13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

Being a “NUB” or “boot” in the Navy usually involves a fair amount of pride swallowing and large doses of embarrassment. Old salts get their jollies by giving their fresh-caught shipmates impossible or fallacious tasks. Here are 13 fool’s errands unsuspecting sailors receive on their way toward becoming fleet players:

1. “Go ask Boats for a boatswain’s punch.”

navy boxer

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elliott Fabrizio/USN

‘Boats’ is short for boatswain’s mate. If you ask him for a punch, Boats will gladly oblige.

2. “Go to HAZMAT and get me some bulkhead remover.”

Bulkhead remover

A bulkhead is a ship’s wall, and it would take a lot of elbow grease to remove it.

3. “Go down to the ship’s store and get me some batteries for the sound-powered phone.”

sound powered phone

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sound-powered phones are  . . . wait for it . . . power by sound. No batteries required.

4. “Go get me the keys to the airplane.”

f/a-18 Navy strike fighter in the hangar bay

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rosa A. Arzola/USN

Silly newbie, Navy planes don’t have keys. Starting a plane involves flicking switches and moving throttles.

5. “Go bring me a bucket of prop wash.”


Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans/USN

There’s practically a chemical or special product for every job, so this doesn’t seem like an odd request until you realize that prop wash is the water turbulence created by the ship’s propeller.

6. “Go get 20 feet of chow line.”

Navy galley line chow line

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/US Navy

This one also sounds reasonable. After all, every piece of rope in the Navy has a name — mooring line, heaving line, tie line, etc. Chow line seems logical until you figure out it’s the line coming out of the galley.

7. “Go get me 10 feet of shoreline.”


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A variation of the task above. You want shoreline? Wait for liberty call.

8. “Go ask the yeoman for an ‘ID-10-T’ chit.”

ID10T form

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Justin R. Pacheco/USN

Write it down and see what you get. Yeomen describe newbies asking for this chit like Christmas at sea — a gift filled with laughter (and pointing).

9. “Go get me some portable pad eyes.”

flight deck pad eye

Photo: U.S. Navy

Pad eyes are permanent fixtures on the flight deck that aircraft tie downs attach to. They’re anything but portable.

10. “Go turn on the cooling water for the hand rails.”

sailors looking for valves

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall/USN

Searching for this imaginary valve can take all day. The bulkheads and overhead have miles of pipes and wiring. An unsuspecting sailor can go from one end of the ship to the other without success. Hilarity ensues.

11. “Go ask the supply chief for a can of A1R or A.I.R.”

can of air

Photo: YouTube

Smart newbies will offer up an empty can, but history shows there aren’t that many smart newbies.

12. “Go get some hangers and tin foil, we need to calibrate the radar.”

Dress the newbie in tin foil with a matching hat and gloves and ask him or her to move slowly to get a good signal. Make sure you bring a camera; the tin man makes for great pictures.

13. “Go practice some touch and goes in the ship’s flight simulator.”

flight simulator aviator

Photo: Department of Defense

This one is usually reserved for new aviators. (There are no flight simulators on the ship.)

OR: See what life is like on a U.S. Navy Carrier: