Hispanic Heritage Month: One Marine’s Story Becomes A Ship’s Legacy

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sep. 15 to Oct. 15 and provides us the opportunity to recognize the achievements of the heroic individuals of Hispanic descent who overcame adversity in their careers and, through their actions, reflect great credit upon the Naval service. A great example is Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta, for whom USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is named.

DT3MIY44TFBMTBCGNERJFND65QSgt. Peralta was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States as an adolescent. Following graduation from high school in 1997, he attended San Diego City College. Peralta wanted to become a U.S. Marine, but was unable to enlist until he received his green card. Instead, he served in the California Conservation Corps while attending San Diego City College.

Upon becoming a permanent resident of the United States in 2000, he immediately joined the Marine Corps and attended bootcamp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. While serving as a Marine, he earned U.S. citizenship.

During a combat tour supporting Operation Al Fajr in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, he was shot and mortally wounded. As his squad fired at the insurgents around him, an enemy grenade was thrown into their midst; it came to rest near Peralta’s head.

The official citation for the Navy Cross award read:

“Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, SGT Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away. SGT Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, SGT Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

In addition to the Navy Cross, Peralta was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon for his actions.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta Navy Cross Ceremony
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presents the Navy Cross to Rosa Peralta, the mother of the late Sgt. Rafael Peralta, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 8, 2015. Standing next to her was Rafael’s brother, Ricardo Peralta. Ricardo enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2010 as an infantryman to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Peralta is remembered as a “Marine’s Marine.” His bedroom walls were decorated with his boot camp graduation certificate, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. The night before he died, Peralta wrote a letter to his younger brother, saying “Be proud of me, bro…and be proud of being an American.” He served with enthusiasm and patriotism, and his legend continues to inspire Sailors and Marines to this day.

On July 29, 2017, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Rafael Peralta, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. At the ceremony, Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller honored Peralta’s memory.

“This [commissioning] marks the commemoration of a life and the immortality of a hero. Sgt. Peralta’s legacy will forever be part of this ship. All he ever wanted to be as an American, to serve his country,” said Neller.

The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) mans the ship during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.

Peralta’s legacy – as a young man who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and then enlisted to serve his adopted country on the day he got his green card – epitomizes the journey of many of the Hispanic members of our Armed Forces.

Honoring their Hispanic heritage, during the commissioning ceremony Peralta’s mother gave the ship’s crew the order to “man our ship and bring her to life” first in Spanish, and then in English. The ship’s motto, FORTIS AD FINEM, which translates to “courageous to the end,” stands as a testament to Peralta’s dedication to his country and his fellow Marines. Peralta’s Navy Cross was donated by his mother and resides aboard the ship.

Since commissioning, the Rafael Peralta has participated in numerous sea trials, combat systems and engineering testing, and will ultimately deploy with a Carrier Strike Group. Along with other ships on the San Diego waterfront, Rafael Peralta participated in the filming of the television show “The Last Ship.” She is currently assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1 and is homeported in San Diego, where she will uphold and honor the legacy of Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

For more information on USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), visit http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ddg115/ 

For more information on Hispanic Heritage Month, visit www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov 


HONOR, COURAGE, COMMITMENT: The Lasting Effects of the Chief Petty Officer

Guest blog written by a Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer

Last week our nation eulogized late Arizona senator John McCain as a steadfast friend, reluctant hero, and unwavering patriot. As our Navy’s newest Chief Petty Officers (CPO) prepare to don their anchors of gold at ceremonies across the fleet on September 14, it is prudent for them and the collective Chief’s Mess to briefly pause and consider how the CPO brand of leadership can have a positive and lasting effect.

During a 2008 U.S. presidential debate, Senator John McCain said, “Everything I ever learned about leadership, I learned from a Chief Petty Officer.”

I’d like to put that quote into perspective.  Before recently losing his battle with brain cancer, John McCain was a six-term U.S. Senator who chaired the Armed Services Committee.  He was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a former Navy fighter pilot, and Vietnam prisoner of war. He practically came from U.S. Navy royalty – both his father and grandfather were four-star admirals – also U.S. Naval Academy graduates who have a U.S. warship named for them.

