Steve A. Stone
30 Jan. 2021
I never met Admiral Tom Hayward. Not once. But he was a giant influence in my life. There's no question of that. I'll tell you one of my short tales. I usually don't write short tales, so this is rare for me.
It was either late 1982 or early 1983—in that timeframe. I had moved my family from Texas to Gulfport, MS, so I could attend my junior and senior years of college at the U. of Southern Mississippi's (USM) Long Beach campus. I had a VA Work-Study grant at the local unemployment office – giving job counseling to out-of-work veterans. I had a volunteer gig at a place called Cheshire House, a home for mentally handicapped adults. To round out my resume', I was an E-6 reservist in one the Navy Reserve units that drilled at the CB Center in Gulfport. My wife, Irene, worked for the Gulfport Police Department. Irene and I didn't make much money, but we lived a good life.
After I graduated from USM, I enrolled in a couple of Masters-level courses and began looking for a real job somewhere. My reserve center CO had been recruiting me for a while. He wanted me to sign up for active duty again and go to OCS. He told me I was "officer material."
I sort of liked the idea, but was hesitant. In my reserve unit, I saw evidence of something that had made my active duty stint a bit miserable at times—drug use. I worked myself nearly to death my last two years aboard NARWHAL as the M-Div. Leading First, and it was drugs that caused that. I had only four specific men in M-Div. in whom I placed all my trust and gave all the most critical maintenance tasks to. The others either drank too much, or I knew they were indulging in one or more of the drugs readily available on the streets of New London. Those four men and I did the lion's share of the division's in-port work load, and the rest did all the chipping, painting, zinc inspections, grease and lube chores, bilge diving, tank cleaning, auxiliary steam valve maintenance, and other of the minor, but necessary tasks required to keep the engine room ship-shape. My four work-horses and I did all the things I thought were most critical. I'd list them, but those who know a submarine engine room best already know. Drugs were a major issue for the entire Navy during my tenure from 1970 to 1977. Senior leadership was either in some level of denial or just didn't have the right tools to cope with it. To me, it was an unhealthy climate to operate in, and I realized in 1977 there was no way I could stay in. I was ready to sit for the Chief's test, but the thought of trying to wrestle with all the substance abuse issues I knew I'd have in that role just didn't appeal to me. I bailed and "hid" out as a civilian student and part-time worker.
Just after I graduated from USM, I interviewed with Reynolds Aluminum. They wanted someone for a job in Tampa, FL as a production line supervisor in a can plant. It was about that time I had the opportunity to see one of ADM Tom Hayward's regular SITREP films. I don't know which number it was, but do remember the content. It was his announcement of a new Navy drug policy that involved the new urinalysis program. I recall in that video ADM Hayward said, "The promise I'm giving all of you is, we're going to find the drug users among you. We're going to hammer them and kick them out of the Navy." WOW! Those were powerful words. "HAMMER THEM!" Those were words I'd been waiting for ten years to hear. I knew the old Drug Amnesty program had some farcical elements to it. I witnessed more than one man "volunteer" for that program as a way to get off submarine duty. Between those volunteers and the Sailors who were busted for possession or being under the influence, we lost a lot of manpower for many years. The Navy lost people like me, too. It was the negative influences of drugs that made my re-enlistment decision for me. But, when I saw that CNO SITREP video, I realized things were about to turn around and become better.
I applied for a place in OCS in March 1983 and was accepted. My report date was in the first week of June. I prepared to uproot the family and move my wife and daughter to Norwich, CT, so they could stay with my mother-in-law while I was in Newport, RI. Then, something happened that made me pause. Reynolds Aluminum called up in mid-May and offered me that job in Tampa. I had a real dilemma on my hands. I could take the Reynolds job, which was my wife's preferred option, or go to OCS with no actual promise of either graduation or a commission. After a couple of agonizing days, I told the people at Reynolds, "Thank you for the generous offer, but I've decided to go back in the Navy instead." That turned out to be a Yin and Yang kind of decision, and possibly not the best one for my family, but I've never regretted it. My two stints in the Navy set me up for the great 31-year career I just ended as a Navy civil servant.
I do know one thing above all. If ADM Hayward hadn't made that CNO SITREP, I wouldn't have considered going back into the Navy at all. But, because he did, he gave me hope, motivation, and inspiration. I can truly say he made a pivotal and great impact on my future. Only two others rank higher in that regard: my father and ADM Rickover.
I was happy to hear Admiral Hayward is at his 97th birthday. If any man deserves long life and good health, it's him. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ADMIRAL H! And, many more.
Steve A. Stone
Grand Bay, AL© Steve A. Stone
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