I am excited to join the team writing for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. Like I told Tank, I’ve been following this organization for a decade. So when the opportunity came to write for them, I jumped for it. This following is my story, the story of Tim Smith.
To start, I’m a squid, a Sailor. I was in the Navy for 12 years. When somebody says “I was in the Navy” to a full blown civilian, the thought that comes to mind is Popeye the Sailor Man. But when you’re haze gray and underway, it’s a whole different world. I joined the Navy in 2006. 17 years old and absolutely no direction. My brother gave me a piece of advice that also sums up our relationship: “don’t be stupid, just join the Navy.” He had been a Machinist Mate, or ‘dungeon dweller,’ aboard an aircraft carrier.
After bootcamp in Great Lakes, Illinois, I was sent off to Religious Programs Specialist (RP) “A” School in Meridian, Mississippi. In that one month, I discovered I would be stationed aboard the ship my brother had left just two years prior, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). We called her IKE, Ikeatraz, Cell Block 69, and the Love Boat.
Meridian sent me to Norfolk, where I hopped on a plane bound for Manama, Bahrain to meet up with my ship. In Manama, I was stuffed into a Vietnam-era C-2 Greyhound, where I received the safety briefing from an aircrewman: “if this POS goes down, you’ll die. I probably won’t, but you will. Buckle up, shut up, and enjoy the ride.”
The day I landed aboard IKE, I felt microscopically small. To put it all into perspective, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier is 106,000 tons, almost as long as the Empire State Building, a deployed home to 6,000 Sailors. Inside the carrier are miles and miles of passage-ways, a massive hangar bay, and four galleys. But on my first visit to the fantail, when there is nothing but ocean on the horizon, even that monstrosity is small in perspective and a little claustrophobia set in. Ship life is a strange and unique experience. I’ve been stationed aboard three: IKE, a destroyer, and an amphibious landing ship.
Aboard ship, you find out Sailors are scroungers and jury riggers, swindlers and sneaks, all in the name of getting the job done as best as possible. We live on bad coffee, overcooked pork chops and chicken tocino breakfast day. We buckle into our racks at night and walk from decks to bulkheads during high winds and heavy seas. Marines are forever known as America’s warriors, but when they on our ships, they are in Neptune’s realm and at our mercy. We have sea legs or beg for Dramamine. Sailors have nonsensical traditions that are only thought up by people cooped up at sea, traditions like crossing the equator, the New Year’s Deck Log Entry, launching boots off the catapults, and sewing Liberty Cuffs inside our dress blue uniform sleeves. For the record, my liberty cuffs were sewn on in 2017, a gator in honor of the USS Portland (LPD-27), a ‘gator freighter,’ I was commissioning, and a tiger in honor of my short visit to Singapore.
Between ships, I’ve worked at the Pentagon and with the National Security Agency in Georgia. At the urging of my Master Chief in Washington DC, I put in to change from my job as an RP to Cryptologic Technician (Collection). It’s a mysterious job to nearly every Sailor because the name is confusing and our work is done in a secret squirrel room behind a door that we paint green as our little inside joke. There are conspiracies that float around ships that we have a spa in there, or maybe we have the inside scoop on the UFOs those pilots spotted off the coast of San Diego. I wish I could say either of those rumors are true. The best way to describe our work is to watch The Imitation Game.
When my wife was pregnant with our second son, I realized I needed to really get my act together. One kid takes a lot of work, but two kids means you really need to knuckle down and prepare for the future. So I applied to American Military University for a degree in political science. My first class began on the day my son was born. I started classwork from the couch next to my wife’s bed while she rested. At 9 months pregnant, she had been in a bad car accident three hours from home. Three years later I earned my BA in Political Science and International Relations.
Now permanently settled in Georgia, I am working on a startup company, Topside Tactical Solutions. I invented a device that takes the single-point rifle sling off the operator’s shoulder and hooks it onto their plate carrier. There are a few kinks yet in the design that I am working out, but keep your eyes open for the Kestrel Fighting System to hit store shelves soon. My wife and I are also starting up a podcast on faith and politics, the Tea Poddy.
I separated from the Navy in 2019 so I could be at home with my sons. It was a difficult decision to make, but sometimes, they just need you home. My awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Achievement Medal with 3 stars, Meritorious Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal with 3 stars, and the Enlisted Surface Warfare, Aviation Warfare, and Information Warfare insignias. My honorary titles and memberships thanks to the Navy include Shellback (crossed the equator at 00000 North, 86°, 40.027’ West), Plankowner (commissioned USS Portland), North Arabian and Persian Gulf Yacht Clubs, Order of the Ditch (Panama Canal transit), the Order of the Pharaohs (Suez Canal transit), and the Order of the Spanish Main (Caribbean Sea transit).
When I got a call from “Tank” Ferran about writing for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, one thing he stressed to me is that his goal is all about helping the vet and law enforcement tribe. We build each other up. We all say one service is better than the other. We crack jokes against each other and act tougher than the rest. But when it’s all said and done, vets can rest assured that we can rely on one another. So with this platform, I will be carrying that mission forward. My goal is to build up our tribe, whether it’s promoting a vet-owned business, telling a legend’s story, or talking guns. Expect my work to be published with a purpose!
Featured photo Tim Smith, US Navy veteran
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