This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
They say you shouldn’t joke about coronavirus. Its serious stuff. Fine, but just because a bunch of idiots are gaffing off all reasonable precautions to drink green beer in crowded pubs and expose the conspiracy by the media to induce mass hysteria, crash the economy, and sabotage the President . . . doesn’t mean I can’t crack a joke. Besides, we all need a little levity after a few days of self-isolation (you better be self-isolating, you filthy people!). Anyway, speaking of jokes…
Did you hear the one about China blaming the U.S. Army for the coronavirus? The ARMY?!? OK, I’m officially offended. Like, for real offended, not just millennial offended. O-5-not-getting-a-salute-on-the-pier offended.
Everyone knows that if a branch of the United States Armed Forces were to be responsible for the pandemic of the century, it would be the U.S. MONSTER-LOVIN’ NAVY!! In fact, it’s no small miracle that we didn’t start the spread of a global virus. Think about it—we nasty. Let’s face it. After a few weeks at sea, expiration dates and safe temperatures are more like suggestions than rules. The sniff test becomes a taste test. And I’m not just talking about Americans. All ye scurvy dogs with saltwater in yer veins are included here (BTW, that’s not just saltwater). Here are just a few examples:
- Good ol’ Pattaya: Do I really need to say anything more? Let’s just put it this way: The Navies of the world spread the treasures of port towns far and wide. If you don’t believe me, just swing by Medical about a week after a port call. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Our Crippled Immune Systems: You know what’s not super great for autoimmune health? A cocktail of energy drinks, nicotine, and three hours of sleep a night. Whatever. Who has time for fighting off pathogens when there’s a vaguely military-related situation developing in the Central Asian States? Just like we tell every combatant commander when they ask for longer naval deployments more often: We can do it! Just give me a white Monster and a cherry-vanilla-avocado flavored vape and I’m basically indestructible.
- Community Berthing: Don’t even get me started. I never saw a t-shirt you could stand up by itself until I stayed in the JO Jungle. Then there’s “hot racking” in which sailors on different shifts take turns sleeping in the same rack. Don’t worry, they put their own linens on the rack, and we all know fresh linens kill the billions of microbes teeming on walls and soaked into the pillow and mattress.
- Community Gear: Sure, everyone has a tube of Clorox wipes by their watchstations and workstations now, but how about a year ago? At least two or three times a day, we take off our headset all covered in our germs and hand it to our watch relief. What do they do? Disinfect it by rubbing the earpieces on their coveralls. If you rub vigorously, the heat from the friction kills all viruses, and you can kill keyboard bacteria by blowing on them. Everyone knows this.
- CHT Happens: My first assignment was R-DIVO. I saw things, awful things, and I heard even worse stories of what repair division had to do to keep the collection, holding, and transfer (i.e. sewage) system up and running. Also, sailors will commit all sorts of inhuman acts when you tell them they can’t go potty for a few hours. Same goes for shipyard workers. There’s a special place in hell for people that leave bottles full of bodily fluids tucked away in obscure angle irons.
Of course, the U.S. Navy is a responsible organization, and has enacted key measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a brilliant, public health-conscious move, the Navy indefinitely extended two carrier strike group deployments to the Middle East, in order to prevent sailors from coming home and potentially spreading the disease in their communities.
Likewise, to highlight the infallibility of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP), the Navy augmented the Sustainment Phase with the Quarantine Phase—which consists of 14 days of returning deployers loitering off their homeport coast within visual and cellphone range of their families on the pier. Also, all “open-door” policies are now officially “closed-door” policies. Your CO is truly dismayed she cannot listen to you extol the challenges of leaving your “fur baby” at home for deployment.
Finally, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus aboard ships, the Navy is analyzing “alternative minimum safe manning levels” for forward deployed ships. I call it the Optimal Social Distance Manning Concept, and it is pure genius. Reportedly, the move is being driven by budget concerns but we all know this is subterfuge to avoid contributing to virus hysteria, since the Navy would never, ever think of cutting costs by taking sailors off forward-deployed ships. Still . . . if we can cut costs and prevent the spread of COVID-19 . . . WIN-WIN!
Ok, shipmates, keep it sanitary until I see you again. I’m gonna go bathe in Purell. Semper
Virus. Oops, I mean . . . Semper Fortis!