Start spreading the news! We’re leaving tomorrow morning from the Navy Public Affairs Support Element East (NPASE East) for New York City. Starting Tuesday the Big Apple is hosting the 29th annual Fleet Week New York, a huge celebration of the sea services that will swamp New York City with enough ships to, well, make up a fleet!
I make no secret about my fight with depression of agoraphobia. As the “dual-hat wearing” Leading Chief Petty Officer (LCPO) of both the Production and Operations Divisions at NPASE East, I have done nothing more than hundreds of chiefs before me at NPASE East. I just did it with verve, style, charisma, and a large number of cleverly-hidden anxiety attacks!
Friday (19 May) was my official last day as LCPO of NPASE East’s Operations Department. One of my sister chiefs returning from deployment will take up that mantle Monday morning. Unable to give her a “turn over” in person, I left a detailed letter of all the operational issues that we dealt with in the last six months to help her get up to speed.
I am still currently the LCPO of the Production Division, and this is where my role in Fleet Week New York comes in. I will be a senior editor and working directly for the civilian public affairs officer of Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic who is coordinating the whole media shebang. Together he and I will review, edit, approve, and release all the photos, video, stories, and graphics produced by not only my NPASE East Sailors, but many of the products created by many of the other public affairs specialists coming to New York with their various commands.
This entailed a metric butt-ton of planning to get my Sailors up there. Orders had to be written and approved. A second NPASE van had to be secured at the last second after one of our regular vans developed a cracked axle and was sidelined (this problem was solved by an incredibly talented second class petty officer). Jobs had to be staffed; certain events needed names ahead of time so myself and my Leading Petty Officer, a First Class who is power by nuclear energy, had to identify specific people more than a month out. And tomorrow we—the NPASE East team—pile in our vans and drive.
This is the kind of thing that drives an agoraphobic nuts. This last month has been change upon change upon change; plan upon plan revised upon collapsing plan. No routine, no settled script, no way to accurately predict what will happen on a given day.
This is also the kind of adventure I joined the Navy for. Sure, it’s cost me a hell of a price internally, but 20 years ago I decided to risk it all and see the world instead of hiding in a safe, small corner of northern Florida. The Navy has evolved greatly in how it treats Sailors who wrestle with mental health issues. More than likely in today’s Navy, if you are a Sailors striving to fulfill your mission, your command will be supportive of whatever medical/psychiatric support you need to function safely. (Yes, I know there are still horror stories and exceptions to this statement, but you’ll find that in any organization staffed by human beings.)
I have had some incredible help from very unlikely officers and fellow chiefs who took on the burden of…listening to me. Simply accepting the super-high anxiety level that was tearing me in half was real to me even if, in objective and logical terms, it made no sense.
And so, in part because of their help, tomorrow I lead our team to New York. Yes, several of our officers are going with us, and one lieutenant will technically be “in command.” But the reality is that it’s the duty of the chief to ensure the mission moves forward. It’s the duty of the chief to get the players in place, the equipment on deck, the plan in motion, and report to that officer that the mission is underway. I have fulfilled that duty…in large part because I was smart enough to ask for help when I needed it and confident enough to tell my fellow chiefs and some trusted officers when I had to step back and catch my breath.
This trip, this particular travel blog, exists because the essence of teamwork is the underpinning of the command philosophy and command reality at NPASE East. I have succeeded because we have succeeded. I have succeeded because I was not alone, even when all I could feel was a sense of being alone.
The final act of my Navy career begins tomorrow morning. As soon as we get back I turn over duties as the Production LCPO and move deep into retirement mode. That will entail using a lot of unused leave time to relax, job hunt, take transition classes at the Fleet and Family Support Center, etc. The final act is about to begin, and it will be a success because I am not alone, even when I feel that way. I am at the head of an incredibly talented team who are going to showcase the Navy’s week-long celebration in the heart of New York City.
So sit back, grab a beer, or wine, or soda, or dihydrogen monoxide, or whatever. The last intermission in this drama is nearly over. The lights are about to dim and the curtain about rise on this final grand adventure. My first grand adventure in the Navy played out on the stage of Rota, Spain. Tomorrow the spotlights and pyrotechnics and wonderfully colorful cast of characters will play out my final grand adventure in New York City.
Start spreading the news!