22 December 2011

A Boot Camp Christmas


Orignially published in
Rock Island Argus/
 Moline Dispatch
Dec. 22, 2011

We often think of our armed forces as a large family of brothers and sisters united in camaraderie and purpose. The fact is, harmony does not always prevail in families -- the Simpsons and La Cosa Nostra come to mind. Certainly, the bonds of fellowship were strained during the Great Lakes Recruit Training Center Christmas War of 1974.

During November, a recruit in Company 397 named Robinson figured out how to get into our company commander's office and turn on his radio. Whenever the C.C. left us unsupervised, the melodious strains of "Benny and the Jets" and "Smokin' in the Boys Room" filled the barracks.

I, too, did my part to raise morale. After we watched a training film that warned of the grave dangers of consorting with loose women -- a film so anatomically vivid that it made grown men moan and shut their eyes -- I wrote a marching cadence that Company 397 chanted while trudging around the base:
"She looked so young and pretty,
I brought her home to rap.
I gave her all my lovin',
She gave me a case of the --"
At this point, the company of recruits would clap their hands together. (Either you get it or you don't. Sailors at Great Lakes Recruit Training Center got it.)

Spirits were high, but the day after Thanksgiving, our warm fuzziness turned cold. Chicago radio stations were now playing "Away in a Manger" and "Jingle Bell Rock" day and night. Many recruits enjoyed music that evoked memories of Christmases past. Most didn't. "I don't want to be reminded of home right now," was the majority opinion.

So Company 397 marched through December in Grinch boots, the only music that of screaming company commanders and red-faced drill instructors. Morale sank. By Dec. 24, no one was talking to anyone else. Robinson was mad at Mullen for not taking sides in the Christmas War. Mullen was mad at Galliano, the leader of the anti-Christmas brigade. The spirit of discord ruled. What Company 397 needed was a savior, a peacemaker.

Seaman Recruit Mullen to the rescue.

While calling the cadences as we marched to the chow hall for lunch on Christmas Eve, I instituted a new musical innovation: the marching Christmas carol. I would call out the lines of a beloved nativity song, and the recruits would answer with the traditional cadence-call:
"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,
(Hut, two, three, four),
Glory to the newborn king.
(What did I join the Navy for?).
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
(Five, six, seven, eight),
God and sinners reconciled.
(Six more weeks, and I can't wait.)"
We performed five or six of these compositions, which, I'll admit, all shared a certain similarity, for instance,
"Good Christian men, rejoice,
(Hut, two, three, four,)
With heart and soul and voice.
(What did I join the Navy for?)"
But somehow, those cadences were enough to end the war. Goodwill returned, and we turned on the radio and closed our eyes as Bing Crosby sang, "I'll Be Home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."

As tough as that boot camp Christmas was, its hardships were trivial compared to those that American service members in Iraq have endured for nearly nine years. This year they'll be home for Christmas, not in their dreams, but in the arms of their families. The songs of the season will surely hold a special meaning for them, but the sweetest music will be the sound of the words they'll hear on sidewalks, front porches and church steps, in barracks, living rooms and corner stores:

"Welcome home."

04 December 2011

Farewell, Pearl Harbor Survivors Association

Those of us who have played for the annual commemoration ceremony of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association know the humbling feeling of watching those representatives of a brave and resilient generation cast a memorial wreath upon the waters.

Hold tight to that memory. On December 31 of this year, the Association will resign its charter and dissolve. As CNN points, out, age, ill health, and time have brought about this inevitable decision. 

Here, Dan Rather talks with survivors in this a preview of "Dan Rather Remembers Pearl Harbor," to be broadcast on Dec. 6, 2011 at 8:00 p.m., ET.

30 November 2011

Navy Showband West- 1995

I enjoy posting videos of recent Navy band performances, but also get a kick out of the not-so-recent category. Here, from 1995, is the final performance of Navy Showband West. The sound may play only through one channel, but the band, nevertheless, kicks, swings and screams. Enjoy.

20 November 2011

CDR Philip H. Field, USN (Ret.)

In the early '80s, I was new to the staff at the School of Music, but not new to moonlighting. One night, I was setting up before a gig on a cruise ship when the executive officer of the school walked up to the bandstand.

I was bummed out at the thought of having the XO listen to me play all night. But that's not what I told him. "Good evening, sir," I said. "I hope you enjoy the music tonight."

"I hope so, too," he said, opening his tenor case. "Where do I set up?"

I'd known we were having a substitute sax player that night, but I didn't know it was the XO. Now I was going to have to spend the night watching my mouth, looking over my shoulder and tolerating the presence of an officer who would probably suck as a musician.

Four bars into his solo on "Quiet Nights," I realized that Mr. Field didn't suck. Through the entire first set, I was constantly awed by his ability to start a solo gently, explore the melody, turn it upside down, leave it behind and build to an exciting climax. Who would have thought that officers could do this?

Still, I was tense when the band sat down at a corner table during the first break. I guess Mr. Field sensed this. He looked across the table at me and quietly said, "Do you know how the city of Yuma, Arizona, got its name?" I admitted I didn't know, so he told me, and, three decades later, I'm still laughing. His joke-telling style was like his jazz soloing style, opening softly and building convincingly to a solid punchline. 

I responded with the one about the world's greatest hunting dog, which caused him to guffaw and spit out his beer. The rest of the gig was pure relaxation.

The following morning, I carried a special request chit into the XO's office, a last-minute plea that I be allowed to switch duty with some gullible Marine for the third time that month in order to attend another promotion party for some soldier I barely knew.

Mr. Field put down his pen, looked at the chit for two seconds, said, "You're joking," handed it back to me and went back to work.

The best officer is not your full-time buddy. The best officer is a hell of a guy on Saturday night and a hell of a boss on Monday morning. I knew no finer leader than Phil Field. As both my XO and CO, he was always open to reasonable requests, free with advice based on experience, and firm--really firm--when the occasion called for it.

I hope today's Navy Music Program has officers like Phil Field.

11 November 2011

My dear grandsons

Originally published in
Rock Island Argus &
Moline Dispatch
Nov.10, 2011

In my rural Illinois town, Veterans Day is a big deal. Here, after all, a veteran isn't a concept or an ideal. A vet is the old man next door who hoists a U.S. Army flag every morning, the kid who led the football team in touchdowns last year, the woman who stamps the date on your books at the library. She's your letter carrier. He's your Dad.

I'm visiting family in Denver this week. For the first time in decades, I'll spend Veterans Day in a big city. I'll miss my hometown's parade, the speeches, the laying of wreaths on the courthouse lawn, and hope the big city will honor our veterans in ways other than offering 30 percent off on linens and MP3 players.

Of course, I look forward to spending time with my grandsons. But I don't think I'll spend much time lecturing them on the importance of honoring our veterans. They're grade school boys, more interested in Legos than lectures on the importance of the citizen-soldier as a vital component of America's military readiness.