(Lower Right) Naval Officer John S. McCain III poses for a photo with fellow Naval aviators.

So how is it that the power of Chief Petty Officer anchors influenced a man who in his own right was extremely powerful and influential?

Because a Chief Petty Officer somewhere many decades ago, took a young Ensign McCain under his wing.

Through personal example, good management, and moral responsibility – the Chief made his mark and influenced a life.

I can only guess that Senator McCain’s Chief was sincere, enthusiastic, and squared away in both deed and appearance.

Perhaps he was an HONORABLE man of unsurpassed integrity – one who led with his beliefs – and McCain followed him because of HIS actions.  I am confident he held himself and his team 100% accountable and to the highest of standards.

My guess is that this Chief was a COURAGEOUS man – not absent of fear, but not afraid to make difficult decisions.  His courage was likely born of mental, physical, and ethical strength. The Chief was fair but tough, because that’s what his leaders and subordinates wanted and expected of him.

I would be willing to bet my paycheck that McCain’s Chief was COMMITTED – he had a spirit of determination that pushed him to don his anchors everyday and work to make a difference.  Understanding that his success was measured by the efforts of his Sailors and junior officers, McCain’s Chief likely didn’t take a “time out” from his commitment – and I am sure he didn’t force it either.

I’d like to believe this Chief’s CORE VALUES defined his thoughts, actions, and leadership. He put them on display everyday, leading by example and practicing what he preached. Through mentorship, motivation, and humility he earned the respect and trust of his team. They followed him not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

Fiscal Year 2017 chief petty officers stand at attention during a chief pinning ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

During that debate, Senator McCain didn’t say who that Chief was, but it could’ve been any one of us soon to be pinned, current or retired Chiefs.  We train, guide, and develop junior officers and Sailors into future leaders. The men and women who will be pinned next week and truly know the honor, weight, and burden of CPO leadership were selected to join the CPO fraternity not only for what they have accomplished, but what they will do on September 15 and beyond – after initiation is finished and they are the “Chief.”

Whether it is advocacy, tradition or trust, thanks to this year’s initiation season, our new Chiefs have more tools in their toolbox to do what the CPO Mess does best: provide leadership on the deckplates.

As our new Chiefs are pinned, I am confident that my active-duty brothers and sisters in the Mess will rededicate themselves to their craft and ensure that its newest members will put their initiation experience and lessons learned to good use.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from the late Steve Prefontaine, one of America’s greatest distance runners:

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”

Wearing the anchors of a Chief Petty Officer truly is a gift – one that must be payed forward every day.

Chief petty officer combination covers rest on the charge books of the Navy’s newest chief petty officers.

Networking, Communication, and Balance: Key Advice from Female Flag Officers

Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific hosted a flag officer-led Female Forum Tuesday, Aug. 21, as a supplement to the Surface Warfare Flag Officer Training Symposium held last week.

Leading the panel were Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, Vice Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti, and Rear Adm. Yvette M. Davids. Jackson serves as Commander, Naval Installation Command. Franchetti currently serves as Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, and Deputy Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Rear Adm. Davids is the Senior Military Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

During the panel, the flag officers offered insight into work-family balance, their motivation to continue serving, and what their experiences were like as trail blazers as women – and in some cases, as ethnic minorities as well.

Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Alyssa Gray explains the entry control point access list to Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, Commander Navy Installations Command, during an assessment of U.S. Navy Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia.

With regard to work-family balance, all panel members agreed that a successful career in the Navy required upfront communication with one’s spouse or partner, as well as with the detailer.

“I think talking about it is really important, and you’d be surprised how many different options there are to kind of re-wicker and re-navigate [so] you’re on track,” said Jackson. She also added that since she entered the Navy, she’s seen the culture shift from one where it was taboo to speak about family planning to detailers, to one where that sort of discussion is welcomed.

The group continued the conversation into what the flag officers’ considered the motivation to continue serving. For most, the decision to stay in was a constant analysis through the years. Inputs were taken from family members, friends, coworkers, and their commands. It was about being mindful of the balance between what was best for them and what was best for their family. Nearly all women admitted that at some point in their career, they seriously considered leaving the service to pursue other opportunities, but ultimately found they were happiest when serving.

