This Is Not A Drill!

Hospital Corpsman First Class Petty Officer Lynn Austin told Hospital Corpsman First Class Petty Officer Wayne McLaughlin from the start that she wasn't interested in a dating.

"I'm in recovery from a bad marriage and an even worse divorce," she told her Shipmate when he asked her out as co-workers on the Staff of the Naval Health Clinic at Joint Base Pearl Harbor. "I just want time to heal and focus on me."

Wayne understood completely but he liked being around her so he promised Lynn that they could be 'just friends' and hang out for companionship if she wanted.

"That sort of deal rarely works out," Lynn cautioned.

"I promise that we will be pals only," Wayne assured her.

The thing was, the two did get along. They were both from New England which gave them a common frame of reference. They were both First Class Petty Officers, older than a majority of the enlisted staff at the Clinic so they had the veteran corpsman status to share.

They often talked about the challenges of their roles as leading petty officers and supervisors and the pressures of walking the tightrope between being friendly with juniors while supervising them at the same time.

Petty Officer Austin, assigned to the physical exam department, often shared her leadership experiences and philosophies with Petty Officer McLaughlin who was down the hall in the Blood Lab. Sometimes they ate lunch together and other times they went jogging as a pair in order to maintain their required physical fitness standards and body fat requirements.

Petty Officer Austin was seated in the Staff Lounge taking a break one day when Petty Officer McLaughlin joined her.

"Hey, Lynn, what's up?" He asked with a smile, taking a seat at her table.

"Am I as out of touch as I look?" She wanted to know.

Petty Officer Austin was an attractive woman in her thirties. She cut her hair short so she didn't have to mess with the standards.

"You look fine," Wayne said lightly.

"Johnson said I was clueless," she sighed.

"The new third class?"

"She's says I'm old school."

"She's a rook," Wayne said dismissively. "Don't listen to her. She hasn't been around long enough."

"Do you ever feel like you're aging out of their sphere of reference?" She asked.

"Sometimes," Wayne admitted. "But they don't always have the wisdom we've gained from experience."

"They want the excitement and glory without having to earn it," Lynn complained.

"Your greatest purpose is to be a role model," Wayne reminded her.

"I also want to be an inspiration to female Sailors," she said. "But sometimes I don't think they appreciate the sacrifices I've made to be where I am."

"Like in your personal life?" Wayne asked.

"Absolutely," she confirmed. "It took dedication and commitment to get where I am and sometimes it irritates me that some of these young naïve Sailors think it just happens naturally."

"Well, you know how much I respect you," Wayne smiled. "You're doing a great job here."

"I never should have gotten married," Lynn sighed. "You can't have a career and a relationship when you're a woman in the Navy."

"It's a lot harder," Wayne agreed.

"Is that why you're The Lone Sailor?" She wanted to know.

"I've usually left the relationship behind when I've transferred," he admitted.

"It's a tough life," Lynn sighed. "You don't want kids?"

"I don't have to worry about the biological clock like you do," Wayne shrugged.

"Yeah, I'm thinking that ship has sailed for me," Lynn said.

"You okay with that?"

"I know I don't want a husband right now and it helps to have one of those if you want kids," she said. "Call me old-fashioned or weird, I don't care."

"You're not weird," Wayne assured her. "You're just at an age where you know what you want and that doesn't include a significant other at this time."

"The modern woman!" She said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

"You feel the need to lead."

"I'm just not all that interesting in the way I do it," she noted. "I don't even have that many friends here."

"I'm your friend," Wayne reminded her.

"That's why you talk with me?" Lynn asked.

"I think you're very interesting."

She sighed. "I can't even tell a good joke."

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Wayne encouraged.

"I guess I'm having a bad day," Lynn complained.

"We all do sometimes," Wayne replied.

"Some of them think I'm a Lesbian," Lynn remarked. "Because I come across as hard-ass, old school, and tough."

"So what if you were?" Wayne wondered.

Lynn laughed. "You never find a reason to be critical of me," she noted. "I'm flattered."

"You've got a challenging young staff and that challenges you," Wayne remarked. "Every command is different. Every staff has its own personality and perception. Hang tough. You'll get them to where they need to be."

"I hope so," she said tiredly. "I just feel so alone sometimes."

"I know what that's like."

"You'll find the right person," Lynn predicted.

"So won't you," Wayne smiled. "When the time's right."

"Maybe," she shrugged.

"This is not a drill," Wayne reminded her. "This is what we do."

"I know," she said with a brave and determined smile. "Sorry for whining. Johnson tends to get the best of me sometimes."

"She pushes your buttons," Wayne acknowledged with a nod.

"There's always one that does," Lynn groaned.

"Why don't we go out on a long jog tomorrow morning?" Wayne suggested. "That will make you feel better."

"Okay," she agreed. "Come by my place at eight," she said as she stood from the table.

"Cheer up," Wayne said lightly.

"I will," she said with confidence. "As always, thanks for the talk."

Wayne watched Lynn leave the break room and he let out a sigh. He felt sympathy for her because he knew she deserved better. Lynn was a good supervisor and a quality Sailor and she didn't deserve some of the grief she got in her position as Leading Petty Officer.