But they will not always be children. They will grow into the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. I hope, by then, I will have told them:

-- My grandsons, your family tree blossoms with generations of ancestors who served in the United States military, in war and in peace -- even Grandpa Frank! You live in a free United States because those young Americans, and millions like them, were willing to put down their plows and plans to take on important responsibilities.

-- Joining the Armed Forces is an honorable form of service. Anyone who tries to tell you differently does not know about sacrifice, honor and the bonds of camaraderie that can withstand any such criticism. Yes, military service is honorable, but there are many other admirable ways to serve your country, your state or your community. How do you know if a job or profession is a true form of service? All you have to do is look at those who work in that field. Look at teachers, who spend their own money to buy pencils and books for their students. Look at nurses, who work long, exhausting shifts caring for the injured, the sick and the aged, and who so rarely hear the words, "Thank you." Look at cops, who are paid in complaints. Sacrifice can't be easily measured, but you know it when you see it. Where the sacrifice is, so is the service.

-- Always thank the soldier for his or her service. What he did, he did for you.

-- Never blame the war on the soldier. The sergeant in the foxhole did not start the war. In fact, he wishes it would be over even more than you or I do.

I hope my grandsons will grow up in a world in which war is a memory and the soldier's job is but to guard the peace. This has been the hope of every generation, and I pray it will be the truth of theirs.

But if they one day consider serving in uniform, I hope I, or someone, will remind them what boot camp drill instructors have always known: you don't have to be the bravest, strongest superhero to wear a uniform. A little willingness and enthusiasm have been sufficient turn millions of Americans into effective protectors of our country.

Even Grandpa Frank.

30 October 2011

Once more, with sound.

The audio on this clip of the 1986 School of Music Faculty Lab Band has been enhanced since I first posted it. In other words, it's audible.

14 October 2011

A few notes on propriety

Some readers ask: “Why didn’t you post my comment? I thought this was a place for bitching.”

It is. But there's bitching, and then there's bitching.

And it's good to review this once in a while. We have limits around here; they're minimal, but they do exist:

-- This is a very public place. It’s not the Shipwreck Lounge, so keep it reasonably clean. The definition of “unacceptable language” is difficult to codify and can vary by situation and context; certain frank and direct conversation bay be quite appropriate in the Acey Deucey Club; at the admiral’s reception, not so much. In the end, someone has to make these sometimes difficult decisions. Frank Mullen is the decider.

--No slandering of identifiable persons.  "I worked for an idiot chief in the ‘80s” is fine. “The bandmaster at Navy Band WestEast in 2004 was an incompetent fat slug” is not.

--In general--and this may be hard for some to believe--Navy Lyres exists to support Navy music. If your comments call fall into the “Military bands are a waste of taxpayer’s money” category, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a platform. That’s not the song we’re singing around here.

12 October 2011

Navy Birthday - 13OCT11

Warning: This 60-second clip has been known to awaken dormant feelings of pride in viewers who have served in the United States Navy. Side effects may include leaping to one's feet, snapping to attention and shouting "Oo-rah!"

Great Moments in Navy Leadership, # 73: Find the Best Man for the Job

MUCM Ken Davenport had called the Navy Band Newport staff together and announce a few changes in responsibilities.

"And Frank," he concluded, "as administrative petty officer, you'll come in at 0730 every day to get the coffee ready."

Coffee? 0730? Neither concept was enticing.

"Wait a minute," I said. "I don't drink coffee."

"So?" said the master chief.

"So, why should I make coffee if I don't drink it?"

"Because your shipmates drink coffee. Lots of it." He gestured around the office and I had to admit it: Dave DeKoff, Ed Helm, John Farquhar, Dave Lock, the master chief, everyone but Frank Mullen had a cup of coffee in hand. "And the bands are in and out of here all day on different schedules, mustering for rehearsals, returning from gigs." he said. "It's a great convenience if someone has made the coffee when they come in."

"Well, it'd be a great convenience to me if someone would light my unfiltered Camels for me when I come in," I said.

"Funny," Master Chief Davenport said. "Just make the coffee."

"I don't know how."

"Ed Helm will show you."

"But--"

"No more questions?" the master chief said. "Dismissed."

Day One

I came to work the next morning at 0730 to make the coffee. "Ed told me to put in a pound of coffee," I reminded myself, "but that seems wasteful." I pondered my responsibilities as a Navy man. "It's every sailor's job to fetter out fraud, waste and abuse," I said, and put about 1/4 pound of coffee into the 4.3 gallon urn.

Morale was poor that day. The sailor's right to bitch was exercised fully. "Who made this crap?" was the most common response to the change in staff assignments.

Master Chief Davenport was no fool. "Nice try," he said at the end of the day. "And before you ask, no, you will not be relieved of coffee-making duty. This is the Navy, not vocational training day school  Sailors like their coffee strong. Make the coffee strong."

Day Two

"Aye, aye, master chief," I said to myself the next morning at 0730 as I poured a pound of coffee into the urn. "If my shipmates like their coffee strong, they'll get it strong." I opened up a second pound of coffee and dumped it into the mix. "That ought to make them happy," I mused as I whistled a medley of jaunty nautical jigs. I saw yesterday's open pack of coffee sitting on the shelf. "No point in wasting that," I said and topped the brew off with another 3/4 pound of coffee.

Screams filled the passageways of Navy Band Newport that day. Four-letter words were used with forceful regularity. Mouthfuls of coffee were spit into ashtrays. My name was cursed.

Day Three

At 0728 I parked my car in the parking lot and walked around the building to the main entrance. Outside the door, Dave Dekoff stood at attention in his crackerjacks. When I got to the door, he stuck a cigarette in my mouth. "Can I light that for you, Frank?" he said, and whipped out a lighter. "By the way," he said, "The master chief says Ed Helm is going to make the coffee from now on."

Of course, I'd already figured that out.

22 September 2011

John Pastin: "I can help with music."

The mood was tense. Hurricane Irene had forced hundreds of distraught New Jerseyans to seek shelter in Rowan University's gymnasium. The college president put out a call for volunteers.

"The first thing that came to me was 'I can help with music,'" said the dean of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. A saxophonist as well as conductor of the Rowan University Concert Band, he took his sax out of the case and, along with another member of the music faculty, gave the shelter's residents an impromptu concert.

And so, as described in this story from the Gloucester County Times, Navy Musicians Association member John Pastin continues his life of service through music.

Like so many of us, John was once a talented high school musician. "All I wanted to do is perform,” he recently told the Times. He thought of college, of course, but his band director, a former Navy musician, told him about another way a young saxophone player could gain experience. John looked into enlistment as a Navy musician. "I found out what they did for a living and how they supported the services,” he said. “Then the next, I guess you could say, is history."

It's a history I'm proud to have shared with John Pastin, on staff at the School of Music and now at reunions of the NMA.

