While under basic training at the Pakistan Naval Academy, our class of cadets was taken to a coastal battery for a week-long attachment. The powerful 6 inch guns of that time used silken bags as cartridges and needed a large number of personnel for tracking, loading and firing. All positions in the bridge, Transmitting Station and turret were manned by the cadets for training purposes. The first thing the communication numbers at the three positions were supposed to do on closing up was to carry out a communication check, commencing with the ubiquitous query, “How do you hear me?” The knee-jerk response to that used to be”Loud and Clear”, regardless of how the voice quality was. One innovative response,however, became the cause of great merriment: “Shrill and Sweet”.
The turret area was at times left unsupervised and owing to the large number of cadets stationed inside for various jobs, the sound level immediately used to shoot up. On one occasion, the Gunnery Officer showed up without warning and announced his overbearing presence by shouting” Now you guys, yap less and work more”. The turret’s communication number in the corner meekly protested: “But sir, my job calls for just the opposite”.
As Commanding Officer of a destroyer, I was once taken by surprise on receiving a request for premature retirement from a young officer who, apart from showing some promise, happened to be a third generation sailor. “Why do you want to leave the service”, I asked him, “Don’t you want to follow in the illustrious footsteps of your father and grandfather?” ” I most certainly do” he responded emphatically. “You see, sir”, he added by way of clarification, ” my grandfather is ex-navy, my father is ex-navy and I want to be ex-Navy too”.
This first hand account of a Commanding Officer’s meeting was narrated to me by an Executive Officer of mine. The meeting had hardly commenced when it disintegrated into a cribbing session. The COs present there were acutely conscious of the fact that the Type Commander, who was chairing the meeting, had had a profitable career profile due in no small part, as they suspected, to his close relationship with the Naval Secretary, while their own suffered from perceived injustice and neglect. In a bid to reassure them, the Type Commander unleashed the most lethal weapon at his disposal. “Have faith in Allah”, he advised,”Everything will work out for the better”. “Sir, that’s not fair”, one Commanding Officer burst out, “You want our career to be decided by Allah while yours is planned by the Naval Secretary”.
When I assumed command of PNS Khaibar, a Brooke class destroyer, I wasn’t entirely unmindful of the fact that an earlier ship of the same name, a Battle class destroyer, had been sunk in action in 1971. Going over the ship’s old records, I discovered that the current ship’s motto was comparatively more elaborate, the earlier ship’s motto being “No one can overpower you”. After some soul-searching I suppose, the decision to add the complementary portion of the Quranic injunction was but natural: “If God’s help is with you”.