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Welcome to Confessions Of, a weekly series where Task & Purpose’s James Clark solicits hilarious, embarrassing, and revealing stories from troops and vets about their job, billet, or a tour overseas.
Humans are not meant to be on the bottom of the ocean, or at any depth where you can’t pop back to the surface — or just stand up and walk to the shore. No air, immense pressure, and limited visibility, it’s one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. So it takes a certain mix of bravado, balls, brawn, and brain to operate in an environment that could leave you dead about 20 different ways.
Navy divers like Tommy McConnell have those qualities in spades. They also have a few traditions that set them apart. Such as doling out parting gifts to women they’ve spent the night with.
Navy Diver 2nd Class Tommy McConnell.Photo courtesy of Tommy McConnell
One tradition dates back to when Navy divers would wear shirts with blue on the outside, and gold on the inside. They’d wear the shirts — with the blue on the outside — when they were in the water during training, and when they were finished, the divers would flip the shirts inside out, so the gold was showing. This is so the diving instructors would know which sailors had completed the event, explains McConnell.
Over the years, it evolved. The divers still get the shirts, but they don’t always keep them, not if they get lucky at least.
“There’s sort of a thing where if we do meet a girl out in town, and if things go well for us, we give ‘em a blue and gold as a token of our appreciation,” says McConnell, who’s been a Navy diver for roughly six years and served two tours, one to the Middle East and one to the Pacific.
“I’ve been married for about four years now, so the blue-and-gold lifestyle has come and gone in my world, but I gotta be honest, I did have a special drawer of blue and gold that didn’t fit me well and those were like my back ups, if things went well,” he says, before quipping: “I had a few disposable ones to hand out.”
Now, say what you will about giving a girl a shirt as a “thank you for sex” parting gift, at least it’s not a pair of silkies that stink like ball sack and medicated baby powder.
Another tradition is the deep sea kiss, which involves two grown men sharing a drink, sort of.
One morning during McConnell’s first deployment, his chief came storming into the sailors’ quarters to read them the riot act. The reason: The ship’s captain received a call from the local bar that the sailors had been kissing each other and fighting.
“So, there’s this tradition among Navy divers, and it's pretty exclusive to us, and it’s kinda weird,” McConnell says. “What we’ll do is we’ll take a shot and hold it our mouth, and basically baby-bird it to a junior guy. That’s a deep sea kiss.”
As for the ass-chewing they received: “That’s actually exactly what occurred,” McConnell says. “We were deep sea kissing and then a scuffle broke out. The funniest thing is that it was actually our petty officer in charge who did it.”
The Air Force's top general says one of the designers of the ride-sharing app Uber is helping the branch build a new data-sharing network that the Air Force hopes will help service branches work together to detect and destroy targets.
The network, which the Air Force is calling the advanced battle management system (ABMS), would function a bit like the artificial intelligence construct Cortana from Halo, who identifies enemy ships and the nearest assets to destroy them at machine speed, so all the fleshy humans need to do is give a nod of approval before resuming their pipe-smoking.
An F-15 is rocking a WWII paint job to honor a B-17 pilot who gave his life to save a wounded crewman
An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.
A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.
Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.
Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.
After 70 years, service members are finally filing medical malpractice claims against the US military
Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.
Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.
It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.
Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.
A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.
Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.
With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.