Military musicians dedicate their talent not to their own glory, but to a cause greater than themselves. Each, at some point, looked at his or her personal desires and abilities, balanced them with the needs of our country, and, like John Pastin, said:

"I can help with music."
- - - - - - - - - -

Here's our shipmate, former leader of the U.S. Navy Band Dr. John R. Pastin, conducting the Rowan University Concert Band.

 

01 September 2011

The School of Music's rigorous training regimen

Computers in the classroom. MP3 players in the practice rooms. What's next--private bathrooms in the barracks?

Oh...never mind.

.

31 August 2011

When in doubt, go for cute.

We take take pride in our appearance. We have to; when we are on duty, we're in public. One of the first things drilled into us was was the military musician's foundational priciple: "How you look is just as important as how you sound."

But I gotta tell you: cute goes a long way, too.

30 July 2011

You can run, but you can't hide

There you were in the mid-1990s, traveling with the U.S. Navy Showband, busy performing as a musical ambassador of your country, paying little attention to things that were happening back home in the states, such as this new computer thingie called "the Interweb," or "the World-Wide Something-or-other."

How could you know what would happen to those videos in the next century?


17 July 2011

Sailors first

We were sailors first, musicians second.

We forgot this at our peril and were reminded quickly and forcefully.

I can thing of nothing more rewarding than the opportunity to spend a few days each year with those men and women who, for a few years or decades, offered their talents for the betterment of their country, then moved on to enjoy the blessings and challenges of the liberty they helped sustain. It is also a matter of great pride to be in fraternity with those who still serve as sailors and musicians.

I enjoy the reunions of the NMA because of the tested, seasoned musicianship.

But that's secondary.

 

08 July 2011

House Cuts Funding for Bands--the Battle Moves to the Senate


As feared and expected, the House of Representatives today passed its military appropriations bill with the severe cut to military band funding that had been bouncing in and out of the legislation

From Reuters:
One of the most successful budget-cutting efforts was led by Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat who doggedly pressed her drive to slash more than $120 million for military bands.
McCollum shepherded the cut through the Appropriations Committee, only to see it defeated on a voice vote in the full House.
She introduced a last-minute amendment to reinstate the cuts and won by forcing a roll-call vote on Thursday evening, leaving the military with $200 million to spend on more than 200 bands with 4,600 musicians and staff.
If there's any good news, it's the constitutional basis of our bi-cameral legislative branch of government. The House does not have the last word. As the story quoted above reminds us,

Congress is still weeks away from approving a final military spending bill ready for Obama to sign into law. The House bill will have to be melded with whatever measure is approved by the Senate, which is still working on its plan.

What does this mean for those of us who believe military bands should be fully funded as integral components of our Armed Forces? It means you tell your senators--both of them--to fully fund military bands.

It takes only a few minutes: how-to info, tips and a sample letter are in blood-red up above.

Go for it. This war is not lost.

D-Day for contacting your Rep.

Friday 8JUL11 EDT

The House of Representatives is now in session. Their goal for today is to pass their final defense appropriations act.

Write now. Later will be too late.

You can do it in two minutes. Copy this letter to your clipboard, then click here to find your congressman and paste the text into the web form.
------------------------

I urge you to restore full funding for military bands in the National Defense Appropriations Act for 2012.

Our military bands are not frills. They are an integral part of our armed forces. Military bands boost morale, lend dignity to ceremonial occasions and drum up crucial public support for our Armed Services.

We ask so much of our American fighting men and women, and get so much in return. They deserve the finest. Please support our troops by funding their bands fully.

07 July 2011

Double surprise: the House cut is back

The the budget cut for military bands, removed yesterday by voice vote yesterday, have been re-instated by vote. More and better info here at:

Surprise: House restores military band funding

By voice vote, the U.S. House of Representaves passed an amendment by Rep. John Carter (R-Tex) to restore full funding for military bands in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.  "The facts about our bands are that they are an integral part of the patriotism that keeps our soldiers' hearts beating fast," Carter said.

 More and better information is available at
A salute to good fortune and a reminder the battle is not over. The battle shifts to the U.S. Senate. Have you written to your senator?

02 July 2011

It doesn't take a genius

I'm re-reading The Caine Mutiny for the 200th time. Though Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1951 novel depicts the Navy during World War II, the Navy of my father and grandfather, it's the same Navy I served in in the '70s and '80s and, no doubt, the same Navy as yours, no matter when you served.

It contains the quote that was still passed around freely in my first band in 1975:
"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots."
I thought about that a lot when I was a seaman, when I was a petty officer and, particularly, when I was a chief. It's a funny, concise summary of a life we've all lived.

And it's a broad exaggeration; I met few idiots during my service, and fewer geniuses. But I did encounter a system that worked, sometimes sluggishly, sometimes incomprehensibly.

And sometimes unfairly. From the smallest of injustices ("I cleaned the urinals last week, it's the second squad's turn now.") to those of lasting consequence ("How did that lazy dirtbag get orders out of school straight to the Academy Band, when I've been auditioning for years?"), there was a lot to bitch about, and plenty of sailors to handle the task.

But the system worked. Not because a few geniuses wrote the manual for a fleet of idiots, but because a few centuries of self-correction can work the kinks out of any system.

Every year, I am amazed by the smoothness with which our Navy Musicians Association reunions run. Members report aboard. Word gets passed. Schedules are posted and followed. Newcomers are shown the ropes. Schedules get changed and the word gets passed again. We gripe: not enough free time, too much free time. We laugh at stories about shipmates we haven't seen in years, and mourn those we'll never see again. The ship sails on time, accomplishes its mission and, in a few days, the cruise is over.

It works. No geniuses, no idiots, just a self-correcting system operated by people who care. Some work year-round, some make their contributions during the few days we're together.

Does it change? Yes. For instance, our rock band is now an integral unit of the reunion, the logical consequence of the fact that we are now attracting members who are as at home with the music of Tower of Power as that of Count Basie.

But the important things stay the same. We get together to share our stories and talents with old and new friends, have the times of our lives and then go on a 51-week liberty pass.

Fifteen years without a mutiny. I'd say we're doing well.

I'm alive.

I now emerge from a near-lethal dose of the creeping crud, having been laid low by a combination of reunion exhaustion and a day of close-quarters captivity in airplanes full of travelers exhaling the respiratory souvenirs from their own travels.

I apologize for my recuperative silence. The period immediately following the annual Navy Musicians Association reunion is always a time of reflection, not only on the events of the week, but on the memories the event always dredges up; the combination of sea stories and camaraderie is an effective memory prod.

Let's look at this as a mere delay, a modification of orders, so to speak.

Resume blogging. That is an order.

29 June 2011

The week in review

Bleary-eyed, exhausted and home. That's what I am. Actually, I got home late Monday, but have spent the intervening time in a recuperative stupor.