Vice. Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet and commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) speaks with sailors while visiting the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), during exercise Baltic Operations June 10, 2018. 

The dialogue led into a discussion about how to successfully navigate a career path in the Navy while still being a mother and a spouse.

“You need a support network. You have to figure out who your allies are and what your support network is,” said Jackson, before emphasizing, “You’re going to have allies and they’re not going to look like you, and they’re may not behave like you, and you’ll kind of figure that out over time. So embrace that, and work together.”

She went on to recommend the Women’s Leadership Symposium and Women’s Lean In Circles; two examples of women-specific support networking opportunities currently in place in the Navy.

“Sometimes as minorities, we kind of delete ourselves, or we subtract ourselves from the table sometimes. We don’t step up, because we think we’re different, and we think everyone’s looking at us differently. But in reality, they’re not necessarily looking at us differently,” said Franchetti. She went on to say, “Like Admiral Davids said, if you’re striving for excellence, you’re doing your best, you learn everything you can to do your job, you’re being a team player – that’s what we do in the Navy.”

Then-Capt. Yvette M. Davids, commanding officer of guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), uses a sound-powered telephone to communicate with the ship’s master for Military Sealift Command’s USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Rear Adm. Davids now serves as the senior military adviser to the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs in Washington, D.C. 

The Female Forum provided approximately 100 women, serving in sea and shore billets at almost every paygrade, the opportunity to directly interact with some of the Navy’s most senior female leadership. This forum took place in the week leading to Women’s Equality Day, Sunday Aug. 26., which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, when women across America were granted the equal right to vote.

Many women holding senior positions in the U.S. Navy today joined at a time when the environment for women to serve was a very different thing. In the 1970s, a series of naval policy changes allowed women to fill a significantly wider array of job assignments and paved the way for female trailblazers to shape today’s diversity across the Fleet. As the leaders of Female Forum noted, women have come far in the last century with regards to integrating into nearly all the billets in the Navy.

Thank you to all the women who have committed so much time and effort into serving the United States of America and the Navy, and through their service, made a truly significant impact on the lives of all Sailors.

Better Together: What the Surface Force Gains Through Collaboration

The Surface Warfare community met August 20-23 at a number of seminars and symposiums in to review the efforts to make our Surface Force more effective and lethal.

SAN DIEGO (Aug. 23, 2018) Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific, speaks at the Surface Navy Association’s 20th annual symposium on board Naval Base San Diego on Aug. 23, 2018. SNA was incorporated in 1985 to promote greater coordination and communication among those in the military, business, and academic communities who share a common interest in surface warfare while supporting the activities of the Navy’s surface forces. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Millar.

Starting the week off with the Retired Surface Warfare Flag Officer Training Symposium (RSWFOTS) and leading into the active duty Surface Warfare Flag Officer Training Symposium (SWFOTS), flag officers from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) down met to discuss the latest in Surface Warfare training improvements and guidance. These training symposiums are annual leadership mentoring and training events that provide flag officers from the surface community a venue to discuss the Navy’s current and future needs so that naval assets can better support the maritime strategy. More than 60 Surface Flag Officers met in San Diego with a list of objectives – one of which was how to continue to improve current and future readiness, while making an impact at the deckplate Sailor level. The highlight of this two day event was the time that the Flag Officers were able to spend interacting with our Surface Warriors.

Later in the week, the CNO visited the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), and Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific, Vice Adm. Brown addressed the San Diego waterfront during the keynote speech at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) West Symposium. Brown referenced the CNO’s remarks on high velocity learning, recalling his own command philosophy of good stewardship, professional development, and safety.

A crew that is well trained, well qualified, and educated is a crew that knows their ship, knows their ship’s missions, and will be able to take that ship into battle, fight, and win,” said Brown.

He also added, “The biggest risk is the balance between this insatiable need to go do things, and the requirement to build readiness, capability, and competency. You can’t generate readiness for readiness’ sake. You generate readiness, and then turn that readiness into lethality.”

