My Friend Ollie

I got to spend some time with my old buddy Ollie…also known as Rear Admiral Chris Murray.   As always, we spent the first hour verbally abusing each other.  My brother J soon joined us and enjoyed the back and forth banter of two, old F-14 RIOs going at it.

Ollie has done 32 years in the Navy and has recently decided to hang up the uniform early next year.  THIRTY-TWO YEARS!!!!  When we thought about it, we just looked at each other, and I remembered when we met 27 years ago at Fighter Town, USA…also then known as NAS Miramar.   I had been an F-14 instructor for about a year when he joined the squadron.  The first time I saw him he was sitting in the training office, with his feet perched on my desk.  He had the biggest Big Gulp I had ever seen in one hand, and a large plate of nachos in the other hand.   It was 7:00 am.  Various specks of cheese were splattered on his flight suit.  It was the middle of summer, but for some reason he was wearing his flight jacket.  He looked at me and smiled, “You Pads?”  My response: “Get your damn feet off my desk!”  Our relationship pretty much stayed the same over the next 27 years.  He would say stupid things and I would verbally harangue him mercilessly.

Back then, few of us dreamed of making the Flag ranks (Admiral levels).  We were just glad to be flying, looking cool and chasing chicks.  The thing about Ollie was that he was always  a fan of  the Navy.  Me…not so much.  I liked  the lifestyle, living in San Diego and hanging with the guys.  He was a true believer:  hard working and dedicated.  A company man.

As we grew older, I was always looking to retire as early as possible.  Ollie was always looking for his next job…one which would continue pushing him up the ladder of success.   When I took an early retirement, he was not real happy (perhaps a little jealous).  He, however, had bigger fish to fry.  He became a squadron Commanding Officer; then an Air Wing Commander.  He did staff jobs at major commands and assumed he would retire as a Navy Captain.  When he made Rear Admiral, he was a little surprised, as was his wife and most of his friends, including me.

I tell you what though, he deserved it and I am proud of him.   You see, Ollie was never a guy that would sacrifice his principles.  He would kiss up when needed, but never compromise his beliefs.  We laughed when he said:  “You know Pads, I kissed a lot of ass; but I never took it up the ass!”  That’s the Ollie that always stayed true to form.

Senior officers in the military tend to fall into two groups:  Leaders and Politicians.   Leaders care about the organization, the people,  mission success.   Leaders realize that they take the blame, but spread the praise to others.  Leaders are promoted…they earn it!  Politicians are appointed…they know someone.  They have a personal agenda that may not be in line with mission success.  Their focus is on individual recognition; self promotion; a burning desire to please themselves.   It’s a little sad and scary that those folks are often at the upper echelon of military decision-making, but such is the nature of the beast.   Ollie is a leader!

When went wine tasting on a Sunday afternoon.  It took me a about half an hour to deprogram him from his “Admiral talk”…you know, lots of syllables and a slow, deliberate delivery.  Somewhere around the third or fourth tasting, the Admiral disappeared and Ollie arrived.  “You’re an asshole, Crapshooter (his favorite name for me)!”   My normal reply: “Shut-up, Stupid!”

We had a sit-down pairing at my favorite winery.  It is a small, quiet, intimate setting where the wine folks talk about specific reserve wines and respective cheese pairings.   We were in there with about 5 other tables of folks.  Let’s just say we were the loudest.  Between the insults, the cussing and the laughter, we got the looks!  When we relocated to the main tasting room, the pairing folks drew a sigh of relief, but we just continued the stories and the buffoonery.   Within minutes, we had about 10 additional folks as our entourage…didn’t really know any of them, but they obviously enjoyed the show.   The two of us in the same piece of sky doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s kinda like Haley’s Comet.  You can’t miss it!

To my dear friend Chris, I raise a toast.  I’m proud of you  and your accomplishments.  I’m honored to be your friend.   And even though you look like you may be 70, I’ll always remember that first time we met….cheese spots and all.  Fair winds and following seas, my Brotha!

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