But my brain is back, and I find myself already looking back fondly at a reunion that was a stand-out affair.

-- It was big. I'll get the true figures, but the last time I looked at the sign-in sheet on Friday, over 120 of us had reported in.

-- We attracted lots of new-comers and long-time-no-sees. A lot of us work hard during the year to convince shipmates to give the reunion a try, the result of interlocking recruiting efforts. I, for instance, wanted to assign myself full credit for getting Dave Czohara to his first reunion, but discovered a dozen others trying to bathe in the same glory. I'm already excited about next year. Like Virginia Beach, Orlando, our destination next year, is home to boatloads of retired and former MUs. This could jolt the size and quality of our get-togethers up another notch.

-- We brought in younger MUs. No one has ever confused the NMA with the Fountain of Youth; age, we accept, is relative and subjective. But the energy brought by newcomers Marty Nau and John Jensen, and active-duty member Carl Gerhard--energy shared in the lounge and lobby as well as on the bandstand--was a palpable force. We can, indeed attract younger members, and it is they who can best attract their peers.

-- The music was excellent. John Branam has hit his stride as rehearsal director, and, aided by volunteer assistants, kept bands playing. Concert band director Wilbur Smith's programming choices presented a challenge, and the band responded with fervor and finesse. Friday night's concert showed both bands at their best. To see the concert band's members and director performing later in the rock band showed that the versatility of Navy bandsmen is a life-long trait.

The NMA is a year-round blessing that keeps me in touch with old friends and helps me feel a part of something important. But those four days at the end of June are crucial to maintaining that enthusiasm. Our Board of Directors outdid themselves this year. Or the players outdid themselves. Or the newcomers, or the old-timers. I don't know, but something's working in the NMA.

26 June 2011

A quick note while the WI-FI is working

Nothing would please me more than to spend this day, my last in Viriginia Beach, than dumping streams of photos, videos and tall stories about the NMA reunion onto the Internet.

Sigh. As regular visitors have notice, the Internet service in the hotel has been, shall we say, spotty. It comes and goes; when it comes, I do my best, and when it goes, I fume. In fact, I spent a long, productive phone call straightening out IP numbers with the hotel's tech consultant, Ashwanibad Kabindawal, who dispenses Internet advice from Bombay.

Rest assured, I will do my best to provide more. If fate conspires against me, I'll redouble my efforts on Tuesday, when I'll be back home in corn country on good old FarmNet, about which I will never again complain.

In recent years I have observed an inverse relationship between the quality of a hotel and and the dependability of its Internet service. The better the digs, the worse the web.

Perhaps the Board of Directors would consider holding the next reunion at the Orlando Econo-Lodge.

Retire the colors

Until we meet once more...





Our seabags are packed and we're heading home.








Our homes are in different ports, and they call us back to families, jobs, responsibilities.







But throughout the lobby on Sunday morning, you'll hear everyone saying the same four words, words that sum up our feelings about the week, each other and the NMA:




"See you next year."

Good morning. Good night.

I did something I haven't done since the days of the Brass Bell, the Shipwreck Lounge and the Reef: I closed the place down.

It was the last night of the NMA reunion. Now it's the first day of the rest of the year.

But first, a few more hours of shut-eye. I will be back. With stories. With photos.

And with a glad heart.

25 June 2011

Thanks to Melanie Leketa

As I noted earlier, Melanie Leketa pitched in to fill out our concert band's instrumentation by playing a clarinet borrowed from Terry Chesson. Everyone agrees that she did a fine job; more than one member has noted that Terry's clarinet never sounded better . . .

NMA Membership Meeting 2011

Here's the unofficial, unedited, sort-of-accurate rundown of the annual Saturday morning meeting of the members of the Navy Musicians Association:

-- President Chesson spoke on the various ways members may contribute to the NMA in addition to taking positions as elected officers. Recruiting new members, of course, is Job One; it's every member's responsibility to pass the word to potential members.Some members make financial donations to the NMA far beyond their dues. Suggestions may be forwarded to the President or other board member at any time during the year, but nobody needs a special request chit to promote the NMA.

-- Executive Vice-president continues negotiations to select a hotel for next-year's Orlando reunion. Three venues remain on the short-list, but make no mistakes--we'll be in Florida next year.

In addition, he solicited comments on the operation of this year's reunion, adding the suggestion, "If you like it, tell me; if you don't, tell Kim Holl."

-- Vice-president Kim Holl, chairman of the Nominating Committee told us that all current members of the Board of Directors had agreed to serve, if re-elected, one more term. By acclamation, with no dissenting votes, all nominees were elected to serve another term.

-- A large topic at the meeting, as well as in the corridors during the week, was the proposed cutbacks to funding for military bands. In a separate posting, I will harangue you to write to your senators.

-- On conclusion of the meeting, members were dismissed with liberty passes that expire at the 1800 social hour that precedes the annual banquet. It is hoped that this flotilla of MUs will not cause too much havoc while on the beach; this is a Navy town, and the Shore Patrol is busy enough handling active-duty problems.

24 June 2011

How much fun can a guy take?

The needs of the NMA

The Navy Musicians Association will accommodate you whenever possible; a happy sailor is a productive sailor.

Your dream sheet may list your three top reunion priorites as big band, jam session and sea stories. But remember, the needs of the NMA come first.

Singer Melanie Leketa was reminded of this when the detailer assigned her to the concert band's clarinet section.

Friday Afternoon Sitrep

We're still arriving. Tom Metcalf last night, Ray Ascione afternoon. It's always difficult to get officers rounded up.

Second-time attendee Pete Codispoti finished his day's work in Pennslyvania and couldn't wait one more day to leave for the reunion. He took off in his car and arrived in Virginia Beach at one in the morning, chowed down at Denny's and hung out until we woke up the next day. We were bleary eyed and coffee-starved, and Pete was ready to go.

Lee Hudson did not bring his tuba this year. I dance in the sweet rain of God's blessings.

The concert band has worked unusually hard this week. Smitty talked to the Board and wangled us an extra rearsal this afternoon. The workout smoothed the rough edges and tightened up what looks like a tremendous concert this evening.

I don't have an official count yet, but we filled all the hotel rooms. The last time I saw the sign-in sheet, well over a hundred members had registered. They're still arriving (see paragraph one). This year may bring us record attendance.

The concert will seque into a jam session tonight, no doubt. You will pardon me if I have little online this evening--I'm hoping to be busy.

Pride in service

The party's over.

The reunion continues, but the good times have screeched to a halt.

Lee Hudson has arrived, hauling along with him his bottomelss seabag full of personality defects and character flaws.



Last night in the lounge

Wow.

The place was packed and we played fast, slow, loud and late.

And those of us on the bandstand had no more fun than those in the crowd.