To ensure that standard is met, the Surface Force is addressing the concern of organizational drift into failure by meeting it with data-based analysis, addressing the identified six traits of a mishap, and integrating solutions into the Surface Force that directly mitigate the occurrence of those six traits.

The six traits are:

  • Someone decided not to or did not perform a specific required action or protocol that they had been trained, qualified, and certified to perform.
  • The ship, crew, or watch team had a previous near miss in often similar circumstances, but no explicit action was taken to correct potential causes.
  • Poor log keeping for the entire duration of the period examined by investigators.
  • Ineffective risk identification and mitigation in operational and daily planning.
  • Lack of watch team coordination.
  • Mishap ships were generally regarded as above average performers prior to the mishap.
Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific, speaks at the Surface Navy Association’s 20th annual symposium on board Naval Base San Diego on Aug. 23, 2018.

In addition to addressing the root causes of these six traits, the Surface Force is working to improve the SWO career path to enhance leadership at sea. Changing the SWO qualification process and introducing a mariner’s logbook, similar in concept to an aviation logbook, are just some of the ways the Surface community is adapting. Many of these new policies are introduced and explained in depth during conferences such as SWFOTS and SNA West.

These events afford the opportunity for flag leadership across the Fleet to meet together and discuss efforts to improve the Surface Force, as the community continues to maintain and improve its warfighting readiness, emphasizing safety and effective risk management.

Surface Line Week 2018 Comes to a Close

After two weeks packed full with rigorous competition, the 37th Surface Line Week 2018 came to a close today, Aug. 17. Surface Line Week (SLW) Pacific is an annual event during which members of the Surface Navy, including Sailors, Marines, Department of the Navy civilians, and federal employees, can connect and participate in a myriad of different professional and athletic events. The competition drew participants from almost 30 commands in the San Diego area to compete in over 30 events.

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Derek Earhart, assigned to USS Independence (LCS-2) participates in a BOSN olympics during the 37th annual Surface Line Week at Admiral Prout Field Naval Base San Diego. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nancy C. diBenedetto)

This year also carried a deep military significance: the centennial celebration of the United States victory in World War I. To honor this important anniversary, this year’s SLW theme was “Celebrating 100 years of Sea Supremacy” since our very own ships played a pivotal role in securing an Allied victory back in 1918.

The competition included professional skills challenges such as welding, shiphandling, valve packing, marksmanship, and various culinary competitions, while the athletic events included softball, volleyball, powerlifting, crossfit events, a 5K race, and much more. Events such as these are essential to the morale of each individual command, but also to the Surface Warfare community overall.

The athletic events provided healthy competition and a chance for all of the current and former athletes to show off their skills. The team sports helped build camaraderie among coworkers, while other athletic events allowed individuals to display their dedication to their fitness, an extremely important tenet of our Navy values.

Damage Controlman 3rd Class Kiyana Perrymond and Machinery Repairman 3rd Class Jose Longoria, assigned to the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), participated in a damage control pipe patching event during the 37th Annual Surface Line Week at Naval Base San Diego. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nancy C. diBenedetto)

The professional events delivered a public opportunity for competitors to showcase what they learned and perfected throughout their careers. For example, the Damage Control Olympics allowed Sailors to troubleshoot and fix a problem, such as a hole in a pipe, in an efficient and timely manner. In the context of the competition, no lives were in danger; however, the skills put to the test in this event preserve and enhance the crew’s ability to carry out their mission and save their fellow crew members’ lives.

“This is a very special event. 30 ships across 40 something events is a pretty spectacular competition,” said Capt. Chris Engdahl, Chief of Staff, Naval Surface Force Pacific. “You get professional, tactical, and training-wise better and better, and are surrounded by folks who have met milestones that we all want to meet and want to achieve.”

SLW allows all Surface Warriors across the San Diego waterfront an opportunity to compete with their current shipmates, against former shipmates. It also gives the entire community a chance to come together and celebrate all of their diligent and dedicated work over the preceding year.

