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"Only Your Best Effort Matters" - Gym Jones -

I spent the entire summer break of 2008 in the sand. Nearly every day was sunny, al hamdulillah, and when I stripped down to just my shorts and moved my toes through the grit I could almost imagine the ocean roar that would have made the entire experience somewhat pleasurable. One of our linguists told us that the Afghan's of Kabul came to Helmand province only to die. A month after we landed it got hot enough that the ants stopped coming above ground...

• • •

Right now, as you sit here,

there is a team of sailors on 30 foot seas, underwater in a tin bubble, or about to kick down a door and meet the enemy. There is a young petty officer leading this group. He's no more than 21 or 22 years old. Odds are he is the first man in the stack even though that's not his job, because he can't bear to ask his guys to go in first. Before they arrived at the house he was encouraging his men, running through the steps, reminding them how it was all going to go down. Before that, at base camp, he was checking their equipment, ammo, and weapon. Back home, before they even came to this God-forsaken place he was pushing them through training, reminding them that one mistake could mean their deaths, carrying that burden on his shoulders.

But he isn't alone. He has mentors too. His leader, only a couple years older has probably spent 2-3 years of his life at sea by now. Older than his 24-year-old appearance by a long shot, he is not going to let his men down. He is going to have the most prepared group of sailors in the Navy.

If he doubts that for a second, his Chief, that crusty E-7 the movies are so prone to lionize (and rightly so for a change) is right there to kick him in the ass. He runs this crew, and on top of that, has to train a cocky 22-year-old ensign to not be an idiot and get his men killed.

He reports to the lieutenant, but his real boss, the Senior Chief, is there to back him up in every way - making sure his guys have everything they need to survive and thrive, whether it's food, ammo, rest, or recognition.

Watching over it all, maintaining the discipline of the Navy, is the Master Chief. He looks haggard and salty as hell, but still spry for his age. He's seen it all. He's been there, done that, and had more t-shirts than this whole damn company. He's forgotten more about Davy Jones Locker than we all know. And he's quietly confident in a way an Admiral will never understand.

He wasn't shooting for Master Chief the way many officers plan on being Colonels or Generals and start networking from day one. All he did his entire life was take care of sailors, whether it was his battle buddy when he was a scared seaman at basic or his ship now.

The best part is that he still doesn't think he deserves it.

God bless the NCO.