All the Things You Are


The NMA's new secret weapon

With its capability of virtually-instant deployment and low manpower-requirements, the NMA's new Fast Attack Stealth Duo has proven its worth. Shown here in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, the John Derby--Max Murray FASD demonstrates the unit's value as a financially self-sustaining operation.

23 June 2011

How many times do I have to tell you?

I've told you on Leger Lines.

I've told you at Navy Lyres.

I've told you face to face:

Check. The. Rehearsal. Board.

NMA Unit Band # 57

As always, the strength of a Navy band is its capacity to break down into smaller ensembles.

The key to a succsessful performance . . .

. . . is to finish strong.

You can lie to yourself if you don't listen carefully

Yesterday, I promised myself I'd go to bed early. Really.

I've been telling myself that for days, but always wound  pushing midnight with friends in the lobby, the lounge or at the pool. Yesterday, I meant it. Really.

I left the jam session at nine while the band was still cooking. Came upstairs, posted here a bit and decided to hit the rack. But a quiet voice said, "Things are probably winding down in the bar. Why not go say goodnight?"

Saying goodnight turned into saying "yes" to a few tunes with the band. Just a few, Frank.

A few tunes turned into an entire set. Finally said goodnight and came upstairs to hit the rack.

Which I was ready to do, except--well, CZ was downstairs, I'd hardly seen him since he arrived. Chet had showed up, too, and I'd heard that John Derby was playing bass.

So there it was, eleven at night--well, slightly after eleven, so no more of this running back to the lounge. I'd made a promise to myself: I was going to bed early.

Really I was.



22 June 2011

Morale

Hail fellow, well met

Particulary on the first day of the NMA reunion, you'll see old pals embracing each other, hearts overflowing with fond memories.


The scene depicted here, however, is not intended to resemble the emotions that will be flowing through my sould when Lee Hudson finally shows up.

Finally--the downbeat


Sometime in the morning, the stands are set up, the piano plugged in and the music passed out, and we're ready to play.

Well, almost.






First, Rehearsal Director John Branam has to get us all playing on the same page. At the same time. On the same chart.

But when he does, the same thing happens that happened last year, and the year before that, and the year before that:







We swing.

Greetings between juniors and seniors

I saw my first master chief, J.J. Connor, getting out of his car outside the hotel.

"Hi, master chief," I said.

"Hi, Mullen," he replied.

Mullen. He still calls me 'Mullen.'"

It sounded good. Real good.

Ahoy there, shipmate

"Frank," called the guy walking into the bar with a trumpet case. "How are you?:.

"Good to see you, Carl." I said. "I just heard you were coming."

We got to talking about friends in common, duty stations and the Navy days. LT Carl Gerhard is still having his Navy days. He's the XO of the School of Music and a card-carrying, jazz-blowing member of the NMA. Our brief greeting was typical of those between many NMA shipmates, typical in the sense that we were glad to see each other, had a lot to talk about and had never met before.

Shakedown day

The roughes day of a cruise or road trip is the first. The band hasn't found its routine yet. Gremlins and glitches join forces to thwart progress. But, no doubt, we'll hit our stride--as soon as we find a three-pronged plug, the stand lights and the 2nd alto book.



The calm before the storm

At 0800, the Holiday Inn was still quiet. But hidden in a corner was a vivid reminder of the pandemonium to come.

The pre- kickoff

So I stroll down to the lounge at eight last night, figuring a few early-birds will probably show up, play a few tunes and hit the rack early.

I was wrong.

The bar was packed, the band was cooking, and the whole place stayed packed and cooking for hours. I stuck it out until eleven, when it hit me: this is fun, but I can't stay up all night--I gotta go to a reunion tomorrow morning.

Film at eleven, or whenever I get a moment. 

21 June 2011

What a difference a year made

A lot of reunion time is spent finding out what your shipmates have been up to.
In Dave Whitaker's case, it's interesting to see what he's down to.

Dave and his doctor had a little talk--perhaps the sort discussion we used to call a "counseling session"-- after last year's San Antonio get-together. Obviously, Dave listened.

My old shipmate has lost 100 pounds this year. He's so fit and energetic that, when I first ran into him yesterday, I didn't recognize him.

Until he started talking. Some things haven't changed.

Tension in the bar

The equipment is set up in the lounge. The place is packed. Horn players are roaming the room like sharks.

Drummers and bassists are also present. They are safe from attack, but their time is limited.

Because, sooner or later, a pianist will walk in. The critical mass will be achieved. The sharks will descend upon him, some forcing him onto the bandstand while other pull trumpets from cases and altos from gig bags.

Then one will utter the words of doom that will trap the rhythm section for the evening:

"'Don't Get Around Much Anymore,'" key of 'C,' sax has the pickups, one, two, three, four, one."

For the style-conscious MU

As always, the fashion-conscious MU will find a broad selection of NMA garb available for sale in the registration room.


This year, however, brings something I particularly prize: the time-honored, simple unit cap. A basic blue cover with unit name and logo emblazoned in gold, it's just like those worn by millions of Navy vets who take pride in their service and still honor its traditions.


Just like us.

Welcome aboard.

The NMA's highly-skilled staff of registrars sits poised to welcome you to the reunion with a friendly smile, a hearty hello and an endless stream of haranguing, harassment and general disparagement.

Report to the quarterdeck

The NMA doesn't really have a quarterdeck, so you don't have to remember which comes first--saluting the National Ensign or saluting the OOD. But you do have remember to sign in, so we know who's here.

But even if you're a day early, you might as well sign in and avoid the rush

Back in a Navy town, for sure

Last evening, a panel truck drove by the hotel bearing a sign that said: "24-hour Tattoo Removal."

What seems like a good idea when the bartender says "Last call" doesn't necessarily have the same magic the following morning when the adjutant says, "First Call."

Morning scuttlebutt - Tues., 21JUN11

Please pardon the currently high text-to-picture ratio. The hotel's WI-FI is still awkward, and I'm posting from the business center. Of course, those who enjoy photos without Mullen Auto-Blur may be pleased by the change.

- - - - - -

As always on pre-reunion Tuesdays, the rumors about who's coming are flying around the hotel. My old neighbor, Phil Heim is expected. I lived around the corner from Phil in Fredericksburg, VA for eight years. We ran with the same crowd of musicians, gigged together occasionally, sat in at the same jam sessions and, for those eight years, never knew we had both served as Navy musicians. On active duty, you knew the whole life story of guys you'd been playing with for two weeks.
- - - - - -

The weather has been surprisingly tolerable for the last few days here in the Heat Stroke capital of Americam , the evenings notably cool as pleasant. Still, I wouldn't particlarly jump at the chance to join the School of Music Marine Element on their daily jog around the Naval Amphibious Base.

Sorry if the pace temporarily slows down

Holiday Inn amenities: first class.

Holiday Inn service: second to none.

Holiday Inn WI-FI: third world.