“We are here to close out two weeks of hard fought competition, sports events, professional development events, and just to build camaraderie amongst different commands and personnel. We are celebrating some of the awards today,” said Yeoman First Class Darrell Lamber, the Master of Ceremonies at the awards ceremony today.

Sailors sail on San Diego Bay during Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet’s (SURFPAC) annual Surface Line Week sailboat regatta. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison)

Some of the more unique events included a cake decorating competition and a Navy heritage tattoo competition. The cake decorating competition was open to anyone, including those not within the Culinary Specialist rate; however, rules mandated that the cake had to be baked and decorated within the command’s very own galley. All cakes were encouraged to reflect Navy colors and Navy pride themes.

The tattoo competition was for those who had already formalized their Navy pride by way of permanent ink. Sailors were not encouraged to go out and add any tattoos to their bodies. Acceptable entries included any tattoos of Navy style anchors, King Neptune, ships, pigs, roosters, or nautical stars with the intent of upholding the longstanding tradition of nautical tattoos that is part of our Navy’s heritage and identity.

These two weeks of competition brought out the Navy pride and spirit in all of the competitors and their supporters. All commands gave a valiant effort in this year’s competition. To see photos, videos, and a list of the individual winners, head over to the Surface Line Week Facebook page. Overall winners will be announced next week at the Surface Warfare Ball. 

Great job to all who participated and we look forward to next year’s event!

U.S. Navy Ensign Arthur Metra, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73), commands a simulated ship during Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet’s (SURFPAC) annual Surface Line Week ship handling competition at Naval Base San Diego, California, Aug. 9, 2018. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison)

A Civil War Battle Remembered by USS Mobile Bay (CG 53)

USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) is one of the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, named after the Civil War-era battle of Mobile Bay led by Adm. David Farragut on August 5, 1864. This strategic naval battle was the pinnacle of Farragut’s career, and resulted in the famous Naval quote “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Torpedoes meant something different in the 1860s, referring to submerged mines rather than today’s rocket-shaped self-propelled bombs typically associated with submarines. In the Confederate-controlled port of Mobile Bay, Ala., these torpedoes were strategically placed to deter and slow down the invading Yankee fleet. Since the port of New Orleans was lost in 1862, Mobile Bay was the last remaining port that blockade runners could access to support the Confederate Army. Farragut’s forces intended to interrupt the flow of these supplies.

Adm. Farragut’s forces steam into the mouth of Mobile Bay in this artist’s rendition of the naval battle. 

On the morning of August 5, 154 years ago, Farragut’s 18-ship force steamed into the mouth of Mobile Bay, Ala., and was immediately met with fire from the Confederate forces. The iron-hulled monitor, USS Tecumseh, sank, and the fleet fell into confusion. It was then that Adm. Farragut’s rallying cry of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” regrouped the ships. (It is worth mentioning that the authenticity of this quote has been debated by historians, but the quote has nevertheless maintained its infamy in Naval lore.) The Yankee fleet made quick work of the smaller Confederate ships in the bay, and after the ironclad CSS Tennessee sustained heavy damages and Confederate flag officer Adm. Franklin Buchanan surrendered, the battle for the bay was over. Although the city of Mobile was still in the hands of the Confederacy, the port of Mobile Bay belonged to the Yankee force and was no longer available to blockade runners. Nearly three weeks later, the Yankee forces took control of the two forts in Mobile.

The Battle of Mobile Bay lifted the morale of the North, and in the spring of the following year, the Civil War came to a conclusion.

Today, the legacy of the brave Sailors that fought at the Battle of Mobile Bay continues on in the hands of the crew of USS Mobile Bay. Primarily an air-defense ship, Mobile Bay also has mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare capabilities that make it a lethal, highly adaptable platform. Last year, Mobile Bay successfully completed a missile exercise testing the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system in preparation for its upcoming 2018 deployment.

USS Mobile Bay Missle Exercise
USS Mobile Bay successfully executed a missile exercise in support of AEGIS Baseline 9 testing last year. (DVIDS.net)

Lieutenant Erick Samayoa, the training officer onboard Mobile Bay, said in an interview with KUSI News, “we’re ready to answer any calls the the country wants us to take.”

