What moment of karma did you witness while in the military?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 25, 2020 01:35 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 25, 2020 01:35 PM

I was the Supply Officer aboard a destroyer. A junior officer with a chip on his shoulder was in sudden receipt of a leather flight jacket, which he flaunted. Only pilots are authorized such jackets, and he was a Surface Line Officer. Furthermore, the jackets cannot be purchased commercially, which meant that he used the destroyer’s operating budget to obtain an unauthorized and expensive uniform accessory. I’ll note here that Naval Officers must purchase all of their uniform items with personal funds. The Navy does not issue officer uniforms or uniform accessories, except for medals.

At that time, supply record keeping was manual. We kept a file of requisition copies sorted by NSN (Navy Stock Number). It was a simple matter to look up the NSN of a Navy Flight jacket and pull the requisition that matched. Sure enough! There it was. A chit with a Flight Jacket NSN and a description that didn’t match (i.e. some kind of repair part). One of his petty officers engineered the ruse for brownie points. The chit bore the officer’s approval signature.

I confronted this young, cocky Ensign (I was a LT), and confiscated the jacket. The Ensign’s department head made a note for his Fitness Report. The ship’s chiefs administered “informal” discipline to the petty officer. The money was spent. I could not return the jacket, and it was now the ship’s property. Reporting the malfeasance to a higher command would have resulted in no more than a Naval Supply Center message to the C.O. to permit no further such requisitions. I had already put a review step in place for all requisitions, checking their NSN’s against unauthorized (yet potentially popular) material.

I gave the jacket to the Captain, and he gave it to me with his blessings.

No further such items showed up during my tenure.


A reply asserted that I acted as a “bully” to this young man (a more junior officer).

It could appear that way, and no, I didn’t. I took the matter up with the Commanding Officer which resulted in full consideration of various ways to address the situation. What I didn’t say was that I already owned a flight jacket given me by my Dad who flew in the Marine Corps and was retired. I did not keep it after the CO declined to keep it for himself. I had no need of it.

As well, in my narration I said that he “flaunted” the fact that he had a flight jacket, it but left out the details. The Ensign in question was heard to be boasting as to how he “fooled” the supply department into rapidly delivering his unauthorized flight jacket. This placed me in the position of repairing the reputation of my department and making clear to the crew that we would not support unauthorized requisitions (even unwittingly). The Captain agreed that it was proper that I addressed this by confiscating the jacket, and sending a message through the Chiefs’ Mess.

I was responsible for the ship’s operating budget (OPTAR). If we ran out of money, we couldn’t requisition repair parts. I and the Captain would have been relieved for cause if we wound up tied to the pier because we had exhausted our OPTAR on unauthorized and expensive uniform items. As it was, I had to go to the type commander (COMNAVSURPAC) to request a funding augmentation on behalf of the Captain when our optempo exceeded original plans. I had served on COMCRUDESPAC Staff as an assistant to the Comptroller and saw SuppO’s denied augmentation. In such cases it usually spelled the end of the SuppO’s career. I also know that Captains were also called in for a “discussion” with their Commodore, the Squadron or Group Commander when augmentations were denied.

In reflection, these facts should have been disclosed. No doubt as a young man in my mid 20’s (along with my peers) I was guilty of being a bully, however not in this case. There was a LOT of testosterone on that ship and within the wardroom. We were aggressive young officers, which led to a somewhat unforgiving political culture. Fortunately for me and my assistant, most of the wardroom understood that having a Supply Officer as a friend ensured better outcomes for inspection timelines around equipment upkeep. While this represented an opportunity to bully department heads and division officers, I much preferred to build a reputation as a SuppO who would fight for them and their needs.

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