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Stand Down!


In the Navy, when things start falling off airplanes, ships start running aground, and sailors start going over the hill, the head shed will often completely stop operations and call for a “stand-down,” a time to stop, think, and figure out what is going wrong.

Stand-downs often have to do with safety or discipline.

I’ve been involved in at least four of them – three involving deaths and one potential mutiny.

One death was in the 1960s when a friend of mine went topside to dump trash one night during a storm and was never seen again.

Oddly enough, his empty shoes were found on the fantail the next morning, causing doubt as to whether he had been washed over the side or just jumped.

Regardless, the ship did a two-day review of its foul weather safety procedures.

In the 1970s, another friend of mine was almost cut in half when he was hit by a steel cable that parted while we were alongside another ship during an underway replenishment.

Such cables connecting the ships are under immense strain, and breaking is not an uncommon occurrence.

Again, such operations on that ship were halted until an investigation was done, and it was determined to be “an act of God.”

For a while in the mid-1980s, there was a Navy-wide illegal drug epidemic and I was on a ship where someone was murdered in the ship’s library. I found the body.

Apparently, a drug deal had gone wrong.

Unfortunately for me, I happened to be in charge of the space where the crime took place and therefore had responsibility for the investigation.

When we got into port, we brought on the dogs, searched the whole ship, made a lot of noise, and nothing really happened.

As far as the mutiny, you’ve heard jokes about “nobody goes ashore until morale improves?”

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