I would like to be judged a good writer based on the quality of my writing. A 200 word post should be as carefully proofread as an 80, 000 word novel.


Nope, nope, and nope: not a fan of vulgarity in blog post titles. Keep the title clean no matter how vulgar  your writing. At least people will open your essay to read it before discovering you don’t have the vocabulary to choose inoffensive words. There is such a thing as a Thesaurus.

I Served

​February 15th marks the fortieth anniversary of the day I reported to US Navy boot camp and began the greatest adventure of my life. Forty years: my God, where does time go?

In twenty-seven years of service, I experienced moments of sheer terror, unfathomable joy, and gut wrenching grief. There were many more happy moments than sad, thousands more great memories than bad, and friendships made in shared hardship that bind soul to soul forever and ever. 

I am honored to have experienced the camaraderie of Sailors whose lives belonged to blank faces sitting in a five-sided office building thousands of miles from home; the love of family who gave me their complete support; the leadership of men who knew how to lead by example.

I give thanks that my safe space was a steel vessel maintained by Sailors just like me, and aircraft maintained by Sailors just like me. 

I give thanks that the Navy’s halls of learning echoed with the voices of Sailors learning skills that carried America onward and upward rather than against herself.

I give thanks that the nation I served took all comers – black, white, yellow, brown, and red – and spit them out of boot camp trained and ready to work together as a Team rather than fight against one another.

It’s hard to fail in the United States Navy; every Sailor is provided the tools to pick up and lead when the chips are falling all around. When Sailors look at each other, they see Sailors. When Sailors see another Sailor in need, they pick him up and carry him until he can carry himself again. 

While America fights a civil war between the Left and the Right, a war between dependence and independence, Sailors man the rails and serve as America’s ambassadors to the world. Sailors are the face of this great nation.

Every ship and every squadron is a microcosm of society. It’s hard to believe that America’s best can be represented by so few, the United States Navy Sailor.

My heart bursts with joy and pride that America honored me with the opportunity to serve in the United States Navy. If she called, I would gladly serve her again.

I pity the man who hasn’t served; he can’t but take Freedom for granted.

I Believe

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G.K. Chesterton

I’ve defeated my own dragons. More than that though, I believe in fairy tales. Let’s just say that I can’t walk by a mushroom, or a field of moss, or through a green forest and not keep an eye out for elves, fairies, and sprites. They are there; you have to believe,

The little boy in me refuses to grow up.