Thursday, April 7, 2011

Refusing to be afraid or reliquish responsibility

Last night we had the Dockyard crew out until about 2200 - working in the framing bay, chasing the Dockyard dog when he got out, eating pizza. And I think a good time was had by all, we certainly got a lot of work done. But it was last night, as everyone is standing around during the break having pizza and a cold beer (everyone was of age), when I realized how to vocalize one of the key components of NHS.

The Navy - and the military in general - has its fair share (maybe more so) of alcohol related incidents. Regulation, oversight and procedure steps in more and more, and soon we're trying to micromanage simple things like having a beer after a tough job. Not a kegger, not getting plastered - a beer. I had two, I wasn't driving. But the point is that I think there's a good deal of fear out there on the part of seniors to open that door - after all, with a high number of incidents, there is a good chance it'll come back to bite you, and you'll be spending time in court with your sailor.

But at NHS, we've put another principle to work - trust and teamwork. We've been very lucky so far about the quality of sailors and civilians that come out to support us. But between the retirees, career sailors, younger sailors, and everyday average Joes, there has melded a sort of collective that - I would bet - hails from our past. If you're old enough to drink, feel free. Judge the timing, make good decisions, and enjoy it. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a sport, don't rush. And if you slip up and make a bad decision, your shipmates are there to keep you in line.

Perfect example - last night. Pizza arrived, and everyone had soft drinks of some kind. The beer fridge opened, and one of our First Class Petty Officers said to the opener "stop, wait." Then looked to me "Sir, are we going to be doing much cutting or using power tools after the break?" My answer, negative. "We still have a couple of hours of sanding and touch up left, right?" My answer, affirmative. He turned back to the guy opening the door. "Grab me one, and go get that book you wanted me to look at." I watched as while we enjoyed the pizza, and some enjoyed a cold beer, everyone enjoyed some laughs and conversation.

Simple? Yes.

My point is this - if we write out alcohol from events entirely, then we are missing a golden opportunity to teach responsible alcohol consumption by example. Supervised, yes, to some degree, but I'm finding out that trust is a powerful motivator. And when someone feels that they represent something greater than themselves, that they are following in the footsteps of people they respect (in the last example, the FCPO) they are less likely to do stupid things.

It could be that we have a $hi+ hot team. The quality of our volunteers really does make a tremendous difference.


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