Wednesday, October 12, 2011

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."


"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.


Anonymous said...

I bet you were also the guy bitchin' about loading gear, cleaning heads, doing ceremonies, taking the rating exam, etc etc. Guys like this give MUs a bad name.

XMU said...


I think you need to push in the tuning slide on your sense of humor--it's a little flat today.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't meant to be funny...It's a different Navy...the days of falling out of the van drunk at gigs are gone. Navy MUs work in an environment of budget cuts, band closures, and fear of losing a career...and this kind of "humor" really adds fuel to the fire. If this blog wants to add worth to Military Music it should focus on the positives that military music provide. Bands do over 400+ gigs yearly each and the larger bands do upward of 600...I don't think the Navy Bands 30 years ago could function on this least if they couldn't figure out how to make coffee or bitched about it in the process.

tboneman said...

Back 30 or more years ago, we usually fell drunk into the vans--and I would put any showband or rock band up against any performing unit today. Yes we did at times 30-40 gigs per month! Yes, it is a different Navy today, however the focus on Navy bands is still as it was back in the day-- a positive entity enjoyed by thousands of people worldwide even though the phrase still stands: A bitchin' musician is a happy musician" I will now get of my podium!!

AnotherFormerMU said...

Anonymous..."a different Navy," it is indeed!

Navy MUs from 30-40 years ago worked in an environment where they were constantly trying to build a bridge--showing the positive aspects of serving in the military. Perhaps you have heard of or read of the Vietnam era veterans and how the country vilified any of us in military uniform???

Yes, you face budget cuts, band closures and being downsized in your jobs. Welcome to the "real world!" Why should you be entitled to any different than what the rest of the world today faces? We, as citizens and employees from every faction of society, face these challenges.

And some of us faced these things in the Navy of a few decades ago, as well. Lack of promotion due to overmanning; being devalued by some because we weren't in a war and hated by others because we represented a war.

Before you start spouting off about what those of us who served before you did or did not do in service to our country, perhaps you should do your homework. You might be surprised and how hard working many of us were, coffee or no coffee...liquored up or not.

Your elitist rant perpetuates the view by those looking to cut the Music program in the defense budget that "guys" like you--with your arrogance, tunnel vision, and inability to laugh at yourself and the world around you--are the reason we do not need the military music program as we now know it.

Get ready to start having to hustle when your military career is cut short. I bet you'll be the guy bitchin' and giving VETERANS a bad name.

Anonymous said...

AnotherFormerMU...I think you lived in a Navy Music Program that had a band on ever ship and every base...We have 13 bands and less than 700 MUs currently. You cannot compare...You cannot do a career as a MU2 and must make MU1 by 14 yrs in order to stay in till 20 yrs. Slackers are not allowed. The days of a MU2 doing a carrer are gone thank god! We have standards now!

Anonymous said...

Yeah Yeah...I came in the Navy Music Program in 1990 and trust me the quality of musician coming in today is FAR superior than any of the "musicians" that were suppose to be my mentors. The navy music program represents America and the Navy in a different way than the MUs of before...when I came in the bands did maybe 150 gigs a year and had MU2 that made a career of bitching about how the system was against them...The (REDACTED)band was known for pulling into port and hitting the whore houses...That doesn't happen in todays Navy.

tboneman said...

"Another former MU" I agree with your thoughts. I recently saw a Navy "rock band", (and I use that term loosely) perform and what a bunch of noise,wannabes, complete with noses up in the air, full of themselves, and not one smile on the stage. And yes, I saw a lot of E4 types with the hash marks. And I wondered,these people have the best job in the world! If your not digging your job then get the hell out and make room for MU's that wanna be there. By the looks of these folks, there is a morale problem somewhere in their command--sad, but some things will never change.

Anonymous said...

E4 types with hash marks? Maybe one hash mark...HYT for E4 is 8 yrs and HYT for E5 is 14 yrs.

AnotherFormerMU said... have no idea who I am or when I served. Quite the contrary, actually.

And you might want to get your "facts" straight.

Just for the record, I'd worked in bands, where the particular band/ensemble to which I was assigned did over 300 gigs per year. That did not account for all of the other ensembles/bands we put out on gigs, nor the ceremonial gigs we ALL were assigned to, regardless of your group work, or combo work, etc., etc., totaling well over 600-700 gigs per year. Other locations where I served produced similar numbers and more.

I always held a collateral job, in addition to performing. So, before you start labeling me as a "slacker," I suggest you stop generalizing to try to build yourself up by comparing yourself to me. Period.

Lastly, until you take responsibility for your own weaknesses (spelling, grammar, punctuation, and general communicative ineffectiveness), I would recommend that you discontinue your unfounded tirade. You sound like a spoiled brat who didn't listen in school, and who now thinks the world will be owed to him/her now that you've had it so tough in today's Navy.

I, for one, know the value of hard work and I didn't need to be pampered as you seem to be. I worked my butt off to be a good sailor first, and musician. I was proud to be both. And no one, including the Navy, owed me a damned thing except the paycheck I agreed to receive by signing on the dotted line, several times.

Now, this debate is over, because you have no idea how to construct a good or fair philosophical argument. And your sophomoric, schoolyard bullying does not work with me, nor in the real world.

Change your attitude or you will be eaten alive in the civilian world.

Anonymous said...

We count gigs as one gig now regardless of how many different units are on the gig...For example...Navy Ball: CB for Pat-O, Bugler for Taps, Combo for reception, Big Band for old folks dancing, Rock Band for young folks dancing = 1 gig. In your day it would = 5 gigs. My first band was full of career MU2s bitching about how Mother Navy was against them instead of taking personal responsibility. Today we weed out the non-performers and keep the best of the best. Up or out!

AnotherFormerMU said...


Well, it seems to me that the only MU in this thread that is "bitching"... is you.