“The crew of Mobile Bay are resilient, hardworking Sailors who embody our motto ‘Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead.’ We are ready to complete the tasks our nation asks of us, and uphold the traditions of the Sailors who, centuries before us, completed their mission successfully amidst the numerous challenges facing them,” said Captain James Storm, commanding officer of USS Mobile Bay.

Hooyah, Sailors of Mobile Bay!

Navy Boatswain’s Mate Lingo: “It’s A Zoo!”

Mariners have always had their own language at sea: port, starboard, foc’sle, stern, bow, mast, etc. We call bathrooms “heads” and walls “bulkheads,” and the floor is a “deck.” We don’t go outside; we go “topside.” A rope is a “line,” stairs are called “ladderwells,” and the kitchen is a “galley.” These terms come from the days of early seafaring, and have become an important part of our Naval heritage.

But some of the at-sea phraseology is less about heritage and more about practicality. When you’re navigating at sea, precision and clarity are critical. You’ll never hear someone on the bridge say “let’s turn left” or “let’s head over there.” Instead you’ll hear something more like, “Left standard rudder, steady on course 180.” What’s that translate to? Turn the helm to the left until the rudder is 15 degrees off center and keep that turn until the ship is pointed due south and then straighten out on that course. It might sound like a foreign language, but it’s brevity and clarity that everyone in the pilot house knows.

Whether for heritage or practicality, nearly everything at sea has a different name or way of speaking than it does on land, and it can sometimes be a bit much for a “landlubber,” or a non-seagoing person. Making sense of the way Sailors speak requires an understanding of ship life in general, and sometimes even Sailors use memory aids to help learn the equipment. That’s where the animals come in.

Animals on a warship, you say? For the boatswain’s mates of the ship (those who handle all deck-related tasks aboard), the ship is a menagerie of different animals. Let’s take a look at some of the slang used to describe their equipment.


Rafael Peralta completes underway
That portion of an anchor windless that engages the links of the anchor chain so the anchor can be heaved in. (DVIDS.net)

Pelican Hook

Pelican hook
A hinged hook held closed by a ring used to provide instantaneous release of the anchor chain. So called because it looks like a pelican’s beak. (DVIDS.net)

Frog’s Feet

USS San Diego (LPD 22) Phuket Thailand Arrival
An attachment on the deck of the foc’sle (or foremost part of the ship’s topside deck) typically painted white, responsible for holding the chain attached to the pelican hook in place. So called because they look like feet along the deck. (DVIDS.net)


A thin line on the tip of the pelican hook that secures the bail to the hook. Used as an added safety precaution to ensure the pelican hook does not accidentally release. Mousing is also employed on other lines as added reinforcement to keep them together. (DVIDS.net)

Bull Nose

An opening on the very front of the ship, where lines may exit the bow for certain anchoring evolutions. (DVIDS.net)

Monkey’s Fist

USS Carney
A type of knot, so named because it looks somewhat like a small bunched fist/paw. It is tied at the end of a rope to serve as a weight, making it easier to throw. Now, heaving lines have rubber balls at the end instead of rope monkey’s fists. This does not stop the boatswain’s mates from making monkey’s fists for a variety of other uses! (DVIDS.net)
2009_Giant-monkeys-fist A more traditional monkey’s fist. Instructions on how to make your own monkey’s fist can be found here.

Turtle Back and Gator Back

USS Bunker Hill (CG 52)
A turtle back is a flat covering placed over the chainpipe used to prevent water from entering the chain locker. A gator back is a steel mesh covering placed over the chainpipe used as an added safety precaution for personnel. You can see examples of both in the above photo, to the bottom left. (DVIDS.net)

Elephant Feet

USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) Departs the Azores
The bits, or twin steel cylinders used to wrap and secure lines. (DVIDS.net)

Bird’s Nest

USS Mobile Bay in Singapore
A way of coiling excess line after securing mooring lines to the bits. So called because once completed, it looks like a bird’s nest. (DVIDS.net)