Military debates


Everyone seems to be talking about the debates. I cannot enjoy them because at some point during the 90 minute discussion, for reasons I do not understand, I teleport myself into the body of one of the debators and imagine what it would be like. I think there is something wrong with me.

Debates are yet another reason I will never be President, or run for any other office for that matter, unless I can run unopposed and never get asked any questions.


You see, I suffered through the military version of debates. They are called “qualification boards.”

When you sit through a board, the questioners are the debate moderators, except instead of trying to be fair and impartial, their job is to make you look stupid. In my case, I did my part to help them.

The questions are similar to what you see on TV. They ask you how you would do things, what your thoughts are on different subjects, and (this is the worst part) they expect you to know facts.

After watching the debates on TV, it is clear that the candidates know way too many facts. Their command of various statistics is impressive. On my boards, I was lucky if I remembered my name.

And if I survived the fact-checking, I definitely, undoubtedly, without question could not get past the insults. Politicians have the ability to absorb a multitude of shots – to their character, to their honesty, to their intentions – then smile and shake hands after it is all over. I could not do that. I would hold a grudge. I would curse. I would avoid the handshake unless it were used to get close enough to give my opponent a good head butt.

Those who thrive in politics are a special breed. They are tough. They can brawl with their words and never wrinkle their suits or mess up their hair. I respect those who make it to the top. I really do. They have earned their shot.

But let’s see them trace out the engineering plant on a blank sheet of paper. THAT would be a good debate question.


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  1. I was taking my oral board to qual as a Craftmaster for Tugboats at NavSta Norfolk. The CO was the senior officer and it was his turn. He laid out a very complex scenario with me having a barge alongside and a loaded container ship heading outbound. Naturally the location we’d meet was the worst possible spot and I’m arranging all this info in my head as a picture.

    Instead of a simple, “So what would you do?” he said, “What kind of navigational logarithm would be going through your head?”

    I was momentarily blank and all I could think of was, “Holy crap! He thinks I know what a logarithm is!” I regrouped and apparently gave a sat answer. But to this day when I’m calculating whether I can make a turn across traffic on the highway I’ll tell my wife, “Hang on, but don’t worry, I double checked my logarithm and I carried the one.”

    (I still don’t know what one is, but have accepted life on those terms)

  2. SWO Board 1989: “Cruise missiles iare inbound on the Port and Starboard sides. Where do you shoot your chaff?”

    Answer: “To bloom over the FFG, sir”

    Everybody died laughing except for the OPS boss (a former FFG sailor)

    That was followed by the infamous “You are a kernal of corn, trace your way through the CHT system…”

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