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Commander! There’s a rat in the wheelhouse

Dear Editor,

You know, it’s never a good thing or a good feeling, I imagine, as a commanding officer, to have a grounding incident but, what I will say is navigation is a science.

Sadly, like most sciences, it is never exact and many of us who dare to attempt it, even at our best, are merely practicing. Many who have been in the oceans that surround this archipelago, quickly learn that she is an equal opportunity mistress.

It is regrettable that this is not always the easiest thing to explain to those who have not ventured into the bed of volatility that is our wide and treacherous shoals, especially when those people are also your civilian commanders.

Interestingly, upon seeing the first tabloid print up, followed by the press release from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, I thought to myself that surely that was a dangerous precedent for the new command team to set. Marines operate and in the execution of our operations, we have what is known in military language all around the world as OPDEFs (operational defects).

Commanders of these vessels operate in high stress conditions with needle thin timelines and, yes, sometimes failing equipment. Yet, they get their orders and they set out to, “guard our heritage”. Again, I say, they do so, whether the entire crew shows up, whether the conditions are favorable and they do so, even if the radar does not work.

I will make it plain, you cannot hit a ship that is tied up alongside a wharf and the Bahamian people have long suggested that they were sickened to believe that, “tied up” was our basic state. Well, now, contrary to popular belief, it is clear that Her Majesty’s ships move and sometimes when they move, OPDEFs happen.

What troubles me beyond imaginable belief, is while absolutely concerned about the sand bank groundings, I am far more concerned that at the dawn of the new commander’s tenure, he seems to have a rat in his wheelhouse!

What further troubles me and to my imagination should be equally as troubling to the new commander is the accuracy in detail with which these rag sheet stories are printed. The fact that these are not reported as stories you could have heard in the wind or in the grapevine, but rather are printed with the kind of confidence that suggests to me that the rat in the commander’s wheelhouse, is one really, really big rat; one with enough authority, seniority and power to adequately assist the enemy, an action that the acts and regulations speak directly against.

It is sad and borderline sickening that the new commander could have this kind of problem this early in his tenure of taking the helm of Her Majesty’s ship. However, should the wind be kind enough to me, to cause my words to find the commander’s ear, I would only wish to offer this:

1. Rats, though a nuisance, can provide a wonderful opportunity for test case studies.

2. Although bothersome, rats require little to catch and when you do, make sure you leave them on the trap, so that all the other rats know that rat catching is also among the many skills in your polished curriculum vitae.

3. Only super bleeding hearts care about rats and since we are all men made of gun metal, brass, salt water sprinkles and engine smoke, I trust no one will find fault with any experiments a caught rat gets put through.

Since I have never been a gambling man and I doubt any of the things I say ever even make it beyond the walls of a junior rates mess, I will simply continue to pray.

However, even in my praying I will remind anyone caring enough to listen, that almost every person in this command team at the rank of commander and above, has crashed something into something at sometime or another. Almost everyone!

Whether it was into a lake, or into Potter’s Cay Dock, or into giant shoals, almost everyone has crashed something and those in the team, possibly, only with the exception of King, who have not crashed into something, quite easily arguably never had a command, seafaring or otherwise.

What I also wish to point out as I pray, is that this is not the first time the HMBS Nassau was hit by a commanding officer.

The point I am making is operations happen and sometimes, in the middle of those operations, defects happen.

I do not see the wisdom or the forethought of creating news of it each time and I think it is repulsive that someone considers it valuable to leak that information outside of the organization.

Honestly, it amounts to child’s play and if by chance I were to ever become a commander, I would not rest until I was certain that I had cured my wheelhouse of its rat issues.

I will end with this — Lieutenant Commander Hart is a damn good officer both land based and sea going. Her competence and skill can match and outmatch the best of them and the respect she commands from her subordinates is one that is unwavering.

She is much of what the Royal Bahamas Defence Force of tomorrow will look like and she certainly has earned her keep in the organization.

Similarly, I believe Senior Lieutenant Adderley is well on his way.

The future of Her Majesty’s ship looks bright in the hands of this ilk.

Three Cheers for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, for without relent, they “Guard Our Heritage.”

Leyvon A. Miller III, JP

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