It's not too late to get off the fence

I met with NMA President Terry Chesson in the Holiday Inn lounge last night. Advance registrations for the NMA reunion are at or above usual levels. Since a lot of attendees register at the door, and a number of first-timers and irregulars are expected, it looks like a big one.

How about you? There's still time to say, "Honey, how important is that church potluck on Thursday night?"

20 June 2011

Watch a great mind at work.

This year, I've decided to put extra effort into learning the names of members' spouses.

This afternoon, I ran into our rehearsal conductor, John Branam, who introduced me to his wife, Cindy. How do I remember that six hours later? Simple, since I already know they live in Indiana.

Indiana / Indians / Westerns / Western Territories / Arizona / John McCain / John and Cindy McCain / Joan and Cindy Branam.

Cindy. John Branam's wife's name is Cindy.

See how easy it is?

Heavy weather

We've taken on a bit of water today. Duh--it's summer in Virgina.

Live it up

I'm not worried about expenses here in Virginia Beach. Any number of nearby institutions stand ready to help finance the week's activivies.




Chris at the helm

Flying to the NMA reunion? Arranging transportation to the Holiday Inn is easy. Follow signs for Ground Transportation. By the luggage carousel are free phones. Dial the listed code and the desk clerk will tell you when to expect Chris or one of his fellow drivers. He'll pick you up outside and whisk you here pronto.


Oh, and be sure you don't get off at the Hampton Inn, or you'll spend the week at the annual meeting of the Association of North American Manufacturers of Synthetic Flooring Materials.

Could be fun, but their band ain't much.

A sort-of quick cup of coffee

This morning, I left my room and went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. It took me 2 minutes to get down, and 45 minutes to get back up. I ran into a couple of MUs--Jim and Stephanie Richards--and there was a lot to talk about.

Jim, Stephanie, Bob, Leon, Kim--considering that the reunion doesn't start for two more days, I've run into quite a few of us already.
This photo shot with Mullen-brand Auto-blur.
You'll be enjoying a lot of it this week.

Hotracking at the Holiday Inn

Hard as it may be to believe, the NMA is not the only group that meets at the Holiday Inn. Last night, what we think of as our registration room was the site of someone else's get-together.



The 351st has now left, and the NMA is moving in. This morning, I ran into Bob Leketa, Kim Holl and Leon Harris, who had just finished moving our equipment into the hotel.


Oh, what bad timing on my part. I missed all the fun.

Home, Sweet Home

I has arrived.I got in late last night and checked in the Holiday Inn. I'm still exhausted, so I may engage in a little late-morning rack time. But let me say this: When my driver dropped me off in front of the hotel, I the outside was familiar...



but, inside: wow. as NMA President Terry Chesson told us in the Leger Lines, the place has been way, way renovated. 


I'll post more this afternoon. Right now, zzzzzzzzz.

19 June 2011

I'm out of here

I'll be leaving soon for the Quad Cities Airport for my flight to Virginia Beach--if thunderstorms don't delay or cancel my flight. I'll arrive this evening, if thunderstorms don't reroute my flight to South Orlando Municipal Airport.

Yeah, I keep mentioning thunderstorms. You would too, if you'd been looking at the weather map. But last year, tornadoes were predicted, and it turned out to be baloney. Who knows?

So, I'll be out of touch today. But starting tomorrow, I'll be posting from Virginia Beach. Although the reunion, as always, doesn't start until Wednesday, things start to simmer in advance--people start drifting in, I hear from people who have made last-minute decisions to come to the reunion and some who have sadly had to cancel, scuttlebutt--ah, welcome back to the Navy--begins to circulate the halls of the hotel.

Later.



















18 June 2011

Hurry up, reunion

Last night I finished my last shift at the local library. I fly to Virginia Beach tomorrow. I'm remembering that antsy feeling from the Navy, when you've signed out at the quarterdeck, picked up your leave papers, but still have to wait overnight for your flight.

I should be packing, but I'm blogging, looking for news of the defense budget, answering emails.

And thinking about the year since the last NMA reunion.

I've lost a dear shipmate. First among my regrets is that I didn't work harder to convince him to join our organization and come to a reunion. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

Another shipmate suffered a serious health challenge early this year, but seems to be coming out the other end of the tunnel with all his running lights on.

These things point out to me the value of my membership in the Navy Musicians Association. For a few days, I am reminded of some of the best years of my life. And I get to share those memories with the same people who made those years so good. I've made new friends, too, men and women I never saw in crackerjacks.

We are not immortal. But we're still growing, I think, and that's what makes our reunions meaningful. They're as much about today as they are about long-gone Unit Band 54.

It's a funny thing; you see your old friend Bill or Jack or Dave in the hotel lobby and rush to greet him. As you give him a hug, you're saying, "You look great--I haven't seen you since that Med cruise," but in your mind, you're thinking, "My god, he looks like hell."

As the two of you get to talking, you see occasional flashes of your youthful buddy in this old man's face. You promise to meet again later in the lounge, or the restaurant or registration room.

And when you do, you see him across the room and instantly think, "Damn--he hasn't changed a bit."

Enough. Time to pack. This in-between antsy feeling is killing me.

Friend of Navy music recommended for CNO

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended ADM Jonathan Greenert for nomination as the next Chief of Naval Operations.
ADM Greenert is a friend to Navy music. In 2009, as he was finishing his duties as Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces and preparing to take the position of Vice-CNO, he was our guest at the Navy Musicians Association reunion.

The Daily Poop - Sat., 18JUN11

NO JO

Sadly, my wife will not be coming to the reunion this year.

Nurses' work schedules are notoriously iffy. We'd hope that she'd be able to come at least for a few days, like she did last year. Alas, it is not to be.

I'll just have to soldier on without her.
   
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF THE HOTEL

If you're coming to Virginia Beach without  a car, there are a number of conveniences within hoofing-it distance of the Holiday Inn.

This is not to knock the hotel's restaurant. Ashley's is a fine dining spot, and you'll find NMA members dining there whether or not we're gathered for music and fun. But there are other nearby options for eatining and picking up various neccessities:

Within a hop, skip and a jump: 
  • Denny's 
  • 7-11.
Within a hop, skip, jump and quick dash across the  highway:
  • Ruby Tuesday.
Within a hop, skip, jump, dash across a highway and a few minutes of heavy breathing:
  •  Rite Aid Pharmacy
  • Subway Sandwiches
  • Arrowhead Plaza Shopping Center




17 June 2011

The Daily Poop II - Fri., 17JUN11

The Senate Armed Services Committee has released the summary of its final markup session yesterday. There is no mention of cuts to military bands.

This doesn't mean cuts, perhaps severe cuts, weren't included. While waiting for detail information, I'm trying to put a positive interpretation on the fact the military band cutbacks are not mentioned. The best I can do is this: "Gee, you'd think that if they'd made severe cuts in funding for military bands, they'd be headlining it in 72-point Times New Roman, so I guess..."

