The Lives of the Grunts of the Blue Water Navy

It’s a soggy Sunday morning but the best part is that tomorrow is a holiday! It’s like Saturday all over again. I stayed up late last night devouring a book by my favorite author. Robert D. Kaplan doesn’t let me down, in his new book called ‘Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts’ he details the mindset and the lives of ordinary Marines, sailors and soldiers in today’s low intensity military.

Kaplan spends weeks embedded, getting to know the people who really make the military work. We meet people he describes, always mentioning where they are from and how they got into the military. Among them are the nnon-military men who are merchant seamen who run the huge ships like the WestPac Express.

In today’s military, Kaplan explains, these ferry-like ships can transport an entire battalion inside their massive hulls. Hundreds of tanks, humvees, weapons, ammo and helicopters are all stored below decks, everything the army needs to wage war. The civilians are key–he points out that the twenty-year veterans like these merchant marines who can load the whole ship with just fifteen men would never have stayed in the navy. But because they are citizens, not sailors, they run the ship and hundreds of other operations. There are civilians all over the world running American military bases and making them work with the local populations.

Kaplan talks about sleeping in a bunk on a destroyer and when he turned on his side ‘there were inches above me.’ He had it better than the sailors, though, they slept 40 to a room. Imagine hearing that many snoring people, while you tried to sleep. He describes life on the ship, claustrophobically tight quarters, with conversations taking place inches from the other person. Below decks is hermetically sealed, in case of gas attack, so when you emerge on the decks, a suction sound can be heard, a whoosh. The decks are where the men and women go when the crowdedness gets to them. No booze. No sex. Sometimes sailors get caught trying to get it on.

Aircraft carriers and submarines, he says, are called boats. Destroyers, cruisers and frigates, these they call ships. The details of the lives of these men and women are what Kaplan makes so interesting. Can’t wait to read more.