I was unpacking my sea bag aboard ship when I discovered that I had forgotten something - underwear. This was a problem since we were getting underway for a two-month patrol. Within minutes I was on the phone with my wife, Kellie, pleading for an emergency delivery of skivvies.
As the Captain of the USS OHIO, a nuclear powered submarine armed with 24 intercontinental ballistic missiles, I went to the bridge to get the ship underway. The Commodore (my boss) was on the pier to see us off. Twenty crewmembers were topside to cast off the lines. As we slipped away from our berth, Kellie came running down the pier waving a white bag and screaming at the ship to wait. I tried to wave her off but she ignored me. “I can make it,” she screamed.
The Chief of the Boat, the ship’s senior enlisted crewmember, was supervising topside. He recognized Kellie and shouted to her: “What is it?”
“Joe forgot his underwear,” she yelled. All military decorum melted away as everyone within earshot started laughing uncontrollably. The ship was now almost 10 feet from the pier and the odds of a successful toss were quickly diminishing. Crewmembers shouted encouragement. Kellie hurled the bag with a typical girly throw but the Chief of the Boat managed to snag my undies without falling in the water himself. Everyone cheered.
I learned an important lesson that day. The most powerful people on Earth are not the men who control the nuclear weapons; it’s the women who control their underwear.