Actually, I don't guess anything. There's too much to weigh. Yes, the House version of the military budget contained a multi-million dollar cut in military band funding, but the entire sum wouldn't have bought a wheel-bearing for an F-35. Well, you know what I mean.

We'll see.

The Daily Poop - Fri., 17JUN11

Been hearin' from a few of us who can't come to the reunion this year. I'll miss you, OJ, Everett, Frank, John. But in answer to your questions, yes, I'll be live blogging the NMA reunion again this year. These sappy little instalments of The Daily Poop will end on Sunday, when I'll fly out of Moline International (HaHa) Airport. Monday, I'll begin the warm-up from Virginia Beach.

- - - - - -

Last year I flew to San Antonio with just one piece of carry-on luggage. I'm trying to remember how I got everything in there.

- - - - - -

Lee Hudson. A seed stuck between your teeth. Chalk on a blackboard. Need I say more?

16 June 2011

Excellence: all in a day's work for Navy bands

Published
June 16, 2011
Rock Island Argus
Moline Dispatch


 One afternoon in late December of 1975, a trombone player pounded on my barracks door.

 "Liberty is cancelled!" he hollered. "Jump in your working uniform and get to rehearsal: we're doing Bob Hope's Christmas show tonight!"

 This was news to me. As a Navy Musician, I checked the band's schedule daily. When I went to sleep, I always knew whether the next day would bring a few military ceremonies, public concerts or perhaps the beginning of a cruise.

When the rest of Navy Band San Francisco and I stumbled into our rehearsal hall, we learned what had happened. A glitch in Bob Hope's travel plans had given the legendary entertainer an unscheduled evening off. Instead of complaining, he'd called the nearest military band and said, like they did in those old movies:

"Let's put on a show."

Not many people would have had the nerve to make such a request. But we were a military band, and Bob Hope was, well, Bob Hope. For him, "Support Our Troops" wasn't a bumper sticker; it was a way of life. He got what he wanted, and what he wanted was to perform that night for the injured veterans at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital.

So, while Mr. Hope caught up on his sleep, his manager raced to the Naval base with the musical arrangements for the show. We didn't have time to rehearse everything, so we played only the hardest pieces, trusting experience and training to get us through the performance.  

It worked. Bob Hope's show—the jokes he'd been telling for 30 years and the music we'd rehearsed for 30 seconds--was a welcome holiday gift for that audience of wounded warriors; you could tell by the glistening tears in their eyes as they sang along with "White Christmas" in their wheelchairs and gurneys.

The Vietnam War was over and congress was cutting the budget for military bands. Fortunately, my band had survived the financial trimming. Over the years, I've often wondered: what sort of Christmas would those vets have had if congressional cutbacks had eliminated my Navy band? I can just imagine Bob Hope's manager trying to hire a civilian band: 
"I need an 18-piece group to play old-time swing music, current pop hits, patriotic songs and Christmas carols. The music is of professional-level difficulty, but the band will have to play most of it without any preparation because they'll only have a half-hour rehearsal, starting in 45 minutes. The show begins in three hours. Can you do it?"
For a civilian band, an impossible request; for a military band, a typical day's work.

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, now awaiting action by the Senate, would crush the budget for military bands to fragments. I hope enough senators know what their forebears knew when the Vietnam War ended: military bands are not frills. They are an integral part of our Armed Forces. Military music is a force multiplier that raises morale, lends dignity to ceremonial occasions and boosts crucial public support for the Services.

This is Navy Week in the Quad Cities. Among other events, Navy Band Great Lakes is in town to perform jazz, pop, rock and good old patriotic band music. Check them out at the fairgrounds, the air show or the park. You'll see the Navy's bands are still earning their keep.

Certainly, in hard times we have to tighten up our military budget. But ask any sailor: there's a big difference between trimming your sails and chopping down the mast.
- - - - - - - - - -
Copyright 2011 Frank Mullen III

The Daily Poop - Thurs., 16JUN11

Advance registration figures show that this year's NMA reunion could be a big one. I've been guessing that, despite the economy, this might be the case. Economics is about making choices, and it looks like a lot of us have chosen to spend time with our shipmates. This is terrific.

And the reunion is shaping into a terrific event, too. NMA President Terry Chesson says it's official: we'll have a Saturday evening visit from the ceremonial unit of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band. Call them CINCLANT, call them Fleet Forces, they're excellent. Better than excellent; I'd say that if they went head to head in competition with the NMA Concert Band, the issue would be in doubt...

Seriously, those of us who have witnessed their performance before will tell you they're the tops. And I think they enjoy the gig, too; it's not often a band plays for an audience that gives a standing ovation when they walk onthe bandstand.

Terry also confirms that the guest speaker on Saturday night will be the Commanding Officer of the School of Music, CDR Ralph Ingraham. I promise to listen politely, and I may even applaud. But if Ralph starts singing "New York, New York," I'm gonna grab the microphone and tell the entire room about the time he . . .

Whoops, I almost forgot: you gotta come to the reunion to hear the stories.

15 June 2011

Preserve funding for military bands

Today, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012--the military budget--comes out of subcommittees to the full Senate Armed Services Committee. We do not yet know how the Personnel Committee, in particular, handled the severe cuts to military band funding that the House of Representatives has proposed. I would not expect them to be screaming "Paaarty!" and throwing hundred-dollar bills around senate chambers.

Now, the full SASC will "mark-up,"i.e., finalize, the figures for presentation to the full Senate.

- - - - -

To: All members, Senate Armed Services Committee
      All members, SASC Personnel Subcommittee
Subj: Preserve funding for military bands
Sent: Monday, 13JUN11

I urge you to reconsider the drastic budget cuts for military bands contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.

Our military bands are not frills. They are an integral part of our armed forces, force multipliers that boost morale, lend dignity to ceremonial occasions and drum up crucial public support for our Armed Services.

We ask so much of the American fighting man and woman, and get so much in return. They deserve the finest.

Sincerely,
Frank Mullen III,
Former Chief Musician,
United States Navy

The Daily Poop - Wed., 15JUN11

What they're up to:

My old San Francisco shipmate, Bob Nolan spent time this week sending messages in support of funding for military bands to the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
Frank Kemp is planning to attend the reunion in Orlando next year, or Virginia Beach in '13. Those west coast guys truly operate in a different time zone.
Lee Hudson is working on ways to make the reunion a miserable experience for me.

14 June 2011

The Daily Poop - Tues., 14JUN11

One week from today, Tuesday the 21st, the Early Birds will be roaming the hotel. I wouldn't be surprised if the evening ends with a little jamming in the lounge. It's happened before. In fact, I've been to five reunions, and every one of them has wound up with the backfield in motion before the starting whistle.



Yesterday, I wrote to all the members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and Personnel Subcommittee, urging them to preserve funding for military bands. I'm not the only one who did this--I've heard from others.

If you wish to have input into this budget, The Personnel Committee is meeting today. They will propose a budget that the full committee will review tomorrow, Wednesday and, if necessary, Thursday. The time to write is last week, yesterday or right now.

Instructions on how to quickly send an email are in the post below.



I'm gonna try reeeally hard this year to not do the this awful thing I do at the reunions. I get so excited about the Live-blog that, even before things have started happening, I take pictures and post them with descriptions of what's gonna happen. As in,
  • "Here's the bar. It's empty, but. boy, things will be jumping soon."
  • "Hard to believe that this desolate lobby, shown here in a photo taken at 3AM when even the desk clerks are nodding out, will soon be a beehive of activity."
I'll try hard, really I will. the problem is, I tell myself this same thing every year.

13 June 2011

Want to keep military bands funded? You Must Act Now

The short version:

If you want to preserve military bands, write to the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Forces Committee right now. Scroll down to the section "HOW." Do it now. Later is too late.

The fuller version:

The National Defense Authorization Act that will provide the budget for—or decimation of—military bands will be finalized in the Senate within days. Subcommittees of the Senate Armed Services Committee are going into "markup" for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This means changes to the military budget are being "marked up"; in other words, finalized.

Here's the schedule:

-- Subcommittees are in markup Tuesday, June 14 and early Wednesday, June 15. On that first day, the Personnel Committee is in markup. It has oversight of Morale, Welfare and Recreation services, so I'm guessing this is the subcommittee that will set the budget for military bands.

-- The full Senate Armed Forces Committee is in markup late Wednesday, June 15, and Thursday, June 16.

What this means: write now. Not later in the week. Now.

To whom? At this point, everyone on the full committee and Personnel Subcommittee, or any one of them.

HOW?

Pick a senator from the list below. Find his or her name on this page ,click on his or her name, and you'll be given an online form. In the box, write a clear, short message. Like,
I urge you to maintain funding for military bands in the Defense Authorization Act. Here's why: XXXX. Thank you, signed, Your Name.
(At this point, be smart and copy your message to your clipboard.)

Now, send your message. Feel good about yourself for five seconds, then go back to this page again
. Pick another senator, and paste The Same Message from you clipboard. Send and repeat as needed.
- - - - - - - -
Subcommittee on Personnel – Meets Tuesday
Senator Webb --Chairman
Senator Graham -- Ranking Member
Senator Lieberman
Senator Akaka
Senator McCaskill
Senator Hagan
Senator Begich
Senator Blumenthal
Senator Chambliss
Senator Brown (Scott)
Senator Ayotte
Senator Collins
Senator Vitter

Full Committee—meets late Wednesday and Thursday
Carl Levin -- Chairman
John McCain--
Joseph I. Lieberman
Jack Reed
Daniel K. Akaka
Ben Nelson
Jim Webb
Claire McCaskill
Mark Udall
Kay R. Hagan
Mark Begich
Joe Manchin III
Jeanne Shaheen
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Richard Blumenthal
James M. Inhofe
Jeff Sessions
Saxby Chambliss
Roger F. Wicker
Scott P. Brown
Rob Portman
Kelly Ayotte
Susan M. Collins
Lindsey Graham
John Cornyn
David Vitter

The Daily Poop - Mon., 13JUN11

In one week, I'll be in Virginia Beach. I'm arriving a couple of days early, to get a head start on enjoying the brisk and invigorating air of Virginia Beach in late June. I'll be blogging from the hotel starting on Monday.

- - - - - - - -

 Speaking of which:

Recently I sent a message--"Live-blogging the Reunion"-- to every email address on the NMA roster . If you didn't get it, the NMA doesn't have your correct address. They can't email you. I can't email you. Long-lost shipmates who just found your name can't contact you.

Could be you forgot to tell the NMA you've changed your email address. Could be a problem with your email provider. Could be a transcription problem--the address you hastily scribbled on your registration form might not have been as clear as you thought, dear pR45trumpet12saz@intertechwebnet.com

Go to the NMA roster and click on your name. Is the address correct? If not, tell the webmaster.

- - - - - - - -



12 June 2011

The Daily Poop - Sun., 12JUN11

Whaddaya mean, you're not coming to the NMA reunion because you can get away for four or five day? You don't need to. Many of us come for ony part of the reunion.

Because of work and other obligations, some members don't arrive until Friday. That's okay--our major functions are on Friday and Saturday evenings. Conversely, some have to be back home on the weekend and arrive Tuesday or Wednesday for a few days of fun, friendship and music.

You don't have to do a full tour.

- - - - - - - -
While I love making new friends at each reunion, there's still a lot to be said for meeting up with old shipmates. This year, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Dave Czohara--"C.Z."--who will be in Virginia Beach for his first reunion.

I haven't seen The Polish Prince in a quarter of a century, but I've been in contact with him through social networking.  He seems to be a positive-thinking, upbeat people-person.

My, how we change.

---------

11 June 2011

The Daily Poop - Sat., 11JUN11

Holy smokes--the NMA reunion begins in only 10 days. That's no time at all--I spent longer stretches of time than that writing charts in the chief's mess in the flicker of a battle lantern while the Blue Ridge ran loss-of-power drills in the Indian Ocean.
- - - - - - - -

The wife of an old shipmate wrote to me and said that she and her husband have a happy marriage. But, she said, "I've come to accept the fact that the best days of his life were with you and the Navy guys." 

- - - - - - - -

I keep hearing that the Holiday Inn has been renovated. New faucets in the men's room and a digital "Schlitz" sign over the bar? Actually, it looks like they've done a bit more than that:

10 June 2011

The Daily Poop - Fri., 10JUN11

In the recent issue of Leger Lines, I saw that the NMA reunion features an an optional cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk. Here's what I want to know: is there anyone in the NMA who was ever stationed in Norfolk or Little Creek who hasn't played on the Spirit of Norfolk? When I was stationed at the school, I gigged on the Love Boat, at various times, with MUs John Pastin, Phil Field, Max Stumf, Roy Mahoney, Steve Dimond, Clem Skinner and half the guys from the CINCLANT band. It wasn't the worst sea duty; I made $29.50 a night.
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Even though I don't drink anymore, I've been thinking about making a field trip during the reunion to the Brass Bell on Independence Boulevard. For a number years the Bell was my home away home. It was a hangout for three Navy units: the School of Music, Seal Team Two and a Mobile Training Unit. We got along pretty well, all things considered, and when you walk into a crowed bar and the only empty stool is next to a Seal, there's a lot to consider.

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I don't know which I like more: NMA reunions in even-numbered years at various locations, or reunions in odd-number years in Virginia Beach. The "away" games are always new and exciting, but there's a lot to be said for these "home port" get-togethers: we know the facility, and the hotel management is familiar with our needs. I guess neither is